ARLINGTON, Va. — Riding your bike a mile or two is fun — but 101 miles? Now that's a challenge. Undaunted by coronavirus, members of the Soldier Recovery Unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, took on that feat for a good cause this fall.
The pandemic forced some changes to the 101 Heroes Ride, a popular event meant to honor the fallen and raise funds for Gold Star families, but it still took place Oct. 1, said Ashley Riddick, Adaptive Reconditioning Support Specialist at Fort Campbell.
Riddick — who is one of the organizers of the event, as well as a participant herself — said the event has gone through different variations over the years, with it being based at Fort Campbell starting last year.
Becky Richardson, who also helps organize the event, said the event was spaced out over two days this year, with the riders covering 50.5 miles each day.
She added that organizers picked out two loops where the fort’s ranges are, and two groups of riders departed at different times. A total of 60 riders were expected to participate.
Throughout the pandemic, approximately 25 cyclists have practiced three days per week. The riders have been divided into groups by ability level, and to lower infection risk.
Each week, the group increases their distance in preparation for going the full 101 miles.
Normally, the group would leave the base and ride out into the local community with firefighters and police officers providing escort, but organizers opted to make the aforementioned changes to the ride to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
"They're going to do a virtual option, so if others want to participate no matter where they are in the country, they can still do the 101 miles," Riddick said.
A non-profit organization provided jerseys and coins. Anyone could register for the event online, and the 101 miles can be completed all at once or cumulatively.
Fort Campbell works well for bike rides like this because it is surrounded by miles of open roads, training sites and trails, Riddick said.
The most intensive trainings are on Fridays, when small groups of riders go on the longest ride of the week that builds with each successive week. It started at 20 miles back in June and expanded to 40 miles by the beginning of August. They dialed it back a little once they got closer to the event to rest and prepare for the big one, Riddick said.
Riddick, who joined the Soldiers on the 101-mile ride herself and has been participating in the trainings, said the biggest challenge is the endurance aspect. She said it's not too monotonous, as they try to switch up routes to keep it interesting, but "once you get to a certain point your body just doesn't want to do it anymore," she said.
"But you've just got to push through," she added. "I remember the first time I rode 20 miles, I thought I'd never be able to do 100 miles. But at 30, I thought, 'this is not so bad.'"
1st Sgt. Troy Isom, one of the participants in the event, rides a recumbent bike. He's not able to go on lengthy walks or runs, but he can "ride a recumbent like crazy," he said.
"I've been enjoying that," he said. "This 101 came up and it sounded like a really neat accomplishment."
He's never ridden that far — his personal best was 41 miles. But he was confident he would finish the ride.
"I love it," he said. "I don't skip a day."
Riddick said the event is a great opportunity to build camaraderie between everyone in the SRU.
"Starting out, people might not be as familiar with their fellow Soldiers," she said. "But it's a team sport. We have people pulling in the front, we have people pushing from the back. It takes a team to get through this ride and any ride."
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.
You can learn more about the ride at https://www.101heroesride.com