All posts by John

Course FAQs

 

What are the course and terrain like?

The course starts in the remote and wild highlands of Iceland, a place many Icelanders have never visited due to its remoteness. You will see and run through glaciers, extinct volcanoes, fresh lava fields, steaming geothermal pools and sand dunes. Over the course of 6 days you will run 250km to the finish near Lake Myvatn. There is not too much elevation gain and loss on the course but the terrain underfoot can be very challenging. Be prepared to spend a lot of time running over sand and rocky lava fields which is difficult underfoot. Make sure you shoes and legs are up to the challenge by training in sand and rocky ground before you arrive in Iceland.

 

Are there any river crossings?

Yes! You will have to cross a few rivers throughout the course of the race. There are two larger rivers where we set up a rope and crew are on hand to help you if you get into difficulties. The larger rivers can be up to thigh deep so be prepared to have wet clothing after the river crossings. Some people choose to carry an extra pair of lightweight shoes for the river crossings whilst others are happy to cross in their running shoes. We do not recommend crossing these rivers bare foot because the ground underfoot is very rocky.

 

Do I need to be able to navigate?

There is no navigation required during the race. The entire course will be marked with red flags and tape.

 

Can you provide a map or GPS route of the course?

We cannot provide maps or GPS routes for the course because of the sensitive nature of the flora, fauna and landscape. We work very closely with the National Park Authority to build a unique and spectacular course that has the minimum impact on the environment we run through. Because the area is so special you can often find members of our crew literally sweeping the footprints of the runners that have been through. If we were to provide maps and GPS routes it would jeopardise the future of the race.

 

How close is it to 250km?

We use professional standard GPS instruments to measure our course, using the average distance from two devices to provide the highest accuracy we can. We try and make the course as close to 250km as possible but we do adapt it to make sure you see the most beautiful scenery Iceland has to offer, so you may find you are a few kilometres over by the end of the race. Please be aware that most GPS watches only connect to a few satellites at a time and so there is often more error in their distance measurements than with our GPS instruments. Read here for more information about GPS inaccuracy.

 

Checkpoints

There are usually two checkpoints per stage with more on the long day. Checkpoints are spaced at 15-20km intervals. The checkpoints are there to resupply water and for your safety, medical support is available at checkpoints. In addition to the main checkpoints members of the team will be driving up and down the course to check on competitors. Hot water will be made available for those that want to stop for a meal at the last checkpoint on the long day otherwise it will only be cold water.

 

Cut off times

These vary depending on the length of the stage and the terrain covered. The cut offs are generous enough for a fast walker to complete the stage. More information on cut off times will be published closer to the start of the race.

 

What if I don’t meet the cut off or can’t complete a stage?

Despite the generous cut off times some people find they cannot complete a stage of the race whether this is for medical reasons or otherwise. If a competitor fails to complete all six stages they are not eligible for a finishers medal and will not have their overall time recorded. Due to the remote nature of the course we are unable to return people to race HQ if they retire from the race, this is because all of our staff and vehicles are committed to helping the people who are still racing. There are a few options if a competitor cannot complete a stage:

  • If you feel you can complete the next stage then we will allow you to start the next day. We cannot accommodate people who start stages with no intention of completing them, if you are unable to complete multiple stages we will not allow you to keep starting.
  • Many people who have to retire from the race choose to help the crew with light tasks such as at a checkpoint. This means you can still be involved in the race and cheer your fellow competitors on.
  • If you cannot help the crew you will be transported from camp to camp where you can rest.

 

Start times

Start times vary each day, on the first day all competitors will start together. On every subsequent stage there will be staggered starts depending on your finishing time the day before. These start times are non-negotiable and will be decided by the race director. Unfortunately we cannot allow people to change start times once they have been allocated as this will affect the final results. Be prepared for some early morning starts, especially if you are one of the slower runners. The camp team will start taking tents down half an hour before the final wave starts so that they have enough time to set up camp at the other end, please make sure you are ready to go by then.

Kit FAQs

Kit list

Please download the race pack here which has the full kit list.

Waterproofs

We always have lots of questions about our minimum requirements for waterproofs. Due to the unforgiving nature of Icelandic weather and the distance of the race we are very strict on the quality of waterproofs that are required. These waterproofs need to keep you dry and warm for hours upon hours in extremely tough conditions. If you cannot prove that your waterproofs meet the minimum requirements you will fail the kit check and be sent to buy new waterproofs before you are allowed to start the race.

As per the kit list the requirements for waterproofs are:

  • Taped seams, waterproof and breathable.
  • If it is single layer material it has to have a minimum of 20,000mm hydrostatic head.
  • If it is a 2.5 or 3 layer material then it has to be a minimum of 10,000mm hydrostatic head.

If the manufacturer doesn’t specify the rating of the waterproof then it does not meet the specifications, manufacturers like to boast about their waterproof ratings!

