Boilermaker Blog

Pop Goes the Classified

May 19th, 2014

While Boilermaker Weekend is event-packed I have often thought a musical event on Saturday would be a nice touch, particularly for our out of town visitors. Utica has a rich arts and culture history, why not showcase a bit of it?
Enter, Greely Ford (from the band Classified), Michael DiMeo (from the Utica Pops orchestra) and Jerry Kraus (from the Stanley Theater). They had an interesting idea for a concert on Boilermaker Saturday- my ears perked up.
The band Classified, famous in the area, is reuniting for this special concert, this will be their first local gig in a year and a half.
This event will be the debut of the Utica Pops orchestra that will feature over twenty five musicians.
Finally, the concert is taking place at the Stanley Theater, simply one of the most magnificent theaters in the northeast.
Ticket prices run from fifteen to fifty dollars.
A five dollar discount is offered as a special incentive to this year’s Boilermaker participants. Think about it; ten bucks for a concert at the Stanley-unbelievable! There are also special discounts for Stanley Members and active members of the military.
The program will consist of the Utica Pops and Classified playing both alone and together. Classified’s playlist (think Chicago) really lends itself to the addition of the “Pops Punch’.
One of the keys to this event is the time- concert begins at 6:00 pm and ends at 8:30 pm giving our runners time to get in a good nights sleep.
There are a number of ways to get tickets by phone (315-724-4000), the web ( or at the box office located in the Stanley lobby. The Stanley has a list of Boilermaker participants for the special discount.
A great stage great price, two great musical acts (one old, one new), sponsored by a great race (at least I hope you think that).
The proceeds will go towards the Stanley Center for the Arts.
See you there!

Boilermaker Strong

April 18th, 2014

On April 15th 2013, at 2:45 pm, two bombs ripped through the packed finish line crowd of the 117th Boston Marathon killing 3 and injuring over 250 others. Over 27 hospitals were involved in treating the casualties that bore injuries akin to being found in a warzone. Sixteen people would become amputees; three losing both legs. Now, a year later, we have seen the countless stories of sadness and resilience of those whose lives were permanently altered on that Monday afternoon on Boylston Street.
The Boilermaker has always had a strong affinity with the Boston Marathon; many of the shining stars of Boston (Rodgers, Switzer, Beardsley, Samuelson) are featured in the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. Many of our local runners have over the years run what is perhaps the most iconic race on the planet. After the bombings we sold Boston Boilermaker shirts and sent 100% of the proceeds (over $10,000) to the One Fund set up to support the victims.
My belief is that every tragedy can often come the seeds of inspiration.
This cruel winter brought with it more than bitter temperatures it created a severe blood shortage in our community. People simply stayed home rather than braving the sub-Arctic weather to give blood. As a result we are over 200 units behind where we should be. While not as overtly dangerous as a pressure cooker bomb this shortage can, unexpectedly devastate a life or lives. Imagine a family member is in a car accident and their blood type wasn’t available? As the saying goes:’ tears of a mother cannot save her child. But your blood can.”
What a cool gift blood donation- your body just creates more to replace what you gave. How often in our lives are we given the chance to give a gift that costs us nothing (OK a small pinch and 30 minutes of our ‘precious’ time) but is priceless to another human?
So how bad do you want to want to run the race?
Everyone who either gives at the April 25th drive at the Radisson Centre from 11:00am-4:00 pm, will receive a vintage Boilermaker pint glass (give a pint get a pint glass). In addition (drum roll please) we will be giving away two free entries to get into this year’s sold out race! The free entry is good for either the 15k or 5k races. I know there were one or two local runners out there who didn’t get into the race as I received a number of emails from disappointed runners. We will only be able to take 60 units of blood so while walk ins are welcome it would be best to call 1 800 Red Cross and schedule an appointment.
If this race has proved anything it is that this community has a remarkable, seemingly unlimited, capacity to give. Hopefully the same person who gives a cup of water to person they don’t know on Boilermaker Sunday is willing to give a pint of blood to someone they don’t know on April 25th.
Hey, blood is like the Jelly of the Month Club made famous in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; it really is the gift that keeps on giving!

