This was my second time running Pretzel City SportsDouble Trouble. The first time (2014) was the only year that it was held in the Fall. Prior to that, it had always been a summer race, and after the experimental switch resulted in lower registration (probably due to the increased competition from other races that time of year), Pretzel City decided to move it back to July.

Most Pretzel City events take place on the Mount Penn trails in Reading (very close to home for me!), but this event is in beautiful French Creek State Park, which is about 30 minutes out of town (or 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia). The course, a 15k loop, is almost entirely single track, with rolling hills and scenic views of the park’s two lakes. Runners choose to do one loop or two when they register, but they are also allowed to change their minds mid-race if they want to, and still qualify for awards for the distance they end up doing.

My 2014 time was 3:27, and so my goal this year was simply to do better than that.

The days leading up to the race were very hot and humid, hitting the low 90s, but we lucked out on race day, with the temp and humidity dropping down to just “normal hot” for July (low 70s at start, low 80s at finish). I took a couple salt pills each hour and refilled my water bottles at most aid stations (every 3 miles or so), and the heat didn’t bother me much.

There were a number of Pagoda Pacers running the race (Dale Wiest, Jon Durand, Laura Mooney, Donny Mengel, and Elaine Cook, to name a few), so it was great to see many familiar faces.

I ran the first loop in 1:37, so I knew that I could definitely beat my previous time if I didn’t slow down too much during the second loop. I felt fine, and even passed a few runners, but then I wiped out on a downhill around mile 13. My right arm was scraped up a bit, but nothing serious, and by the time I got to the next aid station, all was well.

Towards the end of the race, however, my footwork continued to break down, and after a number of near falls, I went down a second time. Again–no major damage–so I got back up and pushed on.

(Special thanks to Elaine Cook and Michelle Rumley, who made sure I was ok after fall 1 and fall 2 respectively.)

Falls and all, the second loop took me 1:42 (only 5 minutes longer than the first), which meant a finishing time of 3:19 — 8 minutes faster than 2014. I’ll take it!

In terms of swag, there was a tech shirt and a finisher’s pint glass. Post-race food featured hot dogs and veggie burgers.

Minor criticisms:

–Would have liked some gels or food options at more of the aid stations–most were just water and Gatorade.

–The beginning seemed needlessly congested, with both the 15k and 30k groups merging together, after a simultaneous start, and then funneling across a narrow footbridge.

–Even though the RD asked runners to be courteous about this, when I finished the first loop, 15k finishers were crowding around the food table, making it difficult for 30k runners to grab a bite before heading back out.

Overall, it was a fun morning–decent weather, great course, beautiful park. I’d definitely recommend this race, or just checking out the trails at French Creek if you haven’t run there before.

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