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Robert Ripley
Team Ripper Rides Again!!

06 June 2022 03:43 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Team Ripper Rides Again!  (Race #6?)


This past weekend Bend hosted the Bend Beer Chase.  This quintessential Central Oregon event combines 2 of the area’s most popular sports:  running and beer drinking.  The Beer Chase is a 55 mile relay race divided into 12 legs that circumnavigates Deschutes County in between Bend and Redmond.  Most of the legs start or finish at one of the many local breweries, and all of the transition zones are sponsored by breweries with product tasting available.


Team Ripper, fresh off of its awestriking performance at the Pole Pedal Paddle (barely recovered from injuries sustained at the Post Pole Pedal Paddle Party), was a natural favorite for the Bend Beer Chase (BBC).  Unfortunately, our star runner Nigel had injured his achilles on the river trail a week prior and was moving with a pronounced gimp and Lars had decided that the BBC was not a good enough reason to interrupt his training in quest of world masters’ rowing domination, so we were left with a team of 3 uninjured racers (plus Nigel).  Which put us at a severe disadvantage given that most of the teams had 6 runners.  So we would each have to put out for 3-4 legs of the relay instead of the usual two.

Hans starts us off right!

Hans hands off to Hu!

Nigel shows us how it's done!


Fortunately, Nigel’s tape job held together and he was able to pull his weight and Team Ripper performed admirably, even if I did wind up doing two legs in a row for 13 miles on the uphill, upwind side of the course (let’s just say I didn’t get a PR for the half).  We finished in around seven and a half hours (averaging about 8 minute miles), 12th place overall and, as an added insult, we won the grand masters division (because no one else has lived long enough to compete with us!).  But, most importantly, we finished while there was still beer left at the finish line!!

Some guy in a red hat runs through the sagebrush.

Hans takes the baton from Hu for his final leg!

Team Ripper at the line.  Grand Master champions!


After the 20 or so miles I put in at tempo on Saturday’s  BBC, I went out Sunday  morning a jogged another easy 20 in the woods.


Nancy and I are getting ready for the RTP Georgia 2022 race.  We will be volunteering on the medical team, so won’t be expected to compete in the race, although I am hoping to sneak out and run a few miles on the course.


The logistics for getting a medical team ready for one of these races is almost as daunting as gearing up as a competitor.  Fortunately, we don’t have to carry all of our equipment and food for the entire week on our backs, but we do have to be able to schlep it to and from the Jeeps and, be ready to mount a mobile rescue if need be.  I have been finding out about the supply chain breakdown first hand as many of my usual sources for supplies and medications are either unavailable or on permanent back order.

Cody and Holly look on with dismay at the pile of stuff getting ready to go to Georgia

One way or another, with or without our stuff, we will be in Tbilisi in 10 days.  We are looking forward to seeing all of you (in the Georgia Race) there!


Comments: Total (1) comments

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 08 Jun 2022 05:09 pm

Rob -- looks like you will nail the Atacama Crossing! Continued good luck with your training. Everyone looks so fit. Cody and Holly are beautiful. Mary
Robert Ripley
Pole Pedal Paddle!!

23 May 2022 03:27 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Pole Pedal Paddle!  (5th race of 2022)?


Last weekend (May 14th) was Bend’s (for those of you who are just signing in, I live in Bend, Oregon) biggest athletic event, the Pole Pedal Paddle, locally known as the PPP!  The PPP is either a relay or an individual race (however you want to play it) that starts at the top of Mount Bachelor with a short uphill run to your skis, a downhill ski run to the base, an 8km nordic ski leg, a 17 mile mostly downhill bicycle leg, a 5 mile trail run, 2 miles of paddling the river and then a mile sprint to the finish.  Some 2000 people competed in 2022 in the 44th PPP after a 2 year hiatus for Covid.


Although the PPP is mostly a fun, family event, the sharp end of the race is highly competitive with some locals training for it year round.  This year’s individual win went to Ironman Champion Jesse Thomas, and it is not uncommon to have Olympians and ex-Olympians in the mix.  


