Boilermaker Blog

I’m Back!

March 26th, 2010

Sorry for the long absence since my last posting. Between a website hosting change, a rather hectic work schedule and, yes, a bit of writers block allowed things to get away from me.
We will in roughly a week reach the 100 day point until the race. When we cross over to that two-digit mark the activity level dramatically increases. The phone rings more frequently, a dramatic rise in e-mails, and a dearth of meetings. What many may not realize is the amount of prerace work accomplished prior to this point. Sponsor presentations (nearly sixty between existing and potential new ones) are essentially done due to their budgeting that is traditionally firmed up the previous year. Preparations for ordering finishers pins, glasses, goody bag items, clothing for Expo sales, and timing systems are a portion of things that need to be locked down weeks, if not months, prior to the event. Planning meetings with the various media, print, radio and TV outlets on this year’s race coverage. Add to this the planning for the Hall of Fame Race (run this year on May 23rd; sign up today), this year’s Induction Ceremony; on and on…
In fact the initial planning for the 2011 event will begin about a month and a half prior to the running of the 2010 race.
This is our time to ‘sweat the details’ because frankly if we don’t confusion and disappointment will take over!
Now when I look at the Countdown Clock when I walk into the office in the morning my anxiousness rises.

Christmas Came Early

December 15th, 2009

Last week I received one of those calls that sucks the oxygen out of the room. It was my wife. ‘Tim, Jack (my 18 year old son) was just in a car accident and its bad’. I ran to my car and drove in a as safe a manner as possible to the accident site. As I drove there I theorized in my head; what does the term ‘bad’ mean? Had Jack veered into a ditch, I knew the area in question had ditches that could swallow small nations. Could he have hit a tree, or, God forbid, some person along the road. I crossed the crest of the hill and in front of me I saw; flares, fire trucks, police cars, an ambulance, my car at facing the wrong direction on the road and a 14-wheel Coke truck. Yup, this looks like it’s going to fit the definition of bad.
I parked as close as I could and proceeded to the back of the ambulance where I assumed Jack was; I was pacing my breathing preparing myself for hat I might see.
Jack was sitting on the rear bumper of the ambulance, clothes muddy and eyes filled with tears. ‘Oh Dad, I’m so sorry I wreaked the car!’
‘Jack, they build more things every day; they don’t more who’s every day.’
The ambulance driver said: ‘Mr. Reed, he says he doesn’t want to go to the hospital and we can’t force to go, but with an impact like this…’ his voice trailed off.
I glanced at the car and for the first time saw the full extent of the damage. The entire passenger side was a concaved in like some evil giant had delivered a brutal kick. The side air bags waved like some ragged flags of surrender in the breeze. Oh yeah; the boy is going to the hospital.
I met my wife and son at the hospital after I dealt with the tow truck operator. ‘Mr. Reed, no doubt about it, this car is totaled!’
In the Emergency Room I learned my son at the stop sign looked right, left, and forgot to look right again; enter the tractor trailer. At the accident scene I had gotten a chance to look at the front of the truck; while it needed to be towed the overall frontal damage was pretty mild.
We spent about four hours in the hospital and Jack was pronounced fit to leave. Since the accident he has some pain where the shoulder harness grabbed and where his knees collided together as the car performed a massive ‘student body left’.
The following day I had to go to the salvage year to reclaim the contents of the vehicle. Smashed half-moon cookies and dinner rolls were lying on the passenger seat. I thought to myself ‘well, the rolls don’t look bad unless people have to pick safety glass out of their mouth after they eat them!’ I left them in the car. The body shop mechanic helped me open the trunk where I had put Christmas gifts I has purchased the previous week.
I turned to the mechanic and said to him; ‘My Christmas came early. This is my car; traditionally my son would have been driving the kid’s Toyota 4Runner.’ The Toyota rides extremely high and most certainly would have been sent tumbling (less air bags). So I received the gift of my son’s life prior to Christmas. Thank you God

I’ve Made It To Hollywood (Florida)!

