Atacama Crossing Blogs 2022

Robert Ripley



Atacama Crossing (2022) blog posts from Robert Ripley

11 October 2022 01:30 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Reflections on Atacama

I’ve been back for almost a week.  The wounds are healing, the memories coalescing.  (The scabs itching). I’ve been taking long walks in the woods with the dogs and have ridden the bikes a few times.  No running yet.  I’ve been feeding my face as fast as my hands can grab ahold of food bits and yet still feel hungry (and I’m still about a kilogram shy of my pre race weight).  And I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect on the week of the 2022 Atacama Crossing…

And what a week it was.


I suppose I should start with the goals I set for myself when I first set off to run one of these crazy desert multi-day ultramarathon things almost 3 years ago:

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


Well, as Meatloaf put into song in the seventies,”two out of three ain’t bad.”


I had fun in the Atacama.  I enjoyed the tent city that disappeared every morning, popping up in a different spot in the afternoon, greeting old friends and making new ones, bonding over the shared experience of the day’s travails.  I loved being out in the desert, the shifting landscape anchored by the volcanoes on the horizon.  I took joy from the physicality of movement, as my legs traversed the sands.  Granted, much of the racing was type 2 fun, maybe even type 3, but fun it was.  Out on the course, and rehashing it later around the fire.

I am thankful for the health that allows me to run, and I give thanks daily for the doctors and nurses who contributed to keeping me here and to all healthcare workers out there in these challenging times.  And I am thankful to have the resources to travel to such a distant, beautiful place and participate in such a logistically complicated endeavor.  I am thankful for my friends and family for their generosity, support and affection.  And, most of all, I am thankful for my beautiful and loving wife, Nancy, without whom I would not be among the living.  She keeps me grounded while still supporting me in my crazy dreams.


But I did get hurt.  More hurt than the expected muscles aches or blisters.  And, I confess, more hurt than I let on during in my race-day blogging, because I didn’t want to worry Nancy unduly (as we did not have communication during the race outside of the blog).  I fell down.


When I go to my cancer check ups, one of the questions they ask is “have you fallen?,” and I usually respond, “no, I was pushed.”  Because I fall all the the time, out running in the woods, on skis, or sometimes even off my bike if I can’t get unclipped fast enough.  But usually, beyond a scrape or two, I don’t get hurt.  (Although, I guess, the day before the Duathlon World Championships in 2017 I broke my hand in 2 places when I caught my tire in a grate and flipped my bike).  And I wasn’t the only competitor to fall in the Atacama.  Rob (Bilbo) scraped his leg when he fell during the long march.


I fell 3 times on Stage 2.  Twice in the canyon and once crossing the open desert coming into camp.  I scraped both knees.  I was a little frustrated at the time I lost negotiating the water crossings.  I was thankful for Jack and Malcolm who helped me up off the ground.  But I didn’t feel I was hurt, or injured.

Andrew, a friend of ours, tells the story of his rugby days.  If he was left on the ground in a match his coach would come out and shake him and ask, “are ye hurt or are ye injured?”  If he answered “hurt,” his coach would give him a swig of whisky from a flask and leave him in the game.  “Injured,” well, sidelines.


On Stage 3, I fell twice in the salt flats (thank you Jack, again, for picking me up).  As I mentioned before, “frozen broccoli” doesn’t quite describe just how sharp the sand/salt encrustations are in the salt flats.  I had multiple wounds to both knees, my left shin and both hands.  I was hurt.  Fortunately, I was able to get my hands out in time to keep my face from going into the stalagmites.  (Today, 2 weeks later, the sorest muscles I have are my triceps, from the sudden eccentric loading of my arms trying to protect my head during my falls)


I managed to pick my way through the next section of salt flats, slowly and carefully, with a lot of walking, and was rewarded with a section of runnable sand, but then we went into several kilometers of sand intermingled with jagged pieces of slate.  I fell again.  This time my hands got caught in the rock and I dislocated my finger.  Also, for the first time, my head went all the way down and struck rock.  I didn’t black out, the pain and deformity of my finger was full front in my consciousness.  But I was really hurt.


I should have stopped at the last checkpoint and, at the very least, let Dr. Jay tape my hand, but there was a runner in sight ahead, and I pushed through.  And I tripped and fell again, twice.  My reflexes were slow (or protecting my injured hand).  I hit my head both times.  Blood started leaking out of my hat and down into my left eye.  Now I was injured.  And in trouble.  And alone.  And about half way between the last checkpoint and camp.


It’s hard to say if I suffered a head injury, given I was out there by myself, the only witness being my own foggy recollection.  But the fact that I hit my head 3 times in a succession would suggest high risk of one.  I managed to get up the sand dune that blocked my way, re-dislocating my finger in the process, and drag myself into camp.


There, Drs. Andy and Arav cleaned and dressed my wounds and splinted my injured finger.  Andy irrigated and sutured the wound above my left eye.  (Kudos to Dr. Andy, the stitches have since come out and there is hardly a scar to be seen, not bad for operating in a tent, in a sandstorm).

At that point, lying there in the medical tent, asking myself if making The Crossing was worth risking and sustaining injury, I was seriously considering pulling myself out of the race.  I discussed my concerns with the medical team, and let them know that I would abide by their decision whether or not I was safe to continue the race.  As it turned out, there was a weather-related rest the next day, and by Thursday, after 24+ hours of observation, the medical team felt I was safe to continue.


By Thursday, I had come to grips with the fact that running at speed over broken terrain is not a skill I possess.  When we came to the salt flats on Thursday, I had to pull up, lean back (so that the weight of my pack wasn’t pushing me forward), and consciously place my feet in a safe spot on each footfall.  Right foot.  Left foot.  Right foot.  Left foot.  Repeat.  It was a slow process, but I made it through the final 3 days without a fall.


I also came to the realization that I had chosen the wrong shoes.  As I previously noted, I went with the Hoka Tecton X trail shoe.  I have come to depend on the extra pop I get from the carbon plates in the sole of the Carbon X and the Tecton X, as well as what I feel is a faster recovery after a long run.  Unfortunately, the carbon plate shoe is probably a bit too reactive for the uneven terrain in the Atacama.  I think having the carbon plate rocking you forward makes it harder to stay balanced and decreases your chance of recovery if you happen to catch a toe.


Aside from the shoes, I was pretty happy with my gear choices for the Atacama.  I did have a couple of failures, though.  The Shoe Goo I used to attach the velcro for my gaiters failed spectacularly on the 2nd day, in the canyons, so I ran most of the race using my back-up Dirty Girl gaiters.  (I should note that the Shoe Goo and velcro made it through the Namib Race intact, so I’m guessing that the failure was due to the mechanical stressors of the Atacama surfaces). And, as mentioned, my Neoair Xlite pad sprung a leak on the last night (it is possible that I was less meticulous than usual about choosing and clearing my tentsite).


I made it through the week without any gastrointestinal problems (unless you consider being very hungry a GI problem) on my diet of Skratch powders, Picky Bars and Expedition Foods freeze dried.  I started out with 4 kilograms of food (nearly 20000 calories) and could have easily eaten another 4 kg, had I been willing to carry an 11 kg pack.


As far as my training goes, I believe that I was adequately prepared for the race.  Could I have been better prepared for the terrain, perhaps, but I would have had to move to San Pedro and train in the salt flats.  Likewise, I could have been better prepared for the altitude, but I would have had to move houses to Colorado or sleep in a bag.  My legs (and lungs) held up for the whole week, and I was happy with that.

I have been thinking about (okay, obsessing about) running The Atacama Crossing since 2109, and, now that it has come to pass, I will say that the race did not disappoint.  It was an epic week.  Every day presented new challenges, new vistas, new hardships, and new joy.  I am glad to get this out of my head, but, in a way, I am sad to have it behind me.  I feel I put everything I had into The Crossing, and I am quite happy with 4th place.  Would I have liked another result like the Namib Race?  Sure.  But it wasn’t going to happen.  Rob, Mori Mori, and Matt were running too damn fast. Kudos to them.  It was a fast race.  I’m pretty sure, that, if you could calculate it out on a per kilometer basis, that the 2022 Atacama Crossing was one of the fastest ever.  I’m proud to have been a part of it.  It’s hard to finish just off the podium, but, fortunately, I have a great deal of practice, having finished just off the podium (age-group) in the 2017 (racing with a broken hand), 2018 and 2019 ITU World Duathlon Championships.


My heartfelt congratulations and respect go out to all the competitors.  I wish Mori Mori and Matt and all the Grandslammers the best of times and good luck in Antarctica.

So I guess the question is. What’s Next?  And for me, the easy answer is some down time and then, hopefully, winter, and then ski season.  Have I signed up for another multi-day ultramarathon?  No.  I’m going to let things settle for a month or two before I come up with the next big thing.


Comments: Total (6) comments

Tom Hales

Posted On: 14 Oct 2022 02:25 pm

Congrats Rob, really proud for you and your accomplishment. Love reading about your adventure, all of it, the ups and downs and the value each has for you. couldn't be happier for your example. Snales

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 13 Oct 2022 03:32 pm

What a race Rob! So glad you're home safe and sound and eating a lot :)

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 12 Oct 2022 06:59 pm

Thanks for the final blog. Before you submitted it, I felt like your Atacama story was missing something but I couldn't say what exactly. It tidies up the details. I'm glad you didn't have to quit. As we get to be old dogs, falling means the younger members of the pack or some apex predator jumps us and we never get up again. Glad we're not actually dogs and your fellow competitors helped you up instead of stepping on or over you. We're thankful that you made it home and that your injuries were mostly skin deep rather than those requiring post race surgery. Thanks for the additional pictures, too. They never have enough of you on their main page!