I did my first PPP in 1980 as a member of the College of Idaho Ski team’s entry back in the race’s early days when the whole race field lined up on top of the hill.  Now, with the larger numbers, the race is held in heats and is much more orchestrated.  In the past years before Covid I raced the PPP as a pairs team with my brother Nigel and we typically won our pairs’ age group, also known in Bend parlance as “mugging” (the traditional trophies for the PPP have been pottery mugs).  But this year all 4 of my brothers came to town for PPP (and the concomitant Bend Brewfest), so we raced as a family team.


(Side comment:  growing up as one of 5 boys, it would have been uncommon for anyone to actually use my given name, so in this post I will be using the nicknames that we gave each other and that we now use when we get together.)

                                         Hu gets ready for the downhill ski battle!

So as it was, Hu started us off with the downhill ski leg.  Mount Bachelor was socked in with clouds and mist, but Hu came bursting out of the fog in 3rd or 4th place (in our heat) and managed not to kill the small child that cut in front of him.


Hu handed off to me for the nordic leg.  The visibility was poor but the snow was fast as I cruised the first 3-4 kilometers mostly downhill trying to avoid the carnage and potholes from the skiers in front of me.  Then the nordic course turned back uphill and I torched myself trying to get back to the parking lot.  


Fortunately, Nigel was waiting at the pavement, so I could hand off the timing chip without having to take my skis off.  Nigel negotiated the cycling leg in less than ideal road conditions (sleet, wind, rain, more wind) and managed to keep the rubber side down.


Nigel handed off to Hans who, even though recovering from an achilles tendon issue managed to crush the trail run.

                                          Lars and Hans head for the boat launch!

Hans handed off to Lars while helping to launch the racing kayak (Lars, incidentally, being the only one of us to legally change his name to the name given by his brothers) into the Deschutes River.  Lars, an accomplished masters rower, usually races shells with oarlocks, but put in a commendable performance on the river.

                                       Lars takes on the river leg!

                                           Hu on the final sprint!

Lars handed off to Hu for the final sprint and we finished the whole event a bit over 2 hours.  We were the 2nd family team across the line and the 9th team, but given that a number of pairs and individuals beat us, we were 25th in the overall standings.  But we won our age group!  Unfortunately, the potter who made the traditional PPP mugs retired so we had to settle for stainless steel mugs.  But they kept our beer colder!

                           Team Ripper: Hu, Nigel, Lars, Hans and some guy with a hat.

A very fun weekend (in keeping with my goals: have fun, be thankful and don’t get hurt)!  And I am tremendously thankful that these 4 wonderful men (even if they were amazingly annoying teenagers) are my brothers and that we can get together to share an athletic event and a malty beverage.


And the training.  Well.  It is still coming along.  A work in progress.  Took a 4 hour run in the woods this weekend.  Wasn’t particularly fast, but the legs felt good, and except for the occasional raindrop, it was a beautiful day.


Today is supposed to be a rest day.  But, in an effort to get my irrigation pump up and running, I spend a good part of the day digging out a faulty old splice in the line that takes power down to the pump.  So I guess it is strength day!

                                           Nothing like digging twelve foot trench on your "rest" day!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Samantha Fanshawe

Posted On: 24 May 2022 08:43 am

This is really great Rob. Having interim races before the big one is so helpful in getting your head around race nerves, strategy and routine and, for some, a reality check of how ready you feel. Sounds tough but that you dis great.
Robert Ripley
4th Race of 2022!

10 May 2022 02:32 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Fourth Race of 2022!


I had another race this weekend.  But before I get into that, last week marked the beginning of the 4 Deserts racing season with the Namib Race.  To me it seems like just a few weeks since I got home from Namibia, but apparently it has been six months.  And I was very jazzed up to follow whatever race action I could find on the interwebs and social media and what not!  It sounds like they raced the course that we were supposed to race last October except that it got changed at the last minute due to high winds and shifting sands.  From what I could tell from the pictures and video, the Namib desert did not disappoint from the stunningly beautiful landscape standpoint.  Nor from the extreme conditions challenge aspect.  When we raced Namib last year, it got hot, into the 40s (Celsius, 100s Fahrenheit), and you expect that in the desert, but this year the temperature got into the 50s, which is just plain crazy no matter what kind of thermometer you’re looking at.  On the long day this year they had a mandatory 3 hour stop to get the racers out of the high noon sun.  I would have found it difficult mentally and physically to stop my run only to restart 3 hours later.


