Friday, August 19, 2016

Blessing of the Fleet 2016

Narragansett, RI
Friday, July 27, 2016

My 14th straight Blessing would be a less than optimal race due to heat and humidity.  The morning of the race it was raining with a temp in the 60s, but alas it would not last.  On the drive to Narragansett the temp in the car showed 82F, even approaching 5pm.

Start to Mile 4:  After a short warm-up with Mike, Aaron, and Matthew, I am already dripping sweat and my pessimism about the race increased.  This race has a nice feature of a separate corral for the first 100 runners, and it really helps reduces the clog in the first mile.  My first mile was the only one on target pace, with a split of 5:51.  Felt good thus far.  By the end of the 2nd mile, I sensed the gig was up, as my pace had slowed to a 6:07 and I felt like I was struggling to maintain that.  The final two miles on Ocean Road came in at 6:04 and 6:18.

Warm up with a few of Team WTAC.
(Lions Club complimentary pic)

 
Turning onto Ocean Road,
near end of Mile 1.
Form still looking good.
Miles 5 to 8:  As I turned into the direct sunlight on my least favorite part of the course, Route 108, I made a conscious decision to slow the pace a little before I wilt and completely run out of steam anyway.  Running on a busy highway is never any fun to me, but in the heat and sun just makes it worse.  As we finally turned off 108 into the shaded neighborhood, I was passed by Clay Howland, who is about my age.  I figured I would end up 10th or worse in my age group, but had no fight to give.  At the mile 7 mark, I often feel good and get a 2nd wind.  Yeah, not this time.  5-to-8 splits:  6:32, 6:49, 6:35, 6:47.  Yikes.  I'm running 30-40 seconds per mile slower than last year.
Final mile.  Trying and failing to hold off a
Chariho young runner, who looks like he's taking it easy.
My form is completely gone.  Am I leaning backwards?
(Pic by Jana)

Finish:  Please end this sweaty sufferfest.  I take advantage of every remaining sprinkler and water stop, but otherwise it's a blur.  As I cross the finish line, I am feeling really weak.  I barely acknowledge Tom and Matthew (sorry, guys).  Matthew hands me a full Gatorade bottle, which I take with my bottle of water to walk it off and try to regain my composure.

Finally, it's over.

Final results:  1:04:58.  81st overall out of 2,438.  1st in age group.  Full results here.

Well, well, it turns out so many other runners had heat / slowness issues as well, and taking a first in my age group at Blessing is a first for me.  It comes with a $75 gift certificate to the Wakefield Running Company (previously Camire's).  None of my speedy sub-hour WTAC teammates are able to break an hour today.  Well, that is with the exception of Matthew, who dropped a 57:42 in 12th overall!  Congrats to all who survived Blessing '16.  Will I be back next year?  Of course!  Will I whine about it?  I'm getting my excuses ready now.  :)
 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Weekly Log 8-Aug to 14-Aug: Humidity and Bobby Doyle

Like many, I'm tired of the recent heat and humidity.  Spent the better part of last weekend sitting inside in A/C.  Not my style, but I just easily feel sapped and lose all motivation to do anything.  Is this summer unusually hot and humid, or do I just have a short memory?

Monday:
5 miles.  Course measuring, running with a measuring wheel in both Wahaneeta and Bradford Preserve.  Wahaneeta will be coming up in less than three weeks now.  Need to put together trail maintenance and race day volunteer needs now.

6 miles.  Sunset low tide beach.  Out and back from Westerly Town Beach.  Matthew seemed annoyed that there was a concert going on at the beach, but I enjoyed the festive atmosphere.

Tuesday:
 6 miles.  5:30am group workout of three.  Mile in 5:39, followed by 3 x 400, 3 x 200.
12 miles.  Stonington Fun Run.
5 miles.  Stonington Fun Run.  Another season comes to an end for me.

