Runner FAQ

Vermont 50's Frequently Asked Questions

The Courses:

1. How will I follow the race routes?

    The courses are marked with 5" bold black arrows on brightly-colored backgrounds.  The 50 Mile is on fluorescent yellow.  Black letters on bright pink background mean pay attention. A 'W' means that's the wrong way. An 'X' means a hole, ditch, drop off, obstruction, etc.. i.e. something that merits your special attention. 

2. How much of the 50K course is the same as the 50 Mile?

     25.8 Miles are the same; The first 7, the last 18.3 and a one half mile piece in the middle. 

3. Will the strictly 50K portions be marked differently from the 50 Mile?

     Yes, the arrows will have a bright blue background.

5. What percentages of the courses are:


Gravel road

trail or dirt road


For the 50 Mile:




For the 50 Km.:




6. Where do the courses start?

    On the Ascutney Hotel approach road, near Cunningham Ski Barn.

7. Are the courses hilly? 


8. Are the trail sections rocky?

    For the most part, no. There will be some roots, small rocks and ruts, so pay attention and pick up your feet.

9. Will the courses be muddy? 

    They can be. It depends on how much rain falls before race day, or on race day. Normally there isn't too much mud, but a couple of years there's been a whole lot of it.

10. Should I wear dedicated trail running shoes?

    I prefer them, and suggest them, but you can get away with a sturdy training shoe.  

11. Where do the courses go?

    They wind around through four towns in roughly counter-clockwise loops, with plenty of zig-zagging throughout.

12. What is the total vertical for the races?

    MTB & 50 Mile run = 8,900'
    50K run = 5,600'

Race Times:

13. When do the races begin?  

  • Bikers From 6:00 to 6:20 a.m., in 5 min. increments
  • 50 Mile run 6:25 a.m.
  • 50K run 7:30 a.m.

14. What are the race cutoff times? 

  • All races cut off at 6:40 p.m.

Celestial Items and Weather:

15. When is sunrise on race day?  

    6:42 a.m.

16. When is sunset on race day?

    6:40 p.m.

17. How cool/cold will it be at the start of the races?

    The temps could be in the high 30's or low 60's, but more likely to be in the 40's or 50's.  It could also be quite foggy in the morning. 

18. How warm will it get on race day?

    It could be in the mid 50's or as high as the low to mid 70's.

19. Will it rain on race day?

    It can, and has, but normally does not.  Check the long-rang forecast for Brownsville, Vermont on-line, starting 10 days prior to race day.


Aid Stations:

20. How many handler aid stations are there?

    There are 3 Handler stations, which are also the Drop Bag stations for the 50 Mile Bike and Run. Two of the 50 Mile Handler stations are also 50K Run.  Only two of them are for the 50K Run.

21. Where do I park at the handler stations?

    Where the station signs and personnel direct you.

22. How do I get to the handler aid stations, and how long will it take to get there ?

    To minimize the pre-running/riding that some entrants insist on doing, we only provide handler directions at Registration.

    Allow 30 minutes to get to the Skunk Hollow Station, 25 to Greenall's, 20 to Goodman's and 10 to Johnson's. 

23. Am I allowed to assist my runner at any other station or elsewhere along the course ? 

    NO!  Doing so may disqualify your runner.

24. For the relay, how does one get to the two exchange points?

    Relay runners are responsible for getting themselves to the exchange points. The second runner must get to The Skunk Hollow Tavern Handler Station at the 50 Mile course 12.3 mile point, in sufficient time to meet the first runner.

    The third runner must get to the Greenall's Handler Station at the 50 Mile course 31.9 mile point, in sufficient time to meet the second runner.

25. What kind of energy drink will be provided at the aid stations?

    Gatorade replacement drink

26. What kind of food will be provided at the aid stations?

    The standard fare usually including chips, fruit, various candies, quartered boiled potatoes, cookies, soft drinks, turkey, cheese and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. The complete list is on the website.  Click 'About' at the top left, then click 'Race Description' and scroll way down to the bottom.  

27. Can I get basic first aid supplies, such as band aids, at the aid stations?


28. Where can I get medical attention

    There will be EMT's on bikes on the course and Rescue Squad personnel and a physician at the Start/Finish area. 

