Tick tock

June 24th, 2016

“Time waits for no one, no favours has he
Time waits for no one, and he won’t wait for me
Hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste”
The Rolling Stones “Time Waits For No One”

Well the 2016 Boilermaker is over.
What!?
Well technically it’s not over, we still have a few things to do like the Youth Olympics, Expo, Kid’s Run, the 3 mile walk, and the 5k and 15k races.
However, what is, in essence, done are the massive logistical efforts to make these events happen.
Racing bibs are printing, finisher’s pins/ glasses are in storage and banners have been delivered. Food, water and beverages are on their way. Tents, portajohns and refrigerated trucks have been rented. The Boilermaker Program Book has been printed, the race course bands/ dj’s have been booked and the volunteer tee shirts and credentials have been handed out.
Then there are the meetings, countless meetings.
We’ve got staff meetings, operational director’s meetings, medical meetings, security meetings, traffic meetings, sponsor meetings, charity bib meetings, start line meetings, finish line meetings, communications meetings, transportation meetings, media meetings and meetings about why we’re having so many darn many meetings (I made that up).
It is staggering as I sit and contemplate the amount of hours spent to support a few days in July!
But I guess that’s what makes the Boilermaker special: we certainly try to ‘sweat the details’.
At the final Boilermaker Committee Meeting, held this week, my ‘words of wisdom’ were “Hey, the racers are coming irrespective if you are prepared or not. The race is now a couple of weeks away: if you haven’t taken care of what you need to, it’s probably too late.”
Not being fatalist, just factual.
You don’t invite nearly 20,000 folks to your ‘house’ and sort of wing it!
Am I nervous- you bet: I thankfully forget this feeling most of the year.
Am I confident- you bet: we have a simply tremendous volunteer base- for most this is not their first Boilermaker rodeo!
So I guess the big question to all our participants isn’t are we ready, but with a bit more than two weeks to go, are you?

Of Scholarships and Scrambled Eggs

June 3rd, 2016

There are times where I can get a bit down dealing with the Boilermaker, perhaps it’s folks that don’t get along, perhaps things that didn’t go as planned, perhaps something I messed up (most likely)!
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
One thing that never, ever gets me down is the annual Boilermaker Scholarship Breakfast that took place at our offices this morning. It sort of acts as the unofficial kick off of events that take place leading up to ‘the great race’.
This event, which has taken place since 2005,reminds me there are really wonderful young people in this community and the future of distance running will be in very, very good hands.
The award winners are nominated by the runners coaches (no parenteral nominations thanks!). It’s very interesting to see the school districts the kid’s come from. It becomes pretty clear the coaches that are willing to ‘go the extra mile’ for their kids and the ones who must ‘check out’ at the end of practice.
Awards are in two categories: Outstanding Achievement in Distance Running and Outstanding Commitment to Distance Running. Outstanding Achievement is easiest one to understand, these are the folks that pretty consistently were the ones breaking that first place finishers tape. The Outstanding Commitment are those runners who might not have always been the top dog, but gave every bit of themselves to be the best they could be.
I always get a chance to speak to the kids to pass along some ‘pearls of wisdom’- my focus this year was around the word thanks.
Thanks to the young men and women who chose running as their sport of choice. Running is both an elegant and brutal sport.
Elegant in its simplicity, a course, a timing watch and you. Run faster that all the others you win: you don’t, well, then you don’t.
No excuses about broken plays, tipped pucks and bobbled passes- it’s just you.
Now the brutality.
To be a great runner is to be one who puts in the miles in spite of the weather.
At pre-dawn to swing out of bed and lace up those running shoes while you mind is screaming at you “No, no: back in bed, more sleep!”
Running as your face is being pelted by icy snow crystals as you feel a frigid claw of oxygen rasping down your throat with each inhale. All the while watching for slick patches of ice and potholes waiting to twist your ankles or remind you of the awesome powers of gravity.
To “keep on, keeping on” when your body is saying “that’s quite enough of this- let’s stop: let’s stop now!”
And the next day you come back for more…
Thank you to the parents who have been there through thick and thin.
While running certainly is ‘the solitary sport’ parents are there in sprit invisibly urging their child.
To be there in times of triumph and defeat and to remind their son or daughter there are positive lessons to be learned from both experiences.
And thank you to the coaches.
I fear you will never get rich on the small stipend, but your time and guidance is priceless to those you have on your team.
Thank you for inspiring them
Thank you for (hopefully) reminding them that even though it may be a race they are, in the end, racing against themselves.
So while I know we’re called ‘the human race’ for the sake of this blog I feel like calling it ‘the humanity race’ because I feel like I saw a bit of the purity of humanity on display today.
Run hard and strong as you embark on this next phase of your life!

