Whoever originally thought up the Festival of Roses races was clearly a kindred spirit of mine. Instead of putting 2 races together at the same time (like virtually every other multirace event, lets have a 12k at 7:30 and a 5k at 9:00, so that people can run both if they want. Oh, and lets sweeten the deal with a competition of who can be the fastest double dipper. Finally, someone not only recognizes the plight of the obsessive racer, but legitimizes it by making an official separate event. They call it the “Double Down”, and it is awesome.
That’s not to say I was a little torn about which race to attend this weekend. I love the Crawfish festival and the associated Crawdaddy Dash, having raced it 3 times before. The race is still cool but they strayed from their mid 90’s alternative rock band booking this year, so they lost me. Seeing Everclear in 2014 was definitely this aging music freak’s highlight of the spring. The other race was the Run to the Press Box 5k out at Lugoff-Elgin High School . I did their first event last year and I love the small town, local races – especially one only 15 minutes away. And yes, I love me a good trophy hunt.
But the Rose Fest holds a special place in my heart. I’ve only done it once before, in 2013, just before the cliff dive. I PR’d in the 12k by a minute (48:11) then ran a 19:45 5k in an adrenaline fueled, all-out war with Billy Tisdale. It was probably the best day of my running life, and I won the male overall double down and 150 bucks. I still don’t know how I ran those times, but you throw two maniacally competitive people together and I guess they bring out the best in both. The 150 bucks was a gift card to a local drug store where I got my first pair of Costa sunglasses. They broke about as bad as my toe in Hawaii 2 months later. Good times.
So Rose Fest it was. The only thing that sucks about it is having to drive to Orangeburg, a good hour from my house. This is not usally a big deal, but then I realized I had done some crappy planning leading up to this race. Apparently in an effort to replace my 90’s alternative fix left behind by Crawdaddy, I had already gotten Offspring tickets for a show in Charlotte on the Friday night before the race. Yeah, that is just not a good idea. For one, it means being on your feet for hours trying to hold your spot in a cramped club. Two, dealing with this unpleasant situation usually involves copious amounts of beer consumption. Three, I usually go to bed at 10 and that is when the band actually decided to start…in Charlotte. Four, we even left the show early and didn’t get home until 12:30. At 5 am I woke up exhausted, gimpy-legged and cotton-mouthed. With two races ahead of me, this was not looking good at all. New flash, Alex – it’s not 1995 anymore.
But I went down to O-burg anyway. The Yerg had already told me he was double downing so that pretty much squashed any chance I had at a repeat championship. At least Michael Banks wasn’t coming back to set a state 12k record like 2014. The 12k turnout seemed very sparse this year, not sure why. James Hicks, Joe Robinson, Joe Roof and Jennifer Reeves were a few of the CRC contingent, along with myself and Yerger. Although Banks wasnt here, some SC racing legends turned up. Marc Embler, who won Cooper River back in 1980, and has been tearing up road races and state records ever since, showed up. Dave Geer, the 60 year old who kicked my ass at the Richland RUNS 10k last year en route to the 60-64 age group state record, was also on hand. Nonie Hudnall was also there – age 65 and a national level age group track beast. Erin Miller was making an appearance to surely take the women’s win. Strictly had her in the 12 and Kenzie Riddle in the 5k in a divide-and-conquer strategy. I’ll save you the suspense: it worked well.
Temps were in the 50’s and pretty close to ideal for early May. Billy wasn’t there, so I wasn’t sure if there would be anyone to pace with. I figured 6:30ish would be a decent starting point and see how it goes from there. Rob had said he was going to pace off Erin, which for me would be suicide. Erin has turned herself into an elite level runner after running behind me in 5ks just a couple of years ago. They were going to do 6:15, so no way was I going to pull that off and still be alive after the 5k point.
