Boilermaker Blog

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!

Where Did The Time Go? (Part 1)

July 29th, 2014

I was an English major in college; took math and science classes only when I had to in order to graduate. I realized to my horror that Astronomy was a heavily physics-based course and managed to squeak through!
So saying all that I do get a kick out of looking at the yearly Boilermaker stats and compare those to previous years and see if they tell anything. I just got them and here is what I see.
For the first time in the last six years we actually got faster in the 15k; but that must be taken with a few grams of salt (or sodium substitute product). In 2009 the average time overall to run the 15k was 1 hour 25 minutes 53 seconds. For females it took 1 hour 31 minutes 43 seconds, males 1 hour 21 minutes 28 seconds. Fast forward to 2013, our slowest Boilermaker ever. Average time 1 hour 34 minutes 23 seconds with females clocking in at 1 hour 39 minutes 50 seconds, males at 1 hour 29 minutes 31 seconds. In 4 years the women had lost 8 minutes 3 seconds; the men 8 minutes 7 seconds.
So now I have set the table for this year. In 2014 the overall time was 1 hour 32 minutes 46 seconds, 1 hour 38 minutes 15 seconds for women, 1 hour 27 minutes 52 seconds for the men. We reversed the trend from the previous year by 1 minute 37 seconds overall, 1 minute 35 seconds for the females and 1 minute 39 seconds for the men.
Below is where we have been since 2009:
Overall      Female    Male        Start line temp in degrees
2104    1:32:46    1:38:15    1:27:52    68 degrees
2013    1:34:23    1:39:50    1:29:31    66 degrees
2012    1:31:17    1:36:45    1:26:22    65 degrees
2011    1:29:28    1:35:06    1:24:41    58 degrees
2010    1:28:40    1:34:32    1:23:59    64 degrees
2009    1:25:53    1:31:43    1:21:28    55 degrees
So why did we get faster this year compared to 2013; one word- weather. While the temperature were slightly warmer in 2014 the humidity levels in 2013 were significantly higher. This year the runners were blanketed with cloud cover from the beginning to the end of the race. In 2013 roughly an hour into the race the clouds burned off forcing runners to deal with the sun and humidity. The result was, at times, the medical tent was filled to the brim. Finally, our 2014 runners were greeted with a moderate breeze; last year the air was simply dead.
Certainly a bit (and I think a very small bit) of the slowdown over the years could be due to the increased participation level/start line; we had over 1,300 more people cross the line in 2014 vs. 2009.
At some point I’ll look at how we stack up to one of the early years. Far fewer participants and at start time of 10:30 in the morning. Amazing to think the early Boilermaker runners were starting at a time today the race is essentially over!
A huge thank you to John Pittarresi, from the Observer Dispatch, whose love for research has always been a real asset to the race. Also thanks to Pat Leone, from Leone Timing, who keeps track of important demographics/ statistics.
Part 2- the 5K

Thoughts on Boilermaker 37

July 23rd, 2014

Well the 37th running of the Boilermaker Road Race is over, albeit with a touch of drama. While the spotlight shines brightly on Boilermaker Sunday, there are so many other success stories from the weekend of events. The 3 Mile Walk, Kid’s Run, Youth Olympics, Expo, Volunteer Party, Induction Ceremony and the Robert Channing/Classified Show. This year’s Expo, held at Mohawk Valley Community College, fielded the most vendors we have ever seen.
Disappointments, a few, the Community Mile Run was cancelled due to lack of public interest and the Shadow Run taking place in Kuwait not run because of extreme temperatures.
And then of course there are the events leading up to the Sunday 5:00 AM announcing that the races were a go that were well chronicled. Pulling the plug on this year’s Boilermaker would have stood as the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Clearly if I had to I would have received far fewer Christmas cards this year. I owe a special thanks to those who met with me on Saturday afternoon pre-race who offered some very wise council.
This year I was in the Unified Command Center, established last year after the Boston Marathon Bombings. While it was clearly not as much fun as being at the Start and Finish Lines (would you rather watch the game in person or on TV) I learned an incredible amount about the race. High-def cameras provided a unique perspective, while a real time Doppler radar with two hour forecasting capabilities was projected on a wall. In one room we had federal, state and local organizations working together for a common purpose of protecting our community and our runners. Sometimes out of great tragedy comes benefits we could not have imagined.
While I’d love to kick my feet up on the desk there is still much to do. I must write up areas where we struggled this year prior to it floating out of my brain only to come back and haunt us again next year. Also, thank you notes-in our hyper-fast, digital world a simple handwritten note has become more scarce, and so, more powerful.
Speaking of saying thank you, I send a very special one to all the volunteers who showed up in spite of the potential adverse weather. I knew the runners were coming and, God bless ya, you did too!
Post-race events include a series of awards ceremonies (School Challenge, Corporate Cup, Police/Fire Competition, Charity Bib Finale and various check presentations). Planning will begin for the 2nd annual Boolermaker Kid’s Run that will take place in October at Masonic Care Community.
Finally, we need to start getting our moving boxes packed up for our office move at the end of August.
West Utica, here we come!

