Race Report: 7 Sisters Trail Race

I was winded, panting, a special kind of whole-body tired. Looking at the trail ahead of me, which meant looking UP a tumble of large rocks in the middle of the woods, I could see other runners picking their way up yet another technical ascent. More runners were right on my heels. I couldn't stop here. Gotta keep moving. But if things didn't change soon, I knew I'd have to drop out of this race. It was a 12-mile race, and I was only on mile 2.

The 7 Sisters Trail Race is an iconic race that I'd mainly heard about by reading one of my favorite running blogs, Relentless Forward Commotion. (Hi, Heather!) I probably should have re-read her race reports before signing up, or investigated the course in any way, but I did not. I signed up in a rush on the last day before the price increase. Only afterward did I sit down to research what I'd gotten myself into.


The course is 12 miles out and back on the Monadnock-Metacomet trail near Amherst, MA. The turnaround is the lowest elevation point of the race, and the 2nd half is more uphill than first, if you can picture that.

"Widely considered the most challenging trail race in the Northeast..." race website

"Might just be the most technical trail run in New England..." Runner's World

"It has always attracted the best trail runners in New England..." as quoted on Relentless Forward Commotion

So what does "technical" mean when it comes to trail running? Basically it means that the course demands a lot of attention and energy—roots, rocks, climbing (sometimes on all fours), and in this case on this particular day, add MUD to the mix. As one fellow runner said to me on the trail after we'd both been slipping and sliding all over, "I've decided this race is not about how fast you can run, it's about how long you can stay standing up!"

Skills I quickly learned on the technical trail: How to search for footholds on a natural rock staircase made for giants. How to grab roots or saplings when ascending or descending so as not to plunge down the hill. How to tell if a promising shiny spot in a large slick of mud is an actual stable rock or just more mud. How to walk in the middle of a stream because the water knows the best way. How to negotiate steep wet slopes while also staying out of the way of frontrunners (and midrunners) on their return lap. How to take in an amazing view while still moving moving moving.

Maybe I had no business attempting the 7 Sisters, but I didn't know that until I was two miles in and hoping SOMETHING would look up. I'd been training for a marathon all winter, so I didn't think I was out of shape. I've also been taking an excellent strength and plyometrics class that has been helping me cross-train as well as deal with discomfort and repetition... perfect for this race. But I had not been specifically training on incessant vertical terrain.

3,938 feet of gain on this course

Fortunately, things did start going my way.  First, my GU Roctane, the energy drink that I swear by, started to kick in. It contains caffeine, amino acids, sodium, and potassium and I adore it (now in delightful Summit Tea flavor! (I am not affiliated with GU)). I carried it in my hydration vest and sipped throughout the race, and I swear it gets me through just about anything. (I drank over 2 litres over the course of the race.)

Another thing that changed my mood was the return of the frontrunners. Their energy and verve and even reckless joy at running this thing FAST was contagious. As the elites all passed and the "regular" folks started passing me too, we'd exchange smiles, encouragement, quick tips.

And the nature of an out and back course takes off some mental pressure. Unlike my experiences with a looped course where I mentally grapple with multiple opportunities to drop out, here there was really nowhere to go but back to the finish. (Of course if someone needed serious help, it was available.) While the physical assignment was intense, at least I wasn't goading myself to keep going as I've done in some races, particularly the 6-hour ones. I just set the intention that I would finish eventually. And I did: In 4:29:37, in 390th place (out of 439).

Final thoughts: I would probably do this again.

Kitchen Renovation Photos

Hello friends! Happy May!

We just finished a major project in our home that I'd like to share. It feels like true renewal and spring colors and breezes over here! 

Basically what happened was that we needed a 3-bedroom house, but we owned a 2-bedroom house. We love our location and our little dead-end street and we HATE MOVING, so we decided to stay put and renovate. Actually, the house originally had 3 bedrooms but the kitchen was extended into one of them. All we needed to do was wall off the kitchen again. 

Here is the kitchen side of that story!

BEFORE: This is standing in kitchen looking towards living room. Linoleum floor, normal door-frame, greenish paint.

Renovated: The entry has been widened, the paint is now "Cantaloupe Slice," and look at that floor! Our contractors reclaimed a lovely rustic-quality oak floor that had been buried under linoleum for 50 years. It is gorgeous.

BEFORE: Same vantagepoint but looking into the corner toward our back door.

AFTER: We now have cabinets between the entryway and the range.

BEFORE: Standing in the living room doorway looking toward the kitchen's north corner. (We removed all of the cabinet doors right before work started.)


AFTER: I am loving the new contrast of dark countertop with light cabinetry. The range was moved over several inches to fit cabinets on both sides.

BEFORE: Looking toward our sink & windows. Observe that HIDEOUS wood paneling over the sink.

AFTER: New sink, new lighting.

BEFORE: Having the huge refrigerator here was a temporary solution due to walling off the third bedroom. That blank wall on the right covers our chimney.

AFTER: New narrow profile, counter-depth refrigerator, and the chimney space was cut back to allow custom shelving to fit in.

I love the whole new kitchen so much, but there are a few little sweet features that make it extra awesome. Full thanks to the pros that helped us design and execute this project (I love contractors!)

Ridiculous that we have been living without a range hood for almost 10 years. Ventilation! Light! A clock! What an incredible invention.

Our cabinet expert squeezed in this 3-inch-wide "spice pull" next to the sink. No more sorting through layers of spice jars on a cabinet shelf. Each is completely visible when the spice pull is out, and tucked out of the way the rest of the time.

A tilt-out holder in front of the sink.

We haven't quite figured out how we'll use this, it could be great for bottle brushes or "downgraded" sponges.

Look at that bitty fridge! It is perfect for our kitchen. At first I worried we would need to keep our large fridge... because we're AMERICANS. But after just a few weeks this Summit fridge seems quite capacious.

If you leave the door ajar for too long, an alarm sounds.

The freezer section is kind of shallow, but we're working with it. It has 3 drawers and the only thing that won't really fit is the Cuisinart ice cream maker insert. I can live with that.

Trash and paper recycling get tucked away in a cabinet.

Our contractor carpentered up the shelves according to our measurements, including a catfood caddy area and feeding area below that. (I know the dishes don't quite fit. It's OK.)

This is a double-layered drawer, with a sliding top drawer that pushes back to expose another sectioned drawer beneath. Our cabinet guy said, "You'll thank me for this," and we DO. THANK YOU!

I'll do a separate post later about the third bedroom—it is occupied and loved but definitely still evolving.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual kitchen tour!