29. Can I get electrolyte caplets at the aid stations?

    Yes, Endurolytes by Hammer Nutrition

30. Can I get energy gels at the aid stations?

    No. You are responsible for providing your own and are firmly reminded to carry any used foil packets to the next aid station for disposal. 


General Questions:

31. When and where will the pre-race briefings be held?

    5:00 a.m for the 50 Mile and
    7:00 a.m. for the 50K, in the start area tent.

32. When and where is the pasta dinner Saturday evening?

    There will be 1 serving at 5:00-7:00 p.m. in the Harvest Room at the Ascutney Mt. Resort Hotel, within easy walking distance of the main registration tent. 

33. Where can I leave drop bags?

    At Aid Stations # 4, 8 and 11 for the 50 Mile and #3, 8 and 11 for the 50K.

    The bags must be placed in the appropriate piles at the BIG tent in Cunningham's Parking lot by 6 PM if you want us to deliver them . Please limit their size and include only items that you will need for the race.  Large luggage cases will not be delivered.

34. Should I carry a water bottle for the running races?

    It is highly recommended

35. What will race officials be wearing?

    Gray T-shirts that say Race Official

36. How fast will the winners bike/run the races?

     The first bikers: Men @4 hrs., Women - @5 hrs. 

     The first 50 Mile runners: Men - @7 hrs., Women - @ 8 hrs.

     The first 50 Km. runners: Men - @4 hrs., Women - @ 5 hrs.

37. What is VASS?

     Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, which provides sports and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.  Your entry fee goes directly toward provision of these services.

38. What happened to question # 4?

    Just trying to see if you're paying attention.


Training/Preparation for the Races: (These are for runners, from a runner).

1. The courses are hilly so you need to do aggressive up and downhill running in your training. Always do your stretching and a warm up before a hill workout.

  • Practice power walking uphills. Attempting to maintain a running mode on steep uphills is counter-productive; you will be wasting energy in your up and down movement. Practice an efficient sliding stride with arms swinging, and you'll save valuable energy.
  • The best practice for downhill running is downhill running. Rather than taking chances on twisting an ankle during training, find a steep hill (the longer the better) and ideally on a smooth-packed gravel road (or paved, if that's all that's available). Work on increasing your downhill speed, trying to land at just about mid-foot, rather than on either the ball of the foot or the heel.
  • My best training venue, by far, is a gravel road that climbs 2,500' in 4.3 miles.  I jog the not-so-steeps and power walk the steeps. At the top I turn around and come down aggressively. If my quads ache the next day, then I've accomplished my goal of working and strengthening the quads in preparation for lots of downhills in my next race.  You most likely won't find something as long as this, but doing repeats on a shorter (but steep) stretch will be just as beneficial.

The main point is that running fast downhill doesn't take as much energy as the uphills, so that this is where you can make good time to offset your slower pace on the uphills, while catching your breath.  Without sufficient practice, however, you will be slower and the legs won't be strong enough to withstand the pounding. Skipping over and around trail obstacles such as rocks and roots requires balance and leg strength, which this training promotes.

2. Fluids and Calories:

 An engine requires fuel or it will stop.  Your fuel during your race is the liquids and Calories that you consume.

  • Attempting to bike or run 50 Miles or Kilometers without taking in any fuel is as foolish as trying to drive your car with only an 1/8th of a tank of gas. It's not a case of being a wimp if you 'resort' to drinking water or energy drink during a lengthy race. On the contrary, drinking is smart and those who try to tough it out are clearly risking body shutdown and a DNF.  I would never start an ultra run/race without carrying water or energy drink. The added weight is negligible, and I weigh only 134 lbs.. I don't want to take a chance on having no water when I'm thirsty and distant from a fluids source.

 My point is that you should carry water/fluid on your training runs so that you are used to it. In the 50K run there are two longer stretches between aid stations of 5.4 and 6.1 miles.  Do the math; if you're maintaining a 10 min./mi. running  pace, which is quick, you'll be on the trail for between 54 and 61 minutes.  You should therefore have your own water. In the 50 Mile, in addition to the above-mentioned stretches, there is a 7 mile uphill segment after the Skunk Hollow Tavern Station.  There, in addition to my 20 oz. belt bottle, I also carry a 16 oz. plastic bottle of water in my hand to be consumed as I'm running.

