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Of Moss and Mushrooms

July 3rd, 2015

Of Moss and Mushrooms
‘I cannot command winds and weather.’
Horatio Nelson

‘Weather forecast for tonight: dark.’
George Carlin

This June was a classic Fall month: seven inches of rain/ lots of cloudy days and hearing the boiler firing up in the morning. Certainly feels more akin to eve of the Falling Leaves Race, which takes place at the middle of October, than the Boilermaker. It’s so depressing as I always think of the 4th of July weekend as the mid-point of the Summer. I wonder if farmers might have thought about planting rice instead of corn?
Well I guess air conditioning bills will be low!
Last year’s Boilermaker weather worries certainly have made me a serious monitor of the long term forecast, which is probably a bad thing because I think when we get 3 days out predictions get very, very sketchy. Saying that, my morning routine 10 days out from the race is to immediately go to the various sites that offer long term prognostications. They can vary greatly and I tend to like the ones best that predict good weather!
We have, as best as possible, ‘weather-proofed’ the Boilermaker, moving the Expo to an indoor venue certainly gave us a level of protection. Where we are at the mercy of the elements are the Volunteer Party on Friday, Kid’s Run/ 3 Mile Walk on Saturday and the Boilermaker 15&5k races on Sunday. Still trying to get that 9.3 mile roof in place.
I have no problem with rain on race day (except for the volunteers and spectators): I do have a few issues with lightning.
Hey, I was an English major and a glass is half full kind of guy (especially if the glass is filled with something I like). Also I’m a believer in averages, taking complex stuff and trying to simplify it for my mind.
Here is my weather theory- if we had a rainy June then we have used up a lot of the crappy days meaning we should have more good days for the remainder of the Summer.
I can just see a meteorologist reading this slapping their knee laughing hysterically at my meteorological philosophy.
A bit over a week to go till the big race. Looking at the long term forecast today (July 3rd) it looks like we are looking at chances of rain throughout Boilermaker Weekend.
Where the heck is that better weather website!

Cleaning the Course

June 29th, 2015

One of the hallmarks of the Boilermaker, thanks to countless folks, is by the afternoon of Boilermaker Sunday you can’t tell a race, with thousands of participants, had taken place that morning.
We really strive to leave the area a little cleaner than when we came.
I want to talk about picking up but I’m not talking about discarded water cups.
As you may recall, last year’s Boilermaker was a rather interesting one. A large storm front with severe thunder and lightning/ hail was sweeping across the U.S. with initial predictions showing it hitting Utica as early as noon Boilermaker Sunday. This was the closest the race in its 37 year history has come to being cancelled. While later weather models showed a better chance of the storms hitting a bit later we wanted to take no chances.
Water stations, course entertainment, aid stations were informed to teardown as soon as the last runner passed. Tables needed to be broken down, trash picked up, tents disassembled and bands electric equipment put away.
At 8:00 am the 15k runners took off and I thought to myself ‘there’s no stopping it now!’
In the Unified Command Center we were informed at 9:00 am (1 hour into the race) by a Utica Police mobile unit that the last participants (can’t call them runners) were at Mohawk Valley Community College- that’s mile 2!
We quickly dispatched a bus to begin to pick up the ‘back of the packers ‘ who had no chance of getting to the Finish Line prior to the race shutting down. Most were dealing with some sort of medical conditions.
Fortunately the storm system we planned on didn’t hit the region until later in the afternoon. What it did do was to force us to deal with the on-going problem of people walking the course.
We did research on what other long-distance races do. In general common practices were if you can’t maintain a 14/15 minute pace there would be no guarantees of water/ aid stations, participants would be instructed to move to the sidewalk if they decided to continue and ‘sweep buses’ would transport folks to the Finish Line Area.
Certainly a central focus of the Boilermaker is running (pun intended) a safe race. That safety mantra extends beyond the participants: it encompasses the volunteers and the spectators along the course.
Think about it, you have volunteers and public safety folks who have been hard at work hours before the race begins. We end up with hundreds of people waiting on a handful.
Then there are the homeowners along the course who find themselves unable to leave their houses. It’s simply unfair to them (and the community in general) to not have access to the streets in a reasonable time.
Currently we have a 2 ½ hour time limit after the last person crosses the Start line: that’s usually around 13 minutes so we’re talking about 2 hours and 45 minutes. BTW, there is nothing more infuriating for the Start Line folks and timing company than seeing people walking at the start.
After discussions with members of public safety, medical and the transport committee we settled on a plan of action.
Here it is:
We will position sweep buses at the halfway point of the race (bus 1) and at the 10k point (bus 2). After 9:30 am bus 1 comes into play, 9:55 am for bus 2. We strongly encourage people to use the bus if they hit these two points at or after these times because you are, short of a miracle, not going to hit the Finish Line prior to shutdown of the clocks.
We are now less than two weeks away from the Boilermaker: it should be pretty clear to you at this point that you are capable of running 9.3 miles of a challenging course in the middle of July. Expect heat and humidity.
So what can you do if you feel you aren’t ready for this year’s 15k; a few things.
Transfer down to the 5k. If you have a least a little giddy-up, hopefully you can run 3.1 miles. The 5k has a 45 minute time limit. At this point the only way to dropdown is to drop-in to the customer service table at the Expo and request a transfer to the 5k.Just for those wondering, we do not allow transfers from the 5k up to the 15k.
If you feel you can’t even do the 5k within the time limit perhaps do the 3 Mile Walk that takes place Saturday July 11th at Masonic Care Community. No time limit and a really nice course: truly a walk in the park.
Defer till next year. While you will have to pay to get into the 2016 Boilermaker you will have a place in the race (you still need to sign up next year) and, hopefully, be in condition to run it.
It’s interesting; at the last Boilermaker Full Committee Meeting (these are the 150 folks who mange every aspect of the race) the announcement of this policy was met with enthusiastic applause.
Hey, I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Boilermaker Road Race.