Teresa Ripkey

Posted On: 12 Oct 2022 04:01 am

Congrats Robert on a race well done! What you do and go through is quite amazing and we are proud of all the guts, training , pain, etc you go through to achieve this amazing goal!! Great job!!

Teresa Ripkey

Posted On: 12 Oct 2022 04:01 am

Congrats Robert on a race well done! What you do and go through is quite amazing and we are proud of all the guts, training , pain, etc you go through to achieve this amazing goal!! Great job!!

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 11 Oct 2022 09:02 pm

Huge congratulations, Rob. Really an amazing run and fourth place is awesome. What a warrior. The Atacama Crossing has been known to beat up everyone with the rough and varied terrain, altitude and extremes in temperature. You should be so proud.

04 October 2022 06:48 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

The Final Stage


Still haven’t made it home yet.   48 hours of travel and counting.  Whereas a sandstorm interrupted the Atacama Crossing, an unusual tornado in Phoenix caused our flight to divert to Las Vegas literally blowing any chance at making my connection home.


The final stage was run on Saturday, in the late morning, and shortened somewhat in deference to the athletes who had gotten to camp in the dark on Friday night.  The final runner got in at about 2am and, after the drumming, the celebration, and an impromptu musical jam session with the camp team, I spent a restless night on a slowly leaking Neoair XLite mini pad.  There are already a limited number of ways that a six foot tall guy can get comfortable on a four foot long pad (<1, in fact), but having to reinflate it every hour or two made things even worse.  Still, I’m thankful that the pad waited until the final night to fail.  (Gear guy note:  this is why a lot of racers opt for a closed cell foam pad as opposed to the inflatable variety)


Saturday morning I had the luxury of sleeping in, or at least staying in my increasingly foul smelling sleeping bag until it was warm out.  I ate my remaining few calories of freeze dried food and insinuated myself into my sweat crusted running kit that was, at this point, only a few 

molecules short of attaining status as an independent life form.  


Sam gave the final briefing and countdown, and we stampeded off down a dry creek bed that led to a dirt track and then onto the road that we had come down the day before (some of us further than others).  One runner, in what seemed to be an attempt to move up in the overall standings from 30th to 29th (or thereabouts), took off in a hurry and soon gapped the field by 100 meters.


Bilbo (Rob) did not appear to be feeling overly threatened and loped along easily with a pack of 8-9 runners while having a conversation with Yago about Yago’s successes as an obstacle run racer.  Matt and Malcolm chatted about footwear options for the Antarctic race.  Jack and Mark kept up a running banter.  And I just barely hung on to the back of the group which, despite the convivial atmosphere, was still moving along at an 8 minute mile pace.


The lumpy, salt hardened road led into a 2-3 kilometer climb, culminating in a steep pitch that left most of us quieted (except for breathing) and walking.  After the crest, we found ourselves back on the plateau with several kilometers of flat and gradual descent winding through red hills offset by white salt flows, blackish dunes and azure sky.  The pack overtook the lone leader.  And, just about the time I caught my breath, the finish banner appeared to our left under a globular rock and salt formation and next to a rusted and graffiti decorated shell of a bus.  There was one last bit of cobbled salt flat to pick my way over, and I dropped back a few paces to make sure that I had clear view of my footing.  But, just before the line, the group slowed and yelled at me to catch up.


We linked arms over shoulders and crossed the line all together in a line.


Nancy was there on the other side of the banner with my Atacama medal.  (Nancy had been in San Pedro de Atacama all week at the Explora Lodge, hiking and biking and sightseeing, but, because of the logistical issues surrounding the sandstorm, had been unable to actually see any of the race).  The joy of seeing her and the relief of completing the crossing washed over me in a crashing wave, and I sobbed on her shoulder for a good minute before I could look up and accept the jubilation of my fellow competitors (and offer them congratulations in return).


There was pizza and beer on a table, as well as a tour of the “magic bus,” the obligatory finish banner pictures and then a bus ride back to San Pedro.  For a shower.


Comments: Total (2) comments

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 05 Oct 2022 05:55 pm

Congrats Rob on your finish! What an adventure this race has been for you. I bet it felt good to get out of your crusty clothes and sleeping bag into a shower and a lovely bed! Hoping you guys make it hptome soon, I bet the pups will be waiting patiently for your arrival!

Jeff Ripley

Posted On: 05 Oct 2022 06:21 am

Great race Crow! Congrats!

03 October 2022 03:56 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

The Long March (Redux)



Somewhere out in the sand on Friday evening, I tried to put out a post about the long march, but apparently it was lost in the aether somewhere.  I know the feeling.  Now that the race is a done deal, the need to describe the experience has lost its urgency, but for the sake of my personal documentation and recollection I am going to try again to get this out while it is still in my head (even if somewhat blunted and romanticized by several pisco sours, a night in a real bed and many hours of air travel (and I’m not home yet).


The long march started from our camp about 5km from Los Ojos del Salar (the eyes of the salt plain), the 2 lagoons we ran around on Thursday.  The long march of the Atacama Crossing usually starts at Los Ojos and is 73km long, but because of the change of camp location, our march was shortened to 68km, the first 14km of which were the reverse of our crossing of the salt flats from Thursday.


I managed to get my pants on correctly, get buckled into my much lighter pack (now containing only the essential gear and one dinner and one breakfast), get my bottles full, and get warmed up and on the line before the 8 am start.  


Rob (Bilbo) was a little late for the start, so we got to watch him lope by the field as we pounded through the dusty field on our way to the salt marshes.  It is a joy to watch him run.  A short lived joy as he disappeared into the swamp with Matt, Mori Mori, Jack and Malcom on his heels.  The flamingos were not to be seen as we made sure our feet were thoroughly soaked to begin the day.  In my continued effort to avoid any new injuries, I quickly lost sight of the lead pack as I moved carefully from swamp, to sludge, to salt flat.  Having 110+ racers move through the course the day before had left a bit of a trail, so that, and some familiarity with the terrain, led to a faster crossing.


We came to checkpoint 2 on the other side of our morning’s dose of salt flats and then ran east, and then north, and then west (more or less) on a series of ever smaller and dustier roads.   Malcolm and Jack came gradually back into view around checkpoint 3 as we left the roads and headed mostly north into open desert.  The surface was mostly gravelled sand as we climbed and descended rolling terrain toward a razor sharp ridge on the horizon.  We hit several patches of salt encrustations as we climbed up to checkpoint 4 where Mary was waiting for us with a cold can of coke.  Boom!  It was about noon, we were somewhere near the halfway point and the chill had definitely gone off the day.  Nothing like an icy jolt of sugar and caffeine to get you going.


As we dropped down into the ravine on the backside of the checkpoint we saw Matt climbing out and heading for the ridge line that now loomed above us.   The trail paralleled the ridge through sand and salt for awhile before coming to the base of a steep sand slope with nothing above it but blue sky.  Matt was about halfway up when I began my slow trudge skywards.  I was able to traverse to my left a little to find a firm ramp of sand to take me to the top.


On the other side we were greeted by a white landscape of encrusted rocks and cobbled salt that stretched out for a kilometer or so before the ridge dropped off again.  Javier, the course director, had thoughtfully found a small notch where we could exit without falling to our deaths, although it did entail scrambling down a steep rocky face to reach the relative safety of a sand dune.   


Checkpoint 5 was nestled at the bottom of the dune, and Matt had stopped to catch some shade and some extra fluids.  There wasn’t much wind down there and, for the first time in the week, we were out in the heat of the afternoon with the mad dogs and the Englishmen.


For the next 15km or so we meandered upstream through the Valley of the Moon on a dry riverbed with comfortable gravel footing.  At checkpoint 7 we left the river and climbed steeply  out of the valley on a road so rimed with salt it looked like ice.  The road led up into a surreal landscape of red rock, glacial salt flows and black sand.  As we crested and turned east the purple specter of Licancabur again greeted us.  It was a harsh climb, but I kept shuffling upward, slightly buoyed by the realization that I was coming to the last few kilometers of the day.


Finally, after a few false flats, the road crested and I headed down into the valley.  I had my earbuds in and some Pitnull bouncing around in my head, as I pounded out the last few kilometers, and, with characteristic tunnel vision, ran right on by the camp, and the finish line for the stage.


Lucky for me, the volunteers manning the finish line saw me go by and, when yelling and screaming didn’t get my attention, hopped in a truck and got me turned around before I ran all the way into San Pedro.


Comments: Total (3) comments

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 04 Oct 2022 09:05 pm

Glad you made it Rob! We'll have to hoist a beer in your honor once you're home safely. I've enjoyed your blogs. Safe travels back to Bend.

