by Steve Kaufman



WAVE3 anchor John Boel's summer reset is at his Wisconsin boyhood home – and a river does run through it.
John Boel hung the “gone fishing” sign on his door in June and headed up to his boyhood Wisconsin home.
It wasn’t entirely a trip to recharge his batteries. He felt he had to go up there. His father back in Beloit is nearing 80 years of age, and his sister was recently widowed. Then Boel went up to Eagle River, near Lake Superior, to the area where his mother’s ashes were scattered after she passed away three years ago.
But Boel also spent a lot of time on the water, just as he had as a boy.

“It’s like the movie, ‘A River Runs Through It,’ ” he says. “All of us need a place to go back to, to reset. It grounds me. I sit in the same spot, using the same lures, looking at the same five houses around the edge of the lake, the same rickety piers.”

He needed that after a winter in which he had a benign tumor removed from his left side. The residual soreness in his arm has put him behind on his training program for the Louisville Ironman in October. He doesn’t want to fall behind. He hasn’t missed a Louisville Ironman in 10 years, and has finished eight of them.
His program had already been slowed by the broken collarbone he sustained just prior to last year’s Ironman. He competed anyway – and, remarkably, finished the entire event, though his doctor had advised him to take that one off – but the after-effects of swimming nearly two-and-a-half miles with a damaged shoulder kept him from jumping back into the water this year until June.
And to top it all off, he turned 55 this spring. And his younger daughter Brianna graduated from Male High School and will be heading to the University of Kentucky this fall on a pre-med journey. John and wife Brenda, who met in high school, will be facing empty-nesterhood after 30 years of marriage.
But up in Wisconsin, sitting in his rowboat with a six-horsepower outboard in the middle of Whitewater Lake, it all melted away – the years, the tension, the soreness, the anxiety about missed training hours.
Though his wife and daughter traveled through Europe this summer – a graduation present for Brianna – he insists, “If you gave me an airplane ticket to go anywhere in the world, I’d choose right here in Wisconsin. Something about returning to my home, to my boyhood creek down the road, the lake where I fished 45 years ago and the lake up north where I first vacationed in 1968. There’s nothing like that.”
The one thing that’s probably changed is the six-pack or two of beer on the boat back then for Boel and his fishing buddies. Boel has been a recovering alcoholic since 2011. The events were all very public. The newsman became the news, with two DUIs in two years that led to his being fired by WLKY. By the time he got hired by WAVE3, after a year of unemployment, Boel was devoting his life to sobriety – and to Ironman.
Up in Wisconsin, he put in an hour a day on his dad’s old Schwinn Aeordine, one of the early-model exercise bikes. And he ran for an hour along Turtle Creek, his boyhood fishing hole. But he knows most of his October competition has already been working out 20-25 hours a week.

“I’ll have to hit an 80-mile bike ride and a 10-mile run as soon as I get back,” he says, “and enter a triathlon or two.”

He says turning 54 a year ago created “a speed bump” in his fitness routine, a plateau where “everything’s harder, my times are slower, my pains take a little longer to go away.
“The wheels feel like they’re coming off. It’s a tough adjustment.”
Still, his commitment is as strong as ever. And he’s nothing if not disciplined. It’s critical for his regimen.
And yet! This winter, he discovered a familiar distraction that conflicts with that regimen. Since Christmas, he’s been regularly doing some trout fishing at Otter Creek in Meade County. “It’s my new favorite thing to do,” he says.
But the fishing isn’t good for his legs. “After wading a couple of miles on slippery rocks, knees locked and tensed, my legs are cashed.” And he wades out so far that it’s a 45-minute walk back to his car.
Not good for his Ironman training mode. “It’s detrimental to my condititioning. It kills my legs and joints. In fact, the biggest thing going on this year in my triathalon life is having to force myself not to go fishing on a perfect afternoon.”
It seems like a cruel irony. There must still be something irresistible for him about fishing, after all these years. The lure of that crankbait diving down below the water’s surface, the boat rocking gently, the summer sun shining through the Wisconsin pines.
The quiet and peace of it all. It will be hard to resist the lure.
John Boel suddenly knows how the bass feel.