And I Was There

August 21st, 2015

There are times we get the opportunity to experience history. Sometimes planned, like watching Neil Armstrong taking that first tentative step on the surface of the Moon.
Often unplanned, like watching the second jet slamming into the World Trade Center and realizing something very, very bad was happening.
On Thursday I saw the beginning of a major change take place in our community with Governor Cuomo making the formal announcement of Nano-Marcy prominently involving GE.
The return of GE to the Utica region, I remember the days that the GE facility pumped out millions of transistor radios out of the Bleeker Street facility: I had one (yeah I’m that old). Meanwhile, at a million square foot building on Broad Street, thousands of GE workers were doing radar research; planes would frequently be seen lazily flying back and forth near the building doing some hush-hush military project.
I attended the opening session at the Radisson where, besides the politicians, every New York State Commissioner was sitting around the very large table. This was serious stuff!
I didn’t have a chance to be at the announcement at Quad-C as I was at the formal opening of the pedestrian bridge spanning the arterial. In attendance was the New York State Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. The arterial project is one I have watched with interest with its opportunity to create a more user-friendly waling/running/ bike path system. We need a unified path system throughout the region that insures the safety of folks engaging in healthy exercise activity, but I digress.
After the bridge ribbon cutting we walked down to the brewery where the next stage of the Department of Transportation infrastructure improvement was revealed with a possible multi-lane roundabout at the Genesee Street and Route 5/Oriskany Street, currently the most accident-prone intersection in the county.
And there was more as state officials visited various locations throughout the region both listening and committing assets to serve the needs of the community.
For too long (pre-Utica Comets) I would hear that the Boilermaker Week was the only time Utica felt good about itself. I would respond “well we have only have 51 to go”.
Will there be hurdles and perhaps short-term glitches as this massive project takes form and substance, of course there will. Imagine building a house and multiplying the issues by a million (or should it be a billion?).
Saying that, I think Thursday August 20, 2015 just might have helped take care of those other 51 weeks.
And I was there to witness it.

Whatta Night!

August 19th, 2015

Last night was the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program Finale, and as always was an inspirational affair.
It’s always a night of laughs and tears.
Besides this year’s Charity Bib Partners, many of our runners who raised in excess of $1,000 were in attendance.
We announced the 2015 campaign raised over $152,000 ($152,050 to be exact). In three years we have raised in excess of $400,000 for local not for profits.
Sometimes I feel like Tom Sawyer who tricks a group of kids into the joy of whitewashing a fence.
“No really this is really fun, you get a chance to ask people for money and then we’re going to have you run 9.3 miles on a challenging course in the middle of July: you are going to love it!”
Besides Some highlights of the night:
Listening to Jill (runner for Make A Wish) telling the story of her son Will, a ‘wish kid’ who was afflicted with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (currently cancer-free!) and why being a charity bib runner was meaningful for her.
Will was in attendance, clearly more interested in the cupcakes than listening to his story, just a normal 6 year old kid!
She, and he, got a standing ovation.
Then I was talking with one of the runners who also works for one of the agencies that received funds this year. I’m not revealing her name or agency because I fear she will be embarrassed.
The general synopsis of her conversation with me went like this:
‘I was in no way a runner but was foolish enough to post on social media that I was going to do it so I guess I was stuck. When I say I’m not a runner I’ve lived in this community for 20 years and I wasn’t even sure where the Boilermaker route went through!
Well I committed myself to the process, joined a running group in the Spring and I was on my way.
A few weeks prior to the Boilermaker my husband asked me ‘how far did you run today?’
I responded ‘I just did a short 5k. ‘
I caught myself, just a short 5k: just a few months earlier those words would never have passed my lips!
Well Boilermaker Sunday comes, I’m so clueless on when to get there, how to get there: social media comes to the rescue and a friend offers a ride to the start line.
Was the Boilermaker a great experience for me- absolutely!
More importantly it has realigned my focus regarding a healthy lifestyle.
I am now training for my first half-marathon-Tim, this has changed my life!’
Wow- helping people and changing lives….
Give me another bucket of whitewash!

