Gobi March Blogs 2023

Robert Ripley



Gobi March (2023) blog posts from Robert Ripley

04 July 2023 02:07 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Happy Independence Day to all of you Americans!


Well. It’s a wrap.


I apologize to those of you who were expecting a blog report on the final stage of the race…. There was this long bus ride back to Ulaanbaatar and then this awards gala thing and then a tour to Hustai National Park in search of the ancestral Mongol pony and it was all I could do to manage a low level of consciousness throughout.

The last night of the race we camped on the bank of the River Orkhon in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We crossed the river to get into camp (and the finish line), and, given the Orkhon is a braided river, we crossed it again in the morning to get to the start line.  The final stage started out on a dirt track paralleling the river and then cut off into a grassy slope that climbed to the top of a hill with a large monument to the Mongol Empire.

Since the final stage was only 9km long, a number of the runners took off at high speed.  Or at least what I perceived to be a high speed.  I was moving my legs along as fast as they would go, but I doubt that I was breaking the 8 minute mile.  As it was, I was quickly gapped by over a dozen runners, led by Ken and Reinhold.  


Once we crested the hill, we could see the town of Kharkhorin spread out below us.  We crossed the town by a series of dirt road back alleys with rickety fences barely containing vociferous guard dogs, and then we broke out onto one of the main thoroughfares leading to the Erdene Zuu Monastery.  The Monastery, established in 1585, is surrounded by an extensive wall featuring 108 stupas (108 being a sacred number in Tibetan Buddhism), and I swear Carlos made us run by every one of the 108 stupas to get to the gate that let us into the monastery and onto the path to the finish line.  We stopped at the official finish and volunteers removed the GPS tracking devices from our packs, and then we were free to walk under the banner where a Buddhist Monk was bestowing the finishers medals.

Kharkhorin is near the ruins of Karakorum (or Kharkhorum or Qara Qorum) which was capital of the Mongol Empire under Ogedei Khan.  Kharkhorin is also famous for the giant penis shaped Kharkhorin Rock located near the monastery.  The large stone phallus is either a symbol of fertility for the people of the valley or a reminder to the monks of their vow of chastity.


Fertility or chastity, I was much too wrecked to appreciate any of it.  I was so tired I could barely chew the pizza that was on offer.  I drank a couple of Cokes and then folded myself into a seat on the bus.  I fell asleep a hundred times on the ride back to Ulaanbaatar (and was jolted awake a hundred and one times by a swerve, pothole, speed bump, or other asphalt irregularity).


And now I’m back home.  I’ve either washed or disposed of my race kit, I’ve reacquainted myself with the dogs and ranch chores, I’ve been walking in the woods, out on my bike for a couple of easy spins, and I haven’t run anything further than a bath.


I am having levels of fatigue that I haven’t experienced before.  To quote Luther “Suitcase” Simpson from the Jesse Stone series: “I feel it in my cells.”  It’s like even my mitochondria are tired.  I haven’t felt this weak since I had chemo.   The good news is that it seems to be getting slowly better day by day, but I have a feeling that the fatigue is my body’s way of telling me that it didn’t appreciate what I put it through last week.


I can’t say that I could recommend running a multiday ultramarathon on Covid.  I’m pretty sure as a physician I would have to recommend against it. There isn’t much in the way of literature on the long term health consequences of running 6 marathons in a week on Covid, but one doesn’t need much in the way of imagination to believe that said consequences are a dangerous possibility.  If I had been race medical director, I would not have let me race.  

But put yourself in my shoes.  I had trained for 3 months (okay, maybe 2 and a half months of actual training, but in my mind I had been thinking about the Gobi for 9 months) and flown a little bit further than halfway around the world to be in the event.  It would have been soul crushing to have sat around in a hotel while the race was going on and then fly home without running in it.  I was offered the opportunity to participate and, against better judgement, I took that opportunity.  I hired a private car to take me to the start, I slept in my own tent and I masked up for the camp and the checkpoint.  As far as I know, I didn’t give Covid to any of the other racers.


When I started the race I had a low grade fever, myalgias, fatigue and less than optimal respiratory status (the Covid was tweaking my asthma and I was hitting my inhaler pretty hard).  I tried running at my usual pace of six minutes a kilometer, and may have been on target for the first few kilometers, but it was clear with the effort being expended, that I was not going to be running with Reinhold and the guys at the sharp end of the race (as hoped for).


Things deteriorated pretty quickly the first day.  I struggled to make it up and over the first climb and my legs turned to a painful uncoordinated mush on the descent.  I was feverish and dispirited and thinking about catching a bus back to Ulaanbaatar when I staggered across the line in 17th.  Mary was kind enough to drag my tent to the edge of camp where I lay down and pondered the desperation of my situation.


After 10 hours of sleep with multiple interruptions for urination and expectoration, I was able to get through 750 calories of porridge and a Starbuck Via and convince my body that it was going to be able to rally for the second stage.  My new target pace was 7 minutes a kilometer, and it was a struggle just to do that.


I think I put in about 250,000 steps last week in the Gobi March and I was consciously aware of the effort of putting one foot in front of the other for 249,999 of them.  It was pretty much force of will (and general obstinate stupidity) that got me through the next few days.  Strangely enough, my place in the standings gradually improved even as my pace deteriorated, showing that stubbornness pays off in the long run (so to speak).  Max from Boulder hit his stride on the long day and took back half of my hour lead on him when I blew up in the heat the last 10 kilometers, but I was able to scrape by in 5th place overall by a few minutes in the end.


The fact that I was spending an extra hour out on the trail every day (2 hours on the long day) played havoc with my nutrition.  As you will recall, my plan was to drink 200 calories an hour of Skratch rehydration and high carb mix.  But I didn’t bring enough powder for the additional hours, so I tried to supplement calories with Picky Bars, but, as I mentioned, I have trouble chewing and swallowing and breathing at the same time, so I had to practically come to a stop to manage this, increasing the time I spent out in the sun.


The additional hours of trail time also proved a problem for my electronics.  I have been using a Garmin Solar Instinct, and 3 years ago, fresh out of the box, it proved it could manage GPS tracking for over 30 hours with some help from the sun (the watch got me through the Atacama Crossing in 25 hours).  Unfortunately the watch’s battery (or the sun) seems to have degrade since then, and the watch died after 25 hours in the Gobi.  The battery in my MP3 player also failed to meet expectations, leaving me with nothing but the voices in my head for the final 2 stages.


And finally, while I am relating technical difficulties, I mentioned that I was running with the Raidlight Ultralight (Revolutiv) 25 liter vest (pack) for my 3rd race—which is probably 2 races more that the vest was built for.  I did a careful inspection of the pack before the race and it seemed fit, but, as it turns out, the spandex water bottle holders, critical pieces of the vest, had begun to deteriorate, and they ripped out during the race.  I was able to hold the shreds together with safety pins and and gentle use, but still I can’t recommend the vest for more than 2 races (probably just one with some training runs).


So.  It’s been more than a week since the race.  I’m back home.  This is normally the time when the type 2 fun kicks in and I start looking back on a race fondly and think about what fun it was.  I’m still waiting for that to happen.  It was a hard week.  Very hard.  Not only the work involved in dragging myself across the landscape.  But part of what makes these multiday races fun is the social interaction with the other racers.  The sense of community as a group of people bond and move forward day by day, camp by camp, footstep by footstep.  But running this race with Covid isolated me from the rest of the racers and left me spending too much time alone, inside my head.  I guess I will have to write the Gobi March Mongolia off to type 3 fun.  Maybe the type 2 fun will come to me with more time.


In the meantime, I am hoping this fatigue improves, and that I won’t have hurt myself permanently by making the choice to run.  


And I am thankful for the opportunity to run, even if it wasn’t the best decision.  I am thankful to Mary and the Gobi medical team for letting me run (I realize that it probably was not an unanimous decision).  I am thankful to all of you for reading this blog and offering support during the race.  I am thankful for my friends and family for their support and encouragement.  And, as always, I am thankful for Nancy, my amazing wife, for supporting me in my choices, no matter how misguided, and being there at the end to pick up the pieces.


As far as what’s next.  Well.  It’s way too soon to tell.


