Kilometers for Kim

November 25th, 2014

I am always drawn to offbeat stories, throw in a running aspect and I’m all in!
The Kim in question isn’t Kim Kardasian but Kim Jung-Un the ‘Dear Leader’ of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) aka North Korea.
And no, this isn’t a new charity bib program (but maybe it is).
For those of you that don’t qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon perhaps you are interested in the Pyongyang Marathon? The running of Boston is April 20th, Pyongyang April 12th.
Not surprisingly in the history of the marathon is classic North Korean.
The marathon has been in existence since 1981. In its history according to Wikipedia:
It was not held 6 years.
Five of the years it’s unknown who won.
In the last 14 years, on the female side, a North Korean woman has won every time (such a surprise). The North Korean men have only won 7 out of 14, but hold the course record (2:10:50).
This might be one of the race’s that beats the Boilermaker for spectator participation (and there aren’t many like that).
The marathon begins and ends at Kim Ill Sung Stadium with 50,000 folks in the seats.
Likewise, expect a great spectator presence along the entire course; there’s something about a guy who routinely throws his people in work camps to get the crowd out.
If you aren’t up to running a full marathon a half marathon and 10k are also available.
Interesting time limits, for the marathon and half marathon, 4 hours; for the 10k 2 hours.
Although this is a relatively flat course, it means you need to run an average pace of slightly over a 9 minute mile every one of the 26 (and .2) miles to beat the clock cutoff. However, run the half marathon (and no, running a marathon is not just 2 half marathons; ask someone what mile 18 feels like) and you are allowed 18 minutes- only in North Korea!
The only way to sign up for the race is to go through a travel agency that includes either a 4 or 8 day tour.
The itinerary includes a fascinating tour of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (where you will learn from your’ impartial’ guides that the Americans and South Koreans actually started the Korean War and the North Koreans won).
Expect a tour of the USS Pueblo, captured in 1968.
The do’s and don’ts are an absolute hoot- a few examples.
-Do Behave with respect to the regime and more importantly to its leaders, this is crucial for a good relation with the tour guides.
-Don’t insult the leaders publicly, this might not only get you in trouble but it will for sure ruin your relationship with the guides who are the gatekeepers of your visit.
-Do take some luxury goods (cigarettes, shampoo (a luxury item?), cosmetics, etc.) to present as gifts to the guides as gratitude upon arrival. Tip your tour guides and drivers at the end of the trip.
Don’t Go to North Korea if you are a journalist or a photographer, this can seriously mean trouble for you and your guides.
This is the second year the DPRK is actively promoting foreign participation in their marathon. It certainly feels like a way for them to get some foreign currency in their coffers.
Finally it has been announced that every foreigner arriving, regardless of nationality, must be quarantined for 21 days due to Ebola fears.
Again, only in North Korea!

Surviving in the Desert

November 18th, 2014

One of my daily rituals (at least until the big snows fall) is to pick up the various litter that gathers around the grass and sidewalk of our new office. Our old habitation, 114 Genesee Street, would gather the occasional debris, primarily cigarette butts, near the front door. The irony of cigarettes being dropped in front of an office that focuses on running and health was not lost even on me!
805 Court Street is a whole new matter- lots more sidewalk, lots more people and (unfortunately) lots more trash. Our hedgerow currently is very popular as a living garbage can.
I am struck by the nature of the discarded items- lots of plastic (non-deposit) drink containers, beer caps and candy/snack wrappers.
The apparent number one food group in the neighborhood is Slim Jims as there is never a time I don’t discover at least one of these tubular wrappers lying on the ground. I have yet to come across a discarded apple core or banana peel.
So it was during one of these cleanup efforts that it really hit me what a ‘nutritional desert’ we inhabit in this part of town. There are no major grocery store chains within miles and transportation around here for many is a real issue. I’m assuming the months of winter will just make things that much harder.
It seems like we have a public health situation where those that can least afford it, are offered the least nutritious food options at noncompetitive prices.
Hmm, that’s not a good formula!
No doubt we need a garbage container somewhere along the street; trash blowing through the neighborhood certainly doesn’t cast us in the best light. Just because we are not the most prosperous neighborhood does not mean we can’t have a bit of neighborhood pride!
However, and certainly more importantly, we need to lessen the amount of ‘nutritional trash’ that is getting consumed around here, particularly by our youngest folks.
While I’m not trying to sound like a captain with the vegetable police whipping people with a celery stalk, I do know that a diet heavily skewed towards, sodium, sugar and oil is not a game plan for success (unless you’re looking for high blood pressure).
‘Cheap food’, and I use the term with a double meaning, in the end will have a profound cost on our community as a whole. As a very, wise friend told me ‘if you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go together.’
Hey, it’s easy to point out problems, a whole lot different to come up with fixes- I get it.
I suppose the first step towards a solution is a simple awareness of a problem and it’s literally lying at my feet.

