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John "lakewood" Fegyveresi

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Odd Guy Out (and a Few Race Recaps)

Photo taken from the Apollo 11 Command Module

I have been admittedly at a lack of words, and quite frankly motivation, at updating my journal the past few weeks. I find every time that I sit down to my computer to write up my recent experience at Miwok (and now subsequently at Mind the Ducks AND 3 Days at the Fair), that I just can't seem to focus my thoughts.

This past weekend as I was making laps around the course at 3 Days, I had a chance to catch up with many of my running friends and acquaintances. One thing that I noted during my many conversations was that several different people made mention of this very journal and the race reports therein. It's a bit weird, because I always just thought that no one really was reading any of these silly words that I put up here. What's more, is that several people noted that their favorite posts of mine weren't actually the race reports, but rather my goofy geographical ramblings. Hearing this really did warm my heart. As much as I do enjoy recapping a great race, I simply love posting about my other adventures, geographical oddities, or ice-related interests. One friend of mine actually told me that his son read my "Arctic Circle" post and couldn't stop talking about it. That was probably the most profound and moving compliment I've ever received about this journal site. The downside to all of this is that it has somehow left the me feeling that all of my posts should be well thought-out, full of profundities and waxing poetic on life philosophies. I should be posting meaningful thoughts and experiences...full of purpose and self-discovery....blah blah blah. I can remember when I first started writing on here and many of my posts would simply be a few sentences related to some mundane banalities of my life....and I was ok with posting that. I didn't care if my post lacked any deeper meaning. Somehow now though, I feel an obligation to at least write something meaningful.

Over this past month, my running has reached an incredible peak...and arguably way too fast. Combined with my streak (now at 150+ days), my weekly mileage totals have only increased...and this includes back-to-back-to-back race weekends. Too much...too fast.


The Mileages have just kept creeping up....


As I was circling the NJ county fairgrounds on my last few laps at 3 Days, I began asking myself, what's it all for? I didn't really have an answer. So perhaps it's time to shut it down for a short bit...

My time out at Miwok as incredible, and the course was utterly sublime. At Mind The Ducks, I again had a wonderful time running loops in my home town and visiting with my sister and my little nephew. But this past weekend at 3 Days, I was disconnected, and felt alone.

For the past 4 years, I have attended 3 Days at the Fair and participated in the 72-hour event. Each year I've done better than the previous and have subsequently racked up nearly 1000 total miles on the course (982 total before this year). This year, the Race Directors announced they'd be introducing a 6-day event, and as much as I do want to try a 6 day at some point, this year was not the year. My heart wasn't feeling the 72 this year though either. Taking a page out of fellow 3-dayer Darren Worts's book, I opted to instead do the "Quadzilla". The Quadzilla consists of running four marathons over the 72 hour period (1 on day 1, 1 on day 2, and 2 on day 3). This way I figured, I'd be able to hang out over the entire weekend, but still get to run 100+ miles. In addition, I'd get some nice breaks in between to just kick back and hang with folks and crack my 1000th mile. I'd even get a cheap motel room down the road to crash in during the race so that I didn't have to sleep in a tent. Lastly, there's a special unique coin for the Quadzilla that I'd be eligible for which would a nice addition to my 3-Days collection. It all sounded great on paper. But in reality, the Quadzilla proved to be very unappealing and honestly quite unfulfilling. Every time I was out there running, I felt like I was an annoying guest on a course not meant for me. The real runners were the multi-day runners, and I was just occupying space. I felt like other runners were thinking "when are these marathoners going to be done so that they clear off of the course?".

I know in reality it wasn't like that. My friends were pleased to see me, and I did spend a lot of time hanging out with people, but my overall feeling coming away from the weekend was that I was the "Odd Guy Out". In a sense, I wasn't really part of the 3-Days family this year. 