Wednesday:
3 miles.  Last Westerly Fun Run 5K for me this year.  Wanted to run this one hard, but no energy in yet another humidity drenching day.  19:16

Thursday: 0
Temps hit 90 even on the coast.  Day off for me.

Friday:
10 miles.  Ran roads from the Mystic Y at 5:30am with Matthew and Jonny E.  By Mile 3, we had all doffed our sweat-soaked shirts on the side of the road to pick up later.  Matthew had planned out this run and it was neat to run on Mystic roads I had never been on before.  Cooling off in the Mystic River post-run followed by an iced coffee from Mystic Market were post-run highlights.

Saturday:
5 miles.  Mostly open field at Bradford Preserve.  Various circles trying to come up with options for start and finish portions of WHS XC course.  Near 90 degrees in direct sunlight.  Brutal.  Felt weak for the rest of the day.  Deerfly kill = 4.

Sunday:
5 miles.  Bobby Doyle Summer Classic, New England 5-Mile Championships.
No separate race report.  Just a few words here.  It was hot.  I hated it.

Not much more to report.  Stealing others' words, Strava posts from normally very fast runners were titled with words including "brutal", "running in hell", "ugh", "freaking hot", "humid mess", and "death march".  My favorite and perhaps only enjoyable part of the race was the fire hose.  Went for three long visits under the fire hose.
The heat and humidity were miserable even from the start.
You can even see the haze in this pic.
(Picture by Jana, deplorable conditions by Mother Nature)

Not exactly a flattering picture, but
captures the essence of how I feel.  Form is broken down,
wilting in the heat, soaked from head to toe in sweat.  Yes,
even my socks and shoes are soaked by now.
Please let this race end.  If it's like this next year,
I'm transferring my registration to Mikey B.
Caveat:  My whining and complaints are solely on account of the oppressive weather, and not a reflection of the fine organization of the race itself.

Weekly mileage:  46

Weekly synopsis:
Hot.  Humid.  Awful.  Ready for fall.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekly Log 1-Aug to 7-Aug-2016: Double Race Weekend

Two races this weekend, which means I'll be two more races behind in blog writing.  Am actually keeping up pretty well on weekly posts lately, just need to finish up (which falsely implies they're in the works) two race reports from July:  Blessing and Vesturgatan.

Monday:
5 miles.  Narragansett Pier, barefoot in the sand, while waiting to watch Matthew's Lifeguard Games competition.

Tuesday:
12 miles.
AM:  7 mile workout at Hell Field with Tommy, Jonny, and Matthew.  3 sets of (600, 400, 200), before a cool-down and dip in the ocean at Fenway Beach.
PM:  Stonington Fun Runs.  6:30 average pace with Jeff Vuono.
19 miles.  To and from Stonington Fun Run.

Wednesday:
8 miles.
AM:  5 miles easy road run in the fog in Needham, MA.
PM:  3 miles.  Westerly Fun Runs.  Easy 6:30 average pace.  Three surprise highlights were 1) the 3rd place kids' finisher is from Austria and I got to speak a little German with him and his mother, 2) young Tyler Faubert (incoming freshman at WHS) cranking AC/DC on the run, and 3) a visiting runner from Litchfield Running Club (Mike Main) that was very complimentary of our Fun Run.

Thursday:
15 miles.  Brick with Matthew.  Watch Hill --> Misquamicut --> Weekapaug.
3 miles.  From Weekapaug Breachway, out-and-back barefoot run on the beach, before bike return home.

Friday:
3 miles.  Easy shakeout on local roads.

Saturday:
1/4 mile.  Block Island Triathlon!  Write-up forthcoming.
13 miles.
6 miles.

Sunday:
8 miles.  Run 4 Kerri.  Write-up forthcoming.

Weekly Totals:
0.3 miles.   

49 miles.
44 miles. 