Comets for a Cause

November 13th, 2014

The meteoric rise of the Utica Comets (space pun intended) has done far more than renew a sense of community pride. The return of the AHL, after an 11 year absence has spurred economic vitality, a massive Auditorium upgrade and, perhaps less known, incredible charitable support.
The Save of the Day Foundation, created by Comets President Rob Esche, has funneled more than a million dollars towards youth needs.
In fact this quote from the Save of the Day website highlights what Rob feels is ‘mission critical’.
‘Promoting a healthy and happy lifestyle for local youth is among our most important attributes.’
It is our belief that every child, regardless of economic condition, deserves the opportunity to have a healthy life. This belief is built into the DNA of the Boilermaker. From the Youth Olympics and Kid’s Run during Boilermaker Week to the Boolermaker Halloween Run, we celebrate what kids can do!
So President Esche, ever the competitor, has issued a challenge to the local not-for-profit community; get a minimum cumulative total of 250 people to a Wednesday night game and you can be in the running for a $10,000 grant from Save of the Day.
The Boilermaker’s office move to west Utica is more than being closer to the Finish Line. It is a commitment to a neighborhood in need. These funds would jumpstart the ability for us start to become the change agent this area yearns for.
So how do you help us skate (or run) to the cash?
There are two Wednesday games left; November 19th and November 26th. Come to one, or better, both and please bring lots of friends!
People need to sign up via Ticketmaster http://www.ticketmaster.com/Utica-Comets-tickets/artist/1909732 and type BOILER in the offer code.
BTW you end up with a slightly discounted ticket ($12) - love it when everyone wins!
If this race has taught me anything about this community is that it is inhabited by countless angels in human form.
I’m hoping we can get 250 angels to fly to the Aud!

Costs of a Super-sized America

November 2nd, 2014

We certainly are aware of the epidemic of obesity in the US; it is literally right in front of us on the streets. In this case more is most certainly not better.
‘The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.’ The Center for Disease Control
The U.S. Military has identified obesity as perhaps our greatest national security risk with 3 out of 10 17 to 24 year olds simply too heavy to pass the physical fitness test.
Yet beyond the obvious medical and national costs are a number of little known realities that society is dealing with.
Ambulance stretchers and in some cases the ambulances themselves have become large to deal with heavier folks. In Boston an ambulance was retrofitted with a hydraulic lift (at a cost of $12,000) to deal with patients weighing up to 850 pounds!
Downstream hospitals have had to refit their beds, bathrooms and waiting room chairs to deal with this new reality.
Then there are the test crash dummies; no not the band, those lovable guys we enjoy propelling at high rates of speed into walls.
It seems Vince and Larry (the dummies names in TV ads) may have packed on a few pounds.
The original dummies, dating back to the 80’s weighed in at 170 pounds. The company Humanetics, a manufacturer of test crash dummies has developed a new human stand-in weighing in at over 270 pounds.
Larger passengers may exert different challenges to seat belt safety.
At this point the government has not mandated any changes to dummy guidelines.
To be fair, the car manufacturers are looking at getting away from the ‘one size fits all’ test dummy performing more research on specific subsets such as teenage drivers.
Will gas mileage be the next topic under obesity scrutiny?

Scaring Up A Good Time

October 9th, 2014

It is simply amazing to me the rise in popularity of Halloween in the U.S.. It seems the grocery stores mound the shelves with bags of candy earlier and earlier in the year (I spotted a Halloween candy display this year pre-Labor Day).

You know the smaller bars of delight that taste so good you eat five!

Sometimes it feels like Halloween is simply built around excess and frequently excess of a poor nutritional nature. From that reality, the Boolermaker was born!

The Boolermaker Kid’s Run presented by Adirondack Bank will again be haunting the grounds of the Masonic Care Community on Saturday, October 25th.

Children between the ages of 4 to 12 will run age-appropriate untimed runs that will begin at 10:00 a.m.. The Expo opens at 8:00 a.m..

True to its tag line ‘where getting fit isn’t scary’ our little ghosts and goblins will be treated to a variety of healthy snacks that they will actually eat! Thanks to the generosity of: Chobani, Price Chopper, Peter’s Cornucopia, North Star Orchards, McDonalds, Freihoffer, Walmart, Dole.

Bagel Grove, Utica Coffee and Edible Arrangements will be providing sample products at the Expo.

Finally Granny’s Kitchen will provide doughnuts (hey, what goes better with cider?).

Believing in the old proverb ‘a clean mouth is a happy mouth’ every one of our participants will receive toothpaste (from Zalatan Dental Services) and dental floss (from Excellus Blue Cross/ Blue Shield). The commemorative cinch bag, courtesy of our sponsor will be brimming with goodies that are good for them.

