Signing up for a grueling 4,000-mile bike ride is impressive no matter how fit you are. The Sea to Shining Sea Bike Ride is even more inspiring — the cross-country ride will feature 30 veterans who were disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan hand-cycling alongside many able-bodied athletes.
This is the first ever Sea to Shining Sea Bike Ride, which is sponsored by State Farm and hosted by World T.E.A.M. Sports. The ride will begin at the Golden Gate Bridge this Saturday, and end 63 days later in Virginia Beach on July 24. Root and Sprout had a chance to interview three of the riders — Christopher Frost, Nicolette Maroulis and Seth Arseneau. We were blown away by their stories and responses, and we’re pretty sure you will be too.
If you find yourself so moved, you can ride along, volunteer or just take part in some of the fun activities along the route.
Root and Sprout: Why are you doing the Sea to Shining Sea Bike Ride?
Frost: [After my doctor released me to do weight bearing exercise on a post-surgery ankle, but not being cleared for running], I asked him if cycling was okay and he said it was. Then on Veteran’s Day I got an email from someone in my cycling club asking if I was interested in taking part in the Sea to Shining Sea ride. After nearly four months in a wheelchair, I was highly motivated to do it.
Maroulis: This was such an amazing opportunity; I couldn’t imagine not participating in it! I think it gives me an opportunity to push myself both physically and mentally.
Arseneau: I have always wanted to ride across the country. The S2SS ride is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I can’t pass up. World T.E.A.M. Sports does an incredible job with their events, and there is no doubt in my mind that this ride will be an experience that I will always remember.
RS: How long have you trained?
Frost: I’ve been training since January.
Maroulis: I’d like to think I’ve been in training my entire life. I’ve always been a very active person. Since my injuries, I’ve learned more about the scientific side of how my body works. Through studying kinesiology I’ve learned how to train more effectively. I have just received my first hand cycle a couple of weeks ago so I haven’t trained much for this particular ride.
Arseneau: I’ve been riding hand cycles for eight years. However, I have been focused on training for this ride for about six months.
RS: Can you tell us about your training? How do you stay motivated?
Frost: When I began training, my area was going through its roughest winter in a century so it was good that I have a Kurt Kinetic indoor trainer. My January goal was to ride 30 miles on four days each week, both as physical therapy for my ankle and to get my legs used to pedaling. As the weather improved, my cycling club, Blue Suit Pacers, organized team training rides.
Maroulis: My typical week consists of going to Tillman Physical Therapy four days a week, rowing with the Austin Paralympics Row team two to four hours a week, Cross Fit Cedar Park three to four times a week, as well as the additional exercise I get from lifting weights at the local gym and with Strongman Training. I also ride my hand cycle every chance I get. I stay motivated by reflecting on the times that I was unable to walk and trying to surpass the limitations placed on me.
Arseneau: For me, one of the most important aspects of training is diversity. Riding hand cycles can be extremely taxing on the body, so I’ve found that cross-training helps me to keep from getting burned out. As long as I’m not over-training, I am able to keep myself motivated.
RS: What aspect of this challenge do you expect to be most difficult physically?
Frost: The physical difficulty for me will be divided between climbing — I suck at climbing and on a recumbent it is a special hell — and adapting my body to the day to day grind that a trip of this magnitude conveys. I expect that the hardest days will be in the first few weeks as on a trip like this my fitness will level up during the trip.
Maroulis: Subluxation of the shoulder joint after repetitive movement will be one of my biggest challenges. I will be paying close attention to my water and food intake. Pacing myself for the sixty-three days will be challenging overall. Mentally, I am looking forward to the challenge. All I have to worry about is taking it one day at a time. I won’t have to worry about doctors’ appointments, the physical therapist or bills. I can focus on each rotation of the pedal, knowing my concentration will be on the weather, my food intake and those dreaded hills!
Arseneau: One of my main concerns for this ride is my immune system. Individually, even the toughest days on the ride are doable. However, many consecutive days on the road will certainly take a toll on the body. As long as I can keep my body healthy, I will be able to finish each day. I am not afraid to suffer or to push myself to the limit. I feel that my body will reach its breaking point before my mind does.
RS: What are you most excited about?
Frost: I am crazy excited about getting to see friends and family at the start of the ride in San Francisco [having grown up in the South Bay]. I also am looking forward to Lake Tahoe; Moab, Utah; Colorado Springs; Dayton, Ohio; and passing close to my fiancée in Alexandria, Virginia, during the final week of the ride.
Maroulis: The finish! Knowing that I pushed my body to its limits and accomplished my goals. I’m looking forward to seeing new parts of the country and collecting great stories along the way.
Arseneau: My best friend will be waiting for me at the finish. That thought will be what pulls me through the most difficult times.
RS: What did your friends and family say?
Frost: After their initial “What you talking about, Willis?” reaction, they all were very excited and supportive.
Maroulis: “What? Are you crazy!?” Although there was a lot of concern from family and friends, I think overall I’ve won their support. For those that are still holding out I am sure they will come around as I ride in to the finish.
Arseneau: They weren’t too surprised. They are all well aware of the fact that cycling is in my blood. I am hoping to see a few of them out there on the route.
RS: What’s next?
Frost: I get married a month after this ride finishes and we are honeymooning in Yosemite. I’ve always wanted to climb Half Dome!
Maroulis: I’m always looking to push limits and searching for the next opportunity. Whaddaya got? If you want to see what I am doing next or have an opportunity for me please visit me at NicoletteMaroulis.com!
Arseneau: I’m hoping that this ride will help me to find a few answers. In the past, I’ve had an underlying desire to make myself suffer while on the bike. I’d like to finish this ride and know that, in the future, I can continue to push myself without having to suffer. After the ride, I don’t foresee a need to take myself to the limit. Instead, I would like to accomplish things that will be more beneficial to others. Hopefully, the end of this journey will mark the start of a new one.