The Good Kind of Hurt

You know that feeling you get when you push yourself so hard that every muscle in your body aches? That feeling of pure exhaustion and over exertion that hinders you natural flow? That feeling that makes you want to collapse and scream in agony, yet somehow you also want to smile because you earned that level of pain? I love that feeling. 

I can’t honestly say I was prepared for what I took on this past Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t dedicate a fraction of the time or effort most of my sea friends committed to their training because life got in the way and I let it.  

This weekend I participated in Stage One and Stage Two of the 8 Bridges swimming event in the Hudson River. This is by far one of my all time favorite events – as a swimmer and volunteer. It is also by far one of the absolute greatest open water events in the world, and is in fact the worlds longest stage race. The event is well organized and enjoyable, and takes place in an amazing location. I completed Stage Three a few years ago and loved every second. Since the first year of the event I’ve wanted to do more stages. This year I went for it and registered for the first two stages, with the ultimate goal of making my way all the way down the Hudson soon enough. 

Swimming in the Hudson is like magic. If you’ve never done it then you’re missing out. That might sound strange to most people, and I’m sure I present somewhat questionable having said that, but it’s the truth. An amazing waterway with breathtaking views, I like to think of the Hudson (particularly the 8 Bridges swimming aspect) as an escape. Where else can you transcend reality and societal norms in such a way as to put your head down for hours on end and see nothing but the silhouettes of mountains, the shapes of playful clouds, and…well, your kayaker, because let’s be honest you need them there with you and you see them at nearly every breath you take. It is therapy for the soul. 

Upon arriving upstate in preparation for this event I surprised myself in that I am not sure I’ve ever felt less nervous for an event. I was sort of waiting for it to hit me that I’d be taking on this challenging journey down the river but that slap in the face never seemed to come. I think this has something to do with how great the event is in its entirety. To be surrounded by so many talented, genuine, spirited, generous, and loving people is a special thing, and that’s what this event gives you. I don’t believe the nervous ever set in for me because of the people, my people. Like so many great open water swim events, it is easy to feel a sense of belonging that you might lack in many other aspects of life – at least that is how I feel. This same feeling came over me when I was in Vermont for the Ice Swimming Championships, the feeling of pure bliss in knowing that each individual around you shares the passion you have or nonetheless carries the desire to support that passion in you. 

  
I digress. Stage One was beautiful. We started off with a perfectly calm and peaceful morning picking up just a bit of chop on the second half. To be frank, I don’t have much else to say about day one because it was so great in all aspects. Oh, but I will mention how wonderful it was to finish strong with John smiling on one side, gliding through the water on the paddle board and my amazing kayaker Lizzy on the other side, with a smile on her face as she’d had all day. 

  
Day Two on the other hand was rough. Having been in a car accident less than two weeks ago and experiencing whiplash, I was slightly hesitant in the conditions we were experiencing. The Hudson sure likes giving us a true washing machine adventure. Hour after hour I kept waiting for the moment the river was going to calm down and the sun was going to shine. It didn’t. Despite my neck pains though, it was a fun ride! Maybe not ideal for 7+ hours of swimming but even in those testing conditions, how could one not love being toyed with by the very element in which they came to play? I love it. Toward the end of day two the current changed after only two swimmers reached the ending point, the Mid-Hudson Bridge. All the rest of us who hadn’t made the choice sooner to get out were pulled, as the speed picked up against our favor. That’s how the river works, like magic. 

  
Open water swimming is a test to withstand anything the elements so choose to throw ones way. It’s the price of admission to enjoy the waters and I would happily pay that price any day. Though I was a part of those pulled just shy of the bridge, I have to say I’m pretty happy with myself for swimming nearly 40 miles in two days. I wasn’t sure how my swims would end – now I know, and the worst of it is sore muscles – and I would do it again like that in a heart beat. Maybe with a little extra training time though next year. 

:)

 

 

Iceland Day Six

1 April 2015 

Happy April Fools, ya fools! :)

Today was by far the most incredible scenic span of road we’ve driven thus far on this trip. We left our little Laekjarkot home in the mountains just outside of Borganes and headed toward Stykkishólmur. The drive was about two and a half hours but along the way there were a few fjords to check out, amongst beautiful black sand beaches. We took the long road that follows the coast line of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula because it was meant to be a beautiful drive. Well, it would have been if we were able to see the road! I was at the wheel for this leg and we had TOTAL white out conditions. Remember how I mentioned that Iceland and Florida have weather condition (despite temperature) similarities? Yeah, proof once again. The snow and winds were so intense that we couldn’t see five feet in front of us – we could barely see the car on our tail. Sorry buddy, I wasn’t in a rush to drive where I couldn’t see. Anywho, check it out… 

   

Once we got in to the mountains the wind calmed down a bit. Our next challenge was the curvy unplowed (seldom, at least) road that stretched the middle of nowhere.  