Weekly Synopsis:

As much as I dislike the heat, the summer is going by much too quickly.  Had a pretty good mix this week, and a fun time on Block Island as always.  Next up is the super-competitive Bobby Doyle USATF 5-Mile New England Championships on Sunday (August 14).

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Weekly Log: 25-Jul to 31-Jul-2016

Monday:
5 miles.  Chariho Fun Run.   Caught up with Seth and Ezri.

Tuesday:
10 miles.
AM:  5 mile local roads super sweaty run, with Matthew.
PM:  Stonington Fun Runs.  Low 7s pace in the heat.
19 miles.  To and from Stonington Fun Run with Mike B.

Wednesday:
8 miles.
AM:  5 miles easy trail run in Noanet Woodlands, Dover MA.  Killed 12 pesky deerflies.
PM:  3 miles.  Westerly Fun Runs.  Easy 7 minute average pace with Muddy and Mikey.

Thursday:
4 miles.
Easy solo shakeout at the Barn.


Friday:
11 miles.
Sufferfest at Blessing of the Fleet.  Short write-up to follow.

Saturday:   0
Needed rest.

Sunday:
9 miles.
Recovery trail run in Wahaneeta and Woody Hill with Matthew and my cousin Dave.  Super humid.  Added 8 more deerflies to the kill list.


Weekly Totals:
0 miles.   
19 miles.
47 miles. 

Weekly Synopsis:
First full week back from vacation.  Not enjoying the summer heat.
 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Weekly Log 20-Jul to 24-Jul-2016: Beavers

NOTE:  Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19 were bundled with previous week's Iceland post.

Wednesday:

16 miles.  Very easy pace.  First full day back in USA.
3 miles.  Westerly Fun Runs.  19:37.  Ugh; it's a lot hotter back home than in Iceland.

 Thursday:  
7 miles.  Woody Hill.  Enjoyable despite the deerflies.

Friday:  
 0.5 miles.  Ocean swim with Tom.  
3 miles.  Barefoot beach run.  (Why do I have three different fonts on this post?  I wish Blogger would give controls to easily change font size, or at least offer a paintbrush feature, instead of the hassle of having to go through HTML to fix.)


Saturday:  
13 miles.  Run for the Beavers.  Or is it Run with the Beavers?
I can't recall, but either way, it's clearly my worst performance this year, and in the top worst performances in my lifetime.  To be clear, all of this is on me (and perhaps Mother Nature), and none of this is on RD Bob Jackman.  The race was very well organized from registration to sign-up to announcements to very clear trail markings.  I just do very poorly at running in heat or high humidity, and on this day we had both, thank you very much.  Not sure if spending time in 30+ degree cooler weather in Iceland just a few days was a contributor, but I was a mess.

Went for a pleasant warm-up with Muddy, Jonny, Jonathan Short, and Matthew.  Hung back just a little at the start, but when I heard a 20-ish female breathing very hard just before the single-track entrance, I sped up to go around her.  Entered the trail just behind Leslie O'Dell, who I know to be a very strong trail runner.  The first lap was pretty good.  I spent the lap gradually passing people.  At two miles in, I looked back and saw teammate Seth just behind me, so that was encouraging.  By the end of lap 1, I was really feeling my oats (am I a horse?) and with form broken down, just before entering the field, I tripped and went down in the dirt.  That was the beginning of the end for me.  Leslie and another passed me.  I seriously considered a DNF, but for my foolish pride I continued on.

Lap 2 was just horrid.  Weak and feeling miserable, I had at least eight painful ankle rolls and tripped and fell at least five more times.  I was thinking "Is this misery almost over?", when I realized I hadn't even made it to the half-way water station yet!  Never so happy to see angels Faith and Beth, as I stopped for several minutes to quaff water, have a GU, all while Faith was kind enough to put ice on me.  Finally I moved on and the final two miles were just an embarrassing mix of stumbling and falling until I somehow deliriously reached the finish line, and then just fell to the ground.  Just awful.  I rolled away from the finish line, and had ice on my ankle and calf until I felt good enough to be able to limp to the car and vamoose.  

