The 7 Sisters Trail Race is a rite of spring for our family. Today, Debbie ran it for the 15th time, a remarkable achievement. We think those finishes are all in a row, though it is possible that there was one miss somewhere in the middle of that streak. Regardless, she gets a whole lot of credit for devoting herself to one of the iconic trail races in New England. Next year, I’m sure she will be back for her first Grand Tree race as a 40+ runner. Until then, there is no rushing Father Time.
I was also registered to run today, and had my heart set on a beautiful day tramping across the rocky and rugged 12 mile (6 out/6 back) section of the New England Scenic Trail (Metacomet-Monadnock Trail). Alas, I’ve been under the weather, I’m dinged up, and it didn’t make sense to risk further injury or illness, as a result of running a race that has destroyed me so many times in the past. Plus, I had the opportunity to spend time on the trail with my kids, which is far more important than notching another New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series finish. I’ve got loads of races ahead of me, including next weekend, so a little rest will help.
Last year, I wrote that we saw a lot of new faces on the trail. Again, there were more than 500 finishers, which is truly remarkable. Sisters gets so many more runners than the other Grand Tree races. I hope we get some of these newbies to join us in two weeks at the 30th anniversary Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. Debbie is the Race Director and our club mates from the Shenipsit Striders are gunning for a great day. If today’s runners liked the climb up Bare Mountain, they’ll also enjoy Killer Hill.
Racing today for the Striders along with Debbie were Tony Bonanno, Chris Kelly, and Gary Hebert. I also saw my Team Horst Sports teammate, Andris Skulte, on the trail, though he was nursing a twisted ankle after the finish. It was his rookie experience on the New England Trail.
Now that 7 Sisters has gone national with its inclusion in the 2014 La Sportiva Mountain Cup, it’s got even more publicity. Race Director, Fred Pilon, and his volunteers (many from the Sugarloaf Mountain Running Club) did a good job organizing the crowds. There were substantial changes from past years. The start/finish was moved to Military Road, which runs perpendicular to the main road where we normally start. This is a safer spot and poses less congestion for the busy route.
The race used chip timing for the first time, and there were five wave starts with about 100 runners per wave. The wave starts were used to ease congestion on the narrow, steep, and rocky initial climb up Bare Mountain. The race always bottlenecks at the start. This year, it was improved, but in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. It’s a trail race and most folks were out there to have fun.
Even still, there were some fast runners, including a Colorado contingent that put its stamp on the event. I’ll add the results link and commentary when I see them posted online. Like last year, the parking, registration, and post-race refreshments were at the “The Bunker” located on Amherst College property up Military Road adjacent to the Bare Mountain. Last year, I made the mistake of leaving my car on the inside of the gate. I went for a bike ride, only to return to my car locked inside the complex. I resolved the matter with a call to the Amherst College Police. There was no issues this year.
After the race, we had a late lunch at our favorite restaurant, Paul & Elizabeth’s, in Northampton. The kids and I chose to stay close to the start/finish rather than going to the turnaround or access road on Mount Holyoke. Instead, we hiked to the summit of Bare Mountain to enjoy the view. Then we camped out at the nastiest section of trail to watch the runners come through on their way to the finish. The trail was mostly dry. The temperature was warmer early in the morning with bright sun, but by mid-race, it was cloudy, cool, and there were intermittent showers. Spring still hasn’t sprung, but that’s OK, the 7 Sisters vibe warmed us up, even if only for a few hours.
Printroom Photos (images from the start and then at the 11.75 mile mark (rocks) for runners in the 1:54 to 2:50 finish time range)
The race results are up. It was interesting to see that the top two men were from North Carolina. They should know east coast trails well, but 7 Sisters is still a different kind of beast. It would have been awesome to see some of the top local Sisters men from past years (i.e. Nephew, Schmitt, Low, Ferenc, Hammett, Rusiecki, Krause, et al) take on these guys.
Ryan Woods was first in 1:54:03. He was followed by Jason Bryant and Matthew Zanchi. The first woman, Megan Kimmel, was 5th overall in a fine 2:05:40. She was well ahead of Kelsey Allen and Kehr Davis. 433 runners finished the race. I saw a few injuries, but nothing major, or at least nothing that you wouldn’t expect on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.
It was certainly a good day in the woods. We will see if the 2014 changes made a difference and if they stick for 2015. The trail was dry, so that is a good think when that many people are out running at once. I’m sure the Friends of Mt. Holyoke Range will benefit again from the generosity of the race organizers. Giving back to the trails is one of the great benefits of these local races.