   

We came across these neat little pockets of river playing peek-a-boo through the snow. 

   

    

Until we finally saw water once again.  

 

When we got to the shore line we discovered the most magical black sand beaches. I’ve read of these beaches in Hawai’i but never had the chance to see them. Wow!

   

   

   

     

Every stretch along the way from here to our little town for the night was jaw dropping; the churches, the waterfalls, the glaciers, the fjords. 




      

  

     

These views don’t get old. We were so excited to see our first fjord! I mean, can you beat this gorgeous piece of Mother Nature goodness?!

   

We arrived to Stykkishólmur a bit earlier than our check in time at the hostel so we explored what the town had to offer. Now, this is a big town here in Iceland. Many told us not to miss it so we intentionally stayed the night here. Fifteen minutes after arrival we had seen it all! Ha. It’s yet another beautiful spot, don’t get me wrong! Probably one of our favorites. 

   

  

See that little red dot in the top right corner of the picture above? That’s a light house – remember that for later in this post. 

 

I found the famous rye bread in a little bakari (bakery) they make here. The woman in the shop told me they cook the bread for twenty four hours and in empty milk cartons. So neat! Mom, I will try to bring home an authentic recipe. SO good. 

  

We got a recommendation for a yummy restaurant for dinner and it just so happened to be about 8 steps from our hostel’s back door (size perspective of town). Of course the entire menu was seafood based. Do you know me? If you do, you know I don’t eat seafood. I put on my big girl pants and tried the fish burger made with a fresh cod they caught locally. Alex had a bunch of mussels and then spoon fed her self the sauce. She loved her meal; I did not. But that’s okay! I tried it, and I am beyond sure that anyone with an appreciative palate for seafood would have loved it! 

 

 

We can’t figure out if eating at 7:30 pm is equivalent to the early bird special (sunset isn’t till ~9 pm right now) or if there just aren’t enough people around to make a restaurant look full. Great spot though! And primo local brews! :) 

    

Once we finished dinner and dessert, we literally ran (I mean it – literally!) out the door and through the docks, across the harbor, and up a big hill to catch the last moment of the sun’s flirting colors as they submerged below in to the oceans blue. Remember that red light house a few photos ago? Yeah, that’s what we RAN up to after stuffing our faces. Wise decision? Maybe not. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY. 

 

  

  

  

  

Still not regretting being somewhere warm x

Iceland Day Five; We Meant To Do That

31 March 2015

“That” being sleep an hour and a half past our alarm then drive an additional eight hours than intended (kind of) today. 

Let’s start with how last night ended – frozen hair in the hot tub and discussing the Northen Lights with our new friends from London. We saw one while we were all getting to know each other, though it’s probably debatable as it also may have just been a cloud. It was another beautiful night regardless. The man at the desk told us all he would give us a wake up call if the lights danced in the sky through the night but we never got that call. 

So as I mentioned we got moving a little late, we hit the road by 7:45. Our planned direction this morning initially was supposed to bring us back up a bit North of Reykavik but multiple people told us that making that extra stretch east along the southern coast toward Jökulsarlon to see the Glaciers was worth it sk that’s what we did. The driving was insane at points along the road – super strong winds and covered in ice. Alex maneuvered the speaker system and set up our iPhones with Bluetooth so we could jam out…to Christmas music. Ha. Anywho, check out this drive – we saw some glaciers along the way too: 

   

 

Baby volcano.

   

Glaciers we are going to be climbing Saturday.         

My new friend with four legs. 

This view from our guesthouse tonight is beautiful. Like everything else. Even if we did drive past the street three times. 

           

Iceland Day Four; Not Lost in Iceland

30 March 2015

The alarm went off and we hit snooze. 6:30 felt too early, so we decided 7:30 would feel better. It did. After breakfast we said goodbye to Ingi, our Igdlo host who was beyond hospitable. The car rental facility picked us up and we got our wheels for the week.

 

 I’m very purple today. Bye, Reykavik!

