Pursuit: Beaton paddler John Larmer still great in his 70s

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Some – solo champions Sara McIlraith and Dan Whalen, for example – prefer to tackle the diversity of the Beaton Classic, taking on all four disciplines of the demanding summer event.

These four disciplines are swimming, cycling, canoeing and running.

Most, however, who gathered on the shores of Moonlight Beach last Sunday, are finding their way to their own personal sporting niche. Sure, they’re capable of tackling just about any stage of the local quad, but there’s usually a zone of greatest comfort.

If you’re looking to reunite with John Larmer, a veteran of the Beaton Classic for over 30 years, it’s best not to stray too far from the beach. On the water is her happy place.

And if you’re serious about tracking him down, you better be ready when the first canoeist comes out of the water. Larmer was integral to the fastest teams to conquer the start

August Challenge for as long as I’ve made my way to the event – that’s most of the two decades now.

Did we already mention that the local paddling legend is well into his 73rd year, who will celebrate his next birthday in December?

Born in Peterborough, raised in Millbrook, but spending his formative and secondary school years in New Liskeard, Larmer never liked being cooped up indoors.

“I like to spend my time outdoors; nothing to do with the outdoors,” said the man whose only son (James) was also part of their winning team last weekend.

The fact that he can venture onto the trails, lakes and vistas that abound across the province speaks to the athletic base that developed early.

“I was on every team, just to get out of school – especially in high school,” he said with a laugh. “Growing up in New Liskeard, if you were on the varsity team, you had Fridays off because we were always traveling.”

“It’s not that I hated school. I loved playing sports – football, basketball, anything seasonal.

It would serve him well as he left his life as a traveling professional musician – he spent virtually all of the 1970s on the road – and moved to Sudbury when he reached his thirties.

The timing was ideal. Locally, the Sudbury Fitness Challenge was in full swing, giving Larmer easy access to an outlet for his love of running, biking and skiing – just about anything but swimming.

In the meantime, his outdoor adventures had made him more than a little proficient with a paddle in hand, his understanding and knowledge of the skill set snaking much the same as the rivers of the north. make their way through bush and rock.

“I was a day-tripper first, camping overnight and going out to lakes and such,” he said. “Then I came in with a group of river runners, who I had never known before, guys who like to go down and challenge the rapids. I do that a lot.

“I taught them the aspects of flat water, point to point and all that and they taught me river racing techniques.”

It was with that resume in hand that Larmer first stepped into local competitions, a very naturally competitive athlete at heart.

“I was showing up with my river canoe, and although it’s fast for this sort of thing, when you put it next to the racing canoe that’s in the back of my truck, well, you’re not going to not beat these guys.

“If you don’t have the right tools, it doesn’t matter how fit you are.”

Spoken like a man whose standing in today’s local paddling community is arguably matched only by his longtime friend, fellow competitor and sometimes teammate Rob Gregoris.

“It took years to learn all the things,” he said.

Yet, as much as the automatic association ties Larmer to a canoe, that kind of narrow thinking does a disservice to the breadth of the athletic spectrum for a man who suggests he views the sport in the same way as his other passion. main.

“I never wanted to be a one-trick pony, and that was the same with music,” he said. “Some people just play country, or blues, or jazz, or classical, but I like it all. After the summer is over, I switch to my bike and ski all winter.

This fall, once again, will welcome him for a September trip to the northwest shores of Lake Superior, paddling his way from Sleeping Giant to Batchawana Bay. Still,

Larmer is not oblivious to the passage of time – although he does in some way defy aging in a way only seen in a very small minority of the population.

“Before, I liked to do two events (at the Beaton), but at this age, if I train hard for one, I can still be competitive,” he admitted. He takes a similar approach to the 64-kilometre two-man canoe race that highlights his annual schedule, traveling to the Mattawa River Showdown now a dozen times.

“I’m a little old to be a motor,” Larmer said, referring to the paddler who typically sits in the front of the canoe. “I no longer have the power I had 15 years ago. But I have a skill set and I’m lightweight.

Not to mention that years of experience pay dividends.

“The trick is to cover the shortest distance,” he said. “If you can’t keep the canoe straight, you’re adding a lot of unnecessary miles and that’s energy-consuming and time-consuming.”

Spoken like a man who in many ways sets the standard for other Sudbury canoeists.

Randy Pascal is a sports journalist in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible through our Community Leaders program.

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