Up in Smoke

December 14th, 2014

‘Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death
Tell Saint Peter at the golden gate that you hate to make him wait
But you got to have another cigarette’
From the song Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette
Merle Travis/ Tex Williams 1947
Let me start out that I absolutely hate the new anti-smoking commercials on TV featuring a woman named Mary who has suffered through the ravages of lung/ throat cancer and rendered to looking like a stand-in for The Walking Dead TV series. Invariably I am in the process of eating and quickly lose my appetite. I guess they also serve as weight loss aid!
I am in no way a defender of smoking, my Dad started smoking at the age of 14 (the year was 1930) working himself up to 2 packs of Camels a day. His smokers cough in the bedroom next door would wake me up in the morning followed by hearing the click of the lighter. Although he had quit (cold turkey) decades before his death he ended up at one point losing part of his lung.
Certainly the national stance on smoking has dramatically shifted from when I was in the military in the early 70’s where inside your c-rations was a 4 pack of cigarettes, vintage World War II.I always traded mine, usually for powdered hot chocolate.
The issues swirling around smoking are as complex as the list of ingredients in a cigarette (of which there are over 500). I don’t want to touch on the health issues; they are a given. Let’s talk about money.
New York State currently has the highest cigarette tax in the nation coming in at $4.35 a pack ($5.85 in New York City). So stop by your local convenience store and you’ll be paying around $10 a pack.
There have been some interesting by-products from this.
CNN estimates that 60% of all cigarettes are smuggled in from out of state (primary culprit Virginia who only has a 30 cent tax) depriving New York of over one and a half billion dollars.
Certainly the nicotine addiction cuts both ways when you have a habit that pours vast amounts of cash into the state coffers. I’m unsure how much of these ‘sin tax’ funds are earmarked for smoking secession programs or just get funneled into the general fund.
Secondly I am struck by that it appears that those that are least affluent are the core of the smoking ranks. A study by RTI’s Public Health Policy Research Program showed that wealthier puffers spend on average 2% of their income; for the poor it’s 25%- Wow 1 in 4 of a persons dollars are literally going up in smoke!
The medical and human costs for smoking are massive. The American Lung Association pegs the costs for New York State at north of fourteen billion dollars and over thirteen thousand lives a year.
Some perspective on the human toll, we are currently losing twice the number of our fellow New Yorkers from tobacco than we have lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-2014); and that is just in one year!
Thanks a lot Sir Walter Raleigh…

The Hazards of the Holidays

December 5th, 2014

The hazards I speak of aren’t the ones like a Christmas tree falling on you which has happened to me. Or as a child touching the metal part of an electric socket as you plug in the tree lights; again guilty as charged (electrically as well).
No, the dangers of that I speak of are the catastrophic calories.
We have entered the official perfect storm of weight gain. Too many parties, too much food, too much snow which can lead to too little exercise.
Even the Sun works against us as we go to work, its dark we leave work and it’s guess what –it’s dark!
We are offering every opportunity to go down the trail of bad health. While we all love Santa we certainly don’t want to look like him!
I am not educated as a professional personal trainer. Nor do I have Dr. written in front of my name. I’m just a guy who has been around awhile and is involved in the sport of running. So take my comments with as many gains of salt as you like (but watch your sodium levels).
Let’s keep it simple.
Think of your body as an engine with a gas tank (your stomach). Put lousy gas (unhealthy food) into the tank and the engine doesn’t run well. Keep filling the tank with gas while not running the engine and the tank keeps getting bigger and bigger.
An easy equation; the amount of time involved in an activity multiplied by exertion equals calories burned.
Try and strike a healthy balance between the amount of time you exercise and the level of that exercise.
Please, please, use good common sense! Remember it took you a bit of time to get in the shape you are in; likewise to be the person you want to be.
What gets measured gets better!
Start by writing down what you ate/ exercised being as specific as possible.
This will do many things:
You will tangibly see what you have consumed in a given day; you might be surprised.
It will act as a small blinking red light to eat stuff you know isn’t good for you. If you know you have to write it down (which demands honesty) perhaps you won’t open that bag of chips or the refrigerator. BTW, eating directly out of the refrigerator is usually never a good idea!
Buy a pedometer that measures steps or one of the latest activity bands. Have an internal contest with yourself to top the previous daily/ weekly activity.
Easy exercise
For some getting to the gym can be a problem.
Think about ways to burn calories in everyday life.
While the shortest distance between two points is a straight line that might not be the healthiest. Try walking to class or to a meeting along a different, longer route; mix in stairs if possible. Obviously build in time so you aren’t late!
Do you really need to park at the closest spot next to work or the store?
Get up from behind that computer every 45 minutes or so and move around; it’s better for both brain and body.