When I did manage to complete my 1000th mile lap on the course, there was no fanfare, and honestly it felt incredibly underwhelming. It's not that I was expecting much, but I was at least hoping to feel something. I've run with many on their 1000 mile lap and I was always so jealous, but this year it went by as just another mundane lap on a particularly hot/humid day. After the weekend was over, I stayed for the awards ceremony so that I could proudly accept my 1000 mile lifetime coin. In the crazy shuffle of paperwork and prizes though, my name had slipped through the cracks and I did not receive any award. I did go up to the RD's afterward and they apologized profusely and did give me my awards, but again, it all just compounded the incredibly underwhelming feeling of it all. I guess I just didn't feel like part of the family this year, and it made me a bit sad. But...the good news in all of this is that I tried something different, and came to realize what it is that I love so much about 3 Days, and why it's so special to me. Come next year, provided I'm again healthy, I will most certainly be headed back to run in a multi-day event at 3 Days (and not the Quad). 

When it comes right down to it, experiences like these really help illustrate perspective. I'm reminded of a post I made to the Vol State email list shortly before withdrawing in 2014 due to dissertation commitments. I was saddened by the thought that'd I'd be the "one left out".  Here's what I wrote....

"Not sure who of you watched the most current re-imagining of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, but there is a very poignant monologue of Carl's that they left in as a tribute.  That monologue was called the "Pale blue dot" and was meant to highlight just how small and insignificant we all are.  There was a photo taken of Earth by one of the Voyager space crafts as it was exiting the solar system.  Earth appears as only a tiny speck...a "mote of dust" as Carl calls it.  He goes on to tell us that every person that has ever lived....ever, is somewhere captured in that photo.  It is a profound thought.

But then there's this picture.....(see photo at top of post)
Taken form the Apollo 11 Command Module as Neil and Buzz were returning from the Moon's surface in the Lander.  Earth, only half-lit in the background of course.

The caption read,
"At the time this photo was taken, every person that has ever lived, Ever...in the history of the Earth, is somewhere in this photo.........except Michael Collins."

It really is a matter of perspective though.  Sure Michael was the "one guy left out" of the photo, but I think being able to say you took that one picture of "everyone else" is pretty awesome thought."

For me this year at 3 Days, I was the guy "taking the picture", and got to witness and be a part of so many incredible memories. I participated in more than 1 "brick mile" (1500 lifetime miles), and helped encourage runners as they made their loops. I had fun giving out popsicles on the hot days, and even spraying runners with ice water. I guess what this all means is that while maybe I felt a bit aloof from my 3 Days family this year, I did have a new and different experience, and earned a pretty cool Quadzilla coin to boot. Next year I will back and make my way ever closer to that 1500-mile big prize (an engraved paver brick that is permanently placed in the ground at the fairgrounds)

Moving on to Miwok....

After not getting selected to run Western States this year, I knew I'd need another qualifier. While I was still vacillating over which 100-miler I wanted to run over the Summer, I decided to throw my name in the Miwok lottery hat (a race I've had on my bucket list for some time).  Somehow, my name was drawn and since January, I've been eagerly awaiting for May to roll around so that I could run along the beautiful and picturesque coastal trail in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco.

To say that this course is lovely, splendid, sublime, magnificent...(choose your superlative), would not do it justice. It is a magical course that literally had me smiling the entire day. Throw in perfect weather, and being crewed by my other half at the aid stations....and it was nearly the perfect race.

I say nearly because there was one tiny annoyance with the event, but it only came about due to my own lack of situational awareness. The start of the race only features about 1/4 mile of road running before starting up a very steep and narrow single-track climb. I was late to the starting line and just figured "I'll start in the back of the pack". Well, needless to say, I got stuck in a very slow conga line of easy-paced hikers up the first 2 mile climb. This meant my first two miles were at 17-min pace and overall much slower than I'd prefer. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise though as it forced me to not go out too hard or too fast. By the top of the climb, I was able to open up and run comfortably and within a few miles forgot completely about the start. Other than that small annoyance, the race was perfect.

Mulling around near the start of Miwok

I had a practical goal of going sub 13-hour, with a more aggressive goal of going sub-12. I knew it would be tough, and I didn't want to completely blow up...but I was also going into the event with a lot of training miles under me. I was ready to race a bit.

