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10 Amazing Years

August 1st, 2017

So I guess I dropped a bit of a bomb when I announced the day after this year’s Boilermaker Road Race that it had been my last one.
Well, I’ve always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic…
It has been a ride with many spectacular highs and a few, very few, lows.
While it certainly is a nice ego booster that some folks feel that my departure from the Boilermaker will be a big-time loss for the organization- nonsense!
This thing we call the Boilermaker stands much, much, larger than a single individual and quite simply if this enterprise lives and dies because of one guy than it’s in real trouble!
Frankly, change is good and it’s good to leave on a high note.
What will not change is that Boilermaker spirit that makes that second Sunday in July special and instills a belief that all things are possible.
And, hopefully, I’ve sprinkled a bit of that ‘Boilermaker magic dust’ on the other 364 days of the year.
I’ve been blessed with a good staff, a legion of loyal volunteers, fantastic sponsors and a community that has embraced the Boilermaker like a child of their own.
Put that all together and you can’t help but look smart!
But it’s time for me to trek on to that new thing that has yet to reveal itself to me.
Retirement is not in my immediate future!
Yet as I look forward I can’t help but peek over my shoulder one more time to remember.
To walk out on the stage at the Post Race Party to face a crowd of tens of thousands of happy folks, you gave a taste of what a rock star must feel like.
To be a ‘happiness vampire’ feeding off the excitement and joy of our participants be they a nine to ninety year old.
To have been given a chance to lead the Boilermaker these past 10 years-what an extraordinary gift!
Thank you.

Rain, rain go away (and the cold as well)!

June 6th, 2017

“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Charles Dudley Warner although attributed to Mark Twain

Weather-wise, this has certainly been one interesting springs we have had.
Endless days of rain and cold/ clammy temperatures- it feels like Utica has been relocated to Washington State.
I’m thinking of suggesting to the Governor to change the official flower of New York State from the Rose to the Mushroom!
As I write this the Boilermaker is a bit more than a month away.
While I have seen an uptick in runners on the streets it feels like it’s a bit less than what I’ve traditionally seen at this time of year.
My assumption is that July 9th will be a tad warmer than the cool temperatures we have been experiencing.
Here’s where I’m concerned, runners who have trained and trained in weather that is similar in temperature to ‘game day’ conditions tend to do better than those who didn’t (Tim- thanks for that flash of brilliance!).
So what to do, because we can’t click our heels three times and make the clouds disappear.
– Put in more miles, the cool temperatures you have now, and likely wouldn’t have Boilermaker Sunday- in fact these are pretty nice temps from a running perspective! What you can’t get from heat and humidity make up with mileage and hills.
– Train indoors, while I personally find elliptical training a poor substitute for outdoor running, the weather is certainly a bit more consistent in a place that has a roof.
And some just general advice with one month out, regardless of the weather.
At this time of year there are numerous races of various distances and difficulties- run a few.
This is very important for folks (and I know there are more than a few of you) who have never run in a formal race before.
Understanding the ‘rules of the road’ for races acts as a great dress rehearsal for Boilermaker Sunday (race bib pinned on the front please).
Develop those healthy habits centered around training, nutrition and rest; they will serve you well a month from now.
Hey, it’s more fun to experience Boilermaker Sunday rocking at the Post Race Party than rolling into the medical tent!
Holy smokes, I just saw a glimpse of blue sky; gotta grab my running shoes!

