Fire and Ice 125K: Cold Rain! Lava Rocks, Puffins — & a Few More Scars

By August 26, 2018 No Comments

One of (so many!) climbs
Photo credit: Jórunn Jónsdóttir



“Do you know who you are?”
“Do you know what’s happened to you?”
“Do you want to live this way?”
Cristina in “Grey’s Anatomy” – Netflix binge on return flight


This spring, I returned to Iceland for a shorter version of Fire and Ice Ultra: 3 days, 125 km, self-supported. It’s rare that I return to a place I’ve already raced (so many other places to see!) but Iceland has a special place in my heart (+ a chunk of my forehead from 2016).

New spring version was a chance to meet up with friends, explore a different part of the country, test my limits & early year conditioning.

And this race, this place is special. Stunning landscape, challenging conditions, and a race organization that wants you not just to have a successful race, but have the experience of your life. Literally. So while there is intense suffering – race is hard, y’all – there’s support, encouragement, tough love & “no whining” from an experienced RD and impeccable race organization.

Cold wet! race start


The Race

Total distance for this race was 125 kms or about 78 miles – self supported– so had to carry sleeping bag, food, & other mandatory safety/emergency equipment.

The weather was punishing, as usual! – pouring cold rain for first 2 ½ of the 3 days.  (What would these races be without that cold-wet-bordering hypothermic moment that makes you question all your life choices, hmmm?). Dangerous enough that race organizers handed out our “emergency bags” packed with required extra warm gear each night of camp.

Camp tents
Photo credit: Jórunn Jónsdóttir


View from campsite
Photo credit: Roland Lambert

Day 1: 40 km (25 miles)

Less than 5 miles in, took a hard fall in the lava field —  removing a nice chunk of flesh/skin from bottom of my hand & thumb. (Good news — lava rock doesn’t get slippery when it’s wet. Bad news? it’s hella’ sharp.) Laid there stunned for a bit, then got up thinking,“OK, got that ‘falling down’ part out of the way!” Cuts weren’t super deep, but made working clips on my pack & eating food on the run a bit challenging for rest of the race. Bonus: new Iceland scars!

Up & over! hella’ sharp lava field
Photo credit: Jórunn Jónsdóttir

Ran strong & happy from there. So happy I managed to overrun the 1st day course! – somehow bypassing the turn into the finish & running extra 4K of 2nd day’s route – until (very scared) RD knew I was overdue for finish & tracked me down. (In my defense, course flags were all the same color – super easy to miss a turn & continue on with flags ahead, especially if you are running happy & pushing hard.)

Rocks, rocks, & more rocks!
Photo credit: Roland Lambert


Day 2: 50 km (31 miles)

Cold cold! wet. Lots of climbing. Managed to stay on my feet and (mostly) on course. Leaned hard into strength and support of my friends FF and Caren — who light candles for me when I’m racing, whispering encouragement into the flames. It’s a solid source of support for which I am so very grateful.

More climbing!
Photo credit: Roland Lambert

More climbing!
Photo credit: Jórunn Jónsdóttir

Day 3: 35 km (22 miles)

Last day – sun broke out! The green moss & wet rocks literally glowed – so many colors! — in a way that’s hard to describe. A big chunk of the day was navigating a (never-ending!) lava field, so it was slow-going – but absolutely stunning. Spent a lot of time saying “wow!” and “thank you!”—sometimes to myself but just as often out loud  – for the day, the place, the experience.

Never-ending lava fields
Photo credit: Roland Lambert

Finished the race! by getting turned around (again!) at the end — along with my tentmate Dave – both of us running a bit extra to reach the finish.

Happy finisher
Photo credit: Jórunn Jónsdóttir

Finished happy and healthy — 3rd woman overall (OK, so there were only 4 of us).


When everyone finished – off to Blue Lagoon hot springs! (a.k.a., heaven for tired-sore-beat up racers)

Blue Lagoon hot springs (a.k.a. heaven)
Photo credit: Roland Lambert


AND surprise boat trip around Puffin Island!

Boarding the boat — Karl Middleton on bagpipes!
Photo credit: Roland Lambert

Puffin Island – boat trip!
– in Arctic sea gear w/ RD Dave Annandale


So here I was on my flight home: burrowed in my puffy coat, snacks at hand, Netflix “Grey’s Anatomy” binge in process.  A bit torn up (new scars!), holding close the memories of lava fields & oceans & bagpipes & hot-coffee-savored-in-the-cold-dark. Wet clothes, unforgiving landscape, rocks in colors I can’t describe in words. Laughing so hard with new and good friends that my stomach was still sore.

And these 3 lines from “Grey’s” came on:

“Do you know who you are?”
“Do you know what’s happened to you?”
“Do you want to live this way?”

All I could do is smile — while every part of my bones said, “Yes, yes I do.”


What Worked Well

32L OMM pack – held up well, fit was good, able to hold all food & gear stuff

OMM rain jacket – life saver

Trail toes – wet feet for days, shoes never dried out. And I had zero blisters. Zero.

Nutrition – no stomach issues, though did not get enough calories. Carried required 2300/day calories – but only managed to eat about 1/2.

Training – felt strong & happy throughout the race.

Talismans – custom made by Aidan Wachter. Well loved, well-traveled (Morocco, Iceland, Peru races) http://www.aidanwachter.com/

Handcrafted talismans from Aidan Wachter

New talisman – fire agate! gift from my friend Jonathan for this race (https://www.facebook.com/emmettsilverworks/)

Slaughter Mountain Fire Agate
Photo credit: Jonathan Emmett

Ganesha statue – light, small enough to carry easily in my pack (thank you Kelly!) carried in small pouch along with photo of #1 son




Not So Well

Speed – especially on hiking/technical areas. Run pace was solid, but need work on hiking and climbing.

Navigation – missed too many turns! Totally my fault for enjoying the run, the moment a bit too much.

Nutrition – need to eat more throughout the race. Managed to lose 5 lbs. I didn’t have extra! over the 3 days.