Dear Iceland: I Love You

I’m back!

Well, truth be told, I’ve been back for a few weeks, but things have been so busy around here that I’m only now getting the time to sit down and tell you all about my trip to Iceland with the Canadian Diabetes Association and Team Diabetes.  Warning, this post is very long and has lots of pictures!!!

I signed up for this fundraising excursion last September for two main reasons.

1.  I had just been diagnosed 4 months prior and was very much in a fuck-you-diabetes-I-can-do-whatever-I-want-you-don’t-control-me phase.  It was very much on a whim, as I could do this amazing adventure, despite having diabetes, while raising money for diabetes research.

2.  One of the options was a 10km race in Reykjavik.  ICELAND.  It’s been on my list of places to go, so when I saw it, plus the fact that I didn’t have to do a full or half marathon (did I mention I don’t really like running?).

I was sold.  Over the past year I’ve been working hard to raise the money required for the trip ($6100) and managed to reach my goal!  So on August 21, I left a warm sunny Halifax for Reykjavik, and another stamp in my passport!

The trip to Reykjavik was long.  I first flew to Boston, where I had a 5 hour layover before continuing on with IcelandAir.  It wasn’t all bad though, as I managed to snag a couple of bags of my favourite US treats!

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Why we don’t have these in Canada is beyond me…so delicious!

We flew overnight to Reykjavik and arrived at 6am.  It was a bit of a shock.  I left Halifax with it’s  warm and sunny weather, and arrived in Reykjavik with cold, wind and rain.  It was I’d been transported to a late Halifax fall, instead of summer.  To be fair, it wasn’t that cold, I just wasn’t acclimatized to it. But I was sure happy I packed my warm clothes!

We met up with a lot of other Team D people in the airport, with most of us coming in from the Boston flight.  We were transported to our hotel, where we weren’t able to check in for another couple of hours.  So I set off with some of the people I met to go out and explore the city!   Reykjavik is a small city, but it’s got a great feel to it and some pretty cool sights!

View of Church from main street

Street signs!
Street signs!

View of Church from main street

Graffiti

Graffiti

Statue of Leif Eriksson in front of the Church

Statue of Leif Eriksson in front of the Church

Engraved doors on the Church

Engraved doors on the Church

Inside, very plain, not as elaborately decorated as most churches I've seen

Inside, very plain, not as elaborately decorated as most churches I’ve seen

View from the Church tower

View from the Church tower

View from the Church tower

View from the Church tower

Inside view of the clock face in the tower

Inside view of the clock face in the tower

Street view!

Street view!

When I was finally able to check into my room, I passed out for a good solid nap!  But not before I booked my tour for the next day…horseback riding!!  I’d heard lots about the Icelandic horse, and hadn’t ridden in about 6 years so I decided to give it a go!  Since my race was going to be the day after, I wisely chose a short ride so my legs didn’t seize up.  It ended up being the perfect amount, as there was no pain or stiffness the next day!  My horse was…how can I put this?  Spunky.  He was not happy to just plod happily along, he had attitude and wanted to be near the front!  Which was ok, he was still well behaved and wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.  As the guide said before handing him over to me, “Not too lazy, not too crazy!”

Look how little they are!!

Look how little they are!!

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My horse!  Skottoplassis (at least I think that's what he said...)

My horse! Skottoplassis (at least I think that’s what he said…)

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Taking a quick break

Taking a quick break

What happens when you try to take a selfie - with your phone- on top of a moving animal...I did it for you Alanna!

What happens when you try to take a selfie – with your phone- on top of a moving animal…I did it for you Alanna!