Our eerie Expo (no, it’s not really that scary) will offer activities and education for the entire family. Face painting, child ID, photo area and contests.

Interested?

Signups will take place at Sangertown Square, Center Court, in New Hartford on Friday October 17th from 5:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturday October 18th from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m..

There is a $5 registration.

There is a race cap of 600 participants.

There will be no run day registration.

We will be selling a limited number of Boolermaker shirts in both children and adult sizes (new this year due to demand).

More info available at boilermaker.com; just press the Boolermaker Jack O’Lantern icon.

Our New Neighborhood

September 26th, 2014

Slowly but surely we are settling into our new building.
Some initial thoughts…
I now (obviously) take a different route to the office. The majority of my drive formerly would be along a high-speed expressway, now my trip is nearly entirely through residential neighborhoods. Encountering more stoplights (which always seem to be red) has given me more time to observe our city. I’ve noticed a new phenomenon; people riding their bikes going against traffic. While this is standard practice for the running community traditionally it’s not for cyclist. On a different note; what the heck is the story with the legions of pigeons and seagulls that populate the far corner of the parking lot of Hannaford Supermarket on Mohawk Street? I’m not sure what creates this perpetual reunion as food seems scarce there.
Our new street is much busier than that of our former home. A total different experience moving from a third floor office (with no window) to a first floor office watching the flow of humanity. If you ever want to appreciate the diversity of Utica simply look at the kids waiting at the bus stop or the people walking by. A boy from the Karen community gliding along on his skateboard, a Somali girl in a long flowing dress intently tapping away at her smartphone. A mother with a headscarf walking with her children towards (I assume) school. An elderly gentleman shuffling towards (I assume) the local bodega, or perhaps food pantry, returning back clutching a plastic bag.
We certainly have some folks who have powerful sound systems in their vehicles that love to share their music with people in their zip code.
The DOT arterial project adds to the cacophony of noise as dump trucks and heavy equipment rumble by. That’s noise I enjoy- the noise of progress!
While we are near the finish line; we are looking forward to starting something special into this neighborhood we now call home.

Food Fight

September 18th, 2014

We are in a fight for food; or rather we are in a fight to get more food (of the nutritious variety) to our upstate community.
Wal-Mart has committed to split $3,000,000 equally among 50 food banks ($60,000 each). One of the food banks in the running is the Food Bank of Central New York.
Selection is based on facebook voting, you can vote once a day until October 5, 2014.
While I tend to not love campaigns like this that seem a bit like a popularity contest; I really, really do love the idea of money floating into upstate to feed our folks.
The Food Bank of CNY covers a wide territory spanning eleven counties. This footprint represents where the majority of where Boilermaker runners live. I’ve had a chance to see first hand the Food Bank of CNY’s operation as they have been a Boilermaker Charity Bib partner- it’s a first class operation.
If the Boilermaker is to be a positive change agent then it’s a natural we get shoulder (or rather our voting index finger) behind this. Many have been the time we have made the impossible possible.
What can you do?
Simply vote and tell friends and family to vote.
Currently the Boilermaker has close to 16,000 friends on our facebook page; if everyone voted just once we are solidly in the hunt. Get at least one of your friends to vote- you get the picture. At the time of this writing we have dropped out of the top 50.
Let’s show the country what Boilermaker spirit is about.
Imagine if we could get to number 1!
The link to the Food Bank of CNY is: http://www.foodbankcny.org/
Click the Fight Hunger Spark Change icon and you will be on your way to making our community a healthier place.

Less is More

September 14th, 2014

So the less in question is in fact not a unit of measure but rather a man- Les Diven who passed away at the age of 85 on September 11th. Another sad event added to a national day of sadness.
Les was a newspaper man, a reporter with the Observer Dispatch (Daily Press) for 40 years. I guess Les was like the Derrick Jeter of the reporting world; stayed with the same organization the entire length of his employment.
Les looked like a reporter, or at least what in my mind an ‘old school’ reporter would look like. I can imagine him interviewing someone furious scribbling with a pencil in a notebook with perhaps another pencil in back of his ear in reserve. He was simply THE sports reporter in our area. Les saw both the uniqueness and potential of the race and no doubt spurred its popularity in our region. The Boilermaker, recognizing the skills of Les, created the Les Diven Award annually recognizing a media person who best represents the craft of reporting/ writing particularly when it comes to the Boilermaker. Many of the reporters and writers that you’re familiar with have been bestowed with this honor.
Les formally came into my life in the early 1990’s after his retirement when I was working at Utica Boilers. At the time I was in charge of manufacturing and my office was across the hall from a small conference room. One morning Les and his wife Pat walked into the conference room with bundles of envelopes held together with rubber bands. Les and Pat were officially the Boilermakers registration processing volunteers!
At the time the Boilermaker was fielding around 5,000 runners so while there was much smaller participation than today virtually everything was being processed by hand. Payment was in the form of checks or cash if people dropped off their applications to our office. There would generally be a deluge prior to when the registration fee would increase. Like clockwork Pat and Les would walk past my office, offer a good morning greeting and get to work. On occasion I would hear a chuckle emanating out of their ‘office’ no doubt produced by some runner’s foolishness that would be corrected without complaint.
While automation eventually rendered this process extinct Les and Pat remained loyal volunteers. They were those ‘just tell us what to do’ type of folks that are the backbone of successful organizations.
What I remember about Les; that he always had a smile on his face. I can’t testify that he was that way in the newspaper biz as I wasn’t there, but as an unpaid worker he was a very happy guy.
The local paper, the race and the community were made a better place because of you.
We really could use more of people like Les.
Les, you often wrote about the Boilermaker- I consider it an honor to write about you. God bless you!

