The tale of I should be writing about how FCKN awesome Shen is, the festival atmosphere, the awesome ppl, the wonderful trails, brutal climbs, the copious amount of refreshments and how awesome it was hanging with my friends from all over.
My recap of my race is this- Scott and Missy, Wayne and Kim and I all arrived Friday…Ross come in midday on Saturday with firewood! I got some Buck Love on Sat to make sure I gave my calf the best chance to work. I was measured up the first climbs, enjoyed that swoopy fun singletrack on the first down…looking to work into the day. On the hike a bike section I got passed by Scott who looked amazing…and my calf was screaming. I rode/walked with Colin who rode up with Ryan (who I rode with a bunch at TSE) and Dicky (who I drank with a bunch at TSE) After 2 on upper Hanky, I saw Ryan as he passed me hiking the steeper sections. After Dowells draft…the 3 of us basically rode the rest of the day together. The highlight of the day for me was the 3 of us ripping down Braleys…absolutely honking. Later in the day I felt better on the climbs and really enjoyed ripping the downhills. We finished within minutes of each other. Dicky saw us finish together and made mention, he’d never gotten to do that. When my race became a ride, I was determined to have a blast…the three of us chatted about damn near everything and Ryan and I talked about visiting each other.
Still in the euphoria and freshly showered I got in the beer line. I was tapped on the shoulder “are you Randy? Can you come with me…” FUCK. WTF could this be? This can’t be FCKN good. The aid stations give news like a huge game of telephone…I don’t pay much mind to it. Rarely does the info pan out. On this occasion, we’d heard both that someone died of a heart attack and that someone crashed. They were having issues getting in touch with Ross and with the wonders of FB, they tapped on my shoulder in hopes I could help. Of course, they couldn’t tell me anything and what information was sporadic and inconsistent…we were holding out hope on a whisper. I helped connect Ross’s family connect with Chris Scott, something I never wish on anyone. Eventually I found out that Ross was indeed gone, and told our group. I was told he’d gone quickly, that an Air Force pararescue person had done CPR for 30 minutes, those things somehow made us feel better as we grasped for positivity. The evening was surreal. Somber and glassy-eyed in a sea of euphoric people. A spectator of conversations and goings on. I drank until the kegs were dry. Then had cans. It didn’t help the darkness I felt. I left late not wanting to be alone with my thoughts. Buzzed not drunk, I escaped into my hammock…physically tired, mentally thrashed…shit was just so FCKN heavy.
The next morning the five of us around ate breakfast and spoke about Ross…remembering his quirks and time we spent together, and hugged each other tightly. While we couldn’t drive his car back we made sure he was all packed up…and got a little kick out of his tent dust pan. Scott and Missy left a skosh before Wayne Kim and I to make sure Haydn was ready for school….so Wayne, Kim and I decided to eat lunch together at Pizza Boy Brewing after a social media posting by Thom. The drive back, I’m fairly certain was in silence. Alone with my thoughts. Emptiness. In traffic I read some Social Medias, saw pictures, and they all brought memories. When I finally got home, I hugged my wife and kids and sobbed.
The first couple of days at home, I heard his voice first thing in the morning. I saw in my mind him tilt his head with his hands coming up and him starting to speak…both times I stopped him before he got started. jeez that sounds FCKD up. I’ve read his blog multiple times this week…it’s help me cope and put me at peace with him going out doing what he loved.
Ross had a contagious enthusiasm, super eager and up for anything. As he grew as a rider, he started into the endurance game. More than once he told me that WicKeD was how he got hooked, 4th in 2013, 2nd in 2014…he was strong and took to it naturally. The 101 was his first of the 100s. He was buzzing before that race…after pssh. When he finished…he was electric! He was beaming. I was so happy for him. Hugs, smiles, beers and stories. Man he was hooked. He was still buzzing a week later when he created a blog and then posted about his race. https://windchimp.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/2015-wilderness-101/ Him calling me a mentor is over the top and uncalled for, I just loved talking with him…it came so naturally. He picked up a SS last Nov, said it’s almost illegal how much fun MVH hills was on a SS. A couple of weeks ago he finally blinged it with an Endless cog…purple no less. I was tickled he put on that purple cog, that was just so awesome.
He loved the community and fellowship of our MTB tribe, the tribe is even more focused at an endurance event, rarely would an event, work party, race, pizza ride, etc… take place and him not be in attendance…always with a tasty beverage and beaming smile. It’s hard for people to understand who we lost. Hell it’s hard for me to understand let alone find the words to put down about Ross… there are people that don’t like me, but him…he was loved by everyone. Supremely positive, always smiling a really really nice guy.
My heart goes out of course to his family and friends both here and everywhere else. But also to Chris Scott and the rest of the good people at Shenandoah Mountain Touring, this is so very difficult for them as well. I remember vividly Luis Varela’s accident and passing at Something Wicked and the complete helplessness feeling I had…we retired his number and I’ll never forget him.
I’ve had good people tell me that Ross’s passing had them inspired to live life fully…In the end, that’s a damn good legacy to leave.
I’ve embarrassed myself enough with my rambling, lack of cohesion and massacring of the English language…as I told Super Roy last night while reminiscing and drinking porters in the woodshed…it takes me 4 days to sound eloquent….my head is still mush, it’s still FCKN heavy.
so I’ll just leave Watts words about it here. He wrote about as poetically as I could ever hope to…
As we sprawled out on the grass celebrating and struggling… there were whispers that someone had died out on the course that day. No one knew anything, so we couldn’t confirm it. And no one knew what to do or say. What DO you do or say? For many reasons… my mirth had gone anyway… and wasn’t coming back. I retired early. Ghosting without ever saying goodbye to my friends.
It turns out that a rider did, indeed die. The result of a crash. His name was Ross Hansen and he was from Long Island, NY. From what I’m told, he was, on every level, a solid individual with infectious enthusiasm. I will never dare to say that dying in the pursuit of something you love is worthwhile… because dying, however we do it… is always a tragedy. And the pain that accompanies it… for everyone… is impossible to assuage with some trite summation about the pursuit of those moments before…the moment.
But dying… while living... while not idly sitting still and watching while the things you want pass by… however we do it…
There is no other way.
What I’m struggling to say is…don’t let those moments and things you want pass by while you hide from death.
Because all the restraint and control in the world won’t keep you from dying. But it might keep you from living.
Here’s to Ross