Thursday, September 29, 2016

Iceland in 3 1/2 hours

After years of traveling around the globe, it took until Monday's layover for me to truly feel like a world traveler. On Monday, rather than hang out in the airport during a 7 hour 40 minute layover, I took a bus into downtown Reykjavik. While looking at different airfares, the detour through Iceland appealed to me the most because we were there only six months earlier, therefore I could make the most out of the three and a half house I would have in the city before I had to catch a bus in time to catch my flight.

To maximize time I bought a bus ticket on the airplane. I knew where to catch the bus. I knew the bus would take about an hour. What I did not know was how close the bus station was to downtown Reykjavik (a 10 minute walk) or what the weather would be like once I landed (perfect -- about 48F, clear blue skies, no wind. I did not need the gloves or hat I packed).

With the perfect weather I modified my plans and first went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja church first for a panoramic view of the city. It was here I had another dose of "wow! I am a world traveler!" There were four different possibilities for paying (euros, krona, US dollars, or credit cards) and I had all four on me (I used euros). 

The church was only a couple of blocks from where we stayed, so I popped in there to see if they had the electric converter I left behind (they have over a hundred, so she gave me a random one). From there I went to the Bonus grocery store to buy six bars of Icelandic chocolate and black current tea bags (as per requests from Don and Ashley).

Along the street I noticed parts were temporarily closed to turn it into a pedestrian friendly zone. On the same street was a book store recommended to us by John. The owner (Svenson?) is very friendly and would not let me leave until I had a book in my hand. It didn't matter that the book is in Icelandic, it is a souvenir of our brief visit. Later I realized I should have left it in the airport for someone who reads Icelandic to enjoy.

By this point I am feeling mighty productive, and grinning from ear to ear about how well the day is progressing. I have only been in Reykjavik for an hour and have accomplished four big things on my long wish list. Fortunately the rest of the trip went just as well.

Next stop: an Icelandic hot dog. Trust me on this one. I don't eat hot dogs anywhere else. At about $4 each, this is the only affordable food in Iceland. I enjoyed it.

My next destination was across a busy street: The Harpa. The Harpa is a performing arts center that is less than ten years old. After our last trip I learned you can walk around the inside of it (we didn't even try on our last trip). With the brilliant blue sky, I went inside and was rewarded with stained glass reflections on the floor.

Back across the busy street to my last destination -- Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871 +/- 2. It is called that because it was founded in 871, plus or minus two years. The inside of the museum has the remains of a hall excavated in 2001. As a fan of archaeology, that was neat, but I was still expecting something more. I got more out of the computers in the lobby that talked about the historical documents used in their research then I did in the exhibit. Oh well. Glad all three of us did not go there in March.

I still had some time to spare so I walked along the ocean before heading to the bus station. I smiled the entire time I played tourist, happy to have not spent the day in an airport. I look forward to more adventures.

Disneyland Paris Semi Marathon

Part of me is tempted to sum up the race with these two pictures, but anyone who knows me knows I'm too verbose to do that, plus I want to share more of the 160 pictures I took along the course.

The Disneyland Paris Semi Marathon (and yes, we chuckled over the word "semi" instead of "demi") started at 7 AM -- a very civilized time, especially for a Disney race. I still left the Airbnb at 5:30 AM because my host was driving me to the start and the roads were supposed to be closed early.

By a mistake on my part, I ended up in Corral A. Instead of noting an anticipated 2:35 finish time (which would have still been a stretch in a normal half marathon) I put down a 1:35 time and they believed me. 

There were only four corrals for 16,000 runners. Each was subdivided into 300 people based on who made to the start line the earliest (as opposed to who was the fastest). Therefore, not only was I in Corral A, I was in the first of possibly 9 Corral As, each with a minute start over the one before. First and last time that will ever happen, so I relished the moments.
And after a 7-10 minute delay so they could close the roads (really?) we were off! I let the other 299 people speed on and tried not to get swept up in their pace. There were a few people even slower than I was in that first bunch of 300. 

I stopped for every photo spot, and even created some of my own. I took pictures of all of the entertainment (mostly high school bands and cheerleaders) and of interesting scenery. I knew there was no chance the Balloon Ladies would ever catch up to me, or me to them. I was really happy with how I felt overall, which is not at all reflected in my overall time of 3:22 (for once I didn't have to subtract out the time it took me to get to the starting line). I only walked through a couple of my intervals. I was smiling and talking to people along the route. I tried to savor every minute of the experience, and in the end I'm going to say it was my favorite race to date.

