Boilermaker Blog

Gettin’ The Lead Out

January 18th, 2016

I think that Flint Michigan and Utica were –twins who were separated at birth.
Both are communities that have seen the exodus of a major employer (Flint GM, Utica GE) signaling a major economic slowdown.
In the 60’s Flint had a population of 200,000, Utica 120,000: today Flint 99,000, Utica 64,000.
And how about the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation is located in Flint. Mott was the largest shareholder of General Motors stock and Flint Mayor 1912-13, 1918: he moved to Flint from….Utica!
The final similarity is one that recently has hit the national news, at least for Flint, its lead.
The city decided, for cost savings, to convert the water system to draw from the Flint River. Apparently the water from the Flint River is more acidic causing lead to leech from the pipe system into the drinking water.
Flint’s experience with lead was like Hurricane Katrina: massive and relatively quick.
Utica’s problems with lead have been more subtle and insidious perhaps making it that much more deadly.
Flint folks have ended up drinking lead, some of ours, unfortunately, have been breathing it.
Lead’s invasion into our community has come by way of lead-based paints that were common for decades. While lead-based paints were banned in 1978 much of our housing stock certainly predates that.
I’m assuming that the piping in Flint is similarly old as we are both old communities.
Contrary to popular belief the concerning paint, the most dangerous issues are not children ingesting paint chips (that’s very bad too) but the paint becoming airborne and inhaled. Windows and doors rubbing releasing the paint are primary culprits.
Lead poisoned children cause a huge cost burden on a community costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per individual of the course of their life. Lead is particularly dangerous to kids under the age of 6 as it can severely affect brain development.
For whatever reason Oneida County has the largest lead exposure via paint than any other county in New York (I have no idea the measurement tools or criteria).
I do know lead has been (and continues to be) a major focus of the Oneida County Department of Health.
The Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer County last week stepped forward with a commitment of 1.1 million dollars to begin to help with the eradication of the various sources of lead. This will likely be just a small down payment for the final total cost as lead abatement is neither easy nor inexpensive.
In the right of full disclosure: I serve on the Community Investment Committee of The Community Foundation.
We, like Flint, will get through our lead crisis this is stuff that’s been around literally for decades: we can’t click our heels three times and simply wish it away.
What I applaud is a regional public/ private partnership to tackle a problem that no one entity can handle alone.
I know lead abatement is certainly not ‘sexy’, but as our region makes the transition to a ‘nano-community’ it’s pretty darn important.
Lead is good for many things, like batteries and x-ray protection: in our folks, not so much!

Bye Bye Big Brothers

January 12th, 2016

It was a small article tucked on page 6a in the Saturday Observer Dispatch announcing the discontinuation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties due to declining matches.
It felt like a punch in the gut.
I was thrown back to a (much) earlier time when I was a “Big”.
After reading the story I remembered I had some mementos from those times -I went up to the attic to go on a journey into the past.
I opened a box that had been sealed for 21 years.
There sat a yellowed newspaper article (from the same Observer Dispatch) dated February 8, 1987 viewing a much younger me (complete with permed hair!) playing with my “Little” Chris at the Children’s Museum.
That year I received the Big Brother of the Year Award based on a letter written by Chris about me: it was punctuated with the words “he’s always there when I need him”.
That still touches me.
It would take a novel, not a simple blog, to talk about the evolution of a relationship that started with a 9 year old and ended with a 16 year old (traditional formal end date of big brothers big sisters relationships).
The journey certainly gave me a bit of vision of what it was going to be like to be a Dad with the accompanying joy and occasional sadness.
Here’s the sad fact- the need for young people having a mentor in their lives has not, in my opinion, lessened since I was a Big.
I’m also assuming the problem with declining matches was finding enough willing adults rather than needing kids.
No doubt volunteering in a mentoring program is more than a ‘one and done’ proposition: we’re talking about human beings here!
Consistency and predictability are key for kids whose lives are in a constant state of inconsistency and unpredictability usually through no fault of their own
It’s not for the faint of heart or those that are judgmental to take on that responsibility.
Saying that: I’m convinced I got more out of it than what I feel I put into the relationship.
Clearly the lives of the 20 something’s is far different than when I was in that space: as the Dad of three populating this age group I’ve seen it firsthand.
I really hate writing about problems without coming up with a solution.
Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic the old model Big Brothers Big Sisters model went the way of the payphone and spark-plugs.
Saying that, I think the idea of being a positive role model in the life of a child (whether they are biologically yours or not) never gets old!