Pothole Pandemonium

March 31st, 2014

Has anyone commented to you that this has been one long cold winter?
Besides producing bitter moods and heating bills that could bankrupt a small nation, Spring seems to be here and our first crop is blooming- potholes! It looks like this year we have a bumper crop!
This is not a Utica problem; it is a Northeastern United States problem. An older infrastructure (road, water and sewer) combined with a relentless freeze/ thaw cycle has been simply devastating.
As I have learned from someone far wiser than I; for very event a crisis or opportunity is created for someone. As I consider myself an optimist I will feature the positive views of these holes whose cousins are found on the Moon.
Why are potholes good?
Cash car!
One would think car service businesses are doing a ‘bang up’ business repairing tires, realigning steering and replacing low hanging mufflers.
Wow-that was exciting!
While potholes by their very nature can’t move, they certainly can sneak up on you. Is that merely a standing pool of water or something far more menacing? Often the first car sees the pothole at the last second and suddenly veers leaving the person following no opportunity to react. Certainly just another sensible reason not to tailgate.
These ‘silent sentinels’ have clearly slowed people down. The Parkway Memorial Speedway has (nearly) slowed down to the posted speed limit!
Pay attention!
New York has been conducting a vigorous anti-text, non hands free ad campaign (that appears not to be working judging by the amount of drivers I see yakking away or looking at their laps at stoplights) these potholes have really put some teeth into fighting distracted driving.
Why are potholes bad?
Paying the auto technician (see comment cash car above).
The filling of these road cavities will be but a final cost to our communities thanks to the Winter of 2013/14. I can only imagine that the cumulative costs of salt, DPW overtime and pothole repair will put the city and town budgets a bit in the hole (pun intended).
And on to runner’s problems…
So road races run on roads (thanks Captain Obvious), therefore these pavement pockmarks can make navigating the roads shall we say interesting.
Ever have the experience of running while a car near you hits a pothole containing say a washtub full of dirty cold water? This will invariably happen when you are running an ‘out and back’ run and you are the farthest point away from your house.
If potholes are a problem for cars tires, they are absolutely murder on a runner’s ankles (and perhaps feet, toes and knees).
The lack of navigable space on the roads now forces runners (and bikers) ever closer together; never a good thing for a runner as metal is a bit stronger than flesh and bones.
While these highway holes are certainly a nuisance at least it is Spring!!

Running For The Right Thing

March 17th, 2014

This year marks the second offering of Charity Bibs for the Boilermaker. In order to insure that all the bibs were called for we opened Charity Bib Registration two weeks prior to the opening of general registration on March 22nd. Last year over 30 bibs ended up not being used; in spite of that, the charities of choice raised over $105,000. To date (March 16th) we currently have 57 Charity Bib Runners. In a shameless plug for the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program if you raise at least $500 for one of our eleven charities (found on you are guaranteed entry into the race.
While the amount of money these charitable souls raise are incredible, the stories as to why they are running are simply awe-inspiring. They are what I call sad-happy stories. When allowed, I will share some of these stories; here is one of them.
The morning of March 13, 2013 started as a chilly morning; clearly be big change from a year earlier when the high reached 70 degrees. The weather wasn’t the only thing that made March 13th different from the previous year.
Michael Renshaw, a 23 year veteran of the Department of Corrections and 18 months away from retirement, was waiting to get his car serviced by Thomas Stafka at Gaffney’s Fast Lube in Herkimer.
Heading his way, Kurt Myers a man described as an odd loner who, on this day, had transformed into both an arsonist and a killer. His rampage, which minutes earlier had left two dead and two wounded in Mohawk, was now to add two more victims- Michael and Thomas. Myers was to die in a hail of gunfire the following day after a standoff with the police.
Mike left behind a large family including a fiancé named Vivian Veazy.
So one would think that enough misery had been delivered at the doorstop of Vivian; there’s more. Six and a half months later Vivian was diagnosed with breast cancer-Wow! The sad part(s) of the story.
Today Vivian has completed her cancer treatments and her prognoses is excellent. “While undergoing radiation I made the decision that I was going to run my first Boilermaker road Race” said Vivian “I believe the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program is the perfect fusion (Michael’s death/ breast cancer) and I look forward to making this happen.” The happy part of the story.
Vivian is running for the Susan G. Koman For The Cure organization.
July 13th will be a very special day for Vivian.
On Sunday, July 13th she will be running her first Boilermaker; no small accomplishment.
On July 13th she will be raising money for breast cancer research. She has already reached her $500 minimum and I expect her to raise much, much more.
Finally, on July 13th she will be running in memory of her fiancé Michael.
And, so you know- July 13th would have been Michael Renshaw’s 53rd birthday.
Simply incredible…

