Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ready To Travel Again??

I eventually made it back to Atlanta on Monday. We had some delay issues once I got to Boston. There was a big old storm blowing through Georgia, so all flights headed that way were grounded until further notice. Further notice ended up being 2 and a half hours later. And for that whole time we were left sitting on the plane. Me and a hundred other strangers. I was ok for the first half hour, but soon after, I was over it and ready for the take off to happen. I was tired, hungry, grumpy, I was missing Husband and just wanted to be there already.
But the good news was that both myself and my bags all made it........eventually. No dramas there. So silver lining. Every situation has one, right?

Right now Husband and I have spent the past 2 days, unpacking, doing laundry and trying to repack. Husband is headed back to Europe for the last round of track meets before the season wraps up and I too am headed to Europe again. Why? Let me explain.

Remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned briefly that I was still training? Well, the reason that I'm heading to Europe is not to just be a groupie of my Husband, but to do some pace-making. Yes, I will be out there in the competition battlefield again, but this time I'll be the rabbit for the women's 800m. My job is to take them through 600m in a certain time to ensure they run on target for a fast result. The meet organiser has told me what times he wants me to hit at the various points throughout the race and if the athletes want to run a good time, then they must sit on my pace. Such responsibility.

I'm a bit nervous to be honest, cos as we all know, traditionally I am a 400m runner. So I train only to get to the 400m finish line. Not 401m. Not 405m. Just 400m. So the endurance I've had to do to ensure I get that extra 200m out of myself has been nothing short of gruelling. And it's not just a matter of being able to do that extra 200m, it has to be done at a fast enough pace for these athletes to get the times they need, so it's been pretty intense. But I'm ready.

Right now I'm just pacing the meet in Gateshead, England on Sunday. But hoping I get the opportunity to do a couple more once I get over there. A little pace-making tour of Europe if you will. Which should be fun, if not exhausting.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Last Day

Today was my last day in Iceland. BoooooHooooo. But luckily I was around for Saturday nights big culture festival, which Iceland holds annually, celebrating 1. Reykjavik's birthday and 2. the end of summer. And as with most celebrations, the city had a big fireworks display, so we drove down to the docks, parked, then got a good spot on the rocks, right next to the water where we hung out with hundreds of other people waiting for the show to begin.

While we waited, we got a little snap happy with the camera. The romance of the whole situation brought Silja and I closer together, cough, cough.

Then it brought Silja and Vignir closer together. Fireworks is obviously the key to happy relationships.

This is me being very serious about the whole situation.

And here, finally, the fireworks. Just in case your wondering, that is not the head and ear of some random stranger. That is the head and ear of Vignir.

After the fireworks it was off to taste the night life of Reykjavik. While in one bar Vignir and I got into a discussion about our upper body strength. I tried to convince him that I was stronger than I looked, but he wasn't buying it, so we ended up having to solve it with an arm wrestling competition.

Clearly I was struggling slightly as I had to break all the rules and bring in my left arm for some muscular back up.

But it got the job done. And I was crowned the winner.

Silja and Vignir try to steal a special moment at the club. Luckily I was there to capture it. Your so welcome guys.

Sunday was officially my last day, so we spent a couple of hours driving out into the country to try and get some final pictures of the amazing scenery. Unfortunately the weather was really nasty. It was raining so hard and the wind was enough to cut you in two, but it made for some fabulous angry looking sky's and quite an aggressive landscape.

Believe it our not, these are all dead fish. This is a technique they use here to dry them out. Rows and rows of wooden posts are spread out across a large area and the fish just hang there for weeks until they are fully dry. Looking around and seeing all the fish faces frozen with open mouths and wide eyes was very eery. And the smell was not great either.

I think you can make out a couple of heads and eyes in this picture.

This is me on top of a huge lava rock, trying my best to not get blown off. See what I meant about the angry sky?

Vignir does his best Master of the Universe impersonation.