Comments: Total (9) comments

Rob Ripley

Posted On: 10 Aug 2023 04:49 pm

First off, I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and concern that my last blog post elicited. I’m sorry that I sounded so pathetic and despondent. I was really really (really!) tired. And I found myself physically and mentally in a pit I wasn’t sure I could crawl out of. Several of Nancy’s friends called her up and wanted to know why I wasn’t in the hospital (although exactly what type of hospital wasn’t actually specified). So I just want to let everybody know. I’m alright! It has been a learning experience. One that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. My body has been able to bring itself back from the damage I subjected upon it. I’m waking up with close to my usual level of energy (after some espresso) and I’ve finally rid myself of the morning ritual of coughing up dead respiratory tissue. I wouldn’t say that I’m ready to go out and give the Gobi March (or similar multiday ultramarathon) another crack next week. But I’m running again and I think I’m back to about 85%. My resting heart rate is still a few beats higher than it was before Mongolia, and my zone 2 (aerobic) pace is a bit slower, but I think it’ll come back. Of course, at my age, I’m past the days where training makes me better. Effective training only keeps the slow degradation of time in check. So it’s hard to say exactly where I’ll be athletically when this all sorts itself out. But I’m feeling better! I’ve been out riding my bikes and running in the woods, and I’m at peace with my body again. I am working at my swimming. I still suck. I’m still the slowest thing in the pool. Every swimming workout feels pretty much like self-waterboarding. But I’m gradually getting better. And my attitude is also improving. My memories of Mongolia are now coming back tinged with joy and fondness. Type 2 fun is gradually appearing in my brain. Mongolia was a beautiful landscape to race in and the people were fun and hospitable. I am thankful for the opportunity to run in this amazing country. I am happy with my race and with the decision to run (ill advised or not). Normally I wait for my toenails to finish falling off before I decide on my next big race. But just to keep me motivated in swim class, I have signed up for a half iron length triathlon in Daytona Beach in December. It’ll be my first triathlon in 40 years. Wish me luck. Best wishes to all of you getting ready to run Atacama and Jordan!

Tom Hales

Posted On: 06 Jul 2023 11:12 pm

Rob, been following your adventure with Ken interest. So happy you made it through the march. Now take the time to recover and get back to your daily fun. All the very best Rob.

Keith Gayhart

Posted On: 06 Jul 2023 02:05 pm

Being isolated by covid was a bigger loss for the rest of us than you. Way to gut it out. I look forward to seeing you down the road. (Oh, and what's that about "in search of the ancestral pony"? I thought you were descended from an ape. No wonder you can run so fast.)

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 06 Jul 2023 09:41 am

Rob, a huge congratulations. You did an amazing job and inspired us each day. I didn't have COVID nor did I run and I am still recovering from the Gobi March!! I hope we will see you and Nancy at another race one day soon. Mary

Karen Wei

Posted On: 06 Jul 2023 05:59 am

You’re relieved the race is over but I’m mourning the fact that these blogs are also over. They are SO much fun to read. I can imagine the fatigue you’re experiencing, I think I had a similar moment last week on day 3 or 4 of my Portuguese Camino after another long day in the sun - but I had only been walking, distances less than a marathon a day, with ample food and hydration pretty much on demand, and no pack - so I’m feeling like a very poor cousin for comparing myself to you! All the same, it’s not a nice feeling. But it will pass. And I’m sure the type 2 will kick in, as well as the selective amnesia that makes us all sign up for another one. Enjoy your R&R in sunny OR!

John Clark

Posted On: 05 Jul 2023 07:17 pm

Well, the most important things in your life are intact – your brain, Nancy, the dogs, the ranch. I think you are on to something regarding tired mitochondria. I know mitochondria are not the same as a battery, but if you discharge a battery 100% it is really hard to get it to take a charge. Need to go with the “trickle charge” approach – very slow and steady with minimal load on system until it starts accepting a little current. And I would add anything you can think of that might help mitochondrial health -? Coenzyme Q, electrolytes, massage, sunshine. Pretty sure regular medicine has little to offer so would even consider a visit with a naturopath – they are a little more open minded than us traditional providers, and overall, I think their potions may have a superior benefit to harm ratio…. You are a tough bugger, Robert. Possibly too tough. Elite athletes like yourself may have willpower and mental toughness capable of overpowering a super strong, but still human motor apparatus. Wimps like me do not have that problem…. So much respect for what you have accomplished, and hope for a continued slow, steady recovery. If you ever want to join the wimp club let me know – we have minimal entrance requirements…

John Clark

Posted On: 05 Jul 2023 07:17 pm

Well, the most important things in your life are intact – your brain, Nancy, the dogs, the ranch. I think you are on to something regarding tired mitochondria. I know mitochondria are not the same as a battery, but if you discharge a battery 100% it is really hard to get it to take a charge. Need to go with the “trickle charge” approach – very slow and steady with minimal load on system until it starts accepting a little current. And I would add anything you can think of that might help mitochondrial health -? Coenzyme Q, electrolytes, massage, sunshine. Pretty sure regular medicine has little to offer so would even consider a visit with a naturopath – they are a little more open minded than us traditional providers, and overall, I think their potions may have a superior benefit to harm ratio…. You are a tough bugger, Robert. Possibly too tough. Elite athletes like yourself may have willpower and mental toughness capable of overpowering a super strong, but still human motor apparatus. Wimps like me do not have that problem…. So much respect for what you have accomplished, and hope for a continued slow, steady recovery. If you ever want to join the wimp club let me know – we have minimal entrance requirements…

Kelley E Kadlecek

Posted On: 05 Jul 2023 02:55 pm

Great final blog Rob! I hope that you're enjoying some down time and on the path to recovery! You did an amazing job! Enjoy the summer, Kelley & Larry

Hans Ripley

Posted On: 04 Jul 2023 11:02 pm

Surely seemed this event tested the extreme end of your limits. Probably be a lengthy recovery but you’ve got time at age 62. So proud of you and am totally inspired by the effort. Way to represent for Team Ripper!

23 June 2023 03:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

We ran 42km today.  We took off into a rainstorm with lightning strikes on the horizon.  I was a little bit behind the curve getting my rain jacket on, so I was pretty chilled for the first section.  Fortunately the rain stopped and I dried out before checkpoint 2. 

Even with the rain it was an amazingly beautiful day.  We ran across the grasslands with herds of horses pacing us.  After checkpoint 2 we started a long climb into what Carlos called Switzerland in Mongolia.  We wound our way through an arboreal oasis with leafy and pine trees.
Carlos promised us 5 river crossings, but I only counted 4.  Maybe I was so wet during the first section that I miscounted.  
The chill weather brought out the strength in some of the runners, so I ran with some folks I haven’t seen much of this week.
I’m afraid it didn’t bring out any hidden resources in me.  I was able to keep moving the whole day, but I never get into any kind of rhythm.  I think this week has pretty much pushed my to my limits.
We crested the climb through Switzerland and descended into checkpoint 3.  From there we mostly had a beautifully runnable descent down the valley to the river where there was one last crossing before the finish line.
It was a great day.  But I am glad to see it behind me.  I have a little food left, and then I need some sleep.
Thanks again for all your support and well wishes! 

Comments: Total (6) comments

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 24 Jun 2023 07:26 am

Just catching up on your race after getting back. You'll have finished by the time you get this. So glad covid didn't end your race. Amazing Robert!

Hu Ripley

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 06:56 pm

Almost there buddy. You got this!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 03:04 pm

The rain sounded wonderful and the terrain has to be just beautiful! Keep on keeping on,,,,,, You're almost to the finish, I'm sure dreaming of a hot shower, wonderful food and a bed! You've done an amazing job!! Kelley & Larry

Iggy Ripley

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 01:53 pm

Light's at the end of the tunnel! Hope you can harness The Duke's sprinting acumen as he ran down his miscreant children. Those genes are in there somewhere possibly. Enjoy your last bit of a romp in the country.

Michael McLeod

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 01:40 pm

Even after 42k you keep us up to date with your blog. Thank you. We are cheering you on Rob and sending good vibes for your final stage!

