2009 7 Sisters Trail Race

Seven years ago, I said I would never run 7 Sisters. Six years ago, I said I would never run 7 Sisters again. Now, I wouldn’t miss it ever again. It is now one of my favorite races. The 19th annual 7 Sisters Trail Race was run across the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail in the Holyoke Range today. The start and finish was at the Notch Visitor Center in Hadley, Massachusetts. The M-M Trail, which just got National Scenic Trail designation is one of the nastiest trails in New England. The 12 rocky miles are some of the most rugged run in the entire Grand Tree Trail Running Series. It simply can’t be described in writing. You have to run it to know how challenging it is.

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This year’s edition was run in dry and relatively fast conditions. The dry conditions obviously lulled some folks into thinking that they could tame the trail. When it is wet, there are typically less injuries because people are more cautious. When it is dry, look out! The pace is higher and people end up hitting the dirt. There were a lot of sprained ankles and many falls. I was fortunate to stay on my feet, which is a key to having a good race.

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The worst injuries that I saw were all on one runner. He had taken a hard fall on a section of trail that was covered with shale. He finished clutching his right hand which had an awfully weird looking finger. I didn’t think fingers were shaped like “L’s,” but this one was, at least temporarily until he got it back in its socket. Ouch. His contusions were pretty ugly too. Monday is going to be a rough day for this guy.

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Like I said, I had a good race, and not just because I stayed on my feet. I shaved 11 minutes off of my previous best time on this course. I had an amazing run, which feels great after last year’s debacle. The 2008 7 Sisters was my low point. I was exhausted after the race, which I finished in a painful 2:30:52. In contrast, this  year’s 2:07:00 was bliss. I was able to push hard, then keep on pushing. I was definitely slower on the downhills compared to the guys around me, but I made up for it on the climbs. 7 Sisters is notorious for its ups and downs. There is a tremendous amount of climbing packed into 12 miles. In the two trail races that I have run this year, I’ve run so much faster than I have ever run on trails before. Ironically, I owe much of my fitness to swimming. Yep, swimming.

John Agosto, was another one of those runners that tested the relative hardness of the rocks on the Sisters course. My son reminded him that he was going to need a Band-Aid.

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The men’s race was a tight battle between four runners. The final results weren’t posted when we left the venue, so I’ll add a link when they are available. Brian Rusiecki took a fine victory over Leigh Schmitt and Ben Nephew, who are both past winners. The women’s race was a repeat of Northern Nipmuck. Amy Lane won over Beth Krasemann.

Debbie also had a great race. She finished 20 minutes ahead of her 2006 pregnancy time and felt much better doing it. She said that she is still pretty quick on the descents, but that the ascents are much slower with the baby on board. She still managed 5th place amongst the women, which is not bad. She also spoiled the day for a few male runners who thought that they were finally able to beat her. Even my old “nemesis,” Todd Brown threw down the gauntlet in the parking lot prior to the race, nonetheless. Not knowing that Deb was expecting, he explained his whole strategy to her. He described how he was going to go out easy and pace off of her in an effort to overcome her later in the race. When she pointed out the somewhat obvious bump, and told him that if he followed her, he wouldn’t be happy with his time; he was not concerned and began to celebrate his victory over her right there, before the race had even started.

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I’ve definitely had both highs and lows on the M-M Trail. After those early races in 2004 and 2005, I recall being hobbled for days. Deb says my legs are now conditioned for the pounding. In 2008, I couldn’t see straight when I finished. It hurt that bad. Last year was a low that resulted in a three month layoff to recuperate, but the rest did me good. This year was a high. I’ve got to keep it rolling.

Race Results

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