The Rose Festival 5k and 12k have been around for about 10 years, but initially escaped my attention since Orangeburg is about an hour from my house. At some point I must have realized, though, that this was an event practically made for me. I spend so much time looking for double dip opportunities, but Rose Fest actually builds one into their race, and makes the double an event all to itself (called the “Double Down 17k” as well. It is a Tour de Columbia points bonanza.
My first taste of the Rose Fest in 2013 virtually assured I’d be coming back again. I consider it probably the best running performance of the hundreds of races I’ve done. I PR’d in the 12k by over a minute and a half, running a 48:12 in an epic battle with Billy Tisdale. The 5k, only about 40 minutes later, was absolutely brutal, but featured a 5:59 closing mile to catch Billy again, finishing in 19:49 and securing a double down championship. I was hooked.
Of course, whenever someone like myself wins races, it basically screams TROPHY HUNT. I don’t win races by talent, I win by luck and lack of competition. The Rose Fest featured wins by local elites Justin Bishop, Chris Bailey and Michael Banks in subsequent years – people who could go have brunch after their race and still have time to get back to see me finish.
I was injured in 2014, but I came back in 2015 to race the double again. Charleston’s Chris Bailey trounced everybody in both the 12k and 5k, and I had a couple of so-so races (50:02, 20:08 I think). But, since they added a masters division, I took home the masters double down crown much to my surprise.
This year, I was decidedly less optimistic. Boston, while a euphoric experience, left me just wrecked. At least I knew why I was feeling so bad at the race since I was sick as a dog the rest of the week. I had managed to get a few runs in the next weekend, including an ill-advised preview run of the Gov Cup Half on Sunday. Even though the legs were slowly coming back, I was dead tired and still not 100 percent recovered from the brutal cold I had been fighting.
But, it was Rose Fest, so I figured I’d at least go down to Orangeburg to take pictures. I think I had a beer fueled moment of poor judgment (not the first, mind you) on Thursday night and signed up for the 12k on a whim. I had to catch my 10 year old’s chorus performance at the Sparkleberry Fair at 10:15 so I really couldn’t stay for the double down. I know… the thug life chose me.
Waking up at 5:00 am on Saturday, it took every ounce of willpower, coupled with the 40 bucks I had already burned, to get me out of bed. OK I was definitely doing this race easy. I figured I could cruise at my Kiawah Marathon 7:15 pace and see if I could stumble into my age group or something.
I got down to Orangeburg with about 40 minutes to spare for the 7:30 start. Not a big crowd – the 12k is usually fairly small but loaded with elites, the 5k much larger. I ran into Cheryl and Thomas Outlaw, John Gasque (doing the double down), Brigitte and Garrett Smith, fellow TUS teammates Makenzie Wilson and birthday girl Greta Dobe. Rocky was already there despite only running the 5k at 9:00. Justin had mentioned he would be there but was MIA. I did less than a mile warmup, and the legs felt it necessary to remind me on every step that it was indeed only 12 days ago that I ran a marathon. Total cinder blocks.
As we walk up to the start line, I’m taking pictures, talking to Erin and the cops, and generally distracted. As I put my phone away, I’m suddenly struck…WHERE ARE THE ELITES?? There are a few kids, a random fit looking guy about my age and an older dude with a Charleston Running Club singlet up front. No one I really recognize on the front line. OK, so surely one of these guys must be a sub 6 pace kind of dude. Still, a sense of opportunity, and panic, runs through me.
The course – mostly flat and residential.
With the gun, I make sure I go out easy since this was the plan. About a quarter mile in I see a couple of teenagers in matching shirts running a couple of steps ahead and a guy riding my tail, but there’s no one but me and the police car. I take a quick look over my shoulder and start cussing. I’ve got 20 meters on the field already. Sonofabitch, I’ve stumbled into an unbelievable trophy hunt. I was going to have to at least try.
