Boilermaker Blog

What Reed Read

February 22nd, 2011

Last month I went ‘under the knife’ for a minor muscle procedure; will document in a future blog. The ramifications were that I had to be out of the office for about a week.
I’m not a big television guy but checking out the dials I saw daytime pretty much a TV wasteland. Fortunately I had received 2 books over the holidays so I charged headfirst into the land of the printed word and the world of imagination.
The first book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; I’d heard a fair deal of buzz about the story and it became my instant first choice to read.
One of my concerns with books (or movies) that receive great reviews is I develop a preconceived notion that it will not live up to expectations; Unbroken did not disappoint.
Unbroken is the chronicle of the life of Louie Zamperini; not exactly a household name, but then Louie deals with some more than household challenges.
The book looks at Louie’s life in stages; childhood, Louie the runner, military/plane crash/ocean experience, capture by Japanese, and life after WWII.
As a runner you’ll love his experiences culminating in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. While not overtly stated in the book, I’m convinced the lessons learned in running were a critical element to his survival. Lessons like dealing with solitude, running through pain, and perseverance.
The second book was clearly a different beast; Life by Keith Richards. After what Keith has done to himself it’s remarkable his memory is intact. Overall the book is good, not great. The period I feel the Rolling Stones were at their peak; the albums Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed are given short shrift. Little comment about interaction with The Beatles who, in my opinion, helped craft some of the Stones early success.
Clearly both of them are survivors dealing with dramatically different trails. However, Keith does bear a physical resemblance to the POW’s freed from the Japanese POW camps.
Overall, buy Unbroken, borrow Life.

The Race To The Race

January 27th, 2011

The burst off the start was furious. The pace was so strong that its competitors could not match. None of those observing had seen such a performance.
Are we watching the performance of some world class athlete? No, we’re seeing the registration numbers for the 2011 Boilermaker!
How did this happen; let’s jump into the time machine and turn the dial to April 2010.
For at least the past 10 years the Boilermaker would run an ad in the newspaper the day after the race offering registration for the following year’s race. Registration would remain open until the end of June or approximately 48 weeks! I’m not sure how many other races have such an open timeframe.
The elimination of this tradition was two-fold One, to give the Boilermaker Committee a chance to go through lessons learned from the race just run. We would have been making decisions in April 2010 about the July 2011 race!
Secondly, to make the opening of registration more of an event as the ‘shadow’ of the race run the day before eclipsed the chance to sign up for the following year’s Boilermaker.
Front and center was registration for the 2011 race. We were just coming off a record of 13,108 for the 15k and 2,991 for the 5k.
I received more than a few e-mails from 15k complaining about taking miles to break out of the pack. Also the inevitable ‘it takes so long to hit the start line’ messages.
There clearly was concern that we could be looking at over 14,000 runners for the 2011 15k run.
Sometimes more is now always better…
With the 5k we have seen 20% growth year over year. The start is much more open than the 15k so we could clearly handle more runners.
In the end registration caps were set for the 15k and 5k at 13,000 and 4,000 respectively so overall we are taking roughly 900 more runners than last year.
In addition, we wanted to encourage on-line registration. It reduces errors on our end, increases real time information and is clearly a ‘greener’ alternative to paper apps..
To promote the on-line registration we lunched it 4 weeks ahead of paper.
Long and the short of it while we might see 4 to 5 runners registering a day at this time of year we are seeing over 110 a day!
It appears at some point, perhaps in the early Spring, we might hit our registration numbers.
Word to the wise; register now if you are planning on running this year.

Tim; Where Have You Been?

December 21st, 2010

As you can see from the date of my last blog post you can understand why people were thinking about putting my face on the back of a milk container. No I’m not missing, just very, very busy.
Prior to the running of this year’s Boilermaker, the Tuesday before to be exact, I was approached to take the position of Interim Executive Director of our local United Way. The former Exec had just resigned and they thought I’d be just the right guy for the job. After I picked myself off the ground I gently reminded the requestor that I had an event on Sunday that required a bit of my attention. His response was ‘Oh, take a week to think about it’. Great, they wanted an answer two days after the race. Traditionally at that time my brain was trying to recalibrate itself after the sensory overload of Boilermaker Weekend.
Well, after the race was over I met with the recruitment committee and accepted the position, with one big stipulation. That stipulation was I don’t want to be the next full-time United Way guy, I love the race and to the race I shall ‘run’ after they find their person. In line with that was that while the race needs clearly slow down after the event lots of stuff still needs to be done and I needed time to do it. They agreed.
Now it’s roughly five months later and I can say it’s been quite an experience! Some observations:
Doing two jobs is sort of like being the plate spinning guy on the Ed Sullivan Show. For those too young to remember look it up on youtube. When I signed up for the United Way I also signed up for running the Annual Campaign!
It’s been interesting dealing with managing staff again. The Boilermaker office is quite small with only 2 full time staff (including myself) and 4 part time. At United Way I have 6 full time, 3 part time and myself.
Where both organizations are incredibly similar is the heavy dependence on volunteers; neither would exist without the support of these unsung heroes. At the Boilermaker it’s volunteers who pass out the water, at the United Way it’s volunteers who pass out the money!
The Campaign has been long with the expected ups and downs. Workplace presentations, often at odd hours, delivered to groups as large as a hundred down to a handful.
Oh and we ended up getting the United Way building sold and found a new home that we have to be in by April 2011.
I return to the Boilermaker in January, clearly a little weary, but with some really great memories.

