A recent stint in Afghanistan has inspired ultra endurance athlete George E. Hood Jr. to get back on a stationary bicycle and attempt to ride for 12½ days straight. This will be the fourth attempt for Hood, an Indiana native, to break the Guinness World Record for spinning, or riding a stationary bicycle.
Hood, a retired drug enforcement agent and former Marine officer, will spin at his RideIVReasons event from April 11 to 24 at the Rush-Copley Healthplex in Aurora, IL.
While in Afghanistan recently with a private security company from March to September, Hood spent time investigating bomb blasts.
"Seeing the lives lost over there by some of the young people, I was inspired," Hood said.
And then, there were those who are wounded, with life-changing injuries to deal with for the rest of their lives.
"It left a very significant impression on me," he said. "Their courage is just overwhelming."
The time in Afghanistan "brought back memories from when I was a Marine," he said.
"Back here, we don't have a clue sometimes how hard they really work and the sacrifices they make," Hood said. "We only hear when someone gets killed."
Hood has participated in three other spinning events for a record since 2007, and all attempts have been for charity. This event is on behalf of the Fox Valley United Way for youth programs, including his local Boy Scouts of America Council. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which provides assistance to Marines injured on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the goal of 300 hours is significantly more than his best attempt of 177 hours, 45 minutes. Hood said he wants to "take this to a level never achieved before."
Hood is scheduled for a physical from his doctor prior to the event, but he does no anticipate any issues that would cause him to cancel. His doctor, he said, "usually sides with me."
"They see me as an example of wellness," Hood said. "A guy my age, fit and healthy. This is the way we need to be. I'm kind of an example." Saturday was Hood's 52nd birthday.
"Physically, I'm in the best shape of my life," he said.
Hood is training hard for this event. Saturday, at 4 p.m. CST, he started a 20-hour ride, which was expected to be his longest nonstop ride in his three years breaking records on the bike. For his event in April, Hood hopes to ride 20 hours nonstop from the start.
"I want that first 20 hours to be a piece of cake," Hood said.
Guinness rules dictate that Hood must "travel" 12 miles on the bike each hour. There is no speed requirement. He will receive five minutes of break time per hour, which he is allowed to accumulate. During the event, Hood will get little sleep, and he describes the effects of sleep deprivation as intoxicating. To combat those effects, he will be surrounding himself with good people. He has a project manager, Mark Collins, for this attempt, so that he can focus more time and effort on training.
"I'm in uncharted waters,'' Hood said.
The event, he said, is not without risk. With Hood getting so little sleep, he will begin to hallucinate. And, he said, "There are concerns that the hallucinogenic experiences will get progressively worse," he said. There is concern "that it could be a bad dream instead of a good dream."
And with his mind so tired, he said, there is a risk that a neuron may misfire, which could cause a stroke.
"But, I can have the same risk walking down the street and getting into a car," Hood said.
The event is called RideIVReasons because Hood has four reasons for attempting the ride. The first reason, he said, is simply because he can.
"I have obviously been blessed with the tremendous physical ability to pull off these feats of endurance," he said. "I am thankful for my good health, and have been blessed with a passion to use that physical ability for someone other than myself."
Second, Hood believes in the integrity of youth, and the benefits of the programs that he is fundraising for, including Boy Scouts of America and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
"While I can't save the world, I can certainly ride for those organizations I believe in," he said.
Hood said the third reason is because he cares.
"I care about the Marines who are serving in ongoing conflicts at such an unselfish rate on behalf of all of us," he said.
The last reason is because it is Hood's fourth attempt, and he wants to set the record, again.
"I will set a new Guinness World Record and put it so far out of reach that it will stand the test of time," he said.
"I will set the new record and at the same time bring awareness to the plight of so many others."
Previous events benefited Concerns of Police Survivors, the Kiwanis-operated Twin Lakes camp for special-needs children and the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign.For this campaign, he hopes to raise $200,000.
"The spirit of this ride is really genuine," Hood said. "People are looking for something like this."
Hood is the son of Indiana Mayor George E. Hood Sr.
Donations may be mailed to Fox Valley United Way, 40 West Downers Place, Aurora, IL 60506. Checks should be made to fvuw/rideIVreasons. Donations can also be made online, at www.RideGeorgeRide.org or .www.uwfoxvalley.org.