The rain stopped for a few minutes and this little rainbow popped out. We thought our luck was changing and the day was about to take a turn for the better. But we were wrong.

The longest and straightest road in Iceland. So glad we weren't walking it.
And that, my friends, was my last day here in Iceland. Right now I've just finished packing and am trying to not feel too sad about saying goodbye tomorrow morning. I've had such a great time here with Silja and Vignir. Both of them could not have been nicer or more accommodating about making my trip here the best that it could have been. The 8 days just went way too fast. I'm so sad it's over. But hopefully it won't be too long before we make the effort to see each other again. Either in the US or back here in the land of Ice.
Thanks a million lads, for everything. I'll miss you both.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm Sorry, They Eat "What" In Iceland??!!??

I'm down to the last few days of my trip, so Silja and Vignir, Sil's Husband, thought it was only right that I experience some traditional Icelandic food and drink. So it was off to the Viking village where everything is done in a very old, authentic, Icelandic manner. From what the staff wear, right down to the music, decor and food.

Within minutes of our arrival the bar owner was over and presented me with a plate, baring stuff that instantly took me back to my secondary school days and in particular, a biology class where we were expected to dissect a sheep's eye. Only this time I was not expected to dissect anything, I was expected to EAT it and is was NOT no eye neither.

There is no easy way to share what I'm about to share, so I'll just come right out and say it. The plate contained shark, raw shark and.....................sheep's testicles. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read that correctly, SHEEP'S TESTICLES. And they weren't breaded, deep fried and served up with some sauce in an effort to make it look more appetizing and possibly disguise the fact that you were about to eat the balls of one Mr. sheep. No, this was raw and obvious and sitting there on my plate, looking at me.

What blew my mind was that Vignir and Silja were both making more of a fuss about the raw shark then they were about the balls. "Oh wait till you taste the shark". "No, don't smell it before you try it, just pop it in your mouth and go for it". I was looking at them in shock. "Are you serious? You are more concerned with my reaction to some shark, when there is a veiny, shiny, squishy, sheep's ball sitting there waiting from me to taste it?" At this stage, the shark was really the least of my worries.

As a warm up and a desperate effort to delay the inevitable, I popped some shark in my mouth and waited for the taste to hit. It took a few seconds of chewing before I could taste anything but when it did kick in it was very strong, like old fish that had been heavily salted. The texture was very rubbery. I was chewing it for a while yet the thing never seemed to break down, so I eventually just swallowed it.

Next was Mr. ball and believe me when I tell you, I fought like a man fighting for his life on death row to avoid having to taste this thing. But my energy was wasted, cos this was going to happen whether I wanted it or not. I was fighting a losing battle. I braced myself with deep breaths, tried to steady my nerve and psyche myself up for this unfortunate event.
I cut a small edge off the end and spent a few seconds studying it closely as it sat on the end of my fork. Then I put the fork down. "I can't do it. Please, you don't understand, I just can't do it". But nobody cared. Nobody was listening. I was just getting heckled and yelled at to hurry up and eat it already. So quick as a flash, without another second spent pondering and stressing, I popped it in my mouth.

This was nothing like the shark. The outside part did have a bit of a chew to it, but the inside was mushy and gross. In flavor, it was quite bitter and really that's about all I can tell you, cos I swallowed it as fast as I could. In the seconds after, I was very relieved and shocked that I had actually gone through with the whole challenge and mentally I was giving myself a big pat on the back. Until I saw Vignir reach over, pick up Mr. ball and take a big ass bite right out of it with absolutely no hesitation. Like it was nothing but a chicken nugget or something. I almost threw up. It was just shocking.

These Icelandic people. Honestly, they come across all friendly and warm and blond and cute and energetic and fun, then you learn something like this about their customs in eating and right then, you begin to look at them in a whole other light. It' shocking.

Vignir and the Viking man point out and explain the various bits and pieces on my plate.

