Boilermaker Blog

Are You Ready?

April 21st, 2012


This year’s Boston Marathon, which occurred on April 16th, was certainly an interesting one. The wild weather we have experienced blasted the eastern seaboard with temperatures 30 degrees above normal. The marathon, which starts at around 10 am was looking at 69 degree temps at start time. Race officials offered to the 27,000 registrants the opportunity to defer running this year’s and be guaranteed a spot in the 2013 race; over 4,500 took them up on the deal.
In spite of thinning the field, doubling the hydration stations, and repeatedly cautioning the runners to not try and achieve a pr (personal record) over 2,100 had to seek some form of medical attention. Add to this the unique nature of Boston; participants need to have a qualifying time from another marathon to even get a chance to register; you weren’t talking about people who had not experienced the rigors of running 26.2 miles.
While we have been extremely fortunate with cool start line temperatures over the past few years (58 last year) there are no guarantees with the weather other than it will change.
The hottest temperature we’ve had for a Boilermaker start was 1988 (8:30 am start time) when it was 79 degrees when the starting gun went off; and that was before you had the ‘privilege’ to run 9.3 miles where temps quickly rose to the mid 90’s. That was one of the few years I did not run the race (thank God) as I was on my honeymoon.
This leads me to the true intention of this blog. The race is now 78 days away as of this writing. If you feel you are not up to running 15k (or even 5k) this July why don’t you transfer the number to someone who can and will? Just visit the Boilermaker Facebook page and you will see the demand. On April 30th (you heard it here first) the transfer period goes live; it will be very easy to do.
The race this year strictly adhere to shutting down the clocks at 21/2 hours so if your plan is to walk the course you may find little waiting for you at the finish. Remember, this is a race; our walk event takes place the day before at MVCC.
So if your not ready you have the opportunity to bring joy to someone you may not even know and that my friend is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Pay It Forward

March 28th, 2012


This blog will be a bit more technical dealing with the early sellout of this year’s Boilermaker; not a great deal of my normal goofiness.
Last week the 5k sold out so the ‘escape hatch’ I had with discouraged 15k runners slammed shut. Needless to say both the Race Director’s and my e-mails have been flooded with pleas of just let one more person in (or sometimes ten more).
In recognition that there is so much pent up demand for the race we will be instituting for the first time a transfer policy so runners can legally obtain a chance to run the race.
The Boilermaker is not getting into the business of being e-harmony; the responsibility of the person who wants to get in is to find someone who wants to get out. There will also be a $10 registration fee to be paid by the in-coming runner. That’s really fair when you consider prior to the race cap we would charge $50 for late entries, now you’re on the hook for $47 ($37 entry& $10 registration fee).
So where do you find that elusive ‘not running the Boilermaker this year’ person? My first suggestion is social media. This year was a first for us besides being the biggest field; it was also the first time where we effectively had nearly 100% sign up on-line. I’ve already seen a number of hopeful people looking for those signed up but not planning to run on the Boilermaker facebook page.
We are holding back on activating the transfer until May 1st, why you ask, a few reasons:
Often the events of life give us surprises, both happy and sad, that may change your mind about running in July. If you think about it with the earlier registration where thousands had signed up by the end of January as opposed to a few hundred just a couple of years ago it’s a certainty things will have happened that will keep you on the sidelines on July 8th.
Secondly it may take the person who wants to run time to find the person who signed up but wouldn’t run.
So Tim you say, why did you call this pay it forward? There are roughly 4,400 new runners for the 15k and 1,800 for the 5k (that’s incredibly high for a 4,000 person race). If for whatever reason you know in your heart you simply aren’t going to run the race then bring a bit of joy to a person you may not even know.
Is this an added burden on runners who want to get in; yes. Will we end up with people who wanted to run but don’t get in: probably. Is this a better alternative to simply saying no to everyone who wants to participate; absolutely.
Keep the faith!

