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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 boilermaker.com 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 boilermaker.com.
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!

Pop Goes the Classified

May 19th, 2014

While Boilermaker Weekend is event-packed I have often thought a musical event on Saturday would be a nice touch, particularly for our out of town visitors. Utica has a rich arts and culture history, why not showcase a bit of it?
Enter, Greely Ford (from the band Classified), Michael DiMeo (from the Utica Pops orchestra) and Jerry Kraus (from the Stanley Theater). They had an interesting idea for a concert on Boilermaker Saturday- my ears perked up.
The band Classified, famous in the area, is reuniting for this special concert, this will be their first local gig in a year and a half.
This event will be the debut of the Utica Pops orchestra that will feature over twenty five musicians.
Finally, the concert is taking place at the Stanley Theater, simply one of the most magnificent theaters in the northeast.
Ticket prices run from fifteen to fifty dollars.
A five dollar discount is offered as a special incentive to this year’s Boilermaker participants. Think about it; ten bucks for a concert at the Stanley-unbelievable! There are also special discounts for Stanley Members and active members of the military.
The program will consist of the Utica Pops and Classified playing both alone and together. Classified’s playlist (think Chicago) really lends itself to the addition of the “Pops Punch’.
One of the keys to this event is the time- concert begins at 6:00 pm and ends at 8:30 pm giving our runners time to get in a good nights sleep.
There are a number of ways to get tickets by phone (315-724-4000), the web (TheStanley.org) or at the box office located in the Stanley lobby. The Stanley has a list of Boilermaker participants for the special discount.
A great stage great price, two great musical acts (one old, one new), sponsored by a great race (at least I hope you think that).
The proceeds will go towards the Stanley Center for the Arts.
See you there!

Boilermaker Strong

April 18th, 2014

On April 15th 2013, at 2:45 pm, two bombs ripped through the packed finish line crowd of the 117th Boston Marathon killing 3 and injuring over 250 others. Over 27 hospitals were involved in treating the casualties that bore injuries akin to being found in a warzone. Sixteen people would become amputees; three losing both legs. Now, a year later, we have seen the countless stories of sadness and resilience of those whose lives were permanently altered on that Monday afternoon on Boylston Street.
The Boilermaker has always had a strong affinity with the Boston Marathon; many of the shining stars of Boston (Rodgers, Switzer, Beardsley, Samuelson) are featured in the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. Many of our local runners have over the years run what is perhaps the most iconic race on the planet. After the bombings we sold Boston Boilermaker shirts and sent 100% of the proceeds (over $10,000) to the One Fund set up to support the victims.
My belief is that every tragedy can often come the seeds of inspiration.
This cruel winter brought with it more than bitter temperatures it created a severe blood shortage in our community. People simply stayed home rather than braving the sub-Arctic weather to give blood. As a result we are over 200 units behind where we should be. While not as overtly dangerous as a pressure cooker bomb this shortage can, unexpectedly devastate a life or lives. Imagine a family member is in a car accident and their blood type wasn’t available? As the saying goes:’ tears of a mother cannot save her child. But your blood can.”
What a cool gift blood donation- your body just creates more to replace what you gave. How often in our lives are we given the chance to give a gift that costs us nothing (OK a small pinch and 30 minutes of our ‘precious’ time) but is priceless to another human?
So how bad do you want to want to run the race?
Everyone who either gives at the April 25th drive at the Radisson Centre from 11:00am-4:00 pm, will receive a vintage Boilermaker pint glass (give a pint get a pint glass). In addition (drum roll please) we will be giving away two free entries to get into this year’s sold out race! The free entry is good for either the 15k or 5k races. I know there were one or two local runners out there who didn’t get into the race as I received a number of emails from disappointed runners. We will only be able to take 60 units of blood so while walk ins are welcome it would be best to call 1 800 Red Cross and schedule an appointment.
If this race has proved anything it is that this community has a remarkable, seemingly unlimited, capacity to give. Hopefully the same person who gives a cup of water to person they don’t know on Boilermaker Sunday is willing to give a pint of blood to someone they don’t know on April 25th.
Hey, blood is like the Jelly of the Month Club made famous in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; it really is the gift that keeps on giving!