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 04 Oct 2022 06:48 pm

I was worried you were lost during the long march or incapacitated. Glad you're ok and came out of the race in the top 5! Thanks for closing the loop on your blog, hope to see you in Bend sometime if I can make it down, Jay

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 04 Oct 2022 06:48 pm

I was worried you were lost during the long march or incapacitated. Glad you're ok and came out of the race in the top 5! Thanks for closing the loop on your blog, hope to see you in Bend sometime if I can make it down, Jay

30 September 2022 09:02 am (GMT-04:00) Santiago

That was my goal today, to not fall, so goal accomplished.
Yesterday was a surprise rest day due to the sandstorm activity.  We moved from the indoor shelter (I put up my tent in the yard rather than sleep 100 racers to a banquet hall) back to where we camped at camp 3. Sam was busy trying to sort out te crazy logistics of moving the race around while trying to not lose 120+ racers in a sandstorm, but apparently she had enough extra time to order take out pizza!  50 margarita pizzas, some of them vegan, disappeared like a cornfield in a plague of locust.  And just after I re-established my tentsite, the winds picked up and filled my little tent with sand.  Fortunately the wind died down at sunset, and I was able to shake the sand out of my tent and get a good nights sleep. Unfortunately while shaking things out I lost my rear bib number…  Oh no!  Time penalty for loss of bib!  But Sam was holding onto it for me at the start, apparently Bev found it in the bushes.
We had an early wake up call as today’s stage went off at 0730 to try to get ahead of the wind.  It was pretty clear that the racers were feeling the benefit of the rest day (and the pizza!) as the start was fast and furious.  By the time I worked my way up through the field, all I could see of the lead pack (Bilbo, Mori Mori, Matt, Jack and Malcolm) was a fast moving cloud of dust in the distance.  I worked my pace up to a 5 minute kilometer (8 min mile) but I was still quickly gapped. 
The goal of today’s impromptu stage, as I understand it, was to take us from camp 3 to camp 5 (where we would’ve been if not for the sandstorm) and in position to start the long march.  The course consisted of dirt roads and salt flats.
I was sad to see that Reinhold was unable to start today due to a knee injury.  Unfortunately he was struck by a piece of flying debris during the sandstorm.
So after about 11km of mostly flat, dusty dirt road,  I hit checkpoint 1 and filled up my bottles for a long leg of 14km through the salt flats.
As I said, my goal for the day was not to fall.  So I took it easy in the salt flats.  Walking whenever the footing became too unstable to run (most of the time).  Today’s salt flats put forth new and interesting varieties of ways to break your ankle.  In addition to the usual options of “frozen broccoli” and sand castles of death, there was a salt stream with a crust of salt that, if you broke through,(I managed this a few times)  you found yourself ankle deep in mud.  There was also a donkey track which turned out to be single track of death.  You could try your luck in the salt structures outside the track or try the track which was just wide enough for a size 11 sneaker and had sharp 6 inch sidewalls, requiring you to be super careful about pulling your foot out and putting it back down.  And we got to slog through a salt swamp where I had the pleasure of seeing 2 flamingos land and then take off!  (Apparently they didn’t think my presence was a pleasure.)
After the salt flats we were treated to a packed dirt section, possibly a pasture in a different life(?), and then we arrived at camp 5.  But we had only covered 25km and hadn’t visited the desert lakes, so we did an additional 12km out and back on a dirt road to visit the lakes which seem like little blue jewels in the desert.  In the past I have heard of racers stripping down and jumping in, but I was still a little chilled in the wind, so I passed on swimming, and ran a lap around the far lake and headed back.  On my approach to the turn around, I got to say Hi to the lead runners as they made there way back to the finish (a few kilometers ahead).
Today’s camp is on the edge of a larger lake with views of the volcanoes.  Beautiful!  The stars have been amazing at night when I go out to pee.  Almost wish I’d brought my phone with astronomy app.  Hopefully the wind will be kind to my tent tonight!
Tomorrow will be the “long march!”
As always, I am grateful for your kind words and thoughts.

Comments: Total (13) comments

Dead Kennedy

Posted On: 02 Oct 2022 06:11 am

Talk about putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over. You are hanging tough, and sounds like ready for a very long day as you close in on finishing. Thanks for keeping the amazing descriptions coming from what sounds like an other-worldly place.


Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 09:15 pm

Way to battle bro! So proud of your effort. Thanks for the week of excitement and anticipation. Let’s do it again soon. Okay, maybe let the wounds heal.

Barb Echo

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 08:33 pm

WowRob, you made it this far! Really happy for you and so glad you’re safe!

Jeff R

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 05:53 pm

Great race, tremendous effort, you rock! Safe travels home.

Tammy Kovaluk

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 04:08 pm

Hi Rob, I am a friend of your neighbor's (and trainer and dog sitter.) They told me about your incredible journey. Wow. You are so inspirational, and that is not said lightly. Staying upright and no sprained ankle is a huge win! Sending best wishes, stay healthy!

Rip 2

Posted On: 01 Oct 2022 12:05 am

Nice job on the long slog bro! The light is at the end of the tunnel. Maybe some brews w/ the pizza next time Sam? Have fun out there.

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 03:37 pm

Fantastic! No falls!! I am sure it was hard for you to walk, but glad you saved some in the tank for the big day of the long March! You are amazing and so tough.... sending love and energy for you to fly on the long day... show those youngsters what true grit is....XOXOXOX

Delma Taylor

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 03:26 pm

I am living vicariously through you! I love your blog and the way you describe your day to day events. I'm happy you didn't fall today! Congrats on making it this far. Good luck, and wishing you the best of luck!!!!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 01:33 pm

What an adventure Rob! Love your positive attitude and glad you had some pizza! Best of luck on the long march, show the young kids how it’s done.

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 08:19 am

Hurray for not falling - I remember how treacherous those salt flats were so that is not an insignificant feat. Glad you had a pizza drop off because it seems hard for me to send a drone with 18 cheeseburgers from Vienna! Cheering you on from the land of prancing ponies!!! Crush the long day!!!!!

Michaela Punz-Raml

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 04:51 am

Thank you Rob for sharing your emotions. You are incredible, what a great job you do. I red all your blogs and you are a ideal for so many people. I wish you all the best for the long march, good legs and an iron will. Best regards Michi

john clark

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 03:58 am

most impressed that at 61 you are nipping at the heals of the young ones only a little ahead of you. remind them to remember you when they are 60. the fun thing about following your blog is we can share in enjoying your amazing accomplishment, without sharing any of your pain. will try to pay you back just a little by sending positive thoughts your way on the long march.

Mariamne Ingalls

Posted On: 30 Sep 2022 03:43 am

Thanks, Rob, for your blog of Stage 4 - you describe it as so unusual in its own way - even with all the Stage's adventures so far. Good luck on the Long March! Best Regards

28 September 2022 04:17 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

I’m Okay!!
So, if you are following the breaking news, you will know that we had a bit of a sandstorm yesterday, so I wasn’t able to get a post out.
I will apologize in advance as this is likely to be abbreviated and poorly typed.  I took a fall out on the course yesterday and dislocated my  left middle finger.  I was able to pop it back in on the course, but now it is taped to my index finger making it hard to qwerty type.
Let’s just say that stage 3 did not go as planned for a lot of people, myself included.  For one thing, I was almost 20 kilometers into the stage before I realized that, while dressing in the dark, I had pulled my shorts on backwards. Fortunately, my fellow racers were too polite to point out this gaffe.
Bilbo and Mori Mori took off from the gun, Matt, Reinhold, Malcolm, and myself went off in a bunch, until the terrain split us up.  I ran most of the salt flats with Reinhold, but he dropped back after checkpoint 3 and I was by myself.
We started the day on a soft dirt road that rapidly turned off into salt flat.  Sam is fond of calling this terrain “frozen broccoli”.Sure, if frozen broccolli  was razor sharp and protruded 6 inches above the ground.  After about 8 kilometers of that we came to check point 1 and the desert’s last tree.  We were rewarded for our efforts with a few kilometres of road, and then it was back out into the saltflats until checkpoint 2. 
When we could look up from our feet the view of the volcanoes to our left was spectacular.
We finally exited the salt flats and had some sand which was a welcome respite after the stalagmites as we came into check point 3.
After 3 we had some runnable sand with rolling hills and I could see Malcolm on the horizon, but then the sand turned to broken slate which was difficult to negotiate and literally rock hard were you to fall on it,  Which I did.
The last bit alternated between runnable sand and dunes until we descended into a little oasis with a spring and we had to do a creek crossing before a final dune and the finish.  Fortunately, the medical team, (Thank you Drs. Andy and Arav) were free and able to help me out before the sandstorm.
I’m going to have to sign off as we are moving camp again and I am going to have to leave the computer and go take down my tent.
As always, thank you so much for your words of encouragement!

Comments: Total (4) comments

Dead Kennedy

Posted On: 29 Sep 2022 02:00 am

Glad to hear that you are alive and well on Dune, and haven’t been eaten by a sand worm. You’re certainly overcoming novel challenges. Have any runners been carried off by condors? Hope the elements are kinder to you tomorrow. We’ll be rooting you on virtually. Just finishing this race is an amazing feat.

Dead Kennedy

Posted On: 29 Sep 2022 02:00 am

Glad to hear that you are alive and well on Dune, and haven’t been eaten by a sand worm. You’re certainly overcoming novel challenges. Have any runners been carried off by condors? Hope the elements are kinder to you tomorrow. We’ll be rooting you on virtually. Just finishing this race is an amazing feat.