Ok, I don't think I need to point out the obvious here, do I?

This is me trying not to lose my stomach after eating the inevitable.

I needed a serious shot after that to steady my nerve and replace the awful taste in my mouth.
I was going to include a few more photos of the actual eating process, but they were kind of gross and I wanted to save you all from the harsh reality of the whole experience.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Update The Update

Ireland is going for Gold in Beijing. Light Heavyweight boxer, Kenny Egan beat Britain's Tony Jeffries in the semi-final earlier today to book his ticket into the final on Sunday. Right now Egan is guaranteed the silver, but he is in with a great chance of turning that into gold. So fingers crossed Sunday morning. We want this gold really bad. Best of luck Kenny.

Two other Irish boxers have also picked up medals. Paddy Barnes and Darren Sutherland both took bronze medals. Got to love the Irish and their obvious talent for a good fight.

Decathlete Bryan Clay did in fact finish up with the gold medal. Husband is so excited. If I didn't know better, I would think he went out there and won it himself, but I know he's been so invested in Bryan through his coaching, advising and managing, not to mention the nerves, pressure and anticipation of keeping him focused and being right there with him as he went through all his events. Right now coach/manager and athlete are exhausted but elated.

There was victory too today for Iceland. The men's handball team did win their semi and are now also playing for the gold medal on Sunday.

Silja and I watched the game with her neighbours. It was a whirlwind of emotions, nerves, shouting, swearing and tears.

Look at Silja trying to fight back those tears.

Olympic Update

I've finally got a minute to sit down and write a bit about whats been going on for some of the athletes Husband manages out in Beijing.
They first 2 days were a disaster. He had 3 athletes who were all favourite to medal walk away with nothing.

Asafa Powell (Jamaica) who was the world record holder in the 100m before Usain Bolt blew it apart not once but twice this year was one of the favourites to challenge for the Gold medal. However, things did not go to plan and a 5th place finish in the final was what he had to settle for. His fellow country man Usain Bolt, who Husband does not manage, walked away with everything. The gold medal and a new world record.
Then there were the 2 shot putters, Adam Nelson (USA) and Reese Hoffa (USA). Both these men are hugely talented and huge in general and have been number 1 and 2 in the world for years now, so there was no doubt that they would both medal, it was just a matter of who would get the gold and who would get the silver. But disaster struck and Adam fouled his first 3 attempts and as a result, did not get a further 3 attempts. Reese was just struggling to find his best form and could not hit a distance that had him finish better than 7th. I was only talking to Husband briefly over these first 2 days, but when I tell you he was depressed, he was DEPRESSED. He is very close to most of his athletes, so he feels the pain and disappointment almost as bad as they feel it.
But things took a dramatic turn for the better when the women's 100m final rolled around. Both his athletes Shelly-Ann Frazer (Jamaica) and Sherone Simpson (Jamaica) walked away with the Gold and Silver medals.

Then we had the fantastic performance from my fellow Irishman Paul Hession in the 200m. Husband started managing him early this year and even though he didn't make the final, just missed out by 1 place, he ran unbelievable to earn his place with the big guns in the semi-final. Not a bad performance for a white boy from Ireland. Way ta go Hess.

Next to step up and medal was Germaine Mason (Great Britain) in the men's high jump. In previous championships, Germaine has been so close to medalling but never actually got there. So if ever there was a time to hit his true potential it was out there in Beijing.

Shericka Williams (Jamaica) was one of the girls to upset the women's 400m favourite, Sanya Richards, when she plowed past her in the last 20m of the race to clinch the silver.

And even though he is still competing, US decathlete Bryan Clay, who Husband both coaches and manages, is currently in first position with just 2 events left, the javelin and the 1500m. I think his lead in points is far enough ahead that his gold medal is pretty much secure.

