Pete Ripmaster would be quick to tell you that for the music he hears, “far away” would be an understatement. He was an amazing athlete from day one, but didn’t find his true passion until later in life when he was first invited to run one of the toughest endurance races on the planet, the Iditarod Trail Invitational. This human-powered race – without dogs- is a 1,000 mile ultra marathon on the Iditarod Trail in Alaska. Starting annually one week before the famous Sled Dog Race, this race takes place in the heart of winter and is done while hauling all needed survival supplies in a sled. We recently hopped on the trail with Pete near his home in Black Mountain and played with some gear and learned a little more about this Carolina Mountain man.
How long have you been in Asheville and what brought you to this area? I met my hot wife out in Telluride, CO. She wanted to get back to her home state of North Carolina. She was from Raleigh but knew I wasn’t a city boy. We took a road trip from Colorado to North Carolina to find a mountain town to live in. Once we made it to Asheville, we both fell in love with it. The year was 2004.
We hear you came in first at the Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000 with no dogs, just your own two feet. This sound crazy to us, but we’d love to hear what it takes to start and complete something asmomentous and intense as this. Can you share with us why you decided to do it and then return after almost losing your life attempting it one year? I’m otherworldly stubborn. My goal since I was a young boy was to finish the Iditarod. Initially, I thought it would be with a dog team but once I found out you could run the trail, in winter, alone and ON FOOT, I knew my destiny. As for returning after my near death experience in 2016, what was I supposed to do, stay in North Carolina and not achieve my life goal because I had a close call?
What about your time in Alaska taking care of sled dogs, can you tell us about that? I moved up to Alaska in the early 2000’s after losing my mother to Breast Cancer. I went north to Alaska to find out who the hell I was. I worked my ass off for some decorated mushers, but ultimately found dog management and dog mushing to be outside of my comfort zone. I do look back at those years in a beautiful light and don’t think I would’ve been able to get to Nome without all I learned from my Alaskan mentors.
Is it true that that you literally went from couch to marathon in one day? HELL YES. About 10 years ago to the day. I decided I wanted to run a marathon one day and had my wife dump my sorry ass on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I waddled 13.1 miles towards Mt. Pisgah and turned around and made it back to finish what would end up being my very first “homemade” marathon. I’ve run well over 100 since!
What are your favorite trails to run/adventure on in this area? I’m a serious creature of habit, so you’ll pretty much see me running at Warren Wilson College, MST or Biltmore Estate. I’ll head to Kitsuma, Montreat, Heartbreak Ridge or High Top / High Windy if I need a kick in the pants or am training for a mountain run. There is soooo much to choose from.
Favorite post run eats in WNC? I would say my favorite is Dark City Deli in Black Mountain or Whole Foods in Asheville because of all the awesome, fresh options! Oh, and Whole Foods has Buchi Kombucha which I adore!
We hear you are working part time as a stay at home dad right now, what’s your proudest dad moment to date? I’m proud of the fact that my daughters can be girly girls but are also comfortable shitting in the woods!
If you could get a ticket to anywhere in the world and take your family with you for a vacation of a lifetime, where would it be? Bhutan without the shadow of a doubt.
What are you up to these days? I’m enjoying life with my beautiful family. I’m also working very hard on public speaking and getting back to my ultra running roots.