Are you ready?

July 6th, 2014

The biggest question I’ve heard over the past couple of weeks has been ‘Tim, are you ready for the race?’ This question has (thankfully) replaced ‘Tim, how do I get in the race since registration has closed’.
I have contemplated the idea of preparedness for the race and came to the conclusion that my readiness for the race, in the end, is a relatively minor one compared to many.
In one week this race will be upon us; the question is not if I’m ready- but are you?
To our volunteers- are you ready?
Have you been in contact with you respective committee coordinators? Please take a ‘patience pill’ as you may be asked the same question over and over during the weekend; remember you are our community’s ambassadors.
Get a good night’s sleep on Saturday; people are (very literally) depending on you.
BTW- thank you for doing for free for what we could never afford to pay you!
To our spectators- are you ready?
One of the true highlights of this race is your involvement. Few, if any, races can boast of crowds as long and deep as ours. Be there and cheer for the person you don’t even know. Make our participants feel like a rock star for just one day!
Finally to our runners- are your ready?
Have you put in the miles to deal with either that 15k or 5k journey you are about to embark on next Sunday? Have you figured out how you are getting to the start line (early please!)? Have you been drinking enough water? Be prepared for hot weather. No new running shoes or running clothes please. No backpacks or coolers. Practice good running courtesy-remember, there’s more than just you on the course.
Sorry if I sound like your mother.
I give the same advice to our 3 miles walkers who will step out on Saturday morning at the Masonic Care Community. For some, this event is a huge accomplishment.
Please thank a volunteer or two (like I did above); they have donated their time and effort to make your race memorable.
So my answer to those who ask if I’m ready usually is ‘well, I guess it’s going to happen’.
Because, in the end, this Boilermaker weekend is not about me; but about you.

Just Another Day

July 4th, 2014

For me the 4th of July is simply July 4th. While certainly very patriotic type (flag will hang proudly in front of house) the amount of work to be done prior to race day precludes the opportunity to celebrate America’s day of saying ‘enough’ to Britain’s repressive ways . Its nine days (and one hour), at the writing of this blog, until the start of the 15k, the 5k would be almost ready to go. Eight days until the Kid’s Run, 3 Mile Walk, seven days till the Expo …and a partridge in a pear tree!
This is the time I exist on too much coffee and too little sleep.
There is a great deal new happening this year; an Induction Ceremony, race course enhancements, a record number of Expo vendors, a Saturday concert, all good stuff! All the maps/ verbiage need to be good to go by Monday so we can be assured to get it in both the newspaper as well as on the website.
Today becomes the first day I have an opportunity to get a possible sneak preview of the weather on Boilermaker Sunday viewing the 10 day forecast. Last year this exercise became sheer folly as the long-term view of Boilermaker Sunday showed a relatively cool temperature at the start of the race. As we approached race day, a nasty patch of hot, humid, weather marched from west to east across the U.S.; by Thursday of Boilermaker Week I knew the 2013 race was going to be challenging to the runners.
At some point I will drive the course to see what sort of shape the roads are in; this year’s bitter winter devastated the northeast’s road system; Utica was no exception. The cities DPW has traditionally done a fantastic job managing with the 9.3 miles of road that snakes through the city.
Speaking of roads; we are in the second year of the Department of Transportation (DOT) arterial project. I can’t say enough good things about the DOT’s involvement with the general public and specifically the Boilermaker on this project. For our once-a –year visitors the landscape, specifically around the Post Race Party area, will look very, very different. No more Fay Street Warehouse as well as over 40 other buildings, new roads/ exits and traffic patterns. By 2017, the anticipated completion date, this project will be transformation (in a good way) for our region.
While down at the finish line area, as is my tradition, will check out the condition of Boilermaker Park. This mini rendition of the Boilermaker course located next to the Polish Community Center is festooned with bricks etched with memorials, honors and words of joy. This is an important place for those who have bought a brick (and I personally know many of them); this is a bit of a labor of love to make sure it’s ‘standing tall’ for race weekend.
Answering the dearth of emails, it’s like fighting the Hydra, take care of one and two more pop up!
And I really need to get my lawn mowed!
I will probably fall asleep before ‘the rockets red glare’ and on Saturday be awake before ‘the dawn’s early light’.
Hey- happy birthday U.S.A.!

