- 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Trail Race
Race: Valley Forge Half and Full Marathon
Date: October 4th, 2020
Location: Phoenixville, Pa
Hi Everyone! Hope you are doing well!
I'm here to recap the Valley Forge Half and Full Marathon (I ran the full). My first IRL race of the year!
Background: mid summer (July 13-14th to be exact), the writing was on the wall that my fall races were going to be canceled. Big city races, no way that's going to be "normal", yet. (Chicago and Philly marathons), well, just a couple weeks before that, this popped up into my fb feed. Hosted by Schuykill River Runners, they already had recent success with a couple small races, and more lined up. Chicago cancels, which I was somewhat relieved since I may of had some reluctance about flying through Philly and Chicago. The next day, Philly cancels. Philly is not as big as NYC/Chicago, but 20k+ ppl over the two days. Chicago canceled on July 13, Philly July 14th. Literally within 5 minutes of Philly canceling, I signed up for this race!
Course Scenery/Elevation: "Flat and Fast" paved trail along the Schuykill River that enters the Valley Forge Historic National Park. The course is an out and back for the half, out and back x2 for the full. Overall ascent for the full marathon, 231 ft!
Race is all trail, max 250 people between both races, employees, and volunteers combined.
Crowd Support: not allowed around the finish area to ensure social distancing. Friends/family are permitted along the course as the trail is open to the public.
Aid/hydration: unmanned water/Gatorade bottle stations every two miles. Bottles to eliminate human interaction between people, cups, and runners.
Portable toilets: more than adequate amount at the starting area. Some along the course, but I didn't notice, but did notice a full bathroom off the course in a parking lot.
Expo: Packet pickup day of race. No mail option. An option was provided to pickup at Valley Forge Running Co on Saturday 3-5 pm. Well... I get there right when it starts. A long line. No prob, no plans today except relax and carb load. Wait in line, get my nice shirt, but.. no bib! Bibs weren't available to pickup. The event was listed as packet pickup, and there was no communication that they weren't available. They did apologize, kinda. Sounded like they were supposed to be there, but weren't. Would of been nice to know! Wish I didn't spend 1.5 hrs+. (driving + waiting), and I know some ppl that spent more time than that. Would of been nice to have my bib ready for the race. Some slight anxiety briefly. The line on race day did move efficiently though, and only redid my pins a couple times. lol..
Parking: .7 miles from the race! The race started by a small restaurant by the trail, not enough parking. A couple parks/parking lots along the course, but they are for normal trail use. Parking was at a nearby business complex. No big deal pre race, was a nice warm-up down to the start. But a bit of a hike up a hill after 26.2 miles! But no biggie, it's all good. lol..
The uncontrollable variable, Weather: The day before the race it stated 44 degrees and clear at start time, which is perfect! Well, as I driving to the race, temps went up just a few. Maybe 47. Still great, but will be warming up during the race. Would of loved one more hour of briskness. Can't be picky, have seen much worse.
Leading up to the race (for those who don't follow my blog/training): May to July, I was in between plans, and ended up participating in the #GVRAT1000k challenge. Was a great challenge, and a bit crazy, most miles in a month for me, 3 months in a row. But towards the end I was very sore, tired, and ended up with shin splints. Focusing on recovery after that, followed my marathon plan to a T, respecting rest days. Summer training kicked my butt as well. Definitely some hesitation. My first 20 miler was exhausting. Continue to follow the plan, recovery, and then seasons began to change, second 20 miler, my best ever! Crazy how things can change in just two weeks. Week after that, my best 10 miler ever (for the Broad Street Run (virtual)). Last month of training had plenty of positives. Time to forget that grueling summer. At least for a bit. Still some anxiety, but not as much.
Week of the race, was sure to focus on recovery, hydration, some carb loading, no alcohol, proper rest, and no extra miles. Also thankful that I wasn't on-call this week for work. No work interruptions overnight!