A bit about Boston

April 18th, 2017

The past Easter weekend I found myself in Boston as my boys, who work in Beantown, had work on Saturday meaning no trip to Utica for Mom’s fare.
While dreading the drive to Boston, I was excited to be there for Marathon Weekend and check out their Expo.
So let me throw this out there- the Boston Marathon is simply THE iconic marathon on the plant.
First of all it’s the oldest (remember respect your elders) this year was the 121st running.
Boston isn’t the world’s biggest, that title goes to New York with over 50,000 finishers. Boston checks in at number 6 with 32,000 finishing.
However, what makes Boston unique is that you need to hit a qualifying time in a different marathon to have a chance of getting selected. Most other races utilize some sort of variant on the lottery system. While not the hardest course, Boston is one of the hardest to get in.
Because Boston is relatively small big city (655,000 call greater Boston home) when the race comes to town the streets are awash in Boston Marathon blue. In cities like New York and Chicago, it gets a little lost.
Finally, I think no city so embraces their marathon as Boston does. And no doubt incredibly intensified as a result of the 2013 bombings.
Certainly even more poignant as “Marathon Monday” is run on Patriot’s Day” which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord the first skirmishes of the Revolutionary War.
Well the Expo was spectacular: large vendor ‘islands’ that represent the who’s who of running gear and accessories. The cash registers certainly were humming
And the Tesla car on display was pretty cool.
I headed home Sunday so didn’t have the opportunity to catch the splendor of Marathon Monday.
Wish I had been there to see the current Boilermaker female record holder, Edna Kiplagat, win this year. Edna is $150,000 richer and, running a 2 hour 21 minute marathon she earned $1,063 a minute.
Or see the strong American performances- 8 on the male side and 7 on the female side who were in the top 15. USA, USA!
Or seeing local folks like Hermin Garic (came in 24th in Wheelchair Division) – a true Sitrin Star!
Or Katie McCauley, who shaved 40 minutes off her previous time helped, no doubt, by extra dry protective socks for her prosthetic legs (last year they got soaked and she had to wait 25 minutes for dry ones in the med tent). You are my hero!
To get a chance to run the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of a runner’s dream.
Months and months of grueling training get to the start line of that 26.2 mile journey.
To all those crossed the finish line- wear your finisher’s medal proudly!

Just like 2016, sort of…

March 20th, 2017

Well we are in the final stages of filling the field for this year’s Boilermaker.
Last year we saw roughly half the field get filled with advanced runners (those that had run the race in 2015 within the time limit) folks who had deferred in 2015 but wanted to run in 2016.
When Open Registration commenced in 2016 registrations took off like a rocket- a couple thousand signed up in the first 15 minutes: it looked like it was going to be a short day- wrong Tim, it took a week to fill the field!
Fast forward to this year’s registration.
Some significant changes, cap gets raised by 500 for the 15k to 14,500 and we allow advanced runners to choose the race they want to run rather than the race they ran the previous year.
Then I wondered if this being an ‘anniversary year’ (our 40th running) would create any additional demand?
Numbers at the conclusion of advanced registration ended up coming in similar to last year.
Would we see the same initial registration tsunami followed by a drop off or would the surge continue predicating an early closeout of the race?
Pre-noon on Saturday I watched on our Google analytics page as several hundred folks were electronically ‘lined up’ for the noon opening of Open Registration.
Well, the long and the short of it was after getting around 4,000 registered in 45 minutes things got slow, very slow.
I’m assuming that in the next day or so the races will be sold out, while there’ a certain thrill selling the race out in three hours (we achieved that the last year we had first come- first served system) the resulting emails from disappointed runners was less than fun! The old system was sort of like riding a roller coaster and you’re not really sure the safety bar is fully engaged!
Now for something unlike 2016.
When we changed our building location we also made a commitment to make a positive impact in our new neighborhood.
Thus was born the Boilermaker Urban Initiative supporting health and wellness in Utica with particular attention to West Utica, our new home. Since the move we have established an urban garden cared for by local teenagers, created a public market that offers fresh fruit and vegetables to a community with few options and recently established a fitness program at an elementary school.
We have never asked our participants to support us in these (and planned) projects so we thought ‘why not’?
Well, we must be doing something right: to-date over 1,400 runners have donated nearly $21,000 to support ‘Run for U’ that funds our urban programming.
Boilermaker nation never ceases to amaze me in the most wonderful ways!

