June 16th, 2015

Being an English Major in college I have an affinity for words and their usage. They are immensely powerful-and can certainly stir emotion.
Think about two phases from the space program: ‘that’s one small step for a man’ (Neil Armstrong) to ‘throttle up’ (last recorded words from the shuttle Challenger.
But enough of outer space: let’s bring it back to earth and talk of Boilermaker verbiage.
I was never a big fan of the word ‘preferred runner’ that we used as a definition for the folks who ran last year and had first bids on registering for this year’s Boilermaker. By its implication it made it seem like they were better than others.
We took a few slings and arrows on social media over it.
Perhaps a better phrase would have been early bird runners or advanced registrants?
So I get to the words affiliated and unaffiliated: I want to use these words dealing with our charity bib program.
From the dictionary definition: affiliated- ‘being in close formal or informal association’.
Unaffiliated-‘not officially connected or associated with an organization.’
How totally uninspiring!
So an affiliated Boilermaker charity bib runner (nearly 250!) is someone who officially signed up to run for a specific charity. They raise at least a certain amount of money for one of our charity partners (21 of them); they get a bib to run the Boilermaker.
An unaffiliated runner is someone who signed up under traditional registration and decides to help out one of our charity bib partners. There is no enforced minimum: whatever they raise is simply a welcome gift.
Again, doesn’t really get your blood pumping…
So let’s change
‘I’m a affiliated or unaffiliated charity bib runner’ to ‘I’m running to make a difference in someone’s life’.
Perhaps it’s in memory of a family member felled by disease perhaps they are running for someone they don’t even know.
Imagine if just a small portion of our 18,500 folks decided to raise 50 or 100 bucks- the collective force would be incredible!
Check out the ‘Run for a Reason’ panel and take the first step down the avenue of altruism!
“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
Bob Hope

Those Calder Cup Cardiac Comets

June 4th, 2015

The Utica Comets are certainly the talk of the area, and rightfully so: they, like their sky bound namesake, have lit things up in our town.
Jump back three years ago: the Memorial Auditorium was a building that had seen better days. The area had a sour taste in its mouth with professional hockey after a series of sub-par teams skated off into the sunset.
We were fortunate that Utica College kept the fires of hockey burning.
Fast forward- extensive Aud renovations, numerous sellout crowds and Utica hosts the AHL All Star Game.
And a team that is a mere two years old is now within reach of the grand prize- the Calder Cup!
Simply remarkable: how could such a thing happen?
Through a sheer force of will Rob Eshe and a small cadre of local investors convinced the NHL, political officials, and yes a skeptical public, that the AHL could flourish in our community.
But this is a story that extends beyond hockey. It is a story about having a vision and the intestinal fortitude to make it happen in spite of the naysayers (and this town can on occasion have one or two).
It is frankly similar to Earle Reed and a small group local runner’s belief thirty eight years ago that Utica could be home to a major running event. This was at a time when if you were jogging on the street people would ask who or what you were running from!
Well I guess you could say the Boilermaker has grown a bit since 1978 when less than 800 people finished that first race.
Clearly the community has embraced both the Boilermaker and Comets as one of their own. In fact, one of the hallmarks of both organizations is the unbridled enthusiasm, dare I say love, of both. The fan that screams for joy as the Comets score is the person standing on the Boilermaker course enthusiastically clapping yelling words of encouragement often to people they don’t even know!
I have joked in the past that Boilermaker Week was the one week when Utica felt good about itself and we only had 51 more to go. The Comets have gone a long way to instill in the community Utica pride.
So how cool it would be for the Comets to win the Calder Cup in mid-June (and they will) and a short month later the Boilermaker takes place!