Leaving Home

August 29th, 2014

This is the final week in our old building located at 144 Genesee Street. We have boxed and moved everything out, swept the floors and vacuumed the rugs. The walls sit barren, I see areas of the floor that prior I had never seen; it is eerily quiet as I put my keys to the doors on the front desk, set the alarm and walk out for the last time.
So much has changed in our neighborhood since the establishment of our offices in 1999. On our block there was a motorcycle gang clubhouse, five doors down a vicious German Shepherd would pound against a storefront window, furiously barking, saliva flying, as you walked by. His owner was known as ‘crazy Joe’-enough said. Three buildings sat vacant and a strip club was the primary ‘magnet of commerce’.
Fast forward fifteen years later, the same block now sports a coffee shop, pizza joint sporting loft apartments, a high-end restaurant, a ‘THinkubator’ a student-led think tank established by our local collages. The block still has the strip club, although their hours have been severely curtailed (the building is for sale). The ‘development bug’ has struck adjoining streets stretching to the Utica Auditorium.
In spite of the three flights of stairs I trudged every day to reach my office, the challenges with finding parking and dodging the flocks of crows that inhabited the trees at Commercial Travelers in the winter with their foul ‘messiness’-I will miss this place!
While it’s not like we’ve moved to a different state; we are less than a mile away ‘as the crow flies’ (those crows again!) I realize that my interactions with my old neighbors/friends will certainly be less frequent. Need to make new friends with our new neighbors!
Our new neighborhood is clearly different. We now sit on the edge of both a residential area and commercial area. While we now have a lawn to mow, areas that will need to be plowed in the winter; we (finally) have our own parking lot!
It feels a little like being a freshman arriving at college, starting over.
Looking back with a little sadness, looking forward with a great deal of anticipation.

Where Did The Time Go (Part 2)

August 7th, 2014

Where Did The Time Go (Part 2)
So in the previous blog I spoke about the slowing of the field in 15, now let’s look at the 5k.
Attached are the median times over the last six years:
Year Overall Men (winning time) Women (winning time) Temp.
2014 33:40 31:36 (15:55) 34:58 (18:01) 68 degrees
2013 33:16 31:24 (16:09) 34:25 (18:28) 66 degrees
2012 32:36 30:21 (16:11) 34:04 (19:18) 65 degrees
2011 31:35 29:26 (16:38) 33:06 (18:16) 58 degrees
2010 31:43 29:53 (16:28) 33:01 (18:59) 64 degrees
2009 31:08 29:09 (15:21) 33:41 (19:34) 55 degrees

Unlike the 15k, which saw a slight quickening of average running compared to 2013 the 5k ended up posting a slightly slower time.
I posted a category in parenthesis indicating respective winning times for men and women. I had surmised that winning times would be quicker. In 2012 we had changed the designation of the 5k from a run to a race-in a race you recognize at least the top three finishers in the male and female category. In addition I suspected that we would see a faster winning time as runners who were capable in running the 15k may have found themselves on the outside looking in when that race sold out so decided to sign up for the 5k. It sort of follows that trajectory (although I’d love to know what the male winner was eating who won the 2009 5k).
Temperatures posted are those taken at 8:00 AM, the start of the 15k, logic dictates that temps at the start of the 5k were cooler. Prior to 2011 the 5k started at 7:30AM; currently it begins at7:15AM.
There may be other factors at work here, perhaps we are seeing older or perhaps much, much younger runners. I do wonder if some people running the 5k figure ‘hey, it’s not the 15k, so I don’t need to train’. That is an ill-advised way of thinking; we saw a number of 5k runners in the medical tent this year. Lots of need for the kitty litter at the finish line (I’ll leave that to your imagination why).
Bottom line, the average runners of the 5k is 8% slower than their predecessors 5 years earlier. Guess what; that 8% number is nearly identical for the 15k also. Must be in the water!