Lowe makes his choice in ‘win or lose big’

November 2, 2020


Goss cracks women’s top 10 list with win
Shepard wins 25K title outright; Suitt leads men’s field

* 2020 official results (PDF)
* FOTM all-time performance list (PDF)
* Photos: * Shelly’s album * Mark’s album * Crystal’s album
* TrailNotes: Grace, Gretchen, Robert, Tim and more
* Race reports – send the link to yours to peedeepost@gmail.com
* PHDC Facebook group
* 2019 race coverage
* FOTM permanent web page (save for 2021 and beyond)

LITTLE ORLEANS, Md., Nov. 1, 2020 — Adam Lowe decided he had had enough.

For two years, there had been some good-natured ribbing, ridiculing and soft trash-talking among runners and non-runners alike about how Lowe was probably going to finish in second place in 2020. Again. Though the smack had been laid down with friendly affection, some of it might have started to stick in Lowe’s craw.

Endure Fuel: Here for the long run.

You see, Lowe completed his first Fire on the Mountain 50K in 2018 and finished in second place. In 2019, he carved more than nine minutes off his 2018 time and stopped the clock, once again, in the runner-up position. In 2020, he was expected to have close competition from Levi Foust and Chris Pabian, and it was anyone’s guess on race weekend if Lowe could loosen the albatross hanging around his neck.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Adam Lowe leads at the 1.2-mile point, with Levi Foust and Chris Pabian hanging on early.

So Lowe did what anyone would do in his position: He ran a man possessed.

“I ran scared,” Lowe, 38, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said after accepting a log from 11-year-old Lily Cottle about 100 meters before the finish line, kissing it, and throwing it into the camp fire to signal the end of his 32.8-mile journey in Green Ridge State Forest in eastern Allegany County, Maryland. “I was either going to win or lose big.”

He won. Big.

Lowe finished first in 4 hours, 56 minutes and 17 seconds, good for eighth place on the men’s all-time event performance list. His effort was only the third time since the course changed to an out-and-back race in 2016 to make the men’s all-time event performance list.

From the sound of the horn in the hand’s of race starter Lucas Spradlin-Vogelsang at Point Lookout Overlook on Carroll Road, Lowe assumed command of the field. He never gave anyone any hint of an idea that he’d be letting go of first place. In fact, one could argue — however unreasonably — that Lowe, Foust and Pabian could have stopped at Mile 1.2, where 50K runners finish their downhill trek on Oldtown Orleans Road and enter the red trail, because the position of the top three runners at that point was the same as it was more than 31 miles later at the finish line. Lowe became only the eighth person to run under five hours on either version of the course.

Photo by Crystal Cottle
Adam Lowe takes the ceremonial log from volunteer Lilly Cotter about 100 meters from the finish line. Throwing the log into the fire signals Lowe’s end of his 32.8-mile running adventure and, this year, victory.

Lowe did it in style, too — outpacing his efforts in any previous year, including when he ran the first leg of a two-person relay in 2017 — and turning perceived areas of weakness, namely on the arduous 5.6-mile section after the final aid station, into strengths. The gap between Lowe and Foust at the finish line totaled 20 minutes and 10 seconds — the fifth-largest gap among the top two runners in the men’s field in event history. He worked hard to grow his lead.

By the time Lowe reached Aid Station 2 at Mile 8.9, just as runners leave the red trail and enter the green trail, the race was seemingly whittled down to two — Lowe and Foust, a 39-year-old from Somerset, Pa. In fact, Pabian, 44, of Allison Park, Pa., had fallen to fifth, already 13 minutes behind Lowe and Foust. Meanwhile, Aaron Hastings, 48, of Middletown, Md., was third at the time, 11 minutes off the lead pace, along with Erik Price, 37, of Falls Church, Va.

Lowe turned right off the green trail, splashed through the small body of water gathered at the bottom of Kirk Road and headed up towards Log Roll Overlook at Mile 16.4, which signaled the halfway and turnaround point. He reached the site in two hours and 19 minutes — 11 minutes after than last year — in first place by four minutes over Foust. Price was 23 minutes off Lowe’s pace, and Pabian 24 minutes.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Adam Lowe. Statement made.

There was no time to take in the view of the Town Creek Watershed. Lowe knew as well as every other Fire on the Mountain finisher over the past decade that the real race begins in the second half. So Lowe went to work. Coming off the green trail for the second time, Lowe’s lead over Foust had grown to 10 minutes (and 21 minutes over Price and Pabian, whie Jonathan Gowen, 36, of Catonsville, Md., has worked his way into fifth place, only six minutes behind Pabian and Price. Still, Lowe said he was worried he might be caught on the arduous red trail, which features the most technical parts of the course, including a couple of “billy goat” trail sections and leg-numbing climbs.

