|Starting out conservatively while the lead women took it out.|
As with the Trail Factor 50K, shortly after signing up, a local elite and quite frankly the best climber I've ever encountered - Art Degraw - signed up. The good news is that the course wouldn't have too much climbing so we figured we could use our road running backgrounds to our advantage and sustain a solid pace over the four loop course.
|Working our way into it.|
|Covered with blood.|
Despite our shared desire to go one-two we had to adjust our goal to simply finish together. As a practicing germaphobe, my brother was concerned that the aid station volunteers and fellow competitors would be uncomfortable being near someone covered in blood. The good news is that other than a rugged outdoor lifestyle he's lived a relatively risk free life, so he's clean. The hard part is trying to explain that to people as you approach them covered in blood.
As we approached each aid station I'd run ahead and direct our kids what to get him. I'd fill my bottles and he'd let his daughter and my son get cups of liquids to hand to him at the aid stations so that others didn't have to worry about it. He only had one mishap and that was when Brian Tinder went out to greet and comfort him. Tinder handed him some grub and Tommy slapped him on the back. After the fact we all just laughed at the Wilson-like hand print on Tinder's back. I figure he's mooned us each enough in races and training runs that a little blood on his back is the least he could do.
|Trying not to get any blood on anyone, but Tinder's back soon became the site of an inadvertent pat and hand print.|
We continued to run together, but the bleeding didn't subside. On the last loop, my brother took another spill on some rocks and tore up his hands and knees. We were both exhausted because we'd been running for an hour more than we had planned on running and we still had another hour to go. I knew he was in pain when he didn't even try to get up. He just laid there. After a few minutes he asked me to help him up and dust him off. Then he realized that he had been laying in a pile of horse manure. As the quintessential germaphobe he was having a harder time with it than I, and I was the one wiping it off his bloody back. Muscle was sticking out of one gash in his hand and his knee got pretty bruised up.
|Running into the aid station to get things ready for the arrival of my brother.|
|Getting down to crew level.|
|Our daughters coming back from running with us.|
|Finishing as a family.|
As it turns out, the Flagstaff Extreme BIG PINE 54K will be the last time my brother and I will race together until we join forces to tackle the six day Trans Rockies Run team event in August. Despite the struggles and challenges we encountered in the 54K, and all of the others we've encountered in the 20 years of running we've shared, there is still no place I'd rather be than running alongside my best friend.
We'll be working and training hard this summer so that when we meet again we'll be ready to race side-by-side for six days through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This has been a dream of ours since the race began nine years ago, and finally we're both healthy and able to do it together.
Between now and then I'll be enjoying the Pacific Crest Trail at the Mt. Hood 50 while my brother, Tommy Rivers, will be crewing, pacing, supporting, and promoting Iron Cowboy James Lawrence as he tackles 50 Ironman Triathlons in 50 days in all 50 states.