Congrats to the WTAC on the win, led by Matthew in 4th.  

Sunday:  0
Completely trashed after Beavers.  


Weekly Totals:
0.5 miles.   
16 miles.
37 miles. 

Weekly Synopsis:
Awesome start to the week in Iceland.  Went downhill in the heat and Beavers suffering.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekly (Plus a Couple of Days) Log: 11-Jul to 19-Jul-2016 – ICELAND!!

Where do I even begin with this one?  How can I put together a cohesive and organized post without drooling and rambling on and without over-using superlatives?  I’m not sure that I can, but given that I’m neither writing a professional paper nor seeking any literary accolades, that’s the chance that I’m willing to take.

As children, we learn the meaning of the US flag design.
How about the meaning of the colors of the Iceland flag?
Blue of the surrounding ocean, against a white cross representing snow and ice,
with the red of Iceland's fiery volcanos.
Reader caution:  This weekly-ish blog post will be longer than others, and will not be entirely about running (my blog; my rules).  However, it will also contain many more photos than usual, so you can always just look at the pictures.  This will also give you an American runner and tourist’s insight into what I perceived as simply an amazing and beautiful country.  (See – I’m out of control on the superlatives already.)

A quick trip back to the 80s ...
1980s Regret.  As with the movie “Back to the Future”, to start this story, you’ve got to set the DeLorean back to the mid-1980s, as that's when I added Iceland to my bucket list.  I can’t remember the exact year (due to old age and confusion), but I was ~ 20 years old.  The short version of the circumstances is that my family was going back for a somewhat regular pilgrimage to my mother’s native country of Germany, and as they were flying Icelandair, it included a stopover in Iceland.  I declined!  WHAT AN IDIOT!  I shortsightedly thought it would be more cool with my parents out of the house to invite a bunch of my high school friends over for a night of partying.  More cool than going to ICELAND?!  What was I thinking?  Why didn’t someone smash a metal frying pan over my head and knock some sense into me?  Anyway, this is one of my big regrets that I carried with me for over three decades, until …

2016 Family Vacation Vote.  Yes, we really do have a family vote, replete with the Official Walker Rules which point-weight your first and second choices to lessen the chance of a draw.  This year Iceland won out over Bermuda by a solitary point, which in turn was only a single point ahead of our 49th state.  On with the show …

Monday 11 July:  5
Last full day in the US of A.  Chased by a turkey deep in Woody Hill. 

Tuesday:  7
Avondale 6 x 1K workout, before 1/2 day of work and up to Logan for a direct flight to Iceland.  5 hours!  Quicker than getting to the west coast. 

Wednesday:  12
AM:  After a 6am arrival and hotel check-in, 7 miles with Matthew around where we were staying in Keflavik.  Unlike two years ago in Europe where Matthew declined most runs, I think he came with me on every single run this time.  Good bonding and someone to share the sights with.
1st Iceland run, in pastoral fields in Keflavik
Bridge Between Two Continents:
Iceland is one of a few, if not the only, country in the world lying both in North America
and Europe.  The tectonic plate gap lies in the chasm you see beneath the bridge,
with Mark in North America and Europe on the left side

Outer-worldly rock formations in southwest Iceland

Geysir with sulfur-streaked soil.  Pungent sulfur smell as well.
Reminded me a little of formations at Yellowstone National Park.

Hafnabjarg Sea Cliffs.  One of many where pictures don't do this justice.

Mark, on top of cliff in picture immediately before this.

PM:  5 miles with Jana and Matthew, while awaiting for our appointed time to enter the Blue Lagoon, a famous geo-thermal hot spa.
Jana and Matthew running
near Blue Lagoon.

Lava field from an eruption in 1226 AD.

Cool gravel running path
with seldom seen trees.
Post run, Matthew soaking in just a very
small part of the Blue Lagoon.

