Having overcome cancer, Boethling keeps pedaling
Boulder cyclist completed Race Across America this year
By Chris Maestas
For the Camera
At first glance, Fred Boethling looks like an ordinary 60-year-old. The Boulder businessman's glasses, the graying hair and the tie certainly don't give him away. But the Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelet he wears on his right wrist may hold more significance to him than to most others who sport the item.
“I see (Armstrong) as an inspiration,” Boethling admitted. “It's amazing he survived (cancer) and how he goes on to do the things he's done.”
But what Boethling has done is similarly amazing.
Since overcoming cancer seven years ago, Boethling has gone on to set various ultra-cycling records and has pursued a healthier, more physically fit lifestyle.
When Boethling was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998, friends and family were concerned. “It was devastating,” Rick Boethling, Fred's son, said. But instead of panicking, the elder Boethling had the cancer removed surgically and decided it was time for a change in his life. “I asked myself, ‘What do you want to do with the rest of your life?'”
The answer was simple.
He decided to take better care of his body by getting back to his college weight and physical condition. He also made a list of goals he wished to accomplish.
Among those goals was racing in the 3,051-mile Race Across America, which, according to Outside Magazine, is the most difficult and trying endurance event in the world. Racers begin in San Diego and ride their bicycles across the country, finishing in Atlantic City . The race, unlike the Tour de France, is run in one stage, with no daily stops. Racers ride over 20 hours per day and eat while they ride. Along the way, racers climb a sum of 109,000 feet and cross three Colorado passes. “When he told me about (the idea) I wasn't really sure what to make of it,” Rick Boethling said. “I thought it was a pipe dream up until he started really training for it. Then I thought ‘maybe he really is going to do this.'”
Six years later and 35 pounds lighter, mission accomplished. Boethling and partner Dan Crain, also 60 years old at the time of the event, raced as a two-man team named Team60+ this past summer. The duo, sponsored by local music CD outlet Bart's CD Cellar and bicycle gear manufacturer Pearl Izumi, finished the event in eight days, 13 hours and 34 minutes, which was good for third place and an age-group record for the two-man division. They also blazed through Utah at a record pace (356 miles in 20 hours).
But the road to 2005's Race Across America was a long and strenuous one. Following the surgery to remove the cancer, Boethling balanced his calorie intake and readied himself by gradually logging more and more hours at a time on his bike. Two years into his training, he decided to ride from Mexico to Canada . He did so averaging 110 miles per day. A year later he participated in the California Triple Crown, going on to finish four 200-mile races.
According to event coordinators, he was the first Coloradan to achieve California 's Triple Crown. When he finished the Triple Crown, he decided it was time to set new goals.
“As fitness goes up, you look for new challenges,” explained Boethling. “That's when I discovered records.”
Since then, Boethling has set numerous Ultra Marathon Cycling Association records. He has recorded the fastest times traveling from one end of a state to the other in Minnesota , Wisconsin , New Mexico , Wyoming and Utah .
But Boethling hasn't always been this active. He moved to Boulder from southeast Denver 11 years ago when he decided that a change of scenery was necessary.
“I was business, business, business,” Boethling said. “I needed to change my lifestyle. I needed balance in life.”
Boethling and his wife decided to make the move because Boulder had a true “sense of community.” It didn't hurt that Boulder is one of the most outdoor-friendly cities in the nation. After all, Boethling had always been an outdoor aficionado. He enjoys skiing, mountain biking, road cycling and mountain climbing.
But it wasn't until the cancer hit that he decided to get serious about fitness. He had seen the ugly side of cancer, but he had also seen the some of the negative effects of aging.
His mother died after she was diagnosed with lung cancer and emphysema. He also hadn't seen his father, who overcame prostate cancer and who Boethling estimates smokes about two packs of cigarettes a day, engage in any physical activity since he was in eighth grade.
Boethling wanted not only to become healthier for himself, but to be able to take part in physical activities with his children. “It's incredibly important to me,” Boethling said. “Doing these things with them is incredibly rewarding.”
He is planning on going on a volcano-climbing trip to Mexico with his son, who is also his team manager, this winter. To Boethling, that's just another accomplishment before prepping for his greatest goal. “I want to be the oldest guy to race and finish the Race Across America,” he said.
Only this time he will do it solo. He plans to do it next summer when he will be 61. The oldest man to finish the race was 59. “He's a very goal-driven person,” said his son, Rick. “He wasn't going to give up when cancer hit. It's not that much different than Lance Armstrong.”
Like Armstrong, Boethling has built a bit of a fan base. People send him e-mails telling him how he is their inspiration. One man even drove from Arizona to watch Boethling finish the Race Across America. Boethling admits that the attention adds an element of pressure, but he stays grounded.
“Every morning I get up, I'm happy to be alive,” he said. “Having mortality slapped in my face makes those feelings even greater.”