Boilermaker Blog

And The Award Goes To…….

August 12th, 2009

An important component to the race is the friendly completion that takes place among various groups. Last week we had awards ceremonies for two of these sectors.
For the past 5 years the Utica Fire Department and Utica Police Department compete for a trophy. In memory of Bob Ingalls, former Boilermaker Race Director, the event has been renamed The Bob Ingalls Utica Police and Fire Department Competition.
The past four years the Fire Department have dominated this event; well, 2009 was a new year as the Utica Police captured the award.
I was struck by a couple of things. One, these guys are very good runners with times in the high 50 to low 60 minutes to run 9.3 miles. Second, they are all so young! It is truly amazing to see how young people are getting as I get older; what’s that all about?
This was a really fun celebration with the good natured ‘trash talking’ and the ‘see you next year’ comments. These are really fine young men that represent our community well!
The next day was the Boilermaker Corporate Cup awards. This event has been has been existence for over 25 years thanks to the perseverance of coordinator Cosmo Castellano. This year over 70 firms with literally hundreds of runners competed.
A new wrinkle to this year’s completion was the awarding to three not for profits a $500 donation selected at random from requests by the various teams.
My comments to the group were this. Imagine if every each of them could get at least one fellow employee to participate in a Boilermaker event next year? The two immediate benefits you will have given that person the greatest gift of all; the gift of life, while perhaps beginning to help control our health care costs. I think having Excellus as the sponsor is clearly a great fit.
Still to come; The Spectator Competition Award and the School Challenge; I’ll keep you informed!

Looking From The Inside In – Part II

August 3rd, 2009

Here is my continuation from my last blog looking at the 2009 race from an insider’s perspective.
• The Volunteers. They are everywhere and do nearly everything! For every volunteer you might see as a runner there are thousands behind the scenes making Boilermaker Week happen. The race packet stuffers, the sandwich makers, the orange slicers, the start/ finish line set-er-uppers (my word)and the race course pick-er-uppers (and still another one of my words) to name a few. People that give up nights with their family or take vacation time to support our participants; these are the backbone of our organization.
• Crowd support. One of the biggest disappointments with not getting to run the race on Boilermaker Sunday is to not experience the energy of the spectators. To get that adrenalin rush knowing that people are clapping for you! The amount of spectators encompassing the entire 9.3 mile course is very unusual; which makes this race very special.
• A smile and a thank you. One of the great things about being on the committee and at the start line is I see the runners faces; as a participant I saw the back of my fellow runners heads! Call me a ‘smile vampire’ but there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing that look on people’s faces as they hit the start line and the unabashed joy as they cross the finish line. For the past three weeks I have received the nicest e-mails about the race. I love the ones from people outside the area. Some examples:
‘I came from Alexandria VA to run the race and it was the best organized most fun race I’ve ever done.’
‘I’ve been wearing my finishers pin all week in Florida.’
‘I cried when I got my pin at the end…thank you City of Utica-GREAT GREAT GREAT!’
• Speaking of the city… No race of this magnitude could survive without a good working relationship with the City it exists in. Over the years we have had Mayors from the Democratic, Republican and yes Rainbow Party (not Rainbow; the musician who wanders the streets of Utica but rather Ed Hanna). The support from the Mayors Office, Department of Public Works, Police/ Fire, and Parks Department has been outstanding! Likewise the support at both a County, State and Federal level have helped keep this race first-rate.
• My family. I want to thank my wife and kids for their patience with my work schedule. As you can imagine as the race approaches the demands on my time grow dramatically. For the games I didn’t attend and the dinners I missed, you get me back for the second half of the summer!

