Snowman 8k – Caughman Road Park – Columbia, SC – 1/21/12

The Snowman 8k is one of the oldest road races in Columbia, celebrating its 31st running this year. Its held out at Caughman Road park, which is kind of out of the way, but it always draws a pretty big and very competitive field. A lot of this has to do with the prize money, with 200 bucks to first overall (men and women) and cash prizes for Clydesdale/Athena, Military and Stroller categories. They also have the standard age groups plus 5 deep for the men’s age groups from 30-34 through 45-49.

This course is pretty tough. Maybe not Hammer the Hills tough, but definitely not “flat and fast” (or maybe it is by Selwyn’s standards).  I did this race for the first time in 2011, and had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.  An astute observer would note that the course map has a road called “Cliffside Drive” and enters the “Dominion Hills” neighborhood, but apparently I was not that astute last year. I went out like a crazed banshee, careening down the entirely downhill first mile in just under 6:20, and was then dead man (virtually) walking up the monster hill that follows.  It took me about 3 miles of over 7 minute pace to clear out the lactic acid, and Schmitz was breathing down my neck like a rabid bear. Luckily the last mile is all flat, and I managed a 6:36  to avoid a Richmond flashback.

Last year was cold, with some snow still on the ground. It was 60 degrees and rainy when I got to the start today. Had to register because Snowman   still holds on to mail-in entries, and it takes an act of congress for me to do that whole stamps and envelope thing. Did 3 miles warmup with the Diesels, Howells and Jedi Master Bodourov.

Start was at 1:30, which is a tough race time to figure out for food and water intake. I usually want to take a nap at that time, being just after lunch. For my midday meal I had the elegant combo of half a PB+J sandwich and an Espresso Love GU. Yummy.

Start line showed the race was stacked again, with some super lean singlet dudes and Eric Ashton lining up first row. Women’s field didnt have that crazy fast chica that’s won this race in a sub 30 time the last couple years, but did have Meg and Amanda. I lined up 2nd row and tried not to get run over at the start, which is up a slight incline for about a quarter. Blasted up the hill faster than I wanted because I was already getting gapped by Howell , Billy, Meg and Amanda.  However, I tried to remember to stick to my tried and true,  negative split strategy. I let off the pedal on ensuing freefall for the rest of mile one, and let 195 pounds and gravity do their thing. Hit mile 1 at 6:25,  which was pretty much right where I wanted to be. Where I didnt want to be, however, was getting my ass handed to me by Greg, who was already 30 meters ahead. Luckily this course works to my favor, because the next 3 miles are mostly rolling hills. Hills suck, but since I train nowhere flat, they seem to help me immensely versus the rest of the field. Didnt hit the wall on the mountain this year, and just tried to maintain an even pace on both the flats and hills. Slowly started reeling in some of the field, even though the pace faded into the high 6:30’s. I didnt look at my Garmin, but they had people calling out splits at every mile. Nice change from my contentious relationship with Robo Timer from last week.  Hit 2 miles right at 13 minutes, 3 miles in 19:50.  I ran by myself for most of these two miles, couldnt hear anyone behind me. Finally caught up with Amanda just before mile 4, heading into the scarily named “Dominion Hills”.  This left basically Greg and I to battle it out. I had whittled the gap away to about 10-15 meters, but he kept throwing in surges (or perhaps I was throwing in arm flails and head bobs) and held me at bay. I couldnt tell if he knew I was there – he never looks back.  Four miles in 26 something. Finally the hills stopped just after the 4 mile mark, exiting us onto a short dirt road and back onto the relatively flat Trotter Rd. On the dirt section I saw Billy pass the Code, and I wondered if we might have one of Code Brown’s chernobyl -esque meltdowns he seems to have once in a blue moon. I was finally able to draw even with Greg on the first bit of Trotter, and he made a hand motion for me to pass, but I was sucking so much wind at the time I was deathly afraid he might catch me. The finish is visible as soon as you get to Trotter Rd, but its got to be over a half mile from that last turn. I finally seemed to put a little distance on Greg, and I was gaining on the Code pretty hardcore. Unfortunately, the Code doesnt have Greg’s pillar of salt fear, and he took a glance back in the last 100 meters. My cover was blown then, and the Code made sure he wasnt getting Blue Shoed. I was pretty much toast then anyway. Redlined it the rest of the way out and finished in 32:44 (6:22 last mile – garmin had 5.02) . I was happy with the time – pretty close to the 32:34 8k PR and on a tough course to boot.  About 1:40 better than last year.

Did a cooldown with the Code and Billy, which was a nice 9 min pace at first, then became an insane sub 6 pace sprint as a tidal wave of thunderstorms descended on us. Almost got struck my lightning and was soaked to the bone.  Post race ceremony was awesome with free BBQ and fried chicken lunch, and mini-painting awards by the Chicken Man.  Mens winner, Stuart Moran, ran a 24:50 something (sub 5 pace) which is just ridiculous. Ashton took one of the overall awards as well. Meg Weis and Amanda Charlton went 1-2 on the women’s side. Flicker took the Clydesdale in 33 something. Diesel and Freight Train both did Clydesdale, so I think they got shut out of awards. Diesel is having some IT band problems and narrowly avoided getting outkicked by the missus, who took an AG award. I managed 2nd in AG behind the Code. Billy won grandmaster.  Anton, Greg, Teo, Laura, Tom all took home AG awards as well. JB got a PR and AG win even in his advanced age. Results are still pending, so I’ll have to doublecheck the above when they come out.

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