Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A weekend in Iceland

This past weekend we revisited Iceland three years after my first visit. This time the reason was to visit Katrine who has been studying there this month.

I really enjoy the relaxed vibe of Reykjavik. No one is in a hurry, and it's very quiet considering it is the largest city in Iceland.

We got in very late on Friday night - rented a car and drove it to our AirBnB. We finally got to bed at 2:30AM local time (4:30AM Norwegian time), and had 6 hours to sleep before we were expected to be at Katrine's place for breakfast. When our alarms went off we threw on our hiking clothes and packed our bags for our daytrip. We were greeted with a great breakfast (including Skyr!! - Icelandic style yoghurt - my favorite).
[Natural skyr with warmed up (frozen) berries]

[I love breakfast]

Saturday's itinerary was the Golden Circle. Without stopping it takes a little over three hours to drive the route. We started around 10 and got back by 6-ish. The highlights of the drive are Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir.

Þingvellir (or Thingvellir) - "The Parliament Plains"

A national park, world heritage site, and site of the Alþing general assembly (est. 930)

Upon driving in we pulled over for a view over the national park. This place is considered to be the site of the first democratic parliament in the world. It is also the location of a large rift where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. 

As this area was used like a courtroom and dealing out punishment, this was also the area where men were beheaded and women were drowned for the crimes they committed (mainly dealing with incest and infidelity)...

[Þingvellir National Park map]
[Walking down the middle of the rift- it separates between 1mm to 18mm a year]

[The rain is clearing!]

Gullfoss - "Golden Falls" 

A woman known as the savior of the falls is depicted in a sculpture here, and was described on an information plaque as "one of 13 children, she was strongly built, average looks, and strict" --- I wish I had taken a picture of it. She is remembered for having saved the falls from being dammed and used for hydroelectricity.

Geysir - The geyser that gave the name to geysers around the world; (" was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans.").

This one was cool. It goes off every 5-10 minutes and shoots at least 10 meters up in the air! We watched it a few times and walked around the area a bit. The tourist shop there was pretty big and had a big cafe where we got cappuccinos and ice cream.

[about to pop!]

Extras - the crater (Kedir) and Icelandic horses

[An explosion 6500 years ago created this crater]
[Icelandic horses]

[Marius was a little afraid of this killer]

The Blue Lagoon

On Sunday we went to the Blue Lagoon. We had been there before, but only for a quick dip to try it out. This time we actually did as much as we could (or as much as we could afford): swimming around, silica mud masks, steam bath, sauna and a pummeling waterfall. We were lucky with sunshine and perfect weather! We finished the day with a nice dinner and ice cream (again), and a walk around town. 

[More pictures on the GoPro, but this was the one I had saved to my phone]

[Walking around the Old Harbor]

[The iconic Hallgrimskirkje and statue of Leif Eriksson]

[The organ inside Hallgrim]

[Reykjavik - you're awesome...til next time!]

Stoltzen Opp - 5 years later Race Report

A last minute decision to run the Bergen famous Stoltzekleiven Opp...

An email was sent around to the Institute asking if anyone else wanted to join Team Fisken ("the Fish") and run the Stoltzen Opp since they had some left over spaces available. I decided 'why not', and went for it. 

I did not properly prepare for the race, in my opinion. After a busy summer I crammed in training for the Fjord Viking and then was sent on a survey for two weeks in the Barents Sea. The best way I could think of training up for Stoltzen was doing some hard spinning for half an hour. I ended up doing three 10-minute intervals at least every other day.

I hopped on the bus Friday morning 50 minutes before race start not knowing who the guy I was supposed to get my bib from. I got off the bus and had to book it uphill to Fjellveien and then run to the start - I figured it was a nice 20 minute warm up. I was taking this race waaaayy too lightly since I had very low expectations of myself having been away at sea for two weeks with insufficient training.

I finally got my bib 10 minutes before my start and a team tshirt. I jogged around trying to find the spot where you can get your gear sent up to the top in a car, but no luck. Looks like I'd be running up this mountain with a full pack.

The runners are released in 10 second intervals. I had to jump the line to get to my spot and then...5...4...3...2...1...go!

I felt like I started out in a good pace, but then came the stairs. Stoltzen is pretty much all stairs up and my legs were burning! I managed to pass three people ahead of me and didn't feel extremely winded...just very tired in my legs.

