Following the BIKE Transalp, the inaugural Glacier 360 was the next event on Team Garmin SA’s calendar. This event took place from the 17th to 19th of August in one of the most rugged and raw places on earth, Iceland.
Instead of trekking all the way back to South Africa, it only made sense to extend our stay in Europe for 2 weeks and travel North to the land of the midnight sun (or to the land of the Vikings and the Aurora Lights, and puffins and volcanoes and geothermal electricity and…well, you get the picture…).
The Glacier 360 is a 3 day stage race circumnavigating one of Iceland’s largest glaciers called Langjökull, located in the west of the island. The race started from the iconic Strokkur hot spring at the Geysir geothermal area and finished at the renowned Gullfoss waterfall a mere 10km away. Of course we took the long way around and covered 290km over the 3 days of the event. In between we stopped over at the lush Húsafell glacier valley and the remote Highland refuge at Hveravellir (yeah right, pronounce that while sober!). What made each of the race villages unique was the beautiful and unspoilt surroundings, delicious food and having access to natural geothermal pools which aided in the important rest and recovery process.
Much to our (pleasant) surprise the organizers registered us in the luxury package which included very comfortable accommodation at Laugarvatn the night prior to the event as well as accommodation for the 2 nights of the race. On the first night we stayed in a cosy room about 15min from camp but on the second night we opted for the tents as Hveravellir on the Icelandic Highlands was too beautiful to leave behind. The price we payed was one of our coldest nights ever in a tent, but the sunset and sunrise over the dramatic landscape was worth wrapping up in ALL the clothing we had in our bags.
The mixed category again proved to be extremely competitive and the 3 leading mixed teams finished every stage with only 4 or 5 men’s teams ahead of us. Team CBC’s Stellenbosch based Swede, Jenny Stennerhag (SWE) and Craig Gerber (RSA) took overall honours whilst Capetonians Carmen Buchacher (AUT) and Tim Ellerbeck (RSA) from Team Velocity Sports finished in 2nd place with Team Garmin SA rounding out the podium. Each stage started as a fierce battle with all 3 teams doing their best to drop the others, but ultimately the route showed who was the strongest during the event.
Although happy with a podium finish we felt slightly disappointed in our result as we believed our result did not reflect what we are capable of. In an attempt to improve we did some introspection and realized a big part of athletic performance relies on getting into a routine and controlling the controllable as much as possible. While on the road it’s always a challenge to stick to your normal routine and one has to be highly adaptable with regards to training, sleep, diet and just about everything else. It felt as if all the travelling finally caught up with us in Iceland leaving us slightly fatigued for the event.
Of course the result is only one aspect of the experience and choosing to see the silver lining of every cloud we feel extremely privileged to have been part of the inaugural Glacier 360. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity which very few people were fortunate enough to experience.
Prior to the event we were extremely excited to visit Iceland and looked forward to the adventure of racing on Icelandic territory. Glacier 360 surpassed all our expectations and it is impossible to convey our entire experience in one race report but you can look forward to reading more about it in the Mountain Bike Magazine later in the year.
Congratulations and a big thanks to Made in Mountains (MIM) for organizing such a unique and challenging stage race. Their passion and energy permeated through the event giving the race an atmosphere which made you feel like part of a family upon completion of the challenge instead of just another participant.
To conclude our trip in Iceland was the ‘ice’-ing on the cake! (cheesy, we know, but this was written on a long haul flight back to South Africa) We feel very fortunate and proud to represent Garmin South Africa who continues to #BeatYesterday in so many different ways.