Being a mom to 3 boys is sometimes an exercise in acceptance. There will never be breakfast in bed or handmade cards decorated with lace doily hearts and glitter or prom dress shopping, but, I’m ok with that. I wouldn’t trade my guys for the world. Knowing that Mother’s Day has the potential to be basically another Sunday morning of me whipping up pancakes for the gang, I immediately embraced the idea of running the 7 Sisters Trail Race in Amherst, MA as a potentially more satisfying way to spend the holiday. The idea had been presented by Lunar B*tch, Chrissy a few months ago as a “race to works towards,” but quickly became a “What the hell? Let’s just do it,” thing. We signed up.
After registering for the run, I did a little research in an attempt to learn what to expect from this 12 mile trail run across the Holyoke Range of mountains outside of Amherst, MA. This was probably an even worse idea than impulsively signing up for a 12 mile trail run across the Holyoke Range of mountains outside of Amherst. The various blogposts and reviews I read each added a little fear and nervous excitement to my pre-race mental prep, but honestly, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of the trail.
Although I intended to get a complete night’s rest, Saturday, like the rest of the week at Lark + Lily, was busy and I ultimately racked up a total of less than 5 hours of sleep. I woke before my alarm and had an opportunity to eat a solid breakfast, a fortunate set of circumstances because my body and mind would demand every available resource I had available as the race progressed. We arrived at the start with enough time to score parking in the upper lot and mentally settle in for our 8:43 Wave 4 start time.
As I started up the first of the countless climbs my intentions were clear: to finish uninjured – and to smile. For the most part, I met my goals, but there were nearly 4.5 hours of propelling my body up and down mountains to endure before I could proclaim my mission accomplished… The out and back course was extremely challenging with a tremendous amount of potential to be truly dangerous in the wet, muddy and slippery conditions we faced. It really wasn’t a run as much as a clambering hike, at least for me. Although I never went down hard, I did gracefully glide down to earth a minimum of 3 times, earning a muddy ass and saturated socks along the way. The shale was slick, but in the few areas where the trail was actually trail, the running was sublime. The shades of green were dazzling and on the return trek the view of the rolling hills and Connecticut River in the distance was beautiful.
The discomfort caused by the aggressive terrain was, at times, nearly unbearable, particularly in my hips. As the race continued, there were moments when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to the finish line as the pain spread to my calves and feet. When I briefly considered not finishing, I turned my internal attention to a true circumstance that would potentially prevent me from going on – the loss of a child. I focused on the moms I know who have for various reasons lost a child and I recommitted to the race thinking that if they can survive that truly hellish reality, I could gather the strength to complete this course. I was no longer running just for myself and when I finally crossed that finish line after hours of exertion, I did it with gratitude and thoughts of appreciation for my children. Their presence is truly enough of a gift to me.
Here are some photos from the race taken by Greg Saulmon for The Republican. The shots are awesome and really provide an accurate picture of the day. In addition to some tangible memories offered by photographs, I’ve had soreness in pretty much every muscle of my body, abs and forearms, included. As I said Monday morning, the only muscle which didn’t ache post- 7 Sisters and Mother’s Day was my heart.