Seven Sisters 25K - Montreat, North Carolina
Elevation Gain: 4193'....... Elevation Range: 2681'-5370'
April 16, 2022 - The Seven Sisters 25k is a monstrous mountain of a run around the East and West ridges of the Montreat Wilderness. Starting at the Barn on the beautiful campus of Montreat College, about a hundred and a half of us headed out at 0900 on a fifty-degree misty morning to follow the roads up and out of town to hit the Rainbow Road Trail up, up, and up to the ridges two thousand feet above. A rain earlier in the morning made the air heavy with humidity and the rocks slippery, but the storm was over and finally gave way to sunshine and near 70-degree temps by noon. It was a beautiful day for running in the mountains.
While I am getting down to racing weight and my knee is getting stronger, I still cannot hoof it as quickly as the younger runners, so I settled in mid-pack to take on the early long climb. Many of those who moved ahead early were gradually pulled back as I never stopped grinding out the climb until I caught up with a queue of others and a narrow trail that climbed ladders to exposed outcrops like these photos. The elevation profile, in retrospect, would indicate a rather mild ascent, but there were some straight up sections over rocks that required four- point contact to negotiate safely - my type of running! The excellent video at right is a great visual snapshot of the challenging trail that I thoroughly enjoyed. A fifteen-mile race is over before you know it, so the four hours I was out there flew by quickly.
Despite the 4000 feet of climbing all morning, I was pleased to be able to average a 15-minute pace, reaching the first aid station at 4.2 miles in 1H 3M and the second one at 8.5 miles in 2H 12M. The ninth mile involved a more laborious climb up to the high point of day at Greybeard Mountain. I continued to climb well, but was feeling some fatigue. I did not take in any nutrition during the event and only started drinking fluids after 12 miles once temps began to heat up.
The downhill run in to the finish at the Barn was long, steep, and technical as it followed the ridge straight down without using many switchbacks. If I lost any time during the day it was during the descent. With wet rocks and slippery mud, caution paid off as I didn't have a fall or mishap all day.
A few younger sets of legs blew past me on the run in to the finish. There was nothing I could do about it; I seem to have one pace, and that's it these days. It was great to see RD Brandon Thrower and speedy Sean Pope at the second aid station. The people were enthusiatic and it was a fun day. To top it off, before heading out for the two-hour drive home I grabbed a couple of beers from the local Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain - a couple of Greybeard IPA's - a fitting conclusion after running up the mountain of the same name.