Decked out in spandex and sleek helmets, the large group of about 200 cyclists who rolled through Killeen on Tuesday might have looked like average bike riders.
But they are anything but “average.”
Many of the cyclists are military veterans recovering from war wounds. They also are participants in the 2014 United Healthcare Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge that began Sunday in Houston and ends Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The weeklong 490-mile “rehabilitative ride” stopped overnight in Killeen and heads to Fort Hood this morning.
At Shilo Inn on Tuesday, cyclists Jennifer Goodbody and Celeste Ryan talked about their ride experiences.
“There’s camaraderie here; everyone has similar or the same injuries and it’s hard to talk to somebody outside of our world,” said Ryan, an Army veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Goodbody, also a veteran with PTSD, said tears and emotions that arise from fatigue experienced during the ride are part of the healing process for the cyclists. The exercise and unique support network she’s found through Ride 2 Recovery have helped her a lot, too.
“When we’re tired and exhausted, there’s no more energy for that mask, and it comes out real and it can get emotional,” said Goodbody, referring to the mask that wounded warriors often wear to hide their pain.
Retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tim Brown, a triple amputee who has hit speeds of up to 62 mph on his modified hand bike, said it was nice to meet people who understand his background and have a similar mentality. He also participates in Ride 2 Recovery for the exercise and confidence.
“Recovery never ends, especially for amputees,” he said. “We always have to stay on our game. If we get out of shape, it’ll hurt us, and suddenly we won’t be able to use our legs and we have to relearn all of that.”