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The Big Schloss: My Favorite Trail Race

The Name
Let's start with the name: The Big Schloss. It even sounds bad-ass. You know right off this ain't gonna be some namby-pamby run with a bunch of pavement or flats you have to run.

Courtesy of Pete McLaughlin with whom I shared a killer hill from miles 19-21  
The Race Directors.
Amy and Steve Platt mark the course, recruit and retain the volunteers, arrange for the pavilion, provide delicious food and drink, inspire the runners, record the results and a few thousand other details I won't include in the interest of brevity. Amy even drove me the half-mile to the showers and back so I didn't have to walk in the rain. I love you Amy! Did I mention the very reasonable entry fee? Two gallons of drinking water. Yeah.

The Volunteers
There are the volunteers I know and love who show up at every race to cheer us on and fill our Camelbaks. They are near and dear to my heart. At this race there are also a gaggle of fun, friendly hashers. Most are once a year volunteers, yet seem unfazed by rain. They bring fresh ideas, like setting out aid station offerings like bacon. BACON!!!

The Course
First, it's gorgeous. A flat, sepia light filtered through the cloud cover and mist obscured a carpet of Autumn leaves of crimson, green and bright yellow. It was a magical scene.
Big climbs
. Some require all four limbs to scramble up.
Long, gradual, technical downhills
meant to be run forever. *sighs contentedly*
Rocks, rocks and more rocks
. If you haven't logged miles in the Massanutten recently your dogs will be barking by Aid Station #3. They might even try to bite.
Views that should not be missed
(barring this year's wall of fog) provided you're up to a little death-defying rock scrambling.

The Weather
Moving on . . . No, seriously, the weather was pretty good for running. In past years there have been a few sections where I overheated a bit. Not this year! Cool temperatures and early mist became drizzle a couple of hours into the race. Early afternoon brought dark skies and full-fledged rain with some pretty stiff wind on the ridges. While I was thankful for my thin, albeit fully-drenched shell (which still amazes me with its ability to warm), it was chilly enough to keep me moving at a brisk pace. That is a key factor in finishing more quickly, which often results in a PR!

The Post-Run Cookout
Brats. Burgers. Chips. Guacamole. Mac and Cheese. Homemade pasta salad with sun dried tomatoes. Broccoli salad. Cookies and Brownies. Variety enough to please everyone. This year Steve and Amy went above and beyond and had a cooler full of hot chocolate to warm the rain-soaked runners.

Time on the trail running with the usual suspects and catching up on their lives never gets old. Ultra runners are an incredible group of humans. Driven, encouraging, adventurous, friendly, inspiring, positive, amusing, and tales of trail hi jinks at the ready. An added bonus was sharing laughs with Laurie, whom I cajoled into volunteering in the rain. She's still speaking to me.


I must be getting better at this running thing. This was my fourth PR this year!
  1. Bull Run Run 50 Miler 
  2. Lehigh Valley Half Marathon 
  3. VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon 
  4. Big Schloss 50K -- 27 minutes faster than in 2007!
I trimmed 20 minutes from AS #2 to AS #3. Less time in aid stations made a few minutes difference. More importantly, scroll back up to the elevation chart above (thank you Pete McLaughlin!). That section features a steep two-mile climb, and I'm taking this as indisputable evidence that I've improved my uphill skills.

The Camping
I rarely camp anymore. I miss it. Add that to the list of simple pleasures somehow stolen by Adulthood. The dirty little secret about ultra runners is that we'll run all day in the mountains regardless of the conditions but after socializing a bit, most of us leave the glorious outdoors behind and head back to our cozy little homes. Boo! Have we forgotten that the best conversations take place around a campfire? Have our taste buds become so accustomed to gels we can't appreciate S'mores any longer?

Photo by Nina Hale
Has sleeping in the night air to the lullabies of crickets lost its allure? Is there anything more satisfying than waking with the sunrise to coffee and breakfast in the cool of morning? I hereby issue a call to ultra runners far and wide: Let's go camping!


  1. You continue to be a rock star--great run!

  2. Wow! You gotta' love miles 8-14 and 18-20. My calves would be screaming.

    Congrats on ANOTHER awesome race.

    All the best,


  3. YAY Kiry! You are having a great stretch. Keep it going! Thanks for the cool report---I will be there next year, promise.

  4. Congratulations on your new PR. Loved your blog. Am happy our family and Girl Scout camping days hold happy memories for you. No, I haven't changed ids, just can't get my hotmail up. Can you fix it when you come? Love, Mom

  5. Congrats Kiry.. you're rocking the runs this year, grrl. and you inspire, motivate and made me salivate. the run, the views, the FOOD. yep, you know how to make it all work. great report. so happy for your run. i love trails and 50k. good ness. wow.

  6. I ran this in 05 based on a last minute invite from a friend of my wife. I neither knew the terrain to expect or even the distance. I had a great time running one of the most memorable runs ever. I will never forget being chased by yellow jackets over and over again or thinking that I had lost my way when the trail ended at an almost vertical rock face only to look up on the rock face to see another trail marker. Amy and Steve are incredible. I hope to run this race again someday when I am not deployed to Iraq.


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