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 28 Sep 2022 09:49 pm

Have to agree with Pearlly and the Cassandra comment. Totally appropriate in this situation. Doesn’t look like I will be able to make it to camp 6 after all (too many unknowns per Sam). But I will be cheering you on! Sorry for your finger- hopefully some buddy taping won’t stop you from getting to your water bottles. Great job powering through. You will shine in the long day! So happy you are safe.

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 28 Sep 2022 08:44 pm

To steal a line from my favourite Orthopedic surgeon Cassandra (obviously tied for first with Nancy): "Are you f*%#ng kidding me?!?" Maybe this is all a lie and you really just want to splint your finger and flip everyone the bird for the long day. I would completely understand if that's the case. You are insane and my hero! Keep it up for the big day tomorrow - I'm channeling all my Pitbull vibes to you. PS say hi to Andy Nyberg! He was my co-fellow in SLC for Wilderness Medicine!

26 September 2022 03:55 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Today’s stage (2) brought it all:  cold, hot, wet, dry, hills, flats, pain, joy, beauty and self-discovery.
As you can probably see from the results, I have slipped a little in the standings.
I slept pretty good last night with a more advantageous tentsite.  I was better at getting organized this morning, but I still wound up running without tunes as I put my mp3 player in my puffy and then sealed my puffy in my dry bag (and it was a good thing) and didn’t have the time to redo it.
We started out on a gradual downhill sketchy road through what seemed like glacial moraines.  Matt and Bilbo got off to a fast start, way faster than my legs were feeling.  Checkpoint 1 was down by the river and I went through with Mori Mori and Reinhold.  From there we entered the moderately famous slot canyon with the San Pedro River flowing through it.  For the first few crossing I kept pace with them, but then I gradually fell further (and further) behind.  The water was fast moving, shin-deep and ice cold (as evidenced by the ice).  I managed to find a couple of holes that were crotch deep.  Wake up call!  The underwater surface was not as slippery as the irrigation canal I practiced on, so the crossings went well, but my feet and hands got so cold that I lost my proprioception and I was stumbling through the rocks on the rivers edge and I couldn’t get my water bottles out to drink.  I fell down a couple times and scraped my knees and shins.  Malcolm caught up to me and led me out of the canyon.
After the water crossings ended we followed the river out to checkpoint 2.  There is a scenic little white adobe chapel on the hillside.  After the checkpoint we started a several kilometre climb up an old mining road through a crenulated landscape of cliffs.  Malcom dropped back, but I plugged on up the hill to the mining tunnel.  A mining tunnel about a quarter kilometre long with a pile of rocks in the middle just where it gets darkest.  After the tunnel we cut up slope to the ridge top where we ran a few kilometres with the most spectacular view.  Licancabur and the mountains were on the left and the desert spread out below us on the left.  Then we took a left turn onto a kilometre long sand slope.  Amazing!  There were a couple of guys with snowboards getting ready to ride.  I managed to find what was probably the only rock in the sand and took another tumble.  Fortunately it was a soft landing.
After the sand slope we hit checkpoint 3 and then the road to San Pedro.  I probably should have run into town for a cervesa, but instead I got out on the sandy flats and lost the pink flags that mark the course.  I did some unsuccessful circles around my last known marking, but then Malcolm caught  back up and with his younger eyes was able to get us back on course.  We slogged through the last few kilometres with a couple of sand dunes and made it into camp a good while behind the leaders.
My legs are pretty beat up from the canyon section, both from the wounds and also from the uncontrolled use of my muscles when I couldn’t feel my feet.  But I’m still moving.  Time to get some dinner and some sleep.  We will see what tomorrow brings.
Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts and support!

Comments: Total (17) comments


Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 11:15 pm

Difficult course! Can’t fathom what you had to endure. My feet hurt for you. You survived to fight another day. Old dudes are tenacious, sleep well and be strong!


Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 11:14 pm

Difficult course! Can’t fathom what you had to endure. My feet hurt for you. You survived to fight another day. Old dudes are tenacious, sleep well and be strong!

Barb Echo

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 02:18 pm

Rob, we are all so very glad you didn’t drown. Your description of the dark tunnel reminded me of a dark 2- mile railroad tunnel on the Hiawatha trail. You need good proprioception when you encounter the tunnels. Here’s hoping you recover well and have a safe successful day tomorrow.

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 11:03 am

What an amazing job you did powering through a tough day!!! You are so inspiring. Just keep running....

Hu Bert

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:54 am

You got this Crow! Tear it up!

Hu Bert

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:54 am

You got this Crow! Tear it up!

Hu Bert

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:53 am

You got this Crow! Tear it up!

Hu Bert

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:53 am

You got this Crow! Tear it up!

Hu Bert

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:53 am

You got this Crow! Tear it up!

Hu Bert

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 06:53 am

You got this Crow! Tear it up!

Fanny Hollingshead

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 04:33 am

Wow what a aventura you are amazing good job and good luck tomorrow!

Hans Ripley

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 03:47 am

Rough day. Maybe the remaining terrain will be more suited for crow style . I’m Hope you recover well tonight so as to do battle at full strength. Hang tough!!

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 01:30 am

Sounds like you had a Type 2 fun day. Way to push through and run on frozen stumps!!! I would have caved and found Nancy for a round of pisco sours. You're a champ! Keep it up!!!!

Nigel NoRelation

Posted On: 27 Sep 2022 01:22 am

Sounds hazardous out there…. Enjoy the adventure and keep the rubber side down.

Astrid Kirkland

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 11:24 pm

Incredible stories, thank you so much for sharing all your experiences, it really helps to imagine what our loved ones are going through! Keep it up and good luck for day 3 🤩

Mariamne Ingalls

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 10:49 pm

Thanks, Rob, for sharing your experience in your blog! Your descriptions are so vivid. Through your experience we get a little taste of what our loved ones are encountering. Hope you got well warmed up. Wishing you good rest and good luck tomorrow.

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 08:34 pm

Go Rob GO!! Love your blogs and hearing how your day is going. You got this my friend! Best of luck tomorrow and sleep really good.

25 September 2022 09:44 pm (GMT-04:00) Santiago

Yesterday we had the gear check around the pool at the Diego Almagro Hotel.  Gear check can be best described as a yard sale.  I managed to skate by.  There was some question about whether or not my back up light source qualified, but they let me on the bus after all, even after I had to run back and retrieve my water bottle. 
The bus dropped us off in Rainbow  Valley of the Rio Grande.  Beautiful sculpted canyons of red and green.  I found a small flat spot to pitch my tent as the sun set in the canyon.  (we arrived a little late because of the aforementioned incident...)
It was a lovely spot, but, as would be expected, very close to a tentful of racers with sleep apnea and spastic bladders.  But I managed to get in a couple of 3 hour blocks of sleep before 4am wakeup call started.  So I was sorted.  I started out all bundled up and gradually pealed off layers.  Then I woke up about 1am freezing and put everything back on.
I managed to get breakfast and make it through the loo line before Sam’s 0730 briefing, but I was still futzing with my pack when people started to gather at the start line.  The start of this year’s race was, to my limited skills, off a cliff.  Well. Maybe down a steep gully with scree and erosion channels.  By the time I got to the start line, the lead pack was already down in the river valley and disappearing at a rapid pace, led by a tall Brit in a blue shirt.  By the time I found the geriatric approved path down through the scree, they were gone. 
There was a brief runnable section on a gravel road where I ran with Mabasa for awhile, and then we started one of a number of rocky bits, fist sized rocks embedded in packed sand.  I would like to say I was enjoying the view, which was amazing, river valleys, open desert, volcanos one the horizon.  But, unfortunately I was paying very close attention to my toes and trying not to fall.  On the horizon, when I could look up, I saw Mori Mori, Matt and Reinhold.  Gradually I worked my way back up to them, but then there was another technical bit and I lost them again.  The guy in the blue shirt was gone.  And we could literally see for miles.
In between rocky bits we snaked through several dry canyons which was good running, as long as you didn’t run into a rock outcropping.  I pretended I was Maverick flying his F18 through a canyon at low altitude.
Reinhold dropped back at checkpoint 2 to discuss a knee issue with the doc.
After the end of the canyons we ran a bit of less rocky desert and onto an old road into checkpoint 3.  I filled up one last time with Skratch Superfuel and Hydration mix and started up the road.  It wasn’t crazy steep, but we’d already put in 3 hours, 30 kilometers, and this winding uphill climb just kept going and going.  The canyon we were running up was stunning, red striated walls, but, as I said, it just kept winding up and up.  Mori Mori dropped slowly back.  Matt and I kept plodding on.  This would’ve been the place to make a move, but I was using everything I had just to keep running.  Finally, 5 kilometers into the climb, the road crested and  we had a bit of downhill on the road before a little dive into the scree to the finish line.  Matt was gracious enough to wait for me at the line and we finished about 14 minutes behind the guy in the blue shirt.  Rob Baggins, who goes by his Strava handle Bilbo!
On the course notes it looked like it was going to be an easier day with a lot of downhill (we lost about 1000meters of elevation), but the steep downhill bits have probably left a mark on the old legs, and the long uphill at the finish really emptied the tank, as they say.
So it’s time to get some food, and some rest, and do it all over again tomorrow.  Slot canyons!  This time with water in them!  Woot!!