It’s going to get a bit bumpy- but that’s OK!

May 21st, 2016

So the race is less than two months away: the crazy train is beginning to leave the station.
Like the flock of crows (also known as a murder of crows) that fly into the city in the winter, so too are the responses to emails I sent weeks/ months ago.
Funny formula-my ‘popularity’ proportionally increases as the days till the race decrease.
Then there are: Charity Bib challenges, sponsor logo changes, building improvements and repairs, operational race planning, expo preparation, on and on.
And finally there are those “interesting” runner’s questions.
I know they (whoever the heck ‘they’ are) say there is no such thing as a dumb question, but I sometimes wonder…
And, as they say in your favorite infomercial, “but there’s more!”
In two weeks, June 7th, the West Utica Public Market opens behind our building (Tuesdays from 3:30-6:30 PM). A nice mix of vendors offering nutritious food to an area clearly in need. Very excited about what I call ‘the journey’, a series of information sessions focused on health and financial wellness that will take place during market hours.
Met with the neighborhood young people who will be running the smoothie bike business (a stationary bike equipped with a blender) at the Public Market. A simply terrific opportunity for them to learn about the world of work before they have to take off their ‘training wheels’ (pun totally intended) and enter ‘the real world’.
The community/ education garden located on our property is proceeding nicely, think we will be planting after Memorial Day. A wonderful collaboration with the NY State Department of Health and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
And all of these things have begun to build a real sense of community and a bit of pride in our neck of the woods. I’ve seen it slowly growing at meetings held throughout West Utica.
So I guess there is something special about putting your head in the old vice and tightening it with your own hands!
While much of this is stuff we don’t necessarily need to do, it is in fact stuff we need to do!
Firmly strapping on the seat belt!

So What Are You Waiting For?

April 26th, 2016

As I sit in front of my computer monitor this dreary Tuesday April 26th I see we have nearly 550 runners on the Boilermaker waitlist for either the 15k or 5k races. While I’m sure some of those waiting will eventually get in, there will be hundreds who will sadly not get a bib.
Here’s what is sadder, I press the charity bib button on boilermaker.com (run for a reason) and see we still have 26 charity bibs waiting for an owner!
This is our fourth year of offering charity bibs to local not for profits- in those three previous years we have raised over $400,000.
The needs within our communities that our charity bib partners tackle are certainly diverse: from the homeless vet to the hungry family from the elderly to education- we’ve supported them all!
While $500 is a lot of money (the minimum for most of the charity bib partners) it’s not insurmountable.
You have until July 1st to get the money raised, that’s two months! And you will have the agency you are running for helping you while you are helping them.
I’ve seen some of the most creative ways to raise the money (and all of them very legal, thank you).
One thing is for sure- you’ll find out who your friends are!
So I’m hoping that we have a ‘match.com moment’, where a charity touches the heart of a wanna-be a Boilermaker runner (better yet, 26 matches)!
No doubt, the new registration system, which has made things easier for folks to sign up, has hurt charity bib demand.
I wish I could make the problems our not for profit community deals with to go away as easily.
So think about being ‘the knight in shining armor’ for someone in need.
While you might not run your best Boilermaker, I’m convinced you will run your most memorable one!

Would you like a 15k with those fries?