It turns out, Lowe had nothing to worry about. Even so, running scared propelled Lowe to focus on forward progress. As Lowe reached Aid Station 7 and pondered over the final 5.6 miles of the course, his lead over Foust had grown to 17 minutes.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Levi Foust keeps his eyes on the next turn and the runner ahead of him early in the 50K race.

Foust, who gained familiarity with Lowe’s racing style earlier this year in the Cacapon 12-Hour Trail Challenge in nearby Berkeley Springs, W.Va., crossed the finish line in second place in 5:16:27, while Pabian took third in 5:29:38. Gowen moved up another spot in the second half of the race to claim fourth (5:34:17) while Price held on to fifth place (5:40:11).

At Cacapon, Lowe and Foust both completed 47.2 miles, but Lowe finished 13 minutes in front.

* * *
Goss wins women’s title in record time

Parker Goss became the third consecutive 20-something to earn a Fire on the Mountain 50K victory in the women’s field. The 25-year-old from Baltimore finished in 5 hours, 58 minutes and 1 second, good for sixth overall. The time earned Goss a spot on the women’s all-time leader board for women. Goss now holds the eighth-fastest time in event history among women.

And she did it with music. Goss admitted singing songs to herself — specifically, camp songs — to help herself get through any rough patches along the way.

Goss is the third woman to post Top 10 performance since the course changed to an out-and-back race in 2016 and only the ninth woman to post a sub-6:00 time on any version of the course.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Parker Goss, 25, of Baltimore, puts the finishing touches on her Fire on the Mountain 50K victory.

There is no way to say Lowe had it easy, but Goss might have had to work a little harder to fend off the competition. As the contenders reached Aid Station 2 at Mile 8.9, Goss checked in at 8:43 a.m., and Lauren Jefferson, 46, of Rockingham, Va., was only a minute behind, while Kathryne Allen, 31, of Baltimore, and Kelly Bailey, 50, of Morgantown, W.Va., were five minutes off Goss’s pace.

On the green trail en route to the midway “oasis” established at Log Roll Overlook in the southern end of the forest, Goss pulled away. She beat Jefferson to the turnaround point by 11 minutes, while Bailey and Allen were then 22 minutes off the lead pace.

It didn’t get any better for the contenders in the second half of the race. At the end of the reverse run on the green trail, Goss led Jefferson by 21 minutes, while Bailey solidified third place (43 minutes behind Goss) and Allen clung to fourth (eight minutes behind Bailey).

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Lauren Jefferson finishes second in the 50K.

Jefferson remained in second place the rest of the way and stopped the clock in 6:33:29, good for ninth overall and 35:28 behind Goss. Bailey remained in third and finished in 7:20:48 while Allen took fourth (16th overall) in 7:35:02.

* * *

Shepard, Suitt take inaugural 25K titles

The inaugural Fire on the Mountain 25K race featured some of the same difficult ups and downs, stream crossings, rocks and roots, as the 50K. Like the 50K route, the 25K truly was a tale of two halves.

And Katie Shepard managed that second half better than anybody.

The 33-year-old from Arlington, Va., caught Meghan Halfin, 41, of Grafton, W.Va., at Aid Station 2 at Mile 7.5. Seventy-one minutes into the race, Shepard had averaged 9 minutes and 28 seconds while Halfin averaged 9:20. Still, as Halfin was served by Aid Station 2 volunteers Andrea Sutyak and Carly VonStein, along came Shepard — who whisked around the bend, off the forest service road of the first 7.5 miles and onto the red trail. Shepard was joined, at that point, by William “Wes” Suitt (‘Suit’), 38, of Midlothian, Va.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Katie Shepard throws the log into the finish line fire to stop the clock and seal the win.

And then the race began. Over the next 3.3 miles, Shepard averaged 13:38 per mile. Over the same section, Halfin took 63 minutes — or 19:05 per mile. The race belonged to Shepard even with 5.6 miles to go from Aid Station 3 to the finish line, arguably the most difficult section of the race.

Shepard stopped the clock in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 41 seconds while Halfin took the silver medal in 3:16:49. There was a four-way race for third and only 46 seconds separated the next four runners, but Tara Arigo, 45, of Cumberland, Md., held on for bronze in 3:45:55. Katie Lewis, 25, of Manassas Park, Va., was a close fourth in 3:45:59 while Jamie Gerra, 44, of Keyser, W.Va., took fifth and Jen Norris, 49, of Alexandria, Va., took sixth in 3:46:41.

“That’s a helluva race,” Shepard said shortly after crossing the finish line and receiving her well-earned race T-shirt, coaster and knitted socks from event volunteer Susan Jense. “Normally, three hours for a 25K wouldn’t make me very happy.”

Suitt, meanwhile, held off Mitchell Scarbrough, 28, of North Beach, Md., to win the men’s title. Suitt finished in 3:14:11 to Scarbrough’s 3:16:47. Michael Byers, 46, of Martinsburg, W.Va., took third in 3:33:42.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
William “Wes” Suitt stops the clock to win the men’s 25K title.







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