Dick Collins Firetrails consists of 3 races that were all run this year on October 5, 2019. The Bay Ridge 100k starts at 5am, the Firetrails 50mile at 6 and the Golden Hills Marathon at 8am. In general, we were treated with characteristically warmer weather (up to 80 during the day) — but not crushing temperatures and Santa Ana winds that are possible this time of the year in the San Francisco East Bay.
This is the second year that we have run the race from Cull Canyon Regional Park. Cull Canyon is an easy 10-minute drive from Lake Chabot Marina, the ancestral home of the race, but a difficult 12 miles and multiple hours of running in the current course. (Lake Chabot Marina is now an aid station so the spot isn’t lonesome for its heroes.) This first and last 6-mile section is the signature of the race, replacing the majority of the vertical gain from the middle of the race (old course) to the start and finish (new course). New to the new course this year, the Parks allowed us to add in a beautiful piece of single track after Stan Jensen’s Chabot Staging Area Aid Station, which mean that the course now had about 600 more feet of climb in that section over the 2018 edition, making the races that much more challenging and drinks at the finish that much more sweet.
With 11,500 feet in vertical, the Bay Ridge 100k is not a pushover. The race starts out on the road in front of Cull Canyon. In order to run the 100k with reasonable cutoffs for every part of the pack, we need to take advantage of every minute that the East Bay Regional Parks offer. There’s a curfew between 10pm and 5am, so folks park on the street and we check-in and start them there. From 3am on people arrive in all forms of cheer, often with their entire crew. We gathered and this year took a moment to remember one of our runners, Todd Porter (51) who was tragically taken from us in a climbing accident on the Palisades in the Eastern Sierra. This is the second year we have observed tragedy before the run — Dennis Connor leaving us too soon before the 2018 run — and Todd’s widow and good friends were there. After a few moments of silence, the runners were off for a long day.
Many hours later, we would welcome home our new champions Brette Maune (10:17:42), a champion of The Barkley and other races, and Roxanne Vogel (12:23:46), one of our local runners from Gu Energy, who chose this race for her first 50-miler in 2018. Despite a few bonus miles at a key turn in the last few miles, Roxanne posted a new course record, eclipsing fellow local hero Ingrid Skorobohaty’s 2017 time by more than an hour to the joy of her family, who narrated the big dinner they had ready for her to the race director for some time before her finish. Larry Hengl would wrap up the fun in the 100k a few hours later at 9:27pm, just 3 minutes before our 16:30 cutoff.
In 2019, Firetrails 50 was part of the P-USATF Grand Prix, which brought more familiar races than even and with those face, faster times. The race starts after the park has opened at 5am, so once the 100k if off the race team scampers into the park to set up for them. They park and filter in across a footbridge into the Start/Finish area. The Firetrails start is slightly more festive since these runners have been able to sleep in a little bit. The 2019 edition of Firetrails was decidedly faster this year, with the front pack of 5 pacing ahead of course record all the way to the turn around at Skyline Gate. On the return, much of this pack felt the pace, leaving Jonah Backstrom alone at the front, finishing with a new course record (7:23:55), over an hour ahead of the pack. In the women’s race, Kali Klotz-Brooks set a new new-course record (8:49:36).
The Golden Hills Marathon was back in 2019. This race has always been a local favorite and runs as a point-to-point race. On our new course, this means everyone gingerly boards a school bus and rides to Chabot Space and Science Center in the Oakland Hills for an 8am start, offloading much as students do throughout the year. Runners roll a short section down the West Ridge Trail and then merge with the other races at Skyline Gate, with a wide path on the Stream Trail to encourage the front of the 100k and 50mile races who are just on their way through that section at that point in the morning. Alex Hughes found us at the finish hours later (3:53:19) to be crowned our men’s champion with Lisa Hughey not far behind, our women’s champion and second overall finisher. (4:06:07).
In all 2019 was a very successful race. 3 years after reviving this race, which had been slated for retirement, all the pieces seem to be falling into place. It’s an amazing thing to witness the grassroots of our sport grow up and around this event. This has meant the ongoing dedication of volunteers who have supported the race for years and folks who are new. My thanks to our dedicated Aid Station Captains: Stan Jensen, Kristina Chan, Peach Villacarlos, Jennifer and Chris O’Connor, Jeff Rowe, Penn Perez, Siobhan Taylor (and family), and Julie Nye — as well as the teams they represent: Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders, Dusty Bottoms, Pamakids). Each station was stuffed with volunteers on what amounts to a very long day. Thank you Christine Chapon, Monica Mendoza, Bugi Okullo, Dorothy Leo who helped at the start and on into the day, chasing down drop bags, delivering watermelons, and welcoming runners. Our sweeps were bar none in this race. Thank you, Lucia Chacon, and especially Andy Xiang who arranged an entire crew for the last 31 miles of the 100k. And thanks, above all to the Scena Team of Mark Hauber, Nick and Annika Moore, Todd Glieden, and ‘Screamin” Jay Boncodin on the camera.
Thank you to our sponsors at Transports, The Golden Squirrel, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Yousef’s Gourmet Foods (Amer Bandak!), Victory Sport Design, and Gu Energy. The Golden Squirrel and Sierra Nevada may still be offering $1 off pints for all I know.
Some pictures from packet pickup are here, below. To see Jay’s entire roll look here.