Final thoughts
Always remember a healthy lifestyle, or healthier than where you are, is a continual journey not a destination.
Sometimes it’s nice to make the trip with someone else; everyone can use a good support system.
This is the season of hope; let’s hope our bath scale doesn’t become the Grinch that stole Christmas!

Kilometers for Kim

November 25th, 2014

I am always drawn to offbeat stories, throw in a running aspect and I’m all in!
The Kim in question isn’t Kim Kardasian but Kim Jung-Un the ‘Dear Leader’ of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) aka North Korea.
And no, this isn’t a new charity bib program (but maybe it is).
For those of you that don’t qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon perhaps you are interested in the Pyongyang Marathon? The running of Boston is April 20th, Pyongyang April 12th.
Not surprisingly in the history of the marathon is classic North Korean.
The marathon has been in existence since 1981. In its history according to Wikipedia:
It was not held 6 years.
Five of the years it’s unknown who won.
In the last 14 years, on the female side, a North Korean woman has won every time (such a surprise). The North Korean men have only won 7 out of 14, but hold the course record (2:10:50).
This might be one of the race’s that beats the Boilermaker for spectator participation (and there aren’t many like that).
The marathon begins and ends at Kim Ill Sung Stadium with 50,000 folks in the seats.
Likewise, expect a great spectator presence along the entire course; there’s something about a guy who routinely throws his people in work camps to get the crowd out.
If you aren’t up to running a full marathon a half marathon and 10k are also available.
Interesting time limits, for the marathon and half marathon, 4 hours; for the 10k 2 hours.
Although this is a relatively flat course, it means you need to run an average pace of slightly over a 9 minute mile every one of the 26 (and .2) miles to beat the clock cutoff. However, run the half marathon (and no, running a marathon is not just 2 half marathons; ask someone what mile 18 feels like) and you are allowed 18 minutes- only in North Korea!
The only way to sign up for the race is to go through a travel agency that includes either a 4 or 8 day tour.
The itinerary includes a fascinating tour of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (where you will learn from your’ impartial’ guides that the Americans and South Koreans actually started the Korean War and the North Koreans won).
Expect a tour of the USS Pueblo, captured in 1968.
The do’s and don’ts are an absolute hoot- a few examples.
-Do Behave with respect to the regime and more importantly to its leaders, this is crucial for a good relation with the tour guides.
-Don’t insult the leaders publicly, this might not only get you in trouble but it will for sure ruin your relationship with the guides who are the gatekeepers of your visit.
-Do take some luxury goods (cigarettes, shampoo (a luxury item?), cosmetics, etc.) to present as gifts to the guides as gratitude upon arrival. Tip your tour guides and drivers at the end of the trip.
Don’t Go to North Korea if you are a journalist or a photographer, this can seriously mean trouble for you and your guides.
This is the second year the DPRK is actively promoting foreign participation in their marathon. It certainly feels like a way for them to get some foreign currency in their coffers.
Finally it has been announced that every foreigner arriving, regardless of nationality, must be quarantined for 21 days due to Ebola fears.
Again, only in North Korea!

