FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (March 12, 2013) -- The Ride 2 Recovery Challenge looked like a bicycle race.
Its riders were clad in brightly-colored spandex, helmeted, and wore reflective eyewear.
It smelled like a race, the bitter odor of new tires unpacked and stretched over high-tech rims, the steady pace of air pumps stretching rubber farther with each "shush" of air.
But to say it was a race would also be a stretch. Because in a race, there is only one winner.
At the Ride 2 Recovery, or R2R, 2013 Gulf Coast Challenge, everyone was a winner.
"Everyone who participated in this event got something from it," said Capt. Carl Bicskei, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital Warrior Transition Unit commander here. "R2R is about having personal goals, and working toward those goals, while both providing, and benefiting from, teamwork."
The General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital WTU R2R team who rode in this six-day Gulf Coast Challenge included four transitioning Soldiers and two cadre members.
Staff Sgt. Travis Radtke, Spc. Benjamin Frazier, Sgt. Shelia Moss, and Sgt. 1st Class Samantha Goldenstien, Soldiers assigned to recover at the WTU, began the R2R at the Super Dome in New Orleans, March 3.
Capt. Christopher Forrest, WTU nurse case manger, and WTU 1st Sgt. Ralph Casselli III, completed the six-member team from Fort Leonard Wood as they road from Alabama through Mississippi to Tallahassee. Fla.
Riders traveled between 45 and 75 miles per day.
The last day was the longest. Riders had the option to ride 109 miles to the finish line or be bused a portion of the way.
The Fort Leonard Wood team rode every Tuesday and Thursday for several months prior to the event, as weather permitted.
"Due to my hips, I can no longer run. Biking was recommended to me," said Goldenstein. "Training for this challenge was a great opportunity to get into the biking scene. I used to do half-marathons, so this was a nice transition to another endurance challenge."
The goal of many was to ride every mile, but riders set their own goals and measures for personal accomplishments. The race was really about riding every mile they could and remain healthy and injury-free.
"I was told by a plethora of people I could not do this challenge," said Frasier. "Then Sergeant First Class Goldenstien and Sergeant Moss talked me into signing up," he said. "I had knee surgery in early January and once I was cleared to begin riding, I trained like a crazy man to prove I could do it."
The advantage to participating in a Ride2Recovery Challenge is having support of fellow riders who ride at a similar pace and offer encouragement to each other.
"I am just glad I am doing this challenge with my battle buddies from deployment," said Moss. "This is just one more thing I can mark off my bucket list. After this ride, I will either love cycling or I will hate it."
There are several Ride 2 Recovery challenges slated throughout the year. The Texas Challenge, from San Antonio to Fort Worth, is scheduled for April.
To see more photos or for more information, go to www.ride2recovery.com/.
(Editor's Note: Mary Ball and Kimberly Hulett are Warrior Transition Unit Family Readiness Support Assistants at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)