Death of a Friend

June 28th, 2014

Writer’s note: This blog has virtually nothing to do with the Boilermaker, save it being an emotional moment for me as person involved with the race.
Death of a Friend
A member of my family died yesterday, he was 15 years old, or rather 105 years old in dog years. It was our dog.
Buddy came into our lives in a most unexpected way. My plan had always been to get a retriever that was around a year old. With a wife, who was not a big dog fan, the thought of puppy issues appeared to be a non-starter.
It was a week before Christmas, a temp was working the receptionist desk, I was using the fax machine located near her workstation.
The conversation-
Her-‘I feel terrible, my husband and I have moved from the country into the city and it looks like we’re going to have to get rid of our dog.’
Me-‘That’s too bad, what kind of a dog is it?’
Her-‘It’s a purebred Golden Retriever’ (My interest instantly begins to rise)
Me-‘How old is he?’
Her-‘Buddy will be one year old on Christmas Day.’ (Ding, ding,ding,ding-we have a winner!)
Buddy spent Christmas Eve at my brother’s house and was moved to my garage early Christmas morning. After the present opening frenzy I went downstairs and lead Buddy upstairs. As he turned the corner I could hear my son Jack shout’ It’s a dog- it’s a real dog!’ The story behind that comment is my wife had attempted to placate my three son’s (ages 10, 8 and 3) dog demands with a robotic dog the previous year which promptly broke after a week.
My wife laid her foot down-Buddy would stay in the garage at night. That rule lasted all of one day as he established his sleeping spot at the side of our bed. When I would wake up in the morning and swing out of bed his tail would immediately begin a rhythmic beat against the floor.
Buddy was always happy that my wife kept our clothes clean as his treat jar was perched on top of the dryer. Load washer- give treat, move wet laundry into dryer- get treat, unload dryer-you figured it out!
I could be guaranteed a smiling face with tongue hanging out greeting me as I came home from work. He would simply be full of boundless love for a mere cup of dog food in the morning and at night.
When cutting the lawn or weeding Buddy watched over me like a sidewalk superintendent. While watching TV I would feel Buddy’s snout pushing under my forearm to get petted.
Buddy was far from a faultless dog. He has a real dislike for people in uniforms and on more than one occasion we never got our mail due to Buddy being outside.
In addition, he was a lousy retriever. I would throw a stick he would run and get it and promptly lay down. I would have to walk to where he was and try and get the stick. I would get the stick out of his mouth throw it and he would fetch it and again lay down. Wait a minute, I just figured it out- I was the retriever.
While Buddy was our family dog, there was no doubt he was my dog.
The last six months has been tough for Buddy, rear legs that would fail on occasion, inability to climb stairs and hearing problems. Sleeping longer and longer, eating less and less.
I have been blessed to experience the unbridled joy of Buddy brought to our family and the profound sadness as I walked down him our sidewalk for the last time for the drive to the vet.
If there is such a thing as a dog heaven Buddy is there with that smiling face and perpetually wagging tail.
I really, really miss you…

