Douglas Beck Ride 2 Recovery
If you’re looking for Douglas Belk, he’s on his bicycle and on the road this week.
He’s on a mission, one of 150 riders pedaling 320 miles from Washington to Virginia Beach in the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge. They spent Wednesday night in Richmond and today are on a 96-mile leg that will take them through Chester, Burrowville and then aboard the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry to Williamsburg for the evening.
Riders are a mixed lot with various abilities. Many are like Belk, a retired Army veteran who was injured in service. There are also non-injured vets, active duty personnel and members of the public on the ride. This event is not about racing; it’s about healing. These riders travel in groups and they help and inspire each other along the way.
“It’s very encouraging,” Belk says. “Once you get on a bike and start riding, it’s about finishing, but it’s about finishing together.”
He says participants in the Challenge draw strength from one another. There’s constant encouragement, cajoling as necessary, and shared tales and testimonies. You see veterans or firefighters with different disabilities, people who have lost limbs. Each shares their personal stories about how their lives were changed for the better through cycling, and you see it lived out on the road.
Belk cited a firefighter he had met who was injured during the 911 terrorist attacks and was told he would never do anything for himself again, and how he had overcome his situation through cycling.
“It means so much,” says Belk.
He spoke by phone at a rest stop on Wednesday in Ashland, the third day of five in the challenge. Riders started on Sunday in Washington. The Challenge will end with a finale on Friday at the Patriotic Festival in Virginia Beach.
Ride 2 Recovery was founded in 2008 and has helped 10,000 veterans through its various cycling and other programs that promote physical and mental health and a sense of camaraderie. Its goal is to provide “a way of life for vets to help other vets.” UnitedHealthcare has been a sponsor for seven years.
It was the second Challenge for Belk, a 61-year-old Chesterfield County resident. For this event, he’s riding an upright Italian bicycle. It’s the most humid day of the event so far, but there’s been no rain for the riders to contend with and the ride has been generally pleasant, he says.
Cycling has been a boon for Belk, who says he is in constant pain from injuries he sustained in the service. He says he has back and neck injuries and began biking after his doctor referred him to a therapeutic program at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“The cycling program has really helped with that,” he says.
There are about 10 people in the McGuire program, he says. In a good week, he rides about 80 to 100 miles, sometimes riding on the Virginia Capital Trail between Williamsburg and Richmond, other times out in Hanover County. He also does some riding on his own.
Challenge participants encourage one another, but they also receive shout-outs along the way, too. Belk says well-wishers stand in front of their homes, saying thanks and waving a hand or a flag.
“People are very supportive,” he says.
See the June Issue's Go South special section for a feature on adaptive-use trails at Pocahontas State Park that have opened gateways to to new experiences for bicyclists with disabilities.
Enjoy some blooms and learn about an array of health and fitness topics at VCU Health’s free seminars at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Sessions resume at 5:30 p.m. June 16 with “Treat Your Sleep Apnea and Prevent a Stroke.” Maha Alattar of the Department of Neurology will discuss current treatment options. You can enjoy the gardens at no additional charge beginning at 4 p.m.
Garden lovers also have another option that evening at 6 p.m.: VCU Health is offering a presentation on research and treatment regarding loss of smell at the Great Big Greenhouse, 2051 Huguenot Road. That free session will be presented by Richard Costanzo of the School of Medicine and Daniel Coehlo of VCU Health Otolaryngology.
A seminar on concussions and sports will be offered at Lewis Ginter at 5:30 p.m. on June 23. It will be presented by Michael Pitzer of the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.
For the Lewis Ginter sessions, check-in and refreshments are offered at 5 p.m. After the seminars, you can take park in Ginter’s Flowers After Five, also at no charge. You have to be registered to participate in the seminar for the free garden admission, though. Call 828-2357.