Looking From The Inside In

July 24th, 2009

In my last blog I spoke to those experiences in this year’s Boilermaker that really stood out if I was an outside observer. Today I write about the highlights from the perspective of an ‘insider’ to the race; an insider like me. Like my previous list these are not in any order; just my usual stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness).
• The safest Boilermaker ever. Last year we had 196 medical encounters with our runners either on the course, finish line or post race party; this year we dropped to 108. Nothing made me happier than to see the Docs in the Medical Tent sitting around like the Maytag repairman. Why did it happen? Two reasons; one I know and one I suspect. The first reason; absolutely perfect running weather, 58 degrees at race time. The second reason; smart runners. We went through hundreds of cases of free water and sports drinks at the Expo; I think it paid off.
• The flyover. As magnificent as the flyover was it was literally at the last minute that we received word it would even happen. The general perception from the community was it was dead and my plan was to ‘get ahead of it’ and announce no flyover prior to the race. That’s one announcement I was glad not to make. With the departure of the 174th from Syracuse we will be even more challenged to get aircraft.
• The Today Show. Most people are aware that The today Show was on location to film Vivian White who is running the distance from her home in Illinois to Kirkuk Iraq where her son is stationed. I always get nervous when celebrity types’ come to the race because of the potential of excessive demands on staff/ volunteers. Well, my concerns were unnecessary as they were very easy to work with. Let’s hope when the segment runs in August the Boilermaker gets some play!
• Timing. There, I said it! While I was very confident with the team we had and the new protocols put in place was I at least a little bit nervous; you betcha. I am glad this is finally put to bed!
• The weather. Traditionally I start watching weather forecasts very carefully the Wednesday prior to Boilermaker weekend. It’s my opinion that weather predictions further than 72 hours out have real accuracy problems. While Sunday was looking to be spectacular I was concerned about what we were looking at on Saturday. That day you could feel the energy building up in the air and I felt badly for the walkers who were pelted with large drops of rain at the mid-way point of the course.
I know there was a fair amount of disappointment for our late arrival runners when the decision was made to shut down the Expo early and move the 15k packet pick up to ECR (the start line). This decision was not made on a whim. After taking to two meteorologists and looking at the storm track on T.V. I met with the Expo team and we came to the conclusion to shut down early. Was it pretty; no. It was sort of like trying to make a battleship do a 90 degree turn. While it might have been smoother I still believe it was the right decision.
• Sponsorship/ runner participation: What a difference a year had made with the economy. Races ‘run’ on sponsorship and I had real concerns about retention. Well overall we did OK; lost some and got some. In regards to runners the numbers finally ‘popped’ in late Spring. We ended up with the 2nd largest race and largest amount of participant’s % (89.1) in our 32 year history.
Part II of my observations to follow…

One For The Record Books

July 17th, 2009

The 32nd running of the Boilermaker is now over. Our office is now busy putting things away, answering e-mails and getting the bills paid. I’m really looking forward to getting back into a normal sleep routine. I have, unfortunately, inherited from my Mom ‘the worry machine’ where I wake up thinking about possible problems.
Did the race go on without any hitches? No; however when you look at an enterprise that involves tens of thousands of people over a multi-day period it ‘ran’ very well.
Today I’d like to look at the race from the perspective if I was an outside observer. I attended every function during Boilermaker Week; here are some of the highlights in no order of importance.
• The Flag Raising Ceremony. A new event for this year that took place on Monday of Boilermaker Week. The 36 flag poles mounted on the Utica Auditorium came alive with the national flags of the countries who have participated in past Boilermakers. I have often said ‘my best ideas are someone else’s’; this was one of them.
• The Road Runner Mile. This event is only two years old but has generated some real excitement. On the college girl’s side the winner’s time was 38 seconds faster than the previous year and on the high school boy’s side Chris Stogsdill ran a blazing 4:15.
• Expansion of the Expo. One of our central focuses this year was to create an Expo that would interest anyone in the community even if they were not a runner. What you missed if you didn’t come to the Expo; Child ID/ fingerprinting by the State Police, a culinary tent featuring cooking demonstrations every hour on the hour, ‘virtual’ bike races, a pancake breakfast for 1,700, and non-stop music courtesy of the Utica Music Fest.
• The Annual Portrait Unveiling. Traditionally we incorporate some element of the Boilermaker course with a portrait of that year’s Hall of Fame inductee. But no inductee did not mean no portrait. This year our artist incorporated images from the 2008 runs in Afghanistan and Iraq with the finish line of the Boilermaker. The unveiling was a very moving ceremony with the vets of this run autographing copies of the painting.
• The finish. The men’s and women’s finish was very dramatic. On the women’s side they were both so close to each other bearing towards the right side of the finish line that neither headed where the finisher’s banner was on the left! The men’s finish transformed from a 9.3 mile race to a 100 yard dash as Ridouane Harroufi in 2nd place turned on the afterburners and vaulted to first place.
• The flyover. The ‘last pass’ by the 174th Fighter Wing also known as The Boys from Syracuse. The unit is being transformed to a predator drone group. Standing on the stage with the military while the band sang ‘I’m Proud to be an American’ and the F-16’s thundered over the stage made me cry.
My next blog will look at the race from the view of an insider; clearly a different view.
Do you have ideas that could enhance the Boilermaker experience? Contact me at:

