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Completing a mission, with help

Posted: Monday, Oct 14th, 2013

One of two packs of bicyclists on the seventh annual Ride 2 Recovery roll through Pajaro Monday on their way from Palo Alto to Santa Monica. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Many of the hundreds of men and women who rode their bicycles through Watsonville Monday have seen combat in wartime, completing countless missions as part of the U.S. military.

But for many of them, the 450-mile ride from Palo Alto to Santa Monica was as challenging a mission as they have faced.

They were taking part in the seventh-annual Ride 2 Recovery, a nationwide organization focused on helping veterans with physical and mental wounds recover.

“It uses cycling as a way to heal from their wounds, both physical and emotional, and helps them mentally as well,” said Matthew Yi, a spokesman for United Healthcare, which sponsors the ride. “It’s a healing process for them.”

United Healthcare, along with other sponsors, pays for participants' hotel, food and other expenses.

Some of the riders were missing their legs, and so were astride adaptive bicycles that allowed them to use their arms. Others with missing arms were simply steering with their prosthetic limbs.

Still other riders are quadruple amputees who nevertheless are fitted with artificial legs and arms and rides with all the others.

Yi said the approximately 200 riders range from 20 to 50 and served in every branch of the military.

“These are men and women who served our country in so many different ways to protect our freedom,” Yi said.

Monday’s ride began in Gilroy and ended in Carmel. Today’s 93-mile leg was expected to be the most challenging, with the rolling hills of the rocky Big Sur Coast offering a total of more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain.

“It’s a great cause for us,” Yi said. “Our mission is helping people live healthier lives. What a great way to support that mission by helping out our wounded vets.”

Rider John Morlock served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1980s. He was not injured, but said he volunteers with Ride 2 Recovery because it not only gives him personal satisfaction to complete the ride, but also to help his fellow veterans.

That means sometimes giving them a push, sometimes literally by pushing them along, sometimes figuratively but often literally, with a guiding hand at their back as they struggle up challenging hills, Morlock said.

“It’s important to me to be here to support my brothers and sisters who have been injured,” he said. “The vets work together to reach their goal and to help each other.”

Morlock estimated that 80 percent of the riders have suffered some type of injury.

Ride 2 Recovery was launched in 2008 when a recreational therapist suggested that cycling would be an alternative therapy to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury PTSD and TBI and physical injuries.

The first ride included 14 riders and no staff. Two years later R2R held six rides across the U.S. with an average of 170 participants per ride.

It has since grown to international fame, with rides that include the Battle of the Bulge Challenge through Belgium and Luxembourg.


For information, visit www.ride2recovery.com.

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