Boilermaker Blog

10 Amazing Years

August 1st, 2017


So I guess I dropped a bit of a bomb when I announced the day after this year’s Boilermaker Road Race that it had been my last one.
Well, I’ve always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic…
It has been a ride with many spectacular highs and a few, very few, lows.
While it certainly is a nice ego booster that some folks feel that my departure from the Boilermaker will be a big-time loss for the organization- nonsense!
This thing we call the Boilermaker stands much, much, larger than a single individual and quite simply if this enterprise lives and dies because of one guy than it’s in real trouble!
Frankly, change is good and it’s good to leave on a high note.
What will not change is that Boilermaker spirit that makes that second Sunday in July special and instills a belief that all things are possible.
And, hopefully, I’ve sprinkled a bit of that ‘Boilermaker magic dust’ on the other 364 days of the year.
I’ve been blessed with a good staff, a legion of loyal volunteers, fantastic sponsors and a community that has embraced the Boilermaker like a child of their own.
Put that all together and you can’t help but look smart!
But it’s time for me to trek on to that new thing that has yet to reveal itself to me.
Retirement is not in my immediate future!
Yet as I look forward I can’t help but peek over my shoulder one more time to remember.
To walk out on the stage at the Post Race Party to face a crowd of tens of thousands of happy folks, you gave a taste of what a rock star must feel like.
To be a ‘happiness vampire’ feeding off the excitement and joy of our participants be they a nine to ninety year old.
To have been given a chance to lead the Boilermaker these past 10 years-what an extraordinary gift!
Thank you.

Some Thoughts about “Psychic Impact”

July 24th, 2017


Studies have been conducted on the economic impact the Boilermaker has on Utica and the entire region and it is significant. However, the race creates another kind of impact more difficult to quantify but equally important. Psychic Impact refers to the emotional effects that prestigious events and sports teams have on their host communities. It is a term that has emerged recently from the field of sports economics, primarily to justify large public investments into private arenas and stadiums. I have no interest in exploring the ethics of that topic but the concept of psychic impact does raise interesting questions relevant to the role that the Boilermaker can play in Utica’s future.

Can the Boilermaker (or Comets games, or concerts at the Stanley…) remedy the city’s economic troubles? Certainly not but they do make us feel better about our city and that absolutely has the ability to translate into measurable progress. It’s simple – when you take pride in something you take care of it and you invest in it. When Utica’s younger generations feel civic pride about their home, they are more likely to stay, raise families and start businesses here.

Our race generates an enormous amount of Utica pride, as it should. After all, the Boilermaker has no inherent characteristics other than a hilly 9.3 mile stretch of asphalt. The accolades that are so often laid on the race have EVERYTHING to do with the people that live here, without whom the Boilermaker would be just another race. It is the overwhelming community pride that thrusts our race into the elite tier of “must-do” road races in the USA.

The Boilermaker drastically improves the way we think and feel, not only about our city and neighbors but our guests as well. During Boilermaker weekend, we welcome thousands of visitors from across the country, putting our city on a national stage. Everywhere you look, Boilermaker flags fly and landscaping is immaculate.

Seeing it every year, it is baffling to me to then see the general malaise and cynicism that too often plague us throughout the rest of the year. I hear if often, if only we could harness the “Boilermaker Spirit” and sustain it throughout the year…

So if Boilermaker 40 can leave any lasting legacy on Utica, let it be this: That “Boilermaker Spirit” that was so ubiquitous and infectious all week long actually has nothing to do with the race. The race just reveals a “Utica Spirit” that lives in all of us who call the Mohawk Valley home. All we need to do is capture it and live it the other 364 days of the year.

Boilermaker 40 Primer

June 27th, 2017


Well here we are, less than two weeks away from Boilermaker 40. After four decades, we have the race part down. What remains a challenge is creating a unique experience each and every year. As the race has evolved into a week-long extravaganza, we have many more opportunities to engage our runners. For the big 4-0, we feel that we have created a race with the same Boilermaker charm you’ve come to love with enough surprises to make for a wholly new experience. To share some of these with you, what follows is my feeble attempt at a Dave Letterman-esque top 10.