Thursday:  5
Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Explored the Vatnshellir lava caves, 35 meters under the ground, and 200 meters long.  The temperature at the bottom was 2C (36F)!  Our tour guide, Gunnar, upon encountering another tour group coming the other way, joked that this was the only traffic jam we would see in Iceland.  He was right!  Even in the capital city at rush hour (which was the only place we even saw traffic lights), there was virtually no delay.

Personally not into one of the Icelandic national dishes of lamb ...

... but their bakeries certainly sated
my sweet tooth.

Descending into the cave.

Deep inside the cave:
(l-r):  Mark, Matthew, Jeff
After the cave tour, we checked into the house we had rented at Arnastapi.  Jana, Matthew, and I went out for a run.  One of the reasons I chose this locale was it was consistently listed as having the best hiking trail in all of Iceland.  Amazing technical trail of lava rocks against sheer cliffs dropping straight into the ocean.

Bárður the troll lives in this area, and 

protects it from evil.

Running the technical trail from Arnastapi to Hellnar.
Just gorgeous.

Matthew running single-track
through the highlands.

These Arctic terns are nasty.  They hover,
and then dive-bomb you.

This is the bungalow we rented and stayed in while on the
Snæfellsnes  peninsula.  Right on the water and trails.
Friday:  9
Long, long drive into the Westfjords of northern Iceland.  If only I could ever cash in on the phrase of "as the crow flies", I would likely have saved 75% of the time driving today.  Long drives down one side of a fjord and then back up the other, combined with white-knuckled climbs across mountain passes.  Normally, I'm fine with heights, but these were hairpin turns on gravel roads on the edges of mountains with never a guardrail.  One mistake or look away briefly and you're all done.


Just a portion of our trip (in blue):
Up one side of a fjord, down the other side
Twisty gravel road mountain-pass rises and switch-backs.
Dynjandi Falls.  The short 1.5 mile hike was well worth
the sights and experience, as well as giving me a needed break
 from driving.  The four of us in lower right.



Sheep outnumber people in Iceland by
almost 3:1.


We were signed up for a 10K that evening, but time was running too tight.  A subsequent snafu with a mountain tunnel entrance being closed, and then having our hotel reservations explicably canceled by Orbitz and a wait to get replacement rooms at a nearby guesthouse caused us to be unable to get to the 10K bus departure point on time.  A race that we had excitingly signed up for and was taking place in Iceland we wouldn't actually be able to make.  I didn't know if Matthew would ever talk to me again, but after initial disappointment, he seemed more accepting of this than me.  While I couldn't have anticipated either the tunnel or hotel issue, I hadn't given any allowance for contingencies.  Poor planning.


Start of Friday night's northern Iceland run.  Along a fjord,
with snow-capped mountains in the background.
After settled into our new guesthouse, and beating myself up "If only I had done x or y", Matthew somehow accepted my company for a longish run on gravel roads, and single-track through grass up into the highlands and past beaucoup de sheep.  10pm and bright sunshine!  In fact, sunset wouldn't be until close to 1am, followed less than two hours later by sunrise!

Saturday:  6
Late sleep-in and lazy day.  Dead tired and I've been staying up uncharacteristically late, as with near 24 hours of daylight, my sleep pattern is affected.  Noontime 54 degree run!  Easy pace with sights of snow-capped mountains and endless fjords.  Matthew and I stopped on a deserted beach and sat on the rocks soaking in the beautiful and desolate scenery.  I remember remarking that I would be happy to stay in Iceland for a month-long vacation.
The Súðavík Arctic Fox Center seemed a little overrated,
but you have to admit this fox cub is cute.  Mark tried to pet it,
and it thought Mark's fingers looked tasty.  This is the only
land mammal native to Iceland.

The views just don't quit in the Westfjords.
(Jana took this from the grounds of the Arctic Fox Center).