 On the food side of the picture, most runners consume some form of energy supplement, in the form of gels, bloks, sport beans or other chews.  For the 50K this is sufficient. For the 50 mile, which has you running for most of the day, and therefore skipping at least one normal meal, supplementing with fruits and other aid station goodies is a wise idea. I somewhat callously maintain that most folks can probably power their way through a 50 Miler without consuming much food, but without such sustenance, one is taking a chance on running out of steam before the finish.

 Once again, I stress that you should practice eating various foods in your training so that any adverse reactions will only trash that effort rather than your big race.  If you have some favorite goodies that don't appear on the foods list on the website, plan on stashing some of it in your drop bags at the designated stations. Obviously I'm referring to non-perishable items, unless you have some fancy way of keeping things cold in a drop bag. 

3. Basic Training Plan:

 For the 50 Mile Run the best method I've found involves doing back-to-back long runs on the weekend, with the longer one being done on Saturday.  There are obviously different training plans that vary from 10 to as many as 20 or 26 weeks in length. Regardless, with about 2 months to go to the race you should be doing about 20 and 10 miles for the weekend long runs. These gradually increase to a max of about 26 and 10 three weeks before the race.  Taper it to 16  & 10 at 2 weeks out, then 10 & 6 a week prior. Many ultra runners prefer to think in terms of hours on their feet rather than miles.  A loose translation would be about 4 to 5 miles per hour, so that the max weekend double would be about 5 hrs. and 2.5 to 3 on Sunday, etc..

Because rest is also very important you should plan on not running on Friday or Monday.  You could do some easy floor strengthening exercises on Friday, but definitely rest up on Monday. Wednesday's you should gradually build up a semi-long run into the 10 to 12 mile range by 5 weeks out and then taper that down as well to 10 miles at 2   weeks prior and 6 miles at 1 weeks out.  I generally do my aggressive hill workout on Wednesday, running enough miles to constitute a semi-long distance. Tuesdays and Thursdays you can run easy miles between 4 and 8 in order to keep your weekly total up in the 50's to 60's a month out. You could also skip one of these days and do weights or other strengthening exercises for 30 to 60 minutes. You could also do your hill workout on either of these days, without doing an excessive number of miles. 

For the 50K, the max. mileage week would be 3 weeks out, doing 20 or 22 on Saturday and 8 or 10 on Sunday. The Wednesday semi-long's (or hill workout) would be in the 6 then 8 then 10 mile range. Similar to the 50 Mile program, you will do shorter easy runs on Tuesday and Thursday and take both Friday and Monday off.

These are just basic guidelines and can be altered to fit with the other things you have going on at home and at work. If you happen to miss a day of training, don't worry about it or try to make it up the next day.  Another day off now and then won't trash your basic program.  You will also learn more about how much your body can take and you need to listen to what it's telling you. If you are exhausted even after the Monday rest day, then you need to throttle back a bit. You will find that you do get stronger as the program progresses, which is most encouraging.  Don't, however, expect this to happen in the first few weeks of your program.

As for where you train, try to find some trails, back roads and/or dirt roads to train on, because that's the best way to train for what you'll find at the Vermont 50's.  Don't despair if this isn't possible, because doing the miles on pavement is certainly beneficial. Some folks just don't have hills available, in which case training on the stairs of a multi-story building or doing repeats over a highway bridge will give you a decent workout.


Remember that we run these races as recreation, so we shouldn't get all bent out of shape while preparing and training

Unless you are in some way running your races as your vocation, you need to balance the training and racing with the other major elements of your life. I am hooked on running and suspect that many who are reading this column are similarly driven.  I also try, however, to keep it all in perspective and allot sufficient time to manage my household responsibilities and work obligations. It does, of course, mean sacrificing from other activities such as watching television, going to movies or even getting a full 8 hours of sleep every night. There are only 24 hours in the day, so practicing efficient time management is very important.

See you at Ascutney on the 25th.   Zeke     

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