Tag Archives: speed skating

Joey Mantia: From Inline to Olympiad

“The preeminent victory you dream about as a kid, the victory that makes all the sacrifices worth it, the kind you attain over your fiercest rivals that brings you to the top of the world…that’s the victory I live for.” – Joey Mantia

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If you’re reading this and you’re a skater, you know. Joey Mantia is one of the most successful inline speed skaters in history. 28 World titles, countless national records, verified world speed records…there’s little he hasn’t achieved in the sport of inline speed skating. We’re talking about the most decorated inline speed skater of his generation. So it came as no surprise when he traded in his wheels for steel, in pursuit of Olympic gold on ice with US Speedskating. It was inevitable.

It’s one thing to be selected to participate in the joint USA Rollersports / US Speedskating / US Olympic Committee Wheels on Ice Program (WhIP), but it’s quite another to make the US Speedskating World Cup Team, and something yet again to make your way through Olympic trials to earn a berth on the US Olympic Speedskating team. Mantia’s done it all, in just a little over two ice seasons, or less than a typical four-year period between Olympic games. He really hasn’t been on the ice all that long at all.

As if this weren’t enough, he stunned the long track world by winning a gold medal in the 1,500m World Cup race in Berlin in his second season on the World Cup team, just one stop away from Olympic trials, earning the respect of the best long track speed skaters in the world. And yet for every success Mantia achieves, he becomes not more mythic, but more human, more approachable. He’s humble. He’s connected to his fans and friends.

The skater you can talk to.

The skater you can talk to.

In the age of social media, his Twitter feed and Facebook walls are full of pictures of him with the skaters he’s connected with over the years, from all walks of life. At clinics or races, on the track and off, he’s always been known as a skater you can talk to. Joey, “The Professor,” who you can ask for advice. He’s a skater so passionate about the sport, he’d tell you how to beat him because it would make the race more of a challenge.

He’s a skater’s skater, as trite as that sounds. Even in his WhIP years and now today as an Olympian, he never abandoned inline speed skating. He’s been right here, either in-person announcing at an NSC (National Speedskating Circuit, the professional inline speedskating league he co-founded with Miguel Jose) event, or showing up to race and win on inlines at a World Inline Cup race. Inline speed is in his DNA. He’s truly a champion for us all, because he never takes himself as seriously as he takes his own technique. Thus, this interview came to be.

Conducted over these weeks since he made the US Olympic Long Track Team headed to Sochi, Russia, to compete in the XXII Olympic Winter Games, Joey made time to talk to us, the inline community. Without further ado, Mantia speaks on his #RoadToSochi:

L-R Jonathan Garcia, Brian Hansen, Shani Davis, Joey Mantia.

L-R Jonathan Garcia, Brian Hansen, Shani Davis, Joey Mantia.

FirstLoser: Congratulations man. You’ve earned a place among the greats at the top of the world. I know I speak for many when I say how happy we are for you. A legion of inline skaters feels pride in your accomplishment.

Joey Mantia: Thanks man. Much appreciated.

FirstLoser: Tell us about the decision you made to become an Olympian. What was it that drove you to pursue this path?

Mantia: Well, for a long time it was something that Renee (Hildebrand, longtime coach and mentor) talked about when I was a younger, but I never really paid too much attention to it. I really wasn’t thinking about it at all, especially after I started making legitimate money from pro contracts with inline. But eventually, after competing in nine straight World Inline Championships and accomplishing all of my goals, I found myself lacking the hunger that molded me into the aggressive athlete I once was. The guy who laid everything he had out on the track at every practice. That guy was gone. I found myself starting to get soft. So that’s when I started thinking about what Renee had always talked about. I gave it a lot of thought, and ultimately decided that the only way to get the hunger back was to switch to ice and start from the bottom again. And start from the bottom again is truly what I did. (laughs)

FirstLoser: And the mighty will rise! When you think back along your entire career, was there anything you had to sacrifice in order to make it as far as you did on inlines? As far as you’ve made it now on ice?

Mantia: That’s a hard question to answer because I feel like I’ve always been fortunate enough to do what I love to do. So in a sense, no, there wasn’t any real sacrifice in my eyes. I guess from the outside looking in, I missed out on a lot of partying in high school and stuff like that, but man, I just wanted to be the best in the world at skating, and I took that very seriously.

FirstLoser: Look where all that partying got the Beib? Huh? No real loss there. So OK, let’s turn that somewhat on its head…is there anything you wouldn’t sacrifice now in order to make it further?

Mantia: Well, I would never sacrifice my happiness. Of course there are days at practice where I’m absolutely miserable because of the amount of work load, or because my skating isn’t really coming along as well as I’d like. But in the grand scheme, when I stop having fun doing what I’m doing, then I’m going to walk away and find something new that makes me happy again.

FirstLoser: OK, so people won’t let me forget it if I don’t ask, will you ever compete on inlines again?

Mantia: That’s a good question. (pauses) I’m not sure. I want to, but I don’t want to disrespect the sport by competing when I’m not ready, when I’m not at a level that I need to be at to compete with the top guys in the sport.

FirstLoser: Not even once a year like you have been, or another long, point-to-point marathon?