[Man, gotta lose that survey weight!]
I finished in 16 minutes 53 seconds. Only three seconds worse than I did the first and only other time I raced Stoltzen (16:50). I figured if I hadn't had my pack I could have possibly beat my time by at least one second. Still satisfied with my finish considering I ran with a pack and only trained for about two weeks (and on a boat). Perhaps next year I'll actually PR.

[Team Fisken BIL]

ÅrAnalyseTidMellomtid 1Mellomtid 2Mellomtid 3Sluttid
2016Kalkulator16:53 (1066 m/h)02:51 (1052 m/h, 98 %)07:57 (05:06, 1117 m/h, 104 %)14:47 (06:50, 1009 m/h, 94 %)16:53 (02:06, 1142 m/h, 107 %)
2011Kalkulator16:50 (1069 m/h)02:34 (1168 m/h, 109 %)07:40 (05:06, 1117 m/h, 104 %)14:37 (06:57, 992 m/h, 92 %)16:50 (02:13, 1082 m/h, 101 %)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Update from the Barents Sea

With the 6-on-6-off shifts, it's hard to remember how many days have passed and which day of the week it is, but I think it was the day before yesterday when I finally got some sunshine and saw some whales and dolphins!

We have had cloudy skies the whole survey period except for this one day. Meanwhile, in Bergen, record high temperatures have been set all week as one last week of summer visited the city that also set records in July for the rainiest July on record.

This particular day we finally had some bits of sun. Mostly cloudy, however, I saw a chance to put on my winter coveralls and sit outside for a few minutes. I saw a few fin whales in the distance, likely feasting on krill. I only saw the plume of mist when they surfaced. On the opposite end of the boat a small pod of dolphins was getting closer. One got close enough that I thought the picture would turn out way better than it did. Still need to share. It was the best day at sea!

We only have five more sampling stations to go; each station is about 3.5 hours of transit in between. We will use two days to get back to Tromsø from the last station, so there will be a couple of days of down time. I'm looking forward to getting home!

[Happy with some sun, even though it was freezing outside. I would guess around 40 deg F]

[See the dolphin in this one? Follow the wave out and you'll see the little dolphin]
[The dolphin that was "close" to the boat is just behind the outer generated wave from the boat...
Right in the middle of the picture... see it?]

[Closest we have gotten to Bjørnøya. We were hopeful to make a stop but were told there was no time and it would be dark]

[Blue skies and sea gulls]

Monday, September 12, 2016

Neat finds this time around

[2:50AM in the middle of the Barents Sea]

This survey is very different from the others I have been on...that being said, of the three surveys I have been on have all been the annual summer mackerel/ecosystem survey. We sample at different depths, which results in a few more species than the summer survey; as deep as 200 m below the surface. A vast majority of what we have gotten is young cod (less than a year old; we call them 0-group). We also get lots of jellyfish. 

This survey is also more exhausting. The stations are closer together, and if they see something interesting on the echosounder they set out the trawl. In our 6 hour shift we can get up to three hauls. It doesn't necessarily make the time go by faster when there's lots of sorting. Most of the hauls have only 4 or 5 different species and they are all around 3 inches long.

I still haven't seen a whale, but there is currently a rough-legged hawk (fjellvåk) hanging out on top of one of the masts likely dehydrated and a case of misdirection. Couldn't get a good picture. 

[Norwegian names clockwise from the bottom right:
torsk (cod), gråsteinbit (wolf fish), polartorsk (polar cod), langebarn, gapeflyndre (American plaice),
sea slug, ringbuk (common sea snail - yes, that's a name of a fish)]

[Mona is helping us sort, Jan Henrik observes]

[Hvalåte; aka the naked sea butterfly (a pelagic sea slug) - these have been my favorite]
[Gapeflyndre/American plaice development stages]

Friday, September 9, 2016

2 hours in Svalbard

[Master of train travel]
Tuesday morning was an early start for the Diaz-Engebrethsen household. Marius had to catch a plane to Stavanger and then drive a little to a place called Lysebotn for work. Pancho and I took an early walk, and now that it's September the amount of daylight is decreasing significantly. We got back, grabbed my stuff, and caught the bus to the train station.