Anyway.  My hearty congratulations to Reinhold Hugo and Terumichi Morishita on an epic battle across multiple stages that Reinhold managed to win by a matter of 10 minutes.  And congratulations to Victoria Connelly and Anim Swart for taking first and second in the women’s race, respectively,  and finishing 6th and 7th overall!  These guys are truly desert warriors!  And it looks like I will be seeing most of them in Atacama as they attempt the 4 deserts grand slam thing.  Hopefully all this racing will have them tired out a little!


And speaking of tired out and racing, this past weekend gave us the Rise Ranch Challenge Race here in Central Oregon!  The ranch challenge was a 3 mile obstacle course involving ranch themed challenges: hay bale stacking, moving rocks, roping sawhorse steers, bridling hobby horses, gunny sack hopping, water hauling, sheep dipping (with us as the sheep) and other bits of fun and hilarity.  Our friend and neighbor Becky from the nearby JBC ranch signed us up, and Nancy and I did our best, although this is not exactly what we train for.  (When asked if she runs, Nancy usually points out that she has been known to run a bath). But we were able to complete the course in about an hour including all of the tasks.  We did fail the roping event, so we had to do extra hay bale burpies.  All in all, we had a fun Saturday morning.  And we raised money for Harmony Farm Animal Sanctuary.

The JBC Ranch Team, Nancy, Becky, Teresa and some guy in jeans


Team JBC hard at work stacking hay bales!


And the ever important skill of hauling rocks and firewood!


After the obstacle course I went out for a 3 hour jog in the woods, making it my first 4 hour training day of the year!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 11 May 2022 03:23 pm

Haha, that sounds like a different race. I would love to have seen the photos of the hobby horses! Don't count on any of the Namib Race Champs slowing down in Chile - luckily you're equally as strong so I think it's going to be a race for our camp team as you guys break records on the course.
Robert Ripley
April Roundup

29 April 2022 10:21 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

April Roundup


Apparently my promise that I would be putting up a blogpost every week was a little ambitious.  Here it is nearly the end of April and I haven’t posted anything all month.  I would say in my defense that I have been busy, but I have been busy doing things that I should be posting about, so mostly it’s just that I’m lazy.


Anyway!  April has been a good month here in Central Oregon.  Ski season has been slowly winding down.  As I write this, it is snowing up in the mountains to the west of me, which means there will be new snow to ski on at Mt. Bachelor tomorrow and there will be a little more water trickling down to our drought ridden piece of desert when the snow decides to melt.


I have been skiing less and running more.  The trails have dried up, and I’ve been able to get into the woods and the hills.  The training has been coming along as I gradually up the mileage on my longer runs.  I’ve been following Jeff Pelletier’s training diaries on YouTube and have been made to feel unworthy.  (Jeff put in a 6 hour, 60+ kilometer run last weekend!!  Let’s just say it may be a few months before I work my way up to 60k). 


On April 10th I ran the Peterson Ridge Rumble, a 20 mile trail run in Sisters, Oregon, a little cowboy town about 15 miles to the northwest of us.  (Third Race of the Year!). I had initially signed up for the 40 mile course, but in light of my slow transition from skiing to running, I felt that doing the 40 miler might be a little foolhardy.  Also I had a plane to catch at 6pm, so doing the forty would have been cutting things close.  

Some old guy struggling in at the finish of the Peterson Ridge Rumble


As it was, 20 miles of trail running with around 1400 feet of elevation gain pretty much kicked my butt.  True to form, I started out slow and finished slower.  (There was a wicked headwind coming back into town). I did manage to throw down an average pace somewhere in the 8 minute mile range, but that wasn’t enough to crack the top 10 (or even the top 20).   But I did take my age group.  


I was reminded why I don’t like to push my pace while running trails around here.  Being an old guy, I need to keep what little visual acuity I have left focused on the trail in front of me to keep from tripping over rocks and roots and other stuff.  If I run at speed, my vision gets worse and my reaction time gets challenged.  As such, I tripped over an unseen rock and took a tumble while coming down from the ridge.  Fortunately I managed to get my hands out in front of me and I only broke one finger whilst avoiding any neurosurgical injury.