Father’s Day

June 20th, 2015

Hey Dad- Happy Father’s Day!
I can’t believe it’s been nearly 24 years since you passed on.
Two of the kids you held as babies are in the world of work and the one you never saw celebrates his 21st birthday at the end of the month.
Dad- thank you for all the opportunities you gave me in life. The chance to work at Utica Radiator, now called ECR International (named after your Dad).
What a risk you took when in 1956 you moved us to Utica to try and save a floundering company that had lost a million dollars the previous year!
But then you always had nerves of steel. You were the guy who went to the dentist and had cavities filled with no Novocain.
I can count on one hand the times I saw you cry, two of them I remember vividly: when I left the house for the Army (tears of sadness) and when I graduated from Hamilton College, your alma mater (tears of joy).
Thank you for instilling in your children the obligation of service to the community: I know all four of us have at least tried to make the places we call home better.
And thank you for listening to Earle in 1978 about funding a road race called the Boilermaker to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. I know that $750 was a lot of money to shell out in July for a company that sells heating equipment: traditionally at that time of year the income statement was dominated by red numbers.
I often wonder what was going through your head when EC asked for the money. Again, like the move to Utica, you took a chance.
Well, you might be surprised how the Boilermaker has grown over the past 37 years!
Although you were never a runner (unless chasing one of your children after one of our transgressions) I think you would be very pleased with what this race has done to bring this community together for a common purpose.
In three short weeks runners from nearly every state of the nation and over a dozen foreign countries will be running the streets of Utica. Full hotels, full restaurants and full stores: certainly a nice economic boost for the area.
Without that initial check the dream of the Boilermaker would have remained just that- a wonderful dream.
And the community: while not the boomtown that you saw in the 60’s there is a wonderful positive vibe that’s been missing for a long, long time. I think the Boilermaker has been a small part of that.
Dad, I really miss you so much (and of course Mom): to you with all my love this Father’s Day!