Try Skating Barefoot

February 16th, 2017

I was walking through the garage and my eyes wandered to a large plastic can: protruding from it were a couple of metal bats and a defenseman’s lacrosse stick.
I’ve walked by this container hundreds of times on the way to the car and ignored it: not today.
As I rummaged through the can, baseball gloves, soccer shin guards, basketballs revealed themselves. It was a trip down memory lane as I remembered countless hours at baseball fields, hardwood courts and outdoor fields.
Then I remembered in the cellar were pairs of soccer cleats and skates whose life was cut short by one of my three kids growing feet.
I thought to myself “what a waste: this equipment is still in great shape and their owners have long since left home. This stuff needs new owners!”
And from that, the Skates and Sneaks Equipment Drive was born.
It felt like a natural partnership to do with the Utica Comets as we are two of the biggest sporting events that occur in our community.
It was a short conversation with the Comet’s folks- absolutely yes!
So at the March 3rd-5th Comets home games our friends from EJA Moving will have a truck stationed across from the Auditorium Drive entrance to pick up sporting goods equipment. We will be collecting for an hour and a half prior to puck drop: Friday and Saturday from 5:30-7:00 pm, Sunday 1:30-3:00 pm.
Approximately two weeks later, we will be distributing the collected gear to organizations that serve our local youth.
Here’s one thing we ask, PLEASE do not bring equipment that clearly has outlived its life: key words-gently used! We don’t want stuff that probably more properly should be carted off to a landfill.
The Boilermaker and the Comets understand the importance of physical activity.
Sports does more than build a healthy body- it nurtures discipline, instills teamwork and promotes goal setting- sort of nice life skills.
And if you are a believer that ‘idle hands are the devil’s play shop’ (and I am) then sports are clearly a better path for our young people than other activities.
You will in all likelihood never know the child whom you have opened the door to, perhaps for the first time, participate in a sport.
But that my friend is the true meaning of giving.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

January 20th, 2017

So here we are in January of 2017, I must say I’m pretty proud of myself: wrote no checks with January 2016 (although my sons laugh at me that I still write checks- unless it’s to them).
This is a big anniversary year for the Boilermaker- our 40th running!
These are times when you remember your roots and celebrate the folks that made it happen. These are the times when you look back at where we have come from, things we no longer do and things that we (hopefully) do better and think about things we should (or shouldn’t) do.
Old stuff that comes quickly to mind- The Expo at Riverside Mall, the Utica National Kid’s Run taking place Boilermaker Sunday running the last mile of the course (before we had the 5k),a Post Race Party that easily fit into the courtyard of the brewery and when the 15k started at 10:30 in the morning (ugh).
I’m sure many of you have your own special Boilermaker memories that you either cherish or wish to forget.
And for me, this will be my tenth Boilermaker race as president of the organization-wow.
In my relatively short tenure we have seen a building move, the death of the paper registration, the meteoric rise of social media, enhanced security and our first, tentative steps involving community outreach.
Yet with all these changes throughout the years we have followed our ‘North Star’ of fitness, fun and community enrichment.
The Boilermaker, in my mind, is more than a race: it’s a force.
It’s a force that drives participants to achieve a bit more than they could.
It’s a force that brings athletes and volunteers together for a common purpose regardless of color, creed, age, gender or political affiliation.
And it’s a force that brings all of us a tremendous amount of pride in our home (and sometimes we really need that).
So this year, stands as an opportunity to both celebrate our rich history and to contemplate our future.
Hey, the big 5-0 is only 10 years away!

We Have Been Blessed

December 18th, 2016

“I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me”
Elvis Presley

The end of the year is marked with the inevitable lists chronicling: best songs, worst movies, sexiest celebrities etc. of the year.
And there is the sad list of famous folks who have passed away in 2016.
As an aside, this year was simply a horrible year for music- lots of losses.
And this year the Boilermaker lost two incredibly loyal volunteers Ted Petrillo and Julie Fatata.
Ted and Julie were different in gender, age and personality: for example ‘bubbly’ would not be the first word I would use to describe Ted.
Yet in spite of these differences, their passion for the Boilermaker burned equally bright.
And they did it for all of nothing: well, not for nothing.
Perhaps it was for the personal satisfaction of making the community a better place.
Perhaps it was the social interaction, working with old friends or friends not yet made.
Or perhaps just to bring a smile to someone’s face, often a person they don’t even know.
Simply amazing people!
Sometimes, there are folks in our community, hopefully only a few, that seem to perversely thrive on talking down our area (which, by the way, is their area). In the military we would refer to that as ‘calling artillery in on your own position’.
Julie and Ted were the absolute antithesis of this: if I were to make up a motto for them it would be “go positive or go home”.
The passing of Ted& Julie acts both as a reminder of the temporal nature of life and the criticality of finding folks like them to support the Boilermaker, indeed any not for profit group.
The Boilermaker, like many service-based agencies, is fueled by the efforts of its volunteers.
And we all want the folks who are busy, because those are the people who get things done.
Think about it, we are asking folks to give up their most valuable asset, time, to make the Boilermaker, and all its efforts happen. Our challenge, in many respects, is harder than businesses trying to hire good folks- at least a future employee get paid: our volunteers get a tee shirt (well, it is a pretty nifty tee shirt)!
I had said to a reporter at Ted’s passing “they don’t make them like Ted anymore” (ditto Julie): yet somehow we need to inspire folks to be in their image- to embrace the philosophy of service over self (as opposed to being self serving).
I know, somehow, we’ll figure this out -indeed it’s mission critical we do!
But for now, I just feel more than a little down over the loss of a couple of folks that were wonderful volunteers and fantastic friends!
To Ted and Julie’s families: thank you for ‘lending’ us these two, as I’m sure they missed family obligation to make the Boilermaker frequently called ‘Christmas in July’ happen.
A blue Christmas indeed…

