This past weekend the mountain bike community lost a good man. I don’t know Will Olson personally, but that will never matter. Will was just like me, just like all the great friends I have. Will loved to ride his mountain bike and he was good at it. Really good.
The tragic events really started to hit home when I realized I had captured a shot of Will last year, on the very trail that took his life. To this day, I can remember him flying by, smashing through a creek crossing that seemed to give racers trouble. He made it look like a puddle with the ease he crossed it. His speed and control looked like a monster truck blowing up a mud hole with hundreds of horse power behind it. Throwing mud and water into the air as though a stick of dynamite blew up as he past by. I let out the loudest yell of excitement! I love seeing racers excel.
Will was your average Colorado mountain boy. He loved riding bikes and snowboarding, and he was talented at both. He camped at the races, sleeping in the dirt, just like I do. The more I learn about Will, the more I realize this was my friend. We have shared a cheers, I am sure of it. I have cheered him on down the mountain, and gave well wishes at the top. There is no doubt in my mind.
The days following our loss of Will’s physical self, the rains have hardly let up. I like to think it is Mother Nature washing Herself of what happened. A fresh start and a better appreciation for what we have. Going to sleep to the sound of gentle rain drops pinging off the metal roof of my van home. Laying there, I think of how crazy this thing called life really is. No one thinks that we might die as we roll up to the start line of a bike race.
I like to think Will was having a spectacular race run. That his mind was full of joy and excitement for being on his bike and racing in the mountains with his friends. To be so lucky to leave this world under such terms. Will was doing what he loved when he died. I hope for something so amazing as that. It doesn’t make the pain stop, or make the tears not fall, but it does make my heart smile.
I have always been proud in how I appreciate life. How I so often will stop to smell the flowers. Or to just look. These events have further reinforced this idea. Life is short and there are no guarantees. That thing you have always wanted to do, but keep putting it off waiting for the right time. Go for it. There is never a better time than now.
Wake up feeling grateful for another day on Earth. Every day is a gift and there is no way of knowing when that gift will end. Hug your family. Hug your friends. Tell them you appreciate your relationship. Laugh. Live with intention. Be grateful for what you have, for what you can do. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Say hello to a stranger, you may just gain a friend.
Losing a friend I never made has made me really appreciate the friends I have made. There will always be events in life that don’t make sense, that hurt like hell. At the end of the day, life is amazing; every last good and bad event or feeling.
I am beyond honored to have captured Will in the midst of doing what made him happy and feel alive. Rest in peace, friend. Ride that endless golden hour singletrack and know you will not be forgotten.
To my friends still on Earth- smile more, the world needs more smiling faces.