Mantia: Well, when you put it like that, I guess marathons are never out of the question. But the heart of the sport, skating Worlds – circuit style racing on track and road – I’m not sure I’ll ever do those again. But who knows? We’ll see.

FirstLoser: Yeah, sorry for the diversion, you’ve got bigger fish to fry right now. Back to where you are today. Let me ask you this, were there times you regretted making the decision to chase this Olympic dream of yours?

Mantia: Well, before I switched over to the ice, I was confident that I would be able to pick it up quickly and be where I wanted to be in a relatively short amount of time. I was confident. When I actually made the switch, I started doubting myself a little bit, I started questioning if I actually had enough time to get on the level I needed to be on to make the Olympic team. It was pretty much up until this season that I was miserable with the ups and downs. It was outright depressing how aggressive the lows were. On one hand, it was nothing I hadn’t experienced before with inline, but on the other hand, this time I felt like I was going through it alone. There was no comforting coach, no major sponsors, and no steady pay check. It was just me and my goals; it was do or die. It wasn’t that long ago that I was at a breaking point with a very short amount of time to get things straight. Luckily, I made it through to the other side.

FirstLoser: When you say it wasn’t so long ago, how long ago was it?

Mantia: After the first two world cups this season.

FirstLoser: Wow. Not long ago at all. I can only imagine the depth of that kind of despair. We’re all certainly glad you pulled out of it. And now you’re there, training at the top of the world, with the fastest skaters in the world. You walk among the gods of Olympus.

Working hard in the freezing cold of the great Italian outdoors.

Working hard in the freezing cold of the great Italian outdoors.

Mantia: (laughs) Thanks, but I wouldn’t go that far. I’m here though, and it’s cold! We’re training in Italy, outdoors. It’s in the low 30’s. It’s really miserable skating outside, you get numb in like thirty minutes, then it turns into just pushing hard and hoping for the best.

FirstLoser: Brrrrrrr. Man, sounds like skating inline outdoors in Colorado this time of year. But what I was saying was, you’ve made it. You’re there, from the bottom back to the top, now you’re one of them. How has your reception been among our nation’s elite? Have you been welcomed openly by other members of the team?

Mantia: Yeah, everyone is friendly, for sure. But at the end of the day, no one is here to lose, and you can feel that.

FirstLoser: Warm, not necessarily fuzzy, eh? Well, let’s talk about what’s gotten you to where you now sit, in the freezing cold over there. What’s the biggest thrill been for you so far on this Olympic journey?

Berlin, the tipping point.

Berlin, the tipping point.

Mantia: Undoubtedly, it was winning the World Cup in Berlin in the 1,500m. Winning that event was a rush I hadn’t felt in so, so long. When I was competing on inlines, I became addicted to the thrill of winning. Starting from the bottom when I switched to ice, I was deprived of that feeling, to the point where I forgot what it was like to win, especially when it really counted. That’s so crucially important to my mental and emotional toughness. Berlin is where I got it back. That was my tipping point.

The face of addiction.

The face of addiction.

FirstLoser: What about making the Olympic team? Was that the same kind of rush? Where does that rate on the same scale?

Mantia: It’s not the same, no. Making the Olympic team was more of a relief than a thrill for me, because the reality is, making the team was just an enormous stepping stone to the big show. Making it through trials gave me confidence and experience, but most importantly, making it through that competition gave me more time to sharpen up on the ice. That’s the reality.

FirstLoser: Wow. I get a thrill if they accept my application to take a beginners curling class at the local ice rink, and you take making the Olympic team in stride! (laughs) Jeez…So then, tell me, is there anything about the journey that’s been surprising to you, as in, you had no idea something was going to be so hard or so easy? What’s something that’s been unexpected?

Crushing it in Berlin.

Crushing it in Berlin.

Mantia: I didn’t take making the team in stride man, it’s just a different feeling from what I experienced winning that gold medal in Berlin. But on what you just asked, I guess the major shocker was how small the sport of long track ice skating really is. Sure, the recognition I experience now is bigger than inline, but that’s only because I’m going to the Olympics. Ice skating feels like this tiny little world when you’re inside of it. It was a really weird transition for me, coming from wheels. I’ll tell you this though, point-blank, long track is a man’s sport. There’s no hiding. The worthy win and the unworthy fail. It’s a study in simplicity, and that’s the odd beauty that can make an athlete fall in love with the sport if they stick with it long enough.

FirstLoser: It sounds like you’re there, in that love affair. And it’s work is what you’re saying. To stay on this subject for a minute, but to go to the technical tip, what was the hardest transition for you going from inline to ice? What did you have to work on the most to truly become a long track speed skater?

Mantia: The absolute biggest thing for me continues to be fine tuning where my center of gravity is and keeping my hips rock solid. I don’t know if I was just better at it when I was younger on my inlines, but I feel like when I switched to ice, I was technically pretty terrible on my inlines. It’s one of those things I look back on now and wish, for my own sanity and for the sake of time that I would have made the switch in 2007 when I was, technically speaking, skating the best I ever had. Now, I’m trying to pin-point that two to three millimeter position where my weight needs to be to make my skates work correctly, while at the same time keeping my hips from moving around, those are the keys to my success on the ice today. That’s where my focus is.

FirstLoser: Sounds like fodder for self-visualization and mental training too. Wow. OK, so back to the transformation you’ve undergone. What was the first thing to go through your head when you knew you’d made the 2014 Olympic team?

Reaction to the 1,000m big personal best and qualification for the 2014 Olympic Team.

Reaction to the 1,000m big personal best and qualification for the 2014 Olympic Team.

Mantia: (laughs) YES. YESSS. YESSSSS. YESSSSSSS. OKAY. Now, how do I get a lot better than this in a month?

FirstLoser: (laughs) That’s got to be a rush, then a panic!

Mantia: It wasn’t a panic, but I definitely understood the urgency of the task at hand.

FirstLoser: So when you come back down from that mental ledge, what’s the first thing that happens to you as an Olympic athlete? You know, is there some kind of immediate reaction from the USOC that’s triggered when you’ve made your spot? Black SUV’s pull out, large men in black suits with earpieces and sunglasses whisk you away to a secret, undisclosed location…

Mantia: Mmmm, yeah. No, nothing like that. To tell you the insider’s truth, there’s actually nothing really special. We did have a short team processing meeting, where Under Armour (US Speedskating sponsor) unveiled our new suits, and we got some cool Olympic long track gear, but other than that, life pretty much carried on like normal. It’s funny in a sense. People do end up treating you a lot differently when they find out you’re going to be in the Olympics, but you know, that’s the way the world works I guess.

FirstLoser: Your fans were able to be there with you too when you made the team, because trials were broadcast nationally live on Skater’s Place – oh, no, I mean on national television on NBC. How did that factor into your performance that day? Did knowing you were skating on national television have an effect on your game?

Earning his first spot on the 2014 Olympic Team at trials in the 1,000m.

Earning his first spot on the 2014 Olympic Team at trials in the 1,000m.

Mantia: I didn’t really feel the presence of the cameras too much, but it did give me a little extra motivation to leave everything out there on the ice and finish each race with my tongue hanging out.

FirstLoser: So when you hit this level of success, the off-ice distractions undoubtedly increase. Opportunities present themselves, and like you said, people start treating you differently. Have you gone Hollywood and gotten yourself an agent yet? Starting to see the promise of big-time endorsement opportunities as potential reality?

Mantia: As a matter of fact, I do have an agent. I’ll tell you, it’s tough to be an Olympic athlete from America, because there are so many good ones out there. To have a public career beyond the games, you have to have things like a good story, or a cool name, or you need to be completely dominant, or something along those lines, that’s how you get the big deals. For me, I’m still flying under the radar, because even though I have the utmost confidence in my ability, results are what matter, and I’m still new here, I haven’t done much to stand out yet.

FirstLoser: Well, now that you’ve risen to this height, where you’ll soon have that opportunity to stand out among the world’s best, describe for us how do you feel, deep inside, when you’re alone with your thoughts and no one is looking. What do you feel when you think about skating in front of the world at this level?

Mantia: I think the best word to describe that feeling is surreal. I can only visualize what I think it’s going to be like when I get there, what I think it’s going to be like to walk in during opening ceremonies. These are all assumptions I’m making based on the stories and the things I’ve seen on TV. I’m just trying to prepare myself as much as possible for the enormity of what’s about to happen.

When you consider the intimidating figure he strikes in his official US Speedskating, Lockheed Martin / Under Armour Mach 39 competition skin suit, and you take in his words, you see the portrait of a man whose exterior doesn’t betray the skater within. While there are those among us who can identify with where he’s at to a certain level, for the rest of us mortals, this reveals a state we’ll never know, that place reserved for those who’ve given it all, who’ve pushed themselves as far as they could, just to get the chance to push it even further in the Olympic games.

Joey Mantia stands ready at the starting line between here and eternity. He’s on the edge of immortality that only Olympic gold can bring an athlete of his caliber. There’s more to this story, and with just about two weeks to go on the #RoadToSochi, we’ll talk more with Mantia, vicariously living out this adventure with him here through this conversation, and through Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be pulling for him all the way, giving back in-kind what he’s so freely given our sport over the years. We’re standing with him in spirit, shoulder-to-shoulder, here where he is now, at the top of the world.

Support Team Mantia: jmantia.com
Follow Joey on Facebook: Official Joey Mantia Page
Follow Joey on Twitter: @jrmantia

For all you brothers and mothers

Like Sylvester Stallone’s 1983 sequel to Saturday Night Fever, I’m Staying Alive. After a shockingly poor attempt at a blogging comeback earlier in the year, I’ve dusted myself off and I’m ready to try it again. Looking to pick things up where I left them off, my goal is to give the inline community reason to keep coming back with quality, in-depth, thoughtful and well-reasoned inline commentary, not embarrassing, unnecessary, uninspired and self-indulgent rants. Oh wait…that’s what I’m known for. So it goes…

You can try to understand, but really, why?

You can try to understand, but really, why?

Making my way back to the indoor, 100m oval, has been…interesting. I’m not the skater I used to be, and I’m about as far forward in the pace line as I ever was. Having gotten over the idea that I was once one of “the fastest” in my group, I’m satisfied at being counted among one of “the faster” these days in the pace line hierarchy of fast-to-fastest. I’m focusing on my form and trying to catch my breath. I’m sure none of you can relate.

In addition to my forgetting just how different indoor is, what’s happened while I was away is that the line’s gotten faster, from front to back. Those that have been faithfully suiting up and showing up have moved on up in the pecking order. The line’s gotten thicker in the middle – in a good way, not like I have. But the back of the pack has grown a longer, faster tail too. There’s new, old blood that’s been showing up, creating an air of excitement and higher expectations.

Ummm, OK. What THE HELL was that?

Ummm, OK. What THE HELL was that?


Yeah, that pic is blurry, and for good reason. Check out the color scheme in that suit. Look familiar? Look like the colors of domination, and long standing outdoor records? Anyone who recognizes the colors in that skin suit knows that whoever may be wearing it would be someone to be reckoned with. This one in particular is none other than four-time Olympian KC Boutiette.
Don't call it a comeback, call it a reconnection.

The Skin Suit of the Age of Greatness.


Having been the first inline speed skater to make their way to ice, the man is a legend among us mortals. Well, a legend shoulder to shoulder with the other legend we get to skate with, two-time Olympian Jondon Trevena. Jondon went to ice right after KC, and as the story goes, many others have followed them both. KC and Jondon paved the way for what Joey Mantia is doing today, and have a long history together. Getting to be a part of a group with them, sharing the floor with them and learning from them is, for me, inspirational and an honor. And for a guy like me, who’s been looking for the inspiration to get out there again myself, to give it my all and do my best, it couldn’t be happening at a better time, ’cause you know, it’s all about me…
From left to right Dude 1, Jondon, Dude 3, KC

From Left to right Dude 1, Jondon, Dude 3, KC


Both of these men love skating. And the thing is, they’re both at very different places with how they’re approaching it these days. But no matter how long they’ve been doing it or how high they’ve soared, they’re here among the terrestrials, giving it all they’ve got, and smiling every stride of the way. They’ve reminded me that it’s a relationship we have with this thing we do, each to the depth of our own commitment. My skating means just as much to me as theirs does to them. It’s our relationship to do with as we will, as we must and as we can with the lives we live today. If you want to skate with Jondon, come on out to Rollerland any given Sunday morning. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, how many World or NSC races you’ve skated, who you skate for, what configuration or how many wheels you have on each foot, he’ll gladly share the floor with you, and tell you what he can to help you get more out of this. And if you want to skate with KC, come on out, but know this, he’s here, working. He’s not pleasure cruising. He’s testing equipment, wearing weight vests, skating extra laps and nailing his form. He’s friendly and all that, but he’s got his game face on too, so be prepared to get over when he comes screaming by. And if you don’t want to come to Fort Collins in the winter, just wait a few months…he may just be on his way back out there to skate with you.

Yes, I was looking for inspiration, and I found it. These guys, just being around them, inspire you to seek the next level. And now our group has a World Team member too, with the Fast Kid having graduated to the World Class Kid while I was away. It’s a rink full of top talent, that’s fo sho’.

KC, The World Class Kid, Jondon

KC, The World Class Kid, Jondon


Yep, I’m in the right place at the right time. I feel the city shakin’ and everybody breakin’ and I’m stayin’ alive. Now I just need more chest hair, a wider, whiter smile, bigger hair and some medallions to go with. Look out world, here I come.

What’s your name?

Fame. Recognition. Most of us crave it, whether we acknowledge it or not. And to be recognized by a total stranger in a crowd of Los Angelenos, well, that’s a taste of something else. It’s a fleeting taste of Warholian Utopia – that fluttering fifteen minutes that guys like The Situation (who?) are dying to hold onto. Last weekend, in a moment far less awkward than being recognized by Reverend Smedley as I was leaving the Adult Extreme Gift Store, it happened to me…I was recognized as being a speed skater.

“Oh, I just stopped here to strap on.”

I’ve always wondered what that would be like, to be called out in a crowd. When it happens to you, it doesn’t seem real. Especially in LA. When you hear the classic conversation opener, “Excuse me, are you…” you just assume they’re asking B-movie legend Leo Rossi, whose standing behind you waiting for his turn on the captain’s chair at LA Fitness. Or character actor and financial planner Benjamin Lemon, whose standing at the urinal next to you at the University Club, or soap opera star and fishing show host Réal Andrews, who’s teaching the local kids how to throw a football. So when I heard the phrase uttered as I was waiting in line to use the restroom with my son at The Huntington Library & Gardens, I just assumed some other legend of the silver screen was within proximity. I’ve become so “LA” that I’ve tuned this opener out to the extent that I barely heard the woman finish…”Excuse me, are you… a speed skater?”

Most of it went by me, but I must have caught that all-too-familiar two syllable word at the end of that phrase, cause I turned and looked in her general direction, but honestly, it was because I was expecting to maybe see Apolo Ohno or Alison Baver standing nearby doing the “gotta go, gotta go” dance with the rest of us. But then this woman and her friend were looking at me.  I saw her mouth move in slow motion as she again asked, “Are you a skater?” It was at that point that a few more women in line turned and looked at me, and I suddenly found myself in the spotlight of celebrity. They were all looking at me, the way America witnessed Tom Cruise unraveling on Oprah…or at least that’s how it felt.

I gots freaky sensitivity baby!

And here’s where I’ve been reliving the moment since this star-crossed encounter. Man…I’m no where near as cool as I like to think I am. Is it any wonder? I see myself one way, but I know the world sees me in another. Like, you know, of all the celebrities in our modern day Gomorrah, I think I most like Gene Simmons’ style. He’s the guy I’d most like to see myself as. The man is the King of Cool. He never looses his composure, knows how to speak to anyone, and always has something cool to say. Even if it’s, “You know, I’ve never signed a spleen before.”, if it’s Gene uttering it, it’s cool. That’s how I’d like to be with “my public”. But the reality, I’m just a dork like anyone else, and when I’m put on the spot, I got nothin’. Like mini-KISS without the make-up, I’m just a (mental) midget in a wanna-be world.

So there I am, standing downwind from nine aromatic public toilets, and sweaty crowds that have been feasting on ribs and chicken, and I’m like, “Yes!” And here’s where my ego takes over…I’m getting ready to be told how much of a difference my blog has made in her otherwise meaningless and unfulfilled, void of a life, and how great I am and how much she wishes I was getting paid to write this blog. How I’m King S#!t on top of Turd Mountain, when she points at my shirt and says, “I wore Simmons boots for years!”

They’ll know us by our oddly formed feet…

Ah! That was it…the big reveal. It wasn’t me, but another Mr. Simmons – Dave Simmons – and his world-famous logo shirts that had been spotted. Not my monster calves. Not my incredible quads and athletic build. Not my handsome face that’s been hacked onto a host of unflattering images in the name of comedy. No. It was my Simmons Racing T-shirt.

Caught in the moment, it didn’t matter why, it was just that fact that I’d been recognized as a speed skater that took me by surprise. So I say, “Yes, I am!” And she tells me she how she’d worn Simmons boots for years.

I was like, “Right on!” and gave her the two thumbs up sign.

And that was it.

There was this awkward silence and exchange of looks, both with her and with her friend. Then a waft of what was waiting for them in that restroom they were waiting for, followed by a heaping helping of the urge to get out of there quickly. I nodded, grabbed my son’s hand and split.

As I’ve mulled it over, and over and  over, I so wish it had been in another place, like maybe just outside in the Pavillion. I could have had a conversation with her, instead of being distracted by ladies waiting to use rank toilets. I could have been really cool, like Gene, and said, “You know, you’re the first person to ever recognize me in a skating shirt.” But no…I was just, me. And don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be…me, but, you know, it would have been cool if she’d actually known who I was. I’m so vain, and I know it. I could have asked her how long she’d been a skater, who had she skated with, why did she stop, and I could have encouraged her to get back out there. But no, I was a weenie. A socially awkward nerd with a need for speed.

But you know what? It’s all good, cause at the end of the day, I don’t do this for the glory. That ship sailed long ago, before I even knew what inline speed skating was. So I’ll just keep doing it for my main reason, so I can keep eating pizza and wearing spandex.  Bully for you, chilly for me. Fame. You can have it.

Strap on baby wipe dispenser

I wasn’t much for advanced mathematics in school. Other than the ability to grasp metric measures and dollar equivlants (grams, ounces, lids…) I was a zero when it came to questions that required computation to answer. That I came to end up working in marketing but specializing in data analysis is beyond me. There’s a lot of math involved in what I do. More than my brain can handle sometimes. There’s a lot of mystery in the art and science of analytics. But perhaps the greatest mystery I’ve come across lately is something I think Mr. Spock would even have a problem with: what algorithm is going to return “First Loser | Inline Skater” based on search input criteria “Strap on baby wipe dispenser?”

Elliptical hole in top, heated, 8 inches deep, warm and smoshey on the inside, cleans up after itself and leaves your skin silky smooth and baby powder fresh. Yep...undercover lover.

Search terms reveal a lot about why people are looking for a website. And I’m not so full of myself that I think people actually seek me out. No. When it comes to inline skating, they’re looking for one guy right now. The chances are pretty high that you know exactly who I’m talking about, ’cause that’s how you came to find this post too.

COMMERCIAL INTERRUPTION…

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Email Glenn today: glenn916@yahoo.com

AND NOW, BACK TO OUR POST…

It’s true. “Mantia” is the number one search term in inline skating. “Joey Mantia” is number two. It’s how people find this site and countless others. And as I scan the logs of my site traffic, it’s easy to see what people are really interested in reading about. Other than the picture of all the hotties dressed as Slave Girl Princess Leia that I posted around the holidays, the posts that have anything related to Mantia get the most repeat traffic. So…while it may be counter-intuitive to some that I consolidate all of that content, that’s zactly whut I’ma gone do.

Here are all of the Mantia posts, all in one place. But listen, no homo man. I’m doin’ you a favor here. So don’t go breakin’ my balls, pal. You want to skate better, then you need to study the best. So just consider this a coach’s corner…a session with the man through this twisted skater’s lens:

Mantia Post 1

Mantia Post 2

Mantia Post 3

Mantia Post 4

Read, watch, analyze and learn. You’ll be a better skater…more precise, more competitive and better equipped to help the next skater that asks you for pointers. Cause that’s the code of conduct – you’re not allowed to keep this stuff to yourself. Make the sport more competitive – share your stride techniques ya greedy bastid! Say what you will about Mantia, but he’s a guy completely dedicated to growing this sport, one skater at a time if necessary. Just look at what he and Miguel Jose are doing with NSC, that’s dedication.

Another guy who’d give you the skates right off his feet if he thought it would help you is my coach, Jondon Trevena. A two time Olympian and one of the first guys to make the transition from inline to ice, Jondon is the kind of coach that puts his skaters first. He’s the one that gave us the use of his family’s rink to host the Mantia clinic we had, and he even participated and deferred to Mantia & Co. so that his students could learn, (even when what we were learning was something he’d been telling us for years.) Visit his site JondonSpeed, and come skate with us if you’re ever in Northern Colorado on a Sunday morning.

CRAZY GLENN BACK AT IT AGAIN!

WOW! Glenn felt so bad about interrupting the Mantia Super Post that he’s back to make things tight with you…order anything from him today and get an additional 20 EFFIN PER-CENT OFF!!! Seriously, he’s serious. I’d swap my own mother with narco-terrorists to get an additional 20% off on a sweet pair of Bonts. Fortunately, you don’t have to! Just email Glenn today: glenn916@yahoo.com for God’s sake! What are you waiting for???

Doesn’t apply to other discounts.

Ice to meet you

In the course of events in this thing I call my life, I need to mix things up. I’m not the kinda guy that you can expect to sit still for more than a few minutes at a clip, at least with my pants on…

REVEALED: This is how I cop so much time on SkateLog Speed Skating Forum.

I need to be busy. Need to be doing something. And no matter what it is, if I really find it interesting, I can become very disciplined, very quickly and develop routines that I’ll adhere to, religiously, for years without interruption. But once I start getting bored, the routines get hard to maintain, and I need to find something to spice things up, or I’ll start getting lazy and I’ll start relying on anything I can find to use as an excuse to get distracted from that thing I was so engrossed with that it became a part of my daily life and part of the definition of…me.

My career as Skatey Spice was short lived...I just couldn't bring myself to shave my legs.

I’ll admit it…I started getting bored with this thing of ours. That’s right. I started to become a slacker skater. If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you’ve seen the ups and downs. What I’ve published here really only scratches the surface. And yes, my posts do tend to exaggerate the state of things, and go more for a cheap fart joke than any real substance, but that aside it’s a pretty honest portrayal of my skating life. I’ve added emphasis there because my skating life is truly more than roller skating, or, you know, inline speed skating. Ice has become a part of this thing I do. To the extent that I should really just say I’m a skater, as opposed to an inline skater, because the latter implies a singularity of purpose that just isn’t in my make up anymore. It’s like saying “I’m a road-skater,” or “I’m a trail-skater,” or “I’m an indoor speed skater,” or “I’m a marathon skater.” The label “inline skater” has become too restrictive. And since freedom is so much of what I love about this sport, I think saying “I’m a skater” is about as liberating as I can get. That said, inline is really my core so I’m not dumping the label. I’m just more open-minded about this thing I do.

We're just not coming at this from the same place.

Being one of such open mind, I decided that since nude speed skating is flat-out too dangerous and just wrong (God knows the view would be hanus trying to catch a draft,) 2011 is the year of doing things differently. By that I mean setting new goals, tackling new challenges and stretching past my comfort zone. It’s one thing to try to break a personal best time, whether it’s for 100m or 26.2 miles. It’s another to try to become somewhat competent in another discipline, and that’s what I’ve chosen to focus on. I’ve moved to ice. Not in the epic sense of a Jondon Trevena or Derek Parra or Chad Hedrick. No. Just in the sense of being me and trying something new. And it’s been a humbling experience, one that’s done the ego some good.

Taking a similar track to what I did my first year on inlines, I jumped right into the deep end of training and competing. Honestly, the main reason I haven’t been updating these pages all that much lately is that I’ve been using all the spare time I can find to get me some quality ice time on my new Marchese One boots and Marchese Zero blades. (Full disclosure…CadoMotus makes these Marchese’s, and CadoMotus is a sponsor of First Loser.)

These skates kick butt.

Yep…I’ve become a short track slut, puttin’ out on the ice as much as I can, and gettin’ my money’s worth out of the Ice Center Super Pass I bought in February. But I digress…

To really kick up the excitement a notch, I competed in my first ice meet earlier this season, The 2011 Colorado Speed Skating Championships. The meet was organized by Colorado Gold Speedskating, and they’re just awesome! anyway…this meet was a quick test of my ego-resiliency. Considering that my only real competition was a self-described “old lady” and some guys that have been doing short track for all of maybe eight months to a year, I was thinking I was on my way to gold, or at least the claim of having my First Loser status carry over in my ice debut. That wasn’t to be the case. I did pretty well, in that I got the entry fee’s worth out of the event by placing in my heats and skating all the finals, but the podium was a bit further away than I thought it would be.

Turns out I was competing in the masters division. So even though I was on the ice with the Bony Pony’s, or whatever we were being called, I was skating against those guys I was watching and going “Holy S#!t look at that!” So needless to say I didn’t come home with any medals (not even a freaking participation award or a chocolate bar) but I did skate away having had a great time and really falling for this new discipline. (Father’s pride: Freezy Weezy took third in his division!)

Freezy Weezy takes Bronze!

As it stands right now, I’m on the fence about NSIM this year. I honestly don’t know if I’m going to go. It’s a lot of effort for a little better than an hour’s worth of skating time. Yes, it’s the premiere event for me, no doubt. But I’m not excited about the idea anywhere near as much as I’m stoked to go to a short track clinic at the Oval in SLC in June, and compete here in Fort Collins at our first ice meet in October. I’m truly excited and I’m working hard to try to improve my technique so that I can show improvement versus what I did down there at the World Arena in April. That’s got me fired up man. Honestly, I miss that about inline. That same fire just ain’t there anymore.

DON’T GET ME WRONG DAMNIT! I still love inline skating more than any other sport. And now that the weather is somewhat improving here in NoCo I’ve been able to hit the trails with gusto again (94 miles logged last week!) and I’m truly amazed every time I skate in my Pro M1’s on the trail and feel truly in command of every facet of my stride, but it’s that, I don’t know, maybe it’s the novelty of new-found passion that I just don’t have for inline anymore. With inline, it’s like I have something to maintain. I’ve achieved a little something. With ice, I ain’t done s#!t, so I’ve got the world before me. And with a 1:07 500m time, I’ve got nowhere to go but up…at least I hope.

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

Crazy F’in Glenn is at it again! Just to make things nice and tidy, he’s offered up a really schweet deal on Bont Patriot Short Track boots and Bont ice blades. Check it speed freaks:

Any in-stock Bont Patriot short track boots, normally $225, this month only, $175. 

Any  in-stock Bont Platinum blades (top-of-the-line!), normally $450, this month only, $375.

NEW – full custom Bont Patriot boots and Platinum blades, $1000!  Note that the blades alone normally retail for $450.  Shipping and applicable taxes extra, please.

Email Glenn today: glenn916@yahoo.com to get this crazy azz deal before it’s too late. Sorry Rick! (Inside joke.)

Bite it

Epic phrases. You know them…they’re those eulogy predicates that are usually uttered in glory-seeking moments leading up to really unfortunate attempts at immortality. In my experience, rarely have I seen anything good follow the exclamation, “Hey guys, watch this!” In the annals of famous last words, these are typically the one’s that take generations to scrub from a family legacy, because the ribbon of shame awarded for stupidity has a longer half-life these days, due in most part to the ascendancy of YouEpicFailTube.

My inline track & field career fizzled pretty quickly. I just couldn't get low enough.

Likewise, when you hear someone shout, “Oh, s#*t!”, the next moments are usually the stuff of legend. These are a little less reputation tarnishing then the former phrase, but only because the disasters they precede are typically not the result of a deliberate attempt at earning a Darwin Award.

Last Sunday, I pulled a move that would have landed me in the opener of Wide World of Sports under the agony of defeat voice over. I’ve never crashed and laughed so hard at a skating practice. If only there were video…

It was the last epic lap of a mini Pyramid of Pain. Up to the “point of critical failure” we’d endured a healthy workout…warm-up laps, speed plyo’s (the heavy set), some speed cornering drills and by the time I’d bitten it, we’d skated through the pyramid, climbing twice. For my non-skating friends that read this to laugh at my stupidity, the Pyramid of Pain is a sprinting and endurance drill. The order for this one (follow along at home) was sprint one lap, rest one lap, sprint two, rest two, sprint three, rest two, sprint two, rest two, sprint one, rest one, sprint two, rest two, sprint three, rest two, sprint two, rest two, sprint one. Follow that? It might seem daunting, but he was actually going easy on us, because we’re just now at the point in our training where we’re starting the speed work. Anyway…if you do the math, that’s 17 sprint laps in quick succession. Pretty intense for most of us mortals, (despite how long some of us have been doing this…)

Going into lap 15 my legs were already toast. I’d made some poor decisions the night before and earlier that morning, choosing to stay up too late and skipping breakfast. And we’ve had some guys skating with us that have been racing all season and can really throw down, so I’ve been trying to step it up. It’s funny because my ego can handle getting my doors blown off by a 13 year old girl, (The Fast Kid) but bring in a senior (Slayer) and masters (The New Guy) guys and I’m all about not wanting to be last across that line.

So…I was doing well with drill. I usually do well with endurance drills because I’m essentially an outdoor, point-to-point ultra-distance skater (that’s a freaking haughty mouthful, eh?) The New Guy was doing well too. We were alternating between 2nd and 3rd on the sprints. As we were coming down the backside of the last pyramid, I was holding onto the two spot, chasing Slayer but not really gaining on him. So anyway…we get to lap 16 and our coach starts screaming at us to crank it up, he wants to see maximum effort, hawking at the line, bawlz to the wall skating. Well, that got The New Guy fired up and I could tell he was right on my backside. Going into that last turn I was gunning to take that cone “clams-azz” tight.

Well…that’s when my left ankle gave out. I tried to recover quickly on the right, but my right gave way too. I landed in an A-frame careening directly for the steel cabinets lining the walls of the rink. I knew they didn’t have much support in the doors and that they’d stop me. That wouldn’t be so bad…the only problem was, Lionheart’s Mom was standing there, like a deer caught in the headlights, right in my path.

In the time that’s transpired between then and now, I’d like to think I had enough time to at least point in the right direction and shout, “RUNFERYERLIFE!!!” or maybe just “MOVE!” But no…in those precious few seconds, when I could clearly envision breaking both of her knee-caps, all I could say was, “Oh S#&T!” Just before I hit the carpet I went down on my hip, but I was going fast enough to get spun around when I hit the carpet and continued sliding backward right toward Lionheart’s Mom. In the blink of an eye she pulled a Diamond David Lee Roth flying split with her back up against the locker…and I crashed into the door, back first, directly between her legs. I stopped, she landed. I looked up and there she was, looking down, straddling my head…uninjured.

Might as well JUMP! Damn that was close.

Full recovery took about two minutes…not because I was in pain but because I was laughing so hard. There are many more jokes I can make…but this is a family blog. (As if…) No. I just wanted to give much respect to my fast-thinking friend, who’s cat-like reflexes and perfect timing have earned her a new name here at FirstLoser…Leeza Lee Fastfeet. I just hope she’s not a Van Hagar fan.

Carry that weight

Last week I noticed we’re spending more on groceries lately. Innocently enough, I asked Horseypants where all the grocery money is going. She says, “Take a side-long look in the mirror!” So it goes…but I thought this skating thing took care of those details. These past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like a guy I once knew,  a guy I’ll call Crossfire. He would consume cubic tons of Bolivian marching powder, in all it’s forms, on a daily basis, all the while cutting and maintaining a figure that would make Jackie Gleason slim by comparison. If you know anything about the physiological effects of nose candy, you’re thinking this is nothing short of impossible. But it is possible and it’s exactly how I feel…despite how much I skate, I need a wheel barrow to cart around ma belly.

"I'm gonna eat your pace line."

I’m just back from a week in Pasadena, California. I was there on business, but my only carry-on was my CadoMotus Travel Bag stuffed with a week’s worth of corporate casual work-wear and spandex. Seriously, I didn’t even bring a brief case, but that’s because I’ve become a simpering, Angry Bird playing, App wetting iPad devotee and no longer feel the need to travel with my “adult viewer,” er, I mean, laptop computer. (We’ve been SO over-sold on technology…but I digress.)

It's quite the tidy bowl I tell you.

3 out of 5 days I was lucky enough to get in a sunrise skate at The Rose Bowl loop (big UP to R (O) (O) (O) (O) GER for the tip!) There’s a great 3 mile loop around the perimeter of the world famous complex.

East side stretch along the golf course.

Along the east side, (I think it’s the east side, as it was closest to the mountains. Might be north…) a 3/4 mile long hill. It’s the gradual kind, it had me crying about half way through. Tree-lined but not too much debris, it was a welcome challenge after having spent much of the winter indoor on flat tracks in Colorado. The West is just the opposite, and I was hitting speeds of 28mph, which got scary on the approach to the parking lots.

The west side...see the cars? They stop for walkers...skaters, not so much.

The first day there I was clearly pissing off the locals by going to the left. The looks said it all. Several of them shouted something, but I couldn’t hear them over the sound of my squealing bearings. I don’t think the hand gestures had anything to do with looking up, despite where their fingers were pointing.

Coming around to the west side (I think).

Nonetheless, I got in a few really incredible workouts. My schedule was such that I skated Tuesday & Wednesday. I rested on Thursday, and by Friday, I was eating that hill on the east side for breakfast.

But it was what I was eating the rest of the time that did me in. Since my wife has scored so well with finding great restaurants in strange cities using TripAdviser.com, I decided to do the same, and man, did I end up packing on the pounds.

If you’re ever in Pasadena, you’ll want to check these spots out:

Lovebirds Cafe: Incredible breakfast burrito. I bought one and it was breakfast one day, lunch the next.

Saladang & Saladang Song: Simply some of the best Thai food in the US. Seriously, the food and atmosphere (particularly Saladang Song) are out of this world and deserving of their Zagat’s ratings.

Smitty’s Grill: this is the one that killed me. I’m still skating off the filet mignon burger. The Chicken Pot Pie is the size of a manhole cover and truly to die for.

Cafe 140: Great food, great atmosphere, with a signature Blue Corn Salad.

Wolfe Burgers: You know it’s good when the entire Pasadena police force is taking shifts on the front dining room and there’s a big guy named Fat Al sleeping at the center table in the back dining room. Another belly bomber of a breakfast burrito, made to order.

And of course you’ve got your Starbucks, Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble and Apple Store all within easy skating distance. But thanks to these restaurants, I’ve now got some work to do. Time to bust out the fitness skates, crank up Something/Anything? on the iPod, and hit the trails here at home. Ah…it’s winter coat shedding time. 12 pounds to go. Let’s see how quickly I can do this. I’ve got a feeling it won’t be such a long time…gotta love inline skating.