Sharing the Car

November 28th, 2016

There comes a time when you need to relent the steering wheel to others- at least on occasion.

And so goes Tim’s Blog as it morphs into the Boilermaker Blog.

There are a number of reasons.

If you commit to blog writing it’s mandatory you commit to frequent posts: at best my input has been ‘lumpy’: spats of articles followed by long stretches of silence.

Often I would begin writing only to catch myself thinking: “Does anyone, besides me, actually care about this?” Often off to the electronic trashcan it would go.

Contrary to popular belief I am not the wellspring of all good ideas and profound insights (that is a joke: ask my family and friends).

I am not the Boilermaker and the Boilermaker is not me. Obviously in my role as president I act as a spokesman for the organization, but there should be many voices because the Boilermaker truly is a community effort.

The perspective of many views, like peering a mosaic from different angles, is essential because only then do you truly grasp what the artist is trying to say.

You will encounter writers that will make you laugh, make you cry, perhaps enlighten and hopefully inspire.

So dim the lights on Tim’s Blog and bring up the stage lights on the Boilermaker Blog.

It’s gonna be great!

First up- Jordan Peters, Boilermaker Marketing and Sponsorship Specialist.

Jordan is around my kid’s ages so I’ll offer fatherly advice-“Drive carefully”!

A Month of Thanks

November 22nd, 2016

November is one of those few months where we have two National Holidays- Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving (biggest running day of the year)-both days built around thanks.
So I’m going to write a bit about thanks.
This month I was incredibly honored to be nominated and awarded this year’s Road Race Director of the Year Award. There is nothing more humbling than being acknowledged by your contemporaries for a job well done.
However, in my opinion, this award speaks as much (more!) about the Boilermaker than of me.
You see, I’m not the first, nor even the second, Boilermaker to receive this honor- I am the third!
My brother Earle received the award in 1998 while Bob Ingalls was recognized in 2007: no other race has achieved this feat: now that’s pretty cool.
A week later, the race was awarded the ‘2016 Outstanding Philanthropic Organization’ by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Central New York.
In both cases the reason the Boilermaker was singled out for honors was for its continuing community outreach.
Things like, our charity bib program, the wheelchair challenge (where we’ve given away 28 racing wheelchairs), the West Utica Public Market and Boilermaker Urban Garden (BUG).
You see we are, in the end, a 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve the health and wellness of our region with (obviously) a heavy emphasis on long-distance running.
So about thanks…
I give thanks to our tens of thousands of participants who circle that second Sunday in July on their calendar.
Thank you for coming.
I give thanks for the incredibly loyal volunteers, sponsors and staff who support us with ‘time, talent and treasure’.
Thank you for helping.
And finally, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to be a part of an organization as awesome as the Boilermaker.
Thank you for putting up with me!