  

We hit the road toward PING PARK and got lost in the frozen tundra… but not really. It was breath taking – reminded me of a road trip I took out in the Western US with my grandfather and his older brother when I was in high school. Alex and I were warned about the winds on Golden Circle road but only realized just what everyone meant when we made our first stop. 

     

The map nearly flew out the window. We drove in a bit further and found a beautiful lake. Of course, my immediate reaction was how I wanted to jump in. Then I got out of the car. Brr!!!

   

         

 

As we continued down the road through the park to the town of Geysir to see one of the largest natural geysers in the world, we had the parking karma gods in our favor (this a very busy site), we rushed out of the car to catch a glimpse. Wow! How neat. Alex has seen geysers before and being that she is a earth science teacher, she taught me about the pressure build up under the very thin crust. A handy travel companion in a place like this :) 

   

      

I have some awesome photos on my camera of this, but since I’m doing this blog 100% from my phone you’ll have to know me to see those back home. You need to see this. All of you! You must see Iceland. 

We followed the one main road and a whole bunch of roundabouts to a small town called Hella where we are staying for the night – we splurged, $40 each for a hotel instead of a hostel. Man oh man was this worth it! Stracta Hotel is insanely fresh. That’s a good thing. It opened last summer so everything still feels new and smells of fresh wood (again, it’s a good thing). We ate a quick snack of cheese and crackers then headed in to their hot tub and sauna for the evening. 

   

        

Check out our view from this place, just a few volcanoes. One ready to erupt any day now. No big deal. 

   

  

Oh, and our room number matched my swim cap I packed. Meant to be. 

 

Alex had a yummy fish soup for dinner (her second fish of the day) made with fish caught across the street. I had a bar and a gerber sweet  potato squeeze. Well balanced meals, ha. The wonderful woman who works here gave us a little treat sampler. Wish we knew her name but when Alex asked she said its a typical Icelandic name that’s too hard to pronounce. 

 

Hot tub again now, then bed. Early up to explore the icebergs! :) 

Iceland Day Three

29 March 2015

Happy Birthday to one of my very best friends! Alexa, I hope you had the most wonderful day x

We slept so well last night! I don’t think we budged an inch till the second the alarm went off…ten and a half hours later. Our intention this morning after breakfast was to meet in the city to go off on our glacier climbing adventure! But it didn’t work out that way. Alex booked the tour for us last week back in NY but slightly misread the transportation situation so we didn’t have the means of getting to the glacier, ha. Fret not, my friends! Today worked out for the better. We came back to the hostel, showered, rearranged our weeks schedule, then booked and made our plans for the rest of the week – which still include glacier climbing, amongst Rift Valley snorkeling between the tectonic plates (!!!), lava cave tube climbing, and fjord exploring. Yup, be jealous. Iceland is pretty neat & I’m still glad I’m here rather than Miami (sorry, ekk).

  

Did I mention we woke up to fresh snow? Iceland is a lot Ike Florida. Okay, that sounds bizarre. What I mean by that is that we woke up to snow, then walked for a while and put on sun glasses and took off our rain coats, then at one point we walked in to a store and it started raining, then we walked out of said store to hail. Then the sun shone once again. And then it hailed with the sunshine, for three minutes. It’s basically the same as Florida…except cold. 

We walked all over downtown Reykavik and booked a few more nights at a backpackers hostel and the popular Kex hostel (where DM told me Mumford & Sons has played!). Check out this view near the Cathedral:  

 and the Cathedral:  

  

  

  

 

Mom, I thought of you when I saw this bar stool. How neat is this!  

 We stumbled upon some live local (religious?) music in the flea market.  

 And found an Irish pub down the road from some graffiti.   

  

  

Alex found a great new outfit & I found a great way to prioritize time. ;) (I did NOT purchase this, to be clear.)

  

 The views along the water are incredible. 

   

We stopped at the hostel to drop our stuff and change before heading out for dinner and drinks. We settled on Indian food – cannot believe Alex has never had Indian before, so what better place than in Iceland to try it (I had my favorite Indian food ever in Luxembourg) – then walked around till we came across a great little Irish pub. Side note: why is it so hard to find people in Reykjavik when the population is 208,752?! Our New friend pointed out it was a Sunday. Oops. We listened to Irish Folk music and sipped our Icelandic Einstök white ale until the third Einar we met decided there was no better topic than American Politics to discuss with us. Learned a lot about sensorship and the figure head that is the Icelandic president. Interesting is an understatement. This bar was pretty cool though, it was a whiskey bar. Alex and I had the feeling it was definitely the type of place our swim friend Ed R. would have loved. 

