The Boolermaker; a frighteningly good time!

October 31st, 2013

The idea of a kid’s run around Halloween had been floating around in my head for over two years. I finally took the plunge and said to my Boilermaker Directors ‘we are going to do this’.
We employed the KISS philosophy (keep it simple stupid) by replicating the run course that we used at Masonic Care Community prior to our Expo move to MVCC. It had been successful in the past with up to 1,800 kids participating. A huge added bonus was the ability to park up to 500 cars on campus that was unavailable when we had the Expo at Masonic.
The ability to pull this off on such a short timeframe (we began work on it in mid-August) stands as a testament to the dedication of our volunteer base. I cannot count the amount of times I heard the words, ‘Tim, what can I do to help?’
Likewise, the Boilermaker name made acquiring healthy treats for our little ghosts and goblins an easy task. No less than eleven organizations donated product to be handed out.
While we had ‘set the table’ for 1,200 participants (again, using our Expo experiences), our inaugural group of runners numbered slightly over 400. While initially disappointed, in hindsight it was a really manageable number not stressing our parking or Boolermaker activities we had in the Masonic gym. Hey, the first Boilermaker had well under 1,000 runners; a pale comparison to our current registration.
The vast majority of our participants were in the 4-6 year old age group who were simply the cutest in their Halloween garb.
Worries?
Simply the same ones I encounter with the Boilermaker; weather and the safety of our participants. You know those things I usually have very little control over. Ended up getting the same lousy night’s sleep I have the night before the Boilermaker.
Up at 5:30 am and by 6:15 finishing up last minute setup work at Masonic.
At 8:00 families began to stream into the gym. Kids bobbed for apples, were fingerprinted by the Sheriff’s Department, and petted a ferret courtesy of the Utica Zoo. Clearly one of the highlights were the face painters and spay on tattoo artist.
While there was a bit of a biting wind the rains held off. The Ride for Missing Children shepherded pirates, princesses and various characters along the course.
Those that participated received a cool Boolermaker backpack bag loaded with healthy treats.
Looks like we have the beginning of a new Boilermaker tradition!

The Boolermaker Kid’s Run (scaring up a good time)

October 16th, 2013

Halloween has become monster holiday; it is expected that total U.S. spending in 2013 will top seven billion dollars! The vast majority of spending for Halloween (big surprise) will be on candy; over 7% of total candy sales for the year are generated by Halloween-wow!
The Boilermaker has had a deep commitment to youth fitness; the Utica National Kid’s Run and the Bank of America Youth Olympics both held during Boilermaker Week are but two examples.
Over the past two years I had envisioned a Halloween-themed, untimed, run but had never pulled the trigger- well the gun is finally locked and loaded! On Saturday, October 26th, kids from ages 4 to 12 lace up your sneakers because…here comes the Boolermaker!
Since this is the first time we have ventured out to have an athletic event outside of traditional Boilermaker time we went with things we know have worked in the past. The Masonic Care Community offered a kid-friendly course we had used in the past as well as a fair amount of parking. Although we have managed runs in excess of 1,600 kids, we are capping the Boolermaker at 1,200 to maintain control and security.
While we wanted to reward the kid’s for a run well done, it seemed rather ironic that we would give them candy after working out. Therefore we gathered a number of healthy snack alternatives from raisins, yogurt, apples, fruit bars, cider and more.
Plus, the participants will receive dental floss and toothpaste, from Excellus and Zalatan Dental respectively that they can put in a commemorative Boolermaker bag.
Activities begin at 8:00 am; runs begin at 10:00 am. Activities include, face painting, finger printing, the zoomobile, games and education.
Signups ($5 a child) will be at Sangertown Square (Center Court) on Saturday, Oct. 19th, from noon-5:00 pm. If we don’t sell out on Saturday a second registration will take place Friday, Oct. 25th, from 3:00-7:00 pm.
There is no race day signup!
A big thank you to Adirondack Back stepping up to be the Presenting Sponsor.
Want to learn more? Check out boilermaker.com and click on the Boolermaker Pumpkins (that look very cool).
We also have some kid’s Boolermaker logoed tee shirts that glow in the dark for sale on our website.
The Boolermaker; where getting fit isn’t scary!