Surviving in the Desert

November 18th, 2014

One of my daily rituals (at least until the big snows fall) is to pick up the various litter that gathers around the grass and sidewalk of our new office. Our old habitation, 114 Genesee Street, would gather the occasional debris, primarily cigarette butts, near the front door. The irony of cigarettes being dropped in front of an office that focuses on running and health was not lost even on me!
805 Court Street is a whole new matter- lots more sidewalk, lots more people and (unfortunately) lots more trash. Our hedgerow currently is very popular as a living garbage can.
I am struck by the nature of the discarded items- lots of plastic (non-deposit) drink containers, beer caps and candy/snack wrappers.
The apparent number one food group in the neighborhood is Slim Jims as there is never a time I don’t discover at least one of these tubular wrappers lying on the ground. I have yet to come across a discarded apple core or banana peel.
So it was during one of these cleanup efforts that it really hit me what a ‘nutritional desert’ we inhabit in this part of town. There are no major grocery store chains within miles and transportation around here for many is a real issue. I’m assuming the months of winter will just make things that much harder.
It seems like we have a public health situation where those that can least afford it, are offered the least nutritious food options at noncompetitive prices.
Hmm, that’s not a good formula!
No doubt we need a garbage container somewhere along the street; trash blowing through the neighborhood certainly doesn’t cast us in the best light. Just because we are not the most prosperous neighborhood does not mean we can’t have a bit of neighborhood pride!
However, and certainly more importantly, we need to lessen the amount of ‘nutritional trash’ that is getting consumed around here, particularly by our youngest folks.
While I’m not trying to sound like a captain with the vegetable police whipping people with a celery stalk, I do know that a diet heavily skewed towards, sodium, sugar and oil is not a game plan for success (unless you’re looking for high blood pressure).
‘Cheap food’, and I use the term with a double meaning, in the end will have a profound cost on our community as a whole. As a very, wise friend told me ‘if you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go together.’
Hey, it’s easy to point out problems, a whole lot different to come up with fixes- I get it.
I suppose the first step towards a solution is a simple awareness of a problem and it’s literally lying at my feet.

Comets for a Cause

November 13th, 2014

The meteoric rise of the Utica Comets (space pun intended) has done far more than renew a sense of community pride. The return of the AHL, after an 11 year absence has spurred economic vitality, a massive Auditorium upgrade and, perhaps less known, incredible charitable support.
The Save of the Day Foundation, created by Comets President Rob Esche, has funneled more than a million dollars towards youth needs.
In fact this quote from the Save of the Day website highlights what Rob feels is ‘mission critical’.
‘Promoting a healthy and happy lifestyle for local youth is among our most important attributes.’
It is our belief that every child, regardless of economic condition, deserves the opportunity to have a healthy life. This belief is built into the DNA of the Boilermaker. From the Youth Olympics and Kid’s Run during Boilermaker Week to the Boolermaker Halloween Run, we celebrate what kids can do!
So President Esche, ever the competitor, has issued a challenge to the local not-for-profit community; get a minimum cumulative total of 250 people to a Wednesday night game and you can be in the running for a $10,000 grant from Save of the Day.
The Boilermaker’s office move to west Utica is more than being closer to the Finish Line. It is a commitment to a neighborhood in need. These funds would jumpstart the ability for us start to become the change agent this area yearns for.
So how do you help us skate (or run) to the cash?
There are two Wednesday games left; November 19th and November 26th. Come to one, or better, both and please bring lots of friends!
People need to sign up via Ticketmaster http://www.ticketmaster.com/Utica-Comets-tickets/artist/1909732 and type BOILER in the offer code.
BTW you end up with a slightly discounted ticket ($12) - love it when everyone wins!
If this race has taught me anything about this community is that it is inhabited by countless angels in human form.
I’m hoping we can get 250 angels to fly to the Aud!