Emergency light and flashing LED

There is often some confusion about what lights must be carried. Make sure you install fresh batteries in each of your lights before the race. To clarify you must have three lights:

  1. Head torch – this is for the long stage and for using around camp in the evenings. Must be powerful enough to see by if walking and running.
  2. Emergency light – in case your head torch should fail for whatever reason, this must be powerful enough to see by if walking/running. Can either be another head torch or just a normal torch.
  3. Small flashing red light – this is to attach to the back of your pack if running in the dark to make sure you are visible if you are running in the dark. Something such as this.

Drop bag

The drop bag exists as an additional safety measure for the race. It is not there to make your pack lighter or to provide you with extra food. You will not be allowed to access your drop bag unless it is provided to you by the race organisation. There are only three circumstances where drop bags will be issued:

  1. If temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing during the day or the night then drop bags will be supplied to all competitors.
  2. If one of the race medics or the race director deems it necessary for a specific competitor to receive their drop bag. If this is the case and the competitor continues the race then an appropriate time penalty will be applied.
  3. If you drop out of the race you may have access to your drop bag once you have been driven to the overnight camp. However, if you choose to take your drop bag you will not be allowed to start subsequent stages as detailed above.

Your drop bag should be a waterproof dry bag as we cannot guarantee that drop bags will be stored in dry conditions. Please see the kit list for details of the required clothing in the drop bag, there must be no extra clothing or nutrition in the drop bag. The drop bag is not an excuse to make weight savings in your main race pack. You will be provided with a luggage label to mark your dry bag with your name and race number, please also write your name on the bag with a marker pen in case the label comes off. Hopefully you won’t need to use your drop bag at all.

Charging devices

There is no mains electricity anywhere along the course, there will be no opportunity to charge your devices. We cannot make any exceptions to this rule as it would be unfair on other competitors. We recommend that you carry a power bank if you want to keep GPS device, mobile phone or music player topped up. Some people choose to carry a solar charging pack but remember that you will be in Iceland and sunlight is far from guaranteed.

Weather

The weather on the course is very variable and can get cold, it’s not called Iceland for nothing. There is a saying in Iceland that you can experience all four seasons in one day. In the past competitors have had to deal with everything from snow to sunburn and sandstorms during the same race. Temperatures during the race can drop below freezing, this is uncommon during the day but it does happen frequently at night. Please ensure that your sleep system and clothing are adequate to deal with temperatures well below freezing during the night. The race starts at an altitude of around 900m (roughly 3,000 feet) and stays in the mountains for the first few days which makes the weather cooler and less predictable.

We advise that if you feel the cold you adjust your clothing choices accordingly. Many competitors choose to carry a warmer sleeping bag than the minimum specified in the kit list even though it means extra weight. If it becomes very cold the drop bags will be issued, for more information on drop bags please see the kit list.

If you want to look up weather for the race then most Icelanders prefer to rely on the Norwegian weather service as they find it more reliable. The website also provides statistics so that you can see the previous average temperatures. This is the closest weather station for the first few stages of the race. Just remember that even if the weather forecast is good for the week of the race it can change very quickly!

 

Race Reports

I’ve gathered together a collection of race reports and reflections which may help you in your preparation for the Fire and Ice Ultra. I’ve picked a favourite quote from each one. Enjoy!

 

David 2018
“… beyond the running challenge and Iceland’s unique scenery, the people associated with this race made my overall experience extra special – my seven tent mates for the week, the organisers, the volunteers and medical staff who looked after us in often very difficult conditions, and every runner who despite ability, injury or blisters finished the race.”

Louise 2017
“I could wax lyrical about the sights and sounds, but I wouldn’t really want to ruin it for anyone.. all I will say is, if there is one race you do in your life, make it this one.”

Kevin 2017
” A few miles of lush grass, flowers and even insects beside a stream, and we were back up the other side into a landscape more akin to the moon.”

Sabina 2017 (Italian and English, scroll down for the English)
“SOME NUMBERS AND ODDITIES

  • 1680 km in training since January (8 months)
  • 250 km “race” the hardest Foot Race in Iceland
  • 6 stages (one of 70 km)
  • 56 hours and 20 minutes total “travel time”
  • 648.960 foot steps taken
  • 6 freezing nights
  • 2 barefoot river crossings
  • maximum temperature 13 degrees cent
  • minimum temperature -4 degrees centigrade
  • 9.5 kg : back pack weight at start line
  • 5.5 kg: back pack weight at finish line
  • 12 freeze dried meals
  • countless energy blocks, gels, nuts and chocolate bars
  • 500 g of parmesan cheese
  • 2 full Arnica cream tubes
  • 1 vaseline tube (only for feet)
  • just a few blisters
  • 66 competitors – only 4 had to give up
  • a great bunch of new friends
  • over 25.000 euro raised
  • more than 296 donors”

Bee 2017 (Italian and English, scroll down for Italian)
” The mixed feelings caused by the sublime torture provided by the course and the terrain, the determination of not letting go (to be honest, there really was nowhere else to go), and the giddy happiness, ultimate satisfaction, heavenly tiredness and extreme sense of belonging at the end of each day are difficult to convey, hard to imagine and, above all, impossible to forget.”