So there isn’t much to say about the 12k. The field was small, and it immediately separated out. I felt like crap thanks to my partying like a college kid the night before. I thought I was hitting the right split but ended up somehow doing like 6:56 in my first mile, which is pretty close to my marathon pace. To be fair there is a long climb at the start (which makes a nice finish on the way back) but this was still crap. By this time Rob and Erin had left me like a red headed stepchild and Geer and Embler were in another time zone. The leader was some kid who looked like a pro and was trouncing everybody. After cursing up a blue streak when my Garmin spit out the split, I tried to crank it up some. Wasn’t really feeling it. Mile 2 has a long straightaway and this was about the last I saw of another runner. Completely and utterly alone. I was able to slowly bring the pace back to my goal but it was super tough to maintain any motivation. The course was basically a winding route through a residential area. I hadn’t reviewed the course very well so I felt pretty lost. Luckily all the turns had flour on the road to mark them, but I was zoning out so much I kept fearing I had suddenly missed one. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were about 6:40. At 4.5 miles the course folds back on itself, so I finally started to see some of the middle and back of the pack, which was nice. The miles before that felt like I was out for a training run without my iPod. After mile 5 the course starts to get flatter and downhill, so I picked it up some. After mile 6 came back in 6:36, I decided to try and salvage a sub 50. At least it would give me a goal with no one around to push me. I ramped it up quite a bit and really kicked it in when I thought I was nearing the last bit on Riverside Dr. One problem…I was on RiverBANK drive. Luckily I heard a faint yell as I passed an intersection with Pinehill rd. I came to a complete stop, powered back up an incline, and sure enough I had missed the turn. Now I knew a sub 50 was going to be really tough. Once actually on Riverside I finally recognized the final hill climb that gave me the edge over Tisdale in 2013, with mile 7 beeping out a 6:26 just before. I powered up the incline as hard as I could and then saw the clock way in the distance. Rob may have been finishing but I couldn’t tell. I ran about as hard as I could in the final half mile, total headless chicken. Tigs, warming up for the 5k, saw me and screamed out “GOOD FORM!”. Totally delusional. Everything is flopping around and looking like a hot mess . She was the one who told me Billy was right on my tail at the 2013 finish, where I nearly burst a lung before turning around and seeing him at least 200 meters back. As I near the finish I make out the time and its going to be reeeeallly close. One more gasp and I hit the tape right at 50 minutes (50:00.9 by Garmin, 50:02 by official time). 7th overall, 1st in AG, 3rd masters. I’ll take it on a bad day with no one pushing me. Garmin had my total distance at 7.58 because of the wrong turn and backtracking, so probably closer to 49:30 if I had paid attention.
But no time to think too much about the 12k because the 5k is coming up in 40 minutes. I make sure to walk and stand around to keep from getting too tight. I realize there is zero chance of a double down victory, since the 12k winner (Chris Bailey) has already told Rob he’s doing the 5k too, not to mention Rob himself whipped my tail in the 12. Pretty much every part of my body is screaming not to do the 5k, but its too much of a hit to my pride not to give it a go. I took a bunch of pictures and was surprised to see Jennifer Reeves come cruising in at 1:20, a full 8 minutes faster than her PR. It’s a good thing too, since she’s also doing the double down, and the 5k starts exactly 1:30 after the 12. Although the 12k crowd was pretty sparse, the 5k appears to have more than made up for it. Lots of race t-shirts in this crowd, so I’m figuring not super competitive. Sarah and Eric Allers, Parker Roof, Mike Compton, and Eric McMichael are the new faces I hadn’t seen in the 12k.
By the time 9:00 rolled around, my legs were still toast and the temperature seemed to have jumped 15 degrees. I was debating the unthinkable (by my obsessive, insanely competitive standards) and actually jogging this one. I wasn’t sure I could generate any speed off the two cinder blocks I used to call my lower extremities. But then I thought about Brandenburg, and how I could virtually be assured he was going to go trophy hunting and knock out another 10 masters points (sure enough he mailed in a 20 minute 5k at the Press Box race in lugoff, taking 1st masters – totally weak, dude.) So, I was going to have to try. At least the course was pretty flat – same start and finish of the 12k with a different neighborhood loop on this out-and-back.
