OCEANSIDE — The Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride will begin Feb. 7 and ends its three-day bicycle challenge with a 29-mile ride starting at Buccaneer Park on Feb 9.
The ride pushes wounded troops to ride increasingly longer distances each day. It also allows them to connect with other soldiers.
The weekend promotes health, camaraderie and healing.
On Feb. 7 troops arrive in San Diego and are fitted for bikes.
“Fifty warriors meet Thursday for a bike fitting,” Dan Schnock, Soldier Ride director, said. “Some are fitted with hand crank bikes, some have reclined bikes.”
The day focuses on wellness with yoga and a nutrition class.
On Feb. 8 the first ride takes off from Pier 32 in National City for a 17-mile ride.
The final ride is held in Oceanside.
The overall goal of the weekend is to help troops get used to their new normal whether it’s physical limitations or dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder.
“All alumni of the Wounded Warrior Project are anyone injured post 9/11, combat or stateside,” Schnock said.
The project has served more than 25,000 troops.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” Schnock said.
Tom Kurlick will be flying in from Memphis, Tenn., to take part in the ride. He suffered two severe concussions while serving overseas as an Army nurse.
Kurlick said he is looking forward to the trip out to California and the camaraderie of the ride.
“It was 32 degrees today,” he said. “Not very conducive to biking.”
Kurlick said he has faced some personal challenges upon his return from being in war-torn countries and away from family and friends.
“It takes a little bit coming back to that and dealing with some of the stressors when you come back from war,” he said.
The Soldier Ride gives troops a break from their routine and a chance to gain a new perspective.
“It’s a great way to honor warriors,” Kurlick said.
Seventy-five percent of participants are first-time riders. Twenty-five percent are experienced course riders who help fellow soldiers.
Dan Curran of Spokane, Wash., will also take part in the ride. He has participated in two Soldier Rides.
He recalls the challenges his first time out.
Curran suffered from spinal injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned home from deployment. He became isolated and gained a significant amount of weight.
“I hadn’t been doing much,” Curran said. “I stayed in my house.”
He said he looked forward to the idea of spending a weekend with fellow soldiers, but wondered if he had the physical stamina for the ride.
“It was pretty difficult,” he said. “There were some decent hills.”
“There were guys who couldn’t sit upright on the bike or had one leg,” he added. “I thought if these guys can tough it out I can finish too.”
Since his first ride Curran has stayed in touch with soldiers he met. One fellow soldier lives close by.
“We became close on the ride and are good friends back home,” Curran said.
He bought himself a bike last year and now stays active year-round.
“Wounded Warriors completely turned my life around 180,” Curran said. “I was on a downward spiral. I got jump-started. I’m 80 pounds lighter, don’t drink — I made a lot of good changes.”
“Life is easier,” he added. “I feel better, sleep better. I totally turned around.”
The Soldier Ride began as cross country fundraiser bike ride by one solo rider. It’s second year several wounded warriors joined the ride. Then the Wounded Warrior Project got involved and organized weekend rides for injured troops.
The Soldier Ride is currently held in 16 cities across the U.S.