Goodbye 2015- Hello 2016!

January 8th, 2016

I wish it was easy to compartmentalize our lives and say ‘hey it’s a new year we’ve just pressed the big reset button!’ We as a people have decided that the first day of the year is a time of new beginnings, of new opportunities where all things are possible.
No doubt it’s been said in a number of ways (and I’m sure far more eloquently) but sometimes we are running towards something, other times we are running away from something.
Sometimes it’s a combination of the two!
Certainly the tail end of 2015 was one of the more interesting periods of my life- without question I had my running shoes on trying to get away parts from it!
My son, who was very sick at the end of the year is getting better, but it made November/ early December pretty rough. Through the ordeal I was reminded about the scores of wonderful people that are a part of my life.
Then there was the sale of the company that was employed with for over 24 years (ECR International), named after my grandfather (Earle C. Reed). Certainly a bit of a bitter-sweet event: we moved here when I was the ripe age of two. The company had just lost $1,000,000 (in 1956 that was REALLY big money) and my Dad was sent to fix it- he did. The then Utica Radiator/ Utica Boilers was a big part of my life: it is a wonder that I survived when as a kid on Saturdays, while my Dad was working in the office, I would explore through the factory or practice my driving skills (or lack thereof) with a forklift!
In the end just incredibly happy the new owners are committed to the community AND the Boilermaker (hurray!). ECR plays such a big part in making the Start Line happen, this race literally and figuratively starts/started there!
But there are many, many things I am running towards:
Working on keeping the race ‘fresh’
I’m always thinking about some twist that even surprises the folks who have run the race for many years. We have 9.3 miles of canvas to work with as well as the Expo and Post Race Party to create ‘the runners experience’. This year is the 39th running of the Boilermaker- I’m already thinking about things for the 40th (a big year).
Fixing the stuff that isn’t working
For two years the Community Mile I so want us to have has never happened because of low registration numbers. It’s a great concept and mile runs like this are happening all over the country- I’ll figure this out.
The Boolermaker Kid’s Run had its lowest registration in its three year existence. I’m finding there now are more and more Halloween events happening the Saturday before Halloween- the bitter cold didn’t help either!
The Community Mile and the Boolermaker are my ‘kids’: I’d really like to see them succeed.
Making the joint a better place
Last time I checked we have one or two health issues to deal with in our community. Sometimes it feels to me that we have a ton of well-meaning people/ organizations but everyone’s sort of doing their own thing. How do we get these diverse groups together to affect positive change? If the primary function of the Boilermaker is to change people’s lives perhaps we are uniquely placed to act as a convener?
Well I hope you manage to achieve all your New Year’s resolutions be they losing weight, quitting smoking or perhaps running your first Boilermaker.
As they say ‘shoot for the stars and hit the Moon’!

