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