TeamingUP with Todd Hart at the Utica Boilermaker 15K
Thursday, July 9th:
I'm heading to Utica this weekend to help spread the Team UP/Get Back UP message in central New York alongside one of my co-captains, Todd Hart. We'll be running in a world-famous 15K-race called The Boilermaker. I've heard so much about this event since I first became a distance runner (almost 20 years ago) and Todd has been trying to get me up here for 3 years now. Finally the stars are aligning and I will get to experience it for myself.
When I was booking my trip 4 months ago I began to get a handle on how popular The Boilermaker is; most area hotels were already booked and those that had rooms available were charging upwards of $220/night for a 2-star hotel...whoa. As usually happens in cases like this I knew I had a chance at finding something more reasonable as the date drew closer but just in case I booked 4 nights at the new Hampton Inn on the west side of Utica in an area called New Hartford...at a price I'd normally pay for a 4-star hotel in most major US cities. For reference' sake, Utica has a population estimated at roughly 63,000 people. And as another point of reference, that "population" swells massively every July to include the 15,000-plus runners and their friends/families and the post-race party boasts 40,000 participants!! I'm not a mathematician, but I believe that means that the city swells by 25% during the 2nd weekend in July every year, and the post-race party is approximately the same sized crowd that would equal 65% of the town's total population.
You can find more fun facts about the Boilermaker here, including the star-studded list of previous winners and distance-running superstars:
So anyway, 4 months later there were still no deals to be had so I changed my strategy a bit. Since I am flying into Syracuse and renting a car for the trip to Utica anyway I opted to stay Friday and Sunday nights in Syracuse saving some serious cash. I'll keep my reservations at the Hampton Inn/New Hartford for Friday and Saturday nights and enjoy the invasion of runners joining me.
|The weather is beautiful here in the early afternoon as I'm landing in Syracuse, though I've|
learned that major storms are on tap for the afternoon.
My hotel wouldn't let me check in until 3pm so I went to a restaurant that I spotted on the way from the airport. As I was walking into the Bull & Bear Roadhouse the skies opened up and down came the rain...about 3 hours worth of steady downpour. Lucky for me I had a cozy, dry spot to sit and work (and eat!) until the rain let up. I
|Asian Salad with pan-seared Salmon--quite delicious, especially for a "roadhouse".|
Friday, July 10th:
It was still raining when I woke up but I headed out for a short jog despite the weather. I had a busy day of media scheduled in Utica so I wanted to get my workout out of the way. Plus, with an interview scheduled at 9:00am I wanted to make sure I didn't look half-asleep still...no one looks good on camera with "bed head" or pillow lines still on the face. :-)
|The drive from Syracuse to Utica was about an hour. The skies are clearing|
but light rain intermittently dotted my drive.
I arrived about 45 minutes ahead of time just to be safe and waited for Todd to arrive. We are meeting the first reporter at the finish line area, which I learned from the race website is at the Saranac Brewery.
|As I arrive there are workers setting up tents all around the brewery...I'm guessing this is all for the Boilermaker|
|At the far left is a stage, in front of which they're setting up another tent. In the|
background you see the side of the FX Matt "Saranac" Brewery.
Todd arrived shortly after I did, it was so great to see him again in person--I hadn't seen him since last November when he came to Charlotte, NC for our TeamUP weekend. Todd grew up here in Utica but has been living in Ohio for many years now. He tries to make it back here at least a few times a year to spend time with family still in the area.
We spent a few minutes catching up then walked over to the Finish Line to wait for the reporter, during which time I got a lot of history about the race, the city and the brewery.
Speaking of history, before I go any further here's a link to more about Todd and his tough battle to Get Back UP--please check it out:
As we waited for the reporter Todd told me that his dad used to work at this brewery in the 1950's, so The Boilermaker truly is a homecoming for Todd. I also learned that the FX Matt Brewery is the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the United States and has been in operation since 1853--wow. And quite honestly, it doesn't look like a lot has changed since that time...at least judging by the historic exterior.
Here's a link to more about the history of this storied brewery and the family that's been running it for centuries:
As I mentioned earlier in this post, the Utica Boilermaker 15K is world-renowned. Although I've seen very few people milling about downtown today I am beginning to understand how important this race is to the town...there are, literally, signs all around.
