December 11, 2008

"Be Like Harv"

Someday I wanna be like Harv. Of course I grew up in the 80's where we were conditioned to wanna 'Be Like Mike', but BC's very own Harvey Nelson is a legend in his own time.

This past weekend Jackie and I headed out to get our Christmas Tree. I've always had a real tree, and absolutely refuse to get a plastic version, but this year I gave it a bit more thought. Instead of hunting for that typical free 'under the powerlines' tree (In BC these are free to take since they have to be cleared anyways), I realized that my actions were effectively taking a tree out of its natural environment, and hence removing that tree from its daily duties of cleaning the air we so effortlessly pollute. A tree farm on the other hand is specifically there for one reason, and as I was to learn, if the trees don't sell, eventually they have to be burned to make room for the new ones coming in behind. By choosing a farmed tree I could keep my real tree tradition alive, and not negatively affect my carbon footprint. (although the powerline tree would eventually have to go it would be years before this was accomplished by other means)

Anyways, that's my version of a segway into a little write up about Harvey Nelson, the 74 year old that just keeps going, and going, and going...

I'm not about to pretend that I know Harvey on a deeply personal level, for until this past weekend I simply knew Harvey through the race scene and as the crazy old dude who ran a race every single weekend and just wouldn't stop! Late last week however Harvey called up North Shore Athletics and offered a free tree to any staff member that made the hour drive each way out to see him. I could tell that his offer was sincere and thought it would be a shame if at least one person did not take him up on it, so off Jackie and I went.

It is amazing how little we generally know about the people around us, how we can very easily have a 'relationship' with someone without ever taking the time to actually get to know them for who they are. Especially in today's day and age where texting, e-mailing and facebooking are more common than an actual conversation. This past weekend was an eye opener and I won't soon forget the little slice of Harvey's life that he shared with us while we were out there. I'm not about to go into every last detail, but some of the things that truly stood out to me were:

-Harvey used to be a teacher before he bought his tree farm in 2000, and he has five grand kids
-Although most people who have met Harvey have undoubtedly seen his wallet pic of him in his 30's, and then again in his 60's...being fitter in his 60's is impressive, yet he lacked an ounce of body fat and had a chiseled physique while in his 30's...the man used to bench press 315 pounds and teach bodybuilding...he's like a Canadian version of Bruce Jenner, but instead of the Olympic medals Harvey has a guest house trophy room and numerous age group records.
-If I'm not mistaken, he ran a sub 42min 10k in his 60's! As mentioned he is currently 74 and certainly isn't slowing down anytime soon. The man has finished H.U.R.T. Hawaii three, or four, or five times...whatever it was, HURT is right up there as one of the toughest ultras out there...and this is pretty much all within the last ten years!
-Harvey used to train Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Ryan Walter, and Walter credits Harvey with getting him back into shape...umm yeah, imagine the guy training you is not only twice as fit as you, he's twice as old!!

The last few things that really stood out to me were that he used to prune each tree on his farm by hand, and he could do 400 a day...with nothing but a knife! On top of everything else that is going unsaid by me and certainly unlearned by me in our short visit, the man is almost complete in rebuilding his home from the ground up, pretty much by himself!

As he describes it:
"That floor is so solid you could drive a truck through here if you needed to!"

We couldn't thank Harvey enough, not just for the free tree, of which we snuck some money into a Christmas card for him, but obviously for opening up a little slice of who he was and sharing it with us. It was only a few hours time, but I learned more about the man in those two hours then I had in the four years since I had met him.

He would not let Jackie leave without a little two foot tree for her place as well, and after escorting us to our vehicle he opened and closed the door three or four more times, each time just to say something he had forgotten, like "Have a Merry Christmas!" The final time he opened the door he asked us to wait just once second, then he ran off into his garage to pull out a few Christmas tree decorations for us as well! With that, he officially told us we were free to go and he waved at us as we pulled out of his driveway.

I look forward to the next time I see Harvey out on the trails, for he will no longer be 'Harvey the crazy old runner guy' to me, he'll be 'Harvey the crazy old runner guy who just built a house at 74 years old, used to bench press 315 pounds, trained Ryan Walter, prunes 400 trees a day with a knife, has five grand kids, and just happens to be the guy who gave me the nicest Christmas Tree I've ever had!

When I grow up, I wanna Be Like Harv...and so does Roxy!



Anonymous said...

Propps to Harv! Gary...that's a wicked shout out the "grandfather of trail running" Nice to to see the appreciation.

Gary Robbins said...

Yeah man, hard not to be inspired when you see Harvey still kicking it out there!