View from the course



Elevation Profile for the Miwok 100k

I bombed the first descent (perhaps a bit too fast), and felt good through the first mini-loop (about 13 miles). Lots of ups and downs as the sun rose, and I just couldn't believe how beautiful my surroundings were. I was practically giggling. I kept saying to runners as they'd go by..."not a bad place to be on a Saturday morning, no?"

The day only got better as the miles went by.  I fell into an incredibly comfortable groove and I could tell all the training was paying off. Still, I wasn't necessarily used to so much climbing.  I eventually made my way through the first two "mini loops" and was back at the Tennessee trailhead at mile 26. As you can see from the pictures, I was still feeling great, and smiling quite a bit. A few miles later, I'd top out above Pirate's Cove and the photographer would get a picture of me that pretty much summed up my entire feelings of the day in one snap.

View of Coast Trail along the course.

Mile 26...having a blast

Heading out for the next 35+ miles...

Above Pirate's Cove (photo: Glen Tachiyama - purchased)

The next portion of the course as probably my favorite. You spend about 10 miles cruising along the coastal trail, working your way in and out of various drainages and long grass-covered hill sides. It was absolutely breathtaking.  At mile ~43, I entered the forest and was immediately shaded by the enormity of Sequoia trees. The trail followed the Bolinas ridgeline for about 6 miles until it finally dropped down at mile 49 to the turn-around aid station. There I was greeted by my other half and was finally starting to get tired. I remember saying, "this course is beautiful, but I'm getting tired and I think I'm about ready to wrap this up".  

Arriving at the 49-mile turnaround

The final miles were long, but I checked them off as best I could. When I made it back to the Bolinas aid station at mile 55, I knew I was on the homestretch with mostly downhill running. I checked my time and realized that I was almost exactly on 12-hour pace.  Wow! I actually hadn't realized I was doing that well, and now had the fire lit of trying to eek it in under 12. I knew it would be really close though. I picked up the pace a bit and did as best I could. I was definitely tired and sore though.

As I neared the final descent, I thought I had sufficient time to easily finish sub 12, but unfortunately, I had miscalculated where I was. It was actually still another mile before the turnoff for the final descent. Once I came to this realization, I had essentially given up on the possibility of a sub 12. Still, I started running as hard as I could, and even passed 5 runners on the descent. I kept checking my watch, but as it ticked down to 5 minutes...then 3....then 2, I figured the sub 12 was a lost cause. But then with about 50 seconds to go, I popped out of the woods and could see the finish line. I couldn't believe it. I sprinted as fast as I could and crossed the line in 11:59:35.  Hell yeah. That was a very hard-earned finish, but one that I was absolutely I thrilled with. Honestly, Miwok was about as close to a perfect race as I can remember having in a long time. Beautiful scenery, perfect hydration and nutrition, zero issues, and great weather. Other than the slow conga line start, everything went perfectly and I came away from the run ecstatic at the entire experience.

The next day, I was rightly sore, and chose to spend the afternoon with my other half enjoying the Marin Headlands. We hiked over to a ranch along the coast and played with goats, and then later hiked up Mt. Tamalpais to the summit (known locally as just Mt. Tam). Later that evening, we drove out the to the Point Bonita Lighthouse where we watched the sunset and played with banana slugs. What a perfect mini vacation. Thank you C and L for coming to cheer me on and crew for me at the aid stations.  It was so nice to see you both during the race.

Coastal hike to the goat ranch

playing with goats

Mt. Tam Summit building

Local wildlife saying hi

Summit of Mt. Tam

A very sore me, celebrating Mt. Tam

Mt. Tam summit building

Summit View

View from our dinner in Sausalito

View of the GG bridge looking back from our trip out to Pt. Bonita

Sun setting near Pt. Bonita

Out at Pt. Bonita watching the sun set


Banana Slug!

A perfect end to a perfect long weekend



I'll go into more detail on Mind the Ducks and 3 Days in the next post....

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Masters Victory and a Miwok Mission

Start of the TARC Spring Classic
(I think the red arrow is me....)