A Powerful 4 Letter Word

December 21st, 2015

I thought that would get your attention!
Warning, this blog has nothing to do with the Boilermaker nor with running: I have simply hijacked this blog site to tell a personal story.
November 6th was simply the worst day of my life, I received a hysterical call that my son Jack had been found unresponsive and was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a Boston hospital.
The 4 hour drive to Boston was a blur as my wife sobbed in the car.
The meeting with the doctor was grim as he prepared us for what we were about to see in the ICU. Nothing prepares you for seeing your son with a breathing tube down his throat, connected to numerous iv tubes and machines that were beeping and alarming.
That night I was pretty much convinced my son was going to die as I sat in his room watching the doctors and nurses continually working on him.
Listen, both of my parents have passed away, that was really bad: thinking about looking at my child in a coffin would be the ultimate horror.
Twenty four hours later: the first tiny, tiny glimpse of hope as the docs managed to begin to get Jack oxygenating.
So we went through the long arduous process of watching Jack slowly heal. The trajectory was not a straight line but a series of forward, backward and, on occasion, sidesteps.
Being thrust into this new universe I had a few observations…
The power of prayer:
The outpouring of prayers was simply amazing. From as close to daily visits by representatives of various faiths to Jack’s room to a candle lit for him at Lourdes Church in Spain. There were a few events that occurred that fly in the face of simple coincidence (the stories are too long to relate in this blog): something happened to help Jack who the nurses called the miracle child!
We all have problems:
I would eat breakfast at the hotel prior to walking to the hospital. After a few weeks the waitress named Annie asked me why I was at the hotel so long- for business?
I said no, my son was in the hospital and I was from out of town- she offered her sympathy and said she would pray from him.
The following day, as I was eating breakfast, I heard a tremendous crash behind me. I turned and saw Annie, the sprawled on the floor: she had tripped over a trash can.
I ran over to help her and checked to make sure wasn’t hurt, I think she was more embarrassed than injured. A few minutes later a waiter came up to me to say thank you for helping Annie- she was going through cancer treatments and this was the second time she had fallen that week.
Every day as I walked to the hospital I would pass: a methadone clinic and a soup kitchen that was a constant mass of folks.
Meanwhile ‘squeegee men’, flower sellers and homeless people with signs worked the street. I always held the squeegee men and flower people in a bit of higher esteem then the beggars in at least it appeared they were offering goods and services!
So it hit me, we are all dragging around our sack of problems: some bags are small some are overflowing.
This fight is personal:
Spending the amount of time as I did in the hospital I began to know a bit about the caregivers.
Many of the nurses (the angels of the ICU as I called them) had kids around my son’s age, and the resident in charge when Jack told me he had a brother Jack’s age.
In the early days at the ICU a janitor came in to pick up the waste containers. He asked me ‘how is your son’? I said ‘better than yesterday’. He replied ‘if there is anything I can do please tell me.’
I was struck by both the honesty and sincerity in his voice.
These people not only cared for my so, they cared about my son.
My son is a huge Buffalo Bills fan and one of his countless friends that came to visit him (bless them) brought a Tyrod Taylor jersey. The ICU nurses put the jersey on Jack and put the Bills game on the TV even though Jack was still a coma. I saw when they touched the jersey they were wearing rubber gloves: I told them just because they were Patriot fans touching the jersey wouldn’t contract a disease. We all laughed!
This experience has produced both those tears of sadness and joy.
So what is that 4 letter word- it’s home (it’s right up there folks with love).
Five weeks after that terrible day November 6th my son came home.
It feels like Christmas merged with Easter I got the most wonderful Christmas present, my son came back to life!
If you have kids- give them a big hug this holiday season!

Whatta Week!

October 29th, 2015

October tends to be a bit of a busy week with planning and running of the Boolermaker Kid’s Run occurring the Saturday prior to Halloween (October 24th).
Add on the OktoberFarmFest that we helped arrange and took place behind our building on Thursday, October 22nd, and I was clearly dizzier than normal!
The good news- the farmers market finally happened! The crowd was a mix of neighborhood and non-neighborhood folks. Good media support and the Mayor showed up and took a turn on the healthy smoothie bike (a stationary bike that propelled via pedal power a blender mounted on the back.
The bad news- certainly cold and breezy, and the frost that occurred the previous weekend resulted in damaged ground crops and a few less farmers than originally planned.
We clearly want this to be more than a ‘one and done’ event but for several reasons (including Saranac Thursday) we will most likely settle on a different day of the week.
Well if the weather was cold on for the OktoberFarmFest it was positively frigid for the Boolermaker!
A layer of frost on my car windshield greeted me as I started my car at 6:00AM to head to the Masonic Care Community. While the temperatures managed to climb into the 40’s by run time, a 11-13 mile per hour wind kicked up making it feel like it was 25 degrees. It was a real joy riding in the open 4-wheeler loading and unloading supplies-NOT!
Hey no worries about refrigerating the Chobani yogurt and McDonalds chocolate milk!
This was our 3rd running and, unfortunately, was our lowest field.
Probably a number of reasons including school sports activities as well as other Halloween-themed events taking place the same day (and that previously mentioned cold certainly didn’t help).
Or perhaps going with an on-line only registration dissuaded folks…
Saying that, the hundreds of little ghosts and goblins that came certainly had a frighteningly good time!
Lots of activities, healthy snacks and perhaps the biggest rabbit I have ever seen courtesy of the Utica Zoo.
The ‘scary selfie station’ was a big hit: check them out on the website.
By the early afternoon the kids had left, the Expo and reunion area broken down and gear packed up to return to the Boilermaker offices.
It was time for me to head home, change out of my ‘Where’s Waldo’ costume (hey, you need a sense of humor to do my job) and try to scare up a nap…