Running Backwards

August 10th, 2015

No, I’m not talking about literally running backwards: I don’t want you falling over. What we’re talking about is running the Boilermaker Race Course in reverse!
On Friday (August 7th) Joe Wilczynski, a perennial (meaning he has run all 38 Boilermakers) came into my office saying a group of runners would be running from the F.X. Matt Brewery (the traditional finish) to ECR International (the traditional start) the following day.
Some people would run the 5k some the 15k. Volunteers would both man water stops and others provide safety via bikes (God bless volunteers).
Perhaps the coolest thing about this was the entire event was concocted and transmitted via social media in a day.
My how technology has changed our sport.
A number of years we talked about trying a similar run to celebrate the halfway point of the Boilermaker: since that day falls in the middle on January with the potential of battling snow ice and cold it was quickly dismissed. If we had done it this year the high was 15 degrees, the low minus 2!
The good news: the weather for our reverse runners was absolutely perfect. Since the race was literally beginning next to our building we were able to offer our bathrooms (no porta johns necessary).
The bad news: in my opinion it feels like running the course backwards is harder-here’s why:
The golf course hill and the Burrstone Bridge feels like they are more than offset by now encountering a long hill up Champlin Ave., an uphill on the Parkway followed by a severe incline through the golf course. I’m sure there’s some scientist who would claim that the elevations are same, just backwards. I don’t know, it just fells tougher.
Also, there were also far fewer bands and cheering spectators along the course then on Boilermaker Sunday: like let’s try zero!
I stopped by the finish line (or is it the start line) and saw the runners signally and in packs ending their 9.3 mile journey.
While the Post Race Party was a bit tamer than that second Sunday in July with water, sports drinks and homemade baked goods there were plenty of smiles.
Hey, who knows, this could become a regular event.
And the truly inspiring moment, seeing the girl who completed the 15k with a prosthetic leg.
I don’t know who you are, but I clapped like crazy for you!

On Becoming a Social (Media) Animal

August 4th, 2015

I have never handed over the steering wheel of my blog before now. That’s not because I think I’m a ‘know it all’: I guess I figure that I’m going to be criticized for the content I might as well have written it.

For those that are frequent visitors to boilermaker.com you have seen a tremendous emphasis on our end to use the power of social media. A total rebuild of our website as well as more frequent content on Facebook and Twitter.

On occasion we have announced news via social media a bit ahead of traditional news outlets.

Clearly much of our success on the digital front has been bringing in folks who live and breathe social media- that’s where our friends at Quadsimia came in. Well over 50% of our 15k participants are between the ages of 15 to 35 a natural target audience.

Clearly Boilermaker Week is our holy grail of social media activity and we had a number of meetings talking about the run up to the race.

So without further ado, here is Britney Whitney taking over the controls: enjoy!

– Thanks Tim! I had such a blast covering the Boilermaker on social media that I used that inspiration for a blog post!

Live Social Media Coverage: The Ins & Outs of the #Boilermaker15K

Boilermaker 2015 Logo

Do you remember life before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Back when you had to wait until the newspaper printed an article or friends who attended an event returned with their printed photos? Those days are gone. Real-time, live coverage is the name of the game and event coverage has to be done on the spot. You’d think it was easy, right? I mean, most of us are on social media quite often through the day - sharing our daily accomplishments or the latest meal we had.

Well, it’s not. Not even close.

I had been handling the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles for the Boilermaker Road Race since December 2014. I felt “at home” helping runners, curating and publishing content, and providing valuable information about the race. Then May came along and Tim Reed from the Boilermaker posted a great blog post titled Madcap May and suddenly I realized that the pressure was on. Actually, I had a few realizations because not only was the race approaching rapidly but this would also be the first year to have major social media coverage of this event.

It was time to get down to business, get my ducks in a row.

Decide which social media platforms to focus on! Boilermaker may have three social media profiles, but were they all relevant in helping with the live media coverage? Will the audience enjoy the show and understand what is trying to be accomplished? What about a posting frequency, is this significant in an event like this?