10 Things to Watch for at Boilermaker 40

  • First, download the new (free) Boilermaker mobile app ASAP to stay updated on all Boilermaker events. It also has other great features like Boilermaker selfies, merchandise discounts and much more. This is your handheld guide through Boilermaker week. Big thanks to our app sponsor, Covey Computer Software for this one.
  • Look out for the Chobani Homestretch on Court Street, giving you that extra push over the finish line.
  • Expo surprises. This will be our biggest and best Planet Fitness Health and Wellness Expo to date. Be sure to check out:
    • Drone demonstrations by AX Enterprizes
    • Rockin Jump Fun Zone out on the quad
    • More food trucks, more vendors, more FREE samples!
    • Runner’s Forum including Olympic hero, Erin Hamlin (1:00pm, Saturday)
    • Carmella’s Café Pasta Challenge featuring local celebrities competing over the Colander Cup (12pm, Saturday)
  • The Unity Mile along mile 2 of the 15k course. This stretch of the race will be packed with individuals and organizations that represent all the reasons why Utica is such a great place including organizations like the Ride for Missing Children and Upstate Cerebral Palsy to name just a few.
  • More wheelchairs athletes than ever before. We’ll have over 40 wheelchair athletes this year and the prize money for the division has doubled so you can expect a more intense wheelchair race than ever before.
  • American prize money has been doubled so you can expect to see some of the best American distance runners in the country competing for the top spot. The race hasn’t had an American winner since Ed Eyestone in 1991.
  • Post-race entertainment is being turned up to 11 with a Showtime/Gridley Paige/Classified “supergroup” sharing the stage with disco diva Maxine Nightingale. You might know Maxine from her hit song, “Right Back Where We Started From” featured prominently in the movie Slapshot.
  • Beer and sweaty bodies not your thing but still want to enjoy the post-race party? Check out the Cliff’s Local Market Family Zone on the corner of Edward and Wasmer. No beer allowed here and there will be snacks, refreshments and family-friendly activities.
  • Looking for something to do Friday night? Visit the Utica Blue Sox booth at the expo and get a FREE ticket to Friday night’s game against the Oneonta Outlaws.
  • Have you heard about the Boilermaker Urban Initiative? If not, you will. The Boilermaker is reaching out into the community in a way it never has before in order to be a year-round change agent for health and wellness. Our website has more information on the initiative and its programs.

Rain, rain go away (and the cold as well)!

June 6th, 2017


“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Charles Dudley Warner although attributed to Mark Twain

Weather-wise, this has certainly been one interesting springs we have had.
Endless days of rain and cold/ clammy temperatures- it feels like Utica has been relocated to Washington State.
I’m thinking of suggesting to the Governor to change the official flower of New York State from the Rose to the Mushroom!
As I write this the Boilermaker is a bit more than a month away.
While I have seen an uptick in runners on the streets it feels like it’s a bit less than what I’ve traditionally seen at this time of year.
My assumption is that July 9th will be a tad warmer than the cool temperatures we have been experiencing.
Here’s where I’m concerned, runners who have trained and trained in weather that is similar in temperature to ‘game day’ conditions tend to do better than those who didn’t (Tim- thanks for that flash of brilliance!).
So what to do, because we can’t click our heels three times and make the clouds disappear.
– Put in more miles, the cool temperatures you have now, and likely wouldn’t have Boilermaker Sunday- in fact these are pretty nice temps from a running perspective! What you can’t get from heat and humidity make up with mileage and hills.
– Train indoors, while I personally find elliptical training a poor substitute for outdoor running, the weather is certainly a bit more consistent in a place that has a roof.
And some just general advice with one month out, regardless of the weather.
At this time of year there are numerous races of various distances and difficulties- run a few.
This is very important for folks (and I know there are more than a few of you) who have never run in a formal race before.
Understanding the ‘rules of the road’ for races acts as a great dress rehearsal for Boilermaker Sunday (race bib pinned on the front please).
Develop those healthy habits centered around training, nutrition and rest; they will serve you well a month from now.
Hey, it’s more fun to experience Boilermaker Sunday rocking at the Post Race Party than rolling into the medical tent!
Holy smokes, I just saw a glimpse of blue sky; gotta grab my running shoes!

Corporate Cup Camaraderie

June 2nd, 2017


The following is a guest post from Boilermaker Corporate Cup Director, Cosmo Costellano. 

