Ride of a lifetime!

When I deployed in 2010, I never imagined the doors it would open for me in a few short years after I would return home. I learned today that I have been accepted to do the Memorial Ride with Ride2Recovery. We start in Washington D.C. and end in Virginia Beach after 5 days of cycling. That equates to 270 miles total.

I by no means think of myself as a “Wounded Warrior” because there are so many far more wounded than I am. I am, however, so grateful to the communities, organizations and people that make these rides available for us. I have my own bike, but many others don’t. The healing that cycling provides is unmatched, in my opinion, for people to recover from physical and mental injuries.

The mission of Ride2Recovery is simple:

“To improve the health and wellness of healing heroes worldwide by providing a life changing experience that can impact their lives forever.  

R2R supports Spinning® Recovery Labs and outdoor cycling programs at Military and VA locations around the U.S. to help injured veterans overcome obstacles they face. Cycling is an important part of the recovery and rehabilitation program for two reasons:

1. Cycling is an activity that almost all patients with mental and physical disabilities can participate.

2. Participation in the Ride 2 Recovery Program helps speed up the recovery and rehabilitation process.

A) Ride 2 Recovery provides program events and site locations

B) R2R designs and builds specially adapted bikes to suit injured veterans needs making it possible for almost any warrior to participate in the program, including quad amputees.”

If only my father had this sort of support when he returned from Vietnam. Maybe he would not still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time in combat. I have been on the road to recovery for a year. It all started when I first went to the Veterans Affairs and sought care. Recovery went on overdrive once I hopped on a bicycle. I was able to feel free, work hard without physical pain from injury. But, I think the most rewarding and the most healing aspect has been on my mind. My mental health has improved more than I ever could have imagined. Not only do I ride for hours, but I get to have that same camaraderie I enjoy in the military with people who understand how I feel, without a word being said.

There are a few other organizations out there doing similar things for the same reasons. They want to help veterans heal. Operation Shifting Gears was founded by U.S. Army veteran Justin Minyard and I received my first road bicycle from his organization and participated in the 2013 Hincape Gran Fondo. I was recently able to donate it back so some other wounded warrior can begin to heal. Another organization founded by Deb and Bob Racine is The Warrior Ride. I rode with this group all around Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Cost to me to participate in all of these events was $0.00. All I had to do was get myself to the event. The rest was covered. It’s humbling, amazing and I feel grateful beyond words to everyone.

Now, I will have one more experience under my belt and added to my collection of life-changing activities!

A little about me …

This is the Tour To Tanglewood 2013. This is a ride to raise money and awareness of Multiple Sclerosis. I rode 66 miles on the first day and 50 the next. I raised $500.00 and hope to at least double that this year.
This is the Tour To Tanglewood 2013. This is a ride to raise money and awareness of Multiple Sclerosis. I rode 66 miles on the first day and 50 the next. I raised $500.00 and hope to at least double that this year.

In order for anyone to get to know me, they should hop on a bike and ride with me. I love being on my bicycle – for hours at a time! I haven’t always been into cycling, but after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 with the Army Reserve, my foot just didn’t like running anymore. Running became painful and I became depressed and unmotivated. In the beginning of 2013, I decided to buy a bike. Like most people, I didn’t know what I wanted or needed. I bought a nice mountain bike. I loved riding it. I took it to Salem Lake and as I got better, I went around the lake twice. Next, I started riding on the road and quickly realized that I was not on the right type of bike! During a military tribute ride in the 2013 Winston Salem Cycle Classic, I met a great veteran who happens to run an organization that uses cycling as rehabilitation for wounded vets. He donated a road bike to me a few months later, and I put 1,000 miles on it before I donated it back to him and purchased a new one.

After starting on a bike three months prior, I was riding in the Winston Salem Cycle Classic in the Military Tribute ride. Those 7 miles felt like 20 on my mountain bike!
After starting on a bike three months prior, I was riding in the Winston Salem Cycle Classic in the Military Tribute ride. Those 7 miles felt like 20 on my mountain bike!

Not only did I ride, I lost a lot of weight. I was starting to feel vibrant and happy and excited about life again. Whoa! Who knew a bicycle could do all that? I sure didn’t. I’ve been hooked ever since. Even today, I went on a 17-mile ride around my neighborhood. I tackled familiar hills (all of which give me a total of 1,100 ft elevation gain) and enjoyed the sun on my face. The wind could have eased up a bit! Headwinds on a ride are mother nature’s evil tricks.

Riding has presented so many cool opportunities. I’ve gotten to ride with great people, wounded warriors and some really cool cyclists. As a part of Operation Shifting Gears, I was invited to ride in the 2013 Hincapie Gran Fondo in Greenville, S.C. last October. It was colder than I could have imagined, but awesome at the same time. After the ride, George Hincapie signed jerseys for us. Here I am in mine:

Here I am in my autographed jersey. It says "To Christina, George Hincapie"
Here I am in my autographed jersey. It says “To Christina, George Hincapie”

I am so excited to see what this year holds. So far, I was able to ride with the Warrior Ride for two days in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk last week. Those guys and gals are so inspiring!

A view into my passion …