Baby you can (will) drive my car

January 27th, 2014

I was watching a news story taking about the possibility of the fully automated car. The person being interviewed felt it was no longer a question that it would happen but simply had to happen. The primary driver (pun intended) was the developing nations that were pumping more and more cars on a limited infrastructure. After experiencing traffic in China I was convinced that at some point the entire country was going to eventually hit gridlock.
A computer navigated car would (theoretically) enhance the ability to maximize the amount of vehicles you could get on the road. It was suggested that these futuristic cars might not even need windows. Would our cars become extensions of our office or a moving multimedia theater? The advent of the totally automated transportation system would be an incredibly profound change in human history.
Positives- A dramatic reduction in car accidents, no more speeding tickets and an end to road rage. I’m sure there are some lawyers who might be a bit unhappy.
It would seem like a slam dunk in major metropolitan centers; if we can ban large sodas then person-driven cars. Perhaps not so easy to tell a rancher out west that he has to give up his vehicle.
I can just see the bumper sticker- ‘You’ll pry my F-150 steering wheel out of my cold, dead fingers’.
So Tim; what the heck does this have to do with road racing? Glad you asked!
How would it be handled for races that take place on city streets; would some sort of ‘blackout zone’ (or electronic barricade) is created, denying vehicles from entering the race area? One would assume police, fire and ambulance would have some sort of override system should an emergency occur along the course.
If roads are supposedly safer would the same be true for runners? Would runners be banned from running on well-travelled roads as the robo-cars take over?
Perhaps we would eventually lose the ability to even know how to drive? Think about the skills that were essential for our grandparents to survive that have been lost. Milking the cows, shooting your dinner and riding horses have been replaced by the grocery store, fast food restaurants and, yes, the automobile. I guess the old adage ‘something gained, something lost’ somehow feels appropriate.

A Truly Shocking Race

January 13th, 2014

Over the year I gather stories that are a bit quirky that have at least a bit of involvement with running or health. We have many months where the race is just a memory for many so I need stories that are somewhat timeless- this is one of them.
As the sport of running has exploded so has the proliferation of niche events like color runs, theme runs and mud/ survival runs. I want to focus on one of these ‘boot camp’ type runs which took place in Philadelphia last June.
This race had rather unique features to its obstacle course named the Electric Eel and Electroshock Therapy. The event promised the participant the chance to “run through a field of live wires”. Add to this, you have runners who are soaked with water, sweat and mud (a wonderful electric conductor). Suddenly the local hospital was dealing with runners suffering from unusual aliments besides the more common strains, sprains and muscle pains.
The emergency room treated 16 people who had suffered various degrees of electrical injury. Victims suffered from electrical burns, lacerations, seizures and inflamed hearts.
Dr. Marna Dreenberg, director of emergency medical research at Lehigh Valley Hospital pointed out you can train for distance running; it’s not quite as easy to train for electricity. I remember as a young child plugging in the Christmas tree lights and inadvertently having my finger toughing the metal part of the plug. As I ‘became one’ with the electric current I was literally knocked backwards- decided not to do that again!
I’m not surprised (or should I saw shocked) that things like this happen; events often push the boundaries to promote participation and establishing they are different. Certainly there are responsibility issues here, both on the part of the race organizers and the participants. Be careful what you ask for!
When I was in the Army a sergeant told me “son, there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity, don’t cross it!”