Does your company have an employee team running in the Boilermaker Corporate Cup Competition?  If not, there is still time to register, and it is totally free! Countless studies have proven the importance of a fit workforce ranging from reduced absenteeism, greater productivity to reduced insurance premiums. There is no doubt that the company that exercises together builds a greater team mentality as well as camaraderie.

But are these the only reasons to enter a Corporate Cup team this year- No! Participating in the Corporate Cup is just plain fun!

Each team runner receives a commemorative Corporate Cup Mug. Many teams select one of the Boilermaker T-Shirt printers to outfit your team with runner’s singlets to proudly display your company logo in the race. A Corporate Cup after work event is held within two weeks after the race to award each of the top three teams in each category with a trophy plaque to display. Enjoy food, beverages and a chance to win free registration for Boilermaker 2018.

In addition to our own fun, we are pleased to award three charities with $500 each year.   The charities are selected at random during the awards event from charities designated by each of the company teams. You have a chance to not only run well but do well for the community.

Competition categories are established for male, female, coed and masters teams and also large, medium, and small size companies. There is a competition category for every business.

The bonds developed among the runner-employees last long after the Boilermaker event. Most of the teams competing return year after year, and friendly rivalries have been fun to watch. Browse through past results at http://www.boilermaker-corpcup.com/.

There is still time to field your team for 2017. The deadline is June 30th, so do not delay.

Pick your reason:

  • promotes healthy activity and team-building among employees
  • company visibility in Utica’s largest sporting event
  • free gift for each employee runner
  • Invitation to awards ceremony
  • gifts to charity
  • it’s fun
  • it’s free

Whatever reason, please join us.  Your company’s participation is a clear win-win — in terms of health, morale and productivity, and community involvement.

All employee runners of all levels are welcome.  To encourage participation, just the top three or top five finish times are used for the team score. Additional employee runners add to the fun and camaraderie.

Download the rules and registration form now at  http://www.boilermaker-corpcup.com/ccup2017.pdf  We’ll be looking for you at the finish line.

 

 

 

 

Meet Jacob, 2017 Wheelchair Challenger

May 19th, 2017


The following is a guest contribution from Gary Roback, Co-Director of the Boilermaker Wheelchair Division. It includes a letter from Jacob Moore, a 2017 Wheelchair Challenge competitor. 

It seems like everyone that volunteers, races, walks or watches the Boilermaker has a particular part of the event that they thoroughly enjoy.  For some, it’s the challenge.  For some, it’s the enjoyment of helping others or being part of something much bigger than oneself.  Still for others, being a part of the Boilermaker is a passion.  In the early 90’s my wife, my two kids and I started as goody bag “stuffers” and we all got hooked.  We then ‘graduated’ to helping stuff race packets with bibs and safety pins.  A few years later an opportunity evolved within a relatively new committee – the Wheelchair Division.   Ever since the first time I ran the Boilermaker in 1983, the ‘chairs’ were the most inspirational, powerful part of the entire event for me.   There was just something about what I saw that drew me in.  So when the opportunity came up to join that committee, I did just that.  One of the first tasks I was asked to do was, along with Richard Panetta, develop what became known as the ‘Wheelchair Challenge’.  With runners, getting a quality pair of running shoes, although they can be expensive, is typically your major investment (other than your time and effort).  Wheelchair racing is a bit different.  You can’t easily do a wheelchair race without a racing wheelchair.  However, even the most basic racing wheelchair costs about $2,500 causing a financial barrier to some that made participating just a dream.  Our primary motive was to help break down that financial barrier by creating the ‘Challenge’.  We would award a custom built racing chair to an athlete that had the drive, desire and passion to complete the 15k Boilermaker in an everyday wheelchair.   Many times winning the chair is more than just a prize, it can represent a positive life changing experience. It can help people adjust to whatever life throws at them.  It represents the power of the human spirit. And to that end, the program has been a great success.  To date, we have awarded 28 custom built racing wheelchairs to Challengers.

 

Once again in 2017, we will have an athlete pursing the Challenge.  His bio below clearly shows he has the passion and desire to be successful.  So if you see Jacob on the course on Boilermaker Sunday, cheer him on. To Jacob, the challenge represents a whole lot more than just winning a chair.