Costs of a Super-sized America

November 2nd, 2014

We certainly are aware of the epidemic of obesity in the US; it is literally right in front of us on the streets. In this case more is most certainly not better.
‘The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.’ The Center for Disease Control
The U.S. Military has identified obesity as perhaps our greatest national security risk with 3 out of 10 17 to 24 year olds simply too heavy to pass the physical fitness test.
Yet beyond the obvious medical and national costs are a number of little known realities that society is dealing with.
Ambulance stretchers and in some cases the ambulances themselves have become large to deal with heavier folks. In Boston an ambulance was retrofitted with a hydraulic lift (at a cost of $12,000) to deal with patients weighing up to 850 pounds!
Downstream hospitals have had to refit their beds, bathrooms and waiting room chairs to deal with this new reality.
Then there are the test crash dummies; no not the band, those lovable guys we enjoy propelling at high rates of speed into walls.
It seems Vince and Larry (the dummies names in TV ads) may have packed on a few pounds.
The original dummies, dating back to the 80’s weighed in at 170 pounds. The company Humanetics, a manufacturer of test crash dummies has developed a new human stand-in weighing in at over 270 pounds.
Larger passengers may exert different challenges to seat belt safety.
At this point the government has not mandated any changes to dummy guidelines.
To be fair, the car manufacturers are looking at getting away from the ‘one size fits all’ test dummy performing more research on specific subsets such as teenage drivers.
Will gas mileage be the next topic under obesity scrutiny?

Scaring Up A Good Time

October 9th, 2014

It is simply amazing to me the rise in popularity of Halloween in the U.S.. It seems the grocery stores mound the shelves with bags of candy earlier and earlier in the year (I spotted a Halloween candy display this year pre-Labor Day).

You know the smaller bars of delight that taste so good you eat five!

Sometimes it feels like Halloween is simply built around excess and frequently excess of a poor nutritional nature. From that reality, the Boolermaker was born!

The Boolermaker Kid’s Run presented by Adirondack Bank will again be haunting the grounds of the Masonic Care Community on Saturday, October 25th.

Children between the ages of 4 to 12 will run age-appropriate untimed runs that will begin at 10:00 a.m.. The Expo opens at 8:00 a.m..

True to its tag line ‘where getting fit isn’t scary’ our little ghosts and goblins will be treated to a variety of healthy snacks that they will actually eat! Thanks to the generosity of: Chobani, Price Chopper, Peter’s Cornucopia, North Star Orchards, McDonalds, Freihoffer, Walmart, Dole.

Bagel Grove, Utica Coffee and Edible Arrangements will be providing sample products at the Expo.

Finally Granny’s Kitchen will provide doughnuts (hey, what goes better with cider?).

Believing in the old proverb ‘a clean mouth is a happy mouth’ every one of our participants will receive toothpaste (from Zalatan Dental Services) and dental floss (from Excellus Blue Cross/ Blue Shield). The commemorative cinch bag, courtesy of our sponsor will be brimming with goodies that are good for them.

Our eerie Expo (no, it’s not really that scary) will offer activities and education for the entire family. Face painting, child ID, photo area and contests.

Interested?

Signups will take place at Sangertown Square, Center Court, in New Hartford on Friday October 17th from 5:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturday October 18th from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m..

There is a $5 registration.

There is a race cap of 600 participants.

There will be no run day registration.

We will be selling a limited number of Boolermaker shirts in both children and adult sizes (new this year due to demand).

More info available at boilermaker.com; just press the Boolermaker Jack O’Lantern icon.

Our New Neighborhood

September 26th, 2014

Slowly but surely we are settling into our new building.
Some initial thoughts…
I now (obviously) take a different route to the office. The majority of my drive formerly would be along a high-speed expressway, now my trip is nearly entirely through residential neighborhoods. Encountering more stoplights (which always seem to be red) has given me more time to observe our city. I’ve noticed a new phenomenon; people riding their bikes going against traffic. While this is standard practice for the running community traditionally it’s not for cyclist. On a different note; what the heck is the story with the legions of pigeons and seagulls that populate the far corner of the parking lot of Hannaford Supermarket on Mohawk Street? I’m not sure what creates this perpetual reunion as food seems scarce there.
Our new street is much busier than that of our former home. A total different experience moving from a third floor office (with no window) to a first floor office watching the flow of humanity. If you ever want to appreciate the diversity of Utica simply look at the kids waiting at the bus stop or the people walking by. A boy from the Karen community gliding along on his skateboard, a Somali girl in a long flowing dress intently tapping away at her smartphone. A mother with a headscarf walking with her children towards (I assume) school. An elderly gentleman shuffling towards (I assume) the local bodega, or perhaps food pantry, returning back clutching a plastic bag.
We certainly have some folks who have powerful sound systems in their vehicles that love to share their music with people in their zip code.
The DOT arterial project adds to the cacophony of noise as dump trucks and heavy equipment rumble by. That’s noise I enjoy- the noise of progress!
While we are near the finish line; we are looking forward to starting something special into this neighborhood we now call home.