November 13th, 2009

Last week I attended the annual Road Race Management Meeting held in Florida. Representatives of all the major races primarily from the eastern half of the United States were in attendance as well as running clubs, media and vendors. Here was my takeaway from the conference:
*Races in general are seeing greater participation numbers. Some races are selling out literally in hours and others are instituting lottery systems. It makes me chuckle thinking about the Boilermaker which keeps its registration open nearly year-long and runners suddenly realize the race is a couple of weeks away and want to register!
*The on-going economic malaise is challenging races regarding sponsorship. This is a serious problem because no large race could finance their event strictly off runners without huge registration fee increases.
*Timing technology continues to evolve. There were a number of companies displaying disposable timing chips. Perhaps the most intriguing were ones that are embedding the timing device into the runners bib!
*Races are continuing to try and ‘green’ their events. This is a real challenge because in general major events assemble thousands of participants for a few days a year consuming countless gallons of water, tons of food and seemingly endless amounts of paper. How do we treat our planet with the same care and attention we give our athletes? The Boilermaker has been fortunate to have local Solid Waste Authority as a partner to promote recycling and the reduction of trash.
The weather in Florida was not great as continual gusting winds made running near the beach akin to running through a sandblast! Now I’ve got to temper my remarks because on that same day my wife (in Utica) was battling through snow flurries to get our youngest son to an in-door lacrosse game.
It’s nice to go to events like this where you can exchange ‘war stories; how about a race who had a train nearly cut through the middle of a race in progress. The Race Director blocked it off with his truck! Sort of makes any of my problems seem small.

Tim’s Mindless Musings

November 2nd, 2009

Here are some things that I thought about this week. They are loosely affiliated, but rather scattered thoughts, that came to my head while running.
The Swine Flu: I think if there is anything positive about this recent Swine Flu scare is the increased awareness on washing ones hands. There was a recent study done about men’s hand washing habits after they had gone to the bathroom. Apparently only 60% of men while 90% of women wash their hands after using ‘the facilities’. In an office environment I would often be shocked by people I worked with who I would talk to while we were taking a ‘biological break’ and then they would walk out bypassing the sink! So now even when I wash my hands I have the ‘pleasure’ of opening the ‘dirty door’. Now I know it might be weird to place the sink outside the door (but it might really cast the light on those non-washers in the workplace) but at least put a hand sanitizer close by.
My next vote for very unclean surfaces…
ATM machines: the surface of these keypads has to be one of the nastiest germ factories on the planet. Speaking of ATM machines; I’ve always wondered why some ‘drive thru’ ATM machines that I’ve used have Braille symbols on them? I hope I never encounter the driver that needs those!
Now more about cars…
Car courtesy: I think we’ve all dealt with the car that we hear approaching before we can see it and I ‘m not talking about the one with the bad muffler; I’m talking about the one with the supersonic stereo system. You can usually figure out which car it is when at a stoplight; it’s the car near you that seems to suffer from a spasmodic twitch as the bass line incessantly pounds. While I find the music mildly offensive I find the words extremely offensive. I suppose these must be some sort of ingenuity to manage to fit in as many unacceptable words in a short period of time. At least close your windows!
Smoking: If I find the ‘sharing’ of music an issue I really can’t understand the smoker who drives alone and hangs their cigarette out the window. Like the ‘music sharer’ if you really enjoy the flavor please close those windows and really enjoy the full affect!
Now I’m thinking about cigarette butts…
Why is it unacceptable to throw a fast food cup on the street, yet throwing cigarette butts on the ground is OK? As a runner it always amazes me the amount of cigarette remains I encounter along the roads and sidewalks; it seems like these babies have a lifespan of years! Perhaps a fine should be assessed similar to littering but the money goes to programs that support smoking cessation?
I think I’m beginning to understand the time when one of my elementary school teachers spoke to my mother and said; ‘your son certainly is different!”

The Explosion

October 19th, 2009

To those that regularly read my blog my writings are generally a mix of seriousness very liberally sprinkled with comedic elements, or perhaps visa versa; my writings mimic me. Todays will be different. This past three weeks have been very sad ones for me as I have seen the death’s of three people who in some way have a connection to me.
A workmate lost her sister and brother-in-law under horrible circumstances and as a result four children between the ages of 9 and 17 are now parentless.
The following week an employee from my former company lost his 19 year old son after a tortuous 3-year battle with cancer.
Finally, a long-time Boilermaker volunteer passed on due to brain cancer.
I can only imagine that for the survivors it’s like standing too close to an exploding artillery shell. The initial impact causes disorientation and bewilderment. Then there is the shrapnel that injuring those that are closest to the blast; closest to the one killed. The result often for the survivors is a series of disfiguring scars that throb and ache for the rest of their lives. Although the difference in the wounds we sustain are the emotional kind; they are no less painful that those physical ones. This is the ‘collateral damage’ of death.
So whether the explosion is like a roadside bomb that delivers it’s horror with sudden unexpected fury or the ticking time bomb that you know will reach zero the resulting loss is similarly gut-wrenching.
I was down at Boilermaker Park (behind the brewery) last week looking at the engraved bricks in memory of loved ones to whom the race made a difference in their lives as runners, volunteers or just spectators. It reaffirmed the obligation I have to this event and the community.
Our race is blessed with thousands of volunteers, many who have been with the Boilermaker since the beginning over 32 years ago. It saddens me to think about the passing of ‘the old guard’ and frankly the importance of replacement of these folks for the continued life of the race.
Finally, I guess all these events remind me of my own mortality and the inevitability of my own passing, which is a really ‘suckie‘(my kid’s word) subject.
So, is there some sort of uplifting message to all this; yes. We are all blessed to be on this little planet for a short period of time; make the best, rather do the best, of that time you have. Life to me is like a huge ‘if- then’ decision tree. I believe that our choices of today however small at the time can have profound influences as they ripple through the lives of others.
I can only hope that for many the preparation to run this race has set them on a road that has changed, extended or at least added a bit of zest to their lives.
I’m sorry for such a ‘downer’ blog this week; next week will be better!

