Like the very-nearly legendary rivalry and podium skirmish between Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy, I come at this blog post with a full-on head-butt that’s gonna set the skating world on fire. Jim Larson, the man, the myth. Yes, my arch-rival and nemesis, here, now, EXPOSED! That’s right – with this post I set out with one objective – to topple his reign of national medal counts for men my age, everywhere! But, you know, not quite for all of you, but for myself, ’cause that’s the way I roll…
When I got news earlier this year that the winning-est skater of my age divisions, dare say one of the greatest skaters of all-time, was sidelined with a broken leg, I smelled blood in the water. Being the skate-shark I am, I decided that if ever I had the opportunity to mount a comeback and go home with a national gold medal, the time was neigh. Forget about that whole thing of having to qualify up through regionals, I was going for the buy in my region. That’s right – with Larson out of the way, the podium was mine. I just needed to pack 9 months of training into 15 days and I was golden. Time for a comeback, yo.
Yeah – well, that was when I remembered how humiliating it was to take a third place medal in the 5,000 at ODN behind Jim and Norm Kirby, having been lapped by them. That’s when I decided it wasn’t a good idea to compete without really training. (I know – gimme a medal for profound insight.)
In thinking about it, I went into that race with arrogance and poor preparation. I hadn’t paid my dues, just thought I’d phone it in. It’s clear that Larson pays his, every damn day. So there’s that, and because there are a lot of other tough competitors out there, all taking Larson out of the mix does is level the playing field, which makes everyone more aggressive. He’s in a class all his own.
Truth be told, I was cheering him and Norm on as they were passing me in that race, cause these guys are the bleeding heart of the sport. Cheering them on and cursing under my breath. But they’re a breed-apart, having come up in the sport, and still pushing it forward & faster, still dropping records, training hard, suiting up and showing up. They’re inspirational. And it dawned on me that while they’re generally well-known in skate circles, guys like this don’t get the glory like NSC skaters or World Team members. There’s a lot the rest of us can learn from this species of skater, so why not focus a lens on what it is they’re doing to achieve consistent results? They’re getting stronger and faster, year after year. I need to know how they’re training if I’m ever going to race against them with pride, so I need information. Thus, the idea was born, use the blog as cover to gather intelligence. Write a story that digs deeper into the training methods and mind-set of the warrior. We have a plan.
It took a year, but I got it all! And I was ready to keep it to myself, but then he started asking about when I was going to publish it. Damn-it! Hadn’t anticipated that. No one reads this thing, so I thought I’d be safe. Crap. I’ve got to share this. But maybe I employ some counter-intell tactics like disseminating misinformation. Ah, that’s it. I’ll keep the real secrets to myself, tell you all the exact opposite of what he shares, and rack up the medals next year. (maniacal laugh, MANIACAL LAUGH!!!)
Yeah, well then there’s that detail of him still being among the living. If I’m ever going to show my face at another meet, I’ve gotta keep it real. Shoot. All this work…now for public consumption. Well, so be it. Game on.
If anything, this is a story about survival. Jim Larson is a a Home-Grown Champion in the truest sense of those words. This isn’t a guy who’s gone to Worlds and swept the field, but here at home, the guy has been accumulating titles, records and medals for years, at a rate unmatched by anyone else in any Division, period. So it’s not that we’re arch-rivals in it’s truest sense, because, after all, he’d have to know who I am first off, but also, I’d have to be on some sort of level close to his too. So the rivalry is all mine, but I see that as a good thing. This is a skating record to aspire too. So instead of using my Garmin’s training assistant, I load my goals on Larson pace, cause that’s public information. But what makes this guy tick? What’s he doing before he hits the track? Ah, I need to get inside his head. That’s it! If I’m ever gonna have a chance to pace him in a race, I need to be on his level. So let’s do some recon…
FirstLoser: First off, thanks for agreeing to this. We’ve been trying to get this together for a while, and I appreciate that you’ve made the time to talk to me. So, for those who are meeting you for the first time, let’s drill into your credentials. Exactly how long have you been skating, either quads or inlines?
Jim Larson: Thanks bro. The pleasure is mine. I started in late 1974 on quads, the wood and powder days. I picked up on the inline scene in 1995 and actually didn’t compete indoor until 1997, when I made my first regionals and first nationals. I’ve gotta say, we all have to start somewhere. My firsts were not pretty, to say the least!
FirstLoser: Been there, done that man. I lost half my butt at my first Nats. Fun! So, let’s fast-forward fifteen-sixteen years, you’re older, wiser, been doing this consistently all this time, and you have a freaking huge year. How many Inline indoor, Outdoor, Marathon, (takes a breath) Quad indoor, Rollerderby titles & records did you win or break in 2012?
Larson: Oh man! You want me to name them? If I’d known there’d be a test, I’d have stayed home. Just kidding. Let’s attack this by discipline. In 2012 for Outdoor Track (inline) I set the 300m time trial, broke the 500m record in the heat and the final, and I also set the 1500m record, so that’s 4 records. Moving to Road, I set the 200m and again broke and reset the record in 500m, and then again in the 1500m, so that’s a total of 8 records at the Outdoor National Bank Track and Road Championships.
FirstLoser: And some of those records were fresh, so none of this “it’s the wheels” crap.
Larson: Freshened them up myself! To continue, Indoor Inline, I went into 2012 setting goals and breaking down each individual race, determining how fast I could be and holding a lap average in order to set all the records, in hopes to set them in the heats and break them again in the finals…
FirstLoser: (internal monologue) ‘Heh,heh,heh…that’s it, reveal your strategy. He’s playing into my trap!’
Larson: …so, in order, I set the 700m record in the heat and broke it again in the final, same with the 500m. But the 1000m didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. I was on record pace through 8 laps and fell off pace a little at the end and missed the record by .30(tenths) of a second. Going into the final that night I thought well if I was that close, I know in the final the pace could be a little faster, so barring any mistakes it could very well be mine at the end of the race. But at the start of the race I was caught sleeping on the line and wasn’t able to nail the start like I normally can do without any hiccups, and I was second going into the first corner, and was passed by 3 people in a corner and a straight. That kinda set me back, and the guys really made me work, so I missed my opportunity in the 1000m, and that was when I realized the record wasn’t going to be touched. At that point, I was racing for the win and placement for the overall title. So records set on inlines in division was 4.
FirstLoser: That was Divisions, but you’re a big relay player as well.
Larson: Yes, The Relays. Well, we set the Veteran’s 2 Man record by over 4 seconds, and the Vet 2 Mix by 11 seconds! Choose your partners wisely, mine are always the best.
FirstLoser: So we’re at 6 on inlines for indoor so far? Dayum!
Larson: Yes, but hold on! Moving on to quads…
Larson: Well, I was counting, son! I wasn’t planning on stopping at 6. I wasn’t totally satisfied missing that 10 lapper in Inline Division, so I set out on Quads to just dominate, and that’s where my head was at after coming off a good Inline season. But with some tough competition out there on Quads, I knew I would have to compete in solid fashion.
FirstLoser: Were you phoneing it in on Inlines?
Larson: (Laughs) Not at all, man! Stop trying to cause me trouble. So listen, on Quads, I set the 300m record in the heat, set and reset both the 500m and the 700m in the heats and finals. So that would be 5 more national records to add on Quads for 2012. So that would be a total of 19 records in 2012.
FirstLoser: Oh SNAP! That was just records? Dayum.
Larson: Yeah! As far as titles go, Indoor, Inline & Quad Veteran Men Champion, Inline & Quad Veteran 2 Man & 2 Mix Champion, Overall Track and Road Champion at Outdoor Nationals with 6 Gold Medals. That was just Nats, but then there’s NIRA National Champion, and the MRDA Rollerderby National Champion with my Rollerderby team “YOUR MOM”. So all in all, adding the titles, grand total…
FirstLoser: 14 National Titles in 2012. Goodness. Well, that’s just 2012. You’ve been knocking down records for years as you move through different Divisions. How many standing records do you hold now?