The Currency of Caring

November 1st, 2016

I was honored to be asked to be the Keynote speaker for the 100 year celebration of the Utica Kiwanis Club, a terrific service-based organization.
Below is the speech I gave dealing with that most finite of things- time.
After I gave the talk I thought about our sport and time- we are one of the few sports where time, as opposed to goals, touchdowns and home runs, define how you measure success- pretty cool!
The Currency of Caring
If you were to ask someone what is the most valuable currency on the planet what do you think would be the answer?
The dollar, the euro, perhaps diamonds or gold?
Interestingly, in my opinion, it is a currency that is possessed equally by the President of the United States and the blind beggar in Calcutta.
It is the currency of time.
Time is the great leveler of man- 7 days, 24 hours, 1,440 minutes- no more no less.
It is my belief that how we spend this invisible currency that defines us as humans.
For the sake of this conversation I call it the currency of caring.
A saying that often runs in my head is ‘tell me how you spend your time and I’ll tell you what you think is important.’
So I’d like to take to you this evening a bit about the Boilermaker and transition into some thoughts about service in general.
Let me start when I say we fool folks that the Boilermaker is about the second Sunday in July when in fact it’s the other 364 days that are important.
The Boilermaker sets as its goal to be a change agent for health and wellness within our community or more simply changing people’s lives.
The Boilermaker or perhaps better said Boilermaker Spirit creates in the individual the belief that they can achieve a goal that formerly felt unobtainable. It’s not about giving out ‘free stuff’ and making ourselves feel good about ourselves with ambiguous results.
For example we outfit wheelchair athletes with a racing wheelchair only after they manage to do the race in a standard wheelchair and finish within a prescribed finish time. To date we have given out over 28 wheelchairs.
The Boilermaker is blessed to have a cadre of nearly 5,000 volunteers that act as the backbone of the race. They do for free what no amount of money can buy: they donate their time.
Think about it, there is nothing more selfless than helping someone who you don’t know and in all likelihood you will never meet again.
On occasion I feel like Tom Sawyer convincing folks that whitewashing the fence really is fun!
Our move of Boilermaker Headquarters from Genesee Street was more than getting ourselves closer to the Finish Line, it was a commitment to what is the poorest neighborhood in the City of Utica.
Because that’s exactly where we belong.
This year we have established a Public Market that not only provides fresh fruits and vegetables to the food desert called West Utica but offer education such as cooking tips, addictive services and financial fitness.
The Boilermaker Urban Garden or BUG has offered 20 inner city children were given the opportunity to tend their own garden bed and find out that zucchinis aren’t grown in the store and actually don’t taste bad. Perhaps more importantly, we have in a small way instilled in these kids things like ownership, discipline and teamwork as they toiled ‘alone together’.
Next year we plan on the core of these teenagers to run a smoothie bike business where they will make healthy smoothies via a stationary bike with products from the Public Market.
Over the past 4 years we have supported local charities via the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program raising nearly $500,000.
So now a bit about service.
When I looked at the Permanent Objects of Kiwanis it seems like our two organizations are certainly in alignment- a couple of examples:
To render altruistic service and to build better communities,
To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life.
So what is our biggest challenge, well in my opinion, it’s the biggest challenge of any service-based organization- it’s called the Millennials, those folks who are now 18-35, also known as the ‘me-me generation’ or ‘trophy kids generation’ perhaps an homage to AYSO where ‘everybody wins’.
I don’t know about you but we are seeing the ‘graying of the Boilermaker volunteer base’: many have been with us for decades and as I’ve said countless times ‘immortality is a lousy succession plan’.
While I’m a huge believer that the most powerful force in the universe is guilt, or at least it felt that way when I dealt with my Mom as a kid service over self really has to be a thing that resides and grows within us. How we mold these young folks from selfish to selfless without selling our souls? As the owner of three sons in this group I’m open to suggestion!
Here’s the great thing about service, last time I checked there are more than a few problems on this planet, it’s not a graded event to do the right thing for others- you don’t have to find the cure to cancer to make a difference.
In fact, often I find the smaller the task, for lack of a better term, the better. You will have a greater chance of success, it’s measurable and you will team build- let’s face it everyone wants to be on a winning team.
However, service ain’t for sissies, there will be times you get your heartbroken, you will say to yourself “and I’m doing this because…?
Saying that if not you-then who?
So think about how you ‘spend your time’ cause it’s the one buck you don’t get back.
We will not be remembered by the things we had but rather the things we did.
As Mohammed Ali said “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Thank you for listening to my rambling and far more importantly thank you for your caring to make this place we call home a better place.