And then, after washing down a burrito and several cookies with a mountain dew and rinsing the mud off, I had a plane to catch.  Initially to Seattle, but then to Helsinki, and finally to Riga, Latvia.


Whenever a Latvian would find out we were from the States, they would invariably ask, “Why come all this way?”  And I would answer, “Why would we not!?”  Latvia is a beautiful country with lovely people, fascinating history, amazing nature preserves and great food.  Besides, after spending the last two years getting in and out of Covid hot spots, we decided, perhaps prematurely, that this was the year to visit former soviet republics.

A beautiful day in Riga!

Lars, Karen and Nancy at the point of Kolkasrags, where the Gulf of Riga meets the Baltic Sea


Even though most of my time in Latvia was spent eating and drinking, I did manage to sneak a little running in.  We spent 4 days on the beach at Apsuciems outside of Jurmala, so I was able to put in some sand training in as well as practice my stream crossings and running with soggy feet.  And, by running to and from the beach on all of the beach access trails, I found that I was able to get over a 1000 feet of elevation gain into an 8+ mile beach run, at sea level!  

I also got the opportunity to do some hill training at the Latvian Bobsled and Luge track in Sigulda!


Having made it safely back to Central Oregon, I have been venturing out in the woods with the dogs, as well as my usual springtime activities which center around getting my irrigation system up and running (always a trial) so I can get the pasture fertilized and ready for the alpacas that come live with us in the summer.


Also in April, I completed my 61st trip around the sun.  Funny, I don’t feel a day older than I did when I turned 60 (because I feel a year older!).  Nancy took me out to a delightful dinner at Vincents in Riga for my birthday.  (I highly recommend the tasting menu, next time you are in Riga!).  And as a birthday present she got me a possible Atacama kit item:  the MontBell Plasma 1000 jacket.  Super light!  But no pockets.  I will keep you posted.


As always, I am thankful to be here with the ones I love and have the health to still get out there and play in the dirt.


Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 09 May 2022 11:47 pm

No wonder you haven't had time to write a blog before now - you've been busy! I wonder if you managed to sneak a look at the Namib Race where two of your fellow racers in Chile came in 1st and 2nd with 10 minutes between them going into the final finishline - there was then 4 hours(!) between 3rd and 4th place.
Robert Ripley
Second Race of the Year!

12 March 2022 11:49 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Second Race of the Year


Last weekend I went up to my old stomping ground, Anchorage, Alaska, to visit friends and check on the end of winter in the north country.


Jay, my best friend since middle school, and his wife Moira were kind enough to put me up and put up with me.  And feed me lots of yummy vegan food.


Although Anchorage is above the 60th parallel (and nearly 7000 kilometers north of the equator), its coastal location brings instability to wintertime in Alaska’s largest city.  Growing up there, I remember waist deep snow.  I used to ski to Chinook Elementary with my tuffy boots cabled onto a pair of wooden Bonna cross county skis.  Uphill.  Both ways.  But lately, snow is not a foregone conclusion in Anchorage.  Kincaid Park, the largest nordic trail system in Anchorage, now has snowmaking equipment.  This winter has seen snow, but also several freeze-thaw cycles.  When I arrived, the temperature was a little over the freezing mark and the snow was icy, slick and rock hard.  I had to borrow a pair of ice cleats for my shoes just to go for a walk with Jay on the coastal trail.


The iffy snow conditions were stressing out the Anchorage folks putting on two of Alaska’s hallmark events: the start of the Iditarod, and the Tour of Anchorage. 


The Iditarod is a 1000+ mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, celebrating a historic and heroic relay of dog mushers carrying diphtheria serum from Nenana to Nome (the serum went from Anchorage to Nenana on the train) to fight an outbreak in 1925.  This year marks the race’s 50th anniversary.  The Iditarod attracts sled dog racers from around the world.  The youngest racer this year is 22 year old Hanna Lyrek from Alta, Norway.  I first met Hanna in Talkeetna in 2001.  I was staying with her parents while getting ready to climb Denali.


