Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2017 Iditarod Trail Invitational

Alrighty Then,

     Here I sit at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on Tuesday, March 7th 2017. I sit here, now, because I decided to stop my advance towards Nome, AK in The Iditarod Trail Invitational when I arrived in McGrath, AK on Monday morning at 1:15 AM. It was -30F when I arrived at the Schneiderheinze house who act as checkpoint hosts during our race. But I digress, there were a lot of moments which lead to me arriving in McGrath wanting me to end my adventure. Therefore, let me do what they do in the movies; start from the beginning!
     I was absolutely ready for the race this year. I knew I had a tough push in me and I was physically in fighting shape. I trained hard with lots of long, tough runs in North Carolina. I was also very comfortable with the gear I had chosen for the race. I had worked very hard on making my sled lighter so that I could move a touch quicker on the trail. I did this so I could (in theory) get to checkpoints quicker and sleep inside instead of out on the trail which anyone will tell you is very tough.
     I left Asheville, NC with the full support of my family and friends and was hoping to make everybody proud. Really though, I look at these races as an opportunity to get to know myself better. I use these times alone to dig deeper into my spirituality and to see if I can understand some deeper truths about me as a person. I was open to whatever the trail had to throw at me and I made it to Anchorage with no issues at all. All I can say is, First Class is the only way to fly when you're heading to Alaska. I had some space and peace to think about what was coming my way. First class one day, -60F bivy on the trail a few days later. Such is the life of Peter Ripmaster.
     I got to Anchorage way too early. I do not like Anchorage. I amassed my gear and was happy that everything made it to Alaska safely. I would never come three days early for the race ever again. I sat in my room and waited for the opportunity to hit the trail. The one blessing about getting in early was the opportunity to run into my friend John Logar from West Virginia. John is an ER Doctor and one of the coolest dudes I know. I got to know him much better when he came last fall to my ranch in Telluride, CO and ran my homemade Chris Patrick Ripmaster Memorial 50K in honor of my Dad's wild life lived. We get along really well as were both pretty much anti social. The Friday before the race, there was a party at a local bike shop and we decided to eat a quiet dinner rather than socialize.
     The Saturday before the race start is pretty fun. We have a runners meeting. There is always tons of energy and everyone seems so full of piss and vinegar at this point. Lot's of big smiles and big plans. Optimism abounds and I'm just happy to be a part of this circus. All of us who do this race are used to being called "crazy" or "different". It's nice to all the sudden be in a group of people who are the same kind of crazy as you. This is my tribe! These are my people. We did an hour or so meeting and then we were on our own until the bus left for the start line the next day!
     All my gear was ready and I didn't need to tinker too much right before I left. I felt very comfortable and content. I got a pretty good night sleep the night before the race other than the Native Alaskan guy screaming, drunker than shit, at the top of his lungs at 4AM outside my room. I had no idea what he was screaming about but I was told the next morning that this was normal behavior, "on weekends". OK, sure. I couldn't get the hell out of Anchorage fast enough.
     Race day was here! I got on the big bus and my friend John had saved me a seat in the front row. As a back of the bus kind of guy, this was new to me to have somebody looking out for me. Tim and Loreen Hewitt were right behind us and the four of us had a lot of fun swapping stories and laughing on the way to the start. I always think it's so pretty on that drive from Anchorage to Knik Lake. After a couple hours, we were there. It didn't take me long to find Tyrell and Tekla (and baby Taz) Seavey. These are my friends and have been at the start of this every single year for me. It means the world to me that they've made this effort and Tyrell always helps me feel comfortable.
     Getting ready, there is always a bunch of loose talk which I don't like. There is a certain somebody who really bothers me in this race. It just seems like every single time this guy says something to me it can be taken as a very dickhead thing to say. After my first year it was "hey Pete, try not to have a 90 pound sled this year." This year it was "Pete, try not falling through any rivers this year." Anywho, this guy seems like a "Napoleon Complex" douche bag to me and I've never liked the guy, period. This seems like the kind of guy who is a bully to me. He seems to always say shit like this when others are around and then be nice when nobody else is around. I don't like people like this and never have! There he was at the start right next to me. A rookie racer asked me if I had ever been to Nome before. I told him no I hadn't. Then, this nameless person has to say "but you did attempt it last year though, right? At least you know what it feels like to leave McGrath". Rather than taking the high road and saying something like "I don't believe that was what he asked me" or something to this effect, I just bit my lip as usual. I will tell you this though; I was running to Nome and this person was running to McGrath. I wasn't going to let him beat me to McGrath. I'm not usually the type who needs this sort of motivation but this guy had pissed me off one too many times. Hillary Ripmaster is not around anymore but one trait we share is if we don't like somebody, there will be no pretenses. Besides, it's a race and motivation comes in different ways. This guy quit, again, as it turns out. So be it.
     As the 44 was shot off to start the race I found myself in front. Not on purpose but everyone on foot, seemed to be behind me. I was comfortable with that and was the first runner to exit the lake and get on The Iditarod Trail. I felt great and my sled was gliding along effortlessly. Sometimes I needed to look back just to make sure it was behind me. I was by myself for the first 10 miles or so and all the while I was thinking to myself, "where in the hell is David Johnston?" I was thinking that and not paying much attention to the trail. Then I hear this primal scream "PETER, PETE!!!!", I turn around and see David yelling at me that I was heading in the wrong direction. I indeed was. I don't know how long I would've gone in the wrong direction but David saved me here. Bonus miles are no fun and we both knew this. We hung for a bit but Dave being Dave, he started stretching his legs and getting in front of me. It was fun to watch how efficiently he moved. The miles were clicking by very well for me and I felt awesome.
     My plan was to run the first 59 miles to Yentna station. Like the past few years, this went pretty well to plan. I felt a few blisters starting but I was proactive in taking care of my feet. I got to Yentna, rented a room for a few hours and went about the business of drying and reorganizing my gear. After a nice break and a few hours of sleep, I was out the door with the intention of getting to Skwentna which was 30 miles down the trail. I was moving very efficiently and found myself alone most all of the time. This is very normal for me during these races. I was not here to make new friends and have a collective experience. I was here to dig deep and see what I could do. I rented a room here too because it's just so nice to be able to take a shower and have some privacy. It's REALLY hard for me to sleep with a bunch of other people. I am a soft sleeper and usually find myself listening to others snore and cry, etc. Having a place to myself was going to be something that was important to me on this trip.
     I pushed hard through the Shell hills and got to Shell Lake Lodge very early in the morning. I was told that if Zoe didn't have the lights on at the lodge, than we weren't welcome. I was surprised to find some racers doing exactly what we were told not to do by sleeping in her lodge off hours. I slipped in, refilled my water bottles and slipped out. I was going to push another 20 miles to Fingerlake and I was going to be in rough shape when I got there. I put my head down and pushed very hard though the day and evening.
     Now, I have to start this part of my race report with a disclaimer: The Winterlake Lodge on Fingerlake has NEVER been my favorite checkpoint. It's a stuffy place where you never really feel welcomed. In fact, they pretty much treat you like second class citizens here. This is a place where they do "eco tours". More or less, the super rich come here to be led on pussy little micro adventures where there's four guides per four people. They take pictures like they're really out in the freaking wild. Yet, when they are a little cold or hungry, they're wisped back to this European style lodge where they drink fancy wine and eat world class food. It just doesn't have anything in common with what were doing out there which is sad because I believe the lodge owner does have a heart for what we do and what we put ourselves through. Let's just say the boss man wasn't there this year when I was there or I didn't see him.
     I got there and asked the lady in charge if I could rent a room for a few hours. First she said "NO, we already have the rooms ready for our PAYING guests who arrive tomorrow night." Well, that makes no sense. Here is a lodge that is not wanting business because they are filled up the following day? I called bull shit in my mind but as usual, I bit my lip. She also made it known that rooms were $1,500 a night with the undertone that none of us Iditarod Bums could afford their rooms. This lady was used to dealing with multi millionaires which is fine. Who knows, maybe she was looking directly at a multi millionaire who just didn't look the part when she was speaking to me? Crazier things have happened. You have no idea how much I wanted to dig into my sled, get 15 $100 bills (which I had) and throw them at her. With that said, I wasn't giving these folks a damn dime of my money. Screw these folks, period. I ate my meal while these people continued on in their little warm bubble.
     I then went down to the wall tent that they had set up for the racers. It was freezing cold and there were people all over the place. There was a wood burning stove that wasn't putting out much heat and a propane stove heater giving out less. There was also a note that the heat shouldn't be turned up on the propane tent. A fellow racer, and ABSOLUTE Badass, Kyle Durand was in pretty bad shape at this