Packet pickup starts at 6. Race starts at 7, half marathon starts at 8. With the rolling start and the half not starting 'till 8, I can take my time a bit. Still want to start early, but won't feel as rushed. Up just before my normal alarm. Was able to watch the end of the women's London Marathon! (just the last 5 min). Coffee, morning "routine", light breakfast, and on the road before 6. Slightly more traffic on the turnpike than I expected, but everyone flying. Parking lot by 6:30. Short line for my bib. back to my car to get my shirt/bib just right, and head down to the start. Speed walk to get the blood going. Race starting as I get there. Got in line for the other queue. lol..
Off to a quick start! First mi was way ahead of pace. Continually pulling myself back for a few. But was very comfortable. Enjoying the views. The race was along the river. Clear views across. Was cool to watch the fog/steam lift off the water(sorry, no pics, in a zone, lol..). Entering the valley Forge Historic National Park, meadows on either side, short section with highway 422 on the one side, some slight noise, but not bad. There was one hill around 2.7 mi, a ramp up around the highway. Not bad. Back into the woods, small creek, with a few buildings on the other side. Timing mat at 1/4 marathon, and then turn around to head back to the beginning for the first half marathon. My first half marathon was at least 5 min ahead of goal. Not trying to bank time, but still feeling great/ and not over doing it. Second out and back, really trying to focus on comfort. Didn't hydrate at all, yet, was sure to grab a Gatorade at the half. Didn't see trash cans for a while, held that bottle longer than expected. Saw three deer early in the second half! Pretty close too! Sorry, no pics. Temps were great in the first half. Starting to feel the sun, especially in the meadow portion in the second half. That hill felt fine the second time through. Pace was more relaxed/comfortable, just ahead of target. But at the 3/4 turnaround knew it may get rough at some point. 22 miles, knew the wall was approaching, but saw my wife! A nice boost! Wall around 5k to go. Some negative thoughts kick in, but kept telling myself to think of it as just a tough 5k, you can do a tough 5k, right? lol.. Lost pace in that 5k, but hung in there for a PR! Still room for improvement, but making progress with that darn wall!
Met up with BibRavePro, marathonmaniac.chloe, from Miami! People want to race and are willing to travel! Passed by mult times in the race, was sure to meet up after!
Also met up with a social media follower, louamerica, IRL! Always great to meet people you interact with on the web!
After my post race lunch/drink, met up with another BibRavePro, lacey timony, (not pictured). Great people, and they twisted my arm to head over to a nearby brewery. :)
Lunch! Sorry, no pics! The race started/ended in front of "The Fitz". They had a smoker going and it smelled great! Lunch was a nice sized BBQ sandwich, cole slaw, baked beans. Grilled corn also available. I need some time after running before I eat, but once I was ready.. The sandwich was fantastic!
Beer: one "free" beer! There were two options from Brothers Kershner Brewing Co. There was an american pale ale option, and a hefe option. I went with the Porch Ale. Nice hops and very refreshing.
Shirt: Red tech shirt. American flag: stars section containing '76 with stars rounding it. Soldier. Over the stripes to the right, there is a circle with Valley Forge Marathon written around and containing trail/highway paths within the circle. Bottom left of stripes, Schuykill River Runners written and their logo.
Medal: no medal, yet. It will be mailed. Race management was sure to communicate this ahead of time. Will be sure to update once received!
Race Management: the race was well put together, and provided proper safety measures. Am very appreciative of them in these unprecedented times. The two cons.. Communication regarding the Saturday packet pickup. The other, which is also on the runners.. There was plenty of litter on the trail. Masks, water/gatorade bottles, etc. Rude of the runners to discard items, but one thing I did notice, trash cans were only by the hydration stations. If you grabbed your bottle on the run, you're responsible to either consume/discard right there, or carry for two miles. Could of used more trash cans. Maybe every .5?. But again, runners need to be responsible as well. Two small items I would definitely not hold against them. Again, I am very appreciative of the opportunity to do this race. Would I do it again? Schedule permitting, yes!
Let me know if you have any questions regarding the race!
Site and Socials:
FB page: Schuykill River Runners
FB group: Schuykill River Runners
For more pics, Be sure to to check my blog site below. Blog site also has Race and Gear discount tabs!
Good luck to everyone with racing and training, keep kicking butt!
If you do any races, please remember to review them on BibRave.com! Your opinions help other runners decide what races to run! #BibChat Follow me on BibRave Joe G