Emily wishes I was Ted King.
I wish I was Ted King…
This is Ted King.
Emily was kind enough to allow me to take over her blog for just this ONE POST. To all of her faithful readers, many of which are now asking themselves who on earth Ted King is (do some research, you won’t regret it), please bare with me. You might actually enjoy this.
I want you to think back to the first time you rode a bike. It was most likely traumatic so you’ve repressed it. But think ahead to the first time you rode without assistance. Probably with tassels on the handlebars and noise-makers on the spokes, maybe cards, I don’t know how old you people are. Remember the joy you felt? The freedom? The thrill of bombing down a hill like fighter pilot? Wow! For a lot of kids, the bike is replaced by a basketball, or a baseball glove, or a football helmet. For others it comes a bit later, when the first car enters the picture. I wanted so badly to be like my older brothers. I tried basketball. It turns I had the upper body strength of Mr. Peanut so a few air-balled free throws in I hung up my Air Jordan’s. I tried baseball and it was fun, but I just couldn’t get it to stick. Football? Mr. Peanut. This is around the time in my life that I discovered music. That stuck like glue. But being a young man from East Tennessee, with the Smoky Mountains literally right outside my bedroom window, I craved the outdoors! My oldest brother introduced me to rock climbing and mountain biking. So most Saturday mornings were spent trying to decide if I wanted to be Ringo or Gary Fisher.
I distinctly remember the summer of 2000. My oldest brother, Andy, was getting married. Our family spent about a week in Florida in late July. That was my first experience with the Tour de France. Andy had recently taken up road biking, which will happen if you work in an outdoors store. Each morning we would get up at the crack of dawn to watch that day’s stage. I was fascinated, but I had so many questions! Andy was so patient as he described the strategies the teams used, and the points systems, and all of the other eccentricities of the sport. For me it was love at first sight. Watching the yellow jersey of Lance Armstrong battle the pink Telekom jersey of Jan Ulrich just sent my blood pressure through the roof! I knew I wanted to experience it firsthand one way or another. I just had to get one of those tiny bikes with the skinny tires and curved handlebars. I was 13 years old, I wouldn’t have one until almost ten years later.
Andy and I after a tough climb up Butterfly Gap.
In high school I met friends who loved music and the outdoors. We would go climbing one weekend and mountain biking the next. Every summer I would continue to watch the tour as much as I could. Sometimes getting up at 4:30 to watch a 5 hour stage was just too much. In that sense I was a typical teenager. I continued to learn though. How does a cycling team work? You mean all these guys sacrifice themselves just so that one dude can win the stage? Or the whole tour? Why? Don’t they ever want to win a stage/tour themselves? The idea of a Domestique still fascinates me to this day. It’s really more than just helping out a teammate. It’s a selfless act. In cycling it’s burning all your reserves and running on empty for hours to get your team in the best position to win. In life it’s putting others before yourself. It’s focusing on an end goal and executing a plan to achieve it. How can a 16 year old kid learn life lessons from a bike race?
I could tell you about the Spring of 2009 when I had finally managed to save enough money to get my first road bike. And about the first few disastrous rides while I tried to learn how to clip in and out of the pedals. We could go into detail about how cool I felt when I got my first kit and matching cap. Or about the time my old high school buddies and I went on our first group road ride together. I’ll skip all that goofiness and tell a couple of stories about how cycling has truly impacted my life. In February of 2012 I met a girl named Emily. This girl changed my life. I thought, at the time, that I was a good guy and a good cyclist. I was neither. But that would change. It was on one of our first or second dates, just as we were getting to know one another, that I mentioned I was a cyclist. I thought it would impress her and that she would swoon from how cool I was. Her response was “Oh me too”. What?! Over the course of the conversation we learned that we had different approaches to the activity. She did not (yet) own any spandex. She, at one time, had a road bike but currently rode a trail bike. But she had a mutual love for the sport. I thought, “jackpot”! I won’t go as far as saying that we fell in love over cycling, but it was one of many things we had in common. And over the next year as we grew in love together, cycling was a big part of our relationship. We got Emily a road bike, shoes and spandex (a must have) and we shared many rides together. This gave us hours out alone to talk and get to know each other. To this day, riding together is still one of my favorite ways to spend time with her. Emily has inspired me to become a better man. On and off the bike.
One of the first times that I visited Emily’s family just south of Nashville, we brought our bikes. That is normal for us. We’re going on vacation; we figure out how can we bring our bikes with us. We did a short ride around town on the first day and Emily’s dad was intrigued. He was asking about our bikes, and why we clip into the pedals and how fast and far we ride. I invited him out on a ride we were planning for later that week. He was happy to join us. We did about a 20 mile ride with some rolling hills. Emily and I were feeling great and moving pretty quick, her dad looked miserable. He had an old 10 speed mountain bike and really did his best to keep up. Had I known what would happen next I might have been kinder to him on the ride. The next time we came to visit he had a new bike, was riding centuries and was laughing at my feeble attempts to keep up with him. I’m exaggerating, of course, he would never laugh at me. But I truly could not keep up with him. And still can’t! To those of you who know Emily’s dad, you are not surprised by this. He finds something he loves and he goes all in. And he excels at it. This was no different. I would go so far as to say that, in specific corners of the cycling community, he has become a legend. They call him the #nicestmanintheworld but he is more commonly known as Dr. E.
