RIP Harvey Nelsen, aka “Rambo”
The Knee Knacker extended “family” lost one of its cherished members on July 26, with the passing of Harvey Nelsen. Harvey was just shy of turning 83 this fall, and had completed our tough 30-mile trail race 5 times from 1997 to 2005. That last one was at 71 years of age, which made him the oldest finisher at that time – a record he would retain for almost a decade!
We grieve his loss, and feel for his family at this difficult time. We also want to celebrate the part of Harvey’s life he graced us with over the past couple of decades, as one of the most unique personalities in our tight-knit running community.
When I think of Harvey, a song pops into my head. It’s the opening theme song from the 1980s sit-com Cheers – “Where everybody knows your name”. Of course, with Harvey he did not remember too many names, so it was almost the opposite. He made me realize that these temporary “labels” we have during our time here are not all that important. Harvey would always remember the true essence of people with whom he shared so many rich experiences. And, he would then take that accumulated history and create even more wonderful memories. A good lesson to learn from the lifetime teacher that he was!
Although some of the names of people eluded Harvey in the later years, his name will always be remembered in so many ways. For many of us, we will think of him every time we cross “Harvey’s Bridge” just before the quarter-way mark on the Grouse Grind trail. We all know of his legendary achievements on the Grind (read more from Karl Woll’s excellent 2013 interview with Harvey at https://www.outdoorvancouver.ca/tales-outdoors-harvey-nelsen/). But, he did make sure that Grouse Mountain would replace the old wooden log with a proper bridge (with handrail) there after a particular nasty spill he had there one year. I look forward to crossing Harvey’s Bridge many more times, shedding a tear and having a big grin on my face at the same time 😥 🙂
Harvey was also known for never turning down a challenge or an adventure, ready to go at a moment’s notice. About a dozen years ago, a few of us (Kelsy, Jeff, Francine and I) had planned a hike/jog/run up to the top of Grouse the “fun” way – from the Lynn Headwaters via the Hanes Valley “trail”. We met up at the base of Grouse, to leave one vehicle there for our finish, and we would all ride in the other vehicle to the start in Lynn Valley. Who do we meet there but Harvey, who had planned to do a few Grouse Grinds that day on his own. As soon as he heard of our plans, he asked if he could join us and we jumped at the chance – never pass at an opportunity for a “Rambo” experience. He only had 1 water bottle and no food, but we made sure that was not a concern. We had so many laughs on that warm summer day, as we all tripped, stumbled and got a little lost on the trail. Another wonderful lesson from the teacher – Mr. Nelsen would never let excessive planning get in the way of potential adventure!
Harvey, we’ve missed your presence on the trails the past few years, and in particular at the Knee Knacker. We had made arrangements with your family to have you attend our 25th anniversary dinner in 2013, and were looking forward to it just as much as you were. You were there with us in spirit then, and that spirit will continue to be with us in the coming years. Please find some new trails and adventures now, and take me on one or two of them when our souls next meet.
on behalf of Kelsy Trigg and the Knee Knacker Race Committee
P.S. Harvey would make 1 more attempt at the Knee Knacker in 2007 at the age of 73. He would make it to the 3/4 mark before missing the cut-off time there. I did a brief (24 second) interview with him just before the start – https://youtu.be/yE5n8sEsB2M