Boilermaker Blues

March 10th, 2012


“And it’s too late baby, now it’s too late. Though we really did try to make it.”
Carol King 1971
If you are reading this and wanted to run the 2012 Boilermaker 15k but hadn’t registered yet I’m afraid you are out of luck.
A simple math lesson:
Last year we had a smaller field (13,000) and went roughly 100 days( May 14th )until we closed out.
This year the race opened registration on January 7th and in 65 days 14,000 runners filled the field.
Less days= more runners, sort of a funny formula!
If last year’s registration was at the speed of sound this year went at the speed of light.
In hindsight the attraction of running the 35th anniversary race combined with all the people that were shut out last year and vowed not to have it happen again provided a powerful formula for an early sell out. I was convinced the race would sell out earlier but thought it would occur at the end of March.
The 5k will quickly follow suit as disappointed ‘coulda-been’ 15kers register for the smaller race. Last year’s male and female 5k winners both had been shut out of the 15k. It’s funny dealing with the ‘hard core’ 15k runners. Suggest to them they could always run the 5k and I get ‘the look’.
Now comes the tough times, the times I dread, when I hear the phone ring.
“Hi Tim, it’s (fill in the blank). “ (I think I know what’s coming)
“Hi (fill in the blank), haven’t heard from you in awhile; what going on?”
“Well you wouldn’t believe it” (Now I really, really, know what’s coming! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!) I guess I was unaware of the race closing out so I was wondering…”
One of the worst parts of this job is having to say the simple word ‘no’. It’s cold comfort to tell it to someone you don’t know, downright unpleasant to drop it on someone you consider a friend.
The e-mails have already begun with the reasons that 14,000 people ‘got it’ but they didn’t: oh well.
I suppose it’s a great thing to have a product that people want. Still, I’m thinking about joining a witness protection program at least until the race starts!

Survey Says!

February 26th, 2012


A few weeks ago we sent out an electronic survey of twenty questions to 9,400 former Boilermaker participants. Nearly 2,400 responded back or roughly 20%; simply amazing.
The questions ranged from things we’ve done in the past to possible enhancements to this year’s or perhaps future Boilermakers.
Who Are You?
From a gender perspective our recipients pretty much mirrored what we’ve seen from registration; 52% male, 48% female. Age-wise the 25-34 year olds were our largest respondents, they traditionally are part of our ‘core’ in race participation. You certainly are a smart bunch; 50% have a college degree and 38% have post-college education!
What Did You Say?
If runners had run other races besides the Boilermaker we ranked very high in entertainment, the Post Race Party, and the finish line. Fans and support along the course ranked the highest, as it should. This community takes supporting this event seriously with nearly wall to wall spectators along our 9.3 mile course.
The start line and the Expo did not rank as well. The start line I get; it’s a constrained space and if you end up with slower runners in the wrong corrals it causes frustration.
The Expo was a bit of a surprise. I’m hoping that the move to MVCC with its ample parking to ease concerns.
This year is an induction year for the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. Traditionally we have the induction Saturday afternoon of Boilermaker Weekend. We asked if you had advanced notification would you come; 75% said you wouldn’t. This was a bit of a kick in the stomach!
We’re thinking about offering a full day of speakers/ presentations at the MVCC Theater on Boilermaker Saturday, 62% said you’d like to see an athlete from the running world with 34% favoring an inspirational speaker. I’m trying to figure out how someone wouldn’t come to see a great American athlete at the Induction but want to hear from an athlete from the running world; oh well.
The idea of receiving a ‘virtual goody bag’ rather than the traditional one was vetoed by three out of four of you. Most of the larger races are abandoning goody bags due to the availability of sample sizes of products and the sheer amount of cardboard and logistics to support the effort.
Show Me the Money!
Over 86% of you said you would be interested in buying merchandise at the Expo primarily focused towards the running community. If we looked specifically at Boilermaker merchandise the technical shirt was the clear favorite getting nearly 1,500 votes followed by tee shirts garnering over a 1,000 votes.
Feed Me!
Our Boilermaker participants’ certainty like food. If we were to expand activities at the Expo the number one choice (with over 1,400 votes) was nutritional cooking. If you had a choice of food offered at the Expo healthy choices such as wraps, salads and sandwiches were followed closely by local favorites such as chicken riggies, greens and tomato pie.
The sandwich offering at the Post Race Party was a marginal winner with alternatives of fresh fruit and energy bars ranking highly among people who did not care for the sandwich. Nearly 60% said they would pay for food at the Post Race Party depending on the offering.
The Sponsors Smile
Over 86% of you are aware of the sponsors of the Boilermaker and 78% of you said you would patronize them! Believe me these are numbers I will share with our sponsors whom I assume wonder if supporting the Boilermaker makes good financial sense.
The last question was an open-ended one; ‘if you could tell the Boilermaker staff one thing what would that be?’ I haven’t tabulated the answers or figured out if there is a trend or common theme; when I do I’ll report back.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey. There is nothing better than hearing ‘the voice of the customer’.

YouTube & Facebook& Blogs; Oh My!