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 23 Jun 2023 08:53 am

Way to stay strong Rob! Thanks for the beautiful descriptions of the course. Sorry you haven't been 💯 %., but I am amazed you have done so well despite COVID. One more day- you got this. Sending love and positive thoughts! Nancy

22 June 2023 09:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

had hoped to get in a little longer posting today, but we had a thunder and lightening storm and we had to evacuate to the vehicles.  Fortunately the storm passed over in about an hour and none of the tents were damaged.  (And none of the racers!)
But now its 5pm and I need to work on getting some dinner.  I did catch last call at the med tent and Dr. Danielle patched up a few wounds on my back.  Apparently my pack was banging around a little bit too much yesterday.  I also scrounged some sunscreen from Keith for tomorrow.  He swears he’s got plenty.  
It is super hot in my tent at the moment, so I am hiding out in the shade behind a bus, with a little breeze.
As I mentioned, I was feeling pretty sketchy the last 15 kilometres yesterday and I had to walk the last 8 kilometres into camp.  I think the walking was a bit of a change up, so I have a couple of blisters I need to take care of tonight.  But I made it into camp under my own power and after some intermittent sleep (with the finish drum going off time after time, no respite with the ear plugs). I am feeling reasonable whole again.  We will see what the legs can do tomorrow morning when we try to pop out another 42km.
As always, THANK YOU for the comments and the emails.   I appreciate the caring and support.

Comments: Total (4) comments

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 11:52 pm

You’ve got this man, sending healing thoughts. I remain in awe.

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 04:47 pm

Every race we think about burning that drum....so many missed opportunities! Rest up, Rob! You're my hero - I'm sending you all the best vibes from the Hip Hop Bubble Bath playlist!


Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 02:34 pm

I'm with Iggy, your down to it Rob - get it! Nothin but love and respect Rob. Abundance of good thoughts and prayers Brother.

Iggy Ripley

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 01:58 pm

Keep at it Crow… final stretch!

21 June 2023 10:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

Wow.  I have a new respect for the racers that are out there in the afternoon heat.

The first 60 kilometres felt pretty good.  I was moving well and my nutrition and hydration and electrolytes were all in order.  (I should note that due to an injury, I have only gone over 50km once in training, and 60 is new territory for me).  And then the wheels came off the bus.
I couldn’t beat the heat and my heart rate kept exploding on the uphills.  (Note that to save weight I’m not running with a heart rate monitor, more on that tomorrow, I could just feel the pounding in my ears).  So I walked the ups and jogged the downs, but by 8km out, I was only walking.
I made it to the finish, but it was a death march.  I was definitely overcooked.
The suns going down, its going to be a tough night with the drums going off at all hours, but I’m going to choke down some exped shepherds pie and try to get as much sleep as possible.
Again, thanks for all your words of support and encouragement, they mean a lot to me!


Comments: Total (5) comments


Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 02:30 pm

Brutal. Glad you made it through the long march. Heal well and get it on stage 5. All good thoughts and prayers for you Rob!

Michael McLeod

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 12:35 pm

Way to power through it Rob. Hoping the rest and nutrition give you a boost for speed cruising on Stage 5.

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 22 Jun 2023 12:33 am

Way to power through the tough heat Rob! Get some rest and I hope you slay it tomorrow. Go Rob!! I have had spotty access to wifi, but got pretty concerned when the live tracking yesterday said you were 74th and I couldn't find your number anywhere on the map... I stressed all day wondering what had happened. Thank goodness I saw you were still in 5th late last night. Technical glitch I guess. Eat well, rest well, and run fast tomorrow! You are amazing!!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 21 Jun 2023 11:58 pm

Oh that sounds tough Rob, you are doing great!! I hope that you had a good dinner and will sleep like a baby tonight. Tomorrow is a new day! Cheers!! Kelley & Larry

Hans Ripley

Posted On: 21 Jun 2023 11:00 pm

Congrats Bro on completion of the long march. Sounds like it was quite the test. Rest well and and kick ass on stage 5.

20 June 2023 06:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

We camped last night in the shade of some amazing rock formations rising up out of the grasslands.  Most of the campers spent the night in traditional Gers (Yurts) spread out in the field.  Another beautiful camp.  And then you notice the line of pink flags leading out of camp and up into the rocks…
Nicely played Carlos.
I will say that views from on top, after we started with a 2km scramble up the rocks, was breathtaking, not that I needed any help with that.  Then we had 2km of scrambling down past an old monastery until we hit a more runnable path.  As you know, descents are not really my thing, so I took it easy and a number of folks went around me.  
After the valley we came out into some grasslands with a more sandy base, portents off things to come.  My legs are showing the trauma or running multiple marathons.  It’s hard to say if its the Covid as well, but the muscles are complaining regardless.  I just loaded a baseline slow pace into my reptilian brain and trudged along.  Gradually I came back up to some of the runners that had distanced me on the descent.
After checkpoint 1 the road got more sandy and we had to switch around a little to find footing.  At checkpoint 2 we left the road entirely and moved out into the sand dunes.  As dunes go, these were moderately challenging, quite scenic and not totally soul crushing.  It was kind of nice to take a break from the incessant jogging and route find your way up a dune.  And down.  But they did go on for almost 5km.  A bit of work.  
My dirty girl gaiters kept most of the sand out, but some got in around the laces at the toe of my shoes.  I had planned to stop and empty the shoes out when we left the dunes, but when I started running on the path again it actually felt okay to have a little sand packed around my toes.  I caught up to Jason while he was emptying out his shoes, but then he quickly passed me on his was into the finish.
Checkpoint 3 was sitting under a large tree.  I hammered an extra bottle of water and managed to choke down a picky bar before shambling the last 10km to the finish.
I think my Covid is getting better.  But its hard to say with all the repetitive trauma going on.  I wish I felt well enough to take a shot at running at the sharp end of the race, but I am pretty sure it would be the end of me.
So I am going to get to work at getting ready to run the long stage tomorrow.  As always, thank you so much much for your support and encouragement.

Comments: Total (10) comments

Hu Ripley

Posted On: 21 Jun 2023 05:57 pm

Great job on the Long March and on the top 5! Watch your 6 and enjoy the climb!


Posted On: 21 Jun 2023 03:09 am

Rob, amazing you are... like always. I'm spreading the word about your incredible exploits and the cheering section expands daily. Many are thinking the very best, strongest thoughts and prayers for you Rob. Go on Brother, do your thing!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 21 Jun 2023 02:49 am

Way to go Rob! I hope you are feeling a little better and ready for the long march. Carry on and cheers from Bend!! :) Kelley & Larry

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 03:56 pm

Rob, you are my hero! I can’t believe you’re able to do this. Way to take Type 2 fun to a new level. At this rate, you’ll be all rested and warmed up to participate in the three manly sports for the Naadam festival. You’ll be bikini body ready :) Keep it up Rob the Ripper!! Cheering you on!

Karen Wei

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 03:38 pm

You are 100% my favourite RTP blogger, I love reading your pre/during/post-race write ups, they are real and honest and so funny. Oh and btw you are crushing it out there, Covid and pre-race injuries not holding you back in the least. I am having the normal highs and lows on the Portuguese Camino as I write this, know that when I want to pack it in I always think of you and your calm witty grit and I know I can go a little more. As a fellow Covid recoverer, I think our unconventional MO works well. You’ll enjoy the room service and 20 hours of sleep that much more on Saturday!

Jack Fierstadt

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 03:22 pm

You are amazing Rob and showing true grit. Keep it up and we will "see" you at the end of the remaining stages and at the finish. You are crushing it dude! Jack

Iggy Ripley

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 12:58 pm

Way to endure Crow! Best o luck going long manana!

Hans Ripley

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 12:52 pm

Extraordinary effort Crow! Good luck with The Long March.

Michael McLeod

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 12:45 pm

Amazing Rob. Cheering you from afar.