Emily and I got married, and of course, had a bicycle themed wedding. And over the past three years we have ridden in dozens of organized rides across the Southeast and Midwest (we moved to Iowa a couple of years ago for school). We’ve ridden in the Tour de Cure, Ride of Silence, The Tour de Rocky Top, Three State Three Mountain, The Big Hill Challenge, The ERV, The GranGable Fondo; just to name a few.
My father-in-law has joined us on many of these! This year the three of us had the pleasure of riding in RAGBRAI. A week long, across-the-state ride here in Iowa. We rode past tens of thousands of cyclists in our fluorescent green 2014 Hincapie Gran Fondo kits. We were referred to as the Hincapie Team. What an incredible experience.
A few weeks later, Emily and I did our first organized century ride. Again wearing our matching Hincapie Racing Team kits. We had a few people remember us from RAGBRAI too! Another amazing experience.
This past weekend we had, without a doubt, our greatest cycling experience to date. Dr. E invited us to join him at the 2015 Hincapie Gran Fondo in Greenville, SC.
Yes, I met a bunch of pro cyclists that I’ve been watching and admiring on TV for years. Yes, I ate some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. Yes, I got to share an amazing ride with close to 2,000 other cyclists. But there were two things about this weekend that were so impactful that I’m still trying to process them.
The first being the amount of people that came up to Dr. E and said how inspiring he was. They would see him through the crowd, from across the room and come over to shake his hand. He is truly a legend! He brought over 20 people with him to ride as well. Most of whom had been riding for less than 3 years. I can’t help but think, modestly of course, that had Emily and I never brought our bikes on that trip many of those guys would have very different lives. It made me so proud! I shared my love of something with someone else and it enriched their life! It enriched multiple lives! I was standing at one of the many dinners that weekend, looking around at the group that had joined us, the Emadian Group, and I was beaming with pride. No one was saying “Hey that’s the guy that introduced the Doc to cycling!” I didn’t get lifted up on anyone’s shoulders and paraded around the room. No one even bought me a drink, because they were free. But I couldn’t help but smile. This must be what a Domestique feels like. Watching their captain get the yellow jersey on the podium. Realizing that in some small way they helped to create this moment. It was overwhelming.
The second event was not as much fun. For me at least. I didn’t finish the ride. I was set on doing the 80 mile route. I’ve been in great shape this year and I knew that it would be the hardest ride I’ve ever done, but I had to try it. I got 63 miles in and had to stop. It was heartbreaking. I’ll spare the gory details but I basically pushed my body to it’s limit, and then went more. I couldn’t see straight. I was white as ghost. I had to have an ambulance take me back to the start line. I laid there with an IV in and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. I was fighting back tears as I watched riders out the back window. Then I saw the 1K flag. How could I face my wife and mother- and father-in-law like this? What would they think of me? I was in tears. But I had been in tears for most of the ride anyways. There were so many emotions running through me on that day. But the biggest one was pride. I was so proud of myself. I climbed the hell out of Skyuka. I made it up Howard’s Gap. I was bombing like a fighter pilot down the other sides just like I was a kid again. Then 3/4 of the way up Green River Cove it came to an abrupt stop. I’ve never been so disappointed in my life. I was so close. Of course my family was there to support me and take care of me. I really had nothing to worry about. I was physically fine, just a little dried up on the insides. I thought about it the entire way home.16 hours. And I’m obviously still thinking about it. What could I have done differently?
I’ve set a goal. I’m going back to Greenville, SC next October. I’m going to do the same route with 2,000 other people. And I’m going to finish. And then I’m going to eat some pizza and paella. My goal is to finish. But not just to finish; to finish, be pleased with my effort and encourage others along the way. There will be someone next year who is in the same spot I was this year. Struggling to finish, hoping that they can just make it around the next switchback, not wanting to give up. I want to be their Domestique. I want to say “I know how that feels. But it only lasts for a little while. Grab onto my wheel and let’s get through it.” I’ve made a commitment to myself that I will train harder for this. I never want to be in the situation again where I feel like I’m not physically capable of finishing a ride. I know there will always be seemingly insurmountable challenges, but I want to be prepared for them. I was not prepared for this. There is no such thing as winter riding in Iowa. Unless you are Nanuk of the North. I will build up my base strength on the trainer this winter and get ready to start hard and fast in the spring. The Iowa City area has a strong cycling community so I will have many chances to ride with fellow cyclists, who share similar goals. I love storytelling, too (if you couldn’t tell). I look forward to bragging about the weekend I spent with Lance, George, Christian, Cadel, Ted and Brent. Maybe I can get a few of them to tag along next year!
I’m applying to the Ride Hincapie Ambassador’s Program this winter. They need people like me to spread the word here in Iowa! Arguably the cycling hub of the Midwest (pun intended). Hincapie is a company that makes some of the best cycling apparel and accessories you can get your hands on. Check out their website! To cyclists, comfort and style are two of the most important factors to consider when buying new gear. If you’re gonna wear spandex and sit on a bike for hours you have to look good and be comfortable, right?! As I set off to accomplish this goal, I’ll need some support. There will be days that I just don’t want to ride. Especially on a trainer.
I’ll be documenting my training on Facebook (Boone Guthe), Instagram (gutheb), and Twitter (@gutheb). I’m also in the process of developing my OWN blog! It will share stories of my/our rides and include some top notch ride footage. I also upload all of my ride videos to my YouTube channel, just search “Boone Guthe”. And here’s a little secret, most of my videos feature music that was either performed by me, written by me or both…I call them Booney Tunes!! So show me some love and encouragement! If you’re in the area, come ride with me. Or invite me on your rides! Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for upcoming posts!