Back to the actual race.

Here is the course:

 We started in Disney Village. Between the parks, I heard Princess Debbie calling my name (I call her that because she is a Perfect Disney Princess Half Marathoner). It was good to see her. The first four miles went through the two theme parks

The day before they had a family 5K with tons of characters, and character lines of almost 30 minutes each. Yes, people waited a half an hour during a 5K for pictures. I did not do that race. One woman said her 5K time with her daughter was going to be longer than her half marathon time alone. I believed her. We did not have a lot of characters in the half marathon. Unlike at the 5K, they kept these lines moving -- the PhotoPass photographer took a picture, and we were allowed only one photo each (a selfie, but later people took pictures with each others' cameras), good thing since my selfie skills lead a lot to be desired.

I saw the March Hare and White Rabbit hop away.
I heard if I waited 15 minutes I could pose with the Cheshire Cat -- tempting, but too long to wait.
Always happy to see Mr. Hatter.

The Genie didn't get the posing memo.

We left Disneyland Paris out a back entrance to, what my Airbnb host called "l'entrance des artistes," the backstage area. Some women were posing with the firefighters, so I did, too.

Then I was off again. The day before the race I walked from my Airbnb room towards Disneyland Paris inside a local park behind their house, past a chateau (that is now an office building), a high school, and a modern office complex before taking a bus for the last mile or two to Disneyland. I retraced those steps on this course. It was relaxing seeing something familiar.

A few comments, then more pictures. 
  • Time seems to pass quicker when marked in kilometers instead of miles because the markers appear that much more often.
  • I thought this part was going to drag on forever because we were off-property, but Disney did an awesome job of providing lots of entertainment.
  • I told myself the course would be hilly because it took place in Marne-le-VALLEE, but it was remarkably flat.
  • The weather was perfect! About 50F at the start, going up to 70F -- no need for a jacket to keep warm while waiting, nor did I get too hot while running. I did not feel any humidity.
  • They had lots and lots of water and nutrition stations. The map showed six water stops (one every two miles or so), but they seemed to be a lot more.

Neat tidbits to read along the course.

Running on a high school track. At one point Prince Charming
got ahead of Cinderella. She called "Hey Prince -- wait up!" 

Lots of local bands along the route

I was there the day before

Races seem faster when marked in kilometers instead of miles

I know exactly where I am -- I was lost there the day before.

The driver kept beeping his klaxon-y sounding horn to cheer us on

The next big chunk happened on-property as we ran through the hotels and resorts. The cheerleaders shouted: ALLEZ, ALLEZ, GO, GO, GO! I might use that the next time I cheer my friends on at races.

Only 5k to go! Just like a regular training run.
At one point there was talk that each runner would have to go through Disney's metal detectors and security checkpoint before being allowed to re-enter Disney Village. Can you imagine the reaction of the elite runners losing precious minutes due to security in the middle of the race? Fortunately they decided to trust there was little we could hide in our clothes, or pick up along the route, that we did not already have in our clothes when we went through security before the start of the race.

Around this point I heard Princess Debbie shout JACQUIE! Prior to that when people cheered for me they said JACQUELYN -- the name on my bib. The familiar voice and word made me turn around. Our friend Julie was still on the course. Their husbands had already finished.

The end was a bit anticlimactic. I wish I had paused to take a picture of someone's sign saying they were proud of all of the strangers. It was not the exact message Peggy Sue always had on her sign, but it still made me think of her, and miss seeing her at that point. She always aimed for around the 12 mile mark to give encouragement to the slower runners. I know she was there in spirit. 

We finished by looping through Disney Village and into an area not far from where we started and where we dropped our bags before daylight.

I can do it!

Great cheering squad at the finish line

Love the medals!

As always the runners' costumes were SUPERBE! Here is a small sampling:

As the buses were still not running by this point, but the theme parks were open, I changed into clean, dry clothes and went to Disney.

THE GOOD: Too much to list, but I'll go with crowd support, especially from the Cast Members.

THE BAD: The guidebook was all in French. I mean ALL IN FRENCH. I met very few French people doing this race, but many from the States, England, and Americans living in Germany.

THE UGLY: Absolutely nothing. Especially since they scrapped their plan to have us go through security towards the end of the race. This race exceeded all of my expectations. 

A bientot! Or Allez, Allez, Go, Go, Go! Whichever you prefer.