Saturday, January 17, 2014
The Quest Begins
The first 5K of the 50 races in 50 States is over. The quest is officially underway! Sort of. As it turns out the first 5K was actually only a 2.1 miler as opposed to a 3.1 miler (5K). More on that later.
The alarm went off at 6AM. I hit snooze…twice. I was up by 6:20. Came downstairs, had my protein shake, had a cup of coffee and was out the door by 7. I had to stop by my office where I made another cup of coffee. Hit up Dunkin’ Donuts for a breakfast sandwich and ran back home to grab my wallet, which I had forgotten.
It was a cold morning. Like 14 degrees cold. But the sun was rising in the East without a cloud in site. It was going to be a beautiful day, albeit very chilly.
My amateur running outfit consisted of a pair of Under Armour blue nylon “sweat” pants, a too-tight black long-sleeve running shirt with a blue running shirt over top of that, a gray Adidas sweatshirt and a blue down vest covering all of it. Black gloves (not running gloves) and a bright hunter-orange wool hat. Shoes were a pair of blue Brooks running sneakers.
After grabbing my wallet I was off for a day of excitement!
First stop was the Valley Forge National Park. The 50 races in 50 states is about 3 things, running (obviously), a history lesson in each state, and a fine beer at a local establishment. The first race was about 5 miles away from one of the most important places in our Nation’s history-Valley Forge.
The History Lesson
Valley Forge National Park
General Washington chose to camp out at Valley Forge during the Winter of 1777-1778. The British were camping in Philadelphia, about 20-25 miles southeast of Valley Forge, for the Winter. The site at Valley Forge was the perfect spot to keep an eye on the British in the event that they attacked. Valley Forge is full of high areas that would help give the Americans an edge in a battle. Despite the perfect location, no battles were fought. At least not with the British.
The Winter of 1777 and 1778 was absolutely brutal. Cold temperatures, disease, very little food, water and clothing. The soldiers built log cabins that would serve as their shelter from the cold winter. Many men had lost their shoes in the march to Valley Forge. Over 2,500 of our men died during the six-months that we were camped out at Valley Forge. More than 700 horses died due to starvation and exhaustion. Things had gotten so bad that there was even talk of replacing Washington as General of the Continental Army.
Things started turning around after Prussian drill master, Freidrich von Steuben arrived on the scene on February 23, 1778. Von Steuben, who received a recommendation from Benjamin Franklin, turned the Army into an absolute fighting force! When we think of those that have served our country to bring us freedom von Steuben is one name we should not leave out. The American Revolution may not have ended with our freedom without the training of von Steuben.
The Winter spent at Valley Forge in 1777 and 1778 proved to be a turning point of the Revolutionary War. There are three major reasons for this shift;
- Von Steuben’s ability to train the young Army. Von Steuben was a Master at training the amateur Army. And he did it despite knowing very little of the English language.
- An alliance that was formed with the French. France joined forces with America and sent troops as well as ships to help with the remainder of the war.
- The brutal Winter turned the soldiers into a much stronger Army. Washington has always acknowledged that the conditions we suffered through and the perseverance we gained as a result of those conditions helped the Army bind together, triumph over obstacles later in the War and eventually help us to win our freedom.
Here’s a closeup of the top of the monument…
If you are visiting Philadelphia or if you are from the area, you should check out Valley Forge. Some of the log cabins are open, there is a fantastic Visitor’s Center and you can even see Washington’s headquarters. Great for kids, runs, bikes, hikes, dates, drives, nature, and of course a lesson on American history. I am ecstatic to have had the opportunity to go there and look forward to going back.
An Unexpected Feeling of Pure Excitement!
Something was happening inside me on the drive to Valley Forge that I did not anticipate, I felt incredibly alive. I had been on that same highway a thousand times but I never had that feeling before. Excitement for the journey ahead was almost overwhelming. And I was still in Pennsylvania!! I can’t wait to see how it feels to go on longer adventures.
The race was held in Wayne, PA at Wilson Farm Park. Just a short ride from Valley Forge. This was the first race in the Seven Summits Therapy 5K Series. I’m not sure how often the races will be but the next one is only a month away. So it’s possible they will be held monthly.
There were 29 runners with a decent mix of young, older, men, women, boys and girls. It was cold at the start of the race, 19 degrees. It was a bright and beautiful morning though despite the below freezing temperatures. Not much wind.