Paula Schaap

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 12:27 pm

Hope you keep on the mend and can enjoy the beauty of more amazing terrain! Love, Paula & Drew

19 June 2023 03:00 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

 In case you’re wondering, or if you haven’t been livetracking my sorry butt, I’m still here.  I probably should be in a hotel room ordering room service and sleeping 20 hours a day, but instead I’m sleeping on the ground and running a marathon everyday.
Last night we camped at a site of petroglyphs.  I could only find two wolves (or dogs or maybe fast looking sheep).  Always cool to see petroglyphs. I got about 10 hours of sleep ( with a few breaks to pee).  So I felt a little stronger this morning.  Unfortunately, my Covid seems to be manifesting itself as myalgias, so I hurt everywhere this morning, from my jaw muscles to the muscles in my feet.  Unfortunately, the Covid symptoms that I haven’t got are anosmia, or the loss of smell and taste.  I can still smell how bad my tent stinks and taste my freeze dried food.
So after 1000mg of tylenol and some oatmeal, I started my day.  Todays run was 45km, so 10 more km then yesterday.  The course was spectacular:  rolling hills, grassland as far as the eye could see, herds of horses that galloped along with us.  At one point we ran through a little encampment and a little girl in a pink jumper and sun hat ran ahead of us for almost a kilometre (if this shows up on TikTok let it be known we still had another 35 kilometres to run).
There were also a couple of long gruelling climbs under an unrelenting sun.  But they were almost worth the view on the other side,
Todays results would suggest that I ran much faster today, but really I ran almost the same pace both days.  Yesterday I started out a little too fast and finished up a bit too slow.  Today I started out slow and tried to maintain .  As it was, many of the other runners may have burned a few too may matches yesterday, or they cleverly decided to run day 2 as a rest day.  I wouldn’t get too excited about the shifting  stats, the race is just starting and we don’t know what surprises the Vid is going to bring tomorrow .  
So I’m going to sign off until then.  Thank  you for your interest and your support!

Comments: Total (8) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 20 Jun 2023 02:19 am

Not just still there but still kicking ass. Can't believe how well you are considering the circumstances. My husband had COVID last month and he could barely get out of bed let alone run even 5km. Keep it going! Glad you stayed upright - if anyone can find a bump on a flat track ....

Kelley E Kadlecek

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 11:27 pm

Yeah Rob! Ordering room service and sleeping 20 hours a day sounds so incredibly boring..... I was glad to see you're still trucking along as I love reading all your blogs and looking at stats. Take good care! Kelley & Larry

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 06:16 pm

You never cease to amaze! Well done my friend, stay strong and keep running. Much love from all of us.

Hans Ripley

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 04:31 pm

Nice running Bro! Hoping you are sleeping well and wake feeling a little better. Maybe hang around long enough and see what happens. Your are a champion.


Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 03:53 pm

Rob, you hang tough Brother, best hopes, thoughts and prayers for you every step of your journey. COVID's got nothin on you Rob!

Carmen Cordogan

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 01:35 pm

Bravooo Dr.Rob! So good to hear that you are cruising through that beautiful landscape. Enjoying your posts and cheering from afar . Way to go ! Made me chuckle , not having anosmia… is a downer. Keep flying !

Michael McLeod

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 11:33 am

Way to go Rob. Hopefully running heals you. Keep on trucking.

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023 08:16 am

Well done Rob! Keep the rubber side down and just keep swimming…. You are one tough cookie! Love you 🥰

18 June 2023 02:03 pm (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar

We spent last night in the ruins of an old castle.  We didn’t get in until almost 7pm given traffic out of UB.  So i popped up my little tent and rehydrated some expedition foods beef hot pot.  And then I crashed.  
I woke up at 4 and got out of bed at 5am to get my breakfast going.   I can’t say I slept really well, but what are you going to do?  I was feeling fatigued when I got up, not a really good sign when you are planning on starting an ultramarathon.  
It was a little overcast and misty in the morning, but it cleared off and was pretty nice for the run.  And a beautiful run it was:  rolling grasslands, water crossings, livestock and nomadic herders, and a climb.  A climb that kicked my butt.  And I wasn’t able to get back in gear on the descent as the trail was a bit technical for me.  (Not technical for the leaders I would hazard, but given that I was running slow today, I wasn’t going to risk a fall to gain a few seconds here and there.
Anyway, the last 8 kilometers down across the flats pretty much killed me.  There were a couple of sections with lumpy mud and grass which kind of reminded me of the salt flats in Atacama, except for the razor sharp pieces of salt.
But I made it to the finish line under my own power.  We will see how I feel in the morning.  Now to start eating and drinking!

Comments: Total (7) comments

Michael McLeod

Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 11:54 pm

Way to go Rob. Keep pushing through and hope you feel strong as the race progresses.

Iggy aka Nigel

Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 09:01 pm

Wait to gut it out Crowman! You makin Team Ripper proud. Hang in there bro! Love ya.

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 03:22 pm

Hope you're feeling better Rob! We are wishing you all the best on this adventure! Kelley & Larry

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 03:22 pm

I am in awe . . . sending healing thoughts, hang in there my friend. Like Hans said, don't do any permanent damage.


Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 02:03 pm

Rob, disappointed for you getting COVID, but appears your making a go of it, as you do. Keeping my strong, healing thoughts for you Rob!

Hans Ripley

Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 01:33 pm

Way to grind it, had to been tough. We’re thinking of you every step. Don’t do any permanent damage❤️

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 18 Jun 2023 08:11 am

Great job Rob! A strong finish despite the COVID. Stay strong, but don’t worry if you are feeling bad and have to withdraw. Soooooo sorry about the stupid COVID. I love you ❤️ N

16 June 2023 07:38 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Well. That sucks.


I felt fine yesterday morning. Got up and took the treadmill for a jog.  By the afternoon I was feeling a little achy and by evening I had a headache and felt feverish, although my temperature was 98.1.  So I did a Covid test.  And it was positive.


This morning I feel about the same.  Not any worse.  Not much better.  Nancy is feeling good, and she took a test and it was negative.


So.  Hard to say what the next steps are.  Good judgement says I should probably call it a day and hang out in my hotel room for 5 days.  But the other option is to make my way to the starting line, quarantine in my single tent, and see how I feel tomorrow morning…

Comments: Total (3) comments

Jamie McAllister

Posted On: 17 Jun 2023 05:27 pm

Oh NO!!! I'm so sorry. All I can say is use your best judgement and long COVID sucks....and Paxlovid works great if you can find some...you are in our thoughts, sweet neighbor

Jack Fierstadt

Posted On: 17 Jun 2023 04:17 am

Oh no Rob. WTF. I know you will make the right call. J

Barb Echo

Posted On: 17 Jun 2023 03:42 am

Covid does suck. So sorry it has hit you now. Here’s hoping your symptoms are mild.

15 June 2023 11:33 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Here in Ulaanbaatar.  Reputedly the coldest capital in the world and definitely the capital with the most ‘A’s.


Nancy and I arrived here yesterday after an overnight in Seoul and something like 22 hours in the air and 3 days plus of travel.  We left our hotel shortly after checking in in search of a good cappuccino, and we’ve been on the hunt ever since.  (Hint: not at the Ramada!)


We landed at Chinggis Khan Airport and made it through customs without difficulty (there’s always that fear that border patrol is going to take an unnatural interest in the hydration powders and freeze dried foods in my bag and insist on cutting everything open), into a cab whisking us along the wide open grasslands of Mongolia on the airport freeway…. into a snarl of exhaust spewing, horn tooting traffic.  It took us over an hour to navigate the last few kilometers to our hotel.


Ulaanbaatar seems like any other big city with growing pains.  Everywhere you look you see cranes putting up high rise apartment buildings.  Something like half of the population of Mongolia lives here in the capital and from the looks of it they are still coming.  The streets are clogged with traffic, fortunately the Prius seems to be the car of choice, and the sidewalks are made hazardous by the bicycles and electric scooters swerving through the many pedestrians.


On our walk yesterday we toured the Gandan Khiid monastery—Mongolia’s largest Buddhist monastery—and spent some time listening to the monks at prayer.  The monastery has been undergoing a renaissance since the fall of communism in the 90s and houses, among other treasures, the tallest indoor statue of the Buddha in the world.


After that we made our way to Sukhbaatar square, Ulaanbaatar’s central space in front of the parliament building.  The square features a statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar, who spearheaded Mongolia’s independence from China in 1921.  (It should be noted that during the reign of Chinggis Khan, whose statue sits centered in front of the parliament building, Mongolia ruled over China.  The square is also home to the National Museum, the Opera and Ballet theater, and a hall where they were having a graduation.