On The Road Again

September 24th, 2009

This weekend, September 19th and 20th, was probably one of the prettiest we have had in Utica all year. The sky was totally clear, no humidity and temperatures in the low 70’s. Any one who did not run, walk, bike, kayak or crawl missed a real treat. As I ran on Sunday I thought about being a runner and the ‘rules of the road’, for members of the 2-legged and 4-wheeled gangs.
For the runner:
Obviously run against traffic. A few months ago I saw a runner with their back towards traffic wearing an iPod! I could almost hear Charles Darwin saying to her; ‘it’s time to leave the planet now young lady.’
Dress appropriately. No I’m not talking about wearing a Speed-O while running (but in nearly all cases that is not only inappropriate but awful looking) I’m speaking to visibility. If early morning/ evening runs are your thing the use of reflective material is a must. For those adverse to the standard reflective vests many shirts/ hats have luminescent or reflective material built in.
Be aware of traffic. Look at the cars approaching you looking at where the driver is. Are they coming at a high rate of speed or ‘hugging’ the solid line on your side. As a related topic, if a car moves over to give you space; give him a wave, acknowledge their good deed.
The infamous right on red. Frequently at noon I run a course that passes 2 fast food outlets; approaching them from the right hand side is an adventure in living. Always assume people can’t see you. BTW there is nothing better than nearly getting hit while a person chats away on their cell phone. ‘Sorry honey I have to hang up; I just bounced a runner off the front hood. I hope the dent he made buffs out!’ It seems to me the hands-free law in New York has not been really embraced by the driving public. Perhaps it will evolve like the mandatory seatbelt law that saw greater compliance over time.
Use the sidewalks. Hey, there’s a reason why God created the sidewalks. While I know that the sidewalks can be problematic with holes and turning ones ankle on the curb you do remove yourself from roadway.
For the driver:
I told my sons when they received their drivers’ licenses; ‘you are now captaining roughly 2 tons of steel down the road; understand the power under your control.’
Give a little bit: If possible give us running types some of the road and watch the speed.
I see you. As we move towards the wonderful winter season where it seems we have 3 hours of daylight keep those light on, perhaps you will see a runner!
Hey we’re running to be healthy. It’ll wreck your whole day to get hit, or to hit someone with a car!

The Birds Have Flown

September 14th, 2009

Like the migratory birds two of our kids have ‘flown the nest’ for college to return in the spring. Now we have one boy left at home to receive his mother’s undivided attention. I told him: ‘Michael, this will be like getting to eat a gallon of ice cream. In the beginning it will taste great, but when you’re getting near the bottom you the taste will get sickening.’ One real positive; I now know who to blame when sports drinks are left half-drunk all over the house!
I could sense the on-coming depression of my wife over their departure about two weeks prior to the event. It was capped off my youngest saying to my wife after leaving Dean College; ‘Hey Mom, pull over; your crying so hard you’re going to crash into a car!’
Now about the fateful trip…
Fortunately, the boys are going to school relatively close to each other meaning we could do the move in one weekend.
Unfortunately, they had so much stuff I had to borrow my brothers SUV as well as use mine.
Fortunately, my oldest got a chance to move in a day early meaning we didn’t have to battle the vehicle/ human traffic jam.
Unfortunately, his room was on the fourth floor with the elevator unavailable. To add to this I had to buy a few things that were needed for the room so I did get a chance to ‘experience’ the madness of the first day move-in.

