Our congratulations to Petr Ineman, Casey Fagerquist and Salsa athlete Jill Martindale for finishing the Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000 to Nome late Monday night, in 22 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes.
The trio spent over 400 of the final miles together facing innumerable challenges. They crossed the finish line together at the same time to be named the 2020 ITI 1000 champions, and the only finishers of this year's event.
We’re pleased to share this short interview with Jill Martindale that took place as the trio finished packing their bags for a flight from Nome back to Anchorage. -Kid
2020 Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000 Champions; Petr Ineman, Casey Fagerquist and Jill Martindale
SALSA - At this moment, sitting in Nome, how does it feel?
JILL - I don’t know if the impact of it has quite hit yet. I’m not sure I realize exactly what we’ve done. I’m very relieved to be done though, and to not have to ride or push today. We all really wanted to be done and to finish. And I’m really happy to be here with Petr and Casey. I know there’s some crazy stuff going on in the world so I’m anxious to get home and be with my husband.
SALSA - You, Casey and Petr spent over 400 miles riding together. As you all rode the final miles into Nome, what if anything were you talking about?
JILL - We were just so glad to be done with it. One of Casey’s relatives met us some mile out of town and said we could take the road into Nome. That actually made us ride faster because it was cold and raining, but Petr said, “Let’s just slow down.” We were just wanting to be done. During the latter portion of the trip there were so many times we were hearing we’d have to stop. That we’d be forced to quit. Between the sea ice being unstable and villages being closed to us because of the virus precautions. In both Unalakleet and in Elim, we kept hearing we’d have to quit. It was so sad because we all just wanted to finish. Even smiling Jill wasn’t smiling anymore. I just wanted to finish.
Earlier on after leaving McGrath we hadn’t been working together. We were each just doing our own thing. But we kept winding up at the same spots at the end of each day, sweaty and wet and tired. So we finally just started working together to break trail for each other, and then just continued to do that the rest of the way.
There were many times where we’d reach a shelter but there would be no wood. Soaking wet. But Petr or Casey would go find some wood, even wet wood, so we’d be able to have a fire and dry out.
SALSA - Was there a moment when you knew you were going to finish?
JILL - We all wanted to finish and were going to keep going until they forced us to stop. Getting off the sea ice and out of Elim and making our way around Little McKinley was huge. We pushed uphill for like a mile. But every day there were new challenges.
Photo courtesy of Mark Smith Photography
SALSA - Can you share a few of the highlights from the journey?
JILL – They fed us King Crab in Ophir. And the trail in that section was so beautiful and fun to ride. And the day we were on the Kaltag trail was a sunny day with beautiful blue skies and great riding. But most days we had that flat gray light where you have to look really hard to see where the ground is, and it was very hard on my eyes. And a lot of pushing.
SALSA - What were your low points?
JILL - The Topcock Hills before the Topcock cabin. You couldn’t see how far the hills went. Petr asked me how I was doing and I just said, “Broken. I’m broken.”
We were all just swearing. Swearing at the wind and the rain. Just shouting into the wind. But the cabin had a big pile of wood. The guys got a really warm fire going and it heated up like a sauna. It must have been 90-degrees in there. And they asked me if I wanted the top bunk and I said sure. It was so hot up there. I was lying there in my sports bra just drenched in sweat so I finally had to move down onto the floor near the door with my sleeping bag!
SALSA - How did your actual ITI 1000 experience compare to what you had imagined before the start?
JILL - It was lot harder. A lot more pushing than I expected and a lot less riding. But at the same time it was also better than I expected. The stuff after McGrath is magical. Small villages and even more remote.
At one point, I just shouted, “I’m not prepared for this!” But you have to roll with the punches. I don’t know if you can actually be prepared for it.
It was harder, darker, wetter…but better.
Rolling the final 100 yards Friday night...photo courtesy of Visit Nome
SALSA - There aren’t many experiences in life I can think of where you suddenly spend so much time with people that were formerly strangers. Can you describe the relationship that formed between you, Casey and Petr?
JILL – I would say we are all good friends now. Some days we would all just start laughing. We would shout out, “I love you guys.” Or “I’m so glad I’m with you.”
I felt like a little sister sometimes. They’re so much bigger than me. On really windy days sometimes I’d be having a hard time just trying to stay upright while we were pushing. I felt like a little duckling chasing after its mom. Don’t leave me! We all clicked. And I do think I added something to the mix.
SALSA - You three certainly share a unique bond. Friends forever? Or ready to not see each other for a while?
JILL - I think we will remain friends. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe it to others in a way that will really make them understand what we went through…what we did…what we experienced. There is no way to truly explain it. I’m actually really glad to have Petr and Casey to share it with.
Our congratulations to Jill, and Casey and Petr, for finishing something extraordinary at this extraordinary time. Bravo! Congratulations to the ITI staff and all the other athletes who took part in the 2020 Iditarod Trail Invitational!
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.