I felt that all three platforms were important. I didn’t want any audience member to feel left in the dark. — One of the main reasons that a person will follow an event online is because they want to SEE everything. They want to feel as if they are there. By posting pictures in real time (with really good descriptions) to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram it can really help an online viewer feel like they are at the event.

Boilermaker 2015 Finish Line Propsal

This tweet went out seconds after the proposal. It allowed runners and fans to see it and feel it.

Put together a Dedicated Team! This part was easy. I work with some amazing people here at Quadsimia and everyone stepped up to help. (Who wouldn’t? It’s the Boilermaker!)

When one person is in charge of handling a large social media event, things can slip through the cracks. This year, Boilermaker needed to be the go-to for all Boilermaker questions and coverage.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sort out your apps ahead of time and make sure all team members know what is being used. We dedicated a specific screen on our phones to house all the apps we would be using — this prevents accidental posting to personal accounts, because no matter how careful you think you are, it happens. It also helps to optimize time — you don’t want to miss that finish line proposal because you can’t find the correct app!

A few other tips and tricks: make sure you have enough memory and battery life. Bring extra charging cords or invest in a portable battery power bank.

Don’t forget that #Hashtag! One of the best ways to help the audience follow the event is to use a trackable hashtag. Of course, anyone could go to the Boilermaker profile and see all of their tweets, but by using the hashtag (#Boilermaker15K) it allows others to be involved with the conversation.

The hashtag can also be useful weeks after the event. You can use sites like #tagboard to generate a fun and visibly appealing board (see image below) of all hashtag usage.

Boilermaker 2015 Tagboard

It’s game time! Boilermaker weekend tends to be one of the hottest weekends of the summer. No matter what type of event you are covering make sure that you are prepared: I brought extra bottles of water and a few granola bars. I didn’t want the heat and humidity to impact my performance. I might not have been out there running but I still needed to be prepped and ready.

Get there early … you want to make sure you have enough time to get the best view. Don’t be afraid to politely ask people to pose for photos or move out of the way for that perfect shot. It might feel awkward at first but eventually it will become second nature. It is better to have too many photos and videos than you think you’ll need.

Include as much event signage and swag as possible, and don’t forget the sponsors! This year, we offered a “Selfie Station”. This helped get the Boilermaker logo and hashtag all over social media. Kids and adults alike lined up to partake in all the fun.

Boilermaker 2015 Selfie Station

Most importantly, relax & have fun!


Have you ever covered a live event? What tips and tricks would you recommend?

Charity Begins (and ends) at Home

July 28th, 2015

This week (the week of July 27th) marks the last week of the 2015 Boilermaker Charity Bib Campaign: we officially shutdown on August 1st. If we were running the Boilermaker we have just turned on Court Street and are sprinting towards the Finish Line.
Last year we raised $141,000 for 11 charities.
At the moment, Tuesday morning, July 28th we are sitting at just shy of $138,000. We set an internal goal of $150,000. While not a math major looks like we need to $12,000 to hit the number.
BTW all of the charity monies stay within our community. Boilermaker has been supported by the community so community gets supported by the Boilermaker.
So how can you help, pretty simple: give.
You can give a lot or a little.
You can give and have your name listed or give anonymously.
Go to boilermaker.com, click on the Run for a Reason panel then click the highlighted CrowdRise site.
Check out the various charities and find one that resonates with you. This year we have 21 charities so I think you can find at least one that interests you.
Or you can scroll through this year’s Charity Bib Runners, I wouldn’t be surprised if you know one of these fine folks: there are over 240 of them!
One of the nice perks we offer those folks that raise a minimum of $1,000 is an invitation to the Charity Bib finale that is simply inspirational. Currently we have 41 folks who are a part of this elite club. Our overall money raiser is David Ayoub who has raised $8,235 for Make A Wish (he wants to raise $10,000- amazing). There are 5 or 6 runners who are very close to joining the $1,000 club.
Many of our Charity Bib Runners could have signed up via traditional registration way, but intentionally made a commitment to take the tougher road. Some have been multi-year Charity Bib Runners.
If we call the Boilermaker ‘Christmas in July’ what a wonderful way to give an early holiday gift!
“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments.
It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better.
It’s about what you’ve given back”
Denzel Washington

