TrailNotes: Moses running for a cause

November 8, 2019


Moses, Jochim, Endure Fuel, Simon, Hastings, Inscho, Williams

* Spangler, Smith run to historic wins

LITTLE ORLEANS, Md., Nov. 3, 2019 — From the start line at Point Lookout Overlook to the left turn onto the red trail at Mile 1.2, there was something different about Daniel Moses’s footsteps. They seemed a bit lighter.

Moses completed the 8th Fire on the Mountain 50K in 2018 in 8 hours, 46 minutes and 43 seconds. This year, he hit the midway point seven minutes faster than last year — and then practically flew over the second half of the race to finish in 7:29:58 — more than 75 minutes than in 2018.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Daniel Moses was the only runner in the field who approached Mile 1.2 looking for a fist bump. He got it, and then clocked a huge PR.

After throwing his ceremonial log into the campfire at the finish to stop the clock on his race, Moses, 39, of Silver Spring, Md., had a burden lifted. You see, he was not running this year to improve on last year’s time. In fact, such a goal couldn’t have been further from his mind. Instead, Moses was focused on raising funds for Bikur Cholim of the Greater Washington area. As of the Friday after the race, Moses’s online campaign had raised $6,173 — well exceeding his goal of $4,500.

“Do crazy things and people contribute to good causes,” Moses wrote afterward.

For a time, Moses and his family used that organization as a lifeline while Moses’s father was in the hospital. His father’s immune system was attacking its own nerves. Weakness and tingling in one’s extremities can quickly lead to paralysis. Moses and his family were at a loss to explain what was happening, or why.

“When my father was diagnosed with (Guillain-Barré syndrome), my family and I felt helpless as we stayed by his bedside and watched his body slowly shut down and his life become dependent on machines,” Moses shared on his online fundraising campaign website. “As we were with him around the clock, our basic needs fell by the wayside. In these uncertain times of the illness, Bikur Cholim provided for us. They helped arrange for meals, made sure our needs were taken care of, and gave us respite from caregiving responsibilities. Most importantly, knowing that we had a safety net and support helped us get through some of the most difficult times.”
Moses realized his family was not the only one aided by Bikur Cholim volunteers.
“The amount of support, food, and hours of work put into the care of others was clear. We felt and saw the important work of BCGW from the perspective of the recipients — from those receiving love and care. Their work is diverse and vital for those in need, and after having been on the receiving end of their services, I feel so appreciative for all they do for the community.”

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
FOTM winner and new course record-holder Allan Spangler, left, gets some assistance at Aid Station 2 from event volunteer Jon Scovell.

Powered by Endure Fuel

Race director Kevin Spradlin was not sure what to think by providing this year’s field with a new sports drink. In a relatively short amount of time, however, it seemed the drink was a hit. Even Allan Spangler, who went on to set the course record, liked it.

“That stuff you guys make is good,” Spangler told Mark Sutyak at the finish line.

Endure Fuel, made by Endurance Headquarters, is owned by Sutyak and his wife, Andrea. The two work the business from their home in Fairmont, W.Va. Theirs is the only such sports drink on the east coast.

Endure Fuel offered its Clear Blue Raspberry on race day. In the near future, the company will offer a variety of flavors to help runners get to the finish line.

Runner feedback

The course has been an out-and-back adventure since 2016, when the event returned after a one-year hiatus. The race had been a point-to-point excursion in Green Ridge State Forest for the first five years. Once Maryland lawmakers allowed hunting on public lands on Sundays in the state, however, the purpose of converting the course to an out-and-back sort was to shorten the footprint, so to speak, and keep runners safe.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Jeffrey Inscho had a few choice words for the race director after completing the ninth running of the Fire on the Mountain 50K in Green Ridge State Forest.

That doesn’t mean the change made anyone happy.

“You are one evil, evil man,” Jeffrey Inscho, of Glenshaw, Pa., insisted after finishing 10th overall in 6:46:56.

Of course, the comment was more tongue-in-cheek than anything else. We think so, at least. The challenging course — arguably more difficult since the change in 2016, which resulted in an additional 30 minutes to finish — pleased those looking for something to conquer.

“I’ll be here every year I can be,” said Connor Simon, of Arlington, Va., who clocked a 6:24;06, good for eighth place overall.

Aaron Hastings, 47, of Middletown, Md., echoed Simon’s sentiment. Hastings finished the 2014 event in 6:20:45.6, good for ninth overall. This time, he finished ninth again, stopping the clock in 6:33:40.

“Great course,” Hastings said at base camp. “Hardest one I’ve run so far.”

Sounds of … 

To be sure, Sara Logan, 43, of Rockville, Md., struggled mightily on Sunday on her way toward her first 50K finish. As she crested the final hill on Oldtown Orleans Road and rounded the last bend, she heard the sound of a the starter’s horn. She quickly deduced someone was marking the sight of another runner headed to the finish line.

“I started crying when I heard the horn,” said Logan.

Submitted photo
Susan Jense, left, and daughter Sara Logan teamed up to be part of Fire on the Mountain 50K lore. Jense was gifted the air horn she used to signal that another finisher had crested the final hill.

Soon enough, though, Logan figured out that it was her mother, Susan Jense who was sounding the horn. Jense had flown in from Utah to watch Logan attempt the feat. Logan finished in 9:48:03, less than 12 minutes under the cutoff time to be considered an official finisher. She was third-to-last, a mere four minutes and 21 seconds ahead of the last runner.