What A Race! Boilermaker 2010, Part 2

September 5th, 2010

OK, the race has now officially started; I have watched everyone clear the Start line, gently reminding those in the back that we aren’t conducting a walk as they mosey by me through the timing system.
What happens now? I have to climb aboard a police ‘paddy wagon’ to get escorted to the Finish Line.
Now as wild as my former youth may have been have never had the ‘privilege’ of riding in the law enforcement’s taxi cab.
The vehicles’ rear area is divided up into compartments able to hold three or four people, I suppose they are separated in case they’ve arrested people fighting and don’t want to have the altercation ‘going mobile’. There are no windows so we are plunged into darkness except for a bit of light coming through the front windshield.
We speed down the arterial, and weave through the back streets of West Utica, the lumbering beast stops with a jolt; we have arrived.
Slowly the doors being disengaged and are blinded by the pure July sunshine. People are staring at the release of ‘the Boilermaker 6’.
After a short half block walk we reach the finish line. The 5k run is still in progress (starting a half an hour prior to the 15k) although at over 40 minutes since its start we are seeing the tail end.
The crowds that line this area are stacked 4 to 5 deep pressing against the barrier system.
I am struck by the fact that at this point I am to a large extent a spectator like them. The chute crew knows what to do, the timers are monitoring their systems and God knows I could offer little help in the medical tent.
So I watch…
I watch the crowd cheering their support for the few people they know and the many they don’t.
I watch the wheelchair athletes come blasting through the finish; their fellow racers waiting to give them a ‘high five’.
I watch the person, obviously a first time Boilermaker participant, crossing the finish line. They have tears in their eyes, arms outstretched, with the pride of one who broke the winners tape. Their months of training have paid off. No one else has done this for them.
On to the stage!
If there was one scene I wish everyone could experience is walking out and seeing the mass of humanity that the back of the brewery has become! Over 45,000 runners, family members, volunteers, and spectators are a sea of smiles.
Awards are presented, the singing of the National Anthem, and, unfortunately, no flyover (believe me; I really tried).
Finally I get a chance to walk through the crowd. Ask where they are from, how was the course, what could be better, will you come back?
In general, the day is a blur. Hundreds of conversations; many forgotten, a few I will remember forever.
The 33rd running is over; on to the 34th!

What a Race; Boilermaker 2010/ Part I

July 20th, 2010

The streets have been cleaned, the Port-a-johns have been hauled away and, hopefully, runner’s muscles have recovered from Sunday’s run. It was a remarkable weekend!
So what is it like to be me race day; well, every 10 minutes are different. Frankly, it becomes a blur. But let’s start at the beginning.
Prior to the race our region was experiencing an oppressive weather system blanketing the Northeast with sweltering heat and humidity. Two pre-Boilermaker events, the Road Runner Mile and Youth Olympics, had to be postponed for participants’ safety.
On Friday we gave away our entire supply of Nirvana water allocated for both days of the Expo; Planet Fitness (our Expo sponsor) also blew through their supply.
I was absolutely convinced we would be seeing some sort of thunder and lightning event at some point; and then it happened. Or rather; it didn’t.
If God is not an outright Boilermaker fan He is at least a benevolent spectator. The weather front calmly left the area late Saturday afternoon.
My race day regimen is to get up around 3:00 (am) and head off to the finish line. I am keenly aware of the temperature I feel as I walk out my front door. What a pleasant surprise; the air is refreshing with only a trace of humidity!
The entire Post Race area is a beehive of activity with forklifts darting back and forth hauling pallets of water, orange slices, and sports drinks. In the background is the constant hum of refrigerated truck a/c units and generators. Meanwhile, in the front of the brewery, final preparations are made to the finish line under the ghostly shadow of klieg lights.
Hop a ride to the Start Line and watch the gathering of the herd of runners. For the first time my radio crackles to life with updates on road closures and bus updates. The voices on the other end are serious but not frantic. The shuttle buses had been a known concern with a record number of runners and limited parking in West Utica. Wow, it looks like the extra buses and extra time are working! The early arrivers are clutching their bodies to ward off the morning chill as the morning sun glints behind intermittent clouds. I think to myself; ‘in a few miles you’ll be so happy to have these cool temperatures’.
In the background I hear the voice of Phil Stewart over the loudspeaker. On Saturday I had received the final, final, final, answer that there would be no flyover and told Phil to announce it to the 15k runners, no need for the crowd craning their necks skyward after the National Anthem.
Steady rivers of runners feeding in from the west and east are creating a massive blob of humanity.
The final runners are loading into the chute; I look up at the thousands of faces. The Start Line official gives final instructions to the elites with the final words ‘May God watch over you’. For the last minute a hush has enveloped the entire scene as the clock ticks down. It’s like watching the last seconds prior to a rocket launch; you know the big explosion is coming. The cannon fires; now it begins!
What is the most important I monitor at this point; the Medical Tent. The humidity quickly rose meaning those with the least ability to handle it were out there the longest amount of time. Sort of funny how that works!
Part 2 to follow…