Comments: Total (11) comments

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 03:08 pm

“Curse the Baggins! It’s gone! What has it got in its pocketses?" Don't underestimate that clever hobbittses!! Hope your 2nd day goes well!

Country Larry

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 04:59 am

Amazing Dr Bob. Keep it safe and strong and we all know who will be in first at the Finish. You will be in all of our hearts this week. All the best.

Dead Kennedy

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 04:28 am

Run Rob Run! Run after that hobbit like a hungry Orc.

John Ripley

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 03:34 am

Bro! So excited for your week of agony. It’s not that I enjoy your suffering, but to see an OG beast thrash is so inspirational. I wish you strength and fast recovery

Iggy NoRelation

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 03:14 am

Little furry people got game. Have an awesome time out there Crowman! Come to think of it the Crowman could be a JJR Tolkien character, or of course a star of any prison break movie.

Iggy NoRelation

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 03:14 am

Little furry people got game. Have an awesome time out there Crowman! Come to think of it the Crowman could be a JJR Tolkien character, or of course a star of any prison break movie.

Iggy NoRelation

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 03:14 am

Little furry people got game. Have an awesome time out there Crowman! Come to think of it the Crowman could be a JJR Tolkien character, or of course a star of any prison break movie.

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 01:32 am

Rob! I think Nancy has something against hobbits - she messaged saying that you were behind Bilbo Bagina. I'm not sure if she knows something different about hobbit anatomy.....but anyway, be the absolute crusher that you are and catch that Bagina!!!! Cheering you on!!!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 01:08 am

Get some rest Rob! You got this! Cheering you on. 😊

Barb Echo

Posted On: 26 Sep 2022 12:59 am

Rob, you are at it shy. How awesome. I know you really wanted to do this one. Good luck to you and your fellow runners !

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 25 Sep 2022 10:42 pm

C'mon Rob- you can't be beat by a Hobbit. Start in front tomorrow- eat away at those 14 minutes!!!! You can do this!

23 September 2022 05:06 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Here in San Pedro de Atacama 


After several flights (including the redeye from Miami to Santiago) and a one hour drive from Calama, I made it to San Pedro de Atacama.  I can’t complain (but sometimes I still do) about the travel, since many of the competitors has much harsher travel routes.  Mabasa had to cross the equator twice on his way here from Namibia!


San Pedro has changed very little since I was here last 7 years ago.  (Nancy and I were on the medical team for the 2015 race).  It is still a charming little adobe oasis on the edge of the desert, guarded by purple ice capped volcanoes.  Hawkers sell anything from fruit juice to llama wool hats to ponchos in the shade of the church of San Pedro while buskers play “Stairway to Heaven” on traditional Pan flutes.  Tourists and trekkers wander the dirt road Main Street (Caracolas) in search of souvenirs, cervesa, ice cream or a tour guide.


As you know, I don’t lay any claim as a travel writer, but I will say the best ice cream is at Babalu’s on the corner of Tocopilla and Caracolas, and that you should watch your step, because the street dogs outnumber the street cleaners ten to one.


I woke up to the sound of fighting dogs slightly before sunrise.  Turns out it’s trash day.  I put on my running gear and went for a little jog as the sun came up just to check out how the legs felt and to get an idea how cold it is here in the mornings (at 8000 ft asl).  The legs are feeling pretty good!  And, yes, it’s pretty cold! (35 degrees F). But it felt immediately warmer the second the sun came up.  I think it’s doable if I don’t freeze taking care of the morning essentials (dressing, eating and visiting the latrine) in the predawn chill.  I managed to run out of town, past the high end lodges to the junk yard where, not too surprisingly, my run was interrupted by the junk yard dogs.  Fortunately, the dogs here are much more easily cowed than the sheep dogs of Georgia, so no blood was shed and I was able to make it to the San Pedro River.


I spent most of the day repackaging my freeze dried food and hydration/nutrition powders into lighter plastic bags, and I went over my gear checklist one more time.  Tomorrow morning we meet at 10am for our pre-race briefing and check-in.  After that we take a bus up into the hills to Camp 1 and the race starts on Sunday!  I’m going to try to continue blogging during the race if time and energy allow.


I am thankful for all your kind words and thoughts.


Comments: Total (7) comments

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 25 Sep 2022 06:05 pm

The most important step on the path to success is starting. You've completed that step. Hope your first day went well thinking of you from the top of the world. Jay

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 25 Sep 2022 06:05 pm

The most important step on the path to success is starting. You've completed that step. Hope your first day went well thinking of you from the top of the world. Jay

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 25 Sep 2022 04:19 pm

You're my hero! You've got this!!! I hope you're playing Hip Hop Bubble Bath as your motivation mix =)

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 24 Sep 2022 11:04 pm

Have a fantastic race Rob! You are ready and strong..... ❤️

Fanny Hollingshead

Posted On: 24 Sep 2022 10:43 pm

Good luck Robert have fun be safe, you got this!!!

Paula Schaap

Posted On: 24 Sep 2022 10:43 pm

May the wind always be at your back, Rob! And may Nancy have good wine tastings before arriving to cheer you over the finish line! Love, Paula & Drew

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 24 Sep 2022 10:33 pm

Have a fantastic race Rob! You are ready and strong..... ❤️

18 September 2022 10:39 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

One week from now we will be out on the course for Stage 1!


Tuesday morning we have an Uber scheduled to pick us up at 5am (horrified face emoji)!  And sometime around 4pm on Wednesday, if the travel gods are properly appeased, I will make it to San Pedro de Atacama.  (Nancy is going to hang in Santiago for a few days, something about a Zoom meeting, and a wine tasting).


So I guess I’d better get packed.  


We (the racers) have been advised to keep all of our race gear and food in our carry on luggage.  And, having watched racers with lost luggage in previous races scramble to find food and gear (and wind up running with heavy packs and suboptimal equipment and interesting food), I have taken this advice to heart.


It all starts with the mandatory equipment list!  I’ve checked it twice!  And checked off each item as it gets packed.  There are still a few things missing.  But, hopefully, I have a handle on these.  I’m waiting for the glue holding the velcro for my gaiters to my shoes (size 11 Hoka Tecton Xs!), so that I can check the shoes and the gaiters off the list.

It looks like my required gear and food is going to more than fill my carry-on roller bag!  

So how is all of this going to fit into my pack?  And, more importantly, how am I going to carry all this stuff 250km across the desert (two horrified face emojis)?  Fortunately, Cody the dog isn’t going in the pack.  A lot of the stuff is packaging that I hope to eliminate after I get it through Chilean customs.  And many of the items in the roller bag I will be wearing on my person, so I will be carrying them, just not inside the pack!  I had my doubts that I could get everything into my pack for the Namib Race, but after taking the stuff (along with a half kilo of sand) in and out for a week,  I feel comfortable that I can manage for the Atacama Crossing.  The first 2 days are the hardest.  After a couple of days of running the pack gets lighter and the screaming from your legs takes your mind off the weight of the pack on your shoulders.


Anyway.  Back to packing!  I am thankful that after 3 years of planning, training, fretting, obsessing, I am on my way back to the Atacama desert!  Safe travels to all my fellow racers, as well as to the race volunteers, medical team and staff!  See you soon!

Comments: Total (3) comments

Cody da Dawg

Posted On: 21 Sep 2022 05:58 pm

Dad, Your dumb powdered food is safe from me. It ain’t what I call food. Good luck but it would be more fun if sis & I were going. Cody da Dawg

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 19 Sep 2022 09:04 pm

Best of luck Rob! We’ll be following the race online and cheering you on from Bend. Safe travels! Kelley & Larry

Jeff Ripley

Posted On: 18 Sep 2022 11:20 pm

Safe travels Roberts... looking forward to following your progress!

12 September 2022 02:15 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi



Less than two weeks to race day and a week before I fly to Chile.  My training is in full taper.  Which is a good thing since, at the moment, the air outside isn’t really fit to breathe.

Yep.  Wildfire season in the west.  Again.  Fortunately, none of the wild lands near us are on fire, but our hearts go out to the folks under evacuation orders to our southwest. So I will have to find some indoor activities, like obsessing about getting my food packed up.

I would love to say that I will be eating gourmet, chef-prepared, rehydrated masterpieces off of shiny titanium dinnerware, but that would not be the case.  I will be scooping freeze-dried curry out of the bag with my spork.  And I will be happy to get it.  The good thing about eating your meals out of bag is that you don’t have to be reminded (too much) that your food looks about the same at either end of your digestive tract.  I can only hope that during the transit period my gut can pull a sufficient number of calories out to keep me going for the week.


Speaking of calories, the mandatory equipment list says that I have to bring a minimum of 14000 calories with me.  Which sounds like a lot of calories, and a lot of food.  Until you do the math.  Most people, depending on their size and metabolism, burn 1500-2000 calories a day just sitting on the couch.  Throw in 4-5 hours of running at 400-500 calories an hour (or 8 hours of walking at 200-300 calories an hour) and it becomes painfully clear that 14000 calories is starvation rations at best.  