Food Fight

September 18th, 2014

We are in a fight for food; or rather we are in a fight to get more food (of the nutritious variety) to our upstate community.
Wal-Mart has committed to split $3,000,000 equally among 50 food banks ($60,000 each). One of the food banks in the running is the Food Bank of Central New York.
Selection is based on facebook voting, you can vote once a day until October 5, 2014.
While I tend to not love campaigns like this that seem a bit like a popularity contest; I really, really do love the idea of money floating into upstate to feed our folks.
The Food Bank of CNY covers a wide territory spanning eleven counties. This footprint represents where the majority of where Boilermaker runners live. I’ve had a chance to see first hand the Food Bank of CNY’s operation as they have been a Boilermaker Charity Bib partner- it’s a first class operation.
If the Boilermaker is to be a positive change agent then it’s a natural we get shoulder (or rather our voting index finger) behind this. Many have been the time we have made the impossible possible.
What can you do?
Simply vote and tell friends and family to vote.
Currently the Boilermaker has close to 16,000 friends on our facebook page; if everyone voted just once we are solidly in the hunt. Get at least one of your friends to vote- you get the picture. At the time of this writing we have dropped out of the top 50.
Let’s show the country what Boilermaker spirit is about.
Imagine if we could get to number 1!
The link to the Food Bank of CNY is: http://www.foodbankcny.org/
Click the Fight Hunger Spark Change icon and you will be on your way to making our community a healthier place.

Less is More

September 14th, 2014

So the less in question is in fact not a unit of measure but rather a man- Les Diven who passed away at the age of 85 on September 11th. Another sad event added to a national day of sadness.
Les was a newspaper man, a reporter with the Observer Dispatch (Daily Press) for 40 years. I guess Les was like the Derrick Jeter of the reporting world; stayed with the same organization the entire length of his employment.
Les looked like a reporter, or at least what in my mind an ‘old school’ reporter would look like. I can imagine him interviewing someone furious scribbling with a pencil in a notebook with perhaps another pencil in back of his ear in reserve. He was simply THE sports reporter in our area. Les saw both the uniqueness and potential of the race and no doubt spurred its popularity in our region. The Boilermaker, recognizing the skills of Les, created the Les Diven Award annually recognizing a media person who best represents the craft of reporting/ writing particularly when it comes to the Boilermaker. Many of the reporters and writers that you’re familiar with have been bestowed with this honor.
Les formally came into my life in the early 1990’s after his retirement when I was working at Utica Boilers. At the time I was in charge of manufacturing and my office was across the hall from a small conference room. One morning Les and his wife Pat walked into the conference room with bundles of envelopes held together with rubber bands. Les and Pat were officially the Boilermakers registration processing volunteers!
At the time the Boilermaker was fielding around 5,000 runners so while there was much smaller participation than today virtually everything was being processed by hand. Payment was in the form of checks or cash if people dropped off their applications to our office. There would generally be a deluge prior to when the registration fee would increase. Like clockwork Pat and Les would walk past my office, offer a good morning greeting and get to work. On occasion I would hear a chuckle emanating out of their ‘office’ no doubt produced by some runner’s foolishness that would be corrected without complaint.
While automation eventually rendered this process extinct Les and Pat remained loyal volunteers. They were those ‘just tell us what to do’ type of folks that are the backbone of successful organizations.
What I remember about Les; that he always had a smile on his face. I can’t testify that he was that way in the newspaper biz as I wasn’t there, but as an unpaid worker he was a very happy guy.
The local paper, the race and the community were made a better place because of you.
We really could use more of people like Les.
Les, you often wrote about the Boilermaker- I consider it an honor to write about you. God bless you!