    (Einstök: Thinking you you, Brian!)

     

 

Alex had the yummiest alcoholic ginger beer with lime. Need this is the US!

  

The Indian restaurant had the best poster in their bathroom: 

 

And how great is this miserable statue near the city center?!

 

 

Love the street art. 

  

Driving to a geyser tomorrow. Woohoo!  By the way, have I mentioned how I won’t miss the smell of sulfur in the water? Bleh. Night!

  

Iceland Day Two

28 March 2015

I’m not really sure if this is a post about a new day or if I should consider it just a continuation of yesterday since we haven’t really slept at all yet. The flight was good but relatively short so we only slept about an hour maybe max. When we landed around 7 am local time, we scarfed down a plethora of cruciferous yummies… Anyone who knows me knows I love my veg, so I had packed a bag of lettuce, roasted asparagus & broccoli, and raw beets chopped and ready to nibble. Alex had a few apples with her. Usually you’re not allowed to bring produce in to a country but apparently Iceland isn’t too strict with their customs clearance. We didn’t want to waste the veg so we stood at baggage inside customs and ate all of it (breakfast…3 am NY time, ha). After finishing up, we proceeded to walk through customs which consisted of no line and not much of a check. Man, that would have been good later in the day. 

We hopped the bus from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, as the BL is sort of on the way or at least closer to the airport so we figured we’d knock out or first day there. Once we checked in and got our baggage we realized that was one of the greatest 35€ ever spent. The Blue Lagoon is incredible. It was so soothing and cleansing and relaxing – nothing could have been better after flying. There was a natural steam room and sauna, and the most magical silica mud to rub all over your face and body. We came out pruned all over but feeling like a million bucks! 

 

 

   

  

        

   

  

 Four hours later of well spent time in the sauna, steam room, showers, and lagoon baths we packed up and headed to Reykjavik. Alex and I both passed out of the bus in to the city. Very necessary. We checked in to our guesthouse room (hotel/hostel ish, very neat and super friendly), unpacked a little, made some plans for the next few days, then headed to the store to grab some groceries for dinner. I’m starting to get very vague in my descriptions now as our day came to an end because we are so tired. Can’t. Keep. Eyes. Open. Made an awesome dinner, chatted with the owner, booked a hostel for Monday night, and now we must sleep! Tomorrow is ice climbing and glacier hiking! Stoked. 

  

   

Oh, by the way we saw a little bit of the Northern Lights on our flight. It was incredible! We happened to be sitting next to an air pollution / ecosystem scientist for Cornell who was a really neat person with whom to share the experience. Okay, bed time! 

When A Normal Person Travels To Miami…

27 March 2015

I travel to Iceland! My friend Alex and I are off on an adventure to the chilly island of glaciers, Northern Lights, and hot springs. After a terribly cold and slightly U enjoyable winter in New York most would not set their sights on a trip somewhere else cold in March. The little Nordic island in the North Atlantic was an easy choice for Alex and I to set our sights on though, being that we both love adventure and exploration. This trip came to be exponentially fast, as we literally were talking about places that neither of us had been and decided spur of the moment to just book it and go (over English drinks with correctional officers…you know, your typical good decisions kind of night). Kidding, kind of.

 

 

Anywho, here we are. I had such a sense of nostalgia upon walking in to the airport this evening. The colorful signs, beeping sounds of intercom announcements, even the smells brought me back to my happy place. It hasn’t been that long – okay – but it’s my sense of home. Does that make sense? I have always been an in-betweener from Florida to New York, and as I’ve gotten older (another year last Sunday to be exact!) I find that travel is my stability in life. I know that probably sounds strange to most of you, though if you know me I think you’ll understand. 

   

 

Our flight was delayed an hour in departure due to inclement weather, yadah yadah. We made friends with an older woman, a retired teacher, who shared stories of her numerous adventures she’s found her self in with her best friend; off roading in backcountry on one of the smaller Hawai’ian islands was my favorite. Then made friends with a little girl wearing a bumble bee backpack. Ah, the places you go and the people you meet. On the flight, we both snagged exit row seats (long leg problems solved!!) and cozied in making new friends with the people around us. 

 

   

This trip came at a good time for me, a time when I feel I really needed to reground myself through a lack of confinement. I am looking forward to the next week of doing my favorite thing with one of my favorite people. 

  

Off we go!! :)