I will be bringing Expedition Foods freeze-dried meals.  Mostly because they come in convenient 1000 calorie bags that weigh about 200 grams apiece.  Which makes it easy to count calories and to calculate food density (at 5 calories per gram, Expedition Foods has a better energy to weight ratio than most freeze-dried foods).  And, in my opinion, they taste as good as freeze-dried food gets.  I have trained with this product and my gut seems to process it well (see above).  I particularly like the curries.  I will be bringing 14 one thousand calorie bags.


During the day, while I am out running, I will be getting my calories from a bottle.  Over the years, I have tried nearly every rehydration/sports drink product out there, and, about a decade ago, I settled on Skratch.  Brainchild of Dr. Allen Lim, a sports physiologist formerly with the US Cycling Team, Skratch produces naturally flavored products for endurance athletes.  I have found that my gut can tolerate Skratch products under extreme conditions.  I will be drinking Skratch Hydration Mix and Skratch Superfuel during the run which should be giving me about 200 calories and 480mg of sodium an hour.  Kind of like an IV drip.  And at the end of the run I will reward myself with a 250 calorie bottle of Chocolate Skratch Recovery mix goodness.


To round out what is otherwise a pretty boring looking pile of bags, I am bringing some Picky Bars to snack on.  Picky Bars were developed by a couple of pro athletes locally here in Bend, Oregon.  And they are yummy.  I particularly like the Smooth Caffeinator  (coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts) and the Moroccan Your World (Turmeric, ginger and pistachios) Bars.  And the Mint Condition Bar is pretty good too.  


So that’s about it.  


14000 calories of Expedition Foods

6000 calories of Skratch powders

and a couple thousand calories of picky bars.


Oh yeah, and some Starbucks Via instant coffee.  No calories.  But essential!


Hopefully that’ll be enough to get me through the week.  ‘Cause there won’t be any mini-marts out there!


Taper Time!


Comments: Total (0) comments

07 September 2022 01:49 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Less than 3 weeks to the start of the race!  Transition to TAPER is in full effect!  Trainings a thing of the past.  It's time to talk about the important stuff!  Food!  Gear! Electronics!  Music!


There was a discussion on the RTP Community FB page a while back as to which charger brick to bring to top off racers’ electronics.  My answer was none.  Nada.  I won’t be carrying any excess baggage. I will be leaving my phone back in San Pedro de Atacama.  So don’t plan on calling or texting me!


If my electronics die.  So be it.


I will be wearing a Garmin Solar Instinct GPS watch.  With a little help from the sun, and with bluetooth and pulse monitoring turned off, the battery will make it through the race. If the race doesn’t take longer than 30 hours…


And I have found a cheap, small, 30gm, MP3 player that, on Amazon, claims to have a 72 hour battery life (but, in actuality, has about half that). 


You might think that it is antisocial to run with earbuds in, and you might be right, but in the Namib Race I spent at least 60% of the race alone in the desert, and it was really helpful for me to have some music to drown out, or at least temper, the voices in my head.  (And for another 20% of the race it was just me and Ben out there, and he had tunes on as well!)


And so, I will need a playlist!  So, if you have any suggestions, I am wide open.  (Well, not completely wide open, Tony, Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond isn’t going to make the list, Ba Dum Bum Bum, ‘cause it just doesn’t have a beat that I can run to)


I have pretty eclectic tastes in music.  And I can run to a wide variety of musical genres, as long as the song has an unrelenting back beat that kind of syncs with 160-180 steps per minute.


Some songs that work for me:


Edge of Seventeen (Stevie Nicks)

I Gotta Feeling (Black Eyed Peas)

Take it Off (Ke$ha)

Party Rock (LMFAO)

Jai Ho (AR Rahman)

Buster Voodoo (Rodrigo y Gabriela)

Lust for Life (Iggy Pop)

Hey Baby (Pitbull)

Dreamer (K’naan)

Halo (Beyonce)

She Loves You (The Beatles)

Closer to Free (Bodeans)

Waka Waka (Shakira)


Anyway.  You might be seeing the trend here (the trend being that there is absolutely no trend!).


Or you could pick songs for the playlist that have titles or lyrics more appropriate for the task at hand:


Train in Vain (The Clash)

Beast of Burden (Rolling Stones)

Run Baby Run (Sheryl Crow)

Running on Empty (Jackson Browne)

Before They Make Me Run (Rolling Stones)

Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)

Horse With No Name (America)

99 Problems, But Jockitch Ain’t One (Jay-Z—apologies J)

Walk This Way (RunDMC and Aerosmith)

It Keeps You Running (Doobie Brothers)

I’ve Got Sand in my Shoes (The Drifters)

Sunday, Bloody Stump Day (sorry Bono)


There you have it.  As I said, I am wide open to suggestions.  Tell me what you think ought to be on the Atacama Crossing Race Playlist!


Comments: Total (3) comments

robert ripley

Posted On: 12 Sep 2022 09:13 pm

Thanks for the awesome suggestions Kelly and Tom! I'm working on getting them onto my MP3 player. Tom! Hadn't thought about REO Speedwagon in years! Boom! Kelly! I still remember the roadtrip with you and Mike in the '72 Carina, we must've played Stop Making Sense a dozen times!

Kelly McLeod

Posted On: 11 Sep 2022 02:23 pm

Ok...since you asked. Here's few that keep me going on hard uphills (biking). The Mavericks: Down on the Corner Little Feat: Dixie Chicken; Fat Man in the Bathtub Lake Street Dive: Good Kisser Rusted Root: You Can't Always get What You Want Queen: Don't Stop Me No Lizzo: Boys; Like a Girl Prince: Kiss Bruno Mars: Perm The Cars: Let the Good Times Roll B-52's : Private Idaho Michael Franti: Sound of Sunshine Sammy Rae & Friends: Whatever We feel I hope one of these makes it onto your device! Good luck, good health, good times! Kelly

Tom Hales

Posted On: 08 Sep 2022 08:25 pm

"Keep pushin " "Like you do" "I believe our time is gonna come" "Being kind" REO Speedwagon from the album "You get what you play for" Go Rob!

26 August 2022 04:37 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

One Month!!


Holy cow! Only one month until we toe the line at the 2022 Atacama Crossing!


But, before I let my pre-race anxiety run away with me, I should start by saying how much fun it was following the RTP Roving Race in Lapland!  A whole new lexicon of ultramarathon was introduced: duckboards, sauna, Reindeer Stew!  From the videos, photos and posts I was able to track down, it looked like an awesome race.  Congratulations to Takuya and Sarah for their winning performances across what appeared to be interesting and challenging terrain.  And congratulations to Mori Mori and Anim for giving Takuya and Sarah a run for their money, I hope they aren’t tiring themselves out too much, as both the second place finishers are due in Atacama in a month!


From my standpoint, one month left means that this will be my last week of hard training before I start a good solid 3 week taper.  All season long I look forward to the taper, but when it finally gets here I’m thinking:  Already?  Really?  But, much as part of my brain (the sick, dark bit that enjoys punishing the legs and the rest of the body) is thinking, maybe just one more over-distance block, I know how important a good taper is for a long, multi-day race like the Atacama.  I have to let the legs recuperate and the soft-tissues heal.  

This past week we traveled to the Oregon Coast to Cannon Beach with its iconic Haystack Rock.  In addition to some intensive beach lounging, fabulous seafood and some great company, I managed to enjoy a few hours of sand training.  Every day I managed some miles of slogging in the soft sand and trudging up and down the coastal dunes.  These are not the monstrous dunes of Atacama, but I did manage over 1000 feet of elevation change on a beach run, which takes some doing.

And I got to practice my water crossings in Ecola Creek.  It may not be as rocky or as swift as the river in the slot canyon, but it did give me the feel for running in wet shoes and socks!

I also ran the 6 mile trail through Ecola State park to Seaside, Oregon, trying not to trip over the roots of the old growth trees or faceplant in the muddy sections.

And now we’re back in Central Oregon.  I ran a one hour time trial yesterday for some intensity and took an easier 90 minute trail run today followed by my strength workout.  The legs are feeling good and the training plan seems to be paying off.  


Pretty soon it’ll be time to start getting packed!

Comments: Total (6) comments

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 05 Sep 2022 07:49 pm

Hope your taper is is underway and going well. Cheering you on from the So Cal homestead. Like Nancy said, "you've got this."

Tom Hales

Posted On: 02 Sep 2022 03:54 am

You got this Rob! So proud for you and your persistence, a hallmark of a successful life. You're a hero Rob, God Speed Brother.

Kelly McLeod

Posted On: 28 Aug 2022 05:20 pm

Your commitment and determination is impressive. Wishing you luck and good health.

Kelly McLeod

Posted On: 28 Aug 2022 05:20 pm

Your commitment and determination is impressive. Wishing you luck and good health.

Barb Echo

Posted On: 28 Aug 2022 02:53 pm

Rob, you are so thoughtful about your training. I went to some CME retreat way back when that was fun. I listened to a neurologist talk about training for ultra marathons. It was his contention that it was all about training the mind. I think you’ve got that covered. Best of luck to you and your mind in the journey ahead.

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 27 Aug 2022 02:53 am

You've got this Rob! Getting excited for Chile and following your race!

13 August 2022 02:59 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

The Cancer Thing (part 4)


Ok. This’ll be the last cancer bit.


But I just wanted to get some thoughts out of my head about how the cancer affects me now, eight years later.