Pothole Pandemonium

March 31st, 2014

Has anyone commented to you that this has been one long cold winter?
Besides producing bitter moods and heating bills that could bankrupt a small nation, Spring seems to be here and our first crop is blooming- potholes! It looks like this year we have a bumper crop!
This is not a Utica problem; it is a Northeastern United States problem. An older infrastructure (road, water and sewer) combined with a relentless freeze/ thaw cycle has been simply devastating.
As I have learned from someone far wiser than I; for very event a crisis or opportunity is created for someone. As I consider myself an optimist I will feature the positive views of these holes whose cousins are found on the Moon.
Why are potholes good?
Cash car!
One would think car service businesses are doing a ‘bang up’ business repairing tires, realigning steering and replacing low hanging mufflers.
Wow-that was exciting!
While potholes by their very nature can’t move, they certainly can sneak up on you. Is that merely a standing pool of water or something far more menacing? Often the first car sees the pothole at the last second and suddenly veers leaving the person following no opportunity to react. Certainly just another sensible reason not to tailgate.
These ‘silent sentinels’ have clearly slowed people down. The Parkway Memorial Speedway has (nearly) slowed down to the posted speed limit!
Pay attention!
New York has been conducting a vigorous anti-text, non hands free ad campaign (that appears not to be working judging by the amount of drivers I see yakking away or looking at their laps at stoplights) these potholes have really put some teeth into fighting distracted driving.
Why are potholes bad?
Paying the auto technician (see comment cash car above).
The filling of these road cavities will be but a final cost to our communities thanks to the Winter of 2013/14. I can only imagine that the cumulative costs of salt, DPW overtime and pothole repair will put the city and town budgets a bit in the hole (pun intended).
And on to runner’s problems…
So road races run on roads (thanks Captain Obvious), therefore these pavement pockmarks can make navigating the roads shall we say interesting.
Ever have the experience of running while a car near you hits a pothole containing say a washtub full of dirty cold water? This will invariably happen when you are running an ‘out and back’ run and you are the farthest point away from your house.
If potholes are a problem for cars tires, they are absolutely murder on a runner’s ankles (and perhaps feet, toes and knees).
The lack of navigable space on the roads now forces runners (and bikers) ever closer together; never a good thing for a runner as metal is a bit stronger than flesh and bones.
While these highway holes are certainly a nuisance at least it is Spring!!

Running For The Right Thing

March 17th, 2014

This year marks the second offering of Charity Bibs for the Boilermaker. In order to insure that all the bibs were called for we opened Charity Bib Registration two weeks prior to the opening of general registration on March 22nd. Last year over 30 bibs ended up not being used; in spite of that, the charities of choice raised over $105,000. To date (March 16th) we currently have 57 Charity Bib Runners. In a shameless plug for the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program if you raise at least $500 for one of our eleven charities (found on boilermaker.com) you are guaranteed entry into the race.
While the amount of money these charitable souls raise are incredible, the stories as to why they are running are simply awe-inspiring. They are what I call sad-happy stories. When allowed, I will share some of these stories; here is one of them.
The morning of March 13, 2013 started as a chilly morning; clearly be big change from a year earlier when the high reached 70 degrees. The weather wasn’t the only thing that made March 13th different from the previous year.
Michael Renshaw, a 23 year veteran of the Department of Corrections and 18 months away from retirement, was waiting to get his car serviced by Thomas Stafka at Gaffney’s Fast Lube in Herkimer.
Heading his way, Kurt Myers a man described as an odd loner who, on this day, had transformed into both an arsonist and a killer. His rampage, which minutes earlier had left two dead and two wounded in Mohawk, was now to add two more victims- Michael and Thomas. Myers was to die in a hail of gunfire the following day after a standoff with the police.
Mike left behind a large family including a fiancé named Vivian Veazy.
So one would think that enough misery had been delivered at the doorstop of Vivian; there’s more. Six and a half months later Vivian was diagnosed with breast cancer-Wow! The sad part(s) of the story.
Today Vivian has completed her cancer treatments and her prognoses is excellent. “While undergoing radiation I made the decision that I was going to run my first Boilermaker road Race” said Vivian “I believe the Boilermaker Charity Bib Program is the perfect fusion (Michael’s death/ breast cancer) and I look forward to making this happen.” The happy part of the story.
Vivian is running for the Susan G. Koman For The Cure organization.
July 13th will be a very special day for Vivian.
On Sunday, July 13th she will be running her first Boilermaker; no small accomplishment.
On July 13th she will be raising money for breast cancer research. She has already reached her $500 minimum and I expect her to raise much, much more.
Finally, on July 13th she will be running in memory of her fiancé Michael.
And, so you know- July 13th would have been Michael Renshaw’s 53rd birthday.
Simply incredible…

Baby you can (will) drive my car

January 27th, 2014

I was watching a news story taking about the possibility of the fully automated car. The person being interviewed felt it was no longer a question that it would happen but simply had to happen. The primary driver (pun intended) was the developing nations that were pumping more and more cars on a limited infrastructure. After experiencing traffic in China I was convinced that at some point the entire country was going to eventually hit gridlock.
A computer navigated car would (theoretically) enhance the ability to maximize the amount of vehicles you could get on the road. It was suggested that these futuristic cars might not even need windows. Would our cars become extensions of our office or a moving multimedia theater? The advent of the totally automated transportation system would be an incredibly profound change in human history.
Positives- A dramatic reduction in car accidents, no more speeding tickets and an end to road rage. I’m sure there are some lawyers who might be a bit unhappy.
It would seem like a slam dunk in major metropolitan centers; if we can ban large sodas then person-driven cars. Perhaps not so easy to tell a rancher out west that he has to give up his vehicle.
I can just see the bumper sticker- ‘You’ll pry my F-150 steering wheel out of my cold, dead fingers’.
So Tim; what the heck does this have to do with road racing? Glad you asked!
How would it be handled for races that take place on city streets; would some sort of ‘blackout zone’ (or electronic barricade) is created, denying vehicles from entering the race area? One would assume police, fire and ambulance would have some sort of override system should an emergency occur along the course.
If roads are supposedly safer would the same be true for runners? Would runners be banned from running on well-travelled roads as the robo-cars take over?
Perhaps we would eventually lose the ability to even know how to drive? Think about the skills that were essential for our grandparents to survive that have been lost. Milking the cows, shooting your dinner and riding horses have been replaced by the grocery store, fast food restaurants and, yes, the automobile. I guess the old adage ‘something gained, something lost’ somehow feels appropriate.