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With a landscape like this, I can see how trolls and elves play a big part in their folklore

With a landscape like this, I can see how trolls and elves play a big part in their folklore

Loving it and rocking the stylish orange pants

Loving it and rocking the stylish orange pants

The next day was race day.  Since I was running the 10K, I had a 9:30 start time.  So I got up and went for breakfast at 8:30 (on a side note, I had pain au chocolat – basically a chocolate filled croissant – every morning.  And no I’m not sorry).  This is where I made my first mistake.  I gave a normal breakfast bolus, not realizing at the time that my insulin would be peaking right at the time I started the race.  Damnit!  Luckily for me, I started the race at 11.5 so I had a lot of room to work with.  I ran the first half with another lady from Halifax and carried on by myself when she stopped at the 4km water stop.  I stopped to check my blood sugar at 5km (yay bra with pockets!!)  and I had dropped to about 4.4.  So I shoved some Dex in my mouth and carried on.  I made sure to grab some Powerade at the next rest stop, as well as after I crossed the finish line.  I was a little worried going into this race because I still hadn’t run a full 10k before I left and my last training run in Halifax I was dead by 7.5.  However,  in Iceland, it felt fantastic!  I don’t know if it was the race atmosphere, cool weather conditions (only 12 degrees Celcius – perfect) or the fact that I was just having fun with it.  The awesome part was wearing my Team Diabetes shirts and getting cheers from spectators for both being Canadian and for diabetes!  I finished the race with a time of 1:09, which I was really happy with!  I would have done it sooner, but I stopped to change my music so I finished the race with my two favourite songs.  “Feel so Close” by Calvin Harris for all the people I wish I could have had there with me.  My family, my boyfriend, and every single person who donated and helped me to get there.  The second was “Beautiful” by Social Code.  That one was for me.  I had it cranked as I crossed the finish line.  I’m not going to lie, I was bawling.  Between the race atmosphere, having just finished my first race since being diagnosed, and the giant hug I got from another Team D member as I crossed, I was a mess.  But I felt amazing.  I worked hard to get there, I killed it, and I did all while raising money for diabetes.  It was a good day!

Pre-race!  So full of colour (minus my bright purple Nikes I left at home...Sadness!)

Pre-race! So full of colour (minus my bright purple Nikes I left at home…Sadness!)

At the start line.  So many people!

At the start line. So many people!

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Post race and just after I managed to pull myself together

Post race and just after I managed to pull myself together

Oh and did I mention I had to pee for the entire 10K?  Like almost pee-my-pants bad?  I almost stopped and searched for something to hide behind.  Luckily I managed to finish the race and make it back to the hotel without any accidents.  Lesson learned: always go before you go to the start line!!

The next day, I went to one of Iceland’s most famous attractions, the Blue Lagoon hot springs.  I booked my ticket way in advance because this was the number one thing on my list and I was not missing it!  Good thing I did too because when I got there, the line up was HUGE!!  It was incredible though, and so beautiful.  I have never seen water that colour before.  It’s apparently caused by all of the silica in the water and it’s supposed to be amazing for your skin.  There’s even stations around the pools where you can put lagoon’s signature silica mud on you.  Really cool!  It was a fantastic, luxurious way to spend the day after the race.  I could have spent hours there but I had to head back for the Team D celebration dinner!

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Volcanic rocks on the path to the lagoon.  So many colours!

Volcanic rocks on the path to the lagoon. So many colours!

Such a beautiful blue colour!

Such a beautiful blue colour!

You can see the silica build up on the rocks

You can see the silica build up on the rocks

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Sadly, the very next day I was on my way back to Canada.  I didn’t get nearly as much time as I wanted, but I didn’t have the time off or the money to stay longer.  Iceland was amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of going.  I had a fantastic experience, and I’d love to go back.  If you ever do go, bring more money that you think you need (it’s expensive – $10 for a beer!!) warmer clothes than you think you’ll need, and make sure to stop in at the Sea Baron on the water front for a bowl of their lobster soup.  Trust me on that last one.

2 thoughts on “Dear Iceland: I Love You

  1. Ahhh!! What an amazing experience!! Love reading all about your trip! And in awe of all the hard work fundraising and training that you put into making your dream a reality!!

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