May 28th, 2015

I thought I’d take a slight detour off the Boilermaker course and speak about the passing of Mr. Riley B. King perhaps better known as B.B. King.
I am somewhat a music lover. I can listen to pretty much anything from Sinatra to Empire of the Sun (which blew my kid’s minds that I knew about Empire of the Sun).
However while I enjoy a diverse range of music I especially enjoy rock and my belief has been that the golden age of rock was between the years 1967-71.
Some have said that people always believe music was best when they were teenagers.
I guess it fits as I was 13 in 1967.
It felt like a huge personal tragedy with the passing of Jim, Jimi and Janise (Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin respectively). They are charter members of’ The 27 Club’: musicians who died at 27 years of age. I guess they just weren’t built for old age: or even worse disco.
While I never was a he blues listener at a younger age, the bands I did listen to certainly made me appreciate the style.
The roots of bands like Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones and Cream were solidly built around the blues.
But back to B.B….
Born dirt poor in Mississippi, mother left when he was 4 years old a life that seemed destined to produce the blues.
A couple of fun facts:
How did he get the name B.B.?
Early in his career B.B. worked as a DJ with the moniker Blues Boy, this was later shortened to the now famous B.B..
Why the naming of his guitar Lucille?
While playing a club in Arkansas a fight broke out between two men which precipitated a fire burning down the joint. Later King found out both men who were fighting over a woman named (you guessed it) Lucille perished in the blaze. King promptly named his guitar Lucille as a permanent reminder never to fight over a woman.
He was a tireless performer often performing 300 times a year!
B.B. played in Utica twice: once in 1989 with current blues performer, and locally born, Joe Bonamassa opening at the age of 12!
One of things I found interesting was for a person singing the blues B.B. seemed to come across as a pretty happy guy.
How funny singing about sadness seemed to bring him (and others) joy.
So music losses a legend: a bit of the thrill really is gone.

Madcap May

May 13th, 2015

If someone was to hold a gun to my head (please don’t, it might be loaded) and said “Tim, what is the most stressful month of the Boilermaker?”
My answer would be: “Well Mr. Gunman that would be May. Now please lower that firearm: someone could get hurt!”
I suppose that would surprise many, after all the race is still 2 months away.
May is for the most part the last opportunity we have to make any last minute ‘course corrections’ (no not the road you’ll be running on mid-July) but rather unanticipated issues that pop up like those spring flowers, or rather weeds. By June the window has shut, July we’re thinking about next year’s race.
The sheer logistics of the event demand adherence to often long lead-times. What might appear to be a small change can have a massive unintended ripple effect on numerous race sub-committees.
We’ve ordered our volunteer shirts, finisher’s pins, pint glasses. Sponsors are locked down, the Program Book is nearly ready for the printer and the Expo is pretty much full.
Unfortunately Boilermaker awareness seems to hit everyone at apparently the same time as unanswered emails from to various folks, send weeks earlier, all start popping back with responses. Lovely….
What has added an additional bit of ‘spice’ to the recipe has been the ongoing building renovation that saps away time and covers everything in my office with a fine layer of dust. Just need to keep saying to myself ‘this is going to look great, this is going to look great’ as I do my daily desk cleaning.
Then there are the invariable unplanned surprises (sort on oxymoron) that jump out of the shadows: clearly the news we couldn’t get jets for the flyover was a large one.
However, surprises of the pleasant type was both understanding by folks as well as possible alternatives.
The non-flyover announcement was out first simultaneous release to traditional media and social media. We saw a clear spike in engagement among the twitter and facebook crowd.
Alternative ideas offered by the general public ranged from people parachuting in, to the ringing of church bells to launching hundreds of balloons. . We’ll figure something out that is, hopefully, memorable to our Post Race Party goers.
As a final comment: the idea of me leading the crowd in the Macarena is a tradition I would just as soon not create!