OK...time for a quick shorty post here. The Spring academic semester is winding down and I've successfully survived teaching my first full course to a room of wide-eyed undergrads. I think the experience has been sobering and certainly makes me have a much greater respect for people that develop multiple courses at once.

Here's what I wrote earlier online about my experience:

"Survived my last Paleoclimatology lecture today. It's been a fun and challenging semester, but overall I'm very glad with the way things turned out. Thank you BU Earth and Environment Dept. for giving me the opportunity to teach the course and hopefully pass along some knowledge to a few young minds. Thank you also to Dave and Erich at Dartmouth for hosting my students for the day in the ice core lab. It has all been a humbling experience and one I am very grateful to have been given. In the wise words of my graduate school advisor, "Onward!"

So on to running/racing stuff.  

This past weekend I tested out my racing legs yet again by participating in the TARC Spring Classic. Normally I would have opted for the 50k distance along this course, but because of Miwok just two short weeks after, I opted for the Trail Marathon version.  The course features a 6.5 mile loop, so the marathon was simply 4 loops, while the 50k was 5. Admittedly, the marathon field was much less full as most chose for the 50k option, but still I was quite thrilled with the result. My only goal was to have a consistent run. In other words, I didn't want to have one of my usual races where I look at the pace data later, only to see that the final 25% of the race I dropped off significantly. I wanted to see a relatively flat line across the board.

I knew this would mean going out at what would feel like a very slow pace, but this race was just meant to be a fun prep race...so what better place to experiment.

What can I say other than things went exactly as I'd hoped (See below)
While I did slow down a small amount on the fourth (and final) loop, it was not as much as usual, and my splits were really consistent. I ran exactly as I was hoping, and only stopped one time between loops 3 and loops 4 to restock my hand-helds. I never walked for more than a few steps for the entire race and managed to average a sub-9 min/mile pace for the entire event. I was pleased with this pace for a trail marathon for sure.

When I crossed the line, I found out moments later that I had actually placed 3rd overall in the Marathon...but more importantly, I was 1st master runner!  This is my first Master's victory now that I've cross the magical 40-yr line. I'll take it! My finish time was right around 3hrs 55mins, or about 8:53 per mile.

The best part of the event is that it was so close to my place outside of Boston (about 7 miles), that I actually biked to and from the start line. Needless to say the bike ride home was a little more uncomfortable than the ride there.

A fairly consistent pace, with a single 2-minute break after loop 3


So now we come to next weekend. My taper is slowing down as I prepare for my first "big" race of 2017: The Miwok 100K. I'm super excited for this race. Every picture I see of this course just looks magical and I absolutely cannot wait to run along it. I think of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I am shivering with anticip..........ation!  I honestly don't even care how I do time-wise...as the course just looks so damn lovely.


I suppose I'd at least like to get a new WS qualifier out of it, but really, I just want to take in the wonderful ocean-side air, and roll along some grassy mountaintop trails.  Mmmmm....I already have goosebumps thinking about it. I mean seriously....just look at this....

Along the Miwok 100k Course (credit: Runners World)

(credit: Don Lundell)

(credit: Irving Bennett)

So I just looked it up, and I would need a 15:30 finish (or faster) to qualify for WS next year.  Cool.

...Oh and I almost forgot. The running streak is still going. 120 days and counting....

Sunday, April 9, 2017

101 Days and a Barkley to Remember

(Photo Credits: various others at Barkley this year including Kat Bermudez, Kendra Miller, the Kelly Family, etc)

Celebrating with JK on his Barkley Finish

A lot has happened these past few weeks...too much to really talk about on here. This past weekend was the 2017 running of the Barkley Marathons and I was fortunate enough to be asked by my friend John Kelly to be a part of his support crew (along with various members of his family and fellow Barker Julian Jamison). I have spent the past 7 days trying to think about the best way to tell my story this year, but I've realized that I don't have a story to tell. The Barkley is about the runners, not the crew...and this was John Kelly's year. As inspired and amazed as I was to be there and be a part of Barkley History, my actual role was trivial and only in the background. I took a lot of great pictures from the weekend, but while spectating from the Fire Tower on the final loop, my phone got too wet and fried (and I lost everything). I suppose it's fitting that all of my "photos" are just in my thoughts now.