Post-afternoon trip we went for a short swim in the outdoor heated (it would be too cold otherwise) public pool in the village, but unfortunately we were pushing up against closing time of 7pm.  Next the family went for dinner.  Mine was plokkfiskur, the ubiquitous, inexpensive, and delicious Icelandic fish stew.

Sunday:  16
Runner's Festival 2016 - Vesturgatan 24K Wilderness Trail Race.  Simply awesome and very unique experience.  Race write-up to follow. 

After a long-ride (again, up one side of a fjord, then back down-to-another), punctuated by a late night delicious dinner of "Salt Fish" along the way, we reached Reykjavik at Midnight.  We had rented a 3-bedroom apartment downtown and I repeatedly apologized to the landlord waiting for us at Midnight, but he just brushed it off and gave me a nice tour of his small, but very functional apartment.

Monday 18 July (I warned you this is an extended version):  5
Skogafoss Falls. (I'm in blue jacket and
white hat)
We were able to hike to the top of the falls
as well, but the views were best from
right here.

Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike.
Simply amazing to be hiking on top of a glacier.

The boys having fun with their ice picks.

Gulfoss Falls.  Rated among the top ten in the world.

From this vantage view looking down on the falls,
you can see a hint of a rainbow.

After a long and tiring day of hiking, I was long ready for bed at 10pm.  Matthew would hear nothing of it, and wanted to go for a run in the city, and had made the effort to research a few spots of interest.  When would I have the chance to run in Reykjavik again, let alone a near-sunset run along the water?  Thank you, Matthew!  My legs were not thrilled, but my heart and spirit were soon lifted.  Not the wonderful natural sights of the past few days in the Westfjords, but certainly unique and interesting.
Fresh Arctic Char:
just another healthy and delicious local meal.
I thought Mark was going to try the smoked puffin, but he
had the whale steak instead.


Reykjavik night run:
Hallgrímskirkja Church
(Statue in front was a gift from
the US to Iceland in 1930;
it's of Leif Eriksson, believed to
reach America 500 years before
Columbus.)


Sculpture of a Viking ship "Solfarid - The Sun Voyager"
along the Reykjavik waterfront,
just before sunset at 11pm.
Right in Reykjavik.
But, yeah, we didn't quite make it there.

Tuesday:  6
Happy Birthday to me.  For my 50th birthday, I ran 50 K with friends.  For my 51st, I ran 51K, mostly solo in the heat, but Matthew "carried" me for the finishing miles on the beach in the dark.  For my 52nd, a birthday adventure run I don't know how I will ever best:

Mount Esja!  2,600+ vertical climb, average 19% grade.  It was about a 40K drive outside of Reykjavik to the base of Mount Esja, towering over the water at sea level.  It was about 12C (in the low 50s) to start, but cooler at the mountain-top.  There were only three hikers ahead of Matthew and me as we started our trek upward, but numerous hikers we encountered on our way down.  The trail started out on gravel but the higher we got the more it became rock-strewn and technical.  With a number of breaks, we were able to run the entire course, save the last 100 meters, which I'll show you why in just a moment.
Alpine flowers and start of our run.

Getting steeper.  Reykjavik in far distance across water.

Barely runnable now.

Final 100m, no longer runnable,
as I am pulling myself up
metal chains over rocks.

Top of Mt Esja!

Esja - success!
The descent.  Yikes!

Tuesday capped out 60 miles of running in Iceland in 7 days.  Hit most of the activities we set out to do, but due to time and other constraints, had to skip sea-kayaking and Latrabjarg (puffin bird cliffs).
These are the major areas we visited in Iceland on our 2016 trip.
2600 km of driving, but still left quite a bit untouched.
(If it's not obvious, the white areas are glaciers.)