For those about to run; I salute you!

June 27th, 2010

I think I’ve caught myself stuck in a cycle where my blog posts are primarily written about me. While I consider myself an absolutely entrancing individual worthy of accolades infinite praise (a big joke) and study I need to return to my roots; the race.
We now stand at less than two weeks until the running of the race. Preparations for this one day began immediately after the finish of the 2009 race.
Maybe that was you watching as a spectator and saying to yourself ‘I’m sick and tired of watching these people; I’m going to be one of these people’! You may be running in memory of a loved one or for some special occasion (I promised myself I’d run the Boilermaker before I’m; insert age here).
Perhaps you are part of the formal training programs or one of those solitary runners grinding out the miles along the course. The rains chill as it slowly seeps into your clothes and sneakers or the blistering heat causing stinging perspiration to cascade into your eyes. That little voice in you head says ‘hey stupid, you really don’t like this; let’s try again tomorrow when it’s nicer’.
Due to the individualistic nature of this sport it’s exceedingly easy to blow off putting in the time/ miles because of some (often) self-induced excuse. The good news is if you don’t fall that seduction you are building up a mental toughness as you get physically stronger. Simply put; what you give is what you get.
This course is an uncaring creature; she/ he is 9.3 miles punctuated with muscle-staining hills held in the heart of an upstate summer. The distance/ course/ temperature will not change for you. This is not for the faint of heart!
I can tell the people that have that ‘Boilermaker look’ as you trudge along weeks/ months prior to the race. Just know I have often seen you and given you an invisible ‘high five’.
Your ‘Christmas in July’ is almost here!

A Walk In The Park

June 5th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I received a less than complementary e-mail concerning the general condition of Boilermaker Park. For those unaware, we have constructed a mini-replica of the Boilermaker Race Course (sorry, no hills) comprised of bricks located on a city-owned property behind the brewery. For a fee, people have a brick engraved with a message that becomes a permanent fixture of the ‘course’.
On Memorial Day I wandered down to the Park armed with various lawn implements of war to do battle with Mother Nature.
The grass/ weeds had begun to slowly encroach on the outside portion of the brick course. This was a big problem because virtually all the message bricks are located in this area rendering them only partially readable. There was only one solution; a vigorous attack with the edging tool also known as the ice breaking tool at the Reed household in the winter. Slowly, under the blazing sun, the bricks revealed their words to me. Their messages were as diverse as the people that make the Boilermaker happen. There were names of people. Many I knew, most I did not, all of them now literally a part of the course. I came across one of my best friends, Peter Fraser, who passed away a number of years ago and whose daughter will be running her first Boilermaker this year. These bricks shared the sheer joy in accomplishing many Boilermakers or perhaps their first. One of my favorites exhibiting some self pride;’ I have met my hero and she is me!’ The use of a simple brick can be a loudspeaker for their love of the race, our city or a special fellow human sent a powerful message to me. If you have a chance, visit the park on Boilermaker Sunday or perhaps some other day. If you don’t see someone’s name you know you’ll at least ‘meet’ someone has exhibited the Boilermaker spirit.
As I trudged back to my car with a couple of screaming blisters on the palms of my hands and a spreading warmth on the back of my neck signaling a nice case sunburn I had a smile on my face. In a small way I had paid tribute to those ‘warriors’ of that battlefield we call the Boilermaker; this was a memorable Memorial Day!