KYLE!!!
 
time. He was cold and the tent seemed about as cold as the outside at that point. Kyle got up, changed out the propane tank, which was empty, and turned that bitch up. Not 5 minutes later, somebody came in and started saying "Who the hell turned up the heat in here?". Kyle said "I did." Kyle said it "was out and he was freezing so he said he turned it up". Meanwhile, the guy gets right up on Kyle and says "do you have a fucking problem with the way we run shit up here." I thought for sure Kyle was going to rip this guys head off and I was ready to back him up if the need arose. It didn't. Kyle took the high road even though he could've freaking beat the shit out of this old man. I was livid and needed to get the hell out of that checkpoint. I told Kyle I would wait for him but I couldn't stand it. I left right as four other racers were slipping into a warn cabin they had rented. Let me guess; multi millionaires? WHAT THE FUCK. My anger couldn't have been any higher. Other racers felt the same way and other's got into trouble because they told the lodge they had an elitist attitude. They do. I will NEVER be back to that damn "lodge". If I ever come back for the ITI, I would skip right through this place regardless of what shape I'm in. Bad MOJO I tell you but I'm not wasting another damn second on these folks. Not worth it.
     So, I was stewing and angry as I left The Winterlake Lodge on Fingerlake. I mean come on, even that name pisses me off. I had some trail rage to burn off so I made it to Rainy Pass Lodge fairly quickly. When I got to Rainy Pass Lodge I was still stewing about how we were treated at the previous lodge. When I walked into Rainy Pass Lodge, I said, well, me and Merle Haggard probably

                                                                    Rainy Pass Lodge!!

wouldn't have been allowed at the last lodge, are we welcomed here? Well let me just say, that the owner of this AUTHENTIC hunting Lodge told me some stories about being at Merle Haggard's last show. We swapped HAG stories, and I felt wrapped in the bosom of real Alaska. They rented me a room for a few hours and actually took my cash. I showered, re did my gear and ate like a King while I was there. The bullshit experience of the previous lodge was washed away by the grace and beauty of The Rainy Pass Lodge. I will bring my family to Rainy Pass Lodge someday as I was so thankful for the hospitality. This was one of my favorite stops along the trail this year. This is good too because Kyle and I were about to head out into a 60+ mile section with temps that would drop into the -60's F.
     As Kyle and I left that night, we were told to have no skin exposed. It was thought to be -40 with 40+ MPH winds. This was life threatening weather and we needed to be committed to getting to Rohn as there was no shelter between Rainy Pass Lodge and Rohn. Kyle and I made our way as the weather worsened. It was getting to -50 below and things were getting real. At one point, I turned around and didn't see Kyle's headlamp. This was not the type of country that you want to travel alone so I did what I thought was best, I waited. It wasn't long but then I saw his headlamp and finally saw him. He said " THANK YOU FOR WAITING, THIS IS FUCKING CRAZY!!!!". I took off again but created some separation and was not going to wait again. I hoped Kyle was OK and I started hiking straight into the worst weather I've even been in my life. I felt like this weather was trying to suck the life out of me.
     As I crested the pass, I saw Grant Maughn bivied off the trail. It looked set up well and I thought he was ok. usually I would pass a bivy like this and not say a word but I felt like these were special circumstances. I asked Grant if all was ok. All I got back was, "yes mate, I'm ok!". That's all I need to hear. Needless to say, Grant was not ok on this bivy. He had frostbite and couldn't make water or a

