Race Review: Valley Forge Marathon Swim

I did this last week and in the almost 50 years I've been doing endurance events, I've had worse races, but not often, thank God.
The race was small, low-key, affordable (about $150), and the course was surprisingly pleasant. Being that it was so close to Philly, I expected to see the riverbanks lined with general urban ugliness. Instead, it was mostly woods and the homes of people who have more money than I do. The Schuylkill River was very low which made swimming the first 4 miles out against the current not too bad. The down side of that was that I managed to slice up my left hand twice on some old cement dam parts under the water, despite the course zig-zagging to try and keep us away from the cement detritus. Unfortunately, a stiff breeze came up about the time I made the 1/2 way turn and it was against the direction of the current so any help that the current might have offered was pretty well negated.
My race was awful. I swam fine for the first 5 miles, but then my left calf started to cramp every 125-150 yards. After a while my hamstring decided to get in on the act as did my anterior tibialis. It's the first time in my life I've had both the front and back of my lower leg cramp at the same time. The last 3 miles of the race was agonizing and took FOREVER - it was an aquatic reenactment of the Bataan Death March. I was determined to finish (and did) and although I still have no idea of my final time, I know it was insanely slow.

Overall, this is a good, low-key race. Although a first-time marathon swimmer can make it, there are easier courses with which to lose your marathon swim "virginity" (ask @dpm50 about that). Additionally, I'm not sure how much harder it might have been if river flow was normal or even higher than normal. Still, count me in for next year.



“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde



  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited September 2015

    So you got a cut too? I dinged my hand a little around the same location--but nothing much... then remembered on the way back to keep my stroke a bit more shallow. Those shallow sections with big tufts of grass that I'd bump into... no worries for me. I swam through seaweed in the Great South Bay, so I felt right at home. ;) At one point, late in the swim, during a shallow spot, I got the urge (but didn't follow it... my kayaker was already worried about me) to dive down and grab a pebble as a souvenir. Maybe next time.... (Oh wait... didn't I say to myself "this hurts way too much... never again!"? Which, on shore, turned into "next time"! Moral: Never listen to resolutions you make during bad patches.)

    The organizer is a good friend of mine, and it was a privilege to be in this inaugural event. And I don't think he'll let me pass it up next year. :)

    For me, too, the appeal of this swim is that it's so close to home that I can even get there easily by public transportation. And heading back home that afternoon, I wondered what my fellow riders might think if they knew that a passenger among them had swum seven miles in that river the train went over. But then again who knows what adventures they might have had that would surprise the rest of us!

  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member

    I'm not dead. Yet.

    When I was a kid, my late mother used tell me that I had been put on earth for two reasons:

    1) To drive her insane

    2) To be a warning to other people

    So... to fulfill my second purpose: I had all sorts of muscle cramps during this swim and had no real explanation for it. Of note is that prior to the swim my leg had been a bit sore, but that's nothing unusual since I occasionally get banged around a bit by the horses or strain something doing whatever construction project is current. It was also quite sore after the race, of course, but the soreness did not go away. Then, all of a sudden, I ended up in the ER with a deep blood clot in my leg, directly behind the knee. The reason that the leg was cramping was that I already had a smaller blood clot and the muscle apparently was being somewhat "starved" for blood/oxygen/nutrients and just couldn't stop cramping because of that. It could of been much worse if the clot had broken off and gone to my lungs and killed me, so even with a totally crappy finish, I can't kvetch.

    The warning: It happened because I had my work chair adjusted wrong and it was putting pressure on the back of my knee. Also, I have a habit of working and forgetting all about time, so it is not unusual for me to go 5-8 hours without realizing the passage of time and not moving, which really makes for trouble. Therefore, be sure your chair is adjust correctly and get up and move often. It is especially important because it is not unusual for endurance athletes to have higher than normal hemoglobin counts which makes clotting easier.


    P.S. Trying to die in August or September is becoming a tradition with me - this is 3 times in the last 4 years something has tried to get me.

    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USSenior Member

    @Leonard_Jansen Glad you're not dead yet too!

    Sitting in a chair for 5-8 hours is more risky than swimming OW for 5-8 hours. (That's not exactly what you said, but close enough.)

    Keep those warnings coming! :)]


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Also glad you're not dead yet @Leonard_Jansen.

    One thing that could help you with your chair-marathons is to drink a lot. Your bladder yelling at you at least would get you out of the chair more often. ;)


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    OMG, Leonard! Sounds scary! Glad you got through it OK! It was good to see you that day but sorry you had such a tough time afterward!

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