Salsa: Congratulations on your successful Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 ride to McGrath! How does it feel?
Jill: I feel like I’m supposed to get back on my bike and keep riding! I know I’m done and I’m thrilled with my effort and with what I’ve learned, but I’m still in bike-brain mode and I’m still wearing all of my riding clothes… There’s more Iditarod trail beyond McGrath and although I’m happy to be done, I have this weird unsatisfied feeling that I think I’ll have until I finish the 1000-mile distance.
Salsa: As an ITI rookie, this was a new experience for you. How did it compare in reality compared to what you had imagined?
Jill: There were difficulties with the ITI 350 that I couldn’t ever have imagined without experiencing them. I have never been so hungry, so cold, or so lost before in my entire life and there were some terrifying “holy cow, what if I can’t find my way through this?” moments. I knew it would be hard, but I have been through nothing in comparison before and I didn’t fully comprehend how hard it would be! It was smart to have traversed Rainy Pass with someone who had done it before and Kim Riggs was the perfect calm veteran to guide us through the windy Alaskan range. I’ve never put duct tape on my face to prevent frost nip before, but it was totally necessary in those conditions! I had absolutely no idea how brutally hopeless conditions could make me feel!
Salsa: If you had to pick out one standout moment from the journey, what would it be? Or is that impossible?
Jill: There were extreme highs and extreme lows while out on the 350 miles - definitely a lot of standout moments! Meeting and riding with new friends saved me. Surviving the pass and riding through the gorge into Rohn, swooping through flowy trail that skirted across a river, was an exhilarating experience. The Rohn checkpoint was run by a very friendly host named Adrian who catered to our every need and made us oatmeal for breakfast (7 or 8 of us slept on spruce boughs in a wall tent) and we all stayed in our sleeping bags while he served us our meal! Leaving Rohn in the sunlight was absolutely beautiful and worth the suffering the night before. My perfect morning took a brief halt when I chipped a tooth eating uncooked ramen, but it was saved later on with a bonfire built by a local snowmachiner named Phil to warm racers before Nikolai. Learning the history of the trail, talking to the locals who have been hosting check points and warm spaces for years for the Iditarod, and being surrounded by Alaska’s landscape was incredible. I wish I didn’t have to go home!
Salsa: As you relax in McGrath, soaking up the hospitality, food, and socializing, what are your thoughts about the ITI?
Jill: I’m so in love with Alaska. It’s a brutal place and there were some of the darkest moments I’ve ever had in a race before, but I loved it. It’s too bad the tracker can’t also record inner dialogue.
Share this post: Tweet
The bicycle to me means a whole heck of a lot of things - friendship, community, exploration, the best job in the world, independence, self-reliance. I love that it can connect me with so many people and so many places, but I also love that it can disconnect me from those places and people.