You’re no Ickey Woods (but you could be)

April 10th, 2015

So imagine you walk up to the deli counter you pull the little paper number tab out of the dispenser: it reads 450.
You cast a glance at the electronic sign that indicates who is currently being served and you see its # 21- your heart sinks.
You really, really wanted that pound of pimento loaf that was on sale. At this rate by the time you get to the counter you may be needing the assistance of a walker and need dentures to eat your deli delicacy.
This year so much changed from a registration perspective. New registration company, new registration method and the launching of an automated waitlist. A neat feature with the waitlist process is you can apply as a group meaning if the only way you would run is if your best friend ran with you (and they hadn’t gotten into the race either) you can ‘wait’ together.
So I’m glancing at the Boilermaker Waitlist and I see nearly 950 people waiting to get into either the 15 or 5k races.
Now there may be a chance that the hundreds of people in front of you may, found out they are pregnant, busted their leg, they need to go to a cousins wedding, developed a disease, won the lottery and will be on an around the world cruise, out of the country on business or, perhaps, simply didn’t train.
In that case you will get a chance to run the race.
If you are coming from out of town hopefully you will be able to secure a hotel as they become very scarce Boilermaker Weekend.
As of this writing (April 10th) there are still 71 charity bibs available. While a number of organizations have filled their teams there are still many that have open slots. These are the folks who take care of those in need within our community and at one point in our lives we can very easily find ourselves or a family member as a client.
So why not get a chance to do the ‘Ickey shuffle’ at the Post Race Party rather than standing in line.
Check out the charity bib icon at boilermaker.com (the upper left hand panel) and help our community get fit as you get fit!
On a totally different note, while not a licensed dietician, I’m unsure consuming the amount of cold cuts that Mr. Woods is purported to eat would be considered a good Boilermaker training regimen!

Breaking up is hard to do

March 30th, 2015

Last week the Boilermaker lost a sponsor and I’m not quite sure why.
The email from them was short (I would not use the word sweet) and to the point.
Perhaps their business is down, a change in focus, or simply sponsorship wasn’t delivering what they expected.
While it wasn’t one of our larger sponsors there’s generated a bit of personal rejection.
The Boilermaker has been blessed with sponsors that in general have been around a long, long time. Many have been with us for over twenty years.
They are clearly a diverse group of folks ranging from “Tim, this is the greatest community event, we’re glad to be a part of it: here’s the check” to “Tim, here’s the check and this is what we expect for this support.”
No problem with either response.
Sponsor relations are just that: we hopefully create a relationship with those folks who write the checks that help underwrite the race. I’ve had the opportunity to develop some wonderful friendships with a number of these folks who support the race with both cash and in-kind services.
A big time public service announcement to runners: no national race takes place without sponsor support!!
Usually these are a company’s marketing dollars that are funding sponsorship of events.
The marathon run in New York City is called the TCS New York City Marathon for a reason. In fact most of the major races in the U.S. have a title or presenting sponsors name prominently displayed.
When you don’t support the folks that underwrite the race, they may move on.
When sponsors move on, registration fees go up. So when you make a buying decision think about these folks. All things being equal their support of the race (and indirectly of you) means something. Check out the sponsor page or take note of the banners you see on Boilermaker Sunday.
So getting back to the lost sponsor: no doubt I dropped the ball. One of the items that is my responsibility is the care and feeding of sponsors. While I try to under promise and over deliver sometimes things just don’t work out.
I suppose it’s a reminder to me the importance of never taking anything (or anyone) for granted!

A good run or running for good

March 25th, 2015

Well the preferred and open registration is over and the field is more or less set.
Currently there are over 600 folks on our waiting list to participate in either the 15 or 5k races.
Currently we have a bit over 90 charity bibs (as of this writing) that could make some of those folks wait a lot shorter.
Many changes this year, a new fundraising platform, CrowdRise and many new not for profits who’s mission span the gamut of our community needs. All the money stays local.
Perhaps our biggest change is giving our charity runners more time to raise money. In the past we would make mandatory that our runners would need to have hit their minimum prior to the race. This year we are giving our folks until August 1st (two weeks after the race has been run) to get their pledges in.
So, assuming you sign up to be a charity bib runner on April 1st you have 4 months, or roughly 18 weeks, to raise the minimum. If you need to raise $500 that’s a bit over $27 a week.
The first thing you need to do is choose an organization that resonates with you. If in some way a friend, family or yourself has been touched by one of these groups your sincerity will go a long way to achieving your goal. In the end it will be your friends who will get you to the financial finish line. Go to the charity bib icon at boilermaker.com and check out the 21 agencies in this year’s class.
While it’s great to dream about an Uncle Moneybags willing to totally underwrite your endeavor reality is usually far different. It’s simply easier to get 5 bucks from 10 people than 50 bucks from 1.
The old saying certainly fits here. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
So some ideas-
Give some of it yourself: it’s clearly an easier to ‘sell’ that people give to an organization you are willing to give to.
Give up that second cup of coffee that you buy, immediately put that money in a charity jar.
Does your company have a matching gifts program? No harm in asking.
Have a garage sale- a great way to clean up your house while raising some easy money.
A Bake sale, book sale, perhaps a raffle for a gift basket (try and get the stuff donated by merchants).
Recycling cans, ask friends neighbors to help.
Do you have a special talent that you can charge people for? Gardening, knitting or cooking class.
A final comment, while people are donating for you to run lets remember the core focus is to raise money for organizations that serve our community.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan

The Race to the Race

March 21st, 2015

I thought it might be a bit different to chronicle what happens today from a real-time perspective. This will be an interesting day: I wonder in what ways…
Its Saturday morning, March 21st at 6:00 AM, and I have some of the same butterflies in my stomach that occur that second Sunday in July.
There will be a big race taking place at noon today, albeit digital rather than physical.
It’s Open Registration Day for the 2015 Boilermaker!
Preferred Registration, the chance for runners of the 2014 Boilermaker to get signed up ended last night at midnight.
Here’s what it looks like with advanced registration:
15k- 7,846
So today we will have available a bit over 6,100 slots available and 2,300 for the 15k and 5k races respectively.
While this entire process is new to us, I am a bit surprised that more didn’t partake in the opportunity to sign up early. We saw an initial surge on opening day nearly 11,000 hits on boilermaker.com that leveled to around 3,000 during the following week. Obviously those hits do not translate into registrants, they could be visiting anywhere on the site.
So here is what I expect at noon (and beyond).
 A mass of folks locked on to boilermaker.com waiting for high noon. We have the same bandwidth horsepower from Quadsimia, our webhosting company, that we had last year when we were processing 800 runners a minute. RunSignUp, the folks you actually register with, say they are good to go.
 A quick sellout.
Jim, the race director, had predicted around a half hour, my thoughts: twenty minutes. However, in full excuse mode, I made the prediction prior to the end of Preferred Registration.
 Many unhappy emails/ calls from people who didn’t get in. This is a given. The worst are the ones from people who were halfway through the registration process and got shutout as the cap is reached.
And I sit here and wonder…
The automated wait list, which, like preferred registration, is new-will people use it?
Will people who find themselves shutout become Charity Bib Runners? At this point there are around a hundred bibs available.
In the office at 10:00 AM
Looking at the analytics there are a solid 100 folks floating around various areas of the website. We’ve already had a couple of calls from people wanting to know why they can’t register- not noon Eastern Standard Time yet!
Five minutes till noon according to the countdown clock on the website, the herd of folks in the waiting mode has risen to over 950, this includes 11 from Canada, and 1 each from St. Martin and the Virgin Islands plus two from the United Kingdom.
It’s noon, 1,600 at the line- it’s show time!!
The number slowly climbed to 2,300 then began to slowly drop as people completed the registration process.
Within 30 minutes we had 11,800 signed up for the 15k and 3,488 for the 5k. Would the 5k, for the first time ever, sell out prior to the 15k?
I saw Ireland, Germany, Puerto Rico, Italy, the Dominica Republic and Rwandan come across the analytics screen.
The rather manic nature of the initial minutes settled to a more routine pace.
So I was way off on the time we would hit the registration cap.
That’s OK- in fact that’s more than OK.
While it’s great to have bragging rights for a quick close to the race but with that comes more folks who found themselves on the outside looking in.
When you have a stampede, people get run over!
Clearly the preferred registration had a massive effect on today’s sign up.
So nice, no panicky calls, the phones were eerily silent. A quick look at our facebook page showed favorable comments about the process.
At some point this evening the 5k and 15k races will sell out.
I will in all likelihood be asleep when the individual races are sold out.
How funny to reread what I wrote at 6 this morning.