This was also a very emotional year. The ending (which most of you probably now know), was both incredible, and heartbreaking. I'm not sure I can remember a time when I swung so quickly from ecstatic joy, to utter heartbreak so quickly. This has been a tough Barkley year to digest on many fronts. I think that is all I will say about that as I'm honestly not sure what I else I can say.

What I can say, is that I was honored, humbled, and privileged to be a part of JK's team. John, take time to absorb all that happened. You will wake up many times and not believe that you actually did it...but let me tell you definitively that YES, you did. I was there. I saw it. But, you will still find days where you are haunted by disbelief. For reference...here's what I wrote in my 2013 Barkley Essay after my miracle 2012 year....

"I am Haunted.  Constantly.  I am haunted by disbelief. Every single day since I left Frozen Head State Park on April 2nd, I think about what happened, and my experience participating in the Barkley Marathons.  But, every day that passes, the less I actually believe it really happened.  I think back to specific memories I have of being lost on the course, getting water from a creek, picking ticks off of myself, or laughing alongside Alan...and I start to wonder if it wasn't just a dream.  I look at results listings and postings on the internet that list my name, but somehow I no longer believe it.  I email Ed Furtaw and ask him, "Did I really finish?  Was I really there?"  He assures me I did, and that I was.  I see pictures at the finish of me touching the yellow gate and it simply feels that it can't be so.  It has been tearing me up.  I've seen so many people say online that I "shouldn't have finished", that I'm not an "elite runner", or that I just got "really lucky"....and sometimes I actually start to believe them.

But then I think about how damn hard I trained.  How many God-awful hill repeats I did....over and over and over and over....    How I spent 15+ hours every weekend training on hills and trails.  how I did two-a-day workouts during the week (every week) of more hills, and how I studied that Frozen Head map for months.  I think about how I sat every single night at the dinner table down in Antarctica while others were playing cribbage and poker, and I studied race reports and scribbled down notes and compass bearings.  I tell myself that I did finish dammit...and it was because I trained hard enough, and wanted it badly enough.  But then I wake up the next day and I don't believe it again. In a way, I've tried to mentally "Earn" my Barkley finish by spending the rest of this year pounding out countless ultras.  I've run harder, and at more races this year, than during any previous year.  I thought finishing Badwater would somehow make my Barkley finish feel more real.  It didn't.  I thought perhaps finally breaking 25 hours at Leadville would make me accept my Barkley finish as non-fantasy.  It didn't.  I even thought that if I simply ran a large volume of races, I could somehow earn my Barkley finish.  After a long year of racing multiple ultras (Five 100-milers), I still fail to believe that Barkley really happened."


I think I will end my thoughts with this.....It's what I wrote online just after the weekend was over:
"Lots of emotions this past weekend in Frozen Head. Haven't stopped thinking about it since leaving the park. It was surreal being on the other side of things. Thanks for asking me to be on your crew JK...it was quite a privilege. Watching you run up that road to your 5th gate was utterly indescribable. Pure magic my friend. You will never forget this moment. Never. You faced some of the worst conditions out there and still overcame. Rest well my friend and I look forward to the many stories we will share in the future."

This is JK's story to tell, not mine.

Finishing the impossible...

Sunscreen duty

Nascar Pit Stop on JK's loop 3/4 transition (With Joe and Julian)

Sending JK off on his loop 4

Celebrating a finish with a goodie bag of donuts!

Moving on....

Regarding my own running, things have been going quite well. I've run three races thus far this year as I ramp up to my full racing season. My first real race is in just a few weeks out at the Miwok 100K. I'm super excited to get my "race" on.  Back home, my training has been solid. Since Dec 29th, I've run every single day...just surpassing 101 total days. This is by far my longest running streak.