Boilermaker Plus 7

July 20th, 2015

Slowly but surely I am getting back in synch with the real world post-Boilermaker.
My sleep pattern, which becomes a total mess around 3 to 4 weeks prior to the race, is (finally) getting back to a normal state. It is both nice to see the Boilermaker come and somewhat nice to see it leave.
What a different a week makes! As I write this at 6:00 AM one week from Boilermaker Sunday the temperature is 65 with 94% humidity. Yesterday was simply oppressive: run the weather in those conditions and I fear the medical tent would have a ‘no vacancy’ sign hung up!
The relocation of our offices near the Finish Line offered an air conditioned sanctuary if needed to deal with the ‘walking wounded’: fortunately that need did not come to pass.
Boilermaker Weekend was simply the best three day streak of weather we have seen this year. The forecast leading up to the race showing great weather was spot on!
General thoughts on this year’s Boilermaker…
The Planet Fitness Health & Wellness Expo:
This year’s Expo featured the most vendors in the Expo’s history: a nice mix of runners gear, not for profits and sponsors. Charity Bib Partners got a chance to perhaps for the first time meet folks who were running for them. I really loved what our merchandise folks did to construct the Boilermaker Store in the MVCC fieldhouse.
One of the largest number of kid’s (1,735) for the Utica Nation Kid’s Run. Few bumps and bruises and the evolving to wristbands used to match child to proper parent/ guardian was a Godsend to law enforcement.
The move of collaborating the ‘Ask the Experts’ runners forum with the traditional pasta dinner on Saturday at the Expo clearly increased attendance.
Bank of America Youth Olympics:
This is an event that we support in conjunction with the City of Utica and I love it as it showcases the rich diversity of our community.
The Race:
For the first time in my affiliation with the race on the staff side (2008 was my first race as Boilermaker person) I felt they we were either on-task by day or in some occasions ahead of the game. That is a wonderful feeling!
Well we kept the flyover secret- thank you to those ‘in the know’ who kept their mouths shut!
If the Unified Command Center, which was born from the tragedy of the Boston Marathon Bombings, was good last year- this year it was great! In one room you had a collection of federal, state and local public safety all working together for a common purpose the health and security of our runners spectators and volunteers.
So certainly a fantastic Boilermaker. Saying that, during Boilermaker Week I always carried with me ‘the little book of better’ where I jotted down things we could do better.
I tend not to bother the volunteer Operational Directors until September- they have seen enough of my face and my emails!
Come September we are in full swing for Boilermaker 2016 planning- holy smokes we’re only 356 days away!

Of Moss and Mushrooms

July 3rd, 2015

Of Moss and Mushrooms
‘I cannot command winds and weather.’
Horatio Nelson

‘Weather forecast for tonight: dark.’
George Carlin

This June was a classic Fall month: seven inches of rain/ lots of cloudy days and hearing the boiler firing up in the morning. Certainly feels more akin to eve of the Falling Leaves Race, which takes place at the middle of October, than the Boilermaker. It’s so depressing as I always think of the 4th of July weekend as the mid-point of the Summer. I wonder if farmers might have thought about planting rice instead of corn?
Well I guess air conditioning bills will be low!
Last year’s Boilermaker weather worries certainly have made me a serious monitor of the long term forecast, which is probably a bad thing because I think when we get 3 days out predictions get very, very sketchy. Saying that, my morning routine 10 days out from the race is to immediately go to the various sites that offer long term prognostications. They can vary greatly and I tend to like the ones best that predict good weather!
We have, as best as possible, ‘weather-proofed’ the Boilermaker, moving the Expo to an indoor venue certainly gave us a level of protection. Where we are at the mercy of the elements are the Volunteer Party on Friday, Kid’s Run/ 3 Mile Walk on Saturday and the Boilermaker 15&5k races on Sunday. Still trying to get that 9.3 mile roof in place.
I have no problem with rain on race day (except for the volunteers and spectators): I do have a few issues with lightning.
Hey, I was an English major and a glass is half full kind of guy (especially if the glass is filled with something I like). Also I’m a believer in averages, taking complex stuff and trying to simplify it for my mind.
Here is my weather theory- if we had a rainy June then we have used up a lot of the crappy days meaning we should have more good days for the remainder of the Summer.
I can just see a meteorologist reading this slapping their knee laughing hysterically at my meteorological philosophy.
A bit over a week to go till the big race. Looking at the long term forecast today (July 3rd) it looks like we are looking at chances of rain throughout Boilermaker Weekend.
Where the heck is that better weather website!

