Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Interview: Mike Silverman (VT50 RD)

As you all may or may not know, September marks the changing of season's here in New England. The days are getting shorter and the leaves are starting to display their magnificent colors. There really is no better time to run in this area, crisp mornings and cold evenings, cool days and beautiful views. This becomes a runner's mecca. But for those looking for a challenge, looking for a top notch race, there is none more stellar than the Vermont 50 held on September 28th.

I had the chance to talk with Race Director Mike Silverman about the event, and it is our hope that you'll sign up and take the challenge to join us at the end of September. Thanks for taking the time to join us Mike.

SJ: So, tell us a little bit about the Vermont 50; how many years has this race been

MS: 18 years

SJ: Was it always a mountain bike race as well or was it originally strictly for runners?
MS: Originally it was just a running race, Lou Schmertz and Seth Warren (Then 15 years old) put together the Mt Bike addition

SJ: How many bikers will be on the course and when do they start?
MS: There will be 725, where 650 is our real agreement with the 70 landowners

SJ: Now the runners start a tad later; how many runners do you anticipate in the 50K and the 50 Mile options?
MS: The 50 mile runners and the 50 mile 3 person relay start 5 minutes behind the last bikers. I expect (250 50 mile runners) 1 .5 hrs later the 50 K runners will start and we have 150 of them.

SJ: Who does the race benefit?
MS: The benefactor is Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities. We promote independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational opportunities. You can discover more about VASS at

SJ: How much money is typically donated to VASS through this particular event?
MS: About $40,000

SJ: What should entrants expect?
MS: Well I think they should expect us to be their host from the time they leave home until the time they leave Brownsville VT.
They are all very special to the first timer, the repeat participant and us. We want them to feel safe and looked after.

SJ: Tell us about the course; Trails, roads, elevation change, etc?
MS: I feel what has made our course what it is, is not the 50-mile or the 50K distance. It is how it is strung together, there is a rhythm. We cross 70 private lands, and we offer very special Fall Vermont vistas with lots of aid stations with friendly volunteers and LOTS of food. We are still around 8900 vert for the 50 milers and 5600 vert for the 50K. We keep trying to get off the roads and adding more double and single-track trails. The hardest part is the last section on Ascutney, which was about 2.5 miles up and a .5-mile down to the finish. Surprisingly, we added 1.5 more to the Mountain with adding lots of Vert.

SJ: Have you ever run or ridden either of the race options?
MS: Yes, I have ridden the 50 many times before becoming RD. l always wanted to run the 50K, but never seem to find the time to run and organize as many do.

SJ: Compared to other ultramarathons, how do you think the Vermont 50 compares?
MS: Well, since I have taken the RD position 8 years ago, we have introduced the 50 K and the 50 mile 3 person relay. Last year we went from 200 runners to 400 and I am hoping to break 500 this year. The goal was to become more runner friendly, listen to their needs, reduce the concern of the bikers, and introduce more runners to the ultra world. I think the VT 50 does that with its "private" course, many well stocked aid stations, and its event/ party atmosphere. I feel we do offer more than most, and we continue to listen to the needs of our participants. Once we think we have it all, we will never improve. Ideas come from listening and the willingness to try new things.

SJ: Tell us your favorite story from Vermont 50's past.
MS: Well there are so many from proposals at the finish line (2 last year) to runners and bikers meeting in the parking lots and end up married and now bring their little ones with them. But the 2003 race was really the big story. It was called our "Mud fest." The trails and small streams became rivers. It was a very different event. It was not whether you would beat your time of last year, it was "will I finish." More than 1/2 the field took a DNF. There was a steady stream of bikers and runners coming down the paved road near the Resort. Someone said, "They are all off course!" No they have all decided to quit. All 450 of them. The truth be told, it was so amazing how the community came out and helped transport the wet and weary participants. They had cars and trucks willing to move whoever need their assistance.

SJ: How can folks sign up for the race and how much room is left for runners given that bikers are filled?
MS: The runners are unlimited. They can go to www.vermont50.com and they can also register Saturday September 27 that Ascutney Mountain Resort. 12- 8

Great Mike, thanks so much for your time and efforts in putting on a solid race in New England. I look forward to being there myself for my third Vermont 50; enjoying the views and powering up and down the many hills. "Challenge Yourself" is the race motto and quite the challenge indeed.