The Tour of Anchorage is a 50 kilometer cross country ski race that starts out on the Hillside (foothills of the Church mountains) and tracks down through town to Westchester Lagoon and then out onto the coastal trail where it winds past the airport and up the hill to Kincaid Park.  In addition to the signature 50km freestyle (skate) race, the Tour also has 25km and 40km freestyle options, and classic races at all distances as well.  And you can do the race on a fatbike, in the afternoon!  I had signed up for the 50km classic race.


All week my iPhone app kept saying that snow was imminent, but then never producing.  Finally, on Saturday, the skies opened up and dumped snow.  So the Anchorage ceremonial start of the Iditarod was held in a blizzard.

Hanna Lyrek starting the Iditarod in a blizzard (photo credit Mark Thiessen AP Photo)

It snowed all day.  6-10 inches of new snow depending on what part of town you were in.  Normally snow is a good thing for skiing, but this much snow the day before a race means softer and slower conditions (and I’d already signed up for the slowest possible option).  Additionally, given the icy base layer, the new snow made for a tricky grip wax situation.  I opted to go with a klister base layer (because of the ice) with a hard wax topcoat for the new snow.  All in all, it worked out pretty good, although my skis were not the fastest, I didn’t have trouble getting up the hills.  But occasionally the klister base would get entangled with some new snow and form a little ice bomb on the ski and suddenly bring an end to my momentum…


Sunday, the day of the Tour, turned out to be a bluebird day.  It was hard to keep my eyes on the trail with the volcanoes towering over Cook Inlet and Denali hovering on the Northern horizon over 130 miles to the north.

Denali, Hunter and Foraker (right to left) on the other side of Cook Inlet

Unfortunately, I got a very close look at the trail early on in the race as my klister got stuck on a corner and I faceplanted.  I lost contact with the front group of skiers, and, while I slowly worked my way back into third place, I never saw the top 2 skiers again.  Still, it was a fun race, a little bit sloppy, especially when we encountered the back of the 25km freestyle pack, but the skis felt good and the views were amazing out on the coastal trail.  I wound up in third overall, and I took my age group.  Of course, getting on the podium in the Tour is all about picking your race.  The 50km classic only had a couple of dozen racers, whereas the 50km freestyle had a couple of hundred racers, including several fresh off the world cup.  But I was still happy with my effort for the day, finishing a bit over 3 hours in less than perfect snow conditions.  Not too bad for an old guy.

Sunday night I had dinner with my friends and medical school classmates, John and Chris.  In the 90s, we’d go running.  Chris would be pushing a stroller with her 2 boys, and she’d be kicking our butts.  Chris went on to win the US Olympic trials marathon in 2000, a mother of two working full time as a physician.  She went on to compete in the Sydney Olympics.  


And now I’m back in Central Oregon.  It’s raining where I am, but snowing in the mountains.  Ski season is starting to wind down.  I’ve had over 60 days on snow so far this season.  Can’t complain about that!  But if I am going to think about running Atacama in September, and maybe a couple of running races over the summer, then I had better get started doing some running.  The trails are still a little muddy here, so I guess I will have to stick to the roads as I get started.

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Robert Ripley
Lessons from the Namib Race

24 February 2022 04:21 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Lessons from the Namib Race


Although the 2021 Namib Race was my first ultramarathon and my first multiday stage race and my first race carrying a pack, I didn’t go into it completely naive.  I had watched six of these races from the medical tent.  I had seem competitors triumph. and I had also seen some crash and burn.  And I had formed a number of opinions as to what would be the best way to approach a RacingThePlanet multiday ultramarathon.   As it turns out, some of my conjectures were correct.  And some not so much.  But as I get ramped up to finally make a go at the 2022 Atacama Crossing, it’s probably time to sit down and take stock of what I learned in the Namib desert.  And  figure out how to apply these lessons to the next race.


And so, in no particular order (in keeping with the random theme this blog endorses), here are some of the things I learned.

