The Seven Sisters course is a pretty brutal place. The 12 mile out and back single track course has the ability to deplete your endurance and mess with your mind. During the race the hills seem endless and it is easy to become disoriented. Don’t worry, I am on your side and I know the course’s only known weakness; it is full of landmarks. Now these won’t reduce the thousands of feet that you must climb and they won’t do anything about the loose shale, mud and roots all over the trail. However, if you know the landmarks then you can tell just how far you have gone and, more importantly, how far you have left to go. This knowledge will help you outsmart the course by knowing when to turn on the gas and when to dial it back. It will also make sure you stay on the course and don’t take any more steps than needed.
The first six miles between the start at the Notch Visitor Center and Mountain Road are tough but doable. The devastation really begins on the return 6 mile trip back to the Notch Visitor Center The landmarks below should guide you on this return journey.
Landmark 1: The Turn Around
The Turn Around is a cherished oasis on the Seven Sisters course. Here you will find an aid station stocked with cookies, bananas, Gatorade and other delights. Be sure to refuel because the journey is only half over. Once you begin the run back you have already done 6 miles and are immediately faced with a momentum sapping wall-like climb.
Landmark 2: Views
You probably won’t see the postcard quality views that are just off the trail. However they are a a great way to see how far along the ridge you have gone. They are also nice to look at.
Landmark 3: The Summit House
The Summit House sits on top on Mount Holyoke but it mine as well be a beacon of light. Seeing it means you have completed 1.6 miles of the return trip.
Landmark 4: The Fire Tower
The Low Place is home to an unmanned water station, the course’s flattest section and the most brutal climb on the course. This section reminds me of the Lion’s Head Trail on Mount Washington. The remnants of the Fire Tower mark the end of this devastating ascent. It is also the first sign that you are getting towards the end of the race. This is the time to pick up the pace but just a little.
Landmark 5: The Pipes
The Pipes are one of the most cherished sights to any veteran Seven Sisters runner because they are on the last climb of the race. Now is the time to put it in high gear because the finish is almost in sight.
Landmark 6: The Shale Field
The Shale Field sits only yards from the finish line. It is so close that you can see the end and hear the applause as other runners finish. Be careful here as the loose jagged rocks can easily twist your ankle or worse.
The Seven Sisters landmarks have finally been exposed. These should help you budget your concentration and energy to make sure you get the better of the course. The race won’t be easy even with this knowledge so I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you out there