April 19th, 2016

Great Britain has recently proposed changing the nutritional labels on food.
In addition to listing calories/ ingredients they will post how many minutes of exercise you need to do to burn off said product.
I think it’s brilliant.
Let’s be honest, when you’re digging deeply into that bag of potato chips do you really look at the label on the back displaying calories? You inherently know (hopefully) that they aren’t the best food group to be consuming but what the heck- they taste sooo good!
Over the past couple of years the snack aisle is now populated with those 100 calorie packs of food with the expectation, I suppose, that it will as least physically show you that you have consumed 100 calories (or more as you devour several packages).
But was does 100 calories really mean?
There is a very cool website that takes your weight (don’t lie) and makes a caloric conversion to various activities: it’s called healthassist.net. I’m sure there are hundreds more sites like this one.
At my weight if I decide to enjoy that Lorna Doone 100 cal pack, and burn it off, I need to walk 22 minutes, run 51/2 minutes at a 8 minute a mile pace or do 26 minutes 21 seconds of slow ballroom dancing (yes it’s that precise and, no I don’t ballroom dance either fast or slow!) So picture little exercise symbols on the package (and on the front of the package, thank you!).
Perhaps this is one of those little nudges we need to get ourselves off our collective duffs.
I have one of those popular exercise bands that shames me into getting those 10,000 steps in everyday, if I’m at 8,000 steps guess what- I’m getting those 2,000 steps in!
But back to food.
So imagine when you’re viewing the drive-thru menu at your favorite fast food restaurant and listed next to that value meal is the activity equivalent?
Frequently many of these meals can top 1000 calories- what does 1000 calories mean?
FYI: recommended daily calorie intakes in the US are 2,700 for men and2, 200 for women. Let’s take that same 8 minute mile pace I ran to get rid of those Lorna Doone cookies: well guess what-I have to run the Boilermaker to burn off that lunch!
I am certainly not lashing out at the fast food/ snack food industry.
These are great ‘sometimes foods’, when they become ‘all the time foods’ you are probably going down the wrong path.
I am as interested in the activity side of the equation, if these guidelines get folks moving then they are incredibly beneficial.
If we go into our nutrition decisions with eyes, rather than mouths, wide open perhaps we as a society can become a bit healthier.
However, the study did not address sodium, which you can take with a few grains of salt-yes, that’s supposed to be a joke!

A Wonderful Winter Walk- in April!

April 7th, 2016

It seems like every day has something that is honored; for example this week on April 4th is marked as: National Ferret Day, National Peanut Butter& Jelly Day and National Love Our Children Day (does that mean we don’t have to the other 364 days?).
And April 6th was National Walking Day!
While National Walking Day is an initiative of the American Heart Association the Boilermaker is a major sponsor as, it clearly aligns with the Boilermaker’s core mission of a healthy lifestyle.
Well Mother Nature clearly played a late April’s Fool joke on us with the return on winter weather. I use the term return loosely as for the most part this was ‘the winter that wasn’t’.
We stepped off in the shadow of the Boilermaker finish line: where the run ends, the walk begins!
We were the few, the proud, the cold!
The good news was the snow that impolitely visited the area on Sunday had at least melted on the sidewalks and the bitter wind temporarily subsided.
One of the nice benefits of the arterial project has been a series of walking paths that have been developed and we utilized the new pedestrian bridge that has literally saved lives of folks who have tried (unsuccessfully) walking across the arterial.
A series of Boilermaker flags marked the way for our intrepid walkers.
In spite of the less ideal weather I love the idea of anything we can do to promote walking: it only requires comfortable shoes and time.
I would love to make Utica the largest walk during National walking Day, hmmm……..
Well now that the walk is done I have to pet my Ferret, hug my kids and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Good Running or Running for Good: or Both!