January 31st, 2012


Any race that is looking to grow its participation and not using social media is going down the wrong road.
The Boilermaker has been committed to social media for many years and has recently hired a person to support this powerful tool from a marketing perspective (see Adam, I told you I was going to give you a shout out!).
Why social media?
Social Media folks are your folks!
Look at your race demographics by age, if you haven’t been tracking that (as well as where your participants come from) we need to talk.
In general the ‘sweet spot’ you will see is most of your runners range in age from around 17 to their mid-30’s. Guess what, these are the heavy users of social media tools. In fact some of them don’t even remember that there was life prior to the internet (which became a usable medium around twenty years ago). I still remember when we had a black and white TV in my house that could get three channels (two of them well, three if the rooftop antenna was aligned correctly).
Races by their very nature are a kaleidoscope of great photographic moments; share what you have. With the omnipresent nature of smart phones with video capabilities you have the chance to empower hundreds of first person reporters to showcase your race.
It’s cheap- in fact it’s free!
Assuming the majority of your participants come from your community could you afford to pay the print, TV or radio to get the word out in a meaningful way?
If you are an event that is dependent on sponsor dollars to help defray costs (and who doesn’t) a strong digital presence promotes them 24/7 365 (actually 366 this year as 2012 is a leap year). They know that runners are a desired group boasting a high education/ net income and can be a loyal bunch.
A big caution
Remember I told you it was free, well that was a bit of an exaggeration. The cost is your time to keep up with the care and feeding of your website/ social media.
Keep it fresh; nothing is worse than a stale website (except perhaps stale cereal). One you decide to jump into the digital pool you need to jump in the deep end!
One thing you will quickly learn is that if you have a popular event you will quickly build a circle of Facebook ‘friends’. You will also as quickly learn if you have 100 friends they may have 150 opinions about any subject!
Don’t have thin skin, not everyone will love your event as much as you do. If complaints on Facebook are legitimate consider then a chance to ‘make right’ and show you are a good listener. Should the writer be unreasonable and appears to be complaining for the sake of complaining frequently others who have ‘befriended’ you will act as your ally.
Regarding blogs, the first one is very easy to write; the twentieth not so much so. I use a simple test when I begin composing a blog “does anyone besides me even care about this subject”? Many an article has ended right there.
How ironic that perhaps the oldest of human sports born from the flight vs. fight syndrome Let me run from something/ someone that wants to eat/kill me or let run after something/ someone I want to eat/ kill has transformed into a 21st century endeavor where we barcode our runners, instantly send text messages on course conditions and digitally send them their results.
I better tweet someone about all this!

What A Weekend!

January 11th, 2012


On Saturday, January 7th at 12:01 am the 2012 Boilermaker began, or rather, Boilermaker Registration began; boy did it take off fast!
In 2011 at the end of the first weekend of registration we had 856 people registered for the 15k, 85 for the 5k. By the end of Sunday (January 8th) over 2,100 registered for the 15k, 164 for the 5k. Looks like we’re going to sell out waaaay earlier than last year! Facebook has caught on fire with runners exuding Boilermaker spirit.
On Saturday morning we did a paper registration at our local Planet Fitness. My favorite part of these events is getting the chance to interact with our customer; the runner. From the veterans of multiple Boilermakers to the ‘I’m going to run this race once before I die first-timers’ I get a charge out of just listening to them. It helps remind me the importance of this race to our community and our responsibility to deliver a first class event.
The night ended with a fireworks display near our offices to celebrate the halfway point until the Boilermaker. I ran into volunteers that support the race who came downtown to catch the pyrotechnic display. Clear skies, temperatures in the 40’s (I’m sort of loving climate change) as the first rocket took to the sky.
Today the race became real!

New Year, New Me

January 2nd, 2012


New Years is one of those holidays that have never been high on my hit parade. I have a tendency to thing about those things undone rather than those things achieved.
Yet saying that I am frankly very happy this year is coming to a close. The last two months have been marked with a series of deaths of people that I know, including the passing of my Aunt Elaine the last survivor of my parents, their brothers and sisters and their spouses. My sister said to me; “Tim, we have now officially become the old people”. I have been recently been listening to John Meyer (definitely buy his Where the Light is CD) and his song ‘Stop this Train’ which reminds me of my own mortality. But my plan for this blog was not to ramble on about life or death but the idea of resolutions.
Often we decide that January 1st is the day to tackle the whole enchilada of traits we believe need to be changed. Let’s simply throw all those bad habits in a bag and toss them off the pier; hey how easy was that! Behavioral change is very, very difficult, just try putting on a shirt inserting the opposite arm you usually do; sort of feels weird.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of promises we make to ourselves the first day of the year come undone pretty quickly. It’s tough to ‘rewire’ our brains to do something that might bring us immediate gratification even though it is, long-term, a bad thing for us.
Saying all these things I am the firm believer that one of the strongest powers we posses is the power of hope. So if your if you want to lose that extra weight, eat healthier, or perhaps run your first Boilermaker.
Remember what I said earlier about the challenges of changing many bad habits in our lives? Decide to run the Boilermaker and do all the right things to prepare yourself for 9.3 miles and you’ve headed a ways down the road to become ‘the brand new you’!
So for me it’s a simple resolution (yeah, right Tim); the resolution to be a better listener. You know there’s something funny about being the person in charge; frequently your hearing somehow gets diminished. Perhaps it’s pride, ego, or maybe it’s just being simply hard-headed. It is coming to the understanding that not only do I not have all the answers; sometimes I don’t even know what the questions are!
Have a great New Year!