Overall, I've run just over 715 miles, averaging ~7.1 per day, and ~50 miles per week. I managed to run at least 3 miles every day, with the one exception of the day following a 50-mile race in February where I only jogged 1.2 miles.  Still...I ran at least a mile (which in my book still counts). Another little factoid, is that every single one of these miles, has been outdoors. I did not run a single treadmill  or indoor mile since Dec 29th. I'm quite proud of that little fact, considering a lot of my running has been up here in cold and snowy Vermont.

I've never been super into "run streaking" as I always thought it was a bit OCD, but I have always thought it'd be fun to go for a streak for short period of time. I don't know how long I'll keep this one going, but for now, I'd like to try and push it for a few more months at the very least. It's been a great way to keep me motivated and get me out everyday. There have been many nights at 10pm where I haven't run yet and think, "crap, I don't want to break my 94-day streak now!...Get out there and run a quick 5-miler John!".

In two weeks I'll be running a local trail marathon here in the Boston area, and then tapering down to Miwok.  May is super busy as I have just about every weekend booked with some sort of event or race....but most I will not be running competitively.  Miwok though, I hope to actually run hard.

For those of you that actually want GPS tracks of my streak, well...knock yourselves out: https://www.strava.com/athletes/13933829  (Honestly though, you have too much time on your hands if you're worried about my silly GPS tracks). 

My run log since Dec


Crap...I better get out on my run today....

One last departing thought. Over the past 10 weeks, I've been teaching my first college level class at Boston University (Paleoclimatology). I was quite nervous going in as to whether or not I'd enjoy it, but I'm pleased at the way things have progressed.  There has certainly been a learning curve, but overall, I've had a blast and my students all seem to enjoy the class and material.  As a capstone to the class, I took all of the students up to the Dartmouth Ice Core Lab last week and we were able to melt cores from Greenland. Great stuff all around and I hope that I'll continue to have opportunities to teach in the future.

Dr. Ferris explaining to my students how the ice-core melting system works.

Hike on my friends,

-j

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Arctic Circle

Grímsey, Iceland

Warning...this will be another Geography geek-out post...

The Arctic Circle is a fickle thing. For most that have spent even a moment thinking about it, it's probably just known as the "line" related to the sun setting at the solstice...or some such.  The actual definition is a bit more complicated, but can be summed up as the line that marks the northernmost point at which noon sun is just visible on the northern winter solstice...and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun is just visible on the northern summer solstice. But...it gets a little more confusing the more you dig into the details.

Looking at a basic map showing the Arctic Circle, you can easily pick out the countries that find some part of themselves above it, and within the "Arctic".  Very easily, one can pick out the US (Alaska), Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia (as well as a few other island and archipelagos like Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, etc). 


But here's the thing, when you look up the Arctic Circle details online (i.e. wikipedia), it also lists Iceland as being transected by the Arctic Circle. Let's look at a map of Iceland, shall we...


This map clearly shows the entirety of Iceland falling just below the Arctic Circle. The very northern part of the island comes dangerously close to that magic line, but falls just short. So why is Iceland listed then?  Turns out a minuscule part of Iceland DOES actually cross the Arctic Circle.

About 25 miles north of mainland Iceland, there is a small island called Grímsey. This tiny island, which is part of the country of Iceland, is less than 5 square miles in total size. However, this little speck of land has a major claim to fame: The arctic circle cuts through it...and thus does put a very small portion of the country of Iceland ABOVE the Arctic Circle.***

Well, if you've ever read any of my geography posts on this journal, you'll know what I'm about to say next.  Yep, you guessed it....

"I need to go there".

Let's back up a second so I can give a little more detail on this fascinating geographical oddity. If I were to ask what the latitude of the Arctic Circle is, most would answer by saying either 66°30′, or maybe even 66°33′ to be more exact. Well...it turns out that it's not a simple thing to answer. 

If you can somehow manage to get to Grímsey, there is a monument there marking the Arctic Circle. You can even get a special certificate stating you've been to the Arctic Circle in Iceland. This is actually a major reason that many tourists seek out this diminutive island in the first place. But...where exactly is the monument erected? At what latitude?