June 16th, 2015

Being an English Major in college I have an affinity for words and their usage. They are immensely powerful-and can certainly stir emotion.
Think about two phases from the space program: ‘that’s one small step for a man’ (Neil Armstrong) to ‘throttle up’ (last recorded words from the shuttle Challenger.
But enough of outer space: let’s bring it back to earth and talk of Boilermaker verbiage.
I was never a big fan of the word ‘preferred runner’ that we used as a definition for the folks who ran last year and had first bids on registering for this year’s Boilermaker. By its implication it made it seem like they were better than others.
We took a few slings and arrows on social media over it.
Perhaps a better phrase would have been early bird runners or advanced registrants?
So I get to the words affiliated and unaffiliated: I want to use these words dealing with our charity bib program.
From the dictionary definition: affiliated- ‘being in close formal or informal association’.
Unaffiliated-‘not officially connected or associated with an organization.’
How totally uninspiring!
So an affiliated Boilermaker charity bib runner (nearly 250!) is someone who officially signed up to run for a specific charity. They raise at least a certain amount of money for one of our charity partners (21 of them); they get a bib to run the Boilermaker.
An unaffiliated runner is someone who signed up under traditional registration and decides to help out one of our charity bib partners. There is no enforced minimum: whatever they raise is simply a welcome gift.
Again, doesn’t really get your blood pumping…
So let’s change
‘I’m a affiliated or unaffiliated charity bib runner’ to ‘I’m running to make a difference in someone’s life’.
Perhaps it’s in memory of a family member felled by disease perhaps they are running for someone they don’t even know.
Imagine if just a small portion of our 18,500 folks decided to raise 50 or 100 bucks- the collective force would be incredible!
Check out the ‘Run for a Reason’ panel and take the first step down the avenue of altruism!
“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
Bob Hope

Those Calder Cup Cardiac Comets

June 4th, 2015

The Utica Comets are certainly the talk of the area, and rightfully so: they, like their sky bound namesake, have lit things up in our town.
Jump back three years ago: the Memorial Auditorium was a building that had seen better days. The area had a sour taste in its mouth with professional hockey after a series of sub-par teams skated off into the sunset.
We were fortunate that Utica College kept the fires of hockey burning.
Fast forward- extensive Aud renovations, numerous sellout crowds and Utica hosts the AHL All Star Game.
And a team that is a mere two years old is now within reach of the grand prize- the Calder Cup!
Simply remarkable: how could such a thing happen?
Through a sheer force of will Rob Eshe and a small cadre of local investors convinced the NHL, political officials, and yes a skeptical public, that the AHL could flourish in our community.
But this is a story that extends beyond hockey. It is a story about having a vision and the intestinal fortitude to make it happen in spite of the naysayers (and this town can on occasion have one or two).
It is frankly similar to Earle Reed and a small group local runner’s belief thirty eight years ago that Utica could be home to a major running event. This was at a time when if you were jogging on the street people would ask who or what you were running from!
Well I guess you could say the Boilermaker has grown a bit since 1978 when less than 800 people finished that first race.
Clearly the community has embraced both the Boilermaker and Comets as one of their own. In fact, one of the hallmarks of both organizations is the unbridled enthusiasm, dare I say love, of both. The fan that screams for joy as the Comets score is the person standing on the Boilermaker course enthusiastically clapping yelling words of encouragement often to people they don’t even know!
I have joked in the past that Boilermaker Week was the one week when Utica felt good about itself and we only had 51 more to go. The Comets have gone a long way to instill in the community Utica pride.
So how cool it would be for the Comets to win the Calder Cup in mid-June (and they will) and a short month later the Boilermaker takes place!

May 28th, 2015

I thought I’d take a slight detour off the Boilermaker course and speak about the passing of Mr. Riley B. King perhaps better known as B.B. King.
I am somewhat a music lover. I can listen to pretty much anything from Sinatra to Empire of the Sun (which blew my kid’s minds that I knew about Empire of the Sun).
However while I enjoy a diverse range of music I especially enjoy rock and my belief has been that the golden age of rock was between the years 1967-71.
Some have said that people always believe music was best when they were teenagers.
I guess it fits as I was 13 in 1967.
It felt like a huge personal tragedy with the passing of Jim, Jimi and Janise (Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin respectively). They are charter members of’ The 27 Club’: musicians who died at 27 years of age. I guess they just weren’t built for old age: or even worse disco.
While I never was a he blues listener at a younger age, the bands I did listen to certainly made me appreciate the style.
The roots of bands like Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones and Cream were solidly built around the blues.
But back to B.B….
Born dirt poor in Mississippi, mother left when he was 4 years old a life that seemed destined to produce the blues.
A couple of fun facts:
How did he get the name B.B.?
Early in his career B.B. worked as a DJ with the moniker Blues Boy, this was later shortened to the now famous B.B..
Why the naming of his guitar Lucille?
While playing a club in Arkansas a fight broke out between two men which precipitated a fire burning down the joint. Later King found out both men who were fighting over a woman named (you guessed it) Lucille perished in the blaze. King promptly named his guitar Lucille as a permanent reminder never to fight over a woman.
He was a tireless performer often performing 300 times a year!
B.B. played in Utica twice: once in 1989 with current blues performer, and locally born, Joe Bonamassa opening at the age of 12!
One of things I found interesting was for a person singing the blues B.B. seemed to come across as a pretty happy guy.
How funny singing about sadness seemed to bring him (and others) joy.
So music losses a legend: a bit of the thrill really is gone.