Grant Maughn is OK and Recovering. He's Tough as nails.
 
meal for himself. Let me just tell you that Kyle stopped in that weather and made Grant a hot meal and some water. That's the type of people that are in this race. These are the acts I am proud to see. You never leave your wingman. Now look, I full well get that what were doing is not similar to War but these were War like circumstances. If you left somebody up in this weather, you might be leaving them for dead. I was proud of what I saw in these moments. We all took care of each other and looked out for each other. THAT'S what this race is all about to me.
     Meanwhile, I was in a death march to Rohn. I bivied twice but was so damn cold that I was left shaking in my sleeping bag. Each time, I packed up and headed deeper into the weather. These were the most frantic hours of my life. I was saying my wife's name, daughter's names, counting to 500, counting to 1,000. From 4:00 AM that morning to sunrise that morning it was the hardest moments of the race for me. I simply put one foot in front of the other, sometimes as slow as a mile an hour and survived. All others did too but some won't be using (or keeping) some of their fingers and toes for awhile. Needless to say, tons of racers dropped during this time. As the sun cam up, I had the feeling that I had made it through the crux unscathed.
     Now, travelling alone has it's perks but it also has it's drawbacks. I now had to navigate the most dangerous section of trail by myself. I had been in a similar situation the previous year when I fell through the ice on the Tatina river. Let's just say I faced MANY fears that night. Other racers fell through that night. I was lucky. Why? I think I had so many people Praying for me that God protected me. I truly feel that way. I was also out of water towards the end of this section so I made some bold attempts for the rivers to drink directly out of them. It was wonderful and dangerous. When I got a couple miles out of Rohn and into the woods, I knew I would make it safely to the Rohn Cabin.
     I got into the Rohn wall tent and it was crowded. All bikers. They threw me on the pine bed and as I was getting my sleeping bag out, I looked next to me and saw quite the sight. There was a big Polish biker laying next to me. He was snoring loudly and I shined my headlamp his way. What I saw scared the shit out of me. Here was a giant nose that was bloody and steaming. He had serious frostbite on his nose and and his fingers. The story goes that he pedaled into the same weather as me for 3.5 hours with absolutely nothing covering his face. He turned around, biked 3.5 hours back and then got with other bikers who were going to make an attempt. One of these people was a doctor and told him to take care of himself. He didn't. When they got to Rohn, plans were already being made to evac this racer to hospital care. Many others dropped here too. Dangerous times.
     I had decided that I was going to continue but it was around here when I started questioning if I wanted to subject myself to this all the way to Nome. Regardless, I left Rohn fired up to finish the 350 and to make good time doing it. The next section was 100 miles with only one shelter cabin between it. I had already decided in my head that I would not stop at the shelter cabin and just bivy off the trail when I got tired. I stuck to my plan and had a very enjoyable section here. I was also visited by a beautiful Owl on this section and it left me wishing I could better tell which type it was. It was HUGE and majestic and mysterious. I also had a beautiful display of Northern Lights on this section which was very special.
     I pushed hard and made it to Pike Camp. This was a small wall tent that a few locals from Nikolai set up just to be a part of our race. It was so great! I was welcomed in, we ate, smoked, told stories

video
Pike Camp, Iditarod Trail Invitational 2017

and generally enjoyed each others company. I dried my gear and was treated like a King. Here were two people who didn't have much but shared EVEYTHING with others. It was certainly different than some other stops on the trail and again I left thinking how lucky I was to be having an adventure like this. I was in the moment. I was working hard on being in the here and now and I was having the time of my life. I was connected to the trail and was happy.
     I bivied one more time on the trail which wasn't bad (nothing seemed bad after dealing with the weather early in the race). I worked hard and made it to Nikolai from Rohn in roughly 25 hours. That's moving my compadre. I was welcomed into the Petruska house and knew I was going to take some time healing up, eating, rehydrating and resting. I even thought I might wait for Kyle and Pavel (who is another BAD ASS). They were travelling together and I thought maybe the 3 of us could finish together. I tried my best but was getting antsy the following morning when I was all ready, the sun was out and they were both still sleeping. As I was leaving, Kyle was getting up and I told him I had to hit the trail. I said I hoped I would see them but of course we had no idea. I was also told then that Pavel did not want to push past McGrath like he was supposed too. I was feeling the same and knew at this point that this 50 mile section of trail would probably be my last section on The Iditarod Trail for a long time. I knew that I wasn't going to go on to Nome at this point so I tried to enjoy every second. I put my head down and pushed hard for 16 hours and covered the last 47 miles without so much as stopping once. I finally saw the 350 finish sign and I knew my race was done!
     I didn't know what the finish line would be like for me. I got to Peter and Traci's house and it was

                                                        -30F in McGrath at Finish.

-30F. I had pushed hard and got from Knik Lake to McGrath via Hell's Gate in less than 7.5 days. I was thrilled with my effort and even happier that I would be heading back to North Carolina with all my fingers and toes. The golf course at the Country Club of Asheville, where I'm a member, has been redone recently and will re open next month. I will be playing golf with my friends and will have nothing but awesome stories about my adventure on The Iditarod Trail this year. It was a smashing success.
      I finished in second place in the 350 mile race behind my friend David Johnston. Kyle and Pavel

                                        Kyle, David, Me and Pavel (The 350 Survivor Club)

finished behind me and we were the 4 350 mile finishers out of the 20 that started. Nobody continued on foot to Nome this year including me. That's ok. I got exactly what I needed from the trail this year. I will not be back for the ITI for many years. This was the 4th straight year I missed my wife's birthday in NC and I refuse to do a 5th next year.
     I will look forward to many more adventures including The Bigfoot 200 later this summer. These races and adventures bring a lot of color and clarity to my life. I appreciate having a family who supports my dreams. I'm also happy to be a part of the best race in the world. If you ever have a chance to try The Iditarod Trail Invitational race, please do. It's a no bullshit, throwback adventure that is unrivaled today for it's realness. Thank you Bill and Kathi for letting me be such a part of this race the last few years. My life is forever changed because of these experiences.
    