And this is where it gets complicated. It turns out that the Arctic Circle is NOT stationary. The axis of the Earth is currently tilted about 23.5°. This is known as Earth's obliquity, and it fluctuates over a 40,000 year cycle between 22.1° and 24.5°. What this actually means in terms of the practical location of the Arctic Circle is that it is actually migrating northward a few meters per year. So the very short story here is that the Arctic Circle is not actually where the monument is located in Iceland....but has moved many meters North since it was erected. But where is it now, does it still actually transect Iceland at all, or has the entire country finally fallen South of the Arctic Circle.

Grímsey Island showing the location of the Arctic Circle and Monument

The Arctic Circle Monument near the airstrip

The Arctic Circle established monument on Grímsey

Thankfully, we can answer this question with a very handy-dandy on-line calculation tool found here:

This tool exactly calculates the angle of the ecliptic of obliquity and will spit out a very precise location of the Arctic Circle on any given date. So let's plug in some numbers and see what it says.  For the sake of this example, I am going to use the date of August 30th, 2017 (later this year).

When we plug in this date (at noon), it gives us three results:

OBLIQUITY OF THE ECLIPTIC

Eps Mean = 23.4369946128 = 23° 26' 13.181" (Laskar)
Eps True = 23.4350279869 = 23° 26' 06.101" (Using IAU 1980 nutation series)
Eps True = 23.4350275624 = 23° 26' 06.099" (Using IAU 2000B nutation series)

One of these values is a compiled result using a technique published by Laskar (1986). This method is essentially an averaged mean of the other methods. The other two values represent actual true values as defined by the International Astronomical Union. The two listed "True" values are so close together, and share six decimal palaces, that they literally would be less than an inch apart on the ground. So for sake of simplicity, lets just plot up the two lines in Google Maps to see where they fall. In order to do this, we simply need to subtract these values form 90.0.

90-23.4369946128 = 66.5630053872
90-23.4350279869 = 66.5649720131

As it turns out, when we plot up these lines of latitude for August 30th, at noon, they both are quite a bit farther north than the established monument. However, they are still on the island and therefore some part of Iceland is JUST BARELY above the Arctic Circle.

Location of the Arctic Circle as calculated using IAU and Laskar methods

Zooming in, one could then ask....would it be possible to trek on foot to this Northern part of Grímsey? Well, provided you can get to the island, it looks to be less than a 2 mile hike on some sort of foot path out to the northernmost point. Below is a map showing the zoomed-in northern peninsula with the two calculated Arctic Circles identified ON the foot path.

Footpath is visible on the shore by the airsrtip... heading to northern peninsula

Laskar-derived Arctic Circle point along footpath

IAU-derived Arctic Circle along footpath

Turns out that there is a very tiny natural "wobble" to the progression off the Earth's obliquity called the "Nutation". In other words, as the Arctic circle drifts Northward, there is a very slight sinusoidal wave component to it. This means over several years it will drift North, then back South, then back North...all while generally trending North. This will happen until the tilt reaches a minimum of about 21.1° around the year 11,800, at which time the Arctic Circle will finally start trending back South.  I played around with various dates using the calculation tool with both the Laskar and the IAU methods, and just as I suspected, the Laskar method just averages out the natural wobble and calculates the approximate "mean" of the latitude line. So, in a nutshell, the precise Arctic Circle is the IAU-determined value, but the mean is still pretty close and an easier way to visualize it.

If you look at the absolute Northernmost point Grímsey, we could therefore calculate the approximate year that the Arctic Circle will no longer contain any of Iceland. Below I've identified the tiny little speck of land that juts out (just above sea level) from the absolute Northernmost point on Grímsey (and thus Iceland). The exact latitude of this point is: 66.56641486°


So...using the online Ecliptic tool, I extrapolated the path of the Arctic Circle out into the future: Starting with my birthday of 2015 as a starting point (20-Nov-2015), I plotted up the the Latitude Path of the Arctic circle up to the year 2076 (my 100th birthday). These results are shown below:


You can clearly see that both the Laskar (mean) latitude, and the true nutation-influenced latutide trend North overall...but that the True latitude also has a sinusoidal component to it. I've drawn on the line indicating the northernmost point of Iceland.