March 1st, 2016

I suppose if I was to leave the Boilermaker tomorrow and someone was to ask me “Tim, what are you proudest of in your nine year affiliation with the race?”
I think (I hope) there are many things from a logistic and operations perspective that I’ve improved.
I’ve tried to create a stable sponsor base, acted as an advocate for the runners and ceaselessly extolled the joys of running a hilly course, in Utica, in the middle of July!
But I guess I would say the Charity Bib Program is, perhaps, near the top of the list of my proud moments.
The charity bib program is a simply wonderful melding of the excitement of the race with the mission of the Boilermaker-championing health and wellness in our region.
In three years we have raised nearly $400,000.
Sort of a cool ‘twofur’!
We have seen folks of all ages and abilities lacing up running for two great causes: a needy local not for profit and for their own health.
Their stories have run the gamit from those that work for the agency, those who have received services to those who simply want to ‘do the right thing’.
This year we sigificantly cut back on the amount of Charity Bib agencies from 21 to 10. Certainly not because of less need (I wish) but simply the ability to logistically handle the process.
Want to be a part of a very select group?
Check out the Charity Bib site located on the boilermaker.com landing page. Look over the various projects that folks will accomplish with your funds. No doubt, they are a pretty diverse group.
Find a charity that inspires you and reach out to them (the agencies have the signup codes).
Should you want to signup opening day of registration for Charity Bib is Monday, March 7th at 9:00 AM (EST).
I fully expect that these bibs will go pretty quickly.
Boilermaker Charity Bibs will be good for the 15k/ 5k races and 3 mile Walk.
From then, until when the charity money is due (July 1st), you have 17 weeks to raise the minimum (for most agencies it’s $500).
For those that join the $1,000 club we will have a pretty cool Charity Bib Finale a few weeks after the Boilermaker.
So think about this long and hard about if you are ‘committed to the commitment’.
Should the answer in your heart be yes, know that you are running for all the right reasons.
Thank you!

“If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
Bob Hope

The Flowing Waters of Human Kindness

February 7th, 2016

Every time I think this community can’t top itself for its capacity for giving they slap me in the back of the head (not literally) and say “Hey Tim: what do you think about that”!
But let me backup.
It began with a phone call on Thursday, January 28th, from radio show host Bill Keeler: “Hi Tim, I have an idea…”
Uh oh….
Bill wanted to do a water drive for Flint: it took me about three seconds to say yes and to commit get ‘Boilermaker Nation’ energized.
A team of folks was quickly assembled to get the water flowing.
A day later we were collecting water at the Comets game garnering over a hundred cases (2,400 bottles)-not bad.
On to Monday, Chanatry’s supermarket offers Nirvana water at $1.99 a case as well as allowing a Utica Mack truck to be parked in their lot. A nice community connection: local store, local water stored in a local truck.
Well the floodgates opened!
There was a seemingly endless flow of shopping carts (and an occasional cart traffic jam) loaded with cases of water flowing from the stores exit door to the truck.
It became pretty quickly clear we were going to need a bigger truck!
In came the 40 foot trailer.
By the end we did fill a bigger truck- in fact we filled three of them!
Clearly from a logistical perspective it would have been much easier to have people pay the cashier, we keep track of the amount of cases, send the final order up to Nirvana and at the end of the campaign send the trucks westward to Flint.
A lot less handling and a lot less hassles!
And I’m convinced it would not have been as successful: efficiency does not always equate to success when emotion is involved.
I think the key was what I call the power of human touch, the folks donating the water wanted to personally hand that case of the water to the folks loading the truck, who (I believe) physically represented, the people of Flint.
At the wrap-up Friday morning I said it sort of felt like the American Heart Run and Walk Radiothon as organizations stopped by and pledged literally hundreds of cases of water.
We even ended up with a long-haul trucker who volunteered to drive the water to Michigan!
So in the end roughly 100,000 bottles of water will find their way to the hands of those in need in Flint.
Sadly, that’s one bottle of water for each citizen of Flint.
The Mayor’s office in Flint said they have never seen a municipality in the U.S. do what our community did- I guess no surprises.
Sometimes we as a community are very hard on ourselves: sometimes rightfully so, most of the time, in my opinion, not.
To all that participated, stand tall, this is the sort of stuff that defines a caring community!

