Few of us, I suspect, are willing to take our cycling to extremes. A long tour exploring an area new to me is as far as I’ve been willing to go. Others, however, are willing to push the envelope. Jill Homer is one who is not content to stay within her comfort zone. She pushes herself and her bike, sometimes literally, to see just how far she can go.
Ghost Trails – Journeys through a lifetime is Jill Homer’s story of one of her epic adventures: cycling the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational along 350 miles of the remote Iditarod Trail. Jill calls herself an unlikely athlete and alternates the story of this ultra-race with chapters on other, often less successful, adventures throughout her life. The various tales work together to show her readers how she came to the point of risking her life in the middle of nowhere on her bike.
Jill’s race started at Knik Lake, about 60 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska and ended 350 miles later at the tiny village of McGrath on the Kuskokwim River. Forty-four others started the race, some on bikes and others on foot or skis. Her longtime boyfriend, Geoff Roes, started the race with her, intending to complete it on foot, but was forced to scratch after 135 miles due to an ankle injury. Jill was among only 28 to finish the race to McGrath that year. She spent most of those long, cold, dark miles alone.
Along the long track to McGrath, Jill found herself battling waves of exhaustion as she pushed her bike through miles of soft snow, the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia as temperatures fell below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, and loss of energy because she could not summon up an appetite for the food she desperately needed. More than once she considered quitting, but each time she carried on. She knew she would always regret it if she didn’t finish.
While Jill’s tale does credit to the amazing scenery, difficult trail conditions and extreme temperatures of the race, what she really excels at is letting us into her mind and showing us the mental fortitude required to complete such an extreme event. The chapters in which she describes how she reached this point in her life emphasize even more the strength she finds within herself during this race: she was not always an athlete, but instead grew into one in a way any one of us could emulate. In Ghost Trails – Journeys through a lifetime, Jill shows us what it takes to set a goal and work to achieve it.
Note: this book was purchased with my own money and this review was written with no expectation of recompense.