And lastly, the reason I included the above picture of Iceland's men's handball team is cos as I sit here typing, Silja is on her knees, inches from the TV screen, screaming her head off. Actually, the whole country is pretty much at a standstill, as the handball team is playing for a place in Sunday's final and their chance to win Iceland's first medal at the Games. "Go Iceland".

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Yesterday we took a bit of a chill day. In the morning we watched the Olympics, then we spent the afternoon strolling the streets of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.
These pictures of the city were taken from a viewing station above the city. The top of the viewing station has a revolving cafe, allowing you to see all angles of the city while sipping a latte. Unfortunately yesterday, they turned off the revolver, so we had to use our legs and walk around.

This is a huge sculpture of some long limbed, faceless people. It was a bit scary to be honest. Glad we weren't there at night.

A side street in downtown Reykjavik which lead down to the water.

While grazing through a book store, Silja and I found this book "Olympics for Beginners".

What a revelation. With the knowledge acquired from this book, we are both now ready to step out of retirement and get ready for London in 2012.

Next we checked out the photography studio of Ari Sigvaldason. He is a local photographer that specializes in black and white photos and get this, he does NOT use digital. His work is done completely on old school film. Can you imagine how hard this is? Not knowing if you've nailed the shot until you've printed it? And at that stage the moment you were photographing is gone. So much pressure. I couldn't handle it. I absolutely need to check my little display screen to see how good or bad my picture is looking.

But Ari was really sweet and patient, especially when I was annoying him with a billion questions about his work. He even signed a copy of his latest book for me.

After a long day spent in the city, we came home to find Vignir, Silja's husband, cooking up a storm in the kitchen. On the menu that night, quesilldias and they were yummmmy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Amazing Geyser

Yesterday found myself and Silja, driving off into some of the remote parts of Iceland. We were off to see the Geyser.
The drive there was long but there were absolutely no complaints because the scenery was just breath taking. And cos the day was so bright and sunny, the colours of all the lakes, sky, mountains and grass just popped, like someone had painted them minutes before we got there. I was constantly yelling out to Silja to "Stop" so I could jump out and take some photos.
We eventually got to the Geyser and when I say this thing was/is truly amazing, I am not kidding. Never have I seen anything like it. The heat and steam coming out of the hole where it explodes from is so intense, it prevents you from getting too close. There is also a strong smell of sulphur in the air, which we became immune to very quickly.
The Geyser was very random with it's explosions. Sometimes it was about 3 minutes. Other times you were standing there with the camera held to your face for a good 7 or 8 minutes before anything happened. Legs and arms had a tendency to start cramping, but there was no way I could risk moving, I didn't want to miss capturing this spectacular show. I took hundreds of pictures and a short video of the Geyser in action. I'll try to figure out how to up load the video later so you can enjoy it as if you were there with me.
But here is a series of photos of the Geyser doing its thing.

Then we decided to have some fun with our Geyser friend, so both Silja and I took turns trying to time our acrobatic skills to coincide with an explosion or two. Here is my performance.

See how I nailed the landing. Easily a 9.5

This is what I was doing for most of our trip yesterday. The camera was barely out of my hands for more than and few seconds. This country is so beautiful, I didn't want to miss anything. Who knows when I'll get the opportunity to come to Iceland again. And all these opportunities to take pictures is getting me more and more comfortable with my very complicated camera.

P.S just something non Iceland related. If your wondering am I watching all the track action from the Olympics, let me tell you, I am glued to it. The TV coverage of all the track events back in the US was just pitiful, as in, I didn't see 1 race until I got to Europe. But here it's on like 4 different channels in as many different languages and you can watch everything live and repeated again later in the evening. It's fantastic. Silja and I spend the morning watching it all live, then we have the afternoon and evening to do all the tourist stuff.
Husband has 24 athletes that he manages competing out there, some have just had a nightmare and others have performed out of their skin and taken medals. I will do a separate blog updating a couple of the highs and lows of a few of his athletes in the next day or so.