In Sukhbaatar square they were having what appeared to be a festival honoring the nomads, and hundreds of people dressed in traditional garb walked around snapping selfies and eating meat on a stick.  An orchestra playing the traditional stringed instruments was warming up, but the recorded music from the PA system was so painfully loud we couldn’t stick around for the actual concert.


After several lackluster attempts at a cappuccino, we went in search of dumplings (buuz here), but wound up at a hotpot restaurant having lunch with Po and his son Brian, Mark and Dr. Mike (except for Brian, all finishers of last year’s Atacama race).  We were having so much fun with the bubbling pots (and great food!) that we wound up staying until it was practically dinner time.


This morning I was wide awake at 0230.  After rolling around for several hours fretting about race packing and other things in my head, I finally got out of bed at 5:30.  At 6 am I went downstairs and waited for them to open the exercise center, so I could plod a few kilometers on a treadmill and stretch my legs.  Dr. Mike (Williams, an emergency veterinarian from Miami) was on the next treadmill over.  Dr. Danielle from the medical team was also up early doing some strength training.


Best cappuccino in UB, so far: at the segifreddo espresso stand on the 6th floor of the state department store.  Also got Buuz (Mongolian dumplings) at Khaan Buuz across Peace Ave from the store.  Super yummy!


And now I am back in the room, and it is time to get my sh*te together!


I need to repackage my foods and beverages and get all this stuff into a pack size bundle.  Tomorrow we have the briefing at 0830, immediately followed by GEAR CHECK!!  Meaning that I will need to unpack everything and lay it out for inspection.  Sadly Tony Brammer will not be here to go through my stuff with an electron microscope eye for sticklerness.  But I am sure I can find somebody to take issue with my gear.


Tomorrow’s schedule then has lunch and a 5 hour bus ride to camp 1.   Woot!  Woot!


I will do my best to put up blog posts from the cyber tent along the way.  For those of you with way too much time on your hands, it sounds like RacingThePlanet will be having live tracking of the race on their website.  What this means is an additional 3.5oz of weight with no caloric value in my pack for the tracking device.  (Are you *&$#@ kidding me!?). If it doesn’t look like I am moving, either my device accidentally got filled with butter, or I cratered in the rocks like last year!

Comments: Total (4) comments

Jeffrey Miner

Posted On: 16 Jun 2023 09:24 pm

Sittin’ here on the couch reading, in awe of you and your fellow ultra runners! Go Rob!

Tom Hales

Posted On: 16 Jun 2023 07:07 pm

Get em Rob!

Samantha Fanshawe

Posted On: 16 Jun 2023 07:00 pm

Such a great blog and of full or info. I also literally laughed out loud at your mention of Tony. Glad you found an acceptable cappacino in the end.

Jeff R

Posted On: 16 Jun 2023 05:39 pm

Good Luck Crow!

03 June 2023 08:51 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

It’s June!!  (Insert exploding head emoji here).


I’m sure most of you understand that we have entered the month of June, but for me this means that the Gobi Mongolia Race is only 2 weeks away.  And I’m sure most of you know this as well.  And it’s not as if I live in my own private Oregon where the passing of time isn’t painfully aware to me, but, even so, this race has come up upon me so much faster than I anticipated.


The past 3 years, my training goals have focused on the running of the Atacama Crossing race which is held in September.  In 2020, of course, the race was cancelled due to Covid.  As it was in 2021, but I was able to pivot and run the Namib Race in October.  And, finally, I was able to run Atacama last September.  And a September race is good for me.  I can finish out the ski season and take a few weeks off to get my act together and put together a training strategy (with the much appreciated hard work of my coach Jaime Dispenza), and then I have all summer to get in shape.  Also in the spring I have more than my usual level of chores, getting the pasture ready for the animals, so training sometimes needs to take the back seat (or the tractor seat, as the case might be).

But this year, with the race in June, I was left with only 3 months in between ski season and the race with which to get my butt in shape.  And we have seen how that worked for me.  Getting injured.  Having to back off my training.  Having to spend my free time taking care of myself.  Well, the good news is, thanks to the hard work of my Physical Therapist, Karin at Rode PT, I am mostly back running without a limp and feeling pretty good.  My conditioning isn’t what it has been for races past, but at my age, realistically, it’s never going to be, so I am going to stop whinging and just be thankful that I can run at all.


Anyway.  2 weeks!  Time to get packed.  Time to get out the mandatory equipment list (37 items) and start freaking out.  My office (which also serves as a guest room and Nancy’s peloton studio) looks like a bomb exploded in an REI. 

 Fortunately, I have been down this road once or twice, and I know how to cram all this stuff into a 25 liter race vest.  But I still reserve the right to get stressed out by the required number of safety pins (10) and the necessary requirements of the “blister kit.”  (Which, as a member of the medical teams on a number of these adventures, I can only assume most racers use these items to decorate their tents, because no one seems to have them when they show up at the medical tent with blisters).


I am planning on re-utilizing most of my gear from Atacama Crossing ’22.  I will be carrying my stuff in a 3 year old (still seems in good shape, hopefully I am not pressing my luck) Raidlight Ultra-light 25 liter vest.  I will be sleeping in a Z-pack 30 degree sleeping bag and bundling up in a MontBell puffy.  I will be bringing the same Raidlight rain jacket as well, and hope to keep the streak of not getting it wet going.  I will be running in the Hoka Tecton X trail shoe like I did in Atacama, but hoping for some slightly less reactive terrain to run on.  I have put together a new first aid kit, but will be trying hard not to have as much use for it as I did in Chile.  Many of the items that I carried in Namibia (a bivi bag, which is really a giant orange trash bag with a silver lining, a plastic rain poncho, a compass and signal mirror, etc.) are still in their original packaging and will be coming along again. 


I think I’ve already covered my food plans in a previous blog post.  I am wishing there was more of it, but if I took all the food I was dreaming about while out running in the Atacama desert, my pack would weigh 30 kilos and I’d never make it to checkpoint 1.


Since Covid, RacingThePlanet has allowed competitors the option of bringing a single tent.  I will be taking them up on this.  I know that this means that I won’t have the experience of bonding with my tent mates, but combining a 62 year old prostate with hardcore rehydration means that I need to get up to pee 3-4 times in a night.  Call me antisocial, but potential tent mates can thank me here.


Safe travels everyone!  I’ll see you in Ulaanbaatar!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 13 Jun 2023 02:39 pm

And now it's mid-June and nearly race time. Sad not to be there cheering for you in person this time but am excited to follow your progress and will be cheering loudly from here. Looking forward to the blog posts during the next week. Just one reqeust from me - stay upright!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 11 Jun 2023 07:03 pm

Safe travels to you Rob! We'll be following along and cheering for you from Bend. Best of luck!!

17 May 2023 03:15 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Team Ripper Rides (or runs, or skis, or…) Again!


These past two weekends have hosted two of Bend Oregon’s most prestigious athletic events:  The Bend Beer Chase and Pole Pedal Paddle.  Events that convey a year’s worth of bragging rights in the brew pubs of Central Oregon.  


The Bend Beer Chase is a 60 mile circumnavigation of Deschutes County typically done as a 12 leg relay with each checkpoint hosted by one of the local craft breweries handing out samples of their product (for nutritional and hydration purposes).  Most teams were composed of 6 runners taking on 2 legs each.  Team Ripper was down a brother (Lars was rowing on his club’s 8 in the Windermere Cup for Seattle’s Opening Day of boating), so we represented with 4 runners at 3 legs apiece.  Of the 4 of us, Ig, Hans, Hu and myself (we run, and drink with our childhood nicknames, mine, if you’re wondering, is Crow.  Don’t ask.  Of the 5 bros, Lars is the first of us to legally change his name to the nickname), only Hu was not nursing an injury.  Hans has been fighting knee and hip problems, Ig has been dealing with chronic achilles issues, and, as you will know from my incessant whinging, I have been having problems with hamstring tendinitis.  Such is the life of athletes over (or nearly) 60.


As it was, I was able to hobble my way through my respective legs and make it to the beer tent under my own steam (without crutches).  I was running almost a minute per mile slower that last year, but the rest of Team Ripper picked up the slack and we actually finished a few minutes faster than last year.  We finished in the top 10 of over 100 teams and we cleaned up in the Grand Masters Division (given that we were the only athletes who have lived long enough to qualify for the division).  The weather was ideal for running, cloudy and cool, although Hans got caught in a hailstorm on the second to last leg.


The next Saturday was the Pole Pedal Paddle, or the PPP in the local vernacular.  The PPP is a 6 event race: downhill skiing, cross country skiing, bicycling, running, kayaking, and then a shorter run to the finish.  Most people do this as a relay, however, for serious bragging rights, you can do the race as an individual.  This year, Jesse Thomas, a local triathlete and Ironman Champion, won the individual and beat all but one team.  Alayna Sonnesyn, American Birkebeiner Champion and US Ski Team member, won the women’s individual race and also beat most of the teams.


The PPP was held under sunny skies in warm conditions.  Nearly 40 degrees F warmer than the weekend before.


Team Ripper raced with the full contingent of brothers, as well as Hans’ daughter Jessica.  We were racing in the family category with a later starting wave, so the snow had fully transitioned to slush before our 10:45 start time.  Hu did the first leg which involves running uphill 100m (at altitude) putting on skis (or snowboard) and schussing down the mountain.  Hu made it down the mountain without catastrophe and handed off to me so I could skate ski the 7km nordic course.  The course consisted of a loop around the parking lot with enough dirt in the slush to strip all the speed wax off your skis, and then a winding set of downhills through the trees with a number of human obstacles planted in the snow to negotiate around, and then about 2 miles of uphill to the bike handoff.  I was completely gassed by the top of the hill.  The slush made for slow going and it seemed like the harder I worked, the slower my skis went.  But I managed to hand the wristband off to Iggy before I threw up.  Iggy then rode his TT bike down 17 miles of Century Drive from the mountain to the outskirts of town under impressive speed and keeping the rubber side down, as we like to say (and see!!).  Ig handed off to Hans who ran a 5 mile loop on the river trail at a blistering pace and then helped Lars launch the boat for the paddle leg.  Lars was a little at a loss without oarlocks, but quickly overcame the deficit and scorched the water course passing a multitude of watercraft in the process.  Lars managed to abandon ship and hand off to Jessica who sprinted the last mile to finish in the park near the Old Mill.

(That's Lars in the yellow boat with the training wheels!)

Jessica for the sprint finish!

Team Ripper again finished with distinction.  We were the fastest of all the family teams and won our age division (again by being the only ones to live long enough to be in it) and grabbed the much envied PPP winners mugs.  We also finished in the top 10% of the field.  Our time was a little slower than last year, and I fear this was mostly due to my struggling to get up the hill in the sloppy snow.


As always, in keeping with my goals: have fun, be thankful and don’t get hurt.  We had a great time, lots of type 1 and type 2 fun, both out on the courses and afterwards at the beer tents.  And I am ever thankful and grateful to be able to share brotherhood (and a cold malty beverage) with these fine men.  And, although my leg is still tweaked, as far as I can tell, I didn’t do and further damage to it in the races over the past week.


So it looks like a month and a few days until Gobi!  (Insert exploding head emoji here).  Sadly I will be going into this race woefully on the undertrained side of things.  I guess I am just going to have to make up for it with positive attitude!


Comments: Total (1) comments

Jeff R

Posted On: 01 Jun 2023 12:10 am

Safe travels!

08 May 2023 01:06 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

High dose croissant therapy (don’t try this at home!)


So the last time I checked in, I had been hamstrung by some tendinitis.


To combat this injury, I did what any reasonable person would do, I went to France.  Nancy took me out to dinner at the Tour d’Eiffel for my 62nd birthday.  It didn’t suck.  We had four beautiful days in Paris and then made out way through Normandie to Audierne in Brittany to help our lovely friend Annabelle celebrate her 50th birthday.


Sitting in planes and trains and automobiles is probably the worst thing that you can do for tendinitis.  To combat the deleterious effects of sitting, I tried to do as much walking and stretching as possible.  I also took a hard rubber ball for rolling.  And butter.  I’m pretty sure that butter is good for tendinitis, although research into its therapeutic benefits seems a little on the sketchy side.  But I took in lots of butter, mostly in the from of croissante au beurre, just in case.


In any case, the tendinitis doesn’t seem to be getting any worse.  But it’s not getting much better either.  So I wasn’t able to get in much running in France.  But I was able to get out hiking on the GR (Grande Randonee).


We hiked the GR21 on the cliffs out of Etretat.

And the GR34 on the seashore of Cap Sizun out of Audierne.


And now I am back in Central Oregon trying to get my irrigation system up and running.  I think we are down to less than 5 weeks before the start of the Gobi.  My training is not what it should be.  Chances are pretty good that the Gobi will be a totally new experience for me:  I may be doing a little more hiking than in my previous races.  My friend Jay told me yesterday.  “You’d probably better get a bigger headlamp.”  (Inferring that I might be out after dark on the long march.)


At this point there isn’t much I can do about my dearth of training.  I can just try to get the leg heathy.  So more rolling.  More stretching.  More PT.


And more butter.

Comments: Total (1) comments

Keith Gayhart

Posted On: 16 May 2023 06:20 pm

Dr. Rob, I'll be more than shocked if you do any hiking or are out to the wee hours, but I wouldn't fret about it. I can tell you from personal experience that life further back in the pack is not so bad. See you soon.

14 April 2023 09:45 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

On the Injured List


Well, what can I say.  


The ski season had been going so well, the snow has just kept coming, and the nordic skiing was too good to turn down, but with less that 3 months to go to the Gobi, it was time to get some running in.  The weekend before last I put in back to back long runs on the trails and dirt roads north of my house.  The legs were feeling strong, and I was probably feeling a bit too pleased with myself.  And so Monday morning I woke up with a limp and a pain behind my right knee.


Monday and Tuesday my scheduled workouts were swimming, strength and cycling, so I was able to address my knee pain with my usual strategy of denial and magical thinking, but Wednesday and Thursday I put in mid-distance runs and by Friday it was clear that something was not right.  I was crippled.


The pain was coming from the tendons that attach my medial hamstrings to my lower leg.  My diagnosis was medial hamstring tendinitis.  Nancy put her magic hands on my gnarled appendage and confirmed the problem:  “You’re screwed honey.”


Hamstring tendinitis is predominately a disorder of overuse and poor maintenance. Given that ultramarathoning is, pretty much by definition, overuse, then the maintenance issue is the only thing I have control over.  I suffered a hamstring tear a few years back and sustained several repeat injuries.  I was finally able to get a handle on it after multiple sessions with my physical therapist (physiotherapist for those of you on the other side of the pond) and a rigorous protocol of stretching and rolling.  A rigorous protocol that has slowly degraded over the years as memory of the injury faded.


So this week it was back to the physical terrorist for two sessions of ultrasound, massage, and stretching.  And much lecturing on how tight I am and how much more stretching I should be doing.


Back to the drawing board.  I have been doing twice daily workouts of stretching and rolling.  Rolling with a foam roller and a rubber ball and an ice roller.  Stretching the hammies, but also the quads, IT band and the calves and heelcords.  The tendon is feeling a little stressed, but I’m feeling a little better.  Walking without a limp at least.

        (Holly contemplates the ice roller and wonders what I'm doing with her old leash)

On Tuesday we’re flying to Paris.  So I will also be adding some high dose croissant therapy into the mix.


I’m hoping that when I get back the tendinitis will have calmed down enough that I can get a few weeks of running in before the race.

Comments: Total (2) comments

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 25 Apr 2023 08:53 pm

Envoi de pensées de guérison mon ami

Keith Gayhart

Posted On: 23 Apr 2023 09:05 pm

Sorry to hear this, Rob! I hope you heal quickly and look forward to seeing you in Ulaanbaatar.

10 March 2023 03:55 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

North to Alaska!


Not the 1960 John Wayne movie.


Nope, I took a short trip up to Alaska last week to visit friends, ski in a couple of nordic races, and catch the start of the Iditarod.


As I may have mentioned, I grew up in Alaska, and it still holds a piece of my heart (albeit a tiny frozen piece).  So I try to get back up there from time to time to visit friends and family.  Unfortunately, the only family I have left living in Alaska, my brother Jeff and his wife Teresa, are spending this winter in Laguna Beach.  Fortunately, my friends Jay and Moira are still hardy, and they let me stay with them.


The Tour of Anchorage is Alaska’s big ski race, usually with over a thousand entrants in the different races.  The Tour is a unique point to point ski marathon, starting out in the Chugach mountains above town, traversing through urban east and west Anchorage to end in the woods at Kincaid Park south of town.  This year I skied the 10km classic prelude “masters” race on Friday and then the 40km freestyle (skate ski) race on Sunday.  

(photo credit: Jay VanAlstine)

The weather was perfect: blue skies, crisp and cold in the mornings, warming up to -6 (C) by the afternoons.  The snow was a few days old, but hard and fast and pretty skiable.  I caught a ski on some debris on the Chester Creek trail and took a faceplant during the 40km race, so I can attest that the groom was solid.  I thought I skied well, skiing both races about 3min/km which is darn good for me, but some old Alaskan guy named Richard was kicking my butt, so I could only manage 2nd in my age group both days.

(photo credit: Joselynn Finch)

On Saturday we went downtown to catch the start of the Iditarod sled dog race.  Anchorage is probably the only city in the world where they truck the snow out of the streets one day and then truck the snow back in the next so that they can race dogsleds down Main Street (4th Avenue).

These dogs are the real winter athletes.  They will pull a sled full of dogfood and survival gear (not to mention some guy (or gal) in a parka) a thousand miles in a little over a week.  And that includes a mandatory 24 hour sleepover.  And, boy, do those dogs love to run.  The energy at the start is palpable as hundreds of dogs get psyched up.  (Not to mention some vociferous barking). Each team usually has a dozen people trying to keep the dogs in check until it’s time to go.  I tried to talk my dogs (Holly and Cody) into pulling me on skis, and it worked pretty well as long as the squirrel they were chasing ran straight down the ski trail, but when the squirrel ran off piste into the woods…  Well.


Anchorage might also be the only place in America where you might see some guy in a bear suit having a conversation with his congressman.  (That’s Mary Peltola, the one without a bear's head, Alaska’s only representative in the US House of Representatives)

On Monday, Jay took me single track fat bike riding out in the BLM land near the Campbell Airstrip.  I had ridden fat bikes before on a wide packed trail, but this was a little different.  Some of the tracks were literally single track, the width of the fat bike tire, so if you were a little off track or off balance the bike would founder.  And if you put your foot down, often you would sink in up to your crotch in the deep snow.  And the bike would fall in on top of you.  But eventually I got the hang of it, and we had a great time.

But now I’m back in Central Oregon.  It’s still snowing out, but my ski racing season is pretty much over (I am signed up for the nordic ski leg of the Pole Pedal Paddle in May).  And there are only 100 days until Gobi.  (Holy camelpoop!  Only a hundred days!). So I guess I’d better get started on my running!

Comments: Total (1) comments

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 16 Mar 2023 01:01 am

Rob, you are living the life. I am so jealous. Alaska is amazing and I have always wanted to see the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. With your ski racing and fat biking, you should be a tip top shape for the Gobi March.

24 February 2023 11:09 am (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Two packages came for me yesterday.  One from Boulder, Colorado (USA) and the other from Hull, England (UK).  Strangely enough, I’d placed my orders for the respective  deliveries on the same day as well.  Both packages looked as if they’d been drop-kicked more than a few times in the shipping process. 

Fortunately, all of the content in their interior packaging survived the trip intact.  (US Customs didn’t deem it necessary to cut anything open)


Anyway, I know the suspense is killing you, inside the packages were the bulk of the calories I will be consuming on the 2023 Gobi March (coming soon!):

From Expedition Foods in England came 11800 calories of freeze dried dinners and breakfasts.  (For some reason, probably a mistaken click while ordering, I wound up with one 800 calorie package of chicken korma along with eleven 1000 calorie meals).  I have a bunch of left over meals from previous orders, so I will have some selection options as well as meals for a simulation weekend or two.


From Skratch Labs in Boulder came packages of Rehydration Drink (lemon-lime), Recovery Drink (chocolate) and Super High Carb Sport Drink (raspberry).  The Super High Carb Drink is the re-branding of the Super Fuel drink mix that I have used in previous races.


Importing freeze dried food from England to the Pacific Northwest is pretty much carrying coals to Newcastle.  There are tons of gourmet camping food being produced all around me.  But.  After running loads of the stuff through my digestive tract (did I mention I used to climb mountains, and, have you noticed that the medical team is eating the same crap as the racers) I have chosen to race with Expedition Foods because: it tastes pretty good, my gut seems to be able to digest it, and it has more calories per gram, making it lighter to carry.


I saw in Richard’s blog a mention of calorie density.  (By the way, Richard, Congratulations on getting your pack to 6kg.  The 6 kg pack is pretty much the holy grail of RTP!). Richard correctly points out that if you keep your calorie density at 5 calories/gram that you can keep your total food weight under 3 kg.  (Whereas at 4 cal/gm the minimum required calories weighs almost 4 kg.)


A couple of words of warning, though.  


Calorie measurements are made in a “bomb calorimeter.”  Basically this is a device that sets fire to a sample of food and measures the heat produced. Fortunately for us, this is not how we derive energy from our food.  Talk about your heartburn.  Take a handful of almonds for instance.  A bomb calorimeter will tell you that those almonds have 6 calories per gram, but most people will only get 4 to 5 cal/gm out of those almonds, depending on a host of factors such as were the nuts roasted or how well were the almonds chewed.  The digestion of some foods requires more energy from the body than others, making the net available calories a moving target.


And, perhaps more importantly, as we exercise, our blood supply get shunted away from our digestive tract and towards our muscles.  This makes it more difficult to digest food and process the calories you need to keep moving forward.  As a member of the medical team, I have witnessed many times what happens when an athlete stops digesting their food.  It’s not pretty.  


The general recommendation for endurance sports is that you replace about half of your calorie expenditure while you are exercising.  For me this amounts to taking in about 200-250 calories an hour while I’m running.  And for me, I can’t digest food that’s 5+cal/gm (like chicken korma, almonds or olive oil) on the run.  I need carbs.  Which are more like 4gm/cal.


So this explains the box of Skratch Labs powders.  With the Hydration Drink and the Super Carb Sport Drink I can maintain my electrolytes and my calories during the run, and with the Recovery Drink I can get a bolus of carbs and protein at the finish line.  I have logged miles and miles with these powders, and I know that my body feels better and performs better using them.  As such, I am willing to carry the extra weight for these products.


But everybody’s different.  I would just suggest that before you load up your pack with 14000 calories of the lightest possible foods, that you try everything out.  I typically will have a simulation weekend or two (usually when Nancy’s out of town, so I won’t be tempted by gourmet meals or yummy baked treats) where I throw down a couple of long workouts and only eat and drink powders, bars and freeze dried meals.  (I also don’t bathe or change my kit!)  Again, it’s not pretty, but it usually is enlightening.


The last 2 races I went with Picky Bars (a local product) for snacking.  But there are some new energy bars out there on the market, so I’m still trying them out.


And, finally, remember that 14000 calories may be the minimum requirement, but, realistically, we are talking starvation here.  Some (most) athletes are more keto-adapted than I am, but I have serious trouble performing when I am starving.   I will probably be carrying 20000 calories on the first stage.  And I will still be starving, so, if you are thinking about tossing that mars bar that is getting heavy at the bottom of your pack.  Come find me.


We've been having a bit of snow here in  Central Oregon, so the skiing has been great.  Yesterday, however, it was nuking snow and wind such that I couldn't find the tracks, so I wrapped up in my nanook of the north outfit and went for a little jog.

Today is a little nicer.  And it looks like Cody is ready for his walk...

Comments: Total (1) comments

Keith Gayhart

Posted On: 02 Mar 2023 04:41 pm

Great information, Dr. Rob! I am going to check out the Skratch Labs powders. Thanks for the tip. The only thing I'd add is I've learned to place a high value on taste. Nothing tastes good by day three, but I've found certain high density meals unbearable. Calories don't do you any good if you end up chucking them in the bin.

02 February 2023 09:43 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Groundhog Day!


For those of you not familiar with the folklore and superstitions of my country, groundhog day comes in early February and is purportedly the day the groundhog  wakes up from hibernation, pops his head out of his burrow, and, depending on whether or not he (no self respecting female groundhog would be caught dead making a scene like this, and, as it is, the male groundhog is usually first to wake up from hibernation) sees his shadow, prognosticates as to the severity of the remaining bit of winter.  The groundhog, AKA woodchuck, whistle pig or land beaver, is actually a chubby rodent known in civilized parts of the world as a marmot.  (Genus Marmota, Species Momax). Groundhogs have been shown to be highly intelligent and socially oriented, which may be why they have had weather prediction thrust upon them.  Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog with the best press agent, came out of his stump in Gobbler’s Knob today, saw his shadow, and predicted 6 more weeks of winter.  Over the years, Phil has proven to be right about 50% of the time.  Or roughly as accurate as your iPhone.

Groundhog day has also taken on a secondary meaning from the 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.  A Groundhog Day could also be a day or days just like the one before.  Kind of like deja vu all over again a la Yogi Berra.


For those of us in our retirement years, groundhog days happen fairly often.  Fortunately, I didn’t wake up to Sonny and Cher (the current alarm on my phone is the Bodeans’ Closer to Free).  I had some cheerios, listened to NPR, did the Worldle, and then took the dogs out for a walk.  The browndogs saw their shadow, confirming the 6 more weeks of winter—which is good news for the ski season and for our water supply here in the Oregon High Desert which is, as is much of the west, currently operating under a drought warning.

The browndogs didn’t see any groundhogs or marmots or other furry creatures because most of them are still hibernating.  We did see a small herd of deer.  

After our walk, and maybe another coffee, and maybe some of that yummy pistachio lemon drizzle cake that Nancy made and left unguarded, I have to think about what I’m going to do in the day, and it usually involves copious amounts of aerobic activity.  Given that it is ski season, my favorite activity is cross country skiing—either the classic technique or the skating variety.  As I may have harped on more than is necessary, I am a big proponent on low impact aerobic alternatives to running as a means of preserving what little articular cartilage I have left.  I consider running high impact.  (In the Atacama race, not only did I have high impact to my feet and joints, but I had impact to hands, knees, shins and face).  In addition to cross country skiing, I like to spend a lot of my training time on my bicycle.  And just this year, I have added another low impact exercise: swimming.


As I may have mentioned.  I grew up in Alaska.  In Alaska, swimming is what you do with the last 5 minutes of your life should you be unlucky enough to fall out of your boat.  I suck at swimming.  Literally and figuratively.  It’s basically self water boarding for me.  And it has proved to be a problem with my triathlon.  So I made up my mind that this is the year (some 50 years after a humiliating semester of swim lessons in 7th grade) that I learn how to swim.  I’ve been attending swim class twice a week.  Jamie, the instructor, has discreetly kept me near the side of the pool and has kindly kept me from drowning.


After swim class, and another coffee, I took an hour spin on my bike through Watopia (the Zwift App in my garage) and did some strength training.


I know.  I know.  There are only 135 days (!!) until the Gobi.  And I’d better start running soon.  Maybe this weekend (when the ski trails are crowded).  We will see what the groundhog says!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Rob Ripley

Posted On: 24 Feb 2023 07:35 pm

Carl! Sorry to offend! I'm not sure if I can afford swim lessons with you given our current geographical differences, but next time you are in Tumalo, or I am in Pasadena, I would be happy to accept some pointers in my self-water-boarding technique!

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 04 Feb 2023 07:06 pm

Rob, I am hurt, deeply wounded, cut to the quick, saddened, morose, down in the dumps, appalled, shocked, insulted, aggrieved and afflicted by numerous other synonyms and similar cliches that you have apparently forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that I, your friend, who worked his way through college a half century ago lifeguarding, coaching swim teams, teaching swimming, and teaching people how to be swim teachers would gladly serve as your swim instructor . . . had you simply asked* *subject, of course, to negotiating appropriate travel, living, per diem, and salary arrangements. And remember, chlorine is the breakfast of champions and oxygen is overrated. Veni, Natavi, Vici Carl

22 January 2023 08:42 pm (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi

Well, someone ought to put a blog here.   So I guess I will.


My wounds from the Atacama have mostly healed up, the last of the black toenails finally fell off yesterday.  The finger I dislocated is still a bit fat and stiff, but, for the most part, functional.  There are some scars on my shins and knees that will be with me until the end.

There has been enough time and distance between here and now and the Atacama that I can now look back fondly and longingly.  Such is type 2 fun.  I miss the camaraderie and the sense of joint purpose of the camp and its runners moving out across the desert each day.  And I miss the absolute solitude of being alone in the sandscape with nothing but the sounds of your breathing and footfalls (okay, and maybe a little Jay-Z in the earbuds) to keep you company.

And so it is time to sign up for another race.  That race will be the 2023 Gobi March in Mongolia in June.  I’ve been on the medical team for the Gobi March twice, but I’ve never been to Mongolia.  I’m looking forward it.  It looks to be a beautiful part of the world.


Gobi (as I will be referring to it, even if we don’t get far enough south to actually touch the Gobi Desert) is less than 5 months away.  This is a bit of a problem for me since I usually don’t start my running until after the snow melts and ski season ends.  And we’ve been having a pretty good ski season here in Central Oregon so far.  Fortunately, most of the skiing I do is cross-country, and cross-country skiing is the most aerobically demanding sport out there, so I should be getting some cross-training benefits from my time on the snow.  If I make a snow to mud transition in March it should give me 3 good months of training for the Gobi.  And, really, 3 months is all you need to train for anything.  Right?  Anything?  

Well, I would also like to see if I can get a spot in the Naadam Festival while I'm over in Mongolia.  I think the uniforms would suit me.  (in fact, I think they should be mandatory for the Gobi March this year). But 3 months to train for a week long ultramarathon as well as learning and training for the 3 'manly sports' of wrestling, archery and horseback riding might just be pushing it just a little bit too far.

So, the good news is that you’re only going to have to put up with 5 months of this blog as opposed to 9 months like last year!  You can be sure that whatever comes out in this blog will be as random and off the wall as in my previous blogs.  But, if the randomness is getting to you, feel free to shoot me direction or questions.  I still don’t claim to being an expert at this multi-day ultra stuff, but I have done 2 of them, with a little bit of success, and I have formed some opinions.  Which I will gladly share.  I will try to add a little life to the process of getting ready for an ultra in Mongolia!

As with my previous races, I am going to stick with my goals:

(In no particular order)

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

As some of you know, I failed at number 3 in the Atacama.  I’m going to try to do better in Gobi.  I am thankful that none of my injuries in the Atacama were debilitating.  And as always, I am thankful for my loving wife Nancy who supports me in my madness and picks me up when I fall.

Comments: Total (5) comments

Karen Wei

Posted On: 25 Jan 2023 12:01 am

Dr Rob, your blogs are definitely one of the highlights, so keep 'em coming, randomness and all. Mongolia will be an absolute breeze for you, it's a much easier course than N & A (ooops, I hope Carlos doesn't read this and change it up just to make it a bit spicier for you) although there's probably a higher chance of precipitation but hey you're from the Pacific NW so you'll be just fine!

Mabasa Mubatapasango

Posted On: 24 Jan 2023 04:47 am

Hey Rob, this is super exciting news 🔥. Glad to have shared the Namib and Atacama with you, let’s see if can make it number 3. #Legend

Earl Rogers

Posted On: 23 Jan 2023 05:33 pm

Bob: are you crazy!!! I am very proud of you. Just take care and be careful. And stay well. Take care, Earl

Earl Rogers

Posted On: 23 Jan 2023 05:32 pm

Bob: are you crazy!!! I am very proud of you. Just take care and be careful. And stay well. Take care, Earl

Jeff R

Posted On: 23 Jan 2023 04:59 pm

Way to go Robert! Good luck on your training!