Alaska Woman Preps for 350 Miles of Winter Cycling Jill Homer's training for the human-powered Iditarod includes midnight rides, part of conditioning her mind and body for five days of pedaling through the wilderness in February.
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Alaska Woman Preps for 350 Miles of Winter Cycling

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Alaska Woman Preps for 350 Miles of Winter Cycling

Alaska Woman Preps for 350 Miles of Winter Cycling

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Jill Homer puts the hard in hardcore. Jill is going to take part in the Iditarod Trail International. She is not a dog team, not a sled - she is taking part in the human Iditarod. It happens about a week before the dog race, and it follows that same path, that famous course, the one that dog teams in the '20s used to get medicine to Nome, Alaska, when a diphtheria epidemic threatened the town. So in February 24th of '08, not pups, but people on skis, bikes and foot will struggle for 350 miles of tough terrain and deal with whatever weather the Alaska winter dishes out. We're going to follow Jill's training on our blog.

Jill Homer joins us now.

Hi, Jill.

Ms. JILL HOMER (Participant, Iditarod Trail International): Hi. How's it going?

STEWART: Going great. How is your training going? Can you describe how you've been training for this big race?

Ms. HOMER: Well, I'm just about to amp up my miles. I've been building strength, trying to eat well, and now it's time to really start putting in the miles.

STEWART: So what does that mean for you on daily basis?

Ms. HOMER: Well, it's been about two hours a day on a daily basis now, which is about all I can afford. I work fulltime.

STEWART: What do you do for a living?

Ms. HOMER: I work as a copy editor at the Juneau Empire, it's a local newspaper.

STEWART: And what do your employees - fellow employees think about the fact that you're devoting this much time to this gruelling a prospect?

Ms. HOMER: Well, they do think I'm crazy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Now, how are you planning to do this race?

Ms. HOMER: How am I planning to do this?

STEWART: Are you doing it on bike, on foot or is it like a triathlon where you do a whole bunch of different things?

Ms. HOMER: Oh, I'm riding on a bicycle.

STEWART: You're going to do it by a bike.


Isn't it snowy? Do you have special tires?

Ms. HOMER: Yeah. It's all on snow. So you ride with big fat tires, specially made bikes to hold these big tires. They're about four inches wide.

STEWART: So just so people get a sense where the trail start, where does it end, and what's the terrain like?

Ms. HOMER: The trail starts in Knik, Alaska. It's just actually outside of Anchorage. It's the heart or the beginning of the Iditarod trail. The race I'm doing go 350 miles over the Alaska Range into the interior to McGrath. And another part of the race goes all the Nome which is 1,100 miles.

STEWART: Wow. So I remember I was in Alaska a couple of years ago in the middle of the summer, and it was, you know, daylight from about 4 a.m. to midnight, and I remember reading that winter is may be light from 10 a.m. to 2?

Ms. HOMER: You get a lot more darkness. February is a little bit better…


Ms. HOMER: …than December, but it is still more dark - more night than day.

STEWART: So do you find your - are you trying to train to ride during the darkness? I mean, that's a really scary prospect I think.

Ms. HOMER: I am actually trained to ride in the darkness. And that's something I also started actually went out tonight just before you called me.

STEWART: And how did it go? What did you experience?

Ms. HOMER: It was really nice, actually. A clear night, starry, lots of frost on the road, probably, you know, 25 degrees.

STEWART: Now, I have to imagine you just can't show up at the starting line of this race. That there's got to be qualifying rounds and all kinds of things you have to get in this race, are there?

Ms. HOMER: Well there's not actually qualifier but you have to be approved by the race directors with a race resume. And what I've done before is I've raced Susitna 100. But - it's similar terrain and a similar area, but it's a 100 miles.

STEWART: And this starts a week before the dog race. Is there ever an overlap?

Ms. HOMER: There is actually. It usually takes racers about a week to get to McGrath, but it can take longer if the weather is really bad, if the storm pins you down or the trail conditions are bad. So there have been dog races that have caught up to Iditarod invitational races.

BURBANK: That must be depressing. You're like…

STEWART: Do you see the dog laughing at you.

BURBANK: …can I get on the sled, please?

Ms. HOMER: Those those dogs are fast.

STEWART: Jill Homer, well good luck with your training.

Ms. HOMER: Thank you.

STEWART: And I know we're following you on our blog as you get ready for this big event on February 24th. Be safe. Take care while you're doing all these and riding out there late at - well not late at night, early in the morning, it just happens to be really dark.

Jill, thanks a lot.

Ms. HOMER: All right. Thank you.

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