The Young Princes Return

May 18th, 2010

The college year is over and two of my sons (one a freshman, the other a sophomore) have returned. The term ‘returned’ is a relative one when your kids come back for the summer. A friend of mine said to me; ‘Tim, when your kids come back from college they don’t live there anymore; they’re renters’. How true…
My youngest son, the 15 year old, I’m sure looks at his brothers return with both a sense of happiness and loss at being the center of attention.
What their return means:
Dinner can range from the two to perhaps eight; it makes meal preparation for the mother interesting. With the Boilermaker almost upon us (did you register yet?) my days/ nights have become a series of meetings so I am often absent.
Three cars, four drivers; enough said.
The clothes washer/ dryer are again perpetually running; I guess they don’t teach in higher education that you actually can use a towel more than once!
We informally play the game ‘How much can the recyclable and garbage pail in the kitchen hold?’ Why do I always lose?
Some good things: it’s nice to come home and see the lawn mowed (and I didn’t even ask). To hear one of them say;’ Hey Dad; let me take care of that’. That there is sometimes more gas in the car than the last time I drove it.
Some bad things: the time they get home in the evening/ morning. The size and the cost of the grocery list. That there is sometimes no gas in the car and the radio station/ volume that greets me when I turn the key.
Let’s face it, they have entered the transition point where, while the family is important, we as parents don’t direct every action. They have jobs and are responsible for getting up, getting there, and doing the best they can.
I guess they are taking the course Adult 101; looks like my wife and I are still learning too.

On The Blocks

May 2nd, 2010

There are perhaps no worst words for a runner to hear than they can’t run. Especially true for one who has been ‘taking it to the streets’ for over 35 years. But perhaps I should back up and start at the beginning; usually a good place to begin.
For the past couple of months I’ve suffered through some pretty bad back/ hip/ leg pain. My hours of sleep really went down. I thought about the old saying: ‘I slept like a baby; I woke up every hour and cried!’ When I would get up from the bed in the morning I would feel like I had the legs of an 80 year old; that’s OK if you’re 85, not good when you’re 55. I sort of feel like the Tin Man prior to meeting Dorothy with the oilcan.
There is something about that first really nice day of the year, when that little voice in your head says ‘it’s time to run’. Put on that favorite running shirt, the one you’ve washed hundreds of times making the cotton incredibly, soft lace up the sneakers, stretch, and we’re off! Opps…. the body says ‘ Sorry Tim, not today’ as a shots of pain like an electric current fire up through my legs.
X-Rays had showed some minor spine deterioration so I went the chiropractor route. While the sessions offered some minor relief, the hip/leg pain remained. A follow up MRI revealed that I have a muscle tear at the hip. To add to the fun it looks like I’ve got some bone loss. You know we inherit all kids of stuff from our parents; looks like I got something from my Mom who had osteoporosis. Hey, maybe I’ll be the male version of Sally Fields!
Fortunately, I can at least work out on machines at the gym that don’t pound my body, but my God are they boring! I’m sure I can bike and I was a swimmer in high school but they aren’t the same as a good run.
So perhaps I am looking at the possibility of no more running. The finality of that fills me with a sense of profound sadness combined with the awareness getting old.
The irony of ‘running’ a race while I can’t run is not lost on me. I see the orthopedic surgeon in a couple of weeks; let’s see what happens.

Back From Beantown

April 20th, 2010

This weekend I was in Boston with the primary mission of announcing the members of the 2010 Induction Class of the Distance Running Hall of Fame. As you might be aware they have a little race that takes place on Monday called the Boston Marathon. where over 26,000 ‘toe the line’ at Hopkinton and commence a 26.2 mile journey ending in front of the John Hancock Building in downtown Boston. I had to leave Sunday night, prior to the actual running of the race. Here are my remembrances:
 The fun began when driving into the toll booth welcoming you to Boston off the Mass. Pike. Apparently many of our fellow runners from around the country were unaware of the ‘speedpass’ lane vs. the traditional pay toll. Fun was had by all as cars maneuvered trying to find their respective lanes. It was interesting to see the various license plates from around the country converging on Boston. Traffic in Boston is always a challenge the addition of thousands of out-of-towners made things special. My wife helped me as navigator by telling me the road I should turn onto right when I was passing it!
 The Expo was massive taking up a large portion of the Hymes Convention Center. I got a kick out of two old homeless people (who looked like hey couldn’t run 26 feet as opposed to 26 miles) taking a can of Planters nuts while the guys were trying to fill sample cups.
 Boston Marathon jackets everywhere! On the streets, at the restaurants, at Fenway where I had a chance to sit in a cold drizzly rain and see the Sox lose (quiet down you Yankee fans).
 Did the announcement of this year’s Hall of Fame Inductees, Dick Beardsley and Miki Gorman, at a local ‘watering hole’ near the Expo. Dick Beardsley was in attendance and was incredibly excited to be elected by the leaders of the distance running community.
Finally, you can’t help go to an event like this and catch a bit of the ‘wouldn’t it be cool to run Boston bug’. I know its happened to former spectators of the Boilermaker who became runners because they’ve told me countless times. Who knows, maybe there’s a marathon in me yet!