    

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Iditarod Gratitude

Y'all-

     It's a short week before i'll leave my family and head to Alaska to again attempt to run 1,000 miles in The Iditarod Trail Invitational. As you could probably imagine, there are a lot of thoughts running through my head before I go. I write them now because writing is therapeutic to me. It's also a way to focus my mind on the things that are important to me before I leave. In other words, many people have shaped me to become the person I am today. It's important to me that these people know what type of affect they've had on my life. This will be very rambling but why in the hell do you think I called the blog The Ripmaster Ramble? It's what I do, folks.
     

     Both of my parents have passed away. I lost my mother, Hillary Ripmaster, in 2000 to breast cancer. I tend to believe a big part of my Dad, Chris Ripmaster, died when my Mom died, but he held on for awhile although his mental health went downhill, and fast. I will never begin to explain what a gaping hole these losses have had on my life. I miss having parents that give me unconditional support. I miss being loved regardless of my actions. I miss having my parents to talk to because they knew me better than anybody else. Those that know me well now know that I went through some very dark times after losing my Parents. At one point, I thought the bottle might claim me like it did my Dad. Time has passed though. Stages of grief are progressed through. Now, i'm in a place where I look back on both of my parents and see and feel nothing but love and gratitude. My Mom was beautiful, athletic, mysterious, stubborn and confident. My Dad was wild as hell, strong, artistic, passionate, also athletic, funny and cocky. I'll take these traits and RUN. I am proud to be Peter Ripmaster. I know who I am and I know where I come from. I'll be attempting to make you both proud on the Iditarod Trail. Please never leave my side.
     

     Within a week of starting to live with me in Telluride in 2004, Kristen got to watch quite the Peter Ripmaster spectacle. I went out with friends and started drinking whiskey (hard) in a bar on main street. "Walking" home, I couldn't stay on my feet. I was falling over on myself and stumbling to get up. When I finally got to our street, Kristen was watching me from a window. She took me in that night and nursed me back to health. I was a sick pup. I'll never in 10 million years know why Kristen didn't see these behaviors and run for the hills. I believe I would've at the time had the tables been turned. I fell madly in love with Kristen and she has been one of the biggest reasons why I write this letter from such a good place. I'm proud of our love. I'm proud of the demons i've faced and the many times i've had to look in the mirror and dig deep to become the person I know I can be for you. Thank you Kristen. Marriage is most certainly not easy but were in this for the long haul. 
    

      Having children has been the biggest Blessing i've ever had in my life. Hunter and Reagan are the light of my life. My little girls. Of course God gives me two little girls. My rough edges are further filed down even more and I often find myself in Dress Up Fairy Land smiling. As I get ready to go to a very cold, desolate place, I bring with me all the light that you two bring to my life. I am a firm believer and supporter in women being respected. Think of Aretha singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T. My girls damn well know already that women can do any job that a man can do and many times do it much better and with more grace. My wife and my girls are everything to me and I Pray God takes special care of them while i'm on the trail.


     Sarah and Scott have been incredible siblings. Losing parents makes the siblings either get much closer or breaks them apart. I'm proud to say that we've become closer. We respect each other for exactly who we are and we don't surprise each other any more. As Sarah and Jermaine sit in Chicago with the beautiful family they've created and Scott and Brittany welcome another beating heart in Boulder, i've never been more proud of my brother and sister. 
     

     My Grandmother Dobson (My Mom's Mom) has become one of my best friends in this life. She has supported me and my wild ways for 40 years. She too knows who I am and what makes me tick and she doesn't laugh off my plans. In fact, she knows that usually they will happen just the way I explained em. Without parents and only having one Grandparent left, you better know i'm going to hold on tight to Molly Dobson. She will get the first phone call after the race is done. She deserves that much. Thank you Grandma for your love and faith in me. Being able to share our Christian faith has also been very special to me. You put on an extra blanket through the tough Michigan winter and i'll see you in sunny Arizona in April.
     

     I have plenty of Facebook friends but we all know those aren't real friends. I play my cards pretty close to the table and have become a VERY private person in the last few years. The friends who I do have, I love. They know me and love me and I love them back. As a proud Republican, my friends know what I stand for. That doesn't mean that they agree with me, not by a long shot. Usually, when I am with my friends, were concentrating on the things we have in common and the things we enjoy and love. Minor differences really. Politricks.
     

     My psychologist has become very meaningful to me. I've come to realize that I spend a lot of time in the past and way too much time thinking about the future. It's been liberating to become focused on the here and now. I've always wanted to become more mindful. I've just never had a teacher. Life is fun when you're not in a hurry. I've stripped my life down to have enough time and energy to give to the things that make me happiest. I'm getting there. It's a process. I would also like to say my life long bout with depression has eased and I feel better about my life. Mostly, because I feel better about myself. I owe a big part of that to my psychologist. I encourage YOU to get help if you feel you need it. Don't be ashamed. It's empowering to admit you need help.
     

     Most importantly in my life today, I feel called to thank God for calling me to him. My faith is very important to me. I don't feel like I found God, I feel like he found me, in my weakest moment. Next week, when i'm by myself and i'm walking across a frozen lake, through the northern lights, I will feel close to you. Christians and followers of Jesus don't have the best name in this country right now. Shame on us. We are called to be welcoming and loving especially to those who are different than we are. Diversity brings COLOR. Color brings JOY. Joy brings PEACE. Call me whatever in the hell you'd like (hippy, Jesus Freak, romantic, etc), these are things I could use in my life.
      

     The 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational. The race i've been dreaming about since I was Hunter's age. This is the year. I want to finish this mission and move on with my life. I've learned, with help, that finish lines don't define me. I certainly don't have anything to prove to anybody, right? I'll say it like this: i'm going to do EVERYTHING in my power to finish this 1,000 route. If I find that Alaska is tougher than I am this year, or if i'm risking not being able to walk or use my hands again, i'll be out of dodge faster than you can say Merle Haggard. There's too much goodness waiting for me in North Carolina. Believe that.
     

     Thank you all for the support of my dream of finishing The Iditarod Trail. What I do is different. What I do is crazy. What I do is beyond obscure. What I do is what I love!!! If I get to Nome and you see a picture of me under the burled arch, know that I just reached my #1 childhood goal. If you see a post from Kristen that i've quit, again, for this reason or that reason, know i'm ok in that too. This is ADVENTURE. Real Adventure. Bill and Kathi Merchant Adventure. PETER RIPMASTER ADVENTURE. YEE HAW!!
   

Thursday, March 17, 2016

ITI 2016



Peter Ripmaster Iditarod Trail Invitational 2016 Race Report

     While everything is "somewhat" fresh in my mind from the trail, I thought it would be a good time to get my thoughts on paper. My hope is not to be overly dramatic in my race report approach. I'd like to share the facts and some fun stories and then I believe it's time to move on!
     "To Nome or Bust" was my thought leading up to this race. To be honest, my training was TERRIBLE leading up to the race. I was overweight and out of shape. I told all that would listen that I was trying a new approach this year. I was going to not be "over trained" and I was going to "have some extra weight so I could stay warm". This was all BULLSHIT. I just could not for the life of me get motivated to get in the type of shape needed to be successful on a 1,000 mile trek. In this regard, I failed myself. I feel I have as tough a mind as anybody in this race, but if you're not in fighting shape, you'll get your ass handed to you. And I did. But let me not get ahead of myself.
     I left Kristen and the girls very early in the morning on Thursday, Feb 25th. I figured saying goodbye the night before would make things much easier on me. I get VERY emotional leaving my family and this was again different because it was to be for a whole month. Those who know me well know I adore my wife Kristen and my daughters Hunter and Reagan. I wouldn't be leaving them unless it was trying to get to Nome. Nome is worthy. I left Kristen one note on the fridge (see photo). Anywho, after packing up and leaving for the airport, I got a text on the way that said my flight had been delayed three hours! Oh well, I went back home and tried to get a couple extra hours of sleep which was just silly. I should've just gone to the airport. After leaving for a second time, I was on my way to the airport, again, and I got a text which said my flight had now been cancelled. I went to the Asheville airport anyway and was able to get on a different flight out of Charlotte which was a mere two hours away. After taking a van shuttle to Charlotte, I was on my way to the 49th state.

     Arriving in Anchorage, I got all my gear together and made my way to the host hotel. I started to see other racers and the pre race nerves were ever present. After our racers only meeting on Saturday, Feb 27th, I left with David Johnston to stay with him the night before the race. I was a bit burnt out on the hotel scene and I hate the group bus ride to Knik Lake. With 60+ racers there is just so much nervous energy and bull shit talk. I have no interest in hearing about gear or future races from other racers. It was nice just relaxing at David's house and casually heading to the start line the next afternoon. David and I did take one last run and it was really the first time I had hiked with the sled and the set up could not have worked any better!



     Arriving at Knik Lake, the lake looked like it was in horrible condition. It looked like slush and not a ton of ice. After long, I found my friends Tyrell and Tekla Seavey. I've been good friends with Tyrell Seavey from my days or working for Mitch Seavey running dogs in 2003/2004. Tyrell had been at each ITI start line for me and there he was again. It meant the world to see them and meet their sweet new baby. Tyrell is somebody who I respect so much and the Ripmaster-Seavey bond is strong. Little did I know that I would see both Mitch and Dallas on the trail this year!
     Just before the start, I had an opportunity to share a very special couple minutes with my friend Troy who was also attempting to get to Nome. Troy and I were emotional about what laid ahead of us and true to our histories, tears were shed again! As for the start, I was excited that somebody actually shot what sounded like a .44 at the start. This is a race that deserves an authentic gun start and we got one!!


     Heading across the lake, I found myself with a couple rookies who seemed to be very scared crossing Knik Lake. One even asked me, are you sure this ice will hold? I chuckled to myself not knowing it would be me who would go through the ice on this trip! Getting off Knik Lake we were soon on The Iditarod Trail. We were moving and I was happy. I shared a mile or two with Tim Hewitt then he put on his scooters and I never saw him again the whole trip. As I write this, Tim is just a couple days from breaking the record for Nome on Foot. He is CRUSHING this race and I couldn't be more happy for him. He's a true legend in our sport and I pull for Tim.
     After a few miles. I found myself alone. I usually do. A few hours in, it was starting to get to be sun down. I had such a cool experience with this beautiful owl who kept following me. Owls are such beautiful creatures and I felt blessed to be sharing the trail with my new friend, which I believe comes across in the video.

video

     I was moving well and was certain I wanted to get 59 miles done and get to the first checkpoint before I stopped. I arrived at Yentna Station about 5:00 AM. Rich Crain was there who is the ITI checker and we were just catching up and saying hello when some very large fellah came out of his room upstairs and said "come on guys, could you please shut the fuck up. It's 5:00 in the morning" Seeing as though I had been there for all of 1 minute, I just sort of laughed this guy off. He waddled back to his room and Rich and I gave each other a very funny look before I conked out for a couple hours.
     I woke up and was getting my gear together when I saw that Beat Jegerlehner was also there. Beat had been such a huge help to me leading up to this race in regards to trail information, etc. I was hoping to share some miles with him and I asked him if he wanted to head to Skwentna. We did and had a great time on the trail. We were in the looming shadows of Denali at this time and the weather was beautiful. It was fun to watch Beat move down the trail. He just exuded confidence and seemed like he really was enjoying himself on the trail. We made it to Skwentna together and shared a room after eating and drinking a beer.


    Heading though the shell hills, we next came up on Shell Lake Lodge. Zoe was there to greet us as well as a very energetic puppy. After eating, charging gear and drying out socks, etc it was time to get moving. Beat and I let some miles get between us and I showed up to Fingerlake Lodge on my own. This was the 130 mile finish and there were racers there who were done with their race. In some regards I was happy that I had more adventure ahead but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit jealous of these folks who were now in celebration mode! Would you believe that part of me wanted to stop here even though I had another 870 miles to go?!?
     After eating another meal, I told Beat I was going to head out. He told me he wasn't feeling well at all and I told him I would see him further down the line. Turns out he was very sick and he wasn't the only racer who got sick on the trail. I was hoping a few extra hours of sleep would do him right. I took off with intentions of getting to Rainy Pass Lodge in one push which would've been 50 miles or so. A few hours later I was closing my eyes while hiking. I was literally falling asleep while hiking. I would pick a point out then I would close my eyes for 12 seconds. I would open them again and pick another spot. I did this for hours before I realized it was ridiculous and I should just get my ass in a bivy. I pulled off the trail and got a great few hours of sleep. I woke up cold and made a bee line for Rainy Pass Lodge.
     When I got to Rainy Pass Lodge, there was only one other racer in the ITI cabin. I walked in and this racer was laying in bed motionless. I made a lot of noise coming in and he didn't budge. In fact, it didn't even look like he was breathing. I literally went over to shake him to make sure he was alive. About 30 L-O-N-G seconds later he starts snoring and I am very pleased. He slept (and snored) for hours as I went through my gear, dried some things and ate. I went to bed in the back where I thought it would give me the best opportunity to get some rest. I woke the next morning to a beautiful Alaskan day and I was excited to attempt to get to Rainy Pass which was the high point of the whole trail. Loreen Hewitt was getting ready to head out too and I left just a few minutes before her.
     I had a very enjoyable hike that day. Navigation was going great and the weather was borderline warm. It was so warm that I just decided to go through some mild open water. My socks got wet but with the weather being so mild, it was ok. I made it over Rainy Pass by myself and knew that the true wilderness was just getting started. On my way down towards Rohn, I ran into 3 Bison hunters on snow machines. They asked me where I was heading. When I told them Rohn, they said that is where they had just come from and they said the Tatina River was dangerous and barely passable. They had made it through with their snow machines with heavy trailered loads, barely. I thought to myself that if the ice bridges were close to failure before the hunters went over them with thousands of pounds, they were probably worse now. I made a mental note and kept going.
     Next, I had a little business to take care of. The previous year, I had found a mountain that was so wild looking. It had this huge ridge line that went from the ground to the summit ridge. This mountain had made an impression on me to the point where I wanted to find it again, mark it, and return to it in some spring or summer to climb it. I told Co- Race Director Bill Merchant about this and he said to not be discouraged if I wouldn't be able to find it again. He said that he too had found a couple of these types of mystical places only to never see them again. After a few miles, there it was! I had found my mountain. I took some pictures and took a few minutes to study the route. I will be back. No Doubt.


     Now I was getting towards the Tatina and once I saw the route, I was nervous. Needless to say, open water on the Iditarod Trail is not what you want to see. I made a pledge to myself that if it got too sketchy, I would turn around and wait for a fellow racer or two which would at least give me some help should something happen. I went through the first open water section and that was really no problem. Then, I got to this spot on the trail where I just stopped dead in my tracks. I thought to myself, "well this looks dangerous". In fact, I almost took out my camera to take a picture because I wanted readers to see what we face on the ITI. As usual, I didn't take out my camera but I sure as shit looked for a different way around this open water. I looked right and it looked worse, I looked left and saw it to look a little better. I even saw some tracks which looked like they made it to the other side no problem. I took my trekking pole (or should I say Iditarod Trail Marker since I had already broken one Black Diamond trekking pole) and started really trying to break the ice in front of me. I thought that if I could make it break, I could step back in time as to not fall in. All was going fine until my third time banging the ice. I hit the ice the third time and next thing you know, the whole snow bridge caves in. I can't tell you how fast it happened. All I can say is one second I was on a snow bridge the next I was under water swimming against the current.


     I really struggled to get to the surface because I had so much gear on. I was already hyper ventilating and struggling to gain the far side of the ice. In fact, every time I would attempt to climb out, another big piece would fall in and I would be left trying to swim/doggy paddle again. Finally on the third attempt (I think), I was able to leverage myself onto the ice and pull myself out. I just know I looked like a seal. There I was, a wet mess! My mind was not clearly working but I knew that the decisions I would make would be very important indeed. I thought to myself that I had two options. First I could strip naked and get in my -60 sleeping bag. I would just climb in it and wait for the next group of racers to find me and help me. I looked at my sled that I was attached to and quickly realized that all the zippers were frozen shut on my sled and I couldn't have got to the bag if I had wanted to. That left only idea number two which was to get up and run to the next checkpoint which was, THANK GOD, only 3.5 or 4 miles way. I got up and quickly made my way to the next check point. I was VERY cold but I knew that as long as I could get to the next cabin, I was going to be ok. I ran the fastest miles of my race and made it to the Rohn checkpoint.
     I went into the ITI tent and it was empty. I checked the shelter cabin and knocked on the door. When my friend OE opened the door, I knew I was in good hands. The ITI checkers and Iditarod checkers were incredible. They took such good care of me and I am so thankful to them. Within minutes, I was in dry gear and my wet gear was hanging from the ceiling drying. You should've seen how much water was streaming out of my clothes. It was a scary situation, to say the least, but little did I know that an article was being written about "NEAR DEATH ON THE IDITAROD TRAIL".