Starting up a Brand New Day

January 1st, 2014

So we stand at the start of the New Year- a time of new beginnings, a time when all things are possible. It’s like we press this big reset button on our lives to correct those things in our lives that we know are wrong but for whatever reason we keep doing them. We are like Chicago Cub fans at the opening day of baseball season- this time it’s going to be different (all apologies to Cubby fans).
For me 2014 will be a milestone; it will mark sixty years I have been on this planet-wow!
I recently read that 49% of Americans usually make New Years Resolutions. Number 1 resolution? No surprises here- losing weight. Other popular ones, smoking (as in quitting), organization and money matters.
So let’s make some resolutions and hope we can make them stick!
Patience- I fully expect the race will sell out faster in 2014 than 2013, a bit of perspective we sold out last year in 68 hours. What this will invariably cause is a series of emails asking about waitlist (no, we do not have waitlists). Let me remember there is a reason I get these emails, it’s a good thing to get to be in charge of a popular event.
Manage moving- I mean this one in both a literal and figurative sense. At some point this year, our offices will be moving from downtown to West Utica. The benefit of being a stones throw from where the race ends is exhilarating; the thought of dealing with a major building renovation is terrifying.
Last year marked a significant moment of the race being a community change agent with the launch of the Charity Bib Program. Expect more of the Boilermaker becoming an advocate for the promotion of the health of our community. Now saying that…
Good to go?- One of the reasons we moved registrations from January to March is because of those thought about it/ didn’t do it resolutions.
So if you are contemplating running the race for the first time, think long and hard about what you are about to get into. To graduate from being a sedentary individual to one capable of running 9.3 miles in the middle of July takes some real commitment. Besides beginning a regular exercise regime, throw in nutritional changes and perhaps dropping bad habits. While this is tough stuff (if it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it) the letters I get saying how preparing for the Boilermaker has so changed people’s lives shows it can be done. You just need to begin!
So today we have thrown away the rear view mirror and focus on the road ahead of us. I hope all of you reach the finish line you envision.
Please excuse the auto racing/ road racing mixed metaphors.

And the Answer Is?

November 21st, 2013

Over the past couple of months a repetitive question has been emailed to me by so many- ‘when is registration opening for the 2014 Boilermaker? ‘
For the past few years our tradition has been to open registration at the half-way point of the running of the Boilermaker. If we had followed that tradition registration would be opening on Saturday January 11, 2014. However we’ve decided to break tradition- signups will start on Saturday, March 22nd at noon (EST). Why you might ask? Here are a few reasons:
The quick sellout of this year’s Boilermaker (15k-3 days, 5k- 4 days) pointed out, in my opinion, a herd mentality that stampeded. One phenomenon that we have seen is a greater no-show rate than in the past. While we (as well as most races that sell out) would be challenged if everyone showed up we have seen a 3-4% more no-shows than in the past. While I suspect that we will see a quick sellout in 2014 perhaps we’ll see a few more at the start line.
We felt that postponing registration might give a participant greater vision to an obligation that might have trump running the Boilermaker (could there be such a thing!). Weddings, reunions, or that once in a lifetime trip can, on occasion, happen.
Then there is the New Years factor with registration formerly opening so close to that day of new beginnings. According to statistics 45% of the U.S. population makes a resolution on January 1st- unfortunately only 8% will achieve that goal. Running the Boilermaker in the middle of July is not an easy feat (or easy on the feet); this year was a particularly tough one with both high heat and humidity. A first time runner may find themselves having to adopt multiple changes in lifestyle, be they exercise and nutritional, to tackle the 15k. A later registration gives that person a chance to make an honest assessment they can do it.
And why go to a noon opening rather than midnight? If we were to have to handle a computer issue I would rather be dealing with it in the afternoon rather than at zero dark thirty.
Finally, we decided to stick with a Saturday rather than a weekday both because we don’t want to promote workers ‘playing hooky’ or students having to miss classes.
So set your clocks; March is right around the corner!