I’m sitting here typing on my laptop and the thing at the forefront of my mind is, as it often is, is that my water bottle is nearly empty.  And what is my plan to get more water.  This is because the radiation and the chemo wiped out almost all of my salivary glands.  My mouth is always dry.  Dry as a desert, one might say.  And because of this, I am always thirsty.  


To combat the dry mouth, I have taken to gum chewing.  It’s not pretty, but it keeps my mouth sort of lubricated.


Sam drew amusement from my gum-chewing in the Namib Race.  Or maybe the fact that I was having trouble running and chewing gum at the same time.


In addition to my salivary glands, the cancer treatment killed my taste buds.  So I have had to teach myself how foods (and beverages) taste all over again.  It was kind of like having the mouth of a baby at age 53.  Spices and alcohol burned my mouth.  Complex tastes, like chocolate or wine, tasted like dirt, or vinegar.  Salty broths and creams were comforting.  But over the years, as the new buds grew in, I have tried to bring the tastes of my memories out of my head and back to my mouth.  With varied levels of success.  


More seriously, the lack of saliva, coupled with the radiation damage to nerves and muscles in my throat, makes it difficult for me to swallow.  I cannot eat certain foods, like bread, unless I have a beverage nearby.  Before the cancer, I could snag a Clif Bar out of my jersey pocket and chomp it down in two bites, all while pedaling furiously to hold onto my spot in the peloton.  Now, eating a Clif Bar is a 4-5 minute process.  Even taking fluids while cycling or running can look like I’m water-boarding myself.


I am not the athlete I was before the cancer.  I had a dramatic drop of FTP (functional threshold power—a biking fitness marker that estimates the highest average power, in watts usually, that you can sustain for an hour) and V02 max (another endurance fitness marker measuring maximum oxygen uptake during exercise) after my cancer treatment.  Both of these markers decrease with age, but the huge deconditioning my body underwent during the summer of 2014 crashed my physiological stats.  Additionally, the upper parts of my lungs were damaged by the radiation, so physically, I can’t breathe in the same amount of air that I could before.  All the training in the world is not going to bring my V02 max back.


I have had to come to grips with the fact that I will never have the speed or the power that I once had.  I’m good with it.  But while I have lost much of my natural athletic ability, I feel I have gained something.  I hesitate to call it endurance, because the numbers that measure endurance don’t look good, so I will have to call it tenacity.   I think that watching my body get torn down to its lowest level and then gradually clawing back has taught me that I can push myself harder and longer than I previously thought possible.  


It is this tenacity that I hope will get me through the Atacama Crossing.

Comments: Total (1) comments

Bev Brammer

Posted On: 21 Aug 2022 03:25 pm

Rob , it's hard to believe everything you've been through - you are one super strong human being! Looking forward to seeing you in San Pedro and greeting you each day at CP3 - hugs to you and Nancy.

04 August 2022 09:20 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

The Cancer Thing (part 3)


So if you’ve read my previous blogs for RTP, you will know that in 2014 I came down with this lump in my neck (actually at the base of my tongue on the right side), and this lump turned into an invasive mass, and the invasive mass was eventually diagnosed as NK cell lymphoma.  (The NK stands for natural killer.  You know that you’ve drawn the short straw on cancer diagnosis when your tumor had killer in the name).  


You will also have figured out that, since it is now 2022, I got good treatment for my lymphoma and came out on the right side of the 50/50 odds that were initially presented to me.  As I have said, I am thankful daily for the excellent care I received through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), as well as for the love and support of my friends and family, especially my wonderful wife Nancy.


I had initially considered running the Atacama Crossing in 2019 to celebrate 5 years of cancer freeness, but it became clear that this sort of undertaking would require months of preparation, and I decided that I didn’t want to jinx myself in the hubris department by announcing an event to celebrate 5 years of being cancer free before the 5 year mark (September 2019) had actually passed.  So I signed up for Atacama 2020.  And we know how that went.  And 2021.  Also nope.  In 2021, however, I came up with a Plan B, and transferred my entry to the Namib Race (postponed to the fall), was able to put my training from 2021 to good use.  But I still have this dream-like picture in my head of running across the shimmering sands of Atacama with Licancabur hovering in the background, and so, in 2022, now more than 8 years after my initial diagnosis and almost 8 years after the conclusion of my treatment, I am grateful for the opportunity to make this dream happen.


On a Tuesday in mid June in 2014, I went into the hospital and had an IV port placed in my right chest and a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tube place in my stomach.  (I was initially against the PEG tube, as I’ve always had a healthy relationship with food, in that I love to eat it, but I was outvoted by my oncologists, and a month later when my throat swelled shut, it literally saved my life).  I was fitted for my radiation mask.  And I received my first round of chemotherapy.  I had chosen the most aggressive oncologist, Dr. Shustov, and he had chosen the most aggressive treatment plan:  simultaneous chemo and radiation therapy.

Initially I felt pretty good.  I was off work.  I would walk our dog Bailey up Queen Anne Hill to Molly Moo’s ice cream.  I would ride my bike gently around Seattle.  But as the Chemotherapy agents began to kill off my cells and I started getting radiation 5 days a week, my life shrunk dramatically.  On July 4th, Nancy and I rode our bikes up through the Golden Gardens Park to the Ice Cream Shop.  It would be the first time she’d ever had to wait for me on a hill, and the last time I rode my bicycle for 4 months.


Getting radiation involved going to the UWMC and lying down on the treatment table and putting the mask on.  And then having the mask screwed down to the table (so the radiation went to the same exact spot every time).  At first, being bolted to a table while a large machine fired radioactive particles into my head and neck didn’t bother me.  Too much.  It was what I had to do.  But day by day, as the particles did their work, and killed the cancer cells, they also damaged the tissue in my mouth and throat, and swallowing became something I actually had to think about.  And every day I would have about twenty minutes, while effectively restrained in a supine position, to think about whether I would be able to swallow my saliva that day, or whether I was going to choke to death on the table before the tech could get in and undo the bolts.  The last two weeks of radiation, my fear got so bad that I needed medication just to get on the table.  I am thankful for my brothers and my friend Jay, who took turns driving me to the radiation machine.

July passed slowly.  I went from eating food, to ice cream, to milkshakes, to ice cubes, to drooling.  Then I sat on couch and watched the slow drip of enteral formula into my PEG tube.


I watched the Tour de France.  In its entirety.  The guys on my bicycle racing team would swing by after their rides and watch with me.  Todd Herriot, my coach, made wrist bands with my racer name, and the team wore them to the races that summer.  After the Tour was over, we watched World Cup Football (soccer).  Never before, or since, have I watched so many hours of TV sports.

In August I got really sick.  I wound up in the hospital with a fever.  Probably from an infection in the damaged tissue in my throat.  It’s a bad sign in medicine when the number of antibiotics you are being transfused with is higher than your white count (your white count indicates the number of infection fighting cells in your blood, and mine was zero).  Nancy spent a scary night suctioning spit out of my mouth, so I wouldn’t get put on a ventilator.


Because of my time in the hospital with the infection, I had to put off my third round of chemo until my blood counts came back up.  I got a blood transfusion and shots of Neulasta to stimulate my bone marrow to make a few white cells.  The Neulasta stimulated my bone marrow so well, it felt like my bones, especially my pelvis, were going to explode.  But it took my mind off my mouth.  And my counts came back up, and I was able to proceed with the chemotherapy.


For the each round of chemotherapy I would check into the oncology ward for 3 days.  I would usually show up early afternoon, but the process of getting the chemicals ready would take all day, so usually about midnight the nurses would come to start the infusion.  First I would get pretreated with dexamethasone and lorazepam, which would leave me in the confused condition of jacked up and sleepy.  And then they would start the chemo.  Two nurses would come in, one to start the drip and the other to confirm that they were starting the drip on the right patient.  They would both be wearing full hazmat gear: gowns, masks, caps, face shields, thick gloves.  To protect them from exposure to the poisonous stuff they were dripping into my veins.  (And I was happy to see them protected.  I cannot begin to say how thankful I am to the oncology nurses that cared for me, their compassion, humor and dedication truly humbled me.)

I would like to say, as a member of the medical profession, that I understood what I was being given, and how it worked.  But I’d be lying.  I’d read the paper Dr. Shustov was basing my treatment on, I understood the statistical peril of limited numbers, but the chemotherapeutic agents being used were way beyond my 1980s grasp on pharmacology.  It was a leap of faith.


But, in the end, my faith, and the expertise of my oncology team, paid off.  I finished my 4th and last round of chemo in September of 2014 and my follow up scans showed the tumor was gone.


That left me with the long path of recovering from the treatment.  But I think think that will have to be in another post.




Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 05 Aug 2022 09:27 am

The journey you have been through is something else. Your recovery and comeback is incredible. Not many people understand the process of treatments but having faith and determination is key. Can't wait to see you fly across the Atacama Desert!

27 July 2022 04:15 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Shiny New Shoes!?


As of today, there are 60 days ’til the start of the Atacama Crossing 2022!  So it is probably not the time to be vacillating about which shoe to wear.  But.  Hoka came out with a new shoe in May and I wasn’t able to get my hands on a pair until after I got home from Georgia, when it was practically July.  So.