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
Princess Diana

Because That’s Just What We Do

January 29th, 2016

Filthy water cannot be washed.
- West African Proverb

If there is one thing this community can do is when it gets behind something, mountains move.
Look at the Heart Run and Walk, look at the Comets, and yes, look at the Boilermaker.
This community is a delightful paradox that is by far not the most affluent in means, but is truly rich in giving.
I saw it first hand when the Boilermaker and other organizations filled two trucks to send needed cleaning supplies and water to the hard hit downstate area after Superstorm Sandy.
Because that’s just what we do.
Well it looks like we’re back in the water transportation business.
The horrific water problems in Flint Michigan are well documented: a community of roughly 100,000 souls (mostly poor) find themselves with an unusable water system.
No water for bathing, no water for cooking, and clearly, no water for drinking.
Imagine that a city in our country has been reduced to living like they exist in a third world nation!
So today, January 29th,Bill Keeler on his radio show floats an idea for a truckload of water to go to Flint by way of Utica Michigan, (one of over a dozen cities named Utica in the U.S. and all named after us) where a radio affiliate is located.
And the flame was lit.
While Bill Keeler and Townsquare Media started the effort, the other media outlets quickly banded together for a common purpose (thank you media) to help others.
So how do you help?
A few ways..
On Saturday January 30th there will be a Mack truck (thank you Utica Mack) parked near the Utica Aud from 5:30 PM though the start of the first period of the Utica Comets game (thank you Comets).
Beginning Monday, February 1st that same truck will be positioned at Chanatry’s Market: Utica’s local market. Chanatry’s has cut the price for a case of water to $1.99 (thank you to Chanatry’s).
Finally, people can drop off water at Charlies Pizza at Whitesboro, Washington Mills and North Utica (thank you Charlie’s).
So let’s fill a truck and support some folks we don’t even know (and a huge thank you to each of you who help).
Because that’s just what we do.

Gettin’ The Lead Out

January 18th, 2016

I think that Flint Michigan and Utica were –twins who were separated at birth.
Both are communities that have seen the exodus of a major employer (Flint GM, Utica GE) signaling a major economic slowdown.
In the 60’s Flint had a population of 200,000, Utica 120,000: today Flint 99,000, Utica 64,000.
And how about the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation is located in Flint. Mott was the largest shareholder of General Motors stock and Flint Mayor 1912-13, 1918: he moved to Flint from….Utica!
The final similarity is one that recently has hit the national news, at least for Flint, its lead.
The city decided, for cost savings, to convert the water system to draw from the Flint River. Apparently the water from the Flint River is more acidic causing lead to leech from the pipe system into the drinking water.
Flint’s experience with lead was like Hurricane Katrina: massive and relatively quick.
Utica’s problems with lead have been more subtle and insidious perhaps making it that much more deadly.
Flint folks have ended up drinking lead, some of ours, unfortunately, have been breathing it.
Lead’s invasion into our community has come by way of lead-based paints that were common for decades. While lead-based paints were banned in 1978 much of our housing stock certainly predates that.
I’m assuming that the piping in Flint is similarly old as we are both old communities.
Contrary to popular belief the concerning paint, the most dangerous issues are not children ingesting paint chips (that’s very bad too) but the paint becoming airborne and inhaled. Windows and doors rubbing releasing the paint are primary culprits.
Lead poisoned children cause a huge cost burden on a community costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per individual of the course of their life. Lead is particularly dangerous to kids under the age of 6 as it can severely affect brain development.
For whatever reason Oneida County has the largest lead exposure via paint than any other county in New York (I have no idea the measurement tools or criteria).
I do know lead has been (and continues to be) a major focus of the Oneida County Department of Health.
The Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer County last week stepped forward with a commitment of 1.1 million dollars to begin to help with the eradication of the various sources of lead. This will likely be just a small down payment for the final total cost as lead abatement is neither easy nor inexpensive.
In the right of full disclosure: I serve on the Community Investment Committee of The Community Foundation.
We, like Flint, will get through our lead crisis this is stuff that’s been around literally for decades: we can’t click our heels three times and simply wish it away.
What I applaud is a regional public/ private partnership to tackle a problem that no one entity can handle alone.
I know lead abatement is certainly not ‘sexy’, but as our region makes the transition to a ‘nano-community’ it’s pretty darn important.
Lead is good for many things, like batteries and x-ray protection: in our folks, not so much!