At The Doorstep Of The Big Event

July 3rd, 2009

In slightly more than one week the 32nd running of the Boilermaker will take place. While the final tally is not in for entries we may be looking at the 2nd biggest group of runners for the 15k and the largest 5k in our history.
While the focus has always been on the race on Sunday the Race Committee has strived to offer an event suitable for every age and ability. For the young, kids run on Expo Saturday at age appropriate distances. For those young at heart a 3 Mile Walk also held on Saturday though one of the great Parks in the U.S.; Thomas R. Proctor Park. Have a easy going walk with friends and family.
On Wednesday July 8th some of the top high school and college milers compete head to head blasting through an extreme downhill course on the Parkway. The first heat commences at 6:00 pm; be there to see some thrilling competition.
Finally, for those who don’t like to run or walk we have the Boilermaker Expo commencing on Friday July 10th at noon on the stately grounds of the Masonic Community. Here you can attend cooking demonstrations enjoy live music, purchase merchandise or perhaps just ‘people watch’.
This is Boilermaker Week; become a part of it!

Jack’s Moving On!

June 28th, 2009

Yesterday was my middle son’s graduation from high school. We had a small brunch consisting of family and a few friends after the ceremony. My wife had put together a display of photos chronicling the life of Jack. One picture catches my eye; it’s of Jack and I holding hands as we are waiting for his school bus.
I once heard a speaker say you will be strongly influenced by what was happening in the world when you were 10 years old. In 1964 (my 10th birthday) we had the beginning of Vietnam, the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and the arrival of a strange new group called The Beatles. Jack arrived at the ripe age of 10 in the year 2001; I guess you can guess the defining moments for him.
Jack and I are alike; although he might gag at that suggestion. He was born April 27th, I was born April 28th. I told my wife while she was in labor wouldn’t it be cool if she could hold out a few more hours Jack and I could share the same birthday. Fortunately for me I was not within arm’s reach of her as it could have been my last day on the planet. I was voted ‘class clown’ of my senior class. I would guess my parent’s would have rather seen a different honor bestowed on me. Jack also has a wicked sense of humor and the sarcastic word’s of my mother rattle in my brain; “Oh Tim; I hope you have a child just like you.”
It also brought back memories of my own graduation 36 years earlier. I thought of friends some whom still live around the area and those who have passed away. The hairs that have turned grey and the little aches you have when you get out of bed. I can’t believe it but I have become my parents!
Well, that little boy in that photo has become a young man, he has let go of my hand, and is waving goodbye as he begins down his own road. I’ve got a tear in my eye that is liberally mixed with amounts of joy and sadness for perhaps for both of us.
Jack, stay safe.
I love you!

The Mouse Moved To The Left

June 22nd, 2009

I find myself without a cast and that is a real surprise! Rewind backwards three weeks ago when I went to the Doctor’s office to ,thankfully, get my cast cut down and two weeks later to be cast free and begin rehab. Imagine my surprise when I was told that one of the bones hadn’t healed properly and I would have to go for surgery. This news really hit me doubly hard as I was feeling relatively pain-free with strength returning to my fingers. So the following week I found myself in the office of the nice Orthopedic Surgeon. Driving to the office I thought about the unhappy mix of flesh, metal and bone and what the heck I would look like on Boilermaker Sunday.
In stepped the second surprise; the nice Orthopedic Surgeon studied the x-rays and said: “Tim, this one bone that is problematic is really on the edge of needing surgery or rehab; let’s try for rehab.” The clouds opened up, the sun shined and all was well with the world! Praise God; a surgeon who didn’t want to carve into my arm! A few minutes later the nurse came in with the cast saw (or whatever medical term they call that thing) and my arm was freed from its plaster prison of six weeks.
Well, the arm was not the prettiest thing; the forearm had withered with lots of dead skin. The hand from the wrist to the fingers were really swollen. I looked at the nurse and looking at her seriously asked: “Do you think my dreams of being a hand model are over?” She laughed at me and had me attempt and I underline attempt to move my hand. My fingers felt like moving icicles and my wrist screamed in being asked to go places it hadn’t been in weeks. Okay; this wasn’t going to be so easy.
So now I find myself in a wrist brace. I can shower without that infernal plastic bag, fasten buttons easily, use regular floss; not little kids ‘flossers’. I can finally get decent nights sleep; there never seemed to be the right spot to put my cast-laden arm. And, my left hand is freed so I can again write with a pen and use two hands on the keyboard. So the mouse (the computer kind) has moved back to the left!