As much as I was enjoying my history lesson from Todd (I really was!) it was time for us to get to work when Rachel Murphy from WKTV arrived.
|Yes, that's right...my hair is down and not cinched under a ball cap. Take notice now, it won't last for long!|
|Todd is ready for his close-up! He did an excellent job sharing his story and his passion for The Boilermaker.|
Thank you, Rachel, for a great time this morning and for sharing our message here in central New York! Here's a link to her story that aired over the weekend (hopefully the link will stay live for awhile):
When Rachel left we had about 15 minutes to wait before the next reporter showed up. By the way, I'd like to give a shout-out to Ashley Watkins of BKI, Inc. for her efforts coordinating media this weekend--she was a busy young lady! Thanks, Ashley, for keeping all of our interviews conveniently located and perfectly spaced out! As I said, we wrapped up the first 1.5-hour interview with only 15 minutes to spare before Ana Rivera arrived at the Finish Line for the second interview.
|My turn with Ana. Hat is back on for this one, told ya it wouldn't last long.|
One thing that's not at all obvious from these photos is how loud it was around the finish line area. From noisy cars and motorcycles (do they know what mufflers are in Utica??) to construction crews, street-sweeping vehicles, trains and delivery trucks--you name it--if it makes noise it was here on the corner today. At one point the sound engineers were testing loudspeakers with 80's music blasting through the intersection. Not to worry--Ana took charge and went over to talk to the event officials who halted the testing until after lunch. Somehow she was able to edit out all the other ambient cacophony...Nice work, Ana!
Here's a link to Ana's story which aired throughout the weekend;
The interview with Ana also lasted about an hour-and-a-half, after which Todd and I took a much-needed break to see about getting a bite to eat. That's when Todd checked his messages and realized that his phone interview yesterday with Ron Moshier of the Observer-Dispatch had hit the newsstands today. We changed course in search of a place to buy some copies.
|Todd's story made the front page "below the fold" of the Boilermaker feature section, and continued with another|
half-page inside. Todd's brother, Dale Hart, was interviewed as well; that story ran as an inset of Todd's article.
|Since Todd is so famous now I asked him to autograph the Get Back UP sign. Knowing how much Co-captain Jill|
Walsh "likes her boundaries" Todd decided to sign as close to Jill's signature as possible. :-)
To read Ron's articles about Todd and Dale, here's the link:
And, speaking of Dale...he showed up just in time for us to meet with the third reporter on tap for today. Dale lives here in Utica and took the afternoon off to come by to catch his brother in action. I've met Todd's twin brother, Terry back in Ohio but until today I had not met Dale so that was a nice treat for me.
|Todd and I ham it up while Dale gets a few photos. Now it's back to work as the final interview|
of the day gets underway.
|Much of our conversations with Kellie took place off-camera but here she asks Todd to recount part of his|
story that she felt would resonate strongly with her viewers.
Not only were we fortunate to get 3 TV interviews today, but we were extremely lucky to have been assigned 3 incredibly gifted and enlightened journalists to cover the story. Kellie, thank you so much for your candor and for your very thoughtful approach to sharing our message...and good luck with your own training! Here's a link to one version of Kellie's piece that aired over the weekend:
Once our last interview was over we convoyed over to the local community college where the race Expo was being held. Todd had to get his race packet today and then leave for his 2-hour drive north to get his packet for the triathlon he's competing in tomorrow. Yes, that's right, he's doing a triathlon tomorrow and the 15K on Sunday...I'm tired just thinking about it.
|The scene at the Expo was quite festive...and as with any real festival you need to have food trucks. Here's one I|
found of particular interest specializing in local favorite foods...
|...I wonder what "Chicken Riggies" are.|
|There's a huge crowd out to enjoy the food, music, craft-brewed root beer & ginger ales. Fortunately |
all the rain has cleared out and the temperature is perfect for a big outdoor party.
|I think all pre-race Expos should be this fun!|
From the Expo I said goodbye to Dale and Todd and headed west to check into my hotel. I had work to finish before Jim made it into town from his Albany trip. The hotel wasn't too far from the events in Utica but with traffic it took me almost 30 minutes to get there from the Expo.
|Thanks to the staff at Hampton Inn for keeping this selection hot and fresh through all hours of the night and day. They|
also baked fresh cookies a few times a day so the lobby and public spaces nearby smelled heavenly.