As you can see, around the year 2030, the True Arctic Circle moves entirely North of Grímsey for about 7 years until about 2037. Almost exactly on my 67th birthday in the year 2043, the Laskar calculated average Arctic Circle latitude line moves above Grímsey...although the True line is still below. By the year 2047, both calculations result in the Arctic Circle line falling entirely above Grímsey. But then, for about 2 short years between 2060 and 2062, the True Arctic Circle calculation just dips back below the northernmost point on the island (due to the nutation of the obliquity angle), before finally moving above for good. Then for almost 9000 years, all of Iceland will be permanently below the Arctic Circle. I wonder if there'll be a guy in the year 2062 that will get to update the wikipedia page for Iceland to finally say it's no longer transected by the Arctic Circle

Turns out, if you also backtrack dates using the online Ecliptic tool, you'll also come to discover that the placement of the monument on Grímsey coincides with a True latitude of the Arctic Circle around the year 1900. This seams reasonable...meaning that the marker was probably placed some time about 100 years ago, near both the turn of the century, and the independence of Iceland as a nation.

....at any rate.

This of course brings us all back to me and my silly fascinations with geographical oddities. You may have wondered why I chose to look at the random date of August 30th, 2017. Well, I chose that date, because ostensibly that is the date that I will actually be on Grímsey, walking to the Arctic Circle. As of last night, I now have airline tickets purchased for Iceland, and I will be touring the country for 11 days. Other than the obvious amazing things to see and do in Iceland (e.g. glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, hot springs, etc), I made one request....I wanted to go to Grímsey to walk above the Arctic Circle. Provided all goes according to plan, and our ticketed ferry does leave on schedule, we should arrive on Grímsey around noon on August 30th. I can't wait. This may be even more exciting than the pole of inaccessibility!

The plan is simple. We'll be camper-vanning around Iceland on the loop road (counter-clockwise), and will aim for the tiny town Dalvik, where we'll hop on a 3-hr ferry over to Grímsey for the day. We'll hike around the island, including a jaunt up to the Northern tip, and then head back to the mainland on the return ferry a few hours later. There will be many pictures and GPS screen captures taking place for sure.

Ferry route from Dalvik to Grímsey

It's funny...for as many times as I've been to the Antarctic, and even the South Pole itself, I've never actually set foot above the Arctic Circle, despite getting quite close back in 2003. As part of a ridiculous road trip from Ohio to Alaska, I managed to play around in Fairbanks only about 200 miles south of the actual Arctic Circle, but never made it any closer. Ive been to England, Northern Labrador, Yukon, and Nunavut Canada....but never above that magical Arctic Circle line.  This may finally be my chance (at least until I end up doing field work in Greenland).

Outside of Fairbanks in 2003

The Arctic Circle marker 200 miles north of Fairbanks that I almost got to see

There will be many more Iceland posts coming as the trip gets closer for sure...so stay tuned.


***NOTE: To be entirely accurate, there is a very tiny rock that just juts up above sea level about 75 km north of Grímsey called Kolbeinsey, which is the current northernmost point of Iceland....HOWEVER, due to high sea erosion and rising sea levels, it is not expected to be above the surface for much longer (probably in the next 5-10 years it will disappear - more details here:

But, if for some reason, Kolbeinsey can hang on and fight off the erosion of the sea until the year 2062...and thus remain above sea level...it would allow for a tiny portion of Iceland to still remain above the Arctic Circle past 2062.  Incidentally, even if Kolbeinsey could stay above sea level indefinitely, the Arctic Circle would still finally drift north of even that latitude, around the year 7000. So unfortunately Iceland will still lose it's place above the Arctic Circle until the Earth's obliquity angle makes its way around again a few thousand years later. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

Kolbeinsey Rock (less than 10 meters wide total and eroding into the sea)