It pays to have a light pack.  I spent a large amount of time and no small amount of money keeping my pack light.  I googled each and every item on the mandatory equipment list and tried to find the lightest piece of equipment to satisfy the requirement.  Starting with my pack.  Many “lightweight” or even “ultralight” packs weigh close to a kilogram.  My pack (a Raidlight Revolutiv 24 liter) weighs a quarter of that.  I’ve read about competitors cutting the handle off their toothbrushes and cutting the tags off their gear.  But if you are cutting the tags off of a 2 kilogram sleeping bag, you are just being silly.  And I won’t even get into what my hands looked like on day 5 and why a full length toothbrush is a necessity.  As it turned out, my pack weighed 6 kilograms (7.5 kg with water), and to my knowledge, was the lightest pack in the Namib Race.  I’m not saying that the race was won at the weigh in, just that it is my opinion that it is easier to move across the desert (hour after hour, day into day) with a lighter pack.                           

Food is going to be most of the weight in your pack.  So it pays to look at the calorie density (calories per gram) of what you are carrying.  The difference between 4 cal/gm and 5cal/gm when extended into 14000 calories (the minimum requirement) is 700 grams, the better part of a kilo.  We don’t just run on our feet.  We run on our stomachs.  So you have to put your nutrition to the test.  A number of weekends on my training schedule I consumed nothing but Skratch powders and Expedition Foods.

But we do run on our feet.  So you’d better be pretty happy with the shoes and socks that you’re wearing.  I tried out a large pile of footwear.  In multipe sizes.  And I still lost a couple of toenails.

The RacingThePlanet multiday ultramarathon isn’t just one long race.  It’s 6 races.  And every day is a new race.  Recovery is key.  Chugging some recovery drink at the finish line and then movement, stretching and more movement, and then getting my feet up for an hour or two.  But only a certain amount of recovery is possible, so you have to be able to suck it up and run with sore, tired legs.  Part of my training included back to back long days of running to get me used to running with fatigue.

I need a longer earphone cord for my MP3 player.  The cord I was using made my shirt ride up in the back.  And, although I was not aware of this during the race, now I have seen Jeff Pelletier’s footage of me running (shot from behind) in Racing Namibia, and it just isn’t very professional looking.  I’ll do better next time.


Comments: Total (1) comments

Mabasa Mubatapasango

Posted On: 04 Mar 2022 06:09 pm

Hey Rob, Thanks for the article, these are very important points and I can relate to the backpack part. It's one constant that needs to be dealt with during training and in my next race would like to rectify it. Supporting you all the way.
Robert Ripley
Watching It All Over Again!

19 February 2022 06:47 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Watching it all over again.  


It feels like the first time.


Let me just say how great it has been to watch Jeff Pelletier’s Racing Nambia series on YouTube.  Every day that I was out there running in the Namib desert, I would come over a rise and again and again be left in awe of the next vista I was going to be running through.  But I was running.  And given my tendency to fall over, I was looking at my feet.  A lot.  And I wasn’t carrying a camera.


So it has been a blessing to see, once again, the sheer beauty of the Namib and the breathtaking backdrop of our journey last October.  And it has been great to hear Jeff’s take on his race and travels, as well as the stories of the other competitors.


I am thankful to Jeff for putting in the tremendous amount of work to come up with the spectacular finished product.  


And I am thinking that if Jeff hadn’t been running with one hand above his head (holding his GoPro) most of the race, he probably would have been kicking our butts!



Thank you Jeff!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Mabasa Mubatapasango

Posted On: 04 Mar 2022 06:17 pm

It gives me comfort to learn that I'm not the only one who watches the excellent documentary over and over again. I am in awe of his ability to express the stories with precision. Thank you Jeff for putting together the amazing documentary.

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 20 Feb 2022 12:56 pm

It's brilliant isn't it! The scenery, the race, the tips and the stories. I am so glad he covered your story because it is pretty unbelievable. I felt almost as emotional watching the awards banquet and how Jeff added everyone's personal story in between some of the awards - I needed my sunglasses again!
Robert Ripley
First Race of the Year!

30 January 2022 05:45 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

First Race of the Year!


Well, January is almost done here, and I really haven’t done that much running yet.  