Graziella & Emmanuelle 2017 1 (French)

Graziella & Emmanuelle 2017 2 (French)

Garth 2016
“I decided early on that this was just going to be about survival, not racing.”

Gisli 2016
“My old man came in 7 minutes behind me in the 19th place, pretty impressive for an old guy. ”

Isabelle 2016
” I had two mantras:  1) “I’m ok, I’m ok” as a way to check in & realize that at that moment I was warm enough, un-injured, moving forward. A minute-by-minute grounding and reassurance. and 2) “Fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck” (in my very best Irish accent). And yes, I laughed everysingletime.”

Charles 2016 
” It’s 90 per cent mental, and 10 per cent mental”

Karen 2015
“… we hit a track which took us through Alien-esque territory, it was beautiful yet eerie. I’m not surprised this area was the training ground for Astronauts to practise moon landings.”

Nadia 2015
“I made it to check point 3 the last one before the finish line and something interesting happened. After having cried for hours on the course and limping along I just accepted things. I found some level of peace within the pain and started making a move.”

Loren 2014
“I emerged from the rocks next to the waterfall, apparantly to the surprise of a gaggle of tourists who looked incredibly awe struck upon seeing this gaunt, wild-eyed mountain man bursting out of the wilderness in front of them.”

Simon 2012
“I’m fond of saying that in races like these, finishing is winning and everything else is a bonus.”

Top 5 mistakes people make during the Fire & Ice

We’ve been organising the race for 7 years now and we’ve seen plenty of people have to drop out of the race for reasons that could have been prevented. Here are the top five mistakes that people make both before and during the race, maybe you can learn something which will make your race that bit easier.

1. Not looking after your feet

Every year we struggle to believe how many people have the most awful blisters at the end of day one. If you’ve been putting in the hours in your race shoes and race socks then you should by now have a strategy to prevent blisters. It is understandable to have blisters and hot spots towards the end of the race, but don’t let something near the start ruin your race. There are lots of different strategies, including taping, lubrication or wearing multiple pairs of socks. Try them out in training and see what works for you.

2. Using new and untested kit

One of our top bugbears is when people turn up to the kit check with their kit still in the wrapper! Everything you are going to use should be tried and tested. You need to know how it works and whether it is up to the job. Everyone likes buying kit and you want to save your best, most expensive kit for race day but it’s a false economy if it’s going to ruin your race. You might have worn your nice new backpack for a five mile run to see whether it fits, but have you worn it for a three hour run or for two days in a row? If not then you might not know where the little spot of chafing starts until you are a few hours into day one of the six day race, and the next five days are going to be agony. Don’t be that person, you’ll have more fun if you test your kit out in advance and know how to prevent these sorts of issues. Not many people drop out because they can’t physically keep moving, but we do see people forced to drop out due poor kit choice.


3. Being cold

There is no excuse to be cold during the race! Every year we get people who are surprised at how cold the race is. The name Iceland gives you a bit of a clue as to what to expect. Most people don’t get terribly cold whilst running as they are generating plenty of heat. What we do see is that when people are sat around in camp in the evenings they struggle to keep warm. Make sure you are carrying an adequate sleeping bag and have some warm dry clothes to change into at the end of each day. In the morning you can put your damp, cold running clothes on and keep those dry clothes for the evening.


4. Doing all your training on the road

The Fire and Ice Ultra may not be the longest race or have the most elevation but the feedback we get from runners time after time is that it is some of the hardest ground to run on. Whilst a lot of the race is on four wheel drive tracks, which Icelanders optimistically call ‘roads’, it is by no means easy going. Expect to run on long stretches of soft volcanic sand where your feet may sink. You will cross lava fields which are uneven and sharp enough to cut holes in your trainers. The tracks themselves are strewn with large rocks ready to trip up an unsuspecting runner. Prepare yourself by making sure that you train off road on difficult terrain, don’t just rack up the miles on tarmac.


5. Turning up with the wrong mindset

This race is as much a mental test as a physical one. We see people every year who come with a negative attitude and don’t get the most out of the race. Come here with the right frame of mind and you will have a fantastic experience. You will get to sample the incredible scenery Iceland has to offer, get a great sense of accomplishment and make friends for life. There’s nothing quite like running 250km and sleeping in a tent with someone to forge a strong friendship with someone you’ve never met before.

We look forward to seeing you at the start line, most of all don’t forget to have fun!

John