Cyber Soldier shows prowess in endurance events
Racer raises money, awareness for Wounded Warrior Project
By Mike Milord and Doug Sample
Army Cyber Public Affairs
On June 16, two teams supported by Team 4Mil, a wounded veterans team and a U.S. service-member team, raced their bikes from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis in the 2012 Race Across America. The annual transcontinental bicycle race from the West Coast to East Coast is a feat of endurance.
Part of the veteran team, Lt. Col. Mike Matney, a liaison officer with the G-30 staff, pedaled to a successful RAAM finish on a Saturday evening, after seven days, two hours and 50 minutes.
Team Wounded Warrior Project arrived in Annapolis to a cheering crowd of family, friends and fellow 4Mil team members who followed their progress across the country.
Crossing the finish line represented the culmination of several years of training and preparation.
For Matney, it began when he started riding mountain bikes in Germany as a second lieutenant in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment near Fulda.
"I gradually started riding road and triathlon bikes when I was a commander at Camp Roberts, California and started my life as a triathlete," he said.
Team 4Mil has been around for three years. Matney was invited to be part of the inaugural team through the coach of the U.S. Naval Academy's cycling team.
"I could not participate in the first year because of other commitments," he said. "The second year I was accepted as an alternate rider for the competitive team. And in the third year I was nominated and accepted as the rider captain of the inaugural Wounded Warrior Project's team that was presented to the Race Across America by Team 4Mil."
To prepare for this type of cross-country ride, Matney said there is an initial adjustment period when the body has to adapt to the position.
"Normally, it takes about a week of daily riding," he said. "For most new cyclists, this is the worst part and often leads to not wanting to ride, similar to being introduced into weight training or horseback riding."
Matney recommends a professional bike fit.
"I have discovered the perfect saddle for me through many miles of riding," he said. "When putting in this many miles, comfort is paramount to reduce injury, increase efficiency and, ultimately, increase speed."
During the ride there is a mental aspect along with the physical, Matney said.
"I think about a lot of things - I have conscious thoughts and subconscious thoughts that move in an out of each domain, all based on the conditions I'm in," he said. "Foremost is staying focused on the road and the conditions I'm riding in. But I might take a climb or bomb a descent and think, 'Man, that was hillacious,' while keeping the rubber side down and positioning my body to control the bike."
As a rider, experience counts.
"Eventually we learn to 'read' the road, foresee and then execute our actions," Matney said. "We are constantly making decisions, gearing, timing, cadence, effort, traffic conditions, debris. It isn't as challenging as mountain biking, but we won't top out over 50 mph on a mountain bike either.
"When things get tough, I think about what is going well. Yes it is hot, but I am hydrating and sweating. It is raining, but I have good traction and visibility. The oxygen is thin; I have a headache, but this is awesome crossing over the continental divide.
"Bottom line is, I am an endurance athlete. That means I like to hurt and I like to hurt for a long time. I also had an external motivator. During this race, my anniversary was June 24, so I had to be home by the 23rd."
When it came to finally crossing the finish line, Matney said he felt euphoric.
"This is a true life experience, and I learned more about myself than any other race I have ever done, including the Ironman," he said. "This race challenged me along many lines of resilience - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social."
Riding as part of the Wounded Warriors creates a special bond among the team, said Matney.
"I will consider these men as lifelong friends; if they ever need anything I will be there," he said. "They are a special group. I was honored to be on their team and humbled to be the rider captain. All of them overcame their injuries and kept pressing forward to take on this challenge."
The support of the American people along the way was especially rewarding, said Matney.
"In Oceanside, near Camp Pendleton, California, we were tackled by waves of people who were interested in our team and mission," he said. "At the inter-team exchanges, we had many people come up and take photos and hear more about what we were doing. ...
"When we came into Mount Airy in Maryland, some friends of mine made a sign that had each of the racers' names listed on it, and in Odenton some other friends of mine waved us in.
"In Annapolis the real crowds came out. We had a few hundred spectators cheer for the team and congratulations for us making it to the finish."
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