It was mission accomplished for Logan, but not without effort.

“At the finish of one of the most visually stunning endurance events I will ever participate in,” Logan shared on Facebook afterward. “Truly spectacular views abounded throughout my day of scrambling up and down mountains and running through valleys. Fire on the Mountain was an intense and humbling experience. Physically, mentally and emotionally, I had to dig deep and climb high to get to the finish within the 10-hour cutoff.”

“Oh my god, you’re alive!”

The day didn’t go as planned for Anna Trapane. The 23-year-old from Silver Spring, Md., was pulled off the course after about 11 miles — and some of those were not logged while on the course.

Trapane checked in at Aid Station 1 (Mile 5.6) in 1 hour and 15 minutes. From the accounts of aid station volunteers, Trapane was not in a good place mentally and was less than pleased there were still some 27 miles to go. It was evident the rocks, roots and hills had gotten to her. Little did she know, though, her day was already half over.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Corey Jochim earned his first 50K finish, and his girlfriend, Anna Trapane, helped him out by handing him a log to carry over the last couple hundred meters.

Trapane continued along the red trail and reached Aid Station 2 (Mile 8.9) in 2:15. At approximately 10:05 a.m. — 3 hours and 5 minutes into the race — Trapane was at her wit’s end. Somehow she had made a hard right turn off the green trail and decided it was a good idea to climb the hill to the ridge. She was picked up by the race director on Green Ridge Road at Wallizer Road.

Trapane made the most of the day, however. She returned to base camp, changed into dry clothing and (after a nap) signed on to volunteer at the finish line. Trapane had reason to keep focused. Her boyfriend, Corey Jochim, 24, was still out on the course. Trapane acknowledged both she and Jochim had entered the event almost on a dare, and that both were grossly unprepared for the terrain.

Runners finished one by one, and sometimes two within a few minutes or so. After eight hours, Trapane expressed her doubts. She believed it was likely Jochim had dropped at one of the aid stations. About a half hour later, Jense sounded the horn. Another runner was coming in. He was wearing No. 29.

Trapane was overjoyed.

“Oh my God, you’re alive,” she exclaimed.

Trapane leapt into action. She sprinted to the wood pile at the start of the finisher’s chute, grabbed a log and handed it to Jochim, who made his way to the campfire with his girlfriend at his side.

The RD promised to consider adding Anna’s detour into next year’s race. After all, there’s nothing better than the idea of adding another hill for absolutely no good reason. The RD promised to put Anna’s picture at the top of the hill and call it “Anna’s Curse” for posterity.

Father and son

Jim Campbell, 46, of Walkersville, Md., entered this year’s Fire on the Mountain 50K field much like any other runner. His son, Elijah, drew a little more scrutiny. At the time of registration, Elijah was only 16 years old.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Elijah and Jim Campbell, with only 31.6 miles to go.

Both runners explained that it was believed that Elijah was properly prepared. Further still, both planned to tackle the green trail about a week before the race. The race director suggested that, instead they tackle the red trail, forwards and backwards. They did.

“Huge thanks for the advice,” Jim Campbell emailed after the training run. “Super glad we got on the course as those hills definitely have more pitch and technical challenge than the Catoctin we’ve been doing our long runs on. Very helpful to have dealt with that today and have a good mental model for next week. When we both finished, we kind of just looked at each other like, ‘okay, so that’s gonna be tough.'”

Said Jim: “We’re looking forward to the challenge and know it will likely break us, but we’re in it no matter what!”

Fast forward a week, and the race director made it a point to call out that, with a finish, Elijah would go down as the youngest FOTM finisher in event history. “No pressure,” the RD said to the Campbells.

The pair remained together throughout their journey in Green Ridge State Forest. They hit the midway point in 3:44 and logged a little over 4:18 on the way back. Elijah finished in 8:02:35, while Jim stopped the clock in 8:02:38.

“He saved my race”

Volunteers are generally the unsung heroes of any running event, but especially ultra marathons. Without even being asked, the type of people who volunteer to spend their day in the woods to help others draws a different kind of person. Luke Mongrain  and Russell Adams are two of those people.

Mongrain is the assistant manager at New Germany State Park, one county to the west of Green Ridge State Forest. He spent his last day of vacation — where else — in the woods. While he had hoped to be a part of this year’s field, that wasn’t to be. If he had been, though, Amanda Myers might never have finished the race.

Photo by Kevin Spradlin
Amanda Myers, of Henrico, Va., credited her 50K finish to Aid Station 3 volunteer Luke Mongrain.

Resting and refueling at Oak Barrel Cafe in Little Orleans after the race, Myers, 29, of Henrico, Va., said she approached Aid Station 3 in a rather shattered state. In her mind, the day was over. Myers said Mongrain and Adams had her sit down, drink something and rest a bit. He was able to get her to refocus. After a bit of time, Mongrain and Adams convinced her to try and make forward progress.

“He saved my race,” Myers said.

Myers hit Aid Station 3 in 3 hours and 29 minutes, in fourth-to-last position. She managed to reach the midway point at Log Roll Overlook in 4:22, and then saw Mongrain again at Aid Station 5 at 12:31 in the afternoon — more than five and one-half hours into the race. Though she had dropped two more spots, she made that up later on and finished in 9:47:54.

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