Walking (and Running) on the Moon

November 4th, 2013

In elementary school when we would be asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’
My reply would be ‘an astronaut’.
As a child of the 60’s, people like John Glenn and Neil Armstrong were the new American heroes.
Unfortunately, an intense hatred of all things math and science combined with poor eyesight obliterated any slim chance I would have to break Earth’s gravity-grip.
However, I recently had a chance to do an out of this world workout.
I received a call from Mike Gus, an orthopedic clinical specialist with Function Better located in Yorkville. I had rehabbed with Mike after getting one of my knees scoped a few years ago.
He said ‘Tim you’ve got to stop by and see this new piece of equipment we have; it’s a low gravity treadmill.’
The treadmill called an AlterG looks in most respects like a normal treadmill except for a plastic tent-like material.
You put on a very snug rubberized garment over your workout pants. Step on the treadmill, pull the plastic enclosure waist high, zip in and press the start button.
The magic begins…
The treadmill measured your body weight as the tent inflates.
As you reduce the gravity load on your lower body it pressurizes the tent and squeezes your body. Note-make sure you have gone to the bathroom prior to using the AlterG!
You can reduce your body weight to 20%, while gravity on the moon is approximately 17% you get pretty close to experiencing what astronauts experienced scampering across the lunar surface. Point of fact- a lunar spacesuit weighed 180 pounds of additional weight you don’t wear on the AlterG so the moon-like experience must be very close.
Like a normal treadmill you can control both speed and incline. This is the hardest I have been able to run in years with no pain either during or after workout.
There are currently only 3 AlterGs around upstate besides this one- Albany, Buffalo and one at Lake Placid for Olympic training (these machines are very, very expensive).
Mike made it clear that the versatility of the AlterG from runners in rehab or training to people working on simple balance issues.
I’m not a professional endorser, nor do I get a thing from Function Better for writing this. All I know is there are plenty of runners (and walkers) who are ‘on the blocks’ but want to maintain an active lifestyle. You really should check it out!
That’s one small step….

The Boolermaker; a frighteningly good time!

October 31st, 2013

The idea of a kid’s run around Halloween had been floating around in my head for over two years. I finally took the plunge and said to my Boilermaker Directors ‘we are going to do this’.
We employed the KISS philosophy (keep it simple stupid) by replicating the run course that we used at Masonic Care Community prior to our Expo move to MVCC. It had been successful in the past with up to 1,800 kids participating. A huge added bonus was the ability to park up to 500 cars on campus that was unavailable when we had the Expo at Masonic.
The ability to pull this off on such a short timeframe (we began work on it in mid-August) stands as a testament to the dedication of our volunteer base. I cannot count the amount of times I heard the words, ‘Tim, what can I do to help?’
Likewise, the Boilermaker name made acquiring healthy treats for our little ghosts and goblins an easy task. No less than eleven organizations donated product to be handed out.
While we had ‘set the table’ for 1,200 participants (again, using our Expo experiences), our inaugural group of runners numbered slightly over 400. While initially disappointed, in hindsight it was a really manageable number not stressing our parking or Boolermaker activities we had in the Masonic gym. Hey, the first Boilermaker had well under 1,000 runners; a pale comparison to our current registration.
The vast majority of our participants were in the 4-6 year old age group who were simply the cutest in their Halloween garb.
Simply the same ones I encounter with the Boilermaker; weather and the safety of our participants. You know those things I usually have very little control over. Ended up getting the same lousy night’s sleep I have the night before the Boilermaker.
Up at 5:30 am and by 6:15 finishing up last minute setup work at Masonic.
At 8:00 families began to stream into the gym. Kids bobbed for apples, were fingerprinted by the Sheriff’s Department, and petted a ferret courtesy of the Utica Zoo. Clearly one of the highlights were the face painters and spay on tattoo artist.
While there was a bit of a biting wind the rains held off. The Ride for Missing Children shepherded pirates, princesses and various characters along the course.
Those that participated received a cool Boolermaker backpack bag loaded with healthy treats.
Looks like we have the beginning of a new Boilermaker tradition!