Each runner was given a race t-shirt, a number (108) and as many apples and bananas as we wanted. Water too. The race started promptly at 9:30.
You will almost always post a better time during a race than you will in training. The excitement of running with and against other runners gives you a major boost of adrenaline. Plus, sometimes there is a pretty girl running near you that you don’t want to lose site of. Such was the case today.
I was listening to Paul Simon and soon realized the slower tunes from that album weren’t cutting it. I wasn’t sure how far out I was, maybe a mile and a half. I switched to Eminem and was about to get in my groove. After only one song I saw the Finish Line ahead. There is no way, I thought, no way it’s been 3 miles already.
As I crossed the finish line I saw the time, 17:34. No way. I have never run a 6-minute mile and today was not the first. I checked the app that I use track my runs, 2.1 miles. Oh no. Someone dropped the ball.
As it turns out, the course was not properly marked causing all but 4 of the runners to run 2.1 miles as opposed to 3.1. Somewhere along the line we missed a mile. There were young girls directing the runners on which way to go. It seems at some point one of them must have made a mistake..
Most of the runners were OK with the mishap. All but one who demanded a refund and was apparently belligerent with a few of the young girls. Jackass. I pulled the race director aside and assured him not to worry, the race supported a good cause and they’ll get it right the next time. That seemed to be the overall feeling among the runners.
Four things I learned from this 5K
- Be nice to volunteers, especially if they are children. For real, you are going to be angry with a 10-year old girl because of this? You being a nasty SOB is far worse than anything she did today! Get over yourself and be nice to people. Especially children.
- Clearly mark your course. Know exactly where you want to go. Whether it be a track for a 5K or your goals in life. Have marks set up so you know that you are on the right track.
- Adjust and think quickly. I knew there was NO way I was at 3 miles. But I just kept on running right through the finish line. It would have been simple to just turn around and run a half mile backwards and then finish the race. But I wasn’t thinking. I am as much to blame for not running 3.1 miles as the director or anyone else.
- Plan music ahead. I should have known that the Paul Simon album was not going to fill me up with the juice I needed to break any records. I lost time fiddling with my phone trying to find Eminem and lost time not getting the adrenaline that was available through different music.
Overall I had a nice experience with this race. They will get it right in the races to come. I won’t be there in February but I’m sure I’ll race in this series again. I am still counting it as 5K #1 despite the fact that it was only 2.1 miles. It’s not all about the race, but instead all about the experience. And this was a nice experience.
A short time ago, Draftmag.com came out with this list of the best beer bars in America. I was thrilled to see Teresa’s Next Door had made the cut. This is a fine establishment with more unrecognizable beers on their draft board than recognizable. That’s a good thing. It assures you that you will have the opportunity to try something different.
Teresa’s has a long bar with tables on the opposing wall. It’s perfect for meeting with friends, going on dates, as well as a professional meeting. There is a full bar in case you do not like beer.
I chose the Tripel Van De Garre which was meant with extreme approval from the bartender, Mike. It was served in it’s own glass along with a small serving of cheese. Obviously I had made the right choice. It cost $8.50, more than I would normally like to pay for a beer. But this one was worth it.
The Van de Garre is an exceptional Belgium beer. Full of flavor and not an overwhelming taste of alcohol despite the high potency, 10.5%. I would recommend just sticking with one, two at the most. Or else you may find yourself in a bit of trouble.
Teresa’s opened at 11:30, I was there at 11:45 and was among the first few people there. By the time I left at 12:15 several tables had been sat and a few others had joined me at the bar. The staff was friendly and Mike was more than willing to offer samples of the other beers they had on tap.
The bar is located in whats known as the Main Line of Philadelphia. A more upscale neighborhood just on the outskirts of the city limit. Very close to the campus of Villanova University.
Parking can be a little difficult depending on the time of day you visit. I had no trouble at 11:45 AM on a Saturday morning. I have been to Teresa’s a few times before and have always had a great experience. This time was no different and I’m already looking forward to the opportunity to go back. Add Teresa’s to your list of things to do when in the area.
Here is a link to all the videos and pictures from 5K #1-Pennsylvania.
That wraps up 5K and State #1. Next on the list is 5K/State #2-Delaware. I will be racing in the AtTack Addiction 5K on February 28th in New Castle Delaware. The second T in AtTack is capital for a reason, which I will get into in the coming weeks. Here is a link to the race information if you are interested in supporting the cause.