A thousand miles is a long trip.
It's even longer when you're on a bike and in the harsh elements of Alaska.
Jill Martindale of Grand Rapids was one of just three racers to finish the Iditaord Trail Invitational (ITI) 1000 that ended last week in Nome.
“It was kind of overwhelming at times," Jill said. "I just kind of took it day-by-day and challenge-by-challenge and did the best that I could and was able to find myself in Nome."
Jill crossed the finish line at the same time as the only two other competitors to finish.
The other 21 dropped out because the conditions were so tough, it even looked like no one was going to be able finish.
“On one hand we were kind of relieved, it was so hard. I guess if they say that we have to pull from the course we will," Jill said. "And then on the other hand were like we've endured so much like we want to keep going.”
It wasn't just the elements the racers battled, COVID-19 also became a factor.
“With the villages closing down to outsiders, we just didn't know if it would be possible to get our food," Jill said. "So we were worried that we were gonna have to pull, but luckily we had some really good people inside of the villages, kind of stick their necks out for us. And we were able to get our drop boxes and our food.”
Jill and the other finishers, Petr Ineman and Casey Fagerquist, worked together to get through the final few stages and finished in the first three-way tie in race history.
“I think it shows that teamwork is the way to kind of get through it," Jill added. "You could get out there and you can be solo and you can push hard and you can just have all those experiences for yourself but working together and kind of banding together is probably the way to both have more fun, and then be able to have people to share that experience with."
The new entries into the record book did not stop there.
Jill became the first female to ever win the ITI 1000.
“I think that there's not a lot of women in the sport," Jill said. "I think that my kind of bubbling personality and how I just kind of have fun with the trail even though it's hard. I hope that I kind of inspire more women to get out there.”
Jill says she looks forward to bike races again at some point in the future and hopes to one day return to Alaska to race again.