By Kelley Lane for Seward City News –
I asked Moore about going up the mountain with him and he invited me to do a bit of trail work alongside him the following day. The next morning, we met at 10:30am at the base of the Jeep Trail. Moore carried a weed wacker and had brought along a pitchfork for me to use. We proceeded up the switchbacks, tools thrown over our shoulders, taking the lower Crossover Trail to get to to the area just above the Roots section of the race route. Moore’s plan was to trim back the ferns and devil’s club along a muddy steep section, so as to allow racers to pass one another, and gain traction from the walking through the vegetation zones, should the rain continue.
While discussing the trimming plan, Karol Fink, Chairperson of the Mount Marathon Race Committee happened by, with two fellow racers in tow. She was giving the two men an introduction to the route and training it herself. Fink approved the plan and after a few more minutes spent catching up, the three runners continued up the trail, while Moore cranked his weed whacker and began trimming. I worked hard to keep up with his pace, raking together and throwing piles of trimmed brush off the trail. “We won’t be able to talk once I start this thing,” Moore had warned, putting on his protective ear coverings. The insects buzzed around us, so the accelerated pace of working, thankfully helped to keep them at bay.
Even though we worked amidst noise and were separated in distance, I got to observe Moore and learn about him in doing so. For one thing, he’s extremely sure footed and confident on the mountain. He wore work pants and xtra tuffs fitted to his feet. He carried only himself and his weed whacker up the mountain, no backpack full of provisions or safety gear, which gave practical proof of his comfort level. He had only planned to be out for a couple of hours, and could wait that long for water and a snack. On the way up, Moore had offered to show me a few lesser known routes, and after we finished with the trail maintenance, we tucked our tools away in the brush and moved into route practice. On the way over to the down route, I queried to Moore “Is Mount Marathon your favorite thing?” “Oh no, the race itself is torture,” he quickly answered me. “The training and the people are great, but the race itself is suffering.” I was surprised by his answer and pressed him further, wondering why and how a person could continue to choose suffering each summer. “What if you raced it slower? I asked. Moore paused and then answered “Oh that’s not in my makeup. if I’m going to do something, I have to give it my best.”
Moore took me down a route that he pioneered, urging me to keep looking back at the route, so that I would recognize it when I was ascending during the race, should I choose to use the route. Moore was clear that he was giving me another option, but that I should decide for myself which route to use, based on race day conditions, including which routes the other racers took. “That was Allie Ostrander back there,” Moore said, when we reached the bottom, inside of Lowell Canyon. “Today is who’s who of Mount Marathon,” Moore continued. Ostrander had been training with a few other runners, wearing her usual smile and ponytail, tiny and tough. Having just won the Steeplechase, Ostrander is a serious contender in this year’s women’s race, and an Alaskan by upbringing, as her family hails from Soldotna.
Moore has lived in Alaska since he was 19. His younger years he spent in Pennsylvania. He and his partner Phyllis Shoemaker have three adult children, all of whom live in Alaska. Two of them will race Mount Marathon this year, a son, alongside whom Fred finished a couple of years ago, and a daughter, Bonnie. Moore mentioned that he would stay at the base of Lowell Canyon to watch Bonnie finish the women’s race before he would prepare himself for his own race, changing into his bright pink race shorts, his unofficial race uniform. He said that people have asked Phyllis how she gets his shorts clean after the race. “He doesn’t get them dirty,” she answered. Moore continued by stating one of his mottos for the race “don’t let them see you bloody, muddy or looking tired.”
Moore carefully pointed out the various options for climbing the cliffs section, and then showed me the route that he will likely use. He easily climbed hand over foot, using the thick roots as climbing supports, occasionally pointing out obstacles to avoid. “That’s a dead tree, don’t put too much confidence in it.” Back up top, we retrieved the tools and started back down the Jeep trail. A woman from Vancouver, BC, who will be a rookie racer this year, recognized Moore from “the videos” and asked him for race pointers. “Just stay on the ridge and continue on up,” he said. Later, when I asked him about being recognized, he said that he hadn’t heard that part. “This race brings people from all over.”
Back down at the bottom, Moore generously offered to sit on the bench and finish our conversation. We sat, eating peaches and fanning away insects, watching an approaching storm blow in from the north. Moore was planning to practice the race route his final time before the race later that afternoon. “It looks like you’ll be up there with a storm,” I said. “I don’t see anything,” Moore responded. His plan was to time himself on a few of the sections, and look at terrain on the other portions. “The mountain changes every year.” Moore’s 47 years of racing, with approximately 20 training ascents and descents each year have taught him that.
Fred Moore will race his 48th Mount Marathon race on Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 in the 2pm Men’s race. Seward City News will provide updated coverage throughout the day.
Post Race Update: Fred Moore finished his 48th Mount Marathon race with a time of 1:16:51, placing 202 out of more than 300 racers, an improvement on his 2016 finish time by a full minute.