Speaking of unfortunate events, after dropping off my middle son my wife wanted to stop at the outlet mall outside Providence where my oldest goes; so did by my estimation 50 million other people ( perhaps a bit of an exaggeration). I guess the clue that this was not a good idea was the half mile traffic jam just to get off the exit. There’s nothing better to bring out the best in people than a limited amount of parking spaces and a seemingly unlimited amount of cars! Joyful words and hand gestures were exchanged among drivers as cars prowled relentlessly for the elusive open spot. My wife won the ‘parking spot lottery’ as I kept circling around the mall. When she got to the first store she found out it was nearly an hour to checkout so she left. Do you think I thought that was fortunate or unfortunate?
The house is now noticeably quieter. Interestingly, my youngest seems to have a bit of melancholy with the brother’s absence. I suppose it’s withdrawal from getting punched and being the butt of insults by the older two.
While we now have cell phones, text/ instant messaging, e-mail and Skype to keep in communication it is these times that we are reminded how much we care for someone.

Two Tribes

September 2nd, 2009

Perhaps the biggest change I experienced taking over the Boilermaker was the joining a new ‘tribe’. For my previous 27 years in the corporate world I was a member of the ‘Have- to’ tribe. I ‘have to’ get this report done for Bill, I ‘have to’ get this truck unloaded, I ‘have to’ go to Kalamazoo to do a presentation; you get the picture.
I now find myself ‘in charge of’ (a really lousy phrase) 6,500 volunteers; this is the other tribe, the ‘Want-Tos’. This tribe is very different than the Have-Tos! These are people who ‘want to’ hand out water to the runners, ‘want to’ put together the goody bags, ‘want to’ help pick up the post-Boilermaker trash. In short, as I have said in the past, these people do for free what we could not afford to pay!
Clearly the ‘care and feeding’ of a volunteer is quite different than an employee. If a volunteer doesn’t enjoy what they are doing it’s much easier leaving than deciding to chuck your 40 hour job. The challenge I can encounter is trying to implement a change that the volunteers aren’t real keen on. Remember, they are doing it because they want to so one would assume they are happy with the way things are. This means that changes that occur are often incremental rather than transformational. Make the wrong changes and people ‘vote with their feet!
Do I miss my old tribe; sometimes, I miss the office camaraderie and friendships forged over decades and while I still see many of these people it is clearly different. Do I like my new tribe; absolutely. I am blessed to have the job I have with a whole new group of tribe mates working to make that one week in July special. To make our community a better one. To work with the Have-To tribe (the sponsors) to keep this event as the gold standard of racing.

A Blinding Glimpse Of The Obvious

August 20th, 2009

Last Sunday I was reading the magazine section of The New York Times. Now before you start calling me one of those intellectual types 5 minutes earlier I was reading with interest an article in The New York Post about how Michael Jackson was being stored in a refrigerator prior to being buried so his Mom could stop and see him every day. Well, back to The Times…
The story was about the possibility of a ‘fat tax’ and the far ranging costs obesity has on the United States health care system. Currently 9.1% of our annual U.S. medical costs are obesity-related. Imagine if we could reduce our health care costs by 9.1%; that’s 147 billion dollars ($147,000,000,000)!
Here are the current reasons and percentages of early death in the U.S.:
Substandard medical care= 10%
Social/ physical environments= 20%
Genetics= 30%
So think about it; The Grim Reaper is pointing a gun at us that has chambers for ten bullets and we push four of the bullets in the chambers!
It’s not only about the quantity of years we have on this planet, it’s equally important about the quality of life. Kids developing type 2 diabetes in their teenage years or contemplating bariatric surgery is a horrible situation. We live in the ‘land of plenty’; perhaps it should be renamed the’ land of too much’.
Recently we had the award for The Corporate Cup and I told those present: ‘what sort of change could we make in the current health care debate if you merely talked one of your fellow employees to begin to achieve a healthier lifestyle?’ Besides giving you co-worker ‘the gift of life’ you are probably helping the overall ‘health’ of your company by reducing their health care costs.
Look, I’m not trying to be ‘the running police’ and demanding everyone needs to run 9.3 miles. In fact, I think an important component is for people to gravitate towards an exercise regime that they actually enjoy; what a concept. Walk or bike with friends, join a yoga club or run the roads. Is it hard getting started, yes, I’m not going to lie about it. However, over time, it becomes a part of your routine.
In the end we have a huge (no pun) responsibility for our own health and it’s a rather simple equation figuring our calories going into the human and being burned by ‘the engine’.
Think about this; the less we remain active the faster we run towards meeting ‘The Reaper’ and that is one race I don’t want to win!

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!