But, as you can see, I have been cross country (Nordic) skiing just a bit.  It is my theory (not backed up by any actual exercise physiology expertise) that skiing will improve my aerobic conditioning without the repetitive lower extremity trauma of running.  Hopefully my overuse injuries from last fall will heal up or at least scar over, and maybe my toenails will grow back.


Central Oregon had substantial snowfall in December and early January, so the ski trails were pretty buff a few weeks ago, but lately we’ve been having sunny days and cold nights, and the freeze-thaw-repeat cycle has been wreaking havoc on the snow.

Fortunately we have some first class ski trail groomers here and the trails have remained skiable albeit a little icy and dicey.


Today (Saturday) was the Tour de Meissner, a 30 kilometer classic ski race at the Meissner snow park about 14 miles up the hill out of Bend.  The park and the non-profit organization that maintains the trails is named for Virginia Meissner, a local proponent of trails and cross country skiing.  Virginia’s son Ernie was my ski coach at the College of Idaho.  In the early 80s, when we raced in Bend, we would sleep on the floor at Virginia’s house.  I still remember hustling out of the van to try and grab a coveted sleeping bag spot by the wood stove.


In any case, this was a classic race, which means that we raced with our skis (for the most part) in parallel grooves cut into the snow by a track sled—either kicking and gliding, double poling or otherwise flailing when called for.


Classic is the way Nordic skiing has been skied for centuries but has only recently been labeled classic to delineate it from freestyle which uses a skating, nonparallel technique which has proven faster.  Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, “classic” cross country skiing was all there was.  And for my high school and college racing career, it was what we did.  In 1983, Bill Koch won the World Cup with the new skating technique, but as that was happening I was finishing up College racing and by 1984 I was in medical school.  My opportunities to go skiing would be few and far between for almost a decade.  By the time I was able to ski again, I was way behind the skating curve, so to speak, and while I have made some strides in improving my skating, classic still remains my technique of choice.

                                classic technique from ther 70s (yes, I still drop my left shoulder)


                 skating technique from 2018 (don't try this at home, or anywhere else for that matter)

Because classic skiing involves kicking yourself forward on each stride, classic skis require some sort of grip under the foot—either a sticky wax or a skin strip or fish scale pattern.  Today, because of the variety of snow and the rapidly rising temperature, I used Rex Universal Klister for kick.  Because the course had over 2000 feet of climbing, I may have put on a little more Klister than was necessary.  So I had some great kick.  But I paid for it with some slower glide.  Still, I was happy to be able to get up the hills without slipping.

                                                         klister on a pair of xc racing skis

So. The race.  As a few of you may remember from my last blog, my last ski race was a big freestyle race in Sun Valley, Idaho in February of 2020 called the Boulder Mountain Tour.  I went out in the third wave just after the elite waves.  Things got a little aggro on the first downhill, and I wound up in a pile up and banged my head pretty hard.  This made for a challenging day, and the head injury put me back a few weeks.  Out of an over abundance of caution, I deliberately put myself in a slower starting wave today.  


As such I was able to ski pretty much by myself for the first 5 kilometers until I caught up with the slower skiers from the first wave, and by then they had spread out, so I could make my way past without any physical contact.


So I felt the race went well.  I didn’t have the fastest skis, but I had plenty of grip and so I was able to ski uphill without slipping.  The course had a number of long grinding climbs, all of which I felt like I skied well, passing a few racers on each one and arriving at the top not completely blown.  A couple of folks skied back up on me on the downhills, but eventually I left them on the next climb.


By the finish I had caught the bulk of the first wave.  I finished in the top 10 and won my age group and skied the 30km in 1:48 (3:36 per kilometer), which isn’t going to get me onto the World Cup circuit, but for me was pretty darn fast.  Maybe if I had sucked it up and started with the faster wave I could have improved my standings by one or two places, but I was happy with the decision and felt good about being able to ski my own race.


I’m not sure how this is going to translate to crossing the salt flats in Atacama, but it was fun!

I’m thankful that I live in a place where winter still exists and I get to go out and ski in the woods.


Comments: Total (3) comments

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 04 Feb 2022 02:01 am

Rob: You are allowed snow shoes! Mary

Robert Ripley

Posted On: 03 Feb 2022 05:50 pm

Hi Mary! Thanks for your support! Does this mean I can ski the Antarctica Race!?