Madcap May

May 13th, 2015

If someone was to hold a gun to my head (please don’t, it might be loaded) and said “Tim, what is the most stressful month of the Boilermaker?”
My answer would be: “Well Mr. Gunman that would be May. Now please lower that firearm: someone could get hurt!”
I suppose that would surprise many, after all the race is still 2 months away.
May is for the most part the last opportunity we have to make any last minute ‘course corrections’ (no not the road you’ll be running on mid-July) but rather unanticipated issues that pop up like those spring flowers, or rather weeds. By June the window has shut, July we’re thinking about next year’s race.
The sheer logistics of the event demand adherence to often long lead-times. What might appear to be a small change can have a massive unintended ripple effect on numerous race sub-committees.
We’ve ordered our volunteer shirts, finisher’s pins, pint glasses. Sponsors are locked down, the Program Book is nearly ready for the printer and the Expo is pretty much full.
Unfortunately Boilermaker awareness seems to hit everyone at apparently the same time as unanswered emails from to various folks, send weeks earlier, all start popping back with responses. Lovely….
What has added an additional bit of ‘spice’ to the recipe has been the ongoing building renovation that saps away time and covers everything in my office with a fine layer of dust. Just need to keep saying to myself ‘this is going to look great, this is going to look great’ as I do my daily desk cleaning.
Then there are the invariable unplanned surprises (sort on oxymoron) that jump out of the shadows: clearly the news we couldn’t get jets for the flyover was a large one.
However, surprises of the pleasant type was both understanding by folks as well as possible alternatives.
The non-flyover announcement was out first simultaneous release to traditional media and social media. We saw a clear spike in engagement among the twitter and facebook crowd.
Alternative ideas offered by the general public ranged from people parachuting in, to the ringing of church bells to launching hundreds of balloons. . We’ll figure something out that is, hopefully, memorable to our Post Race Party goers.
As a final comment: the idea of me leading the crowd in the Macarena is a tradition I would just as soon not create!

You’re no Ickey Woods (but you could be)

April 10th, 2015

So imagine you walk up to the deli counter you pull the little paper number tab out of the dispenser: it reads 450.
You cast a glance at the electronic sign that indicates who is currently being served and you see its # 21- your heart sinks.
You really, really wanted that pound of pimento loaf that was on sale. At this rate by the time you get to the counter you may be needing the assistance of a walker and need dentures to eat your deli delicacy.
This year so much changed from a registration perspective. New registration company, new registration method and the launching of an automated waitlist. A neat feature with the waitlist process is you can apply as a group meaning if the only way you would run is if your best friend ran with you (and they hadn’t gotten into the race either) you can ‘wait’ together.
So I’m glancing at the Boilermaker Waitlist and I see nearly 950 people waiting to get into either the 15 or 5k races.
Now there may be a chance that the hundreds of people in front of you may, found out they are pregnant, busted their leg, they need to go to a cousins wedding, developed a disease, won the lottery and will be on an around the world cruise, out of the country on business or, perhaps, simply didn’t train.
In that case you will get a chance to run the race.
If you are coming from out of town hopefully you will be able to secure a hotel as they become very scarce Boilermaker Weekend.
As of this writing (April 10th) there are still 71 charity bibs available. While a number of organizations have filled their teams there are still many that have open slots. These are the folks who take care of those in need within our community and at one point in our lives we can very easily find ourselves or a family member as a client.
So why not get a chance to do the ‘Ickey shuffle’ at the Post Race Party rather than standing in line.
Check out the charity bib icon at boilermaker.com (the upper left hand panel) and help our community get fit as you get fit!
On a totally different note, while not a licensed dietician, I’m unsure consuming the amount of cold cuts that Mr. Woods is purported to eat would be considered a good Boilermaker training regimen!