It’s All Over!

June 11th, 2009

We are now roughly 30 days away from the running of the 32nd Boilermaker. The pace in the office has picked up measurably. The phone is ringing more often, lots of e-mail and website traffic; averaging 1,000 unique hits a day! In short, thoughts of the Boilermaker are rising in people’s minds!
Yet in some respects the race is over.
Tim what are you talking about?
While this race takes place on a single day of the year the planning truly takes up the other 364. At this time all the sponsors are lined up, orders for glasses, finishers pins, runner’s luncheons, water, ice port-a-johns and yes beer. Coordination with police, fire, medical services, timing, news media, the military, and entertainment.
And that’s just for the 15 and 5 k runs on Boilermaker Sunday; let’s add in the Kid’s Run, the Expo, 3 Mile Walk, Road Runner Mile, Youth Olympics, Volunteer Party, the National Anthem competition, and perhaps 12 more individual events or sub-events.
Prior to the beginning of Boilermaker week will have occurred countless meetings attended by hundreds of volunteers and adding up to thousands of man-hours.
Simply put, it’s too late to change course.
The train we call the Boilermaker has begun to leave the station. It’s a locomotive, strong and powerful, built by dollars and services of sponsors, the volunteer spirit of our community and the sweat and tears of runners.
So Tim, if in your mind, the race is over; what are you thinking about?
Well obviously the race isn’t really over. I’ll worry about all the little details Boilermaker Week brings some of which are really important and some that probably are really important only to me.
But believe it or not, I’ll be thinking about the planning for next year’s race!

Build It And They Will Come!

June 4th, 2009

As I was running along the Canal trail, dodging the ‘goose poop’ scattered along the macadam I had a smile on my face. No I wasn’t smiling about the geese and their droppings the size of a small dog’s. As a little kid I had a goose bite me at a petting zoo so I harbor ill-will towards them. I was smiling about Boilermaker registrations.
I’ve had a nagging concern about the entries for this year’s events; we had been running between 500 to 700 fewer runners for the 15k week over week compared to 2008. I wondered if the economy could be having an adverse affect on registrations? I spoke with other Race Directors whose races had already occurred and all said their numbers were up compared to the previous year.
The 5k seemed healthy enough; in fact we have seen 15 to 20% growth of this event every year since we introduced the timing chip for its use. However, we are comparing 2,500 for the 5k vs. 11,000+ for the 15k. The numbers for the Walk were small but, unlike the running events, allow sign up the day of the event. Simply put, great weather equals a great Walk total.
Well, I guess my concerns were unfounded because the tsunami of race applications hit! In a single week we went from being behind 430 runners compared to the same week in May 2008 to the next week being 1,700 over 2008; WOW!
In addition the 5k is double where it was and we have 100 more walkers than last year. Did the price increase generate this traffic, absolutely, but we have never experienced a surge like this.
The 2008 race was the 3rd largest in our history with 11,405 entries; in roughly 39 days we will see if that stands!

Our Brave New World

May 29th, 2009

This week I was looking through some old files primarily looking at logos from the past and thinking about the 2010 design (amazing the stuff we have to deal with before this race is even over). Looking back at hand written notes, mimeographed sheets or carbon copies, I think the only things my kids know about carbon is the footprint! Obviously all correspondence done by ‘snail mail’ with usually weeks elapsing between replies. Photos from the 70’s are frequently in black and white and I doubt much video exists of previous Boilermakers (but if someone has some I would be very interested in seeing them).
Now I look at the web site with over 1,300 friends signed up on the Boilermaker facebook page in slightly over a week. A number of Boilermaker videos posted on the You Tube section and tons of photos in the gallery. We rarely use mail; we either e-mail or use twitter (although I don’t know how to tweet, although some consider me a twit).
Our new digital landscape is great because of the ability to be ‘two clicks’ away from just about anything. Clearly a negative when all those wired-in people want answers from me at the same time! It’s amazing to think that in 1978 (our first race) was the introduction of the first cellular phone; probably one of those ‘bag phones’ that looked like a World War II walkie-talkie and cost $1000.
And remember… rates are increasing on June 1st; sign up on-line, fax or yes, use that stamp, to get signed up!