But, yeah, I really, really didn’t want to. A half mile in and the teenagers are gone. Just me and a random shirtless guy . I turn to him and jokingly say “I guess we are the elites today”, but he doesn’t even look at me. Dude is in a zone, probably dead set on kicking this melon headed Clydesdale’s ass. Normally I would use this as motivation to drop him, but I have no idea what my legs can take right now and I have no idea what this guy is capable of. I focus on about 7 minute pace as I had no intention on running any faster than I had to to take home the holy grail. Mile one came back in 7:04 and unfortunately Shirtless is riding my back like an oversized monkey. I don’t blame him since I produce a drafting wake like Andre the Giant. I turn a corner and there’s a long straightaway in mile 2 with a slight climb. OK – lets keep the pace steady but surge up the hill a bit to try and create some breathing room. Mile 2 was slightly faster in 6:54. I don’t feel great, having not done anything remotely fast in the past 2 weeks. I hit kind of a low point near mile 3 where I’m not sure if the police car missed a turn or not. I hear some noise behind me and Shirtless is still in striking distance, maybe 10 meters back. Damn it. The police car then turns and I recognize the course again, so figure I’m OK.
By now, I’m thinking that I can probably just maintain pace and Shirtless will fade, but there was at least one other guy not too far back. They’ll take my trophy from me from my dead, cold hands, so I bump up the pace just a little to be safe. I hit the turnaround right at mile 4, so a big psychological hurdle is overcome. Pace 6:45-6:50 for the middle miles. The heat and marathon legs are starting to get to me but the course quickly loops back on itself, and at least now I have some company going the other way. I focus on the other runners, trying not to get too crazy and kick it in too early. Mile 5 is 6:45. I’m definitely feeling pretty bad by now – legs are nice and loose but I’d really rather still be in bed. I’m almost to mile 6 (slight fade to 6:55) by the time I hit the other police car sweeping the back end of the race. Just stay on course and keep up this pace. All of a sudden I see “the hill”. Just a bump really, but I knew it was a half mile almost all downhill to the finish from the top. The hill where I pushed in all the chips against Billy in 2013 and headless chickened it to the finish. Not quite the same this time, but seeing the finish from the top of the hill is a big adrenaline jolt. I’m pretty much toast but I’m scared to death of some random joker blue shoeing me in the final stretch. I’m too afraid to look back. Burning down the hill I see Eric and Sarah Allers, Rob Yerger and Mike Compton. Sure glad they chose the undercard this year. Compton says there’s no one behind me so I do back it off a touch so I an enjoy the win. Crossed the line in 51:15, 6:52 pace. First overall! My fourth holy grail. I even had a post race interview with the Orangeburg Times-Democrat http://thetandd.com/sports/recreation/festival-of-roses-road-race-has-record-setting-turnout/article_898dc68a-613b-5b97-9f33-7b844422031d.html. http://thetandd.com/uploaded_photos/festival-of-roses-k-road-race/image_1144fd58-b88e-5c0b-a08f-222e28a8c733.html The melon head continues to grow.
This was my slowest Rose Fest 12k my over a minute, and second slowest ever, but overall victories are so sweet regardless of the time. I will take it.
In the 12k, John Gasque took 9th place and 1st in the 55-59. Tommy Outlaw took 2nd. Joe Robinson won the 50-54.Cheryl Outlaw won the 60-64 while Greta Dobe took 2nd in the 50-54. Hou Yin Chang placed 3rd in the 40-44. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69. In a critical no show, I see Lee Moore was signed up but didn’t make it to the start line. Thanks, Lee!
In the 5k, Eric Allers trounced the field by almost a minute, with Sarah taking the women’s win. An excellent day for Team Allers, newly representing the Fleet Feet racing team. Parker Roof was 3rd. The Yerg was 4th overall and 1st in the 35-39. Daniel Patrick took 5th and 1st in the 25-29. Joe Roof won the 50-54 while Compton took the 60-64. Arnold Floyd won the 70+. Makenzie Wilson was 4th female and won the 25-29. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59 for race #2. Alex Ponomarev won the 65-69. Henry Holt took 2nd in the 70+, running 28 flat at age 80. Not too shabby. Peter Mugglestone was 3rd in a super competitive 70+ age group. Tommy Outlaw was 3rd in the 55-59 in race #2, while Cheryl won her age group again, picking up 20 TDC points in one morning
I was not the only one to benefit this trophy hunt – Tour de Columbia director John Gasque was able to take home the double down championship! Marie McLean-Choi won the women’s title, with John McKinley and Jennifer Ballew claiming the masters titles.