Breaking up is hard to do

March 30th, 2015

Last week the Boilermaker lost a sponsor and I’m not quite sure why.
The email from them was short (I would not use the word sweet) and to the point.
Perhaps their business is down, a change in focus, or simply sponsorship wasn’t delivering what they expected.
While it wasn’t one of our larger sponsors there’s generated a bit of personal rejection.
The Boilermaker has been blessed with sponsors that in general have been around a long, long time. Many have been with us for over twenty years.
They are clearly a diverse group of folks ranging from “Tim, this is the greatest community event, we’re glad to be a part of it: here’s the check” to “Tim, here’s the check and this is what we expect for this support.”
No problem with either response.
Sponsor relations are just that: we hopefully create a relationship with those folks who write the checks that help underwrite the race. I’ve had the opportunity to develop some wonderful friendships with a number of these folks who support the race with both cash and in-kind services.
A big time public service announcement to runners: no national race takes place without sponsor support!!
Usually these are a company’s marketing dollars that are funding sponsorship of events.
The marathon run in New York City is called the TCS New York City Marathon for a reason. In fact most of the major races in the U.S. have a title or presenting sponsors name prominently displayed.
When you don’t support the folks that underwrite the race, they may move on.
When sponsors move on, registration fees go up. So when you make a buying decision think about these folks. All things being equal their support of the race (and indirectly of you) means something. Check out the sponsor page or take note of the banners you see on Boilermaker Sunday.
So getting back to the lost sponsor: no doubt I dropped the ball. One of the items that is my responsibility is the care and feeding of sponsors. While I try to under promise and over deliver sometimes things just don’t work out.
I suppose it’s a reminder to me the importance of never taking anything (or anyone) for granted!

A good run or running for good

March 25th, 2015

Well the preferred and open registration is over and the field is more or less set.
Currently there are over 600 folks on our waiting list to participate in either the 15 or 5k races.
Currently we have a bit over 90 charity bibs (as of this writing) that could make some of those folks wait a lot shorter.
Many changes this year, a new fundraising platform, CrowdRise and many new not for profits who’s mission span the gamut of our community needs. All the money stays local.
Perhaps our biggest change is giving our charity runners more time to raise money. In the past we would make mandatory that our runners would need to have hit their minimum prior to the race. This year we are giving our folks until August 1st (two weeks after the race has been run) to get their pledges in.
So, assuming you sign up to be a charity bib runner on April 1st you have 4 months, or roughly 18 weeks, to raise the minimum. If you need to raise $500 that’s a bit over $27 a week.
The first thing you need to do is choose an organization that resonates with you. If in some way a friend, family or yourself has been touched by one of these groups your sincerity will go a long way to achieving your goal. In the end it will be your friends who will get you to the financial finish line. Go to the charity bib icon at boilermaker.com and check out the 21 agencies in this year’s class.
While it’s great to dream about an Uncle Moneybags willing to totally underwrite your endeavor reality is usually far different. It’s simply easier to get 5 bucks from 10 people than 50 bucks from 1.
The old saying certainly fits here. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
So some ideas-
Give some of it yourself: it’s clearly an easier to ‘sell’ that people give to an organization you are willing to give to.
Give up that second cup of coffee that you buy, immediately put that money in a charity jar.
Does your company have a matching gifts program? No harm in asking.
Have a garage sale- a great way to clean up your house while raising some easy money.
A Bake sale, book sale, perhaps a raffle for a gift basket (try and get the stuff donated by merchants).
Recycling cans, ask friends neighbors to help.
Do you have a special talent that you can charge people for? Gardening, knitting or cooking class.
A final comment, while people are donating for you to run lets remember the core focus is to raise money for organizations that serve our community.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan