Namib Race Blogs 2021

Robert Ripley



Namib Race (2021) blog posts from Robert Ripley

07 November 2021 02:38 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

The Last Stage and Epilogue (epi-blog?)


So I have spent most of the last week in the South African bushveld where the elephants roam wild and the internet and cell service are endangered.  Now I am sitting at London Heathrow after an 11 hour flight from Johannesburg, waiting on a flight to Seattle and then home to Bend.  In between between leopard spotting from the Land Rover and some overindulging at meal time, I have had some time for reflection.

First off, I want to thank everyone for their comments on the blog and their kind words of support.  Really, it meant a great deal to have your good thoughts behind me.  Secondly, it appears that I have been misspelling Radmir’s name throughout my posts.  I’m sorry Radmir!  I’m sure you didn’t want to be carrying that extra vowel around.

The last stage was a roughly 5km sprint through the sand dunes and onto the beach.  The starts were staggered with the faster runners starting later, so most of us were out together on the last couple of kilometers of sand.


At the gun, Ben took off into the dunes like a rocket.  Before most of us could get our legs into a trot, Ben had a 100 meters on us.  I followed Radmir into the dunes, trying to find the best possible footing in the chopped up sand.  We ran the crest of the first dune around and then descended to the flat so we could appreciate the headwall of the area’s largest dune, which, of course, Carlos had us running straight up.  I hit the dune hard, with legs churning, but quickly ground to a controlled crawl.  But once on top I found my footing, as well as a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean, the beach and the finish line.

I caught Radmir as we left the dunes and pushed hard, trying my best to reel Ben in.  We dropped down to the Swakopmund River bed one last time and then popped up on a rocky, seaweed strewn beach.  For a few seconds, I thought I might have a chance of catching Ben at the line, but then he lit the afterburners and it was all over.


I dipped down for a few splashes in an ocean wave and then ran the gauntlet of flags once again to the finish line.  Nancy met me at the line with a huge hug and the race medal.


And, just like that, after 22 months of planning, over a thousand hours of training, and nearly 23 hours of running 240km over some of the most beautiful and unforgiving terrain in the world, the Namib Desert Race of 2021 was done.


Naturally, I am pretty happy with my result.  Having never done anything like this before, I had no expectations of how well my legs would hold up over the course of a week.  But I knew, from watching past races, that if I could run 10km an hour I would be near the front of the race.  And I was training to run back to back 4 hour days at 10km an hour over mixed terrain.  As it turned out, said pace would not have been fast enough to beat Ben, but somewhere along the way my legs came up with a little extra speed and endurance.  I finished about 20 minutes ahead of Ben for the week.  Roughly the equivalent of Usain Bolt edging Justin Gatlin in the 100 meter dash by a couple of chest hairs.  


I am grateful to Ben and Radmir and Jeff for the stiff competition.  While the Namib Desert Race of 2021 was one of the smaller races in the series, I feel that the sharp end of the race was as competitive as any.  Every stage, I was out there, trying to chase someone down.  The race was still up for grabs going into the long march, and I am thankful my legs felt good that day.


But the Namib Race, like any of the RacingThePlanet Stage Races, is about much much more than how fast a guy (or gal) can run.  Every competitor is facing down their own fears, and writing their own story of struggle and conquest.  And the the longer a competitor is out on the course, the hotter the sand gets, and the harder the struggle.  Friendships grow on the trail and in camp, camaraderie forms, and the individual becomes part of a larger body moving forward every day.  Laughter around the fire pit at night helps put to bed the aches from the day’s journey and prepare for what is coming the next morning.


One night we were huddled around a table sharing stories and a hunk of cheese that Max no longer felt like carrying (god bless you Max, it was the best taste of food I had all week).  One of the local drivers walked by and proclaimed amazement at the nationalities represented.  He said, “Look! There’s a Brit, a German, a Russian, an American, a guy from Belgium (Olivier is actually Dutch) and an Israeli (at first he said, and a Jew, but after an awkward pause, followed by Eyal’s laughter, he corrected himself).  Someone said we were practically the United Nations, and our driver uttered a few expletives about the UN and then, gesturing at our table, indicated that, “This, this here is what the world needs.”


And maybe our driver has a point.  Maybe the world’s leaders need to get together around a campfire after spending the day crossing 40 kilometers of desert on foot, with the prospect of another 40 kilometers the next day. And the next.  Then, maybe, just maybe they could focus on a unified approach to the problems human beings have brought to our little planet as opposed to their individual political agendas.  Call me a dreamer.


And I’m almost home.  Thank you for sharing this amazing journey with me.  I’m going to lay low for a few days.  Hang out in the woods with the dogs.  And figure out what comes next.
















Comments: Total (7) comments

Marisa Rodriguez

Posted On: 18 Feb 2022 06:12 pm

Robert, I have been watching Jeff's documentary in preparation for my Namib Race in a couple of months and I was so inspired by your story. Your blog posts are equally beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing and congratulations on conquering your Namib Race!

Brian Sipp

Posted On: 08 Nov 2021 09:19 pm

Its been so much fun reading your blog. I didn't fully appreciate that you were such a secret badass! Enjoy your hard earned R&R, hope to see you guys again soon.

Hubert Ripley

Posted On: 08 Nov 2021 02:05 am

Congrats Robert! You are truly an inspiration. We have all enjoyed following the race and can't wait for you next adventure!

Michael McLeod

Posted On: 07 Nov 2021 09:03 pm

Congratulations Rob, It has been fun following your blogs and cheering you on from across the globe. Way to go, you give us inspiration. Enjoy your trip home and rest well in Bend. Mike and Kelly

Samantha Fanshawe

Posted On: 07 Nov 2021 06:45 pm

I can't argue with anything you have written here - the sharp end of the field was super strong, the race is about more than just running in the desert, the word would be a different place if the world leaders spent more time challenging the desert and Radmir's name does not have an extra vowel. You did absolutely amazingly and I loved seeing you along the course and at camp running so strong and embracing the camaraderie. I can't believe you wrote this from London (100 miles down the road from me). Next time you'll have to come and stay.

Linda Lawrence

Posted On: 07 Nov 2021 11:39 am

Congratulations Rob! And to all runners. You are an inspiration and love your solution to world peace.

Teresa Ripley

Posted On: 07 Nov 2021 04:49 am

Congrats !! What an amazing accomplishment!! Rock on… astounding…

31 October 2021 05:15 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Stage 5! The Long March!


So the long march was 2 days ago, but they couldn’t get the computers up at camp yesterday.  So for the sake of the blog I will forget that I have had a shower and several beers as well as another short stage.  And I will do my best to recollect the simultaneous beauty and agony of the long march.


The sun was already peeking out of the clouds when we left on Stage 5, so it looked like it was going to be a scorcher.  A lone jackal surveilled us from the ridge as we left camp.  I took it as a good omen, that there was life in the desert, even if the jackal was probably trying to figure out if we’d be carrion anytime soon.


Frode and Liss led out again, closely followed by myself, Ben, Jeff and Mabasa.  We could see what looked like a small hazy mountain range in the distance, and we had been told that checkpoint 2 was on the peak with the tower.  But first we had to cover 10km of open desert with variable sand and some rolling hills.  As usual the landscape was breathtaking, or maybe that was just trying to keep up with the Norwegians.


Liss, Frode and Mabasa took a longer stop at checkpoint 2, so Jeff led out at a good clip.  I had taken a nature break before the checkpoint, so I trailed out.  Jeff had an agenda for the long march.  He had to make up 30 minutes on Radimir to get on the podium, so he was trying to drop Radimir early.  Radimir had not had the best night and was looking a little peaked at breakfast.  But he hung on valiantly.  The next bit took us up some gradual climbs of shiny sand to some large holes in the ground where at one time they were quarrying marble.   And then there was the long grind up the hill (mountain) to checkpoint 2.  Being a grinder, I slowly chugged up the grade and arrived at Riitta’s checkpoint out front.  Carlos had promised a jaw dropping view of the ocean, but the morning fog was still in place, so we couldn’t really see the sea.  But the view was amazing and expansive, and didn’t make me feel remotely close to my destination.


I was worried that we would have to continue higher onto the rocky trails up to communications tower, but fortunately Riitta pointed to a sandy chute descending behind her, she yelled “Be careful!”, as I passed through.  I slid down the first chute without too much difficulty, but then I passed a discarded chemical toilet, which may have been a harbinger as the rest of the descent scared the crap out of me.  For a couple of hundred meters we bounced between sand chutes and huge boulders with 10-15 foot falls if you missed the flags that Carlos had left to guide you to little ledges to navigate around the drops.


Jeff came bounding by me like the experienced mountain runner he is, followed by Ben.  Radimir caught up with me just as things leveled out into a rock pile and he gave me the thumbs up as we looked out onto the flat to see Jeff and Ben about a half km off in the distance.


Radimir and I ran off into open desert punctuated by sparse vegetation and the occasional roller.  The sand was soft enough for a little give, but solid enough to push off—ideal running for me.  Radimir gradually fell back as I tried to make up the gap with the guys in front.


By checkpoint 3, at the road crossing, after having to crawl through a meter high tunnel under the railroad tracks, I was back with Jeff and Ben.  


For the next 20 kilometers we ran over a mind blowing variety of open desert, generally gradually downhill with some rolling terrain.  We ran through soft sand, harder sand with pebbles and some compacted aggregate of small pieces of quartz that was packed to the consistency of concrete.  For a kilometer or so we ran up and down over black mounds of shale that protruded up from the sand like the back of a serpent.  The sun was blazing on us, but the wind from the Atlantic Ocean became progressively stronger, keeping us from over heating.


At checkpoint 4, Ken had a surprise for us.  A relatively cold can of Coke!  After 4 hours of tepid lemon lime electrolyte drink, the brown syrupy goodness went down like a magic elixir.  I chugged most of the can and dumped the remainder into my bottle of scratch.


After checkpoint 4 we wound our way into a river bed and some softer sand and then in and out of what I think they call a sand mine.  (I’m not sure what sand is mined for, but if you need sand, Namibia appears the place to get it.)


We came into checkpoint 5 (the “overnight” checkpoint, with hot water and a place to sleep for a few hours) just a little early for dinner.  I asked Samantha if my bath was ready, and one of her volunteers brought over a teapot... I told him I didn’t think I’d fit.


Somehow I managed to transit through the checkpoint a few seconds faster than Ben and Jeff and I found myself momentarily alone on a sandy track headed for the twin black shale hills (Black Mountain?) in the distance. I was alone long enough to run the scenarios in my head: continue at our even pace and wait for them to catch up, or, put the hammer down and see who still had game.  I chose the latter.  The first question, of course, was, did I have game?  We’d been running for 5 hours, and over 200km in the last 5 days, so the old legs were feeling an unprecedented level of fatigue, but when I asked for a 9 minute mile, they said yes.  Game on.


For the next few miles Ben and Jeff hung on just a hundred meters back, but inch by inch I slowly opened the gap.  I just about missed the flags going up into the saddle of Black Mountain, but caught it and pushed up what would be the last climb of the day.


From the top I could see an expanse of shimmering white sand with dunes and the ocean in the distance.  I could see the Swakop River off to my right. I knew that Camp 6 and the day’s finish was in the dunes.  It looked like a long way off.


I dropped back down to the River and visited Sarah at checkpoint 6, and then the course headed towards a highway overpass a few kilometers distant.  At the overpass I got to run on pavement for a couple of hundred meters.  I have to admit it felt kind of nice to run on a stable flat surface for a while.  Sam was on the overpass with words of enthusiastic encouragement (and to keep me from playing in traffic)!


And while this race was transpiring, another race was going on out of my view.  Nancy had spent the night at the O.R. Tambo  Airport in Johannesburg because Airlink wouldn’t take her Covid test.  After her overnight Covid test failed to materialize, she had taken a rapid PCR that morning and barely caught the only flight to Walvis Bay.  Her driver drove her to the border of the dunes where one of the race 4x4s came to rendezvous.  I had told her that the soonest I would finish the long day was 4pm (as I was expecting an 80km day and it turned out to be about 70km).  As it turns out she made it to the finish line about 30 minutes before I came in just before 3pm.  The thought came into my head, what if she misses the finish because I was trying too hard.  Would she be angry?  The course wound it’s way through some lesser dunes and I could see the flags, then hear the drums, then the finish came into view and Nancy was standing there!  Relief flooded over me, we had both made it.


One of the local girls did the victory dance that I was too tired to perform and I got a long anticipated hug from Nancy.

Jeff came in a few minutes later, followed by Ben.  Radimir came in about twenty minutes later after struggling on his own for over 5 hours.  He was able to hold on to his lead over Jeff in the overall race standings by 5 minutes.

All in all, an amazing day. A beautiful desert. Stiff competition. The longest distance I had ever run. And the love of my life waiting at the finish.


Comments: Total (7) comments

Mabasa Mubatapasango

Posted On: 09 Nov 2021 10:05 am

Hey Rob, Enjoyed reading this..Can't wait to read your book.

Adam Ripley

Posted On: 04 Nov 2021 03:42 am

Congrats Rob! My dad had been sending me updates throughout your week, and it's been awesome to hear all the good news. Really, really inspiring stuff.

Mabasa Mubatapasango

Posted On: 02 Nov 2021 05:55 pm

Dr Rob, Congratulations!!!!!! You're a legend bro. I am glad to have shared both the same volunteering race and course. #Respect

Ignatius De Nigel

Posted On: 01 Nov 2021 11:26 pm

You da (Crow) man! We are hoisting a few to celebrate over on Big Island. Recover well and don’t race the lions.

Michael Bouska

Posted On: 01 Nov 2021 11:20 pm

Ho-Ly-Crap. I got the email 4 days ago that you had a blog. I opened it today to find that you've run a few hundred miles through the desert in that time! Congratulations, friend. A drink on me sometime after you get back.

Karen Wei

Posted On: 01 Nov 2021 03:20 am

Dr CHAMP!!!!! Wow what a race, what a week, what a legend you are. I've loved laughing my way through your week via your blog, I'll miss all your write-ups leading to the start line and then leading to the finish line. No doubt you are enjoying R & R, so well deserved!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 31 Oct 2021 06:31 pm

Rob! I was so excited to see your blog. We knew you won but we were anxiously waiting for the details. Congratulations on your finish! So glad Nancy arrived safely. What an accomplishment, we can’t wait to hear more. Enjoy a little down time and safe travels back to Bend!! Cheers! Kelley & Larry

27 October 2021 09:48 pm (GMT+01:00) West Central Africa

Stage 4!  Out of the Canyons and into the Desert!
Last night was good to me.  I was a little worried about being dehydrated, so I was pounding the water right up until bedtime.  Which meant I was peeing every few hours, but I still managed at least 9 hours of sleep.  There were raindrops on the tent off and on during the night and a few raindrops as we got set to run. I got out my rain jacket and was happy to find that it was able to fend off at least 6 solid raindrops.
The Norwegians (Frode and Liss) were eager to run, and they led us out of camp.  The first 4km were kind of the same stuff as the end of yesterday's course:  soft rocky sand, uphill with difficult footing.  As we topped out, I found the better line of good running surface and took over the lead, trying to maintain a sustainable pace.  But some of the other runners had other ideas for the day!
We crossed a main road and then the railroad and at checkpoint 1 we came up against a fence and turned left (southwest?). The fence went on for what seemed like miles.  Not sure if there were livestock out there.  It doesn't seem like there would be much for them to eat.  They would probably know about the poisonous milk plant.  Ben took over the lead and put in a good push for a kilometer or so, and then Jeff took over the lead and Radimir chased him.  They pushed it pretty hard as we broke free of the fence and turned northwest into the open desert.
Radimir and Jeff opened up a sizeable gap on us, and I was happy to let them duke it out, but Ben had other plans.  Coming up on checkpoint 3 he upped his pace and closed the gap down.  At this point we were in the untracked desert with packed sand with a fine rocky coating and rolling hills broken up by occasional trees and jutting rock formations.  Leaving checkpoint 3, nineteen miles into today's adventure, Ben threw down an 8 minute mile.  It took me by surprise and I had to dig pretty deep to keep from being left in the dust.  Apparently it was a bit much for Jeff and Radimir, as they dropped off.  Fortunately, Ben wasn't going to keep that pace until the finish.
In the distance we could see hills that looked blue.  As we got closer we ran over chunks of blue quartz.  It turns out that they mine aquamarine near here.  I guess they also mine uranium around here as well, hopefully at a safe distance.
Ben and I ran the last few kilometers together, but I was able to open up a small gap on the last couple of hills.
And there it is.  Tomorrow is the long day.  Carlos says its about 70 kilometers.  We will be heading downhill and back to the ocean.  Reportedly there is a small mountain in the way...  Things are still pretty close between Ben and myself.  I am hoping to maintain my lead, but anything could happen out there.  I am hoping to make it in before dark.  I am hoping that Nancy gets into Walvis Bay in time to make it to the finish line (apparently there was a snag in her travel in that her NAAT Covid test didn't say PCR on it, even though the test is basically a more accurate  form of testing than the basic PCR), so she is having to spend an extra night at the Johannesburg Air[port.  My thoughts are with her.  As well as on the task at hand.
Time to get a few more calories in before dark!  Wish me luck.

Comments: Total (26) comments

Barb Echo

Posted On: 30 Oct 2021 10:20 am

Congratulations Rob!!! It’s the middle of the night here but I had to wake up and see how you did. Way to go! What an accomplishment. You are amazing!

Evan L

Posted On: 30 Oct 2021 03:59 am

Yea Ripley! You got this! Keep crushing!

Fanny Hollingshead

Posted On: 29 Oct 2021 10:47 pm

What a crazy and amazing race and you got this every single training is pay of keep pushing go Robert go !!

Mark Curry

Posted On: 29 Oct 2021 09:55 pm

Ripley you are unstoppable- hoping for a smooth and swift landing for you in the race

Mike McLeod

Posted On: 29 Oct 2021 03:05 am

Keep pushing Rob. You got this!

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 11:51 pm

So it looks like you nailed "the long march" my friend. Holy moly, five down, one to go. Sending good vibes to you and Nancy. Stay strong.

Liz Ledger

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 07:36 pm

Rob this is so exciting and so inspiring!!! Me and the boys are cheering you on and following your progress over here in the UK!!! Keep going you legend!! Liz, Toby, Henry, Sam and Arthur xxxxx

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 06:16 pm

Rob!!!! You animal!!! You won the Long Day!!! Also..Nancy isn't stuck in Johannesburg getting repetitive brain biopsies to ensure she doesn't have COVID for the hundredth time! So much to be happy about! You are an absolute beast and I am so proud of you! F*^@ cancer indeed! You've turned Nancy, Cassandra and I into Ripper Fan Girls. We will need special t-shirts at the next race!!!!!

Drew Kadel

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 05:46 pm

Congrats Rob! I see you won the Long March as well, but haven't blogged yet. Rest well and give Nancy a kiss from me! Drew

Drew Kadel

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 05:46 pm

Congrats Rob! I see you won the Long March as well, but haven't blogged yet. Rest well and give Nancy a kiss from me! Drew

Jamie McAllister

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 04:02 pm

Rob!! You won!!! You made history in our lives on many levels. This week has been rich with your beautiful words, your thoughts, your strategy, your gratitude and your downright grit and determination. We celebrate for you and us. This was so much more than winning a race!! You won hearts. Congratulations!!! From Ray and Jamie


Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 03:39 pm

Good luck Dr. Rob! I remember you running like the wind a couple years back during this race . I was volunteering. Somehow you had time to tend to the runners and in between shifts you would take off like the Road Runner and charge the dunes . You go!! Best !!

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 02:31 pm

Go, Robert, go! I wish I could say I'm with you in spirit but even my spirit doesn't want me to take up ultra-marathons at 60! You've got way more spirit and you've got this race!! I'm with Nancy in spirit and would love to be there to cheer you on at the finish line!

Becky and Jim Fee Campbell

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 01:24 pm

We love reading your blog. Rooting for you Rob. Today’s a LONG day. We are astounded by your commitment and stamina all while maintaining your sense of humor! Go ROB

Mark Mobley

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 01:05 pm

Rob, Wow awesome to see your in front. Best of luck! Mark and Susan

Penny Minges

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 04:41 am

Go Rob! You are a rock star ! In awe of your performance out there. In awe of your 9 hours of sleep, as well. Hehe All the very best to you as you get it done. We r thrilled for you!! Penny, Tim and Ben Minges (Gobi ‘11)

Cassandra Lee

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 04:19 am

Go Rob go! You got this. You are amazing! Strong work! Keep it up! Brian and I are cheering you on and beating the drum from California.

Julie Hansen

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 04:01 am

Robert you are just plain amazing. Now I just feel sorry for everyone else

Zeana Haroun

Posted On: 28 Oct 2021 03:38 am

Way to go Rob, you are incredible. I love reading your blog and look at your giving the guys a proper competition at the top. Amazing. I am sure you will smash the Long March and I can't wait to follow the updates as I get them. Go go go!!!

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 07:56 pm

Rob you're so amazing!!! You've got this - Geoff and I are cheering you on.

Barb Echo

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 07:45 pm

Rob, you are doing so amazing. Absolutely crushing it. I hiked 8 miles in the Arizona desert today (75degreesF). So, I’m having a pizza & beer to congratulate you but not me. I hope you sleep and recover well. Tomorrow’s distance sounds challenging. But hey, looks like you’re ready. Daveena says “WOW”!

Jeff Ripley

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 07:26 pm

Keep pushing... you got this!

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 07:01 pm

The Long March is finally here! You got this- keep pushing , keep running. You have had a great race so far- you are amazing. I will be there to cheer you on at camp 6!!

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 06:57 pm

Wow, just wow. Very impressive my friend. Good luck on the long day, stay strong, sending good thoughts. C

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 06:47 pm

Rob - the long day sounds fun! :) You will do awesome, you're killing it! Get a good rest tonight and I'm sure Nancy will arrive to see you. We will have double beers tonight to cheer for the long day. Ha Ha! You can dream about a good beer when this is all over. Best of luck tomorrow! Kelley and Larry

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 06:20 pm

Yikes! I hope you get more sleep than Dr Nan! Sounds like a Tom Hanks movie. Good luck on your long day... I'm sure that ocean will be a welcome sight for all. Cheers! jr

26 October 2021 10:19 pm (GMT+01:00) West Central Africa

 Stage 3.  Done and Dusty!
Slept better last night.  Probably 9 hours (with 2 potty breaks).  So I felt better as I got my kit on, grabbed 1000calories of Expedition Foods strawberries and porridge, and got warmed up.  (Warming up consists of hanging my bottom over one of the fire pits!)
Today's adventure was 45km (about 28 miles) running up the Khan River valley.  If you looked at your feet the terrain was pretty monotonous.  Sand.  More sand.  Crinkled mud flats.  Bushes.  But if you looked around you we were in a stunning valley of amazing rock formations.  At one point there were brown and white swirled layerings that could have passed for fudge ripple ice cream.  But you needed to pay attention to your feet, otherwise you would trip over an embedded rock or a dip in the stream bed.  Also, there is the constant game to find the best line over the best packed bit of sand!
We were running upriver (even though no water is flowing this time of year), so we were constantly running uphill, gradually.  The Norwegians, Frode and Liss, took the sharp end of the race this morning.  They set a blistering pace into checkpoint 1.  But their checkpoint ritual was more complicated that some of the other races and I followed Ben and Radimir out of the checkpoint.  Ben seemed to want to run, and soon he disappeared up the valley.  Radimir and I ran together for some time.  We had a nice detour (quite steep, thanks Carlos!!) up to the rocky ridge and back down to the valley.  Radimir gradually dropped back. and then I was left to my own devices.
Stage 3, among other things, was the stage of poisonous plant.  The milk plant.  Apparently the milk from the plant is toxic and will kill you if you swallow it (or if you get shot with a bushman's arrow tipped in it).  And if you rub up against it you will get a painful blistering rash.  Unfortunately no one was able to show me a picture of this dangerous thing I was trying to avoid.  So for 45km I tried not to rub up against any plants.  
After checkpoint 3, Ben came in to view upriver and gradually came back to me.  We had another diversion up the ridge as well as a rocky doorway between two giant boulders.  And then things got really hot.  And we turned off into a steeper, narrower canyon.  For the last 5km the pitch jacked up and the footing became more tenuous than any we have seen this week.  It was a rock and sand mix that I just could get a good footplant in.  I was reduced to a death shuffle.  But Ben decided he was going to walk for awhile, so I was again left alone to the voices in my head.  They were saying that this is crazy stuff and you're probably going to drop over at any minute.
But I maintained the death shuffle for a couple more miles.  Upped my drinking from my usual drink every mile to drinking every few minutes.  And there, around the corner of the canyon was the camp and the finish line!  I've been coming to these races for 10 years but now I have the racer's appreciation for just how exhilarating it feels to round a bend and see the flags flying and the drum drumming!

Comments: Total (14) comments

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 05:38 pm

Well well...look who should be on the cover of Mountain Runner now!!! Rob the Ripper is killing it! I can't believe you now love the drum...THE DRUM. I'm pretty sure I've been tasked with finding and hiding the drum whenever I've been placed at Camp! If you need a new voice in your head for can imagine me trying to catch you to practice my blind nasal intubation skills =) Keep it up buddy!!!

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 04:48 pm

Another great day Rob! Way to persevere… Stay strong for the long March… I will see you at camp 6 finish!!! GO ROB GO!

John Ripley

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 02:49 pm

Excellent Bro!! Is age really just a number? Your are extraordinary. Hope your feeling strong so as to destroy the long march

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 02:14 pm

Robert! Way to go again. Just getting up on this side of the globe and you're recovering winning from Stage 4. Who would of thunk one of those Ripley boys from Pleasant Drive out in suburban Anchorage would strolling around Namibia in a pair of giant Hoka's? Keep it up! Jay

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 02:13 pm

Robert! Way to go again. Just getting up on this side of the globe and you're recovering winning from Stage 4. Who would of thunk one of those Ripley boys from Pleasant Drive out in suburban Anchorage would strolling around Namibia in a pair of giant Hoka's? Keep it up! Jay

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 02:13 pm

Robert! Way to go again. Just getting up on this side of the globe and you're recovering winning from Stage 4. Who would of thunk one of those Ripley boys from Pleasant Drive out in suburban Anchorage would strolling around Namibia in a pair of giant Hoka's? Keep it up! Jay

Bev Brammer

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 06:51 am

As I write this you will have already begun Day 4 so I can imagine you sitting in the cyber tent later reading this. I'm sure you will have smashed another day - hopefully more running and not too much shuffling! (Carlos has a lot to answer for!) Now tick the Long March off.... you've got this in the bag..... and then you'll hear the banging of the drum. Sleep well - cut it down to one potty break maybe? Awesome running doc!

Paul and Julie Hansen

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 06:01 am

Outstanding Rob! We love hearing about it. Sounds like a great adventure. We’ll be with you in spirit in those uphills tomorrow. Keep making tracks

Zeana Haroun

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 05:26 am

You are amazing Rob - way to keep your lead strong and steady. I am impressed. I've got my whole family following along - you remember meeting Rania (my sister), Evan (her husband) and Andrew (my husband) in Sunriver a few years ago?? I keep giving the the full details of everything going on and they are cheering for you. Random question, do you know a pharmacist named Matt? He works in the ER at the only big hospital in Bend, Rania thinks you guys might know each other. Anyways, just a little thing from the outside world to think about. Keep it up!!! Seems everything you have been planning for the last three years is exactly what needs to be done.

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 27 Oct 2021 12:49 am

Way to persevere C-Man! Hope you avoid the bushmen and the plant life and get another nite's decent rest. Cheers Braddah! Ig

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 11:52 pm

Rob - your death shuffle does not sound fun! You continue to amaze us. We're hoisting a beer tonight in your honor in Bend. Best of luck tomorrow and rest well! Kelley and Larry

Becky Campbell

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 10:40 pm

Wow Rob. Cheers to you. Really amazing following and reading up on the race. Congratulations and good luck tomorrow.

John Ripley

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 09:31 pm

Killed another stage! I know your fierceness, yet you continue to amaze me. Good luck in long stage.

Drew Kadel

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 08:40 pm

Congrats Rob! Rest well, and hydrate well. Good luck tomorrow. Drew

25 October 2021 09:16 pm (GMT+01:00) West Central Africa

Stage 2 completed! (spoiler alert, the old guy is no longer in first...)

Last night at the ostriche farm was not my best night.  I just couldn't seem to get comfortable, or figure out which end of the tent was highest.  So I only got a few hours of sleep in fits and starts in between trips to the porta-potty.  But that's one of great things about getting older.  A good night's sleep is usually followed by a crappy one.  But I was warm, well fed and fully hydrated, so I really can't complain (although sometimes I still do).

Yesterday I mentioned that camp 2 was situated in an amphitheatre of jagged rocky peaks.  Beautiful at sunset.  This morning it dawned on me.  Hmmm.  How do we get out?  It turns out we went up the dry waterfall.  "Nothing technical" was what Carlos had to say about the route.  And I suppose, given that we didn't need to pound in any pitons, it wasn't technical.  But it was quite the class 4 scramble.  I topped out the ridge after some very inelegant crawling on my hands and knees and more than a little whimpering.  And I got to watch Ben and Radmir bounding down the ridge like a couple of ibex.  Really, it should have been a cover for Mountain Runner magazine.  My descent was even more clumsy than my ascent and several more racers passed me.  But finally we found our way into Moon Valley and some stable footing. 
Moon Valley was quite impressive, giant rocks emerging from the sands. I ran with Mabasa for awhile and then Jeff for a bit.   Checkpoint 1 was perched high on a rock outcrop.  From there I could see 2 runners a long, long ways in the distance.  Over the next 10km we wound our way through desert canyons, occasionally straying into narrow trails up to the ridge and into another canyon.  All amazingly beautiful,  and a lot of work.  I caught up with Ben as we approached Checkpoint 2.  Ben and I ran together on and off for the remainder of the day.
I was having some difficulty locating the pink flags that guide our way through the desert.  Generally I would space out and  then look up to find no pink on the horizon.  Fortunately, Ben was on top of things so I didn't get too far off course.
Ben and I finished together in about 4 hours.  By which time Radmir was in his jammies.
Camp 3 is in the Khan (?) River valley in a little oasis with trees and monkeys and black streaked brown rock outcroppings jutting around us.  It's good to be here.-------------------------------------------------

Comments: Total (19) comments

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 05:18 pm

Nice stage 3 Crowman! BTW I wouldn't eat the Welwitchia, but the female Nara plant produces melons which are tasty if you see one! Fond memories of the melon vendors during RAGBRAI.

Fanny Hollingshead

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 04:59 pm

Wow amazing Robert you got this I love to read you blog I can wait for next one!

Becky and Jim Campbell

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 03:06 pm

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 03:02 pm Hi Rob We are following closely from home and no surprise to see you out front. What an incredible race and know we are thinking about you and cheering you on. Even the ponies and pups miss you on the trails. Keep up the great work and congratulations!!!! Becky and Jim

Kristine Lund

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 11:07 am

Hi Rob! So amazed, impressed and inspired by both your writing and physical and mental strenght! Following your further journey with great interest. Keep on running, climbing, fighting...

Ben Fox

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 07:09 am

I was there 2 years ago Rob I remember the terrain well, it is brutal and unforgiving but so worth the effort. Awesome performance keep on putting on foot in front of the other

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 05:19 am

Simply incredible Rob. You are inspiring so many people. Keep going. There are some fantastic pictures of you. Go, go, go. Hats off to Nancy for letting you out of her sight!

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 05:01 am

Don't stop to smell the Welwitschia, you've got a race to run! We're expecting nothing less than victory! (Victory = making it home from Namibia and raising money for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) Go Robert!

Karen Wei

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 03:46 am

Just so damn impressed, Dr Rob! Can't believe how you're giving these young dudes a good run for their money. Keep it up and make us 50-ish year olds proud! Allez allez! Gambatte! go Go GO!!!!

Zeana Haroun

Posted On: 26 Oct 2021 01:45 am

Awesome Rob! You are doing great. I hope slept well tonight but in the end it doesn't matter, you'll smash this.

Drew Kadel

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 11:23 pm

Rest well and run well tomorrow. (I hope you're asleep now and read this after a good third leg tomorrow).

Ralph Malone

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 10:15 pm

I hope your night was restful and you are fed and hydrated. You got this!

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 09:19 pm

Nice job Rob, you got this! I'm loving your blogs and have shared with a few others. Good luck tomorrow and rest well!

Pearlly Ng

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 09:07 pm

You've got this Rob!!! Sleep well and rest up! Wish I could be there to cheer you on in person but we'll celebrate in Mongolia?! You're such a star!

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 08:59 pm

Get some sleep and CRUSH IT tomorrow!! You’re doing great!

John Ripley

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 08:31 pm

All my people are following and wishing you the best. Ripper Strong Bro!

Barb Echo

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 08:27 pm

I’ve got my whole family, Malones and @DanfronNam (from Girona) cheering you on. You are doing amazing despite how tough it is. Stay strong and sleep well!!

Jeff Ripley

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 08:09 pm

Get a good night's sleep tonight! Stay strong!

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 08:00 pm

Nice work Crow! Hope you get some nice rest and you can keep the monkeys out of your stroganoff. Keep it up man!

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 08:00 pm

Nice work Crow! Hope you get some nice rest and you can keep the monkeys out of your stroganoff. Keep it up man!

24 October 2021 03:20 pm (GMT+01:00) West Central Africa

So my pre-race Covid test was negative and Sam came and got me and I was blindfolded and taken to an undisclosed location.  Just kidding!  We were transported to Camp 1 on the shores of the Swakopmund River.  The camp was lovely and parked beneath some interesting rock formations.  And it was a little windy.  Per the wildly circulating rumors, Carlos the course director was out frantically changing the course to a location where the wind wouldn't blow the pink flags on which our lives depend away.  the wind died down the first night but returned with a vengeance on Saturday, gusting to over 30mph.  The sand blew up under the fly of my tent and filtered down through the mesh, coating everything I had with sparkly bits of the Namib.  I must admit I was feeling a little downhearted as I crawled into my gritty sleeping bag.  I was wishing that I was still back at the Strand Hotel and I could call housekeeping to come and change my linens.  But I was able to get 10 hours of sleep (interrupted by my old-guy bladder a few times) and I felt good in the morning and was able to get into my running kit without getting too much sand into the wrong places.
After the requisite briefing and the camp staff's beautiful singing of the Namibian National Anthem, we were off.  The pack was riding well (my pack weighed in just over 6kg and was reportedly the lightest in the field) and the legs felt good and then about a kilometer up the river we hit the mud....   Carlos must have read my blog posting about my shoe choice of the Hoka Carbon X which has essentially no tread.  Because, as I mentioned, I wasn't expecting mud in the Atacama, or the Namib.  So for about a kilometer I was flopping around like Bambi on Ice.  I managed to completely soak my right foot and spray mud all over, but, thankfully I remained upright.  And for the next few kilometers we followed the Swakop River in moderately loose sand with a few deviations into a Motocross track (fortunately, no motorcycles were up yet).
Early on, Ben came by me running 8:30 miles.  I ran with him just long enough to clock him and realize that was way to fast, so I let him go.  And then I ran with Mabasa for a while.  By Checkpoint 1 I was on my own.  At checkpoint 2 I could see another runner behind me, but couldn't make out who he was..
After Checkpoint 2 we turned off the river for awhile and did several long grinding climbs.  I could see Ben way up in the distance and he was moving well, but very gradually he came back to me.  We exchanged the lead a couple of times with Ben passing me on the downhills and me moving ahead on the climbs.
The scenery was nothing short of breathtaking (and it wasn't just me struggling to breath on the climbs), with jagged slabs of striated rock jutting out of the sands.  Everywhere I looked on the ground there was quartz and other shiny things that in any other circumstance I would have been picking things up and putting them in my pockets.  But I restrained my urges and pushed on.  And then we dropped back to the river and pulled into an amphiteatre of volcanic rock and the old Goanikontes Ostrich farm..  Absolutely stunning.
And Ben was still a bit behind me when I hit the farm, so I finished Stage 1 in first place.  Of course, there are 5 more Stages.  I think the critical thing will be how the legs feel in the morning.  
I would say the ratio of type 1 to type 2 fun was roughly 50:50 today.  Hopefully we can maintain this ratio!  I am thankful to be here in this beautiful country, healthy enough to run through it.  And I am thankful for everyone's support.  Wish me luck for stage 2!  I'm off to find more calories and some recovery tights.

Comments: Total (12) comments

john clark

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 03:50 am

I read once that a person should either write about something worth doing, or do something worth writing about. you are doing a fantastic job of both. equally impressed with your writing as well as running talent. Hope your legs continue to do as well as your brain. They are connected, in ways not fully understood. Look forward to the stage 2 post. great job Rob!

Mike McLeod

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 03:23 am

Go Rob! We are rooting for you!

Mike McLeod

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 03:23 am

Go Rob! We are rooting for you!

Mike McLeod

Posted On: 25 Oct 2021 03:23 am

Go Rob! We are rooting for you!

Nancy Kadel

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 08:42 pm

Fantastic Rob!!! Just keep running, just keep running….xoxoxo stay strong!!!

Jeff Ripley

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 07:03 pm

Great effort Robert! Thanks for interesting posts… keep them coming. Good luck in stage 2!

Jay Van Alstine

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 06:17 pm

Go Robert! I've been keeping the other 1/2 of your Jewel Lake fan club up to date on your travels/travails! Moira and I were less surprised by you sweeping the field than others might be! 🥇Jay

Carl Botterud

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 05:53 pm

Well done my friend. Stay strong, pulling for you!

Cassandra Lee

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 05:21 pm

Go Rob, go! Well done and strong work for your first day! I hope you continue the ratio of type 1-2 fun. We’ll be cheering you on all along the way. Woo hoo. Well done. Jia yeow.

Barb Echo

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 03:13 pm

Rob, how awesome. You’ve worked so long and hard to get where you are. You made your own history today. Way to go.

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 03:09 pm

Go Rob!! You’re off to a great start! Cheering you on!

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 24 Oct 2021 02:35 pm

Go Crow Go! Keep your spirits high, your fun ratio even, and enjoy your adventure. We are thinking about you. Cheers! Ig

21 October 2021 04:37 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Good morning Swakopmund!


After some frantic packing, a precariously timed COVID test (thankfully negative), and over 40 hours of travel, I have arrived in Swakopmund, Namibia.  Happy to be here. Really happy. 

I used to be able to sleep on airplanes.  One of the many things I could do when I was thirty that escape me now.  Fortunately I was able to get some solid sleep last night.  Until 4am.  

But I’m feeling pretty good now after a little jog on the beach.

My task this morning is to get my freeze drieds and powders moved over from their heavy original packing to lighter, more packable plastic.

I am thankful that all my race gear and food made it here intact.  (Although the multiple packages of powder stoked the suspicion of several TSA officers, the one in Bend swabbed almost every packet for explosive residue).  But it could have been worse.  One of the volunteers was transporting freeze dried food for a couple of racers and his bag was impounded by Namibian customs officials.  Last I heard he was being levied with duties equal to roughly half of the cost of the food!

 I am also happy to report that all my food and stuff fit in my 25 liter race vest (with a small front pack).  Somehow it feels heavier than I imagined.  

The last final hurdle is another COVID test this evening.  If that’s negative, then I can go out to Camp 1 tomorrow afternoon.  Just in time for forecasted high winds!  Should make for a peaceful night sleeping in a tent! 

Rumor has it that the potential for high winds has made Carlos rethink much of the course.  And the rumors seem to indicate that these changes are not going to make the run any easier.

But, maintaining ignorance has always worked well for me, so I figure it will be what it is and I’ll see it when I get there.


Through happy coincidence, I wound up sitting next to Jack Fierstadt on the flight to Walvis Bay.  Jack is a veteran of many RacingThePlanet ultras and a wealth of information and tales.  Jack also has the notoriety of being the only racer here older than I am. 

Anyway.  Hopefully I haven’t picked up any stray virions in my travels.  I have been so nervous about this COVID test that I wore a medical grade N95 mask for most of my hours of travel.  We will see if my paranoia pays off if tomorrow I find myself one step closer to the start of the race.  Wish me luck. 

Some of you have asked if I am doing any fundraising along with the madness.  And, as a matter of fact, yes, I am trying to raise money for patients undergoing cancer treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance  (which is where I received treatment for my NK cell lymphoma).

Feel free to help the cause.

Comments: Total (3) comments

john clark

Posted On: 23 Oct 2021 05:32 am

I don't think you have enough Springsteen on your music playlist. Mighty Max Weinberg on drums keeps my old legs moving, and the Boss's lyrics and authenticity inspire me to keep trying to do my little part to make life a little better for someone somewhere. My current Springsteen heavy running playlist has Roulette, and Meet me in the city as songs with a good beat. For pure hope and inspiration my favorite is Land of Hope and Dreams. Current running playlist also has the Killers "Somebody Told Me" and a nice happy little tune - "Anniversary Song" by Cowboy Junkies. There is no really good anecdote to wind, but loud music is a start.... Will be following and pulling for you from the dark, cold, opposite side of the planet. Best of luck!

Karen Wei

Posted On: 21 Oct 2021 10:46 pm

Rob, I don't know if you remember me from Antarctica 2016. I have SO enjoyed reading your blogs: hilarious, honest, informative and just plain enjoyable. So glad you have met Jack, he's a great desert buddy and we did Namibia together in 2015, as well as Jordan 2012 and Patagonia. I will be excitedly following both of you and sending through lots of strong and happy run/walk vibes and messages. Bon courage and have a safe & fun race! K xx

Karen Wei

Posted On: 21 Oct 2021 10:46 pm

Rob, I don't know if you remember me from Antarctica 2016. I have SO enjoyed reading your blogs: hilarious, honest, informative and just plain enjoyable. So glad you have met Jack, he's a great desert buddy and we did Namibia together in 2015, as well as Jordan 2012 and Patagonia. I will be excitedly following both of you and sending through lots of strong and happy run/walk vibes and messages. Bon courage and have a safe & fun race! K xx

10 October 2021 02:59 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

I may be crazy, but I think this race might actually happen, and I may actually be able to complete it.  Knock on wood.


Just a few more hoops to jump through:  I’m looking down the barrel of 40 hours of travel and dealing with British Airways changing my flights every few days, not to mention the Covid testing requirements of 4 sovereign nations.  I went and got a practice Covid test (it was negative!), and the turnaround time was under 24 hours, so if I time things right I may be able to pull off travel to Namibia with just one test.


Trainingwise, I’ve begun a hardcore taper.  When you are out plodding through the woods hour after hour until your feet bleed and your mind goes numb (or vice versa), the idea of a taper might sound really good to you.  But when you actually start the taper, you find yourself with all this extra energy and time and nothing to do with them.  You can only spend so many hours a day on the couch.

I’ve been taking some long walks with the dogs.  And getting our little ranch ready for winter.  And stressing about race details.  Should I wear the clip on front pack (it’s an extra 120gm, but the weight equalization makes the whole load more comfortable)?  What’s the best adhesive to glue the velcro for the gaiters onto my shoes (I’ve been using “shoe goo” with moderate success, but is there a better option)?  Am I going to have enough calories to survive the week?  (Fortunately, I have been gaining weight since starting the taper, so I should have a few extra calories stored in strategic places.)


I am thankful to have made it to this point healthy enough to compete in a race like this.  I am thankful that Nancy is putting up with me during this long process.  I wish all of my fellow competitors, as well as the race team, good health and safe travels.


See you in two weeks!

Comments: Total (2) comments

Bridgette Copeland

Posted On: 21 Oct 2021 02:24 am

Rob, it was a pleasure meeting you and Nancy and for you to open your home to us. It was wonderful to sit and talk and to get to know you both, the fur kids the indoor and the outdoor ones. We wish you the very best in your run and the very best to Nancy as well. Looks forward to reading about the adventures. Ed and Bridgette ( the mt. Bikers) friends of Brian and Cass

Zeana Haroun

Posted On: 11 Oct 2021 06:14 pm

Hi Rob! I am so excited to follow you during this race. You are going to do so well. It really is managing the paperwork and PCR tests before and after that are going to be challenge. Once you are there it will be a proper vacation :)

05 October 2021 06:46 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

When I first started thinking in earnest about running the Atacama Crossing Race it was 2019.  I was thinking that running this crazy desert race would be an appropriate challenge to commemorate 5 years cancer free.  I thought it would show that I had taken on the cancer (in my case, NK Cell Lymphoma) and come back stronger.  And I thought maybe I could raise some money for patients going through cancer treatment.  But I was worried that planning a celebration of 5 years cancer free before actually passing that date would be overly hubristic and tempting fate.  So I put the race off until 2020.  And the pandemic put that race off until 2021, and then 2022.  And now I am 3 weeks from the start of running the Namib Race as Plan B.  Last week, 7 years ago, I finished my 4th and final round of chemotherapy.


Somehow the grand gesture I had in mind has morphed into just another minor detour on the path to survival.


The past year has brought devastation and despair to humankind.  Healthcare systems have been overrun, millions of people have suffered and died, and loneliness and isolation have reigned.  In my own little part of the world, both of my parents died.  If not directly from Covid, the imposed isolation contributed to their demise.  Nancy, the love of my life, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and had to struggle to get treatment for her cancer while hospitals were cancelling "elective" procedures (like cancer surgery) due to the pandemic.


One of the competitors, on a race I served as medical director, said that he decided to run the race after googling “hardest thing a man can do” and what came up was a 4 Deserts multiday Ultra.  I haven’t tried this on Google.  And I haven’t run the race yet.  But I can tell you that the hardest thing I have done wasn’t an athletic event, or even going through radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. By far and away the hardest thing I have ever done was trying to be of any use to the person I love most as she was being treated for cancer.


When I started writing this blog, I thought I’d be highlighting my epic battle against cancer.  But now, with retrospect and insight gained over the past year, I’m coming to grips with the fact that there wasn’t really any epic battle.  I was just another guy doing what needed to be done because he didn’t like the consequences of not doing what needed to be done.  I am thankful for the cancer doctors and nurses and pharmacists and radiation technologists and nutritionists who knew their stuff and got things done for me.  And I am thankful for the love and support of my family and friends that carried me through the darker times.


Which brings me back to the fundraising thing.  It seems a little trite to be out pushing one charity over another right now in the face of all the need that is out there.  You know if you have any money to contribute, and you probably know a hundred places where that money could do some good.  I did start a GoFundMe page over a year ago.  It raises money to support patients who have to come and stay in Seattle to get specialized cancer treatment.  I do believe this is a good cause, especially now when cancer patients are having trouble getting the care they need due to overcrowding at the hospitals.  So, if you are in a position to make a donation, it would certainly be appreciated.  Or you could make a donation to your local cancer center.  If you are in Central Oregon, you could make a donation to the St. Charles Cancer Center (where Nancy is getting her care).  Or you could make a donation to TeamRivs and support another ultra runner, Tommy Rivers Buzey going through NK cell lymphoma.  Like I said, the need out there is huge, please find it in your hearts to support a cause you believe in.

Comments: Total (2) comments

Kelley Kadlecek

Posted On: 08 Oct 2021 07:51 pm

We will be cheering you on Rob from Bend! What an amazing experience and we will anxiously wait for all the cool details and pictures. Have fun! Kelley and Larry

Mary Gadams

Posted On: 06 Oct 2021 03:20 am

Thank you for this post, Rob. We are so happy you are past seven years, cancer free. We are all cheering for Nancy now. We have a dear friend battling many cancer hurdles at the moment. Good luck on the race. You will be in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

02 October 2021 08:35 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Nancy and I spent the last few days on the Oregon Coast.  In addition to fish and chips and the soothing sounds of breakers on the beach, I was there to practice running in the sand.  South of Florence and North of Coos Bay lies the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  It is, according to the website, “one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world.”  Sedimentary rock from the coastal range has been eroded into fine grains and washed out to sea by the rivers and then thrown back on land by the winds and the tides to form sand dunes.  In other words, there’s a lot of sand, and it has been sculpted into interesting and challenging shapes.

The Oregon coastal sand is of finer grain than how I remember Namibian sand.  And, since it has been raining on the coast, more damp.  These two factors mean that the sand is more compact, and, for the most part, easier to run on.  I was able to find sand that had been chopped up by foot traffic, horses, or dune buggies and this sand was softer and more unstable to run in.  And, as the dunes get steeper, the sand becomes less compact bringing on the familiar “one step forward, two steps back” phenomena known to desert runners.

So I was able to spend a couple of hours a day plodding across the sand, climbing carefully up the dunes and sliding down their backsides.  I worked on what I think my best sand stride is: quick tempo with a flatfooted strike. It’s still more work than running on a firm surface, but I think it’s doable.


I was a little worried that my chosen shoe, the Hoka Carbon X would be a little stiff for the sand, but they seem to handle the sand well.  And my Raidlight desert gaiters worked well to keep the sand out.


I’m looking forward to seeing the course and finding the surprises Carlos is going to throw at us.


Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 03 Oct 2021 11:00 am

This is brilliant preparation. While it's hard to fully replicate the Namib Desert dunes this gives you a great idea of them. Who knew there were such beautiful dunes in Oregon!

29 September 2021 04:24 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

With less than a month to go before the Namib Race, I thought it was time for tuneup race, so, this past weekend, I found myself running the Bend Beer Chase!  55 miles running in between multiple breweries in Central Oregon.  Fortunately, the Beer Chase is a relay, so I only had to run 2 legs (7 and 6 miles), which left me a bit of spare time to taste the beer samples.


Most of the relay teams were made up of 6 runners, but I only have 4 brothers, so we were forced to run the relay with only 5 runners.  Fortunately, I didn’t get stuck with the extra leg.  Another thing that set our team apart was an average age of nearly 59 and a running history dating back to the early 1970s.


After months of slogging through the woods with a pack trying to keep a 6 minute kilometer, it felt good to leave the pack behind and push the pace for a few miles.  According to Mr. Garmin, I managed to run my fastest 10km of the year.

And the team of brothers did pretty well too!  We finished just out of the top 10 (11th out of 113 teams) and second in the masters category. We managed an 8:10/mile average pace.  Not bad for a bunch of old guys!

                   Team Ripper: Crow, Iggy, Hu, Lars and Hans

After a year of loss and isolation, it was good to get together with my brothers and celebrate life in the best ways we know how—running down the road and hoisting a pint.  I am thankful that I have such good men as friends and brothers and that, despite our challenges we are all still healthy enough to tie our own trainers and get out and pound the pavement.




Comments: Total (1) comments

Sarah Horne

Posted On: 30 Sep 2021 10:22 am

Amazing Rob - Nice that you can share these moments with your family! What a great photo of the team - and a well deserved pint!

20 September 2021 01:31 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana



I won’t be carrying a charger in my pack, so my electronics will be somewhat limited.  I won’t be carrying my iPhone or a camera.

I will be wearing a Garmin Solar Instinct GPS watch.  Hopefully, with a little help from the sun, the battery will make it through the race. 


And I have found a small, 30gm, MP3 player that, on Amazon, claims to have a. 72 hour battery life (but, in actuality, has about half that).  So, at least for the first few days, I will have some music to temper the voices in my head.


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 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)

Walk This Way (RunDMC and Aerosmith)

It Keeps You Running (Doobie Brothers)

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


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


Comments: Total (2) comments

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 21 Oct 2021 04:54 am

Or as an homage to fictional ultra runner Chief Chingachgook you might include 'The Kiss' from Last of the Mohicans.

Eyal Shimoni

Posted On: 22 Sep 2021 06:53 pm

For me its lots of Neil Young, and Whiter shade of pale for the long march

20 September 2021 12:22 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

34 Days to Go!


Last time I checked in the skies of Central Oregon were toxic from the smoke of fires burning in the Cascades and down in California.  Today I am happy to report that, after some rainfall over the weekend, the skies are crystal clear and the air is breathable again.  The precipitation has also left some new snow in the Cascades (our little alpaca ranch overlooks the 3 Sisters volcanoes) signaling that ski season is on its way!  

The Alpacas are happy because the rain has perked up the grass in their pasture which was looking a little parched as the irrigation district has been rationing our water the last last month or so.


But, much as I would like to get excited about getting the boards ready for ski season, first I need to get through this little test of endurance that we are having in the Namib desert.


Speaking of excitement.  I was also pretty jazzed to see the announcement of the 2022 Race in Lapland!  Nancy and I spent a week in Lapland in the fall of 2018 and were in awe of the landscape.  

And the Northern Lights!

Finland will be an amazing place to run.  I have been asked if I have signed up yet.  Not yet, but definitely thinking about it.


But first…. This little jaunt in the desert.


The good news, for my legs at least, is that it is time to start the taper!  I’m sure everybody has their own theory about when and how to taper for a race, but mine is taper early, taper easy.  It’s not like I’m just going to sit on my butt and eat bonbons for the next month.  I’m still going to be out there 5-6 days a week.  But I am going to gradually reduce my training load from abnormal to normal and then finally to minimal.  I was out in the woods running or hiking for 14 hours this weekend (counting Friday).  I’m definitely feeling the fatigue today—in my joints and muscles and well as my head.  Hopefully the taper will allow some of my stressed connective tissue to heal and harden.  And allow my immune system to ramp up for the challenges of traveling to Namibia.  

Today's training?  Rest Day!  I think I'm going to like this taper thing!


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08 September 2021 04:24 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Powders, Snacks and Supplements


Before I go any further, I should remind the reader that, as I pointed out in one of my earlier postings, in 2014 I underwent radiation to the head and neck which, among other things, killed off almost all of my taste buds.  I have been working assiduously over the past 7 years to stimulate the growth of new buds and to train the survivors how to appreciate the gifts that food and beverage bring to the palate, but you need to understand that my sense of taste is impaired.  At best.  So if you hear me saying that something is “tasty” or “yummy,” you should probably take this with a grain of salt.


And speaking of a grain of salt.  Electrolyte supplements are on the Mandatory Equipment List.  Either salt tablets, capsules or powders.


As I mentioned earlier, the beverage choices at the Namib Race will be limited.  Water or, well, water.  The question is whether or not to bring some sort of powder or powders to mix in your water.  Me, I am going to be packing powder.  Over the years, I have tried just about every sports electrolyte drink out there:  ERG, HEED, Gatorade, Tailwind, Perpetuem, Nuun, Fizz, pickle juice.  And the product I’ll be going with is Skratch Labs Hydration drink mix in lemon-lime.  Everybody’s taste and gut is a little different, but I have found that I can drink Skratch all day.  Skratch was put together by Dr. Allen Lim, a PhD in sports physiology, working and traveling with pro cyclists in need of a better beverage.  I go with one scoop per bottle and that gives me 80 calories and 380mg of sodium.  Seems to work for me.  At 360 calories per 100gm, it will take almost a half kilogram of Skratch to get me through the week.


On a side note.  As a part of the medical team, and only to avoid placing an IV drip (which is a one way ticket out of the race), I have given skratch to two competitors who were unable to keep anything else down.  They both were able to keep skratch down and finish the race.  Not a scientific double blinded study by anybody’s standards, but it adds to my belief that Dr. Lim makes good stuff.

Skratch also makes a recovery drink that I like.  Most sports physiologists will agree that it is important to get some sugars and proteins (the ratio is argued, but it’s probable somewhere near 4:1, sugar to protein) into your system as soon as possible at the end of prolonged exercise.  Skratch recovery is pretty much chocolate milk in a powder.  With some vitamins, electrolytes  and probiotics thrown in to make it proprietary.  And it tastes good enough to be something to look forward to at the end of a long day.  Skratch recovery has 200 calories in 2 scoops or 400 calories in 100gm.  I will be carrying a quarter kilo of this.


Skratch has also recently come out with a new product:  Superfuel. Superfuel packs 400 calories into a bottle.  But it take 7 scoops of powder (105gm) to do that.  So it’s a little heavy to use as your main beverage.  Superfuel has a secret ingredient:  cluster dextran.  Cluster dextran is reportedly a slow digesting form of dextrose (sugar), which allows you to dump calories in without blowing up your gut.  Coming from the medical profession, I try to shy away from things called clusters, but this stuff isn’t too bad.  I don’t think I need a bottle with 400 calories, though, so I have been experimenting with sneaking a scoop or two in with my regular scratch to boost the calorie count just a bit.  So far, the results are promising.


Given that I am getting my food from Yorkshire and my powders from Boulder, Colorado, I’m going to source my snacks a little closer to home.  Picky Bars are made where I live, here in Bend, Oregon.  They were developed by professional endurance athletes who live and train here.  And they are yummy.  At 400 calories per 100gm, they come in a handy 4-5 bite size bar that can be gobbled on the run, or savored back in camp.  Picky bars are made of pronounceable real food ingredients, sit well in an active stomach and come in a variety of flavors.  My favorites are Moroccan your World (with turmeric, ginger and pistachios) and Smooth Caffeinator (with hazelnuts, chocolate and coffee).

If it gets really hot, say 90 degrees (32 deg C), I may need to add in a little more salt than the 380mg in a bottle of Skratch.  For this I will be carrying some salt tablets, probably Salt Stick or Endurolytes.


I have also been experimenting with a supplement called Vespa CV25.  This is a synthesized peptide based on a food secreted by wasp larvae that allows the adult Japanese Giant Wasp to fly 50 kilometers a day, kill other insects, chew them up, and fly the chewed ball of goo back to the hive to feed the larvae.  (Kind of like CrossFit for Hymenoptera)  The idea is that this peptide will help me metabolize body fat while I am exercising, thus giving me more energy without having to consume food.  My coach Jaime swears by the stuff.  My friend Mary, who is an ironman triathlete as well as an endocrinologist (which means that she probably still remembers the Krebs Cycle from medical school and understands how to apply it), thinks that Vespa CV25 is pretty much snake oil.  One way to improve the placebo affect a substance may have is to make that substance expensive and hard to get, which CV25 is, so it may all be placebo.  But I have been getting good results with CV25 and it is lighter than food!


And, finally, I’ll be bringing instant coffee.  As a long time shift worker who works all shifts, my circadian rhythm is pretty much nonexistent.  As such, coffee is how my body knows that it is morning.  Unfortunately, alcohol, which is how my body knows it is night time is not allowed in the desert.  So I will have to muddle through.  


You may be wondering about all this recent blog activity.


Fact of the matter, it is fire season here in the American West, and it is not healthy to go outside.  So I have been channeling my excess energy into blogging while I wait for the sky to clear.  I’m not sure how to enter blogging about running as an activity into training peaks (and it is unclear what TSS--training stress score--that blogging incurs).  



Comments: Total (1) comments

Sarah Horne

Posted On: 14 Sep 2021 08:56 am

It's amazing what becomes 'tasty' after a few days at camp! Hope the skies clear for you soon and you head back out to the trails - enjoying hearing all your preparation updates in the meantime!

04 September 2021 06:52 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana



Suffice it to say, people aren’t signing up for the Namib Multiday Ultramarathon because of the food.


Breakfast Buffet options on the Namib Race:  Hot water.  Cold water.  (Not an espresso machine in sight.). Dinner buffet:  same.  Lunch:  not even any hot water.


But food is the fuel on which we run.  And, the beauty (or agony) of it all, you have to carry what you eat.  The Mandatory Equipment List requires that racers carry 14000 calories of food, or 2000 calories per day.  The average human being burns 1500-2000 calories a day just staying alive, at rest.  This is called basal metabolism—the calories that keep our heart beating, our lungs moving air, our kidneys processing urine, etc.  This means that if you carry the minimum number of calories in your pack, you are fully prepared to spend the week at rest.  Unfortunately, the race organizers make this darn difficult.  Racers will be burning 300-400 calories an hour hiking and 400-600 calories an hour running, more or less, depending on their size and their pace.  Which basically means we will all be starving (if we carry only the minimum required food).   


So the food challenge is this:  How to carry as many calories as possible while adding as little weight to your pack as possible.  And this comes down to caloric density.  Or how many calories can you find in a set weight of food.  Dieticians will tell you that eating calorie dense food is bad.  You want to load your plate with fruits and vegetables which are not calorie dense.  And they would be right.  Unless you have to carry your food on your back.  There are 34 calories in 100gm of broccoli.  This means if I want to fuel myself with broccoli for the race I would be carrying 41 kilograms of cruciferous veggies.  That isn’t going to happen.  


So maybe I will load up on the most calorie dense food available: Butter.  At 700 calories per 100gm, 14000 calories of butter will add only 2 kilos to my pack.  There it is.  Done.


                                            14000 calories in just 2 kilos! (I'm not counting the butter dish)


Unfortunately I am not keto-adapted enough to survive on butter for a week.  I would be pooping myself and not be able to fully take advantage of all those yummy calories.  


And so I will have to find a more edible compromise.  And in general that means freeze dried meals.  Most freeze dried meals carry from 350 to 600 calories per 100gm.  I have been backpacking and climbing since the 1970s, so I have eaten my share of freeze dried beef stroganoff.  And I will say that the Expedition Foods Beef Stroganoff is as tasty as any.  (Once again, I am not a sponsored athlete, I have paid for and personally tasted every brand I mention here). It is not as if I can’t get good freeze dried food here in Central Oregon.(Expedition Foods are made in East Yorkshire and come to me by way of Hong Kong, or is it the other way around?).  I can wander down to REI and take my pick from a large and diverse aisle of backpacking foods:  I can get freeze-dried organic, I can get freeze-dried gourmet, I can get vacuum sealed vegan.  And I can get at least 3 varieties of beef stroganoff.  But I am going with Expedition Foods for three reasons:  they come in 1000 calorie meals (Mountain House beef stroganoff, for instance, comes 560 calories, which they call 2 servings, to a package, and only has 450 calories per 100gm), they are on the upper end of the calorie density chart, and they taste pretty good.  


                                           594 calories per 100gm!  Woot!


So here’s my 14000 calories:  One 1000 calorie breakfast (usually porridge with berries and cream), and one 1000 calorie dinner (I’m partial to the chicken tikka with rice), every day for 7 days.  On my ‘fatigue block’ weekends I have been trialing this menu and my gut seems to take it in stride.  I think it will work.  Sorry if that sounds pretty dull.  If my meals average 520 calories per 100gm, that gives me 14000 calories in 2.7kg.  Which means I have roughly another kilo to fill with drinks and snacks!


Comments: Total (2) comments

Sarah Horne

Posted On: 06 Sep 2021 08:58 am

Sounds much better than carrying 41 Kilos of broccoli!!! You can save that for after the race when you're craving anything green... have fun choosing the remaining snacks!

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 06 Sep 2021 04:01 am

The perfect example of keeping it simple (except getting Expedition Foods to the USA - but that part is logistics). I'll ask you on day 4 how the Chicken Tikka diet is going ;) . We are super excited to see you in Namibi!

02 September 2021 03:10 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Plan B


Sadly, the 2021 Atacama Crossing Race has been postponed to 2022.  Even though Chile is probably one of the safest places in the world to visit right now, we can’t get in without a 7 day quarantine (I personally would have taken the quarantine as my taper, but I don’t think most of the racers would have been able to meet the requirement).  I can’t say that I blame the Chileans.  They have a good thing going.  


I think I said a few months ago that among my revised goals for the race was to train hard enough so that I wouldn’t die in the desert, but not so hard that it would break my heart if the race was canceled.  So my heart isn’t broken.  But I was pretty bummed.  I’ve been having vivid dreams of running the salt flats  with the crinkled desert surface extending off into the surreally azure Atacama sky with Licancabur hovering above the sands like a gray ghost.  I was so looking forward to getting back there.  Even if I had to run the salt flats as part of the deal.


I may still show up in San Pedro de Atacama a year and a month from now.  And I may even be in better shape.  But it is hard for me to let all the training I have done this summer go.  (I’m not really sure where training goes when you stop training, but I do know that at my age, wherever it goes, it disappears breathtakingly quickly).  I mean ski season is coming, but the hours spent trudging the dusty trails only partially translate to speed on snow.


And so.  Plan B!


The Namib Race is still set to start on October 24th.  Namibia has just been downgraded from a 4 to a 3 on the CDC travel list, and I intend to be there.  I was part of the medical team for the 2018 Namib Race, so I have history there as well.  Namibia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, and I look forward to returning.


                              2018 Medical Team!  Pearlly, Cassandra, Nancy and Bryan (and some old guy)


The race format will be the same as Atacama, but the experience will be different, with different challenges.  There will be more sand.  Namibia has the biggest dunes in the world, and I am sure that Carlos the course director will have us climbing as many dunes as he possibly can.  They have changed the course since I was there in 2018, so I have no first hand experience with the course, but I am sure there will be sand.


                                                          Setting the 2018 course


                                                                            lots of sand


 Running on sand requires anywhere from 25% to 100% more energy than running on pavement.  It's kind of like running a never ending uphill.  And the technique is a little different.  Sand requires a shorter, quicker stride and favors a flat footed footstrike.  Just like the aboriginal peoples of the arctic purportedly have 100 different words for snow, I’m sure the desert runners have delineated 100 types of sand.  Soft sand.  Packed sand.  Wet sand.  Quick sand?  And there is probably a different technique for every kind of sand.  The trails I run in the Oregon high desert often are often packed sand, but not the bottomless sand of the Namib.  I’m going to have to go find some dunes to practice on.  This may involve some travel to the Oregon coast.  I’m sure that I can find some sand dunes there!


The Namib race is at sea level, more or less, which is good for me (better than 2-3000 meters in Chile).  And it is likely to be warmer than Atacama, especially at night.  So sleeping should be easier.  (It could potentially be hotter during the day, however.). And as far as I can tell there won’t be any river crossings, unless Namibia gets some unexpected October rains, and, at least from my standpoint, dry feet are happier feet.


So Namib Race 2021 it is!  I will have to say that I was so, so, so looking forward to a taper in September, but for the prospect of getting to race, I will happily put off my taper until October.  One more month of over-volume training.  And you guys are going to have to put up with another month or two of this blog!

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17 August 2021 04:59 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

The Gear Thing, Part 3?


Last year, more than 18 months ago, when I started this blog, I was obsessing over gear:  What to bring, how much it weighed, how much money was it worth to save one ounce, could you really brush your teeth if you cut the handle off your toothbrush (and would you really want to if you are having to poop in a hole and all you have to clean your hands with is 2 ounces of alcohol gel?).  And I’m still geeking out over this stuff, but I have made most of the decisions and I pretty much know what’s going into my pack.  Mostly.


But first off.  Let me just say how FREAKING AMAZING IT IS TO BE WATCHING THE RACE GOING ON IN GEORGIA!!!  Go Reinhold!  Go Isabelle!  Go Georgia the dog!  Go everyone!  The pictures have been amazing.  (Looking a little muddy though!). But it is giving my heart an extra boost of joy to see a Racing the Planet Ultra taking place after this long and painful hiatus.  I wish I was there.  Even if just to man a checkpoint or pop blisters in the medical tent.  But I am thankful for all the work that went into putting this race together and making it happen.  I wish all the racers in Georgia success, happiness, good health and safety in their endeavor.


And so back to gear.



As I mentioned before, it all starts with the MEL (mandatory equipment list).


The big ticket items that I will be going with include:

—Raidlight Revolutiv 24L vest (superlight, no padding to be found anywhere, a polyfilament ratcheting adjustment system that welds the pack to your body, and half price when Raidlight USA had their going out of business sale)

—Z-pack’s 3/4 zip 30 degree down sleeping bag. 900 fill down.  Practically a piece of art!  Weighs in under a pound.  Comes with a bungee tie down to keep it from floating away when you aren’t using it.

—Patagonia ultralight down sweater.  Already had this.  Could’ve spent $400 to buy a puffy that weighed an ounce or two less, but decided to spend the money elsewhere

—Raidlight Hyperlight MP+ Hoodie Jacket.  Also half price at the aforementioned going out of business sale.  Superlight.  Fabric so insubstantial you can literally see though it.  But it should keep me dry.  In the driest place on earth.  (If I was racing the Georgia race, I’d be wet right now)

—Petzl e+Lite Headlamp.  Two of these.  Superlight (1ounce) but not super bright.  If we are out together after dark and you have a big, heavy 4000 lumen headlamp, expect me to become your best friend.

—Thermarest NeoAir shortie sleeping pad.  Not on the MEL, but something to keep most of my old and tired bones off the cold, hard ground.  (and a Sea to Summit ultralight pillow, okay, so I need a pillow)

—Raidlight R-go bottles.  Not the little soft easy-flask bottles that came with the pack.

—an extra shirt, pants and socks.  Some 2XU recovery tights.

--hat and gloves

—and all the other stuff that you can get on amazon: sunscreen, alcohol gel, mirror, compass, red-flashing light, plastic poncho (the videos from Georgia are showing a few folks sporting these!), bivy-bag, blister kit, ace-wrap, etc.


So as of today, the base weight (every thing off the MEL that I will be carrying, not wearing, except for food and water) of my pack and gear is a little over 3 kg (about 7 pounds).  And I haven’t started cutting the handle off my toothbrush or cutting all the tags off my gear, so I am hopeful that I can shave another gram or two off my base weight.  My goal was to have a pack weighing in under 7kg, so that still leaves me with almost 4kg for food and water.  Food, glorious food!  The stuff of life!  (And a blog post topic in its own right)

Comments: Total (2) comments

Robert Ripley

Posted On: 25 Aug 2021 08:11 pm

Turns out I was never allergic to down. Only to the mold, dust mite carcasses and squirrel dander that impregnated the army surplus sleeping bags of our youth. Or maybe I just couldn’t breathe because someone was holding the sleeping bag over my face?!

Justin Ripley

Posted On: 23 Aug 2021 03:42 am

AHA! We always assumed your childhood allergies were contrived to get out of eating Mom’s home cooking or maybe later on to enjoy a sweet hospital bed during bike tours in Iowa. Although you did seem genuinely ill when we mixed the pb in w the jelly. But now I see you are promoting the use of down products! You have been exposed for the fraud you are. Seriously, best of luck in the Atacama! Love ya man! Iggy

12 August 2021 10:05 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

A few more thoughts about feet and footwear 


As I may have mentioned, I have never run one of these multi-day ultramarathon thingies, so anything I put up here on this blog is just my musing about how I think things will work.  It shouldn’t be taken as race tested advice.  I have, however, worked on the medical team for 6 Racing the Planet races, so I have personally looked at hundreds of gnarly looking feet and popped thousands of blisters.  I think it was Riitta who said she was looking forward to seeing how well I managed my own blisters.  And I told her I was looking forward to limping into the medical tent and sticking my dirty bloody feet in some poor, unsuspecting doctor’s face.  (Not really).  I wish I had some wisdom I could pass on that would guarantee a blister free race.  (But I don’t). 


Many racers swear by “pre-taping” their toes and other sensitive areas with paper tape, cloth tape or, in extreme cases, duct tape.  I suspect that the racers for whom this works don’t come see me in the med tent.  The unfortunate ones for whom this doesn’t work come in with blisters underneath the tape.  Problematic at best. 


The experts at RTP and elsewhere (John Vonhoff, Fixing Your Feet), recommend running in shoes 1-2 sizes larger than your usual size.  This allows extra room in the shoe for tape, socks and the inevitable swelling that comes from pounding the heck out of your feet for hours.  But, if you don’t fill this extra space with something (socks, tape, fluid), your feet will slosh around in your shoes, and this in itself will cause blisters.  I personally, will be going from a 10.5 to an 11 in US sizing.  I would recommend spending some time running in various sizes of shoes to determine what degree of sizing up is right for you.


I have noticed that we don’t usually see the race leaders in the med tent.  I have asked them what foot secrets they can offer to prevent blisters.  Most of them will say, “I don’t get blisters.”  And my question would be, do they not get blisters because they are in front, or are they in front because they don’t get blisters?  One wonders.  As best as I can gather, they don’t get blisters because they have put in the miles of training necessary to win an ultramarathon.  And they have worked out the shoe-sock combo that is best for them.  And then there’s scar tissue.  Scar tissue is my secret weapon.  In training I run until I get a sore spot, and then I either stop for the day or stop to readjust my shoe or sock.  Then I let the sore spot heal up and form a little scar tissue.  And then, hopefully, that little bit of scar tissue keeps me from getting a blister there in the future.  In any case, chances are pretty good that you will get a blister or two in training—and this would be the perfect opportunity to get out your blister kit and play around with what’s inside and figure out what works best.  You will thank yourself later.  (And the medical team will thank you as well).


And, almost as important as the shoe choice, there is the socks choice:  1 pair, 2 pair, thick, thin, with or without toes, and, of course, what color do you prefer?  Tassels?  I have tried running with a thin liner sock under my running socks.  This works well, up to the point where it doesn’t.  For me, two pairs of socks doubles my chance of getting a bunched up bit of sock rubbing where it shouldn’t.  I prefer a single pair of medium thick socks.  I like the injinji toe socks in that they provide a little bit of individual protection for each toe.  But you have to be careful that the toebox of your shoe has the room to accommodate the extra fabric.  The other problem of the toe socks is that it takes 5 times longer to put them on than regular socks.  More when your toes are sweaty or dirty.  You don’t want to be that guy that’s still putting on his socks when the gun goes off.


And, finally, there are those funny looking gaiter thingies.  The last time I was at Atacama, the guy who won, Mo Foustok, wasn’t wearing gaiters.  But then, I swear when he ran across the salt flats his feet barely touched the ground.  Whenever I run in sand, however, my shoes fill up every 100 meters, and, if I don’t stop to empty them, it gets so I can’t run any further.  And, even in the non-sandy bits, gaiters help keep dirt and rocks out of your shoes.  I can’t say definitively that cleaner feet are less likely to blister, but, in the medical tent, it seems like the dirty feet are the one’s with the worst blisters.  But going with gaiters does mean extra weight on your feet.  Even with ultra-light gaiters, say 40gm each, if you take 250,000 steps in the course of the race, it will add up to 10,000kg of transported weight.  Plus they’re funny looking.

                                                                        without gaiters


                                                                            with gaiters


                                                                        under the gaiters


As you can see in the pictures, the gaiters definitely keep my feet cleaner!

These are the Raidlight desert gaiters that velcro onto your shoes.  I will say here that the pre-stick velcro that comes with the gaiters will not stay stuck to your shoes, and if you glue it on, the foam backing will fall apart.  Better to get non-sticky, non-foam velcro hooks and glue them onto your shoes.

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03 August 2021 08:55 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana




One of the most important decisions that needs to be made is what exactly I am going to be wearing on my feet when I go trotting off into the Atacama Desert.  As you can see, I’ve got a few choices lying around in the garage.


(It should be painfully clear to the reader that I am not a sponsored athlete, so while I will be mentioning a few shoe brands here, I won’t be receiving any renumeration, or even free shoes.)


For years I ran in whatever was on sale at the shoe shop (in the days before the internet).  Converse.  Nike.  Tiger (now ASICS).  Adidas.  Brooks.  I ran the way I learned to run, with a long stride and a heel strike.  Then for years I was plagued with achilles tendinitis, so I wasn’t able to run much.  Then I fancied myself a bicycle racer for a few years, and I didn’t run at all.  Bicycle racers don’t run.  It’s bad for the legs.  When I did start to run again I taught myself to run with a shorter stride and a midfoot strike.  I found this was better for my Achilles tendons.  With the new technique, I needed a shoe with a little less drop (the amount of height loss in between the heel and the forefoot of a running shoe).  I tried the Newton for a time, but I kept getting hung up on the little rocker of tread under the forefoot.  I tried a pair of Hokas and found the sole rocker compatible with my new stride, and I have been running the Hoka since.  Mostly the Clifton.  I like the level of padding in the sole and the shoes seem to fit my feet well.


Unfortunately, the Cliftons are not the longest lasting shoe.  The guys at the shop suggest that you change them out every 300 miles.  And I have found that in gravel, or more abrasive terrain,  they will break down even faster.


The obvious Hoka choice for trails would be the Speedgoat.  The Goat is built with a sturdier upper, more supportive lacing and a grippier and durable tread on top of a cushy amount of foam in the midsole.  I have run through a few pairs of the Speedgoats and feel comfortable in them on trails.  Although I will say they do have a little less room for the toes than some of the other Hokas.


So Speedgoat it is.  




You will probably have heard about the carbon fiber plate technology being introduced into running shoes in the last few years.  The physics of the plate, I believe, is to absorb some of the energy of the footstrike and then transmit that energy into the pushoff as the shoe leaves the ground.  Nike introduced the Vaporfly and promised a 4% boost in times.  Naturally I bought into this, as I have mentioned before, I have no moral qualms about buying speed.  I will admit to being skeptical.  I even told the gal at Footzone that I’d be bringing the shoes back if I only ran 3% faster.  In 2019, however, I ran the vaporflys in a half marathon and my time was almost exactly 4% better than my best half marathon time from 2018 in non-carbon shoes.  Obviously, there were a lot of variables:  it wasn’t on the same course, both halfs were run in duathlons, after a 56+ mile bicycle ride on different courses, I was in different training phases, etc.  But, still, at my age, when you are getting faster a year older, that’s a win.


Hoka makes a carbon plate shoe.  The Carbon X.  And I will say that, even though it was not designed for trails, it is currently my favorite shoe for road or trail.  There isn’t much in the way of tread, so the Carbon X is not a good choice for wet, muddy trails, but I don’t see much of those conditions here in the Oregon high desert, and I don’t expect them in Atacama (famous last words?)  And I am no physicist, but I suspect that the carbon plate energy transfer doesn’t do you much good in sandy terrain.  At my usual pace, I don’t think the carbon plate makes me any faster, but what I do notice is I get better and faster recovery with the carbon technology.  So I feel this would be an advantage in a multi-day event.


The Carbon X is also not the most durable shoe.  But I have been able to run 400 miles (about twice as many as recommended by the guy at the shoe shop) on them before the carbon plate starts to poke out of the sole.



And, as is to be expected, just about the time I got used to the Carbon X, Hoka decided to improve them.  The X2 added some changes to the sole, particularly the heel, and they re-engineered the tongue as well.  The new tongue is stiffer with a rubberized backing which, over long distances, seems to cause skin breakdown over my anterior tibialis tendon.  So I had to go out on the internet and buy up all the X1s…


Anyway.  There it is.  I will probably show up in San Pedro with more than one pair of running shoes.  I may make a race day call as to which shoe I go with, but I will probably be out on the trail in the Carbon Xs.  Or the Speedgoats.  If you find me sitting by the side of the trail cursing a blown out sneaker, well, you can say you told me so.


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18 July 2021 04:29 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Training Plan


(Note:  this should not be construed as THE training plan for the Atacama Crossing (AC), merely my musings as to what I should be doing in what little time I have left to train.  I should also say that I’ve left the actual details in the capable hands of a professional, Jaime, my coach from Laughing Dog Coaching)

This is what I am thinking about!


  1. Walking:  Much as I would like to run the entire race, chances are pretty good that I will be spending more than a little time walking across the Atacama landscape.  As such, I will need to be comfortable walking, so my plan is to walk a few miles in the woods most mornings with the dogs, and Nancy if she’s available.  Not only will this strengthen my stride, but it allows my mind to wander and seek its own exercise.  
  2. Running:  The AC is, after all, a race.  The amount of running I can accomplish will determine whether or not I can be competitive in the race.  As I have mentioned in my other postings, my old legs can only take so much of this running stuff, so I will have to be judicious and intelligent about the miles I do put in.  My plan is to run most of my mileage in weekly blocks of 2-3 days.  These little blocks will hopefully simulate the fatigue of a multi-day race and get my legs used to going out to perform even when they are achy and tired.  Most of my running will be at an aerobic (Zone 2 for you Training Peaks geeks) pace with occasional bits creeping up into Tempo pace (Zone 3).  
  3. Cycling:  As I’ve mentioned before, I still identify as a cyclist (even if my bicycle racing career was less than legendary).  My friend Jay once told me that “the bicycle is the wheelchair of the older athlete,” and I will have to say that the Guru Praemio titanium racing bicycle Nancy got me for my 50th birthday (even though I asked for a Red 1961 Porsche Speedster) rescued me from a path to certain obesity and immobility.  So my plan is to continue cycling.  I will use longer rides to add to the ‘fatigue blocks,’ and I will throw down some intervals on the bike as well.  At my age, high intensity training needs to be taken sparingly, once or twice a week at most, and I find that I can control the intensity better on the bike with the numbers on my bike computer than I can while running and trying to look at my watch.
  4. Strength training:  Every coach and athlete will agree that strength training is an essential element to any training plan.  But no one can agree on what the best form of strength training is.  As a 125# cross country skier, I was traumatized early on when my coach tossed me into the weight room with the hockey and wrestling teams.  I will say that the best strength training program is one that you will actually do, 2-3 times a week.  After years of trying and then failing to follow through on various modalities, I have finally settled on the Vasa trainer.  While it was designed for swimmers, it is basically a poor man’s version of a Pilates Reformer.  The Vasa Trainer allows me to perform 20-30 reps of 10 exercises 3 times in under an hour.  Exercising most muscle groups while focusing on the core.  Without a trip to the gym.  Sold.  
  5. Stretching:  Again, an easily ignored (at your peril) essential.  My failure to properly stretch over the years has brought prosperity to several physical therapists.  Brenda Rode, my current therapist, likes to say, “length is strength.”  I try to stretch twice a day.  On my morning walks, after the muscles have warmed up, I do some static stretches of my hamstrings, quads and calf/achilles.  3 sets of 20 second stretches for each.  Before I go run, I spend about 5 minutes performing dynamic stretching:  hopping, skipping, soldier walking, knee to chest walking and heel to buttock running.
  6. Rest:  All of this training stuff causes trauma.  And the best way to recover from trauma is rest.  I will be resting as much as possible.  At least one to two days a week.  Sleep is good too.  Unfortunately, as we age, sleep becomes a more erratic and difficult goal to attain.  To make up for some of the sleep I’m missing at night, I’m having to resort to the old guy hack of taking naps.
  7. Nutrition:  While I won’t be giving up burgers or beer like Ben(!!), I am going to focus on a healthy diet, as plant based as I can tolerate.  Additionally, I will be tracking the calories I burn during exercise and try to replace those calories as soon after exercise as my GI tract will allow. 
  8. Race Specific Training:
  1. Terrain:  The AC course takes the competitor over sand dunes, through rivers and slot canyons, across salt flats, bare rock and jeep tracks.  While I have been doing almost all of my running in the dirt, over the next month I will be seeking out more unstable terrain to simulate the course.  Maybe I will even get my feet wet!
  2. Race Nutrition:  In addition to experimenting with various electrolyte concoctions and energy bars (expect a report soon!), I have been adding in some instant oatmeal in the morning and freeze dried cuisine the night before!  yum.  
  3. Grunge practice:  Nancy isn’t liking this, but I’ve been going several days without washing my running kit.  When it crawls on its own to the laundry room, it is time to wash it.  I haven’t tried going several days without washing me.  I guess that’s next level.
  4. Sleeping on the Ground:  Part of the AC challenge is to get up and perform after sleeping on the cold, hard ground all night.  I’m going to start throwing that element into the ‘fatigue block’ mix.
  5. Backpack:  I’m up to running with a 5kg pack.  I will have to up that by a couple of kilos over the coming month.  Then I plan on backing off.
  6. Altitude:  The AC starts out at 3000 meters, but descends to 2000 meters early on.  I live at a little over 1000 meters and train up to 1500 meters.  So I think I can handle the altitude.  I’m not thinking I’m going to have to start sleeping in an altitude chamber.  But I will have to look at my travel options to see if acclimatization is an option.


There it is folks!  You heard it here first (or 3rd, or whatever).  If you are training for the AC, feel free to borrow whatever looks good.  Or comment on the absurdity of it all.

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Sarah Horne

Posted On: 20 Jul 2021 10:16 am

What a beautiful way to spend your mornings - walking in the woods with dogs. Sounds like the plan is coming together very nicely, so important to take the rest and recovery aspect just as seriously. I am definitely guilty of skipping a few of my stretch & mobility sessions...!

10 July 2021 10:27 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Du or do not.  There is no tri.


Had my first race of 2021 this weekend.  It was listed as an Olympic Distance Duathlon.  (Note that, to my knowledge, there has never been a Duathlon at the Olympics, there is a Biathlon, but that involves shooting and skiing).  This race started with a 10km run, followed by a 40km bike, concluding with a 5km run.  Duathlons are often thrown in with triathlons to eke out a little more participation (revenue).  Basically, a duathlon is a triathlon for those of us who don’t swim.


As you may remember, I grew up in Alaska.  In Alaska, swimming is what you do with your last 3 minutes, should you be unfortunate enough to fall into the water.


Actually, I have done one triathlon.  It was the early 80s.  I was a pretty good runner.  I was in pretty good shape.  I had a bicycle.  I had completed the mile swim at boy scout camp.  How hard could it be.  Right?  (I didn’t have a wetsuit, or even bike shorts for that matter). My entire swim training regimen amounted to jumping in a lake and swimming 100 meters out to the dock.  And back.  Once.  Race day came and I ran quickly down the beach and jumped in the water.  And then 200 people crawled over my back, each pausing briefly to hold my head under the water.  Sure that I was going to drown, I floundered to the turn-around and clung to the gunwale of a boat for dear life.  The woman in the boat told me that this wasn’t allowed.  I believe my response was something like:  gurgle, gasp, expletive, splash, gasp, do you, gurgle, gasp, expletive, want to watch me expletive drown?  Surprisingly, I wasn’t disqualified, and I didn’t finish dead last.  I did get a tee shirt, a sinus infection, and a nasty saddle sore for my efforts.  Now I own bike shorts.  But not a wetsuit.


But I digress.  


Duathlons have been sort of my athletic thing for the last few years.  The USA Triathlon Duathon National Championships came to our town of Bend in 2016.  I said to myself, Hmmm, what do you need to do to qualify for the  National Championships?  It turns out that all I needed to do was pay the entry fee and join USAT.  Done.  In 2016,  with a moderate amount of disorganized training (a little riding, a little running, what more would you need?), I managed to place 5th in my age group.  Ego-Boost!  A sport obscure enough such that a mediocre runner and a mediocre biker is near the podium at Nationals.  So, naturally, I got myself a coach and started training in earnest for the 2017 Nationals.  And I won my age group.  (A monster is born)


My finishes at Nationals qualified me for the International Triathlon Union World Duathlon Championships.  (I can hear you saying, the ITU What?!?).  And being on Team USA for the Worlds means that you need to buy lycra with your name on the butt.


(Side note:  a spectator at the 2017 Worlds in Penticton Canada yelled at me, “you misspelled ripply!”  Really, do these shorts make my butt look ripply?)



Since then I’ve been to 3 ITU World Duathlon Championships:  2 standard distance (which is the same as Olympic Distance), and once at the long distance (10km run, 150km bike, 30km run).  I’ve managed to finish just off the podium each time.  I’m hoping that since I recently “aged up” into a new age group, I can finally make the podium at worlds.  Unfortunately, this pandemic thing, not to mention all my training for Atacama, has kept me out of the rarified Duathlon atmosphere these past 2 years.


So. This weekend’s race?  I won.  Both my age group and overall.  I stood on the podium with a 31 yr old and a 24 yr old.  Which means that if you added their years together they still wouldn’t have been in my age group.  They both mentioned how fast my bike was.  (I do have a very fast bike, at my age you have to buy as much speed as you can, but somebody still has to pedal the damn thing!). 


It should be noted that while there were dozens of competitors in the duathlons this weekend, there were hundreds of competitors in the triathlons.  Can I be faulted for picking the event with fewer racers, I think not.


Thankfulness note:  Not only am I thankful that I’ve found an obscure event to be competitive at, I am thankful to be out and racing again.  I am thankful for the vaccines that have made this possible.

Comments: Total (2) comments

Sarah Horne

Posted On: 12 Jul 2021 08:38 am

Congratulations Rob! You clearly have a very natural talent for the sport and don't need to worry about being out of the scene for a while - hope the sun is still shining in Oregon!

Sam F

Posted On: 12 Jul 2021 05:43 am

WOW, that's amazing Rob! Don't listen to those young whipper snappers - a win is a win! And I think we should make everyone have their name tatooed on their butt in the desert! ;)

29 June 2021 04:19 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

Decisions, decisions


Planning an adventure like the Atacama Crossing is all about being able to make decisions.  What kind of shoes to wear.  Should I step on that snake.  Fortunately, I make decisions for a living.  They are not always the right decision, but the decisions get made.


So, I have decided on a training strategy.  


I am going to train.  And I am going to run.  Judiciously.


I am going to continue to build my aerobic capacity by riding my bicycle as much as possible, while throwing in a few longer runs to get my legs used to the fatigue.  As a sixty year old athlete (holy sugar, I turned 60!  How did that happen!) I understand that the best by date of my legs has long since passed, and I am working with a limited amount of articular cartilage.  As such, I can’t just go out and throw down the kind of mileage that most sane people would deem necessary to get in shape for a 250km multi-day ultramarathon.  I’m going to be walking a fine line between injury and unfitness.  


Last week looked like this (on Training Peaks):   



A little more cycling that running.  A couple of 30 minute strength sessions (about as much as I can deal with, we’ll have to have that discussion later).  But, all in all, pretty decent training volume, even if I say so myself.


Today is a rest day.  Rest days are key.  And beautiful.  It is especially good that today is a rest day because Bend, Oregon, where I live, just hit 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 in Celsius).  That is the highest ever recorded temperature here (the previous all time high was 106 on August 1, 1916!) And while this might be good training weather for the Atacama, I am happy it’s a rest day.



And the dogs are happy that I’m staying in as well.


Okay.  Decisions made:  Training, yes.  Today, no.


But the really big decision that needs to be made is to shave or not to shave.


Not my face, my legs.


For the last decade or so, I have identified myself athletically as a cyclist.  And cyclists shave their legs.  (Something to do with road rash being less messy after a crash if you don’t have leg hairs in the wound, but mostly, I think, it’s a look that says you take this cycling thing seriously).    Ultramarathoners, to my observation, don’t shave their legs.  Although in an event like Atacama, where every gram counts, an argument could be made that a weeks worth of dirt, grime and dust caught in one’s leg hairs could result in a measurable amount of added weight to carry.  I have been on a couple of group rides this summer where mine have been the only hairy legs.  And next week I’m entered in a Duathlon (a run-bike-run event, kind of like a triathlon, without swimming).  I like to look my best when I race.  But once you start shaving your legs, it’s pretty much another grooming task that you’re stuck with until ski season comes around (skiers do not shave their legs).

And, really, who needs another grooming task?

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sam Fanshawe

Posted On: 30 Jun 2021 08:01 am

Rob! These are awesome blog posts - let's do this thing (not the leg shaving, the training and prep and running the Atacama Crossing!)

27 June 2021 09:30 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana



Well.  It would appear that there are 90 days until the Atacama Crossing Ultra starts.  And, while the Atacama desert has never been too far from my thoughts during the passing of these crazy times, it seems that I have left this poor blog to die a slow death from neglect.


So, if there is time to resuscitate said blog, that time will have to be now.


90 days is probably not nearly enough time to get my act together and get organized and trained up for the Atacama.  But it is what I have to work with.  To help me get my head around things, I will be trying out whatever random stuff is in my head on this blog.  


When I started this adventure I listed my goals as:

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


But maybe I need to put  a 4th goal out there.  Train hard enough so that I won’t die in the desert, but not so hard that if this race doesn’t happen in 2021, it won’t break my heart.  I don’t want to sound defeatist, I am encouraged with what is happening with the vaccine program in Chile, but if the last 15 months have taught me anything, it is that nothing is to be taken for granted.


Alright.  Time to get at it.  Have fun. Be thankful.  Don’t get hurt.  And get my arse in shape.  And while I’m at it I will try to blog a little.

Comments: Total (1) comments

Sarah Horne

Posted On: 28 Jun 2021 08:10 am

90 Days!!! Almost reaching distance... exciting times! I recently joined the RacingThePlanet team and have heard all about you - looking forward to meeting you in San Pedro! Those sound like great goals - good luck with the 4th, I look forward to hearing all about how you get on as you restart your race preparations!

08 September 2020 10:17 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

2021 it is then.

So, I apologize to the followers of this blog (of whom I am sure there are many).  I have been neglecting the blog and it has kind of drifted off into non-existence over the summer.

As you know by now, the 2020 Atacama Crossing was officially cancelled about 2 weeks ago.  As the summer progressed, however, it became painfully clear that a trip to Chile was not in my imminent future (not that I blame the Chileans for not wanting me to bring my little piece of the pandemic to their shores, I’d probably refuse me entry into my own house if there were any other options), and, as such, it was increasingly difficult to get psyched up to blog about the race.  Even harder than to train for it.  But, not to worry, I am still here, breathing air and hanging out in the woods with my dogs.  And Nancy, bless her heart (one of us was born to social distancing, hint, it's not Nancy).

I have changed my entry to the 2021 Atacama Crossing Race, now less than 13 months in the future.  I am hopeful that we will be living in a bright and shiny new world by then, one that allows for international travel and sleeping in tents with strangers.  If I were truly hardcore, I would be mapping out a year-long training schedule right now, timing the perfect peak for September 26th, but, as you may have ascertained by now, I am not that hardcore, and I simply don’t have that capacity for single minded concentration.  It’s going to be autumn here soon in the high desert, time to get the mountain bike out in the woods after the smoke clears and the dust settles and the air cools.  And after that, nature willing, it will snow in the hills and ski season will start.  Sometime in February or March, after a few months of social distancing on the Nordic trails, there will be time to start training for the ultra again.

Not that I’ve spent the whole summer sitting on the porch watching the alpacas eat the grass.  For want of anything better to do, I have managed a fair bit of running and riding.  I’m in pretty good shape (for the shape I’m in).  In August I ran my first marathon since 1989.  We started in waves, wearing masks for the first bit, after which there was ample opportunity to stay distanced from my competitors.  It was the slowest marathon I’ve ever run, but it was all in dirt and there was almost 1000 meters of elevation gain.  I was the second finisher in the masters category (over 40yo).  I was pretty happy with the result.  (the result being that I could still walk at the end of it all) 

Next weekend, Jaime, my coach, has shamed me into a half-iron duathlon (56 miles of biking followed by 13 miles of running).  There will be a time trial start and hopefully minimal contact on the course.  I think I read something about a mask?  And it's fire season here in the Northwest, which means that the air may or may not be clean enough to breathe.  I will have to let you know how that goes.

But for now, I am going to let this blog hibernate for a few months.  I promise that I will be back and blogging in the new year.  2021 should be an auspicious year.  Among other things, it will be the year marking my 60th journey around the sun.  Cause for celebration.

When I started this thing, I put my goals down as have fun, don’t get hurt and be thankful.  I am still having fun.  I have managed to get through this summer without getting hurt (knock on wood). 

I am thankful that I have not lost any loved ones in these crazy times.  For those of you who have, you have my sincerest condolences and hope for healing to come.

Addendum:  The Duathlon I mentioned earlier was cancelled due to wildfires in the area.  Our part of Central Oregon has been smothered in smoke, making outside training impossible.  But I am thankful the fires have passed us by (this time) and I am thankful for the brave men and women out fighting the fires.


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27 June 2020 10:55 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

A Run in the Woods (Part 1) 

My last posting was about walking in the woods.  And, as much as I like a good walk, and, as much as I know that I will spend a good deal of the Atacama Crossing walking, I am training for a running race.  So the woods that I walk in are also the training grounds for my nascent career as an ultra-runner.

As you can see, I am still spending a large chunk of my training time on my bicycle.  But I have been gradually ramping up my running mileage. 




My last run was 21 miles (nearly 34 kilometers) and 20.5 of that was in the dirt.

(note that my recording device is a Garmin Forerunner 235, which doesn’t have an altimeter, so the elevation gains/losses are estimated with GPS)

My run started in the woods where I take my morning walk and gradually worked its way up into the foothills of the Sisters volcanoes.  One of the challenging aspects of the Atacama Crossing is the altitude.  We live at 3400 feet (a bit more than 1000 meters), and I train up to about 6000 feet with the summits of the volcanoes still another 4000 feet above me.  This gives me some advantage over the racers coming from sea level, but I will still be feeling the scarcity of oxygen when we start the race at 10000 feet!  Another Atacama challenge is the variety of terrain:  Atacama gives the runner  the opportunity to test their footing in sand dunes, stream beds, water crossings, rocky jeep trails, and even the infamous salt flats.

Central Oregon is pretty much devoid of sand dunes and salt flats.  I will probably have to head to the Oregon coast for some dune specific running this summer.  But I am not sure if I can find salt flats here.  The salt flats have the potential to put the runner through miles of crackling unstable footing.  The best simulator that I have been able to find is running through pine cones.


Additionally, my runs take me on miles of sandy single track which I share with horses, dirt bikes and the occasional elk herd.  This keeps me on my toes, literally and figuratively, as I try to keep my running balanced under continually shifting footing.


When we first moved here from the city and I started running in the woods, I would come back all dirty with bloody knees and palms.  Nancy would take a look, “Running trails again, huh?”  As I expect that anyone who runs in the woods will tell you, it’s not like running on the bike path.  You always have to be on the look out for the rock or the tree root that’s waiting to trip you up.  

Things I have learned:

1)   Always be looking out toward the trail about 10-20 feet in front of you.

2)   Try to pick up your feet an extra inch or so.

3)   Try to keep your cadence fast and your stride a little shorter.

4)   A midfoot strike gives you a more stable platform to react with 

Not expert advice, just a few things that have kept me upright and less bloody.


(Thankfulness note: I am thankful that I can socially distance while doing what I love, running in the woods.)


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31 May 2020 11:51 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

A Walk in the Woods (pt 1)

Every morning, unless something like work, travel, or a dentist appointment gets in the way, Nancy and I go walk in the woods.

(Thankfulness note:  I am thankful that we live near enough to walk to the woods.)

Usually we walk for 2-3 miles.  Always we take a couple of mongrel dogs with us.  Since we live in the high desert, our forest is not the densely wooded, mossy floored, arboreal forest that blots out the sky with green foliage.  Our forest has a sandy floor with grass and sagebrush and randomly spaced juniper and ponderosa pine.  Our forest belongs mostly to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and has been logged before and will be again.  Logging roads traverse it, as well as single track bicycle  and horse tracks.  And, because the flora is scattered, in most places one can wander through the woods without a specific trail.  And because you can usually see the sky and often the Cascade mountains to the west, it is hard to get lost.  Although I have managed.

                                          North Sister Cascade volcano pokes up through the trees, upper right

Our little piece of forest is in the process of transformation.  For over one hundred years, open canals (or ditches) have brought irrigation water from the mountains through these woods to the fields below.  (Our little 3.5 acre pasture among them). When we first started walking here a few years ago, there were miles of ditches running like streams (from April to October) through the forest.  But here in the desert, water is a valuable commodity.  Everyone wants their share: the farmers and ranchers, the anglers and boaters, even the endangered spotted frog.  And the value of the water has reached a point where the loss to evaporation and seepage from the ditches has made it economically viable to put the water in buried pipes.  While I am sure that the frogs upstream and the ranchers downstream appreciate the extra water, the piping project has left large swaths of gravel in the woods where there once were 100 year old pine trees and winding paths along the burbling ditches.  We lament the loss of the sound of running water.

                                                    Cody by an open ditch

                                                   A piped ditch with some leftover pipe



On our walks we loosen up our joints and muscles and, by massaging a little caffeine into the grey matter, loosen up our minds as well.  Usually we talk about days past or future, but sometimes all we do is appreciate the crisp air, the trees and fleeting glimpses of wildlife.

The health benefits of walking are pretty much undisputed.  And walking in the woods is even better for you than walking the sidewalk:

Reportedly, walking in the woods makes you healthier in a number of ways:

  • boosts the immune system
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces stress
  • improves mood
  • increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
  • increases energy level
  • improves sleep

In Japan they recommend forest bathing—shinrin-yoku, slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, and enjoying the benefits that come from such an excursion.  Dr. Quing Li has written the book on Forest Bathing and how trees can help you find health and happiness.  Apparently trees even emit pheromones that can help you fight cancer.  Maybe these cancer fighting trees only grow in Japan.

I’m not sure that describing one of our walks as bathing would be entirely accurate.  We do immerse ourselves, but we return home with dust between our toes.

 And, although the health benefits of walking a dog, are also indisputable, it is a little unclear if we are walking our dogs, or if they are merely deigning to allow us to tag along on their hunt.  While Nancy and I trot out 2-3 miles in our hour of walking, Holly and Cody might traverse twice that, occasionally circling back to see if we are still upright and carrying the bag of treats.

 As my muscles warm up on the walk, I stop for my stretching exercises.  It isn’t pretty.  My running coach warned me 40 plus years ago about the dangers of not stretching.  I’m sure he’d be surprised to know that I am still running, but I’m sure he would not be surprised by my level of inflexibility.  Stiffness that led to a number of minor injuries and then a nasty hamstring tear in 2017.  Brenda, my physical therapist, after causing me a great deal of pain, finally convinced me I should stretch.  Length is strength she tells me.  My goal is to stretch three muscle groups, hamstrings, quads and gastrocs (with Achilles) for three 20 second repetitions, once a day.  Six minutes.  Even I can do that. I think it’s working.

And then we come home from our walk and start our day.  The pasture needs mowing.  The alpaca can’t eat fast enough to keep up with the late spring growth.  Some of the irrigation heads need cleaned out.  There’s always weeding.  And work.  Not til tomorrow night.  And then there’s training.  That’s still a thing.  I’ve been slowly upping my running mileage as well as the hours on my bike.  It’s getting there. I hope.

                                                   This year’s alpacas!  Can you guess who’s been wrestling?


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15 May 2020 11:17 am (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

The Work Thing (Part 2)

I’ve been working a lot. Today will be my 3rd 24 hour shift in 8 days.

Some of you will say that working 24 hours in a row in an emergency department is dangerous, both for me and for the patients under my care. And some of you would probably be right. The two hospitals where I work for 24 hours are not the busiest, so usually I can lie down for an hour or three here and there, making the 24 not a totally crazy thing to do, but any ER can get overwhelmed at times. On Sunday I didn’t get any rest, so I was pretty shaky getting home on Monday. Today, after two nights sleep, I am back. The good news is that after today’s shift, I am off for a week or so.

Working healthcare in the time of COVID is not much fun. Even here in Central Oregon where the virus hasn’t taken much of foothold. The constant worry about whether or not this air is good to breathe and whether or not I just touched something I wasn’t supposed to is starting to wear on me.

(Thankfulness Note: I am thankful that I don’t live or work in a COVID hotspot. And I give thanks and prayers for my colleagues that do.)

Now we wear masks and safety glasses at all times and we social distance at the work stations. When we go see patients we put on more protective wear. Gowns, gloves, faceshields. We don’t have many of the disposable high filtration N95 masks, so we wear painters’ respirators, making it difficult to understand what anyone is saying. I feel safe with the equipment we have, but it is draining to continually be changing in and out of protective wear. And every time you take off or put on (if you are reusing equipment, like a respirator) the gear, there is the potential for contamination. Some of my colleagues adapt their protective gear based on the complaint that the patient presents with, but I’m wearing full protective gear for every patient. It’s pretty clear that the virus is out there, and not everybody carrying it is complaining of a fever and cough. Still, all the gear is isolating, and makes it difficult to interact with my patients. Some of my best moments at work are when the department is less busy and I can sit in a room and shoot the sh#t with an 80 year old cattle rancher or a 20 something uber driver. This doesn’t happen in the time of COVID. Another thing I love about my job is the camaraderie I feel with the ER staff, and the social distancing and masking makes this harder to appreciate.

The other day one of our nurses ran into a room, without putting on her gear, where a patient was having a cardiac arrest. And saved his life. And I had to yell at her. After I put on my gear and helped stabilize the patient. (Okay, I didn’t yell at her, but I did have to pull her aside later and tell her that she couldn’t do that.) Here I am admonishing an amazing, experienced emergency nurse for doing what her best instinct tells her to do. I am asking her to look out for herself before she jumps in to take care of her patient. How crazy is this?

But, here I am. On the fringes of the first (and hopefully the last) pandemic of my career. I have been preparing for this event most of my life. And, as it turns out, it is not really how I pictured it. For one, I thought that my residency buddies and I would be on the sharp end of the fight: wearing space suits, armed with cutting edge antimicrobials and kicking some virus butt. And here we are: no space suits, no decent antimicrobials, not much butt-kicking. Twenty, even ten, years ago, I would have volunteered to go to the hotspots: Wuhan, Italy, New York City. I may have not been bombproof when I was 40, but it would have been hard for you to tell me that. Now, after spending time on a cancer ward, I know exactly how mortal I am. With my low lymphocyte count residual from the chemotherapy, the radiation damage to my upper lungs, my asthma, not to mention my age, it would seem like I am a sitting duck for the virus. I am sure I am not alone in my anxiety and fear.

(Thankfulness note: I give thanks to all the people of this world who are staying at home to slow the spread of the virus until the healthcare system can catch up. And to all of you who can’t.)

It’s late here in Prineville. There are a couple of patients left in the emergency department sleeping off drugs or alcohol. As I said, I am sure I am not alone in my anxiety and fear. I am going to go try to lie down for a couple of minutes.



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22 April 2020 01:15 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana

The Gear Thing (part 2)

I had a birthday this week. I turned 39. For the 20th time.

I have to say that I don’t usually feel 59, but the morning after my birthday, after a couple too many thyme bomb cocktails (see below for recipe), I was definitely feeling my age.

But, fortunately there is no acute chocolate shortage going on, so there was cake! And presents.

(Thankfulness note:  I give thanks for chocolate, cake, presents, and the lovely, amazing person who gives me these things)

Nancy got me the Raidlight Revolutiv 24 liter race vest for my birthday. A race vest is a backpack for running (item 1 on the Mandatory Equipment List, MEL). The Revolutiv weighs 250 grams or a little more than 8 ounces. As opposed to my current running pack, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 which looks like a backpack, the Revolutiv looks like a vest with a pocket on the back. According to Raidlight, it is a “large capacity” race vest, although it looks like it barely has room for a loaf of bread. It took me several minutes to squeeze a 5 kg bag of rice into the main compartment.

The Revolutiv to the left and the Fastpack 30 on the right

a couple of raid light water bottles in the foreground, no doubt the subject of future discussions 

And by calling it a vest (and, I suspect in the interest in keeping the weight down), Raidlight has been able to dispense completely with the padded shoulder straps one usually expects on a backpack. The material that comprises the shoulder strap area is so insubstantial that you can actually see through it in places. Which begs the question. How comfortable is this vest thingie? (how about after a 12 hour schlepp in the desert?)

As mentioned, I loaded it up with 5kg of rice (and 2kg of water) and jogged around with it yesterday. It felt pretty good. It does ride well on my back and doesn’t jostle unduly with my stride. But it is definitely not as comfortable as the UD Fastpack 30 which actually has a little padding in the shoulder straps and has a plastic/foam back support piece. So I think there’s going to have to be a tradeoff here: Comfort for weight. (weight in turn which may make me uncomfortable in the long run, Hmmm….) The Fastpack 30 weighs 750 grams (24 oz), so 3x more than the Revolutiv. And at 30 liters, there’s more room, for bringing more stuff, making a heavier pack for carrying out across the desert.

Model sporting a stuffed vest and pandemic hair hygiene 

Lots to think about. I am definitely going to have to take the Revolutiv out for a test run, or two. But given that the vest is made of paper thin material, I don’t want to test it out too much, because I’d be worried that taking a well worn vest out into the wilderness would be begging for structural failure.

And speaking of the weight v. comfort conundrum, I have been pondering the sleeping pad concept. Sleeping pads are not even on the MEL, but the idea of running all day and then preparing to do it again the next day by sleeping on the cold hard ground, doesn’t sound particularly appealing. We have a couple of the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite pads. We have a full size pad (12 oz) and a shortie pad (8oz), again the trade off: Is carrying an extra 4 ounces every day worth having your feet off the ground when you sleep every night? How do you put this to the test? Thermarest now puts out an even lighter NeoAir pad, the Uberlite, but the reviews suggest that they have a high rate of leakage (going back to the cold hard ground thing), so I am not sure it is worth investing in the new pad.

Sleeping pad options! Lower legs on or off the ground? One wonders.

Nancy also bought me the Raidlight Hyperlight jacket to satisfy item #25 on the MEL. We haven’t had much rain here lately, so I can’t speak to its waterproofness, but it is very light. I am going to put it on when I next go to work on our irrigation, so I will get back to you on water resistance and breathability.

All of the Raidlight stuff is pretty expensive. Naturally a few weeks after Nancy bought my birthday presents, Raidlight put their entire inventory on 50% spring sale. And although we were a little miffed at the timing error, I did get in on the sale and bought some tights (item #22), desert cap (#27) and some desert gaiters (not on the MEL).

I’ve been working my way through the MEL. Next steps will have to be bedding and lighting (items 2-4). The sleeping bag promises to be the most expensive purchase on the MEL. My Mountain Hardware ultralight 15 degree F sleeping bag from a decade ago weighs just under 2 pounds. It’s super comfy and warm, but I don’t think it’s going to make the cut (see comfort v. weight tradeoff). There are a number of bags out there today that meet the 32 deg requirement and weigh only a pound. And given that it literally has to fit in a breadbox, compressibility is also a big deal. It looks like the new thing for fastpackers is the quilt. Quilts weigh even less (no zipper, less material), but they seem a little futzy and if I read things right, you rely solely on the insulation of your pad for your parts on the ground side. Could be risky. If anyone has any thoughts on the trend towards quilting, let me know. Until then, I will be meandering the internet looking at down count and other bag factors until I can actually get out to REI or Northface and actually run my fingers over the ripstop.

Other than that life has been pretty good in our little part of the world. The irrigation district put water in the canals, and I spent much of the last week unclogging and replacing irrigation heads, so the water is splashing in our pasture and hopefully the grass will start growing soon. I have two 24 hour shifts coming up in the emergency room, but hopefully the pandemic will continue to tread lightly here in Central Oregon. Here’s hoping that you all are safe and healthy wherever you are.

(Thankfulness note: I give thanks for spring and growing grass)

Here’s a prescription for the Thyme Bomb cocktails (it'll cure what ails you!):

3 oz vodka

½ oz lemon juice (more or less to taste)

½ oz simple syrup (also to taste)

5-6 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

Muddle the ingredients in a large glass

Strain into shaker, Shake over ice.

Serve in a chilled martini glass with a sprig or two of thyme as garnish

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Dafa Toto

Posted On: 05 May 2020 08:20 am

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