When I tell someone I’ve run 100 miles, most people don’t know what to think. They either,

  1. Think I’m making it up, or
  2. Think I’m crazy.

It can make conversations so awkward, that I hate bringing up ultra running or this blog to most people I’m meeting for the first time.

So I can’t even imagine what it feels like to tell someone you’re about to fly to Alaska and pull a sled for 350 miles. All in one single push.

I repeat, 350 miles. One push.

But that’s exactly what Peter Ripmaster is having to tell people right now.

The 350 Mile Iditarod Trail Invitational

After first learning what an ultramarathon was, I’ve been fascinated by reading the stories and listening to reports from athletes who challenge themselves in the longest and toughest events.

For me, ultramarathons have always been about exploring my personal limits and what’s possible, so when I hear of someone exploring their own limits by doing something that I can’t even fathom signing up for, I’m hooked.

Regardless of whether or not a challenge that long is appealing to you, it’s amazing and inspiring to see how other runners are pushing themselves on the trails.

And how those runners are embracing, not running from, adventure.

It was Geoff Roes’ report on his experience with the Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) posted to iRunFar, that first introduced me to the event. By that time, I had grown used to reading about ultramarathons, but this one was different.

If you aren’t familiar with the event, it’s a self powered ultramarathon, meaning you have the option to travel by foot, fat tired mountain bike, or ski. It starts in Knik, Alaska, and follows the historic Iditarod trail to the little town of McGrath, 350 miles away. Racers also have the option of continuing on to Nome, over 1000 (!) miles from the start.

There are checkpoints along the way, where racers can warm up, eat full meals, and rest, but for the most part, they’re left carrying everything they need with them. For the runners, that means pulling a sled.

Preparing for the ITI with Peter Ripmaster

Peter Ripmaster is the owner of Black Mountain Running Company here in Western North Carolina, and is the kind of guy who when talking about running jokes that, “tougher is better,” and actually means it. He also happens to be someone I have the honor of running with regularly.

When I first moved to Black Mountain and heard that the owner of our local running store had completed last year’s ITI, I knew he was the kind of guy I wanted to show me the trails.

Peter is happy-go-lucky, with a laid-back personality so strong, he makes pulling a sled 350 miles actually sound like fun.

It’s been a real pleasure watching him prepare for such a race, so I wanted to bring the same opportunity to you.

I recently sat down with Peter to discuss the upcoming race, how he’s preparing, and what gear he will be pulling in that sled.

Here’s what we talk about in the interview:

  • How to train for an ultramarathon that takes multiple days to complete
  • What a typical day looks like during the ITI
  • Embracing and growing from mentally taxing experiences
  • Going into survival mode
  • A full run-down of the gear Peter will need during the race

Listen to the mp3 version of this interview here.

Apologizes for a the sound issues. 

Follow Peter in This Year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational 

For those interested in following along, the race starts Sunday, March 1st.

Follow official tracking here. Updates will also be posted to the ITI Facebook page here.

Support Peter:

Now It’s Your Turn

Alright, maybe it’s not your turn to head up to Alaska (or maybe it is!), but it is your turn to do something big.

Start running trails for the first time.

Sign up for your first 50k ultramarathon.

Begin training for that 100 miler you’ve been too scared to register for.

Like most runners, Peter isn’t out there for fame or even to win the race. He’s out to push his limits, grow, and have experiences few people are willing to work for.

Do something big. Experience something few are willing to work for.

Whatever that may be.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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7 thoughts on “Preparing For a 350 Mile Ultramarathon Through Alaska: Interview with Peter Ripmaster

  1. And I thought my 50k later this year was going to be intense!

    What about sleep deprivation after so many 21 hour days?

  2. That sounds like a crazy, wild and limit-pushing adventure that is definitely outside one’s comfort zone. Something about this really intrigues me. I’m only doing marathons at the moment…

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