The Hoka Tecton X (HTX) is one of the first shoes to bring carbon plate technology to the trail running shoe scene.  The HTX actually has 2 carbon plates, set in parallel, (like tectonic plates, get it?) which give it the propulsive spring of the carbon, but allow lateral flexibility of the shoe on unstable terrain.


As you might remember from my previous blogging, I was an early adopter of carbon plate shoes, and I am a devotee to the Hoka Carbon X (now in its 3rd rendition, the X3).   I feel that I benefit from the carbon plate technology with a good lift off during my run and again with faster recovery after a longer or harder run.  As I mentioned, my go-to trail shoe had been the Hoka Speedgoat, but the more I ran with the Xs, the more the Speedgoats got left behind unless I was looking at running a really technical or muddy trail.  When it came to choosing a shoe for the Namib Race last October, I weighed the durability and grippiness of the Speedgoat against the pop and the recovery of the Carbon X, and I wound up going with the X.  And the Carbon X did not let me down.  Well, except for those couple kilometers of mud on the first day, they didn’t let me down.  

                           Hoka Tecton X in the foreground, an older pair of Hoka CarbonX2 in the background

Now that I’ve put some miles on the HTX, I will say that these shoes do not disappoint.  I think that they have almost the same pop as the X while offering more stability over uneven terrain, especially running sidehill.  They are almost as light as the X (Hoka reports 269g for a size 10.5) and the midsole has plenty of cushioning for life’s bumpiness.  The outsole is a lightweight grippy Vibram with a medium aggressive tread that looks like it will offer a little more protection from the extremes of Atacama.  The lacing extends further down the shoe to the toes, making the toe box more adjustable (and maybe allowing for more traumatic race swelling?).  In addition the HTX has a toe cap for those moments when you do ram your toe into that rock, and the upper is a tighter mesh letting less dirt in than the X.


On the downside, the lacing also extends further up the shoe towards the ankle and the rubberized tongue tends to bind slightly when the ankle flexes.  This led me to have a little skin breakdown over my tibialiis anterior tendon.  I also wound up with a heel blister my first day out.  Some of this is that my feet have hardened up to the friction offered by the X, but have yet adapt to the movement of the HTX.  

                          a new opportunity for scar tissue!

So I have 60 days to make up my mind!  The new split plate or the old favorite!  


The good news is there’s plenty of dirt out there to run in and the weather this week in Central Oregon is shaping up to be perfect for training for a race in the desert!


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18 July 2022 04:27 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

70 Days!


Or 10 weeks.  Or not 3 months anymore.


I guess it’s time to get serious about running Atacama!  Not as if it hasn’t been in my head for almost 3 years now.  But now it looks like I am going to take it out of my head and put it in my pack and carry it over rough terrain for a week…


I got a box from England last week.  It looked like someone kicked it all the way here.  

In it were 14000 calories of Expedition Foods!  I am glad to say that all the packages survived the abuse just fine.  Check that one off the list!


I got out my stuff from the Namib Race and looked it over.  I think my pack/vest (the Raidlight Revolutiv 24 liter) is up for another week's worth of trauma.  And it looks like I’ll be wearing the same orange shirt again.  


As I was whinging about in my last post, I felt pretty knackered when I got home from Georgia.  So I took it pretty easy for a week or so.  Then I raced a 50k last weekend (July 9th).  The Siskiyou Outback (or SOB) runs the trails off of Mt. Ashland in SW Oregon.  I had initially signed up for the 100k, but because of my diminished status, I wussed down to the 50k on the day of the race.  And boy was I happy with that decision!  With almost a mile of vertical, the 50k dished out as much, if not more, that I was ready to handle.  The 2 mile/1000ft climb out of the valley in the last 10k in the heat of the day was just about the end of me.  But it was a beautiful day and the trail was amazing with wild flowers and views of Mount Shasta.  So I’m thankful that I could pull it together for the run.

Uphill finish on the SOB! Not bad for an old guy.

This past week I have been putting in a fair amount of time on my bike.  Both to let the legs heal up a little after the 50k and in solidarity with all the guys out on the Tour.


And now it’s time to get the final bit of training dialed in.  After this last week of relative rest, I figure I have two 3 week blocks of hardcore training, with a regenerative week in between, and then a 3 week taper.  How hard could it be?!


As I’ve talked about before, I will try to put in a couple of long distance days back to back every week and one day of higher intensity intervals.  The rest of the week will include a rest day, or two, some easier runs and some long bike rides.  In addition, I try to walk an hour or more every day with the dogs, do my daily stretching and try to fit in a couple of 30 minute strength workouts.  Simple enough!


And as always.  Sticking to the mantra.  Have fun, be thankful, and don’t get hurt!


I am thankful that I live in such a beautiful place and that I live with a beautiful woman who lets me get away with spending so much time running around in the dirt!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 19 Jul 2022 06:24 am

Nice work Rob - 6th overall and a few whipper snappers in front of you. Sounds like a nice race and a good way to kick start the hard work for the Atacama Crossing - no backing out now and no chance to cut down to the shorter distance - it's 250km all the way! ;)

02 July 2022 12:48 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi



Or, as we have to clarify here in the states:  Georgia, the country, not the state.


I just recently got home from Tbilisi after nearly 2 days on planes and in airports, and, well, I got to say it, I feel wrecked.


Part of the problem was that I didn’t get a lot of sleep in Georgia because I was participating in the RacingThePlanet Special Edition Georgia 2022 Race as director of the medical team.  As I think I’ve mentioned before, I got a lot more sleep in the Namib Race last year than I have at any other RTP race I worked.  And this week added some new challenges to getting sleep.  In addition to the predictable late night planning meetings followed by early morning wake up calls to load the trucks, we also experienced lightning storms at night.  While we were lying on the wet ground, in our tents, tents held upright by metal poles…


But, while there may have been a few “what am I doing here” moments, all in all, it was a great time we had in Georgia.  The countryside was beautiful, the food and wine amazing, and the company, fantastic.

Nancy was able to join me on the medical team in Georgia as well as Cassandra and Pearlly.  The four of us have been together on the medical team for four races now.  We also were fortunate to have a fifth doctor, Anne, who helped us out when she wasn’t performing cutting edge research in blister management.

The medical team: Anne, Cassndra, Pearlly, Nancy and some guy with baggy pants


The race was held in the Javakheti Region in the lesser Caucasus.  Beautiful country.  Very green right now with all the rain.  

And the race was fun to follow, although, given the mud and the swollen creeks that needed fording, it might not have been so fun to run.  There were a lot of cold and damp racers and twice as many wet feet.  There were some issues with fog and missing flags on the first leg of the first stage (who knows, maybe the cows ate them?!), so many of the racers put in an extra few kilometers before reaching even the first checkpoint.  And in addition of rain, mud, lighting and fog, the racers had to contend with sheep dogs aggressively protecting their flocks out in the backcountry.  At one point, while checking flags, Nancy found herself encircled by a pack of snarling dogs.  Fortunately she was able to keep her head and launch a rock at the largest of the dogs, and they decided she was a force to be feared and they slunk off.


Florian Vieux from Switzerland, winner of the 2019 Namib Race, dominated the race, giving a master class in how to make slogging through mud look effortless.  Jeff Pelletier, a friend and fellow competitor from the 2021 Namib Race put in a very strong performance to finish second.  I’ve been following Jeff’s training on YouTube with awe and trepidation.  It was good to see all the hard work pay off.  I also noticed that Jeff has incorporated  Skratch Superfuel (which I used in Namibia) into his feed strategy, with good results.  Magdalena Paschke finished 8th overall and won the women’s race, and was never seen during the week without a big smile on her face.  Nancy and I first met Magdalena in 2012 in Kashgar at the Gobi Race, and we also were at the 2014 Jordan Race where Magdalena met her husband Uwe, so it was good to reconnect with her and see her do so well!

                                     Florian and Jeff cross the finish line on the long march

The race finished at the ancient cave city of Vardzia.  And most of the racers gamely took the long uphill walk to the caves for the tour.  After that there was a 5 hour bus ride back to Tbilisi.  We spent the next 2 days touring Tbilisi and the wine region of Kacheti.


All in all, from the medical team perspective, it was a good race.  No one died.  But it was stressful for us in that the racers were always a few degrees away from hypothermia and in danger from the elements and the animals on the course.  We were hard put to keep the latest Covid variants away from the racers.  And our supply of anti-diarrhea medicine was severely tested.  Not to mention an abundance of blisters and overuse type injuries.


I tried to do a little running during the week, but, I think because my body was so fatigued and so stressed, I probably did myself more harm than good.  I’ve done a couple of easy runs since I’ve been back in the states, and, instead of feeling rested like the numbers in my training peaks app say I should be, my legs feel heavy and I feel like poop.


Lessons learned:  1) trying to train when your body is already overstressed isn’t training, it’s self-abuse.  2) sitting on an airplane all day isn’t a rest day.


Still, I am glad I went to Georgia.  There was lots of type 1 and type 2 fun to be had.  I am thankful to Mary and Zeana for putting on the race and putting their trust in me to lead the medical team.


And now there are 3 months left before Atacama!  Time to get my stuff together.  I’m going to take this week pretty easy, and then I think I can put in 2 good months of training before I start my taper!  Should be enough.  Stay tuned.

                                        The medical tent (left) at dawn

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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Comments: Total (0) comments

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.

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!

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!

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.