Steve Larsen RIP: Go hard or go home

I can’t believe Steve’s gone. 39 years old…tragic.

I had the privilege to get to know Steve pretty well the past few years. Our relationship started out as strictly business…I designed his business identity, website and marketing materials when he launched Steve Larsen Properties.

Soon after starting to work with Steve and having running in common, we said we should run together sometime and we naturally asked each other where the other lived in town. To our amusement, we found out that my wife and I had recently bought a house 4 doors down from him. Go figure.

We quickly started doing training runs together every week. Steve having 5 kids and me having two young kids, we both agreed first light was best…dawn patrol. It was a no-brainer, we lived 4 houses from each other. I could wait at the window and see Steve step out of his front door, I’d step out of mine, meet at the corner, and off we’d go into the brisk, clear Central Oregon morning to blast our legs and lungs into submission…quality…it’s all Steve knew.

And, as anyone can attest that knows Steve, be on time or get left behind. Not one minute late, or he was gone. I always respected Steve for that. He was prompt, honest, hard working—a testament to his long pro career and success in 3 endurance sports. He hated junk miles, laziness, and not giving your best. Why show up if you weren’t going to bring your A game. That was Steve in a nutshell. Anything less than your best he had no patience or respect for.

We met at the corner at first light, 5-10 minutes at conversational pace…then, down to business. Our weekly workouts together were hill repeats on Tuesdays, 7-9 mile tempo trail run at Shevlin Park on Thursdays, and long runs on Phil’s trail area on Sunday mornings. He was always quick to give training wisdom and help. He still had an altitude tent from his pro mountain biking days and let me borrow it for a month to get acclimated for Colorado’s high altitude Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run when I couldn’t go early. I still don’t see how he slept in that thing all season. A month was enough.

I was a total bike geek before getting into ultrarunning and Steve beat it into my head to get back on the bike more, as I had neglected my bike for years (unless I was injured). It’s easy to get blinders and only focus on your primary sport. I thank him for that. He would swing by my studio downtown on his way to Thump coffee (which shared the same building) and pop in and ask, “Did you get on the bike?” He was always quick to ask how my races went, give advice, talk training or talk about his wife and kids.

One of my fondest memories of Steve was on an 18-mile trail run on a Sunday morning in the late spring of ’07. We’d been training every Sunday on the Dirty Half Marathon course. The course was only 2.5 miles from our neighborhood and we’d progressively been building up our Sunday runs and were running the second half as tempo.

We were kickin’ it as usual and were at about mile 15 of the run when we came out of the trailhead, and were cruising sub-6 minute pace. We turn to head the last 2 miles home and you go through the parking and finish area of the Dirty Half course. We’d been running since first light and came upon the FootZone sponsored Dirty Half training group.

Well, at least 80-100 people were milling about waiting to get the training run started when Steve and I come blasting through the trailhead. Steve (of course) doesn’t slow down a bit, and I’m glued to his heels, as we’re running hard tempo and I have just enough air to say “hey Dave” to Super Dave (the event’s RD) as we cruise through. 200 meters past the parking area, we hit Cascade Highlands trail and Steve looks over at me and says, “Now everyone there knows your freakin’ fast!” True to Steve’s style, we kept hammering home…no socializing, no stopping. He didn’t run hard for show, he just ran hard always.

I was so jazzed from his comment that I attempted to go shoulder to shoulder with him the last mile. Steve would always one up you if you challenged him. He liked it, but he would always remind you he had more and you were mere mortal. He would just dig deep, grab that extra gear that most don’t have and go even harder. At the top of a final climb, he put the hammer down, dropped me the last 200 meters, got to the top of the climb and made the “time out” symbol with his hands above his head, looked back at me and said, “That was good!” He loved a good workout.

A few months before his death, I had popped into his office to say hey and we sat down for about a half hour and shot the breeze. We talked about the crappy real estate market, we talked about the crappy economy, but mostly, we talked about our kids. He was talking a lot about his oldest two (daughter and son). He was super pumped about his 11-year old son’s recent interest in cross country running. He had made nationals and they were heading to Virginia for a father/son trip and to run in the meet. He was really concerned about not burning him out and keeping it fun. He had him doing very specific, very short race pace training every other day. We talked about how his son’s age was that cool age where you start to have a new father and son connection. He was super-pumped over his recent interest in running, as it was just another way for them to connect.

With a son 4 years younger, I could really relate and we really had a good conversation. That was my last really long talk with Steve. It breaks my heart every time I start to think about it…he loved those kids so much and really wanted the best. Being such an intense, hardcore athlete, you’d think he’d be a crazy, driven sports dad…but he wasn’t. He just wanted the best for his kids and was sensitive to their well-being and was more concerned with keeping it fun than pushing them. That’s why he was up at 5am and out the door by 6am to train his ass off…hard as he could in the shortest amount of time possible…so, he could be back with his wife and kids. Something I can relate to on a very personal and deep level. We’re soul brothers that way. His death is a tragedy in so many ways and my thoughts and prayers go out to Carrie and the kids.

I shaved my legs, shaved my head, and rode 82 miles on my road bike today in Steve’s honor…I’ll miss you buddy. Rest in Peace.

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