Another Pleasant Valley Thursday

One of the first races I did when I restarted my running career back in 2002 was the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club 25K Turkey Trot.  I finished in 5th place with a pace of 6:40 per mile and was very happy with my time and place.  At the time I was happy to just have finished as it was the longest run I had ever done in my life.  But, after tackling the nearly 1000 feet of climb between miles 7 and 13 I decided I would stick to the 5 mile turkey trot which had only 1 big hill, not a series of 5 tough climbs.


9 years later I decided to give the course another shot.  Coming off a successful fall racing season consisting of mainly 5k races I wanted to change things up a bit and run a longer race.  I wasn’t really planning on racing, the hilly course would be challenging enough.  The 25k race (15.55 miles) starts in Lagrange, NY heads up a big hill then plunges down 1000 feet into Pleasant Valley, NY.  Local lore has it that the song Pleasant Valley Sunday was written about my home town after the Monkees took LSD at a party at Timothy Leary’s estate in Millbrook (a town right outside of Pleasant Valley) but sadly the song was actually written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King about a street named Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange, NJ.  Song histories aside there is nothing pleasant about running back up and out of Pleasant Valley on a cold Thursday morning 7 miles into a 15 mile race. 

Me and my shadow.

Although I had not planned on racing this race, I somehow found myself in first place as I approached the hills leading out of the valley, and the thought of not winning after leading a race at the halfway point became very unappealing.  I did my best to stay relaxed on the uphills and tried to surge on the infrequent flats and downs.  I was sure now that I was committed to winning the race that I would quickly distance myself from the runner who had trailed a few seconds behind me the last 7 miles.  The road out of the valley was full of twists and turns and I wasn’t able to get a good look at where any chasers might be, but by mile 12 I was sure I could cruise in the rest of the race at a more leisurely pace.  That is until I got about halfway up the last and toughest hill on the course which provided a good look back of about 400 meters, to my dismay someone was already climbing the hill after me only about 10 seconds back.   It is surprising how much cursing and muttering one can do while running up a very steep hill. 


I muttered myself over the top of the hill and took off as fast as my burning quads would allow.  The last 3 miles of the race are mostly flat with slight downhill slope.  I figured while this mystery runner behind me clearly was good at running hills, surely I could outpace him on the flats.  There was no way he would beat me in what was now essentially a fast 3 mile race.  I tore through the half marathon split in 1:18:30 and as I rounded a hair pin turn glanced back only to find my lead was still only 10 seconds.  For the next 2 miles all I could think was there was not letting anyone beat me after I had lead for so long.  I made a what felt like a final strong push as I approached the turn at the 15th mile, another quick glance behind me as I made the left turn showed I’d finally opened up a bit of a gap.  I had at least a 20 second lead with just a half mile left.  I was able to cruise through the final stretch around the Arlington High School parking and as it was Thanksgiving morning I thought thankfully I did not need to kick to the finish.  9 years after my first 25k Turkey Trot I dropped 10 minutes from my time and jumped quite a few places to be the 2011 winner.

Parking lot loop to the finish.


It turns out the guy chasing me is a prodigous marathoner who had already run 2 marathons this fall.  It seems unlikely that on my mere 50 miles a week I was going to wear him down  with a few up hill surges.  My saving grace in the race was definetly that it ended a slightly downhill stretch.  Final time 1:32:56 Results Here.

Hazel admiring my winnings.