Larson: You’re really going to make me think about this one… (Long pause, at which point I head to the bar to drown my sorrows.) …where were you? Didn’t bring me one? This is over!
FirstLoser: Be right back…
Larson: Good, I need a little more time to think – got a calculator?
FirstLoser: (completely soused now, handing him a beer)
Larson: About time! What, no shots? (mutters something, can make out the phrase cheap bastard) Well, some records we don’t keep track of because USARS has done away with certain Outdoor and Indoor distances and Divisions, but I currently hold in Master Men Outdoor the record for the 300m on Road, which I’ll own forever because they eliminated the race . I also have a Quad Classic 2 Man 3000m record, another eliminated distance, then there’s the 3 Quad Veteran Men Records, 2 Inline Veteran Men records, 2 Inline Veteran Relay Records, 6 Inline 45-54 Master Divisions Outdoor Records on Road and Track…so where we at man? 15? Sounds good to me. That’s what’s standing right now.
FirstLoser: Yeah *hic* but we know we’re not done yet. You’ve had a long career, and some of your records have been picked off. Not by me of course.
Larson: Of course, you lousy drunk!
FirstLoser: Now, now…focus on your *hic* career records, and the titles you’ve won through the years. Count that s#!t, b!^%h! Yeah!
Larson: Wow, you’re a nasty drunk too. Simmer down or I’ll smack you down, punk…Hmmm, not sure how many career records, but I think I could honestly say it’s in the 30-40 range. As far as titles go, if we count Outdoor Nationals in there as well, each race is a title for Outdoor.
FirstLoser: I can’t feel my face…what did you say? You’ve earned a title for each race and distance? Dayum…(glug, glug, glug)
Larson: Drink till ya stink, son! I can say, on a real good guess without archiving all of them, I’m close to the 50 range for Indoor and Outdoor, Inlines and Quads.
FirstLoser: *hic* What about skateboard and scooter? Flying Turtle?
Larson: Not yet, but I’m working on it. (BAMN! Smacks me upside the head with an Iron City empty.) Sober up.
FirstLoser: OK. Have you ever skated on the world team?
Larson: Nope. I never had the opportunity to try out for the World Team back in the day, but looking back I wish I knew then what I know now. Just a dream, but I believe it would have been interesting.
FirstLoser: OK, so, of everyone you’ve skated against, who stands out as the toughest competition you’ve ever faced?
Larson: Well I do have a couple people I have battled against over the years on Quads and Inlines. You’re not on that list, but on Quads, I could mention Dante Muse all day long. Simply put, he’s a Technician skater. On Inlines, Jay Ingram and I had our battles, along with heated races with Russell Parmely. Both guys are great competitors and OMG, hella fast! My hat’s off to them and their great careers as well!
FirstLoser: One more question, before I pass-out…How the hell do you do it, man? (Starting the drunken cry)
Larson: I do all of this on pure high self esteem, integrity, motivation, drive, success, and positive mental preparation.
FirstLoser: No, no, HOW do you do it, man?
Larson: My secret? Hard work bro. I pay my dues. We practice Indoor 4 days a week. During specific times of the year, we’re on double sessions, plus, weather permitting, outdoor as well. I’m in the gym 4-5 days a week, doing total cardio, weight training, core training, cycling, you name it. On the average, I spend 2 hours a day. It doesn’t hurt that I work at a gym as well, so I really take advantage of that! I really eat very well too. I’m not big on fast-food, candy, an overabundance of soda, but I do have an occasional Diet Pepsi. When I’m in-season training, I’ll slam a protein shake diet.
FirstLoser: Do you sleep well? Does that play into it?
Larson: I never had irregular sleep patterns, and my wife (speed skater Denise Larson) gets mad when I fall asleep before her and leave the TV on!
At this point, the room is spinning, I’m bleeding from the bottle to the head, and decide to call it a night. I’ve got more, very specific questions designed to really get in his head, but I need to be sober to get them straight. So stay tuned, there’s a lot more where this came from…