Registration Review Part 1

March 16th, 2015

Saturday March 14th was a notable day in Utica beyond the St. Patrick’s Day Parade which, thank the leprechauns, ended up being relatively rain-free: it was also the first day of registration for the 2015 Boilermaker Road Race.
But let’s back up a bit…
Looking at the ‘demand curve’ over the previous years we knew we were going to be interesting territory in 2015.
A look back in time of sold out registrations.
2012: 72 days
2013: 3 days
2014: 2 and 1/2 hours
It seemed clear that the days of ‘first come first served’ had pretty much reached its end, so the question was what was the alternative?
Most of the major races who found themselves in the same boat as us resorted to a lottery-based system. Initial feedback from our participants was nearly universal ‘we really hate that idea’. The primary reason was people who had many years running the race would now find themselves thrown in the ocean with countless others and, hopefully, get chosen to run this year’s race. We heard them…
The solution was to set a baseline of everyone that ran last year’s race; that would take care of people who had Boilermaker streaks going.
What was an unintended benefit to this was we could, at least for this group because they were so clearly defined let the registration time be expanded.
We settled on a week to let them sign up.
Well at noon on the 14th there were over 2,500 people queued up at boilermaker.com ready to sign up.
My, we are such creatures of habit!
Within the ten minutes 1,800 had registered, 3,300 after the first half hour. By the end of the day we had nearly 7,000 folks signed up for the 15k and 5k Races.
Sunday saw an additional 1,000 join the ranks.
We saw a huge rise in the use of mobile phones/ tablets as the preferred method to register.
For the first time mobile devices outnumbered desktops units 52-48%: will be interesting to see if that trend holds over the course of registration.
Crazy times are coming-on Saturday March 22nd at noon when we fill out the remainder of the field with open registration.
I think this will be a rather short day.

Miracle Miles

February 28th, 2015

No I’m not talking about Vernon Downs, I’m talking about the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program.
On March 3rd we open registration for the 3rd annual Boilermaker Charity Bib Program on boilermaker.com.
While there is much I am proud of concerning the Boilermaker, the Charity Bib holds a really special place in my heart. I am the #1 cheerleader of these folks as they run alone, yet together.
If the core role of the Boilermaker is to change people’s lives (and I think it is) then a program like this is simply a natural extension.
So much new this year…
More bibs (60 bibs over last year) and more charities (21 vs. 11 in 2014). Charity bibs are over and above the official race caps.
BTW, the most charities and requests for bibs making the judging committee’s job this year very, very tough.
We have a new fundraising platform, CrowdRise, to support the effort. In the running space they are simply the company of choice, just ask the Boston, New York and Chicago Marathons.
This year we now can have Boilermaker runners who aren’t charity runners become a part of an organizations fundraising team. Imagine if we could get 5% of our regular runners energized to support one of these causes- that’s 925 people! In fact I think it will be critical to enlist the support of these folks who would be willing to fundraise for no other reason that it’s the right thing to do. Which leads to the next new thing- setting an overall fundraising goal.
The past two years we have never set a goal; we just sort of declared victory and celebrated success. I’m a big believer having challenging goals. Without them it’s like running a race and there’s no finish line, or simply residing, inertly, in our comfort zone.
So drum roll please, and the goal is(gulp) - $250,000. We hit this number and the Boilermaker will have generated a half a million dollars for local not for profits since the inception of the program.
We will be having some pretty cool prizes for our top affiliated runners (charity bib folks) and unaffiliated runners (people are regular Boilermaker runners who join a charity team).
Finally, what I guarantee will be a series of inspiring stories from runners lacing up their running shoes for the right reason. Over the past two years I have had tears in my eyes a number of times reading the stories of folks feeling honored to raise money for a specific charity.
I will, with permission, share them with you.
Hey, running is great for your personal health - running to help someone that you probably will never know is (in my opinion) pretty good for the health of the soul.
Become a miracle worker…