Running Down the Road to Better

October 15th, 2015

One question that frequently swirls in my brain when I think of the Boilermaker is: ‘can we be better?’
Of course the answer is always yes as we, as humans, are imperfect creatures frequently making wrong-headed, uninformed or just plain dumb decisions.
The core mission of the Boilermaker is to change people’s lives for the better with an element of fun.
Health and wellness is our gig.
The Boilermaker is (hopefully) the culmination of weeks and months of training by folks to tackle Boilermaker Sunday or perhaps to simply be able to manage to walk Boilermaker Saturday.
As we endeavor trying to make a community a healthier one we’re going to start looking a bit more holistically at the needs of folks who call our place home.
Certainly there’s a lot of work to be done: Oneida County comes in #56 out of New York State’s 62 counties health-wise. My, my: lots of opportunities!
So it’s thinking about things like….
Disconnected trail systems, lack of or poorly maintained pedestrian/ running/ biking areas. This is an issue in both our urban and rural regions. The Erie Canal and a formally developed canal path in our region has so much potential that is as of yet unrealized. Our park system is a historical treasure but certainly could use some help.
The availability of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables to those who are transportation-challenged.
The creation of the West Utica Farmers Market, formally launched next year, will be a natural for us including an education component every week.
And I can’t get the idea of a community garden out of my head.
How about making running more accessible to those who, for whatever reason, can’t participate in traditional races. Rather than expecting the neighborhood to come to the run perhaps we bring the run to the neighborhood?
The kids are in the streets: perhaps we get them running for the right reasons!
So in reading my ramblings you might be lead to believe I have forgotten about the Boilermaker- Heavens no!
The Boilermaker is the engine that inspires folks and gives us the opportunity to engage in these endeavors.
Forget about the race and all these other things could never happen.
Saying that for the first time we will be looking actively at like-minded partners that can help bring resources to bear- we can’t, nor should we, do it alone.
These are big issues that no one organization can solve, but perhaps a number of us can!
No doubt this journey will be a long road marked with steep inclines and occasional adverse weather.
But it’s where we need to go.

Looking Back

September 21st, 2015

The end of September also marks the end of this year’s Boilermaker.
The last of the bills have been paid, all our awards ceremonies have taken place and the various directors have turned in their ‘after action’ reports.
So prior to building the budget for Boilermaker 2016, making sponsor calls, logo selection and establishing registration method and timing I am offered a wee bit of time to reflect what happened (and didn’t happen) this year.
Boilermaker 2015 started on a huge high note with the design of this year’s logo- it was simply brilliant incorporating the 15k and 5k numbers in 2015.
Great job Jim Raymer!
Visitors to were greeted to a new website and an increased emphasis on social media. Our friends at Quadsimia engaged folks via twitter, facebook, instragram and periscope and our metrics skyrocketed.
The massive change to this year’s registration process (and change to a new registration company) brought a level of calmness to what had become a rather stormy sea.
Roughly half the field that ran the 2014 partook in registering for this year’s Boilermaker.
I was frankly surprised it was that low considering we gave them a week to sign up and that we had sold out the 2014 race in three hours.
When open registration took place on the morning of March 22nd as I sat in my office I thought “this will be a short process”.
Wrong again Tim…
It took a bit over a day to fill the remaining field.
Well one year does not a trend make so we’ll see what next year brings.
On an extremely positive note this year my email was not inundated with frantic pleas from folks who, for whatever reason, didn’t get in.
And what’s not to love about Boilermaker Weekend?
Three days of beautiful weather, a great Expo, a surprise flyover and one of the safest races in Boilermaker history.
I commented to someone, kiddingly, “I feel like we have nowhere to go but down after this year.”
Then there was the building…
Certainly the building, or rather, the building renovations were more than a bit distracting.
The soothing sounds of banging hammers, and screaming power saws echoed throughout the office as dust danced merrily in the air for what seemed like months.
Well we certainly are now in a much better place and is a joy to show folks what we’ve done to bring some of the luster back to a classic textile-mill edifice.
A huge shout out to Lou Matrulli who has acted as the ‘clerk of the works’ dealing with the various trades.
Well enough of this historical reflection: Boolermaker Kid’s Run coming up in a bit more than a month I gotta scare up some kids to participate!