Board That Boilermaker Birnie Bus

June 11th, 2014

Birnie Bus has played a big part in making this race happen. The ability to move thousands of participants from west Utica to the 15k start line on Boilermaker Sunday and returning runners after the Post Race Party to the Start Line is remarkable. You simply can’t start the race until you get people to the start!
Last year, when pre-planning for the 2013 Boilermaker with Tim Birnie and his staff he suggested they take on moving runners from communities where we see large number of runners. I was intrigued.
Parking near the finish line has always been a challenge. We introduce a large number of people into an area where we have little formal parking. Perhaps the number 1 question for our folks working the information booth at the Expo is ‘where in the heck do I park’? They go through around 1,000 maps of our community in a day and a half which gives you an idea of our out of town friends.
So the Birnie folks and I reviewed the data where people had come from the previous year we settled on three sites; Syracuse, Rome and Lowville. The price a mere $5, granted it was a school bus, but still an incredible deal.
Well Birnie is back and certainly even better.
This year they have added one more site to shuttle runners- Albany.
Now the big news we aren’t talking about school buses anymore, we are taking about luxury tour buses. Buses with a/c, Wi-Fi and perhaps most important bathrooms!
While the pricing has risen a bit- Rome& Lowville-$10, Syracuse, $15 and Albany $20 to get a bus at this price is a steal.
We have 1180 registered runners from the Syracuse region, 1081 from the Albany region, 501 from the Rome region and 150 from the Lowville region. Seems like it should be pretty simple to fill a 66 person bus (or two).
Think about it:
The no list-
No payment for gas/ tolls
No dealing with the traffic snarls
No figuring out where to park and hiking to the shuttle pick up points
The yes list-
You can use ‘the facilities’ pre-race after all that water you’ve been drinking
You can rest your eyes before you get dropped off at the Start Line
You can rest your eyes after you leave the Post Race Party
You can text your friends telling them what a great time you had
Speaking of friends, you may make some brand new ones with your fellow riders
You did something nice for the environment
Space will be limited; go to and press the Birnie Bus icon.
This is for 15k runners only!

Drinking From The Old Fire Hose

June 3rd, 2014

There are weeks when we have little to announce, others when it’s the horn of plenty. This blog deals with the latter.
Shadow Run #7
The year was 2008; America had been at war in Iraq for 6 years, Afghanistan for 8. That year we received requests from two long time Boilermaker supporters that were deployed in both warzones to support a Boilermaker Shadow Run. A shadow run is simply a 15k run that takes place overseas, usually the same day as the Boilermaker. One was rescheduled (2012, Afghanistan) due to an emergency military operation. We have had thousands of troops run in the various shadow runs, including soldiers from other nations.
For the first time we are supporting a run in a non-warzone; Kuwait. I strongly suspect that like the Iraq runs the troops will be running prior to sunrise as the summer heat in this desert land; daytime temperatures can run over 118 degrees! First Lieutenant Jeff Ruso, who was race director for the 2012 Shadow Run, is planning on 250 hearty souls participating in the intense temps. This year, rather than providing tee shirts (never enough/ wrong sizes) we are providing a cool down towel, embossed with the 2014 Shadow Run logo, that when wrapped around the neck, cools 10-20 degrees than the outside air. We will sell a limited amount of these towels to the general public both on-line and at the Boilermaker Expo.
As a Vietnam-era veteran it still amazes me (pleasantly) the support our troops still have after all these years. Seifert Graphics have provided the start/ finish line banner and Mohawk Global Logistics are transporting the race gear at no cost.
The Boilermaker Mile
Formerly called The Roadrunner Mile, the event was designed to showcase top local runners on an absolutely screaming fast portion of the Boilermaker course. Exit the Roadrunner Mile, enter the Boilermaker Mile.
What’s changed; nearly everything but the distance. The course has been moved to the safe, flat, confines of Proctor Park. While there will be two heats for the elite men and women the central focus is a community run. While we’d love to have a massive run the relatively narrow pathways limit us to 200 participants. For a $10 registration participants will receive a commemorative tee shirt (you need to sign up by June 21st to receive a shirt). The Boilermaker will make a donation to support restoration/ maintenance of the park.
Interested participants can signup at
A New Home
On Friday May 30th we formally closed on a new home for our offices. While we will not formally move until after the race this location (located nearly next to the finish line) it will certainly be of great support at this year’s Boilermaker.
Coming up; Birnie Bus out of town shuttle service, Boilermaker scholarship awards, Hall of Fame Induction announcement, and a new mobile website.
Oh yeah, and a little race in the middle of July!