Whatta Week!

October 29th, 2015

October tends to be a bit of a busy week with planning and running of the Boolermaker Kid’s Run occurring the Saturday prior to Halloween (October 24th).
Add on the OktoberFarmFest that we helped arrange and took place behind our building on Thursday, October 22nd, and I was clearly dizzier than normal!
The good news- the farmers market finally happened! The crowd was a mix of neighborhood and non-neighborhood folks. Good media support and the Mayor showed up and took a turn on the healthy smoothie bike (a stationary bike that propelled via pedal power a blender mounted on the back.
The bad news- certainly cold and breezy, and the frost that occurred the previous weekend resulted in damaged ground crops and a few less farmers than originally planned.
We clearly want this to be more than a ‘one and done’ event but for several reasons (including Saranac Thursday) we will most likely settle on a different day of the week.
Well if the weather was cold on for the OktoberFarmFest it was positively frigid for the Boolermaker!
A layer of frost on my car windshield greeted me as I started my car at 6:00AM to head to the Masonic Care Community. While the temperatures managed to climb into the 40’s by run time, a 11-13 mile per hour wind kicked up making it feel like it was 25 degrees. It was a real joy riding in the open 4-wheeler loading and unloading supplies-NOT!
Hey no worries about refrigerating the Chobani yogurt and McDonalds chocolate milk!
This was our 3rd running and, unfortunately, was our lowest field.
Probably a number of reasons including school sports activities as well as other Halloween-themed events taking place the same day (and that previously mentioned cold certainly didn’t help).
Or perhaps going with an on-line only registration dissuaded folks…
Saying that, the hundreds of little ghosts and goblins that came certainly had a frighteningly good time!
Lots of activities, healthy snacks and perhaps the biggest rabbit I have ever seen courtesy of the Utica Zoo.
The ‘scary selfie station’ was a big hit: check them out on the website.
By the early afternoon the kids had left, the Expo and reunion area broken down and gear packed up to return to the Boilermaker offices.
It was time for me to head home, change out of my ‘Where’s Waldo’ costume (hey, you need a sense of humor to do my job) and try to scare up a nap…

Running Down the Road to Better

October 15th, 2015

One question that frequently swirls in my brain when I think of the Boilermaker is: ‘can we be better?’
Of course the answer is always yes as we, as humans, are imperfect creatures frequently making wrong-headed, uninformed or just plain dumb decisions.
The core mission of the Boilermaker is to change people’s lives for the better with an element of fun.
Health and wellness is our gig.
The Boilermaker is (hopefully) the culmination of weeks and months of training by folks to tackle Boilermaker Sunday or perhaps to simply be able to manage to walk Boilermaker Saturday.
As we endeavor trying to make a community a healthier one we’re going to start looking a bit more holistically at the needs of folks who call our place home.
Certainly there’s a lot of work to be done: Oneida County comes in #56 out of New York State’s 62 counties health-wise. My, my: lots of opportunities!
So it’s thinking about things like….
Disconnected trail systems, lack of or poorly maintained pedestrian/ running/ biking areas. This is an issue in both our urban and rural regions. The Erie Canal and a formally developed canal path in our region has so much potential that is as of yet unrealized. Our park system is a historical treasure but certainly could use some help.
The availability of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables to those who are transportation-challenged.
The creation of the West Utica Farmers Market, formally launched next year, will be a natural for us including an education component every week.
And I can’t get the idea of a community garden out of my head.
How about making running more accessible to those who, for whatever reason, can’t participate in traditional races. Rather than expecting the neighborhood to come to the run perhaps we bring the run to the neighborhood?
The kids are in the streets: perhaps we get them running for the right reasons!
So in reading my ramblings you might be lead to believe I have forgotten about the Boilermaker- Heavens no!
The Boilermaker is the engine that inspires folks and gives us the opportunity to engage in these endeavors.
Forget about the race and all these other things could never happen.
Saying that for the first time we will be looking actively at like-minded partners that can help bring resources to bear- we can’t, nor should we, do it alone.
These are big issues that no one organization can solve, but perhaps a number of us can!
No doubt this journey will be a long road marked with steep inclines and occasional adverse weather.
But it’s where we need to go.