Iceland trip pros:
  • Stunning beauty.  This was my 17th country that I've visited, and by far, the most beautiful.  Simply amazing natural scenery that wouldn't quit, especially in the drop-dead gorgeous Westfjords region of northern Iceland.
  • Extremely clean country.  Almost no litter to be seen.  I might give Singapore the nod here as the cleanest country I've ever been to, but it would be close. 
  • Technology:  Ahead of the US in many areas, from chip-and-pin credit cards, to a virtual cashless society (although I did like their coins with fish and sea creatures on them instead of presidents!), to self-scanning baggage machines, FREE unlimited wifi nearly everywhere even in our rental car, etc.
  • Safety.  The third lowest violent crime country in the entire world!  Ordinary policemen don't even carry guns, and we were told most people in Iceland don't even lock their doors!  Not to knock our own country, but we're not even in the same ballpark.
  • English fluency.  Icelanders learn English as a second language, and Danish as a third.
  • Proximity.  Would it surprise you to know that we took a 5-hour direct flight from Boston?    (Flight price was only $378 round-trip, but being on an Icelandic budget airline "WOW Air", you get nothing, and baggage charges and seat choices rack up quickly.  Pack snacks ahead.)
  • Weather.  This could be a con for many, but personally I don't enjoy the heat.  Highs most days in the upper 50s, a few days reaching the upper 60s meant I was very comfortable.  Perfect running weather!
  • Metric system.  Can we please, please get rid of the silly antiquated English-inherited system that England and her other former colonies have long abandoned, and join the modern world?  Everything makes so much sense in the base-10 system, and you don't need to know that there are 5,280 feet to the mile or 128 ounces to the gallon or how many square feet to an acre?
  • Food.  Again, this could be a con for many, but the Icelandic palate agreed with me quite well.  I could finally easily achieve one of my goals:  becoming a pescatarian (eating no animals at all except seafood).  If you need to wake up to your American breakfast of fried eggs and bacon, you could probably find that in cosmopolitan Reykjavik, but that wasn't the norm at hotels / guesthouses.  The European breakfast I was used to (cheeses, meats, rolls, jams, muesli, yogurt, OJ, coffee) met with my high approval.
  • No mosquitos.  Iceland is one of the very few places on earth where there are absolutely zero mosquitos!
  • Friendly people.  While they wouldn't typically show it with emotion (i.e., not a lot of smiling), I had great conversations with a number of Icelanders.  1) Asking for directions in Ísafjörður, it appeared odd to me that the man I asked started to walk away until I realized he was going to his car to get his personal map, mark it up with the street blocks I need to walk, and then give it to me to keep.  2) At the overbooked hotel where our reservations were cancelled, the manager apologized profusely (it wasn't his fault; it was Orbitz's), personally arranged other accommodations for us and insisted the four of us sit down and have anything we want to eat and drink in his coffeehouse "on the house" before leaving.  3) In Reykjavik, an elderly man living in the adjacent apartment and one of the few non-English speakers I met nonetheless insisted I follow him into the basement (OK, is this getting weird?) where he showed me where he kept his bicycle and offered us to use it anytime.
Iceland trip cons (no I didn't run out of pros!):

  • Expensive.  With nearly everything imported (exceptions of seafood and lamb), it's common to pay the equivalent of US$20 for a salad, or nearly $7 for a gallon of gas.
  • Driving.  Long rides up and down fjords were anything but "the shortest distance between two points ...", and the gravel mountain pass climbs without guardrails were white-knuckle experiences for me.
Epilogue:
Shortly after arriving in Boston on the return flight, waiting in a long line to clear US customs, and then packed in like sardines on the Silver Line bus to South Station, Jana (from busy, hot, and traffic-prone Taiwan) made the comment that there are "too many people here, too many cars, and it's too hot".  I agree on all sentiments!  Before I die, I would like to come back for an extended and less rushed vacation to Iceland.  If for some reason that is not fulfilled, our 2016 Iceland family vacation has already left an indelible lifelong impact upon me as a most remarkable and beautiful part of the world.