Time Flies!

September 12th, 2013

Labor Day marked more than the unofficial end of summer; it also marked the end of the Boilermaker Countdown Clock! Let’s back up…
August 31st began as a humid day with heat building throughout the day. It just felt like something was going to happen.
Well ‘the happening’ took place early in the evening. As I was at home watching TV, I glanced out the window and saw the trees swaying- really big trees swaying! The wind chimes were sounding an alarm.
Next came curtains of rain punctuated by frequent thunder and lightning. It was feeling eerily familiar to a Labor Day Storm we experienced five years earlier.
The lights flicked off, returned for 2 seconds and went black. I could tell this was going to go on for a bit so I went on the great flashlight hunt.
I knew there was a working one in the hall closet. It is at these moments that I am reminded what creatures of habit we can become. As I opened the closet door and peered into the blackness what was the first thing I did? Why flip the light switch of course! Note to self; lights don’t work when the power is off. I groped in the mound of hats, gloves and mittens and extracted the flashlight.
My cell phone rang….
‘Hello’
‘Tim, this is Jan (Jan is the wife of Race Director Jim Stasaitis). The Boilermaker Countdown Clock is laying on Genesee Street.’ ‘Jim has a couple of people headed over to get it off the road’
I later learned that the clock ended up a half a city block away from our building. A runner came and helped the group move the clock, now in 3 or 4 pieces, next to our building and secured.
The next morning I saw the dented mess whose time had passed. We loaded the remains into a truck sent by the company that originally built the clock. It was very, very heavy; a testament to the power of the storm.
Now the Countdown Clock had been in existence since January of 2010. The clock and I have a love/ hate affair. When the race is over 100 days away we get along very well. However, when we hit the two digit mark our relationship takes a dramatically bad turn. A dreadful electronic reminder of so much to do, with time slowly, slowly, slipping away.
I must admit, I will miss looking out the conference room window and seeing people in cars at the stoplight pointing at the clock or taking pictures of it with their cell phones.
As most are aware we have our building for sale. The first question I’m asked ‘where do you want to relocate’? Second question, ‘What will happen to the countdown clock’? So I guess it has become a fixture (or in this case no longer affixed) to the area.
So now we deal with the insurance company- a rather funny conversation with the agent out of Philadelphia explaining having an electronic countdown clock for a road race on our building and its demise.
So perhaps a countdown (or count up) till we get the countdown clock….
BTW- a ‘credit shout’ out to Paul Buckley who came up with the title of this blog; my original titling was ‘time got away from us’. Buck, you had the better lead!

The day after the Boilermaker

August 2nd, 2013

‘So Tim, what do you do after the race is over?’While the racers have left and the beer taps are dry (perhaps that’s why they left) there is still much to do.
Getting stuff put away:
The sheer amount of material we use to put on Boilermaker Weekend is perhaps as impressive as the thousands of our participants. Literally miles of snow fence and plastic barriers, hundreds of tables and chairs and banners and flags need to be placed back into storage.
Thank you notes:
My Mom drummed this in the Reed kids heads the importance of sending a thank you note (hand written) and in a timely manner (though I must admit my brother and sisters are much better at it than I). It is amazing that the written word seems to be on the near-extinction list.
The ‘we coulda done better’ list:
Right after the race is over I give a ‘homework assignment’ to all of the races Operational Directors that they document everything we can do better. I usually get some good feedback from runners. Memories are funny; they often fade fast. At our first Directors Meeting in September we will discuss those ‘we coulda done better’ moments and (hopefully) eliminate them.
The events after the event:
Within the race are a series of sub-contests that are celebrated after Boilermaker Sunday is done. Each of these events has an awards night. Among these are:
The Utica Police/ Fire Competition
This event pits runners from these public safety departments against each other in ‘friendly’ completion. This year, in a break from tradition, the Utica Police Department took first place. I had to laugh as the policeman carrying the trophy passed me walking off stage and proclaiming ‘Hey we won one in a row!’
The Corporate Challenge
Nearly 800 runners from 70 organizations compete in fastest team times running the 15k. We award three $500 checks to charities nominated by each team and chosen by a drawing. This year The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Doctors without Borders and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center were the lucky winners.
The School Challenge
High school runners are recognized for performance in both the 15k and 5k races. This event, sponsored by Empower Federal Credit Union and held in their Utica office, is a real delight. There is a certain camaraderie that is forged among runner regardless of what school they represent.
Charity Bib Reception
Really looking forward to this one! Our inaugural class of charity bib partners raised over $102,000- simply outstanding. I know I’m going to cry at this one.
Finally, planning for next year’s race (can you believe it).