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 31 Jan 2022 02:09 am

Well not only does it sound like you will ready for a top finish at the Atacama Crossing, but sounds like you would ace The Last Desert in Antarctica. You will qualify after the Atacama Crossing!
Robert Ripley
New Year, New Blog!

12 January 2022 10:28 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

New Year! New Goals! New Race! New Blog?


Hello everyone out there in RTP-land and beyond.  I hope you’ve gotten your shots and are staying safe and healthy as the SARS-CoV-2 virus shows off both speed and endurance this winter.


Nancy and I managed to get out of South Africa just ahead of the Omicron variant and are snuggled up on the ranch in Tumalo.  After a couple of months off to savor and process my surprise win in the RTP Namib Race, I’ve been able to come up with some plans for 2022.  Nancy and I are going to be on the medical team for the Special Edition Georgia Race in June, so we are looking forward to seeing all of you running the race in the Caucasus.  And....  I’ve signed up for the 2022 Atacama Crossing.


Ever since my renaissance as an endurance athlete in my mid-50s, I’ve tried to find one major event each year to train for.  And this year it will be Atacama.  Nancy and I visited  the Atacama Desert in 2015 as part of the race medical team, and I was captivated by its stark beauty.  There is something about the shimmering salt and sand underneath the snow capped volcanoes that has lodged in my brain.  When I finally decided that I was going to try to run one of these crazy multiday ultramarathon things, I knew it would have to be the Atacama Crossing.  In 2019, I almost registered for it, but the dates conflicted with the Powerman in Zofingen, Switzerland and I chose eight hours racing in the freezing rain over a week in the desert.  I did sign up for the  2020 race (Covid!!), and carried my entry over to the 2021 race (more Covid!!), before opting to run the Namib Race (less Covid!?) as plan B.


If you read my last attempt at a blog, you’ll know that I will be writing about pretty much whatever random thought is coming into my mind.  But many of those random thoughts over the next nine months will have to do with training, racing, eating, shoes, gear and stuff about going off into the desert.  I think I have a slightly better handle on the multiday ultra than I did 2 years ago when I started my last blog, although I am still far from expert.  But if you have questions about the process, that my randomness isn’t answering for you, I am open to suggestion.  Just ask.


As before, my goals for the race:

  1. Have fun.
  2. Don’t get hurt.
  3. Be thankful.


Naturally, I would like to do well in Chile (I might just have a mild competitive streak), but not at the risk of getting hurt, not having fun, or forgetting how lucky I am to just be here.


Anyway, there it is.  There’s a race in the desert in September, and I had better start training.  Time to get this blog on the road.  Oh, but first, there’s snow on the ground here in Central Oregon and it’s ski season!


Comments: Total (8) comments

Tom Hales

Posted On: 15 Jan 2022 12:55 am

Go Rob, mild competitive streak...mild? Glad no lingering after affect from concussion in the Galena race. You go Rob, make us look good again.

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 14 Jan 2022 12:05 am

Yeah, good decision Rob. How I miss San Pedro and the Atacama Desert.

Earl Rogers

Posted On: 13 Jan 2022 08:28 pm

I am impressed. Go for it and have as much fun as one can have running in the sand filled desert. Take care, Earl

Barb Echo

Posted On: 13 Jan 2022 01:20 am

Do you need a dog/house sitter for June????😎

Karen Wei

Posted On: 12 Jan 2022 11:27 pm

I have been mulling over doing this race (again), this time with Jack (if he'll respond to my messages) and another friend.... knowing you'll be there might be the little extra incentive to sign up!

Jeff Ripley

Posted On: 12 Jan 2022 08:50 pm

Exciting stuff... good luck on your next adventure!

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 12 Jan 2022 07:22 pm

Whoop whoop, I am so excited that you will race at the Atacama Crossing - partly to read your blogs, but also to see you effortlessly complete the desert race with a continual smile while dancing to your music and chewing gum!!

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 12 Jan 2022 07:12 pm

Go Rob!! Looking forward to reading many clever posts along the way.