Your First Boilermaker

November 28th, 2011


In 2012 the Boilermaker will be thirty five years old. This will be a big race. In general big anniversaries add that extra luster that create demand to be a part of it.
I’m assuming that there will be many potential first time runners who are saying to themselves “if I don’t run the race now will I ever do it?” No doubt, this is one fun race to participate in. If you are serious about achieving this goal in 2012 I have some advice.
Straight up, I’m not a doctor, physical fitness trainer or nutritional guru; just a guy who has run this race a number of times
Be realistic
Are you ready to run 9.3 miles in the middle of July on a challenging course? Have a conversation with someone whose opinion you respect and really knows you. Perhaps it’s someone who has run the Boilermaker before. Should you decide to do it use this person/ people as part of your support group.
Get a physical
Would you drive from New York to L.A. without having your car checked out? Leaking oil, bad tires and soft brakes are scary, heart problems, muscle/ joint issues much worse. Some people simply are not made for running. Do not take that to mean that there is not an exercise program appropriate for nearly everyone.
Assuming you have no underlying medical problems running is a great way to lose weight, get your blood pressure down.
What will become clear to you early is that the discipline of running may have some great crossover benefits in breaking bad habits like smoking ( do you think!) and watching what (and how much) food you intake.
Sign up early!
There are two reasons to sign up early.
One, this race will sell out; what a shame if you are in shape but the door closed on you. Secondly, when you make a financial commitment you now have some skin in the game. It has now become more than just bold talk.
Where are we going?
Establish a running course by distance and topography (hilliness). Obviously a track is the easiest to start with; the measurement is precise and is flat. Unfortunately, running a track (in my opinion) is very boring. The other problem is tracks usually are not plowed during the Winter.
If you are a running newbie you may find your first runs to be less than pleasant; let’s be honest they will probably be terrible!
Focus on how long you were running/ walking (and it’s OK to run, walk, and run) not necessarily the distance. That will come over time.
One of the real challenges in committing to this race in January is the sad reality that your first few months of training will be when we are in the grips of Winter. If you are cold averse (I hate running in the cold) remember that a treadmill is a great compromise. However, in saying that there is no better way to train for a road race than running. Sort of sounds like common sense!
Find a friend
One of the horrible truths of life is it’s easy for us to quit on ourselves. “Oh, the weather is bad; too hot, too cold, raining, snowing, oh, it’s too early, it’s too dark” on and on.
When you have a running partner the old ‘guilt gremlin’ reminds us that when we decide not to run we have let down someone else (who also is hot/ cold wet..).
Try and find a running partner(s) who is either around your same level of athletic ability or someone who is more proficient but patient. Did I add that you should really get along with them?
Local running clubs also offer an opportunity to not only find running support but to create a social network as well.
Track your progress
What gets measured gets better.
While there are a number of great running logs available on-line a simple pocket note book will do.
Keep track of day you race, how far you went/ amount of time, weather conditions maybe even something unusual you saw (one time I had a coyote, or coy-dog, run in front of me while running a back road in Old Forge).
You will begin to impress yourself, “Wow, look how far I’ve progressed”!
Stepping out
On any given weekend leading up to the Boilermaker there are a number of races throughout the community. When you feel comfortable try out a 5k (3.1 miles) race. The goal is not to win but to get feeling comfortable with the preparation prior to a race, handling the start line, and learning to pace yourself. If you are local to Utica the weekly Developmental Runs are a nice option (with a hilly environment).
In early January we will be opening registration for the Boilermaker, maybe we’ll see you there!