Looking Back

September 21st, 2015

The end of September also marks the end of this year’s Boilermaker.
The last of the bills have been paid, all our awards ceremonies have taken place and the various directors have turned in their ‘after action’ reports.
So prior to building the budget for Boilermaker 2016, making sponsor calls, logo selection and establishing registration method and timing I am offered a wee bit of time to reflect what happened (and didn’t happen) this year.
Boilermaker 2015 started on a huge high note with the design of this year’s logo- it was simply brilliant incorporating the 15k and 5k numbers in 2015.
Great job Jim Raymer!
Visitors to boilermaker.com were greeted to a new website and an increased emphasis on social media. Our friends at Quadsimia engaged folks via twitter, facebook, instragram and periscope and our metrics skyrocketed.
The massive change to this year’s registration process (and change to a new registration company) brought a level of calmness to what had become a rather stormy sea.
Roughly half the field that ran the 2014 partook in registering for this year’s Boilermaker.
I was frankly surprised it was that low considering we gave them a week to sign up and that we had sold out the 2014 race in three hours.
When open registration took place on the morning of March 22nd as I sat in my office I thought “this will be a short process”.
Wrong again Tim…
It took a bit over a day to fill the remaining field.
Well one year does not a trend make so we’ll see what next year brings.
On an extremely positive note this year my email was not inundated with frantic pleas from folks who, for whatever reason, didn’t get in.
And what’s not to love about Boilermaker Weekend?
Three days of beautiful weather, a great Expo, a surprise flyover and one of the safest races in Boilermaker history.
I commented to someone, kiddingly, “I feel like we have nowhere to go but down after this year.”
Then there was the building…
Certainly the building, or rather, the building renovations were more than a bit distracting.
The soothing sounds of banging hammers, and screaming power saws echoed throughout the office as dust danced merrily in the air for what seemed like months.
Well we certainly are now in a much better place and is a joy to show folks what we’ve done to bring some of the luster back to a classic textile-mill edifice.
A huge shout out to Lou Matrulli who has acted as the ‘clerk of the works’ dealing with the various trades.
Well enough of this historical reflection: Boolermaker Kid’s Run coming up in a bit more than a month I gotta scare up some kids to participate!

Scaring up a Good Time

September 11th, 2015

BOOlermaker 2015
It’s the last Saturday before Halloween (October 24th) so it must be the Boolermaker to be once again held at the Masonic Care Community.
The Boolermaker is built around fitness, fun and food with the tagline ‘where getting fit isn’t scary’.
This year we will be going totally on-line for registration: registration opens on Wednesday September 16th at 9:00 am. Go to boilermaker.com and click on the Boolermaker icon. Registration will close on October 10th.
There will not be any race day registration.
The cost for each runner is $6: we will only have 750 runners between the ages of 4-13 (due to requests we added 13 year olds this year).
Expect to see some Boolermaker clothing for sale.
We have changed the opening of the Expo from 8:00 am to 9:00 am to give everyone an extra hour of sleep.
Our ‘Eerie Expo’ will feature food samples, face painting/ temporary tattoos, child ID, activities and exhibits. New this year is ‘the scary selfie station’ where pictures can be taken in front of a green screen and images can be inserted.
First heat takes place at 10:15 am. Run distances will be: ¼, ½, ¾ and 1 mile. While we have suggested distances per age you as a parent know what your child is capable of. Obviously if kids are running in costume steer clear of outfits that obscure vision or pose a tripping hazard.
After the run our little goblins will receive a commemorative chinch bag as well as enough healthy food to fill it.
I love this event: the kids are sweet while they learn that Halloween isn’t all about sweets!

The Wild West (Utica Streets)

September 4th, 2015

August 29th marked our one year anniversary in our new office on Court Street.
I simply cannot wait when Court Street reopens once again reconnecting west and east Utica via a major thoroughfare.
Every day I pull into the Boilermaker parking lot I am struck that, unlike our former location, we are in a neighborhood. Usually at noon I try and get in a walk around our streets, I have at least a nodding acquaintance with many of our neighbors.
Today is the first day of school- wow, the silence is deafening in our usually lively area.
Some observations:
We have so many kids in the neighborhood that are riding bikes- a very good thing: it’s a great exercise.
Unfortunately I have yet to see one of them waring a bike helmet- a very, very bad thing as we see heavy vehicular traffic only to get worse with the Court Street opening sometime in the Fall.
New York State mandates the wearing of helmets for all riders 14 years and younger.
So I think to myself ‘are people not wearing helmets because they are too expensive or not wearing them because it isn’t cool (I suspect it’s the cool factor)’?
Apparently we aren’t alone with helmetless youth:
“Bike helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury or death by up to 85 percent. Yet, only about 15 percent of all children nationally wear a helmet when they ride a bike.” (Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute)
The other thing I’ve seen is a lack of following the ‘rules of the road’.
We have bikes that go with traffic, bikes that go against traffic and bikes in the middle of traffic!
Often as a car driver, one plays ‘guessing game’- is the bike going to cut over mid-street in front of me?
It certainly makes driving stimulating!
I hate sounding like a ‘Gloomy Gus’ as people who know me would say I’m usually a pretty upbeat guy.
No doubt, one of the great experiences is to see the joy on a child’s face as they furiously pedal maneuvering their bike on sidewalk and street.
I just worry about someone ending up on the wrong end of two tons of steel- it’ll wreck your whole day!

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