Family, amazing events, and autumn in New England…
It’s that time again! October 17 is exactly a week away which marks the fifth annual Krempels King of the Road Challenge. With some great help, this is a ride we spearheaded to benefit the Krempels Center, an organisation that is dedicated to improving the lives of adults living with brain injury as well as the invaluable support of their caregivers.
My father received an iamnotTedKing t-shirt for Christmas from me a few years back. Coincidentally, he is actually named Ted King, so he was slightly confused as to why his t-shirt advertises incorrectly. Such is life.
Ted (the senior) is the pillar of the King family. Dad is an orthopaedic surgeon, an athlete, and a brilliant and loving family man. He is the best father I could have ever asked for. On the morning of March 23, 2003 everything changed.
It was the first Sunday of spring vacation and I was eagerly driving home across New England after a successful collegiate race weekend. When I received a call from Mom telling me Dad was in the hospital, my immediate reaction was nothing was out of the ordinary – as a surgeon, Dad was perpetually on-call and therefore in the hospital repairing peoples’ injuries at all hours of the day and night. Despite remaining intrepidly calm on the phone, Mom’s voice wavered just the slightest bit indicating that something was in fact wrong. The right hemisphere of his brain experienced a blood clot early that morning, thereby changing our lives forever. Dad had suffered a stroke.
The human brain is an extraordinarily complex and delicate organ. So much of its intricate functions and complex mechanisms are still a mystery yet to be understood by science. What is unequivocally known, however, is that the left side of Dad’s body is virtually paralysed. Dad was very active; he formerly ran up to twenty miles per week, was an accomplished international sailor, and avid skier. As a highly respected and well-known surgeon in our community, his job was to enable people who were crippled by orthopaedic maladies. The irony is that, although a hand surgeon, Dad is now unable to feel and use his left hand. He is now a prisoner in his own body. Additionally, he has difficulty thinking through complex tasks.
Approaching thirteen years after the stroke, our family’s lives have turned out to be startlingly different that we had expected – most notably the lives of Dad and Mom. Mom is effectively Dad’s caregiver, his provider, and his companion. Their vows “In sickness and in health” could not be put through a better test than this.
This brief summary does not even begin to explain how our lives are forever changed and in truth, I don’t want to delve into it here or now. Writing about this even now is still very tough for me – it brings back the same wave of emotions I experienced driving home in the spring of 2003.
In early September, I retired from professional racing after a ten-year career. I’ve raced the world’s biggest races — the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, world championships, the northern Belgian Classics, and everything in between — yet since the inception of this ride, there is no day on two wheels that provides me as much inspiration and joy as does the KKotRC. We will very likely eclipse the half-million dollars raised mark this year(!), which stands as the Krempels Center’s largest fundraising endeavor — something of which I’m incredibly proud. I make it a point to visit the Center as much as possible and always the day before the ride. To see the Krempels Center’s members, staff, caregivers, friends, and supporters on the eve of the King Challenge and then on the day of the ride itself pins an ear to ear smile on my face the entire weekend.
The typical off-season of a professional cyclist begins in early October and runs the length of the month. We park our bike in the corner of the garage and let it quietly collect dust for a couple of weeks before we resume training in early November. For me, this was always a tough time because even though the riding in New England is spectacular year round, there is no better time than autumn. The weather is generally crisp and cool yet with glimmers of warmth, there are no intervals nor regimented training, and the foliage is truly the stuff you find photoshopped on a postcard. Now early in retirement, I don’t have to subscribe to the rules of off-season, to rest and recuperate after a taxing season, and you’ll see that in the fact that I’m continuing to ride nearly every day. I love the bike. I love the freedom and adventure it provides; I love the community it brings together and the humanity it instills. It’s for these and so many reasons I continue to ride and why I host the Krempels King of the Road Challenge.
If you can’t make it but would like to support my fundraising effort, I thank you very much and you can do so HERE. (This will give you 372 days to prepare for next year’s event and get it in the calendar!)
And of course, if you are interested in riding, I encourage you to sign up at KingChallenge.org. You too will be blown away with how awesome the day is! Take note, it’s a ride and not a race. With three distances over varying terrain, it’s open to any and all abilities, with a heavy emphasis on family. There’s a kid’s climbing wall, skills clinic, adaptive bike ride, an enormous expo featuring lots of the tremendous sponsors that have allowed me to pursue my professional cycling career. I know you’ll have a blast!
We will also have a virtual ride thanks to Zwift on November 1. If you’re keen to ride but still can’t make it to New England, pencil in the first of November for another fantastic event.