Tim’s Sunday Shopping

October 10th, 2011


This is the time of year when there is little to write about the Boilermaker. While a number of very important administrative tasks are getting done they probably don’t rise to the occasion of writing up on my blog.
Yet the ‘deal’ if you will is once you start a blog you need to feed the beast.
So this blog has nothing to do with road racing in general or the Boilermaker specifically, if that’s what your looking for you might want to stop reading now.
I’m going to write about grocery shopping and the occasionally goofy things that happen to me and that I think about.
Sunday is traditionally the shopping day for the Reed family.
The deal is my wife makes the list and I get the chance to do the shopping and pay for it. It appears the distribution of labor is not to my benefit, but I digress.
First off need cash so on to the drive-through ATM.
Is it only me that finds it interesting that when you go to the drive-through ATM that there are Braille symbols under the keys? I have nothing against the sight impaired but I’m not sure they should be driving.
Secondly, have you ever thought about the amount of people that use the ATM? It’s sort of like getting a chance to shake hands with thousands of people with just a few punches of the keypad. Might be a great place to provide the customer a hand sanitizer device.
As I enter the store I encounter the shopping cart ‘corral’. I review which one of these ‘ponies’ seem to be the cleanest and attempt (underline the word attempt) to navigate the cart out of the corral. Well, invariably the cart I have chosen is involved in some sort of mad metal and wheels mating ritual. Out come no less than three carts that refuse to disengage. You feel the eyes of the citizens dropping nickel deposit bottles in the machines located close by resting on you thinking “Ok tough guy, let’s see what you’re made of!”
Rather than getting in a wrestling match I usually just give up on that group of carts, leaving them for some unsuspecting poor soul coming later, and snag a single cart close by.
While the deal is that my wife makes the list and I shop the list invariably my cell phone will ring with addition(s) to the list. While the call is not a problem where the dilemma occurs is 90% of the time as I’m speaking another call is trying to come in. Now this is the same phone that may not get an incoming call in days yet suddenly it’s like some sort of weird instant message goes out to everyone I know saying ‘Hey Tim’s on the phone, call him now, it really frustrates him!”
Where the frustration comes in is attempting to answer the other call usually results in me pushing the wrong button and hanging up on both my wife and the other person calling in.
My philosophy about this is if it’s really important they’ll call back.
As an aside, is it me or does it seem like the strangest people in the store are in the pet food aisle?
Finally I’m done, the cart groans under the weight from the tonnage of stuff piled in.
Time to check out.
The checkout lines are marked as follows:
Quick Express Line, 10 items or less
Express Line, 25 items or less
You’re Going to Stay Here a Long Time Aisle (OK, I made that up).

As I unload my cart the bagger has a different cart at the ready to load up. Why does it seem that the cart I get was a homeless guy’s cart that besides not being the most clean sometimes has that one wobbly wheel making it act like a possessed creature?
Get to the car, try not to crush the fragile items (I usually bat about.500) and we are homeward bound!
Promise next blog will be more Boilermaker-centric.
Run safely!

Tough Decisions Are Tough To Make!

September 16th, 2011


By now you may have heard that the Boilermaker Expo will be leaving the Masonic Care Community to relocate to Mohawk Valley Community College. Breaking up is never easy; the race and Masonic had a fifteen year relationship putting on the Expo. Few remember the old pre-Masonic Days when the Expo was held in the Riverside Mall prior to the mall being broken up into a series of big box stores. At that time we had around 3,000 runners, no 5k, no Walk and the Kid’s Run was held race day on the last mile of the course. The Post Race was small enough to hold in the front of the brewery and you picked up your own beer cups!
When I met with Masonic I said this was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my four years as Executive Director; I meant it.
Change is tough; we now need to lay out new courses for the Walk, the Kid’s Run, new venue for the Induction Ceremony, Volunteer Party, and Pasta Dinner.
More importantly we now leave a dedicated Masonic staff who have over the course of time have become good friends to an unknown group in a new neighborhood.
Saying all these things, the move ultimately is a good thing for the Race, or should I say for the runners, primarily because of weather and parking.
Conducting an Expo using tents makes one susceptible to the quirks of upstate New York weather and we have had some ‘dandy’ quirks. This years thunder and lightning spectacular on Friday afternoon of the Expo was pretty interesting.
What few realized was we need not only two good days of weather for the Expo but roughly four good days prior for setup.
On to parking…
Some wags claimed that the walk to and through the Expo was longer than the 15k. No doubt we were victims of our success as we offered more and more with parking that was less and less. Whenever I would see a runner at the Expo carrying multiple goody bags I’d think “did that guy draw the short straw and have to pick up his friends stuff?”
Clearly parking should be (hopefully) a bit easier for our visitors; some might even be able to walk to the Expo from their house.
So the Expo returns to its roots of an in-door venue. We have some brand new logistical hurdles to deal with. Am I worried; I always worry a little. Fortunately, I have a group of incredible Boilermaker volunteers and workmates that will help make me look smart!