As a kid growing up with Spina Bifida I never looked at something and told myself that I could not do it as well or better than others. Often times I was right and also often I was shown I could be just as wrong. Thing is though I never let someone tell me I could or couldn’t do something, and I always challenged myself and pushed as far as I could.  Spina Bifida as a child and for most of my adult life  was never really seen as a set back to me. I played baseball as a pitcher and 3rd baseman. I played water polo every summer as a kid all the way through high school and also I swam varsity in high school.  After high school I started biking. I very much valued the times where I could just get on my bike and go. Pop on some music ride down the canal. It was peaceful, relaxing and I still to this day value the times I was out on my bike and witnessed things I normally would not have. The sunsets, the wildlife and even some of the people I met while riding who all had stories too. I miss it all

About 4 years ago in November I noticed that I was kicking my left heel into the ground. I was trying to “wake it up”. It felt like it had gone to sleep, my foot was going numb. I noticed this routinely would happen. Slowly this started moving up my leg. Christmas came around and I told my family of my concerns about this. The numbness was spreading. I Could no longer walk up or down the stairs. We had to move our room downstairs. It was also around this time where if I wanted to walk just about anywhere I would have to use my girlfriend for support. For example holding onto her shoulders so I could walk somewhere. About a week into January 2014 I sat in a wheelchair and to this day it is the only way I can get around. Later in the year of 2014 I was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis of the spine. The doctor who diagnosed me said it is only the 2nd time he has ever heard of it attacking the spine. Of course it was the first time he had diagnosed it.

My interest in racing and also doing the Boilermaker Wheelchair Challenge are similar.  I am 40 years old. I am overweight and as far as activity goes I only recently started to try and get active again. I want to challenge myself again. I want to say to myself I can do that. Then I want to go out and do what I said I can do. In the end I want to do this for myself. I want to be able to say to myself and to my family that I challenged myself and that I did not back down and I saw it through to the end.

In the end maybe I am being greedy but I feel like competing in The Boilermaker and finishing  it represents me grabbing back some of my independence that I may have lost the last few years. In completing this and in preparing for this I also believe it will help me in the long run for adjusting to life in a wheelchair. Yes, I have been in a wheelchair for a while, but you don’t just get used to it. It changes you, and in the end maybe this challenge is part of the change.

Jacob Moore

Why I Run

April 28th, 2017


The following is a guest post by Randy Van Wagoner, President of MVCC, Gold Sponsor of the Boilermaker Road Race and host of the Boilermaker Health and Wellness Expo. 

I consider myself an athlete, but I never ran without a ball.  I played a wide variety of sports growing up, but when I went to my one and only day of middle school track practice, I stopped after the first half mile and left to wait for my mom to pick me up.  I didn’t see the fun in running.  Without some kind of ball, I didn’t have a ‘why’ to run.  So I didn’t.

My running world changed in 2007 when my family and I relocated to the Mohawk Valley region. I was encouraged to run in MVCC’s annual Ted Moore Memorial 5K walk/run event, so I asked my oldest daughter who was still in elementary school at the time to run with me.  We survived it, and better yet, we had a fun time running together.  As we learned about the Boilermaker Road Race, our entire family began running in the 5K each year for that event.  We had all enjoyed running down Court Street to the finish line with the crowds cheering along both sides of the street.  It was like getting the full Boilermaker experience but only running one-third the distance.

In 2010, Steve Zogby gave me the encouragement to run the 15K Boilermaker.  He said, “C’mon, you should do it.  All you have to do is make sure you can run six miles and the crowd will carry you the rest of the way!”  I’ve since said those very words to multiple people trying to pay it forward because I’m so glad I took Steve’s advice.  I ran the 15K that year and thought I checked it off my bucket list.  I kept running the Ted Moore and Boilermaker 5K races with my family each year and thought that was enough for me, but over time my ‘why’ became abundantly clear.

We have a Wellness Council at Mohawk Valley Community College and I attended a workshop on well-being that covered research conducted by the Gallup organization. I made a commitment to improve my physical well-being and set a goal of running the Boilermaker 15K again in 2016.  As springtime came, I found myself enjoying the reflective time to run and quiet my mind.  I became more centered and focused at work and more present in my interactions with others.  I also became more aware of my diet and began eating a little better, which led to lowering my weight, which led to feeling better each day.  My ‘why’ I run became to feel better and be better.

