Saturday, October 17, 2009

Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters May 2009

This is a race I love to hate. The only person I’m competing against is myself and in order to keep it in perspective-I have to treat it as just a training run with 100 or so other people.

Jack and I drove to Amherst, MA the night before and spent a nice evening with Todd and Dee Walker. Todd grilled up some veggies, chicken and sausage for our pre-race meal and spent the evening catching up. It was hard to believe that Todd has never done Seven Sisters. We got a good night’s sleep, ate breakfast and headed out to the Mt. Holyoke State Park. We were greeted at the park by a familiar face putting in some volunteer duty as parking attendant-Leigh Schmidt. We got a good parking spot, chatted for a moment and made our way to registration.

I love to hate this race because it’s so challenging. The course is 6 miles out and back on a single track trail that goes over the Mt. Holyoke Range. With 3700 feet of climbing over the 12 miles, flat areas are few and far between. The only reason I do this race is to rip my quads apart on the downhills. Of course, the uphills are good to get the heart pumping at or near maximum.

Just before 9am, everyone started gathering at the bottom of the trail. I got towards the front of the crowd. It’s an uphill start with boulders to go around, loose rock to slip on and tree roots to negotiate. I’m sure the leaders run right up it but for me it’s a speed hike. Fortunately I didn’t get stuck in any bottlenecks or behind anyone I couldn’t get around. It didn’t take long to get the heart pounding and warmed up. A lot of people were passing me but I figured I would be passing some of them on the way back. Shortly into the race, I could feel my foot slipping around in one of my shoes so I stopped to retie it (it was also an excuse to stop and catch my breath). The rest of the way out was uneventful. The crowd eventually thinned, I let people go by me and tried to find a groove. Of the few people I met, one knew my Stowe ski school supervisor proving once again it’s a small world. I’ve only done this race once before and remembered a couple of things about the course: 1) it is hilly and 2) it includes running around the porch of an Inn that’s at the top of one of the mountains. Dee had biked up to the Inn with a friend and cheered me and the other runners on. The views of the Connecticut River valley are spectacular.

I was glad to finally reach the turn around point and have a quick cup of Coke. It wasn’t until the way back that I finally found a groove and settled in. I did manage to pass a few people on the way back-including the guy who knew my ski school supervisor. I caught up to few other runners to run in to the finish with. I knew I was close to the finish but my previous finish time had come and gone and the legs were getting shaky on the rocky decent. I tried not to slow down too much but I still finished about 9 minutes over my previous time.

Jack was waiting for me with the camera at the finish line. He had a good race finishing close to the top. We got something to eat and caught up with friends we haven’t seen all winter. It was a good race and more importantly a good training run. My legs weren’t nearly as sore as I thought they would be after so I’m either in better shape than I thought or I didn’t push myself hard enough. I’ll find out as the season progresses.

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