After a few hours of work in my hotel room Jim finally arrived from Albany and by then we were both ready for dinner. The only places near our hotel were chain restaurants, but we preferred to find a true local restaurant (where we might learn what they mean by "It's a Utica thing") so we headed downtown instead. Jim also wanted to see the finish line area and the Saranac brewery so we went to Varrick Street...the same place I had been for most of the day for our interviews.
|Our first stop was Nail Creek Pub for a Charcuterie plate. We asked them to keep the|
meat separate from the cheese so that a certain vegetarian didn't get contaminated.
We really liked this place but wanted to try another restaurant while here so we moved on for
the next course. Here's a link to the Nail Creek website for more info: http://nailcreekpub.com/about/
Next we went across the street to The Celtic Harp Pub. The place was filling up fast so we opted for dinner on the patio where the atmosphere was party-like...The Boilermaker fanfare was officially underway!
|I ordered one of the nightly specials, Tuna Tacos with mango salsa and a side of steamed veggies. Loved it.|
Just as the pubs of Varrick Street were kicking into high gear on this early Friday night we were ready to call it a day. We drove the 15-minute trek back to the hotel and turned in for the evening with the sun not having set yet...another busy day ahead!
Saturday, July 11th:
While Todd is off competing in a Triathlon north of Utica I've got a full day planned in town. Jen Buehler, who runs the daily operations of the Dralla Foundation (Allard's nonprofit charity), is coming to town to meet with me regarding some upcoming goals for the foundation. (If you haven't already checked it out, please read more about Dralla and our mission here: https://dralla.org) Then I have a conference call with co-captain Carl Brance to go over a presentation he'll be giving to the Allard sales team, it's an update on our GetBackUP campaign and TeamUP Tour Stops from the first half of 2015. Also, we need to go back to the Expo so Jim can pick up his race packet since he didn't make it in time to do so yesterday. Finally, if we don't get called away for media we'd really like to see some of the sights while we're here in Utica but we're not sure if we'll have the time.
First things first: I promised a few women that I'd post photos of "dressier shoes" to wear with the brace (I received the inquiries through our social media outreach). There's still not a great fashion option for truly formal occasions but my newest Mary Janes from Keen can be worn with my casual skirts and dresses:
|The wide toe box of these Keens allows for plenty of room for my Allard Ypsilon brace.|
|Finally, you need to make sure your shoe has a removable insole. The brace has to|
fit UNDER the insole, then you can position the original insole on top of the brace
or use your custom-orthotic insert in place of the one that came with the shoe.
For convenience sake, Jim and I decided to head to the Expo first and then go to Jen's hotel for my meeting after that. The Expo opened at 8:00am so we timed our drive to make it there just as the runners were being invited in. Upon our arrival we were surprised to see thousands of folks there before 8am...we soon learned that it was due to all the kids' races offered as part of the Boilermaker experience. The atmosphere for the kids' races was so electric and contagious that we had to stay and cheer for 3 or 4 heats of runners--such fun!
|While I stayed to cheer for a few more races Jim went into the Expo and got his race|
gear for tomorrow's 15K...then it was off to meet Jen.
|Jen Buehler in her "Utica Office", aka the breakfast area of the downtown Hampton Inn. Hi, Jen!|
While Jim had breakfast and watched the final matches of Wimbledon, Jen and I discussed Dralla
updates and goals for 2016. After a few hours we wrapped things up and parted ways. Jen drove here from NJ with her husband, Andrew and daughter, Siena (these 2 were enjoying a morning at the Utica Zoo) and originally hoped to stay over for the race tomorrow. However, with plenty to do at home and no hotel rooms left in the area they made the decision to get back on the road instead.
|Thanks for your continued support every year, Jen--we will miss you tomorrow!|
|Jim wanted a photo with the Dralla "queen bee", too!|
Next stop: a quick lunch downtown and a bit of sight-seeing. We found a place next door to the Stanley Theater which turned out to be perfect for what we were seeking for lunch. FYI