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.
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!
August 23rd, 2011
By the end of the week the last of our three interns will have left for college. These young people serve an important function to bolster a small staff. They get to experience the ‘Boilermaker high’ as well as the mundane nitty gritty work that happens to support the race. These young people bring with them social media skills that they literally have grown up with. The importance of this cannot be understated; these are tools that are essential for any major road race.
They act as a great sounding board to reach the 20-somethings, an important constituency. Also it helps that they have strong backs!
Some are majoring in sports management, events planning or just a good old-fashioned liberal arts education.
Perhaps you spoke to one if you called our office. Maybe they sent you a training shirt you purchased on-line or helped process your race application.
This year my middle child Jack was one of the interns; always an interesting experience when you get the chance to be ‘the boss’ of one of your children. The real challenge is not ‘inviting’ that relationship into your home after business hours.
One of Jack’s comments to me was “Gee, I didn’t realize how much has to be done to put on this race”!
I smirked and replied “Yeah, it’s a little more than a weekend in July isn’t it”?
This was a nice Summer for the two of us to interact.
It was a chance to work together towards a common goal.
A chance to talk together as two adults about serious issues.
Finally, a chance to laugh together at the crazy things that always happen!
July 18th, 2011
My brain is slowly reorienting itself to a steadier pace. The days of little sleep boosted by a morning coffee jolt(s) have passed.
My family, fortunately, understand that any conversations with me the week of the race are probably meaningless as my head is clearly elsewhere.
The day of the race is frankly a huge adrenalin rush followed, predictably, by a bit of depression with its passing.
The Boilermaker was run a little more than a week ago yet it feels like it was so much longer ago.
The buildup for the race with volunteer coordination, endless meetings, telephone ringing incessantly and invariable snafus makes it a survival race for staff; can we hold out until the end of the race?
Now comes the time of feedback from Committee members, runners, and sponsors as well as personal reflection on the event that has just passed.
Bills need to be paid, thank you notes need to be mailed, and in general we need to put the office back together after hurricane Boilermaker blew through.
Finally, a time to take a few days off and recharge the batteries before plowing into the planning of the 2012 race.
July 2nd, 2011
This will probably be my last blog posting before the running of this year’s running/ walking events. It’s interesting that for my perspective the race is already over. The months of preparation now come down to a series of events encompassed in four days. I can now merely react to the events as they roll out be they good or bad.
So now runners it’s up to you. Hopefully you have gotten your training in; a little late if you haven’t. Have you started increasing your water intake? Be prepared for lines at the Expo; please be patient. Get to the Start Line early! Remember the 5k is starting at 7:15 this year. Say thank you to a volunteer.
Hey people of Utica; come out and cheer our neighbors and visitors as they pound the pavement. This race is heralded throughout the U.S. for its incredible spectator support. As a veteran of many Boilermakers I can tell you it offers a huge lift to the participants, especially our first-time runners.
Sorry if I sound like your Mom; I guess for Boilermaker Weekend I sort of am.
Have a great run; see you at the Finish Line!
June 26th, 2011
While the preparations for the Boilermaker are a year-round event, the final thirty days are when race activities hit light speed. Some of it is structured, some is the unplanned but predicable and some; well some sort of comes out of nowhere and bonks you on the side of the head!
Time formerly our friend has become a cruel, cruel enemy.
All told we will be hosting nearly twenty one thousand participants in six separate events over a roughly one week period.
The support structures to make this happen, hopefully seamlessly, is where the real time is expended. Venue planning, in particular the Expo and the Post Race Party, are huge logistical endeavors involving hundreds of separate companies and thousands of individuals. The race itself with twenty some water stations, over forty forms of entertainment, coordination with medical, police, fire, National Guard, media and timing systems need to be kept in-synch. The mere change of the 5k start time from 7:30 to 7:15 am has implications that ripple throughout the system.
Even the smaller activities such as, the National Anthem Contest, Road Runner Mile, VIP Reception and sponsor golf outing require significant ‘hand-holding’ by volunteers and staff.
Unplanned but Predictable:
Not five minutes after the 15k cap was hit the frantic e-mails and phone calls began to hit. I think we did a good job either through transfers, waitlist, deferrals to get as many of the post-cap people in the race. What I did not gauge well was the volume of these calls/ e-mails and the demand on our small staff to handle them.
At this point I have to give a huge ‘atta-boy’ to Jim Stasaitis, the race director, who personally dealt with most of these issues.
Bonk on the Head:
Finally, I came home on Friday and saw a card sent wishing my wife and I a Happy Anniversary; I suddenly remembered that our Anniversary was on Saturday. The focus on that darn Boilermaker countdown clock I see every morning can blind one to other important things!
May 28th, 2011
Well, we hit the cap on the 15k. In just four and a half months we registered 13,000 participants; wow! I look back at the years we would have a few thousand runners and sign ups ran nearly the entire year; my, how we have grown.
Administering the cap this year was sort of like working on a watch (for those of you who still have a non-digital timepiece) lots of little gears moving around. You’ve got registrations on-line, via paper, elite athletes, sponsor applications (need to guess if they sign up for 15k, 5k or walk), injured runners, the ‘can’t do the 15k, but think I can do the 5k’ runners, on and on.
Then there are the stories why people missed the registration cutoff. With the amount of saturation coverage we received from the media (thank you guys), social media, and mailed applications pointing out the cap. In hindsight, I’m not sure what more we could have done.