Scaring up a Good Time

September 11th, 2015

BOOlermaker 2015
It’s the last Saturday before Halloween (October 24th) so it must be the Boolermaker to be once again held at the Masonic Care Community.
The Boolermaker is built around fitness, fun and food with the tagline ‘where getting fit isn’t scary’.
This year we will be going totally on-line for registration: registration opens on Wednesday September 16th at 9:00 am. Go to and click on the Boolermaker icon. Registration will close on October 10th.
There will not be any race day registration.
The cost for each runner is $6: we will only have 750 runners between the ages of 4-13 (due to requests we added 13 year olds this year).
Expect to see some Boolermaker clothing for sale.
We have changed the opening of the Expo from 8:00 am to 9:00 am to give everyone an extra hour of sleep.
Our ‘Eerie Expo’ will feature food samples, face painting/ temporary tattoos, child ID, activities and exhibits. New this year is ‘the scary selfie station’ where pictures can be taken in front of a green screen and images can be inserted.
First heat takes place at 10:15 am. Run distances will be: ¼, ½, ¾ and 1 mile. While we have suggested distances per age you as a parent know what your child is capable of. Obviously if kids are running in costume steer clear of outfits that obscure vision or pose a tripping hazard.
After the run our little goblins will receive a commemorative chinch bag as well as enough healthy food to fill it.
I love this event: the kids are sweet while they learn that Halloween isn’t all about sweets!

The Wild West (Utica Streets)

September 4th, 2015

August 29th marked our one year anniversary in our new office on Court Street.
I simply cannot wait when Court Street reopens once again reconnecting west and east Utica via a major thoroughfare.
Every day I pull into the Boilermaker parking lot I am struck that, unlike our former location, we are in a neighborhood. Usually at noon I try and get in a walk around our streets, I have at least a nodding acquaintance with many of our neighbors.
Today is the first day of school- wow, the silence is deafening in our usually lively area.
Some observations:
We have so many kids in the neighborhood that are riding bikes- a very good thing: it’s a great exercise.
Unfortunately I have yet to see one of them waring a bike helmet- a very, very bad thing as we see heavy vehicular traffic only to get worse with the Court Street opening sometime in the Fall.
New York State mandates the wearing of helmets for all riders 14 years and younger.
So I think to myself ‘are people not wearing helmets because they are too expensive or not wearing them because it isn’t cool (I suspect it’s the cool factor)’?
Apparently we aren’t alone with helmetless youth:
“Bike helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury or death by up to 85 percent. Yet, only about 15 percent of all children nationally wear a helmet when they ride a bike.” (Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute)
The other thing I’ve seen is a lack of following the ‘rules of the road’.
We have bikes that go with traffic, bikes that go against traffic and bikes in the middle of traffic!
Often as a car driver, one plays ‘guessing game’- is the bike going to cut over mid-street in front of me?
It certainly makes driving stimulating!
I hate sounding like a ‘Gloomy Gus’ as people who know me would say I’m usually a pretty upbeat guy.
No doubt, one of the great experiences is to see the joy on a child’s face as they furiously pedal maneuvering their bike on sidewalk and street.
I just worry about someone ending up on the wrong end of two tons of steel- it’ll wreck your whole day!

And I Was There

August 21st, 2015

There are times we get the opportunity to experience history. Sometimes planned, like watching Neil Armstrong taking that first tentative step on the surface of the Moon.
Often unplanned, like watching the second jet slamming into the World Trade Center and realizing something very, very bad was happening.
On Thursday I saw the beginning of a major change take place in our community with Governor Cuomo making the formal announcement of Nano-Marcy prominently involving GE.
The return of GE to the Utica region, I remember the days that the GE facility pumped out millions of transistor radios out of the Bleeker Street facility: I had one (yeah I’m that old). Meanwhile, at a million square foot building on Broad Street, thousands of GE workers were doing radar research; planes would frequently be seen lazily flying back and forth near the building doing some hush-hush military project.
I attended the opening session at the Radisson where, besides the politicians, every New York State Commissioner was sitting around the very large table. This was serious stuff!
I didn’t have a chance to be at the announcement at Quad-C as I was at the formal opening of the pedestrian bridge spanning the arterial. In attendance was the New York State Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. The arterial project is one I have watched with interest with its opportunity to create a more user-friendly waling/running/ bike path system. We need a unified path system throughout the region that insures the safety of folks engaging in healthy exercise activity, but I digress.
After the bridge ribbon cutting we walked down to the brewery where the next stage of the Department of Transportation infrastructure improvement was revealed with a possible multi-lane roundabout at the Genesee Street and Route 5/Oriskany Street, currently the most accident-prone intersection in the county.
And there was more as state officials visited various locations throughout the region both listening and committing assets to serve the needs of the community.
For too long (pre-Utica Comets) I would hear that the Boilermaker Week was the only time Utica felt good about itself. I would respond “well we have only have 51 to go”.
Will there be hurdles and perhaps short-term glitches as this massive project takes form and substance, of course there will. Imagine building a house and multiplying the issues by a million (or should it be a billion?).
Saying that, I think Thursday August 20, 2015 just might have helped take care of those other 51 weeks.
And I was there to witness it.