I ran the Ted Moore 5K last spring and ran my best time ever.  We had over 200 people participate and had our largest fundraising effort ever for the Ted Moore Scholarship.  It was a great day for the MVCC community.  Late last summer, our oldest daughter and I ran in the Crim Festival of Races 10 mile race in Flint, Michigan where I grew up.  We were part of a Boilermaker Road Race group that traveled there in a show of solidarity with the City of Flint and their water crisis.  The only two road races who sent people were the Boilermaker and the Boston Marathon – a pretty powerful statement.  My ‘why’ I run added to support great causes and connect to the best of being human.

I began running every time I traveled somewhere and mapped out interesting runs to see parts of cities I might not otherwise see.  I ran my first-ever Race to the Canal 5K and ran along the Erie Canal.  My ‘why’ I run now includes to see interesting sights and places.

On Boilermaker Sunday 2016, my family and I once again worked our morning routine like clockwork with all the friends, rides, pick-ups, drop-offs, and meet-ups.  My wife and youngest daughter ran the 5K, as ever, and our oldest daughter and her friend ran the 15K, and I did as well.  I find the local adage to be true – if we could bottle the sense of community pride that’s evident on Boilermaker Sunday, the other 364 days around here would be incredible.  Running down Culver Ave, Memorial Parkway, Champlain Ave., and Whitesboro streets is so uplifting with so many friendly faces.  The views from Valley View are phenomenal and the feeling of running down a crowded Court Street through the finish line is exhilarating.  My ‘why’ I run now is attaching to something bigger than myself.  It’s about being part of this community and touching a unique collective experience that can’t be replicated.

I would love to go back and tell my little 7th grade self ‘why’ people should run.  I’m forever grateful to this community for helping me discover my own ‘why’.  As the Ted Moore walk/run celebrates its 20th anniversary and the Boilermaker celebrates its 40th anniversary, I hope even more people discover their ‘why’ and turn out in record numbers!

 

A bit about Boston

April 18th, 2017


The past Easter weekend I found myself in Boston as my boys, who work in Beantown, had work on Saturday meaning no trip to Utica for Mom’s fare.
While dreading the drive to Boston, I was excited to be there for Marathon Weekend and check out their Expo.
So let me throw this out there- the Boston Marathon is simply THE iconic marathon on the plant.
First of all it’s the oldest (remember respect your elders) this year was the 121st running.
Boston isn’t the world’s biggest, that title goes to New York with over 50,000 finishers. Boston checks in at number 6 with 32,000 finishing.
However, what makes Boston unique is that you need to hit a qualifying time in a different marathon to have a chance of getting selected. Most other races utilize some sort of variant on the lottery system. While not the hardest course, Boston is one of the hardest to get in.
Because Boston is relatively small big city (655,000 call greater Boston home) when the race comes to town the streets are awash in Boston Marathon blue. In cities like New York and Chicago, it gets a little lost.
Finally, I think no city so embraces their marathon as Boston does. And no doubt incredibly intensified as a result of the 2013 bombings.
Certainly even more poignant as “Marathon Monday” is run on Patriot’s Day” which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord the first skirmishes of the Revolutionary War.
Well the Expo was spectacular: large vendor ‘islands’ that represent the who’s who of running gear and accessories. The cash registers certainly were humming
And the Tesla car on display was pretty cool.
I headed home Sunday so didn’t have the opportunity to catch the splendor of Marathon Monday.
Wish I had been there to see the current Boilermaker female record holder, Edna Kiplagat, win this year. Edna is $150,000 richer and, running a 2 hour 21 minute marathon she earned $1,063 a minute.
Or see the strong American performances- 8 on the male side and 7 on the female side who were in the top 15. USA, USA!
Or seeing local folks like Hermin Garic (came in 24th in Wheelchair Division) – a true Sitrin Star!
Or Katie McCauley, who shaved 40 minutes off her previous time helped, no doubt, by extra dry protective socks for her prosthetic legs (last year they got soaked and she had to wait 25 minutes for dry ones in the med tent). You are my hero!
To get a chance to run the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of a runner’s dream.
Months and months of grueling training get to the start line of that 26.2 mile journey.
To all those crossed the finish line- wear your finisher’s medal proudly!