Assuming we have a race that meets our customers expectations I expect that next year the race will sell out faster. Next year is our 35th birthday, we’ll have an Induction Ceremony for the Hall of Fame and I’m sure we’ll have some other enhancements to keep the Boilermaker the one race you simply have to run.
I spoke to the Race Director of a race bigger than the Boilermaker on his experience with caps; his experience was the cycle of sellout indeed happens faster. They went to a point where the race sold out in one day! Since then, they use a lottery system based more on ‘luck of the draw’ then when you signed up.
In this case the race did indeed go to the swift; congratulations to those 13,000 who at least made the starting line! For those who procrastinated, registration for the 2012 race opens in January; love to have you come!
May 14th, 2011
The Boilermaker of 2002 was like many. The weather was typical, 68 degrees at the start as over 11,500 runners toed the line to run 9.3 miles. Yet things were very different as ten months earlier America was brutally attacked and plunged into a war unlike any it had experienced in its 220 plus year history.
The finishers pin for ’02 was a Boilermaker logo superimposed over the American flag and was on of the more coveted pins we have created. Clearly the flyover was and is a special one as a reminder of those watching over us.
In this ten year span we have sponsored three ‘shadow runs’; two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Two years ago we memorialized these events by featuring them in our annual Boilermaker portrait as well as introducing some of the participants at the Post Race Party.
So here we are ten years later on the verge of the running of the 2011 Boilermaker. We are ‘back in Iraq’ with possibly 500 various service men and women battling the brutal temperatures of Baghdad to recreate a race they love. The flyover is, hopefully, back after a one year hiatus.
The new things; some serious military support at the Expo, from a rock climbing wall to a tricked out Hummer and throw in some Navy SEALS.
We will be introducing a Patriotic Mile positioned at a point where both 5 and 15k runners can experience it.
Finally, we get entertained by the U.S. Navy Rock Band at the Post Race Party. I have seen them perform; they will not disappoint!
Sometime September 11th seems so far away. Think about it, most of our participants in the Kid’s Run this year don’t remember a pre-9/11 world.
While this race is built around fun and camaraderie let’s think a moment about those that give us the opportunity to have the freedom to enjoy the moment.
On so many levels; these service men and women don’t run so we can.
April 28th, 2011
It’s coming just like the Sun rising in the east we will hit the cap of 13,000 for the Boilermaker 15k (or the 4,000 cap for the 5k) and I’ll have a group of new best friends! Some will be people I know quite well, some passing acquaintances, some I’ve never met!
The stories my new best friends tell me will vary widely but will all eventually come to the same punch line ‘I want to run the Boilermaker and I missed the registration cap.’
One thing we decided after the establishment of the caps was communication through the media was key. The race was born and sustained through the sweat and tears; hopefully no blood, of the local runners; it was why they had first crack at registration this year when it opened.
The surge in registration was immediate and sustained. Days in February that might have seen a handful of applications were consistently tracking over a hundred a day. Tell someone there is the possibility they can’t have something and they will desire it more.
When it’s all said and done the statistics of on line vs. paper registrations, new runners vs. veterans, locals vs. out of towners will be interesting to study. Clearly we are in a new place with registration closed nearly two months earlier than last year, and I wonder what it portends for next years race; the 35th running. Numbers that end in 0’s and 5’s, anniversary years, tend to have even greater demand than normal years.
Here’s the deal; as good a job as the media and we via social media have done blaring out the latest and greatest numbers I have concerns. Too often I run into people who know me or might have seen me wearing a Boilermaker pin and I hear the dreaded words; ‘Oh yeah, I gotta get signed up for the race.’ Will this be the 13,001st person who wants to sign up?
I have two sons in college that have yet to sign up (I keep reminding the lads); how ironic if they want to be the first of my new best friends!
April 2nd, 2011
The latest census data came out a couple of weeks ago and I was frankly dreading it. Upstate New York has seen a massive exodus for over a decade leading to the joke what is our biggest export; our young people. It’s remarkable to think that at one point Utica was a city with over 120,000 people!
How did it happen? A hundred people have a thousand different opinions; job opportunities, taxes, the weather (I might agree after this winter), things to do, on and on.
I think it’s sometimes popular to talk down the place we live in. A while ago a survey was done nation-wide and Utica ended up with the ‘honor’ of being one of the saddest cities. I found it interesting that Washington was listed as the happiest; I’ve been around a few neighborhoods in D.C. that don’t exude happiness as I’m fumbling to engage the door lock.
I find the Bank of Utica ads refreshing in gently reminding us of the things that exist in our community. No, I don’t own any Bank of Utica stock!
Hey, I’m not a big winter guy, yet there are a ton of people from throughout the Northeast who flock to our area to snowmobile; it’s big business. What is remarkable is these trails are groomed by unpaid volunteers throughout the season.
I feel honored to be a part of one of the great community events we have. Here’s the deal; the Boilermaker only works when we have a tremendous volunteer base, support of the city, good media relations and a strong sponsor group.
Well, back to the census; surprise, surprise; Utica actually grew in population; not huge numbers but clearly up! Add to this that Utica is ranked one of the top areas to own real estate.
So where do we want to focus; sad city or growing city?
It seems to me we’ve got enough problems to fight against without fighting against ourselves. I’m not trying to sound like ‘Sally Sunshine’ but really; long term few people like to hang around with people who are perpetually negative.
Don’t be the guy at the party that no one wants to be around.