Cleaning the Course

June 29th, 2015

One of the hallmarks of the Boilermaker, thanks to countless folks, is by the afternoon of Boilermaker Sunday you can’t tell a race, with thousands of participants, had taken place that morning.
We really strive to leave the area a little cleaner than when we came.
I want to talk about picking up but I’m not talking about discarded water cups.
As you may recall, last year’s Boilermaker was a rather interesting one. A large storm front with severe thunder and lightning/ hail was sweeping across the U.S. with initial predictions showing it hitting Utica as early as noon Boilermaker Sunday. This was the closest the race in its 37 year history has come to being cancelled. While later weather models showed a better chance of the storms hitting a bit later we wanted to take no chances.
Water stations, course entertainment, aid stations were informed to teardown as soon as the last runner passed. Tables needed to be broken down, trash picked up, tents disassembled and bands electric equipment put away.
At 8:00 am the 15k runners took off and I thought to myself ‘there’s no stopping it now!’
In the Unified Command Center we were informed at 9:00 am (1 hour into the race) by a Utica Police mobile unit that the last participants (can’t call them runners) were at Mohawk Valley Community College- that’s mile 2!
We quickly dispatched a bus to begin to pick up the ‘back of the packers ‘ who had no chance of getting to the Finish Line prior to the race shutting down. Most were dealing with some sort of medical conditions.
Fortunately the storm system we planned on didn’t hit the region until later in the afternoon. What it did do was to force us to deal with the on-going problem of people walking the course.
We did research on what other long-distance races do. In general common practices were if you can’t maintain a 14/15 minute pace there would be no guarantees of water/ aid stations, participants would be instructed to move to the sidewalk if they decided to continue and ‘sweep buses’ would transport folks to the Finish Line Area.
Certainly a central focus of the Boilermaker is running (pun intended) a safe race. That safety mantra extends beyond the participants: it encompasses the volunteers and the spectators along the course.
Think about it, you have volunteers and public safety folks who have been hard at work hours before the race begins. We end up with hundreds of people waiting on a handful.
Then there are the homeowners along the course who find themselves unable to leave their houses. It’s simply unfair to them (and the community in general) to not have access to the streets in a reasonable time.
Currently we have a 2 ½ hour time limit after the last person crosses the Start line: that’s usually around 13 minutes so we’re talking about 2 hours and 45 minutes. BTW, there is nothing more infuriating for the Start Line folks and timing company than seeing people walking at the start.
After discussions with members of public safety, medical and the transport committee we settled on a plan of action.
Here it is:
We will position sweep buses at the halfway point of the race (bus 1) and at the 10k point (bus 2). After 9:30 am bus 1 comes into play, 9:55 am for bus 2. We strongly encourage people to use the bus if they hit these two points at or after these times because you are, short of a miracle, not going to hit the Finish Line prior to shutdown of the clocks.
We are now less than two weeks away from the Boilermaker: it should be pretty clear to you at this point that you are capable of running 9.3 miles of a challenging course in the middle of July. Expect heat and humidity.
So what can you do if you feel you aren’t ready for this year’s 15k; a few things.
Transfer down to the 5k. If you have a least a little giddy-up, hopefully you can run 3.1 miles. The 5k has a 45 minute time limit. At this point the only way to dropdown is to drop-in to the customer service table at the Expo and request a transfer to the 5k.Just for those wondering, we do not allow transfers from the 5k up to the 15k.
If you feel you can’t even do the 5k within the time limit perhaps do the 3 Mile Walk that takes place Saturday July 11th at Masonic Care Community. No time limit and a really nice course: truly a walk in the park.
Defer till next year. While you will have to pay to get into the 2016 Boilermaker you will have a place in the race (you still need to sign up next year) and, hopefully, be in condition to run it.
It’s interesting; at the last Boilermaker Full Committee Meeting (these are the 150 folks who mange every aspect of the race) the announcement of this policy was met with enthusiastic applause.
Hey, I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Boilermaker Road Race.