We took the train to Oslo from Bergen - a trip lasting around 7 hours. Pancho is a master of train travel. He gets excited to see other dogs, and there was a female around his age just in front of us, but eventually he gave up with trying to say hi and took a nap. I was really proud to see how relaxed he was on the train compared to the other dog who was obviously a bit stressed. We got off the train and Rigmor picked us up. While I'm gone our friends Morten and Katrine are taking care of Pancho.

That night (Tuesday night), I found out that a passport is needed to fly to Svalbard. I was totally unaware of this and was in total panic just before I had planned to go to bed. Eventually, Marius came up with a good idea to ask the guy in charge of our apartment building to let my colleague in to grab my passport. The next stress was how she would get it to me when she had a short layover. Luckily, her plane left Bergen early and our plane to Longyearbyen (Svalbard) was delayed. We had plenty of time! There is a God!

The flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen is a little under three hours. The temperature when we left Oslo: 14 deg C (57 F). Temperature in Longyearbyen: 6 deg C (42 F) and a windchill. We took a taxi to the boat and dropped off our things. We had then two hours to explore Longyearbyen, so unfortunately, there wasn't much exploring. Shopping was a success though!

[Longyearbyen airport]
[Polar bear warning sign when you exit the airport]
Shopping at Svalbard is 25% cheaper than on mainland Norway because they don't charge tax there. So I bought a t-shirt and some thin gloves to have under my heavy duty rubber gloves for when we work outside with the trawl. I got a couple of souvenirs as well: a mug, magnet, shot glass (Marius collects them), and a patch (I collect those for my backpack).

[Polar bear in one of the shops]

[None of these are native to Svalbard]
[Pretty sure this one is American bison...but whatever you can do for tourists]
Longyearbyen isn't big at all. There are no trees, no grass. There is a school, daycare center, university, and brewery. No Irish pub!

Svalbard is mainly used as a research station and for mining. There are some people who live there year round, you will find a few taxis and a good mix of nationalities. The houses are simple, and painted in bold colors; mainly red, green, and yellow.

[the main street - probably 75% of the stores are sporting goods]

[Mining and tourism are the main activities at Svalbard]
[Reminder to not bring your firearms into the bank and post office]

We had to get back to the boat after only just under two hours walking around. I would have liked to have stayed and go for a hike. Next time I will have to try to make sure I have at least a day to plan a good hike. There you have to go through a company to book a hike because you need to have someone carrying a firearm, just in case there is a hungry polar bear. I'm looking forward to the next time I get to visit this cool place.

[Back to Eros again - I was on this boat in 2013]

Sunday, September 4, 2016

You can call me Fjord Viking

Today I revisited the race which was my first half marathon. One of the races that started it all. I was there for two things: get a new PR on the course and become a Fjord Viking.

Marius dropped me off and we took a quick look at the sports expo (not super impressive), and then I rushed outside to start warming up. We were really lucky with blue sky and warm temps...well sorta lucky. I really don't like running in the heat because I need more water. More water stops = slower finish.

Marius cheered me on at the start and then had to go because he has a soccer game today too. Between the 4th and 5th kilometer, I saw Marius' car driving towards me with the sunroof open and he was holding a little American flag out of the roof of his car. I got a good kick of adrenaline then, but then I was really starting to struggle.

Bigger races have more runners, which also usually means more people cheering. It's amazing how much cheering pumps you up when you're racing. So I was struggling in the energy department and burned out from yesterday's 10k. I kept and eye on two other runners and used them as a marker to try to motivate myself.

I crossed the finish line 1 hour 52 mins and 32 seconds. Not my best time, but the first time I ran a half marathon was at this race and my finish then was 2 hours and 7 minutes. I was pretty pleased.

I walked around a little bit to enjoy the events they had at the stadium. There was a skateboarder doing some stunts with kids and a local band. I collected my medal and prize inside the sports hall. Yes, that's right, I got a prize! I got a mizuno duffle bag labeled FjordViking for completing the 10.7km trail race, 10km and half marathon.

I am a fjord viking! I looked up my results for the Fjord Viking series and found that I came in 23rd overall, 2nd place for women and 1st in my age group (1st of 1 participant haha)

Results: 1:52.32

Overall: 156 (out of 349)

In gender: 27 (out of 110)

Age group (W23-34): 9 (out of 26)

Fjord Viking result: 2nd place woman, 23rd overall, 1st in age group..of one

[steep running when bridges are involved[

[I am a Fjord Viking!]

[Mandatory post-race selfie]

Act for Arctic