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A Wonderful Winter Walk- in April!

April 7th, 2016

It seems like every day has something that is honored; for example this week on April 4th is marked as: National Ferret Day, National Peanut Butter& Jelly Day and National Love Our Children Day (does that mean we don’t have to the other 364 days?).
And April 6th was National Walking Day!
While National Walking Day is an initiative of the American Heart Association the Boilermaker is a major sponsor as, it clearly aligns with the Boilermaker’s core mission of a healthy lifestyle.
Well Mother Nature clearly played a late April’s Fool joke on us with the return on winter weather. I use the term return loosely as for the most part this was ‘the winter that wasn’t’.
We stepped off in the shadow of the Boilermaker finish line: where the run ends, the walk begins!
We were the few, the proud, the cold!
The good news was the snow that impolitely visited the area on Sunday had at least melted on the sidewalks and the bitter wind temporarily subsided.
One of the nice benefits of the arterial project has been a series of walking paths that have been developed and we utilized the new pedestrian bridge that has literally saved lives of folks who have tried (unsuccessfully) walking across the arterial.
A series of Boilermaker flags marked the way for our intrepid walkers.
In spite of the less ideal weather I love the idea of anything we can do to promote walking: it only requires comfortable shoes and time.
I would love to make Utica the largest walk during National walking Day, hmmm……..
Well now that the walk is done I have to pet my Ferret, hug my kids and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Good Running or Running for Good: or Both!

March 1st, 2016

I suppose if I was to leave the Boilermaker tomorrow and someone was to ask me “Tim, what are you proudest of in your nine year affiliation with the race?”
I think (I hope) there are many things from a logistic and operations perspective that I’ve improved.
I’ve tried to create a stable sponsor base, acted as an advocate for the runners and ceaselessly extolled the joys of running a hilly course, in Utica, in the middle of July!
But I guess I would say the Charity Bib Program is, perhaps, near the top of the list of my proud moments.
The charity bib program is a simply wonderful melding of the excitement of the race with the mission of the Boilermaker-championing health and wellness in our region.
In three years we have raised nearly $400,000.
Sort of a cool ‘twofur’!
We have seen folks of all ages and abilities lacing up running for two great causes: a needy local not for profit and for their own health.
Their stories have run the gamit from those that work for the agency, those who have received services to those who simply want to ‘do the right thing’.
This year we sigificantly cut back on the amount of Charity Bib agencies from 21 to 10. Certainly not because of less need (I wish) but simply the ability to logistically handle the process.
Want to be a part of a very select group?
Check out the Charity Bib site located on the boilermaker.com landing page. Look over the various projects that folks will accomplish with your funds. No doubt, they are a pretty diverse group.
Find a charity that inspires you and reach out to them (the agencies have the signup codes).
Should you want to signup opening day of registration for Charity Bib is Monday, March 7th at 9:00 AM (EST).
I fully expect that these bibs will go pretty quickly.
Boilermaker Charity Bibs will be good for the 15k/ 5k races and 3 mile Walk.
From then, until when the charity money is due (July 1st), you have 17 weeks to raise the minimum (for most agencies it’s $500).
For those that join the $1,000 club we will have a pretty cool Charity Bib Finale a few weeks after the Boilermaker.
So think about this long and hard about if you are ‘committed to the commitment’.
Should the answer in your heart be yes, know that you are running for all the right reasons.
Thank you!

“If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
Bob Hope

The Flowing Waters of Human Kindness

February 7th, 2016

Every time I think this community can’t top itself for its capacity for giving they slap me in the back of the head (not literally) and say “Hey Tim: what do you think about that”!
But let me backup.
It began with a phone call on Thursday, January 28th, from radio show host Bill Keeler: “Hi Tim, I have an idea…”
Uh oh….
Bill wanted to do a water drive for Flint: it took me about three seconds to say yes and to commit get ‘Boilermaker Nation’ energized.
A team of folks was quickly assembled to get the water flowing.
A day later we were collecting water at the Comets game garnering over a hundred cases (2,400 bottles)-not bad.
On to Monday, Chanatry’s supermarket offers Nirvana water at $1.99 a case as well as allowing a Utica Mack truck to be parked in their lot. A nice community connection: local store, local water stored in a local truck.
Well the floodgates opened!
There was a seemingly endless flow of shopping carts (and an occasional cart traffic jam) loaded with cases of water flowing from the stores exit door to the truck.
It became pretty quickly clear we were going to need a bigger truck!
In came the 40 foot trailer.
By the end we did fill a bigger truck- in fact we filled three of them!
Clearly from a logistical perspective it would have been much easier to have people pay the cashier, we keep track of the amount of cases, send the final order up to Nirvana and at the end of the campaign send the trucks westward to Flint.
A lot less handling and a lot less hassles!
And I’m convinced it would not have been as successful: efficiency does not always equate to success when emotion is involved.
I think the key was what I call the power of human touch, the folks donating the water wanted to personally hand that case of the water to the folks loading the truck, who (I believe) physically represented, the people of Flint.
At the wrap-up Friday morning I said it sort of felt like the American Heart Run and Walk Radiothon as organizations stopped by and pledged literally hundreds of cases of water.
We even ended up with a long-haul trucker who volunteered to drive the water to Michigan!
So in the end roughly 100,000 bottles of water will find their way to the hands of those in need in Flint.
Sadly, that’s one bottle of water for each citizen of Flint.
The Mayor’s office in Flint said they have never seen a municipality in the U.S. do what our community did- I guess no surprises.
Sometimes we as a community are very hard on ourselves: sometimes rightfully so, most of the time, in my opinion, not.
To all that participated, stand tall, this is the sort of stuff that defines a caring community!

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
Princess Diana

Because That’s Just What We Do

January 29th, 2016

Filthy water cannot be washed.
– West African Proverb

If there is one thing this community can do is when it gets behind something, mountains move.
Look at the Heart Run and Walk, look at the Comets, and yes, look at the Boilermaker.
This community is a delightful paradox that is by far not the most affluent in means, but is truly rich in giving.
I saw it first hand when the Boilermaker and other organizations filled two trucks to send needed cleaning supplies and water to the hard hit downstate area after Superstorm Sandy.
Because that’s just what we do.
Well it looks like we’re back in the water transportation business.
The horrific water problems in Flint Michigan are well documented: a community of roughly 100,000 souls (mostly poor) find themselves with an unusable water system.
No water for bathing, no water for cooking, and clearly, no water for drinking.
Imagine that a city in our country has been reduced to living like they exist in a third world nation!
So today, January 29th,Bill Keeler on his radio show floats an idea for a truckload of water to go to Flint by way of Utica Michigan, (one of over a dozen cities named Utica in the U.S. and all named after us) where a radio affiliate is located.
And the flame was lit.
While Bill Keeler and Townsquare Media started the effort, the other media outlets quickly banded together for a common purpose (thank you media) to help others.
So how do you help?
A few ways..
On Saturday January 30th there will be a Mack truck (thank you Utica Mack) parked near the Utica Aud from 5:30 PM though the start of the first period of the Utica Comets game (thank you Comets).
Beginning Monday, February 1st that same truck will be positioned at Chanatry’s Market: Utica’s local market. Chanatry’s has cut the price for a case of water to $1.99 (thank you to Chanatry’s).
Finally, people can drop off water at Charlies Pizza at Whitesboro, Washington Mills and North Utica (thank you Charlie’s).
So let’s fill a truck and support some folks we don’t even know (and a huge thank you to each of you who help).
Because that’s just what we do.

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.