                        http://craigmedred.news/2016/03/06/near-death-on-iditarod-trail/

     I felt the title was a tad dramatic but I realized people like headlines. I was just sorry my wife was going to be reading that before I had an opportunity to tell her what had happened. I made a mental note to call her early the next morning. After a few shots of whiskey and a toke, I was asleep and safe!
     I really never once thought about quitting in Rohn. I knew that I had gone through a fairly traumatic experience but it was behind me now. Was it easy to get back on the rivers? No. Was I scared when I got to open water again. Oh, hell yes. These feelings and opportunities are what this race is all about. I wouldn't change a damn thing about what happened to me out there. When you race in this type of race, you know damn well what can happen. We are adventurers and we take these risks to feel alive. I will be a stronger athlete for dealing with my Tatina debacle. I was happy to know I reacted correctly to a tough situation and was ready to face the trail again, period.
     I left the next morning with Beat, Darryl and Eric Johnson. I'm not going to lie, it was nice traveling with others and I felt safe and secure, especially after getting through some overflow! We shared some miles together until I stopped to get some food from my new food bag which I picked up in Rohn. I laughed out loud when I found this big, gay, romance novel in my food bag. Those damn folks in Rohn have done this to me every year! Ha! Don't worry y'all, revenge is a dish best served cold and I'll get ya!
     I left the Bear Creek cabin and really wanted to make it to Nikolai in one push. Eric Johnson and I were now travelling together and I really enjoyed his company on the trails. We got to know each other very well in a short amount of time and I believe I've made a new friend for life. As I write this report, Eric is over 700 miles in to the trip to Nome and I know he will get there. We made quick work of that section of trail and after refilling my water at Sullivan Creek Bridge (my favorite spot on the trail) we pulled into Nikolai (mile 300) and were looking for some food and rest. We got it at the Petruska's house! We woke the next morning and were excited about getting from Nikolai to McGrath in one long push.

                                                
     By the time we were getting close to McGrath, we met back up with Beat and the three of us pulled into Peter and Traci's house 350 miles into the route. Honestly, I hadn't told anybody this but I was mentally ready to stop in McGrath. After talking with Kristen and reading some notes that were left for me, I got my courage/bravado up and decided that I should at least push on for one more checkpoint. Looking back, I should've ended my race there in McGrath. I let others dictate my plan and I don't like doing that. I was also thinking deeply about The Hope Chest back in Asheville. This was the non profit I was raising money for ( www.2nome4hope.com ) by attempting to get to Nome. I would've felt terrible cutting the trip so short. With that said though, I also knew that if my motivation was gone for one reason or another, it would be hard to travel 650+ miles for ANYBODY else.
     I had a lot on my mind heading to Takotna but I was so enjoying traveling with Beat and Eric. We made it to Takotna together and enjoyed a meal at the community hall. We didn't stay long because we were planning on getting to Ophir before midnight. Eric and I got a touch ahead of Beat and we made it to Ophir before him. Eric and I knew that there was a place for us to sleep but we also didn't want to snoop around since it was an Iditarod Checkpoint. Needless to say, we ended up setting up our bivy's in the -20 weather. We woke up the next morning to an Iditarod Checker who said "dang guys, we had a heated cabin with power set up for you to enjoy". He pointed to a small cabin and Eric and I both knew we missed an opportunity to dry gear, recharge electronics and have a solid night's sleep. Instead we both ended up off our sleeping pads and cold as hell that next morning. We did sneak into the cabin for a bit to relax before we headed out into the toughest stretch of trail.
     Ophir to Ruby is well over a hundred miles with little to no shelter to get out of the weather. We knew we could get to Cripple which is an Iditarod checkpoint. My friend Tyrell Seavey was in charge of that checkpoint and he told me that he would take good care of me if I got there. Well, Eric and I got there and we were treated very well by Tyrell, the race volunteers and the other mushers. We were fed, we filled up our water bottles and we were right in the middle of The Iditarod. In fact, Tyrell told me that there were two people at the checkpoint that wanted to see me. Dallas Seavey and Mitch Seavey were both at the checkpoint. The chances of all of us being at the same checkpoint at any time in our races was next to nothing but here it was. I got to see Mitch and Dallas and take some pictures with them. After working and living with them I have kept an incredible bond with them and here we were seeing each other again after more than a decade. This picture will be one of my favorites for years to come!