Father’s Day

June 20th, 2015

Hey Dad- Happy Father’s Day!
I can’t believe it’s been nearly 24 years since you passed on.
Two of the kids you held as babies are in the world of work and the one you never saw celebrates his 21st birthday at the end of the month.
Dad- thank you for all the opportunities you gave me in life. The chance to work at Utica Radiator, now called ECR International (named after your Dad).
What a risk you took when in 1956 you moved us to Utica to try and save a floundering company that had lost a million dollars the previous year!
But then you always had nerves of steel. You were the guy who went to the dentist and had cavities filled with no Novocain.
I can count on one hand the times I saw you cry, two of them I remember vividly: when I left the house for the Army (tears of sadness) and when I graduated from Hamilton College, your alma mater (tears of joy).
Thank you for instilling in your children the obligation of service to the community: I know all four of us have at least tried to make the places we call home better.
And thank you for listening to Earle in 1978 about funding a road race called the Boilermaker to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. I know that $750 was a lot of money to shell out in July for a company that sells heating equipment: traditionally at that time of year the income statement was dominated by red numbers.
I often wonder what was going through your head when EC asked for the money. Again, like the move to Utica, you took a chance.
Well, you might be surprised how the Boilermaker has grown over the past 37 years!
Although you were never a runner (unless chasing one of your children after one of our transgressions) I think you would be very pleased with what this race has done to bring this community together for a common purpose.
In three short weeks runners from nearly every state of the nation and over a dozen foreign countries will be running the streets of Utica. Full hotels, full restaurants and full stores: certainly a nice economic boost for the area.
Without that initial check the dream of the Boilermaker would have remained just that- a wonderful dream.
And the community: while not the boomtown that you saw in the 60’s there is a wonderful positive vibe that’s been missing for a long, long time. I think the Boilermaker has been a small part of that.
Dad, I really miss you so much (and of course Mom): to you with all my love this Father’s Day!
Tim

Words

June 16th, 2015

Being an English Major in college I have an affinity for words and their usage. They are immensely powerful-and can certainly stir emotion.
Think about two phases from the space program: ‘that’s one small step for a man’ (Neil Armstrong) to ‘throttle up’ (last recorded words from the shuttle Challenger.
But enough of outer space: let’s bring it back to earth and talk of Boilermaker verbiage.
I was never a big fan of the word ‘preferred runner’ that we used as a definition for the folks who ran last year and had first bids on registering for this year’s Boilermaker. By its implication it made it seem like they were better than others.
We took a few slings and arrows on social media over it.
Perhaps a better phrase would have been early bird runners or advanced registrants?
So I get to the words affiliated and unaffiliated: I want to use these words dealing with our charity bib program.
From the dictionary definition: affiliated- ‘being in close formal or informal association’.
Unaffiliated-‘not officially connected or associated with an organization.’
How totally uninspiring!
So an affiliated Boilermaker charity bib runner (nearly 250!) is someone who officially signed up to run for a specific charity. They raise at least a certain amount of money for one of our charity partners (21 of them); they get a bib to run the Boilermaker.
An unaffiliated runner is someone who signed up under traditional registration and decides to help out one of our charity bib partners. There is no enforced minimum: whatever they raise is simply a welcome gift.
Again, doesn’t really get your blood pumping…
So let’s change
‘I’m a affiliated or unaffiliated charity bib runner’ to ‘I’m running to make a difference in someone’s life’.
Perhaps it’s in memory of a family member felled by disease perhaps they are running for someone they don’t even know.
Imagine if just a small portion of our 18,500 folks decided to raise 50 or 100 bucks- the collective force would be incredible!
Check out the ‘Run for a Reason’ panel and take the first step down the avenue of altruism!
Remember….
“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
Bob Hope