The Last Runner (or running with Neil Young)

July 22nd, 2013

The last finisher (albeit unofficially) of the 36th Boilermaker 15k hit the Finish Line on Sunday July 21, 2013 at approximately 1:00 pm; a full week after the official event.
That finisher was me.
Let’s go back in time…
I’ve been ‘on the blocks’ from running for two years with knee issues. It’s a long story but I have felt I’ve significantly recovered to make a Boilermaker run possible.
Although traditionally Boilermaker Committee members run the race the week prior, my longest run at that point had been four miles. If something bad were to happen, better to have it occur after the Boilermaker.
The starting temperature at 11:25 am was 78 degrees with little humidity and a slight breeze; clearly better than the sultry weather a week earlier.
For this run I would be wearing headphones- hey no bands or fans along my imaginary Boilermaker so I needed to bring my own music. I have Pandora and decided to listen to the Neil Young station for my 9.3 mile journey.
The run began with an absolutely blistering 16 minute version of Cowgirl in the Sand by Neil Young and Crazy Horse recorded at the Fillmore East in 1970- a great start.
The first hill three and a half miles into the run - Valley View Golf Course.
A tip, when running the Boilermaker do not look up at the hill prior to running it, keep your head down and focus what is in front of you. Looking up you will (a) be depressed you when you see the size of the hill and (b) be depressed when you see the amount of people ahead of you that are finished with the hill. You should however look backward when you have reached the crest of the hill and see the many people behind you- it’s good for your ego. However, if you look back and only see the people cleaning up the course you will surely not be happy.
As I traveled down the Parkway/ Sheppard Place Led Zeppelin told me of goin’ to California, Clapton cried for Layla, and Jagger and the Stones asked for a little shelter (my ringback tone).
Now we reach the horrible, awful, terrible bridge/ uphill that traverses from Faxton up to St.Lukes. It seems to make sense you have hospitals on either side of this obstacle. Neil came back to sing Don’t let it bring you down (another favorite) that managed to carry me up the incline.
At mile eight Bob Dylan sang about Knocking on Heaven’s Door, I certainly was thinking about visiting the afterlife but it wasn’t Heaven!
As I turned the final corner of Whitesboro to Court Street making the last final stretch of my run Neil came back
‘Old Man look at my life I’m a lot like you were…’ Such a reminder of my first year running this race in 1978 as a 24 year old, with 24 year old legs.
So I finished the race in 95 minutes clocking in a bit over a ten minute mile pace. My worst Boilermaker I have ever run in the 25+ I had previously been in- but hey, I finished.
I received my finisher’s pin from Jim the Race Director this morning.
Neil, thanks for the help; let’s do it again next year.

Boilermaker Birthday

July 7th, 2013

Next Sunday, July 14th, we will be celebrating the 36th birthday of the Boilermaker Road Race.
The vision that Earle Reed and a group of fellow runners had in the fall of 1977 was to have a race that makes a difference not only in the lives of people who run it, but also in the lives of everyone in our community. Both have certainly come true and remain at the core of the Boilermaker’s DNA.
Who would have thought what an adult the Boilermaker would grow up to be? It began as a mostly local road race and blossomed into a multi-day event drawing people from throughout the world.
And this race certainly has many, many parents who have adopted the Boilermaker as their own!
There are 14 individuals left who have been at every Boilermaker birthday party and who have run in every single one.
The final days leading up to the race tend to be a semi-organized madhouse taxing one’s patience. Just when I’m ready to explode, I try to remember a quote from Tony Robbins: “It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what these events mean.”
What do these events mean to someone like David Freeman, race director of this year’s Boilermaker shadow run in Afghanistan? He wrote me to tell me that in 24 hours, 450 troops had signed up to run. And, Freeman wrote: “They keep flowing in.”
Or the charity bib runners hitting the streets in honor or in memory of loved ones.
Or the two blind runners participating in the 15k.
And in a weird way, this Boilermaker birthday is the gift from the community to the community, igniting like the brightest birthday candle, a pride in the place we live.
It’s a gift of sold-out hotel rooms and crowded restaurants as people from around the world stream into Utica.
A gift of people deciding to take charge of their own health and achieve something few can do.
A gift of people regardless of community, color or age working together for a common goal of helping people they most often don’t even know.
Perhaps instead giving out orange slices at the end of the race we should give out cake.
Happy birthday to us!