     Cripple to Ruby is scary. It's a very committed part of the course and you need to be very self sufficient. At this point Eric was getting stronger and I wasn't. My lack of training was catching up to me and it was taking me much longer to get places. Think of it this way; Eric was travelling at over 3 mph. I was struggling to make 2.0 mph. That means if we both needed to travel 100 miles, Eric could easily get that distance done in two days with some sleep to boot. Me on the other hand, needed more like 50+ hours to make that same distance. What that meant was that I was going to need to bivy on the trail one more night than Eric. These bivy's were brutal. I had wet feet, a wet sleeping bag and was starting to get pretty low on food. This was a very hard stretch for me. I felt like I was moving like a snail and waking up after sleeping in the cold was really hard on my body. Shit, I'm not 25 anymore and my body just doesn't do real well in the cold like that. As I woke up from my 3rd night of bivying, I knew my trip was coming to a close. I just didn't feel the fire to get to Nome like I once did. I'll say this; lack of training catching up to me, a very scary situation on the Tatina and general discomfort led me to reconsider my intentions of continuing on. I looked deep inside me and realized getting to Nome wasn't in the cards for me this year. Once I made that decision, a sense of peace completely swept over me. I realized that I was making the right decision even though it was going to be real hard to stop. Once I was at the top of Poorman road about 497 miles into the race, I knew I was done, period.
     When I make up my mind on anything, nobody can change my mind. I didn't want to talk to a bunch of people about it. I didn't want people telling me to sleep on it or to take 24 hours before I quit. I wanted to stop and I was going to stop. It was just that simple.
     As I only had a few more miles to enjoy on the trail before I got to Ruby on the Yukon River, I decided to have a little fun. I had just got to the top of Poorman Rd. which was no small feat. I climbed miles and miles of roads to get to a point where I could see Ruby. It was still miles away but it was down a steep road. Hiking down steep slopes is almost as bad, or worse, than hiking up those same hills. I was tired of hiking and I had a plan. I thought to myself; here I am at the top of a very long hill. I've been pulling this damn sled for nearly 500 miles and it's time to fly. Without any further thought, I took my harness off, turned my poles around and took a seat on my sled. I put one trekking pole in each hand and slightly pushed off. Well shit, I started absolutely flying down the road. I have to think I hit 25 mph at one point. I flew down that hill having as much fun as any kid sledding on their local hills. I was hooting and hollering and generally having the time of my life. After crushing a few miles, I was in Ruby in what seemed like three minutes. It was absolutely the coolest way to end my race. I felt like a child. Boy, I wish there was a video of that.
     I found the ITI B&B and my race was over. Eric was there and I told him I was done. We shared a huge hug and that was the end of my race. Looking back, I probably should've waited before making the call but you know what, I made a big boy decision and I was going to have to live with that decision. After chillin with Eric a bit it was time for me to get back to Anchorage. I flew from Ruby to Fairbanks and then Fairbanks to Anchorage. I stopped my race on a Sunday afternoon and by Sunday night I was back in a hotel room ordering pizza and watching Sportscenter. I fucking hated it. I was having major second thoughts about stopping and those feelings only got stronger when the following morning I woke up after a solid night's sleep and FELT GREAT. I seriously considered flying back to Ruby and getting back on the trail. In fact, as I write this I feel as if I'm supposed to be on the trail. I gave up too soon. I didn't give everything I had.
     Please understand that I get the fact that traveling 500 miles on foot is bad ass. I know most folks would never even sniff an adventure like that. With that said, I've come to realize I'm not like most folks. I hold myself to a standard which has absolutely nothing to do with other people's views or opinions. I know I left a bunch out on the trail. Does that mean I will be in a hurry to get back up and attempt to run the 1,000 again? I don't think so. I believe I know what I need to work on to be successful on The 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail. What are those things you ask?

1. Be in absolutely the BEST shape of my life for the next attempt

2. Have nutrition dialed in 100%

3. Find some shoes/socks that perform MUCH better. My shoes stayed wet the whole race and didn't breath in the slightest. FEET are important and I need to find a better system.

4. Lighten my load!!!! There were 5-6 items (12-15 pounds) that I took with me that I never even used. If my sled is lighter, I move quicker. If I move quicker I make more miles which means sleeping in shelter cabins or checkpoints instead of sleeping outside in the sometimes bitter cold (which is for the freaking birds). It's all interrelated

5. RUN MY RACE and don't feel the need to "keep up with folks".

     Therefore, even though I told my wife that I don't think I will ever do the ITI again, those feelings are already a distant memory. I believe I will do the 350 next year and see if I can't REALLY put it together. If I do that and feel I worked out the kinks, then MAYBE the north route will whisper my name again in 2018.
     As for now, I'm moving on. Although it kills me to watch the progress of those still on the trail, I am pulling for each and every one of them. I have so much respect for anybody who attempts this race and we all share in each others successes and failures. Life is much bigger than any one race and I'm glad to be home.
     It's 75 degrees in North Carolina right now and I'm actually going to play golf tomorrow! I still have my fingers and toes and I am very much alive. I feel great. THANK YOU so much for your support of me and my adventures. I hope you can find something in here which inspires you to attempt something out of your comfort zone. Surely that doesn't mean everybody needs to attempt crazy, long races but maybe getting outside and walking for 30 minutes is your ITI. I encourage you to get outside. You might be amazed where it leads you!

As usual, YEE HAW.  

P.S- Here are some pictures of Kristen and the girls with their new Alaskan gifts. Kristen got some very pretty earrings and the girls got jade Puffin necklaces. Reagan lost her's today at school. Such is life.











 





    

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

     Yesterday, April 15th 2013, bombs went off at The Boston Marathon. While still in a bit of shock the day after, I'm willed to do something that at one point in my life came quite naturally to me. I've decided to write again. Please understand, I do this more for me than I do for you, the reader.
     You see, for the better part of 5 years, running has been my therapy. Since 2008, i've run in 50+ Marathons, a healthy dose of Ultra Marathons and one hundred mile race! This 100 took place on April 6th at The Umpstead State Park in Raleigh, NC. Although I had a grand time, I was left with a big toe that looks like I decided to climb Mt. Everest barefoot. Needless to say, I haven't been able to run in 10 days. Although the toe is healing nicely, i'm still waiting for the big toe nail to fall off so I can start running again. Therefore, once again, confined, I turn to writing.
     I'm glad I haven't been blogging since the beginning of my 50 state marathon adventure in 2008. At the time, I was a disciple of the "Shut up and Run" theory. With all this travelling though, i've listened with intent to those around me. I've come to realize that I have a story to tell. It's not better or worse than anybody else's. It's simply me. So, this blog will represent me. It will not be cleaned up. At times, there will be vulgar fucking language. You will hear stories of both supreme triumph and unquenchable heartache. 
     At this point in my life, I have my Faith. I too have a beautiful family who supports me. I have a handful of friends (fine, 2) who know me inside and out. I've reached a point in life where i'm starting to realize this is all I truly need. I have opinions. A lot of these opinions don't appear to be real popular these days. I refuse to censor my writing due to the audience or to the current culture in America.
     We live in a sick world. The massacre at The Boston Marathon yesterday is a perfect example of this. I'll be dammed if I don't express myself while i'm here on Earth. Life can be taken in the blink of an eye and I intend to live mine to the fullest while I have the opportunity. Welcome to the official blog of Peter Ripmaster.