Just like 2016, sort of…

March 20th, 2017


Well we are in the final stages of filling the field for this year’s Boilermaker.
Last year we saw roughly half the field get filled with advanced runners (those that had run the race in 2015 within the time limit) folks who had deferred in 2015 but wanted to run in 2016.
When Open Registration commenced in 2016 registrations took off like a rocket- a couple thousand signed up in the first 15 minutes: it looked like it was going to be a short day- wrong Tim, it took a week to fill the field!
Fast forward to this year’s registration.
Some significant changes, cap gets raised by 500 for the 15k to 14,500 and we allow advanced runners to choose the race they want to run rather than the race they ran the previous year.
Then I wondered if this being an ‘anniversary year’ (our 40th running) would create any additional demand?
Numbers at the conclusion of advanced registration ended up coming in similar to last year.
Would we see the same initial registration tsunami followed by a drop off or would the surge continue predicating an early closeout of the race?
Pre-noon on Saturday I watched on our Google analytics page as several hundred folks were electronically ‘lined up’ for the noon opening of Open Registration.
Well, the long and the short of it was after getting around 4,000 registered in 45 minutes things got slow, very slow.
I’m assuming that in the next day or so the races will be sold out, while there’ a certain thrill selling the race out in three hours (we achieved that the last year we had first come- first served system) the resulting emails from disappointed runners was less than fun! The old system was sort of like riding a roller coaster and you’re not really sure the safety bar is fully engaged!
Now for something unlike 2016.
When we changed our building location we also made a commitment to make a positive impact in our new neighborhood.
Thus was born the Boilermaker Urban Initiative supporting health and wellness in Utica with particular attention to West Utica, our new home. Since the move we have established an urban garden cared for by local teenagers, created a public market that offers fresh fruit and vegetables to a community with few options and recently established a fitness program at an elementary school.
We have never asked our participants to support us in these (and planned) projects so we thought ‘why not’?
Well, we must be doing something right: to-date over 1,400 runners have donated nearly $21,000 to support ‘Run for U’ that funds our urban programming.
Boilermaker nation never ceases to amaze me in the most wonderful ways!

Try Skating Barefoot

February 16th, 2017


I was walking through the garage and my eyes wandered to a large plastic can: protruding from it were a couple of metal bats and a defenseman’s lacrosse stick.
I’ve walked by this container hundreds of times on the way to the car and ignored it: not today.
As I rummaged through the can, baseball gloves, soccer shin guards, basketballs revealed themselves. It was a trip down memory lane as I remembered countless hours at baseball fields, hardwood courts and outdoor fields.
Then I remembered in the cellar were pairs of soccer cleats and skates whose life was cut short by one of my three kids growing feet.
I thought to myself “what a waste: this equipment is still in great shape and their owners have long since left home. This stuff needs new owners!”
And from that, the Skates and Sneaks Equipment Drive was born.
It felt like a natural partnership to do with the Utica Comets as we are two of the biggest sporting events that occur in our community.
It was a short conversation with the Comet’s folks- absolutely yes!
So at the March 3rd-5th Comets home games our friends from EJA Moving will have a truck stationed across from the Auditorium Drive entrance to pick up sporting goods equipment. We will be collecting for an hour and a half prior to puck drop: Friday and Saturday from 5:30-7:00 pm, Sunday 1:30-3:00 pm.
Approximately two weeks later, we will be distributing the collected gear to organizations that serve our local youth.
Here’s one thing we ask, PLEASE do not bring equipment that clearly has outlived its life: key words-gently used! We don’t want stuff that probably more properly should be carted off to a landfill.
The Boilermaker and the Comets understand the importance of physical activity.
Sports does more than build a healthy body- it nurtures discipline, instills teamwork and promotes goal setting- sort of nice life skills.
And if you are a believer that ‘idle hands are the devil’s play shop’ (and I am) then sports are clearly a better path for our young people than other activities.
You will in all likelihood never know the child whom you have opened the door to, perhaps for the first time, participate in a sport.
But that my friend is the true meaning of giving.