You’ve Got Mail!

June 19th, 2013

Dum, da, dum, dum

Dum,da,dum, dum DUM!

‘The stories you are about to see are true,

the names have been changed to protect the innocent’

                                                From the TV show Dragnet

I think there is an unwritten math formula which states the amount of my emails will quadruple every day the race gets closer. This week I received in excess of 300 emails.

 This does not include the emails that go straight to my spam folder. You know the ones; the ones promising instant riches to be found in Nigeria, emails written in what appear to be Chinese characters, offers of can’t miss stocks and messages that begin with ‘Dearest Beloved’.

If the internet has done anything it has driven us from verbal communication to the written word. The power of email, twitter and text messaging is remarkable. It is sort of eerie how little the phone rings compared to my first year in this job. I remember days as the race got close and all six lines would be lit up!  I felt like Lilly Tomlin in her ‘Ernestine the Operator’ role.

A quick word about facebook , while I consider myself a fairly affable guy I am a lousy ‘facebook friend’. I’m happy to just keep up with the electronic stuff I need to deal with. Same goes with twitter.

So what has arrived in the old electronic mailbag over the past few weeks?

The vast majority of my emails go into what I would call big buckets labeled; logistics, security, charitable efforts, sponsor/ media relations, industry emails, special events, community stuff (I serve on a committee for the Community Foundation and am Chairman of the Tourism Bureau) and the ‘I’ve got a problem- can you help me?’Let’s look at what fits in that last category.

Amazingly I am still getting a couple of emails from people who just sort of figured out the race sold out and asking if there is a ‘wait list’. The term wait list became a sort of unofficial dirty word at our office after trying to administer it a few years ago.

Vendors wanting to be a part of the Expo (deadline was a month ago).

A runner who is planning her wedding that will take place in the Summer of 2014 and didn’t want to miss the race- talk about dedication! BTW, next year’s race will take place Sunday July 13, 2014.

Where are good camping sites in the area?

Why don’t you have a bike race?

I couldn’t sell my bib; what do I do?

I couldn’t get a bib; what do I do? I really wish this person met the person who asked the previous question!

What is going to be the beer at the Post Race Party? Hey I have an answer; that would be Wild Hops Pilsner.

Looks like the formula is holding true, today on track for another 100 email day!

.

 

When you’ve finally awake, I’ve already left

May 28th, 2013

I know this sounds like the words to a bad country-western song but I thought it would at least get your attention!
Let’s have a talk about time…
Being in my position with the Boilermaker, I often think I’m living in a far different time zone than others.
That ‘wonderful’ countdown clock visually screams at me as I approach the office.
‘Hey Tim, you have less than 50 days until multiple thousands of people descend on the city and it’s your responsibility- have a nice day!’
This makes my sixth year with the Boilermaker and, as I’ve said to our Directors, this might be the hardest race I’ve been involved in. Besides the normal hurley burley we deal with a whole new set of stuff has occupied us. A short list- filming of a Boilermaker documentary, inaugural charity bib program, a Boilermaker app. (available soon; you heard it here first), trying to sell our building, supporting a shadow run in Afghanistan, move of the 3 mile walk back to Masonic and dealing with the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings- Whoof!
Now is the time when I get inquires about some involvement with the race. Perhaps it’s the change in the weather or media exposure or, yes, perhaps it’s that darned countdown clock.
It is bemusing when I’ve put multiple requests for info etc. from a person/ firm and finally get an answer weeks later when the race becomes ‘real’ to people. What is not so funny is when there are dozens of these people and they all seem to respond at once!
The sheer magnitude of this event simply demands that major components are buttoned up months in advance. Finisher’s pins, glasses and merchandise have long lead-times. Expo participation, bands on the course, food offerings/ location at the Post Race Party all have logistical issues that cannot be done at the last minute.
So, amazing as this might sound, a bit of my time is now being spent on thinking about Boilermaker 2014. As I said earlier, I’m a lot farther down the tracks.
By now there is little that can be done to add to the payload of the Boilermaker rocket- we are on the launch pad, counting down. 47 days, 46 days, 45 days…

