FKT: Joshua Alcorn - Historic Brandywine Trail (DE) - 2023-02-03

Route variation
Standard route
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Total time
5h 39m 44s

Good lord almighty!  This was hard.

I ran this route North to South to celebrate my second year of sobriety.  I've always been a runner, but running has been an even bigger part of my life since getting sober.

After trying this route last year and DNF'ing, there was no way I wasn't going to make it up that hill to the pavilion at Brandywine Creek.  (Sidebar, my last high school cross country race was at Brandywine Creek and it ended just steps away from the same pavilion.)

My Gear

I ran with a Salomon vest and two 500ml soft pouches of water and two 500ml soft pouches of LMNT electrolyte water.  This was not nearly enough.  I had one 500ml soft pouch on each chest strap and the other two stashed in the backpack.  Along with extra socks and a vest in case I got super cold. 

I wore tights, a base layer and a Rabbit EZ tee.  Double gloves, knit beanie, double socks and a pair of Escalante's with about 70 miles on them.  I had a neck gaiter that I pulled up and down often.  And I had a pair of sunglasses that I didn't really need.

I carried 11 Gu gels, with a plan to eat one ever 30-ish minutes.  This was also not nearly enough. I probably needed one every 15 min for the last 10k.  I also had an Uncrustable.

My Music

The Dead's show from 8/27/72 in Venetta, OR and all four of Phish's LP on LP releases.  I charged my airpods twice (once in Harmony Hill and again after the Big Bend).

How It Went

I started out at 9:28 am, when it was about 22 with a feels like in the low teens.  HUGE thanks to my wife who dropped me off. 

I went out a little too fast, but the first section is so downhill it's really hard to keep contained. 

Marsh Creek was a little muddy in spots, but generally passable and really well marked until the end.  On my way out of Marsh Creek, my GPS was directing me through a whole lot of brush and thick woods, while the trail clearly went the other way.  With no white blazes in sight, I followed the trail out of Marsh Creek, into some fenced horse fields and on to Dorlan Mill Road.  I was probably about 1/4 mile away from where I should have exited Marsh Creek.  Most of my extra miles came at that point.

The section between Marsh Creek and Downingtown flew by, and cruising through Harmony Hill was a treat.  Plenty of smiling faces and yapping dogs.

I've run Waltz Rd --> Telegraph Rd --> Creek Rd --> Stroud Preserve a bunch of times, so that felt super comfortable and contained.  I was chugging along with an 8:12 avg pace until I got caught by a 12 foot bramble bush along Telegraph Rd.  The bugger was wrapped all the way around my body, from my left ankle, up my IT band, across my back, over my right shoulder, down my arm and caught on my right glove. 

It took me what felt like forever (probably 90 seconds) to get myself untangled.  That was the only time I stopped for the entire run.  Not even to pee!

Stroud was Stroud, and I actually PR'd my ascent up the Wall Strava segment.  Which says more about my previous attempts at the Wall than it does about my fitness on this run -- I definitely power walked at least 30% of the way up.

The stretch from Blue Rock Rd to the Brandywine Picnic Park is so pretty, and I started to get a little warm.  At this point, I was more than half way done.  I had finished the first 500 ml of water and LMNT, so I swapped the empty the soft pack bottles out with the filled ones in the pack.  It was at this point when I realized my Uncrustable was completely smushed and I'd need a spoon to eat it.  I wasn't worried, because I've never liked PBnJ any way.

Made the light at Creek Road and 926 (told ya I never stopped) and as I was cruised up Brinton's Bridge I started feeling a little iffy.  I chalked it up to nerves -- Brinton's Bridge is where the wheels came off last year.  The run along the creek and trails behind Chadds Ford Elm. was pretty tough.  But I got a second (fifth?) wind while dodging some semis crossing Baltimore Pike. I hit the Mason-Dixon trail with an avg pace in the 8:30s.

If you've not run the Mason Dixon trail, it's really fun.  But it's not nearly as much fun this late in a long run.

Coming up the hill off the trail onto Creek Rd and into the Big Bend was the beginning of the end for me.  I made it through the paved and gravel sections of the Big Bend on grit alone, and caught my breath on trails leading up to Smithbridge Rd.  By the way, the big ol' trees that came down in the storm a few summers ago are still across the trail.  And the trails aren't used any more, so they're covered in leaves and overgrowth.  Like I said, a good chance to catch my breath, lower the heart rate and get ready for the last stretch.

When I DNF'd last year, my wife picked me up at Smith Bridge.  So when I made it past the bridge and toward the First State National Monument (GO DELAWARE!), I was super hyped.  That lasted for about half a mile when I realized how much further I actually had to go.

Everything from Ramsey's Farm to the finish is a blur.  I wasn't paying too much attention my avg pace, but once I saw it click past 8:55, I knew I wasn't going to claim the crown and just settled back with the Magnaball Tweezer -> Caspian and let grit and determination and idiocy carry me into Brandywine Creek.

My focus totally fell apart once I got on the trails in the Creek off Adams Dam Rd.  I've been running those trails since I was 12 (30 years!) and I somehow got lost.  I was climbing through a fallen tree on my knees and there was a puddle in front of me and all I could think of is "I really could take a nap here, but I don't want to nap in a puddle.  That's how King Richard drowned during the Second Crusade." (PS, I think it was Frederich the Great, and in a river, not a puddle, and during the third crusade, not the second.)

That's when I took out the airpods, yelled "FREEDOM" like I was Mel flippin' Gibson in Braveheart and dug deeper than I've ever had to dig on a run.

When I popped back on to the main trail toward the finish and saw that stone wall, I started to cry.  Sure, the pavilion was 1200 meters away (and up a 300 foot climb), but it was in sight.

I saw my wife's truck in the parking lot as I made the turn through the stone wall and into the pavilion.  I guess we didn't plan well enough, because she stayed in the truck.  Granted it was windy AF and 8 degrees out.  

Eventually I figured out how to use my hands to get my phone out of my pocket and call her to come help me get to the car.  That walk from the pavilion to the car was so sweet, so painful, so incredible.

I'm probably NEVER going to run this again.  But hot damn I did it!