Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile Race Preview: Dave Mackey 3-peat?

This week we began our look at this weekend’s upcoming events on the East Coast with our preview of the Grindstone 100 in Virginia.  Then we traveled to Moab, Utah for a preview of the inaugural running of the Slickrock 100.  Today we finish this week’s race previews in Lake Chabot, California with the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler.  The Firetrails 50 is a popular race that sells out just about every year and in this, its 29th running, it is once again full.  The biggest change this year is the transfer in race direction.  The speedy duo of Ann Trason and her husband, Carl Andersen, had managed the race for several years.  It’s among one of the best managed races in the country, right down to the post-race festivities of delicious, abundant food and kegs of micro beer to wash it down.  This year will see NorCalUltras, headed by Julie Fingar and Mark Gilligan, taking over the event directing.

Firetrails 50 course elevation profile

Ann Trason and Carl Andersen

The course is an out and back design with a diversion over the last couple of miles taking runners around the opposite side, compared with the start of the race, of Lake Chabot.  The course ranges from 200 ft to 2,000 ft of elevation.  There’s nothing terribly difficult about the course but it’s still a good recommendation to take the first half easy because one reaches the turn around by descending a bit over 1,200 ft, then having to climb back up on the return trip.  The last 20 miles are very runnable with mild trails and a general rolling net descent to the finish.  It can be a fast course, if run correctly.  One who knows this first hand is Dave Mackey.  He’s participated and won for the last two years with the highlight last year of breaking Carl Andersen’s 16 year old course record with a 6:19 effort.  The women’s course record is held by, who else, Ann Trason with a 7:31 laid down in 1987 (good luck with that, ladies).

Speaking of speed, here are some contenders to note:

Women:

Bree Lambert – San Jose, CA.  Bree is a veteran of Firetrails with this being her fourth running.  She’s competitive and strong and should win Firetrails this year just cracking the 8 hour mark.  She won the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler in July in 23:07 and who came charging in just 16 minutes behind her at that race….?

Jennifer Benna – San Francisco, CA.  Yep, Jennifer was 2nd at TRT100.  She seems to have moved to a new level in terms of racing and will give Bree a run.

Men:

Dave Mackey – Novato, CA.  Coming off a DNF at UROC due to illness, Dave is the defending champion with the 6:19 course record at Firetrails.  His smooth, loping, but fast gait is made for this course.  Unless his Hoka Bondi Bs fall off his feet, he should have no problem repeating as champ for the third consecutive year.

Graham Cooper – Piedmont, CA.  Graham had a sharp run at Western States, actually nipping Mr. Mackey by a couple minutes there.  He hasn’t raced much, at all since, so should show up eager to run well.

Jean Pommier – Cupertino, CA.  Jean seems to prefer and excel at the shorter distances.  Thankfully, in ultras, 50 miles is a shorter distance.  He’s run Firetrails three times with a 7:15 PR.

Chris Calzetta – Monterey, CA.  Chris just began running ultras eleven months ago with his first 50k but has racked up some decent results, including an 18:45 at Western States (his first 100 miler) and, most recently, a 3:46 and 2nd place at Skyline 50k, just seconds behind winner, Jean Pommier.  If he doesn’t try to hang with big Mack early, he should run well.

Dan Barger – Auburn, CA.  Dan has been around the ultra scene longer than many of the participants in this race have been alive.  He hasn’t raced much this year but his experience requires respect.

Mark Tanaka – Castro Valley, CA.  Mark has had his typical year of 80 races.  Seriously, he races a lot and has five 100s in his body this year (again).  He has great speed but is probably not as sharp as he could be (this is speaking from my own experience this year of racing so much).  Regardless, he’ll be “in the race” and have a huge smile to brighten everyone else’s day, as usual.

Comments are welcome.  I would love to hear thoughts on the change in race management.  I’m personally sad that Ann and Carl aren’t at the helm any longer.  That, frankly, was the main draw for me wanting to run this event.  I’m absolutely certain Julie and Mark will do a superb job with it as well.  Anyone have any inside information on the participants or picks I’ve not mentioned?  Let’s hear it.

Have a great weekend of training runs and races!