Boston, One Month Later

May 15th, 2013

A short month ago two bombs shook the streets of Boston- God; it somehow feels so much longer than that! It was simply the biggest attack against the U.S. since 9/11.
So now we now all live in the AB (After-Boston) world.
Since that time:
We sold over a 1,000 Boilermaker/ Boston commemorative tech shirts in 3 days with all proceeds going to the One Fund- Boston. Three days, the same amount of time to sellout this year’s race.
We had a tremendous meeting with nearly every Federal, State and local law enforcement that have or can support the race. It was simply inspiring to see all these agencies forming a unified team. Our Technical Director, a 14 year veteran assisting at the Boston Marathon Finish Line, flew in to offer advice.
We have had a chance to look at our own ‘playbook’ and see where we need to tighten up.
Sometimes small good things can come out of a very bad thing.
Do I think there will be an event similar to Boston; probably not.
Saying that ‘it can’t happen here’ is a pretty lousy disaster plan.
We in the road race biz do not have the luxury of sports that participate in an arena/ field environment where you can control entry points.
However, there are plenty of sensible procedures we can put in place that enhance safety while not sucking the joy out of the race. What I have often seen happen with major tragedies like Boston is an extreme overreaction that in a strange way further bolsters the bad guys.
While the bombs of Boston will in some ways affect mass gatherings in the future we must never run in fear.

The Humane Race

April 27th, 2013

I originally was going to title this blog ‘The Human Race’ but after crafting it decided to substitute the word humane.
Definition of humane (adj) - Compassionate: showing the better aspects of the human character, especially kindness and compassion. (from the Bing Dictionary)

The Boilermaker Charity Bib Program has been up and running since mid-March and it had been simply awe-inspiring. From the soldier running in memory of a buddy he served with in Vietnam felled by Agent Orange to the mother running in honor of her son who suffers from severe Autism; simply great (human/ humane)stories.
I thought about how I could inspire those of you that didn’t get into the race to raise $500 to become a charity runner and I know there are many of you who didn’t get in judging by the countless emails I received after the race closed out.
So I decided to come up with a ‘top ten list’ why becoming a charity runner is a good thing.
Drum roll please…….
Because it is the right thing to do.
Because it is the only way to be guaranteed you will get into the race (the 5k or 15k). While we will be bringing the bib transfer program back there is no assurance you will get one (plus there is the hassle factor). Much demand for a very limited resource.
Because you get your bib for free. All you need are ten semi-rich people who pledge $50 to your charity of choice or 50 not so affluent people who give 10 bucks. You can figure out the various math combinations.
Because you will be able to say you were in the inaugural charity class of the Boilermaker; a small select group of 200.
Because it’s a great test to see how much your friends and family really like you.
Because you never know that money that you personally raised for one of our charities of choice makes the difference in the sustainability of a program. Many of these groups are getting absolutely hammered by budget cuts.
Because it’s a tax deductable donation for those writing the check to the charity to support you.
Because of that feeling you get helping someone else. In my opinion the most amazing gift of all is the one you give to someone you don’t even know.
Because if you are one of the top three pledge gatherers you can win a free entry into future Boilermakers- imagine no waking up at 12:01 am on registration day! Also, we will be having a drawing for some cool stuff for everyone who participated in the program.
Did I mention because it’s the right thing to do?
Its programs like this that reminds me the power this race has to do infinite good. Hey, getting a chance to participate in a world-class race, enjoy perhaps the best Post Race Party in the U.S. and making a difference in our community- that is pure joy!
Want to be a part of something special or know someone who wants to get in the race; check out http://www.boilermaker.com/charitybib/.
Be human/ humane; pass it along