The start was just ugly. My legs were sending the brain rapid-fire “WTF are you doing!!?” messages and I was getting passed left and right. I saw Bailey jump out to the early lead with Eric, Parker and Kenzie right behind. Tigs was going out hard and leaving me for dead. Rob was feeling the pain too and he lagged back just ahead of me, forming a Team Utopia mini pack with me and Mike Compton. Legs were super tight through mile 1 , which came back in 6:40 something. Wasn’t too happy pulling half marathon pace in a 5k, but I figured this would be good enough to at least score some AG and masters points. By a mile and a half in, I had passed Mike and it was just Rob and I out for a tempo run on very tired legs. At least I had someone to pace with. Tigs was holding her own up ahead and maintained the gap through mile 2, which was pretty much the same pace as mile 1. Right after the split, we got spit back on to RiverBANK drive and I know we are headed back hime. I am more than ready to get this thing over with by this point, and the legs have finally loosened up some. Rob picks it up too and we start gaining on a pack which includes Daniel Patrick, a kid (Adam Bernthal) and Tigs. We are all starting to kick it in when the three ahead, and Rob, make the same mistake I did in the 12k, running right through the Pinehill/Riverbank intersection. I yell out but no one hears me as I turn left on Pinehill then right on RiverSIDE Dr. As it turns out, the Rob/Daniel/Adam?ZTigs pack took the next left and ended up almost exactly as we were before. Rob and I hit the last incline together, but my uber competitive dark passenger has taken over and I just start sprinting it out. I pass Rob and draw even with Daniel, who informs me he is not going to be blue shoed that easily. He starts riding me like a circus monkey as we both go careening towards the finish. Shockingly, I see we are still in the 19’s – I was already thinking of a 21 minute finish at mile 2. I’m closing very fast on Tigs but I’m also running out of real estate. It would be so sweet to take her down again within the last 20 meters (a la 2012 Shandon Turkey Trot) but it is not to be. Bernthal’s 12 year old legs apparently are fresher than all of us old farts and he blasts through the finish line first with Tigs a few steps behind him. Daniel and I come crashing through almost simultaneously, but he had a step on me at the last moment, and finishes a few milliseconds in front. 20:10, 8th overall, 1st in AG, 2nd masters. Not a great time for me, but I was glad to clock a 6:12 last mile to make it respectable.
I was pretty happy with the results, especially with way I felt – 17 masters , 20 age group and 7 overall Tour de Columbia points was not bad for a day’s work. In the euphoria of being done with the grueling double, J-Reeves mentioned to me there was a masters double down category. No way. But sure enough I checked the flyer and the results, and there it was – male masters double down winner! Wow, being 40 is great, even if I still behave like a 15 year old. Scored 2 roses and 30 bucks in the trophy haul. Erin Roof and Todd Heinicke officially remain the ultimate race swagmasters.
12k results – Chris Bailey torched the field in 39:11 for the win. Marc Embler, at 57 years old, ran a sub 6 pace 44:37 and an age group state record. Not to be outdone, Dave Geer (60 ) also set an age group state record in 45:11. They also finished 2nd and 3rd overall. I want to be like Marc and Dave when I grow up. In the women’s field, Strictly’s Erin Miller crushed the competition by almost 10 minutes to take the win in 45:33. I only wish she and Kenzie had doubled down and battled it out together. Anne Rosen and Julie Brown finished 2nd and 3rd. Nonie Hudnall captured female masters with Embler taking the mens win. Age group honors: Andy Mikula of Palmetto Runners won 1st in the 25-29. Yerg took 1st in the 35-39 with a 48:16 with James Hicks second. Joe Roof won the 50-54.
5k results: Chris Bailey cruised to a 16:24 overall win, followed by a blazing Eric Allers in 17:37, which I believe is a PR. Nice job , Eric! Parker Roof finished 3rd in 18:!8 to make Erin and Joe proud. Kenzie Riddle from Strictly Running ran an 18:52 to take the women’s win, followed again by Anne Rosen and Julie Brown. It was an awesome day for Team Allers, as Sarah and Eric both took home masters wins. Age group honors; Adam Bernthal broke 20 minutes at 12 years old to take the 11-13. Daniel Patrick won the 25-29 and pulled a rare blue shoes reversal. Run the 12k next time, dude! Yerger and Hicks again went 1-2 in the 35-39. Palmetto Runners’ Eric McMichael placed 2nd in the 40-44. Joe Roof won the 50-54 again. New CRC’er Tim Pearson placed 2nd int the 55-59 in his first 5k. Nice trophy hunt, Tim! Mike Compton easily won the 60-64.
Double Down – Chris Bailey made it easy by winning both races to take the men’s win. Julie Brown finished 2nd behind the Strictly Running red storm twice to capture the women’s double down. Anne Rosen finished 3rd twice to win female masters. Other familiar faces completing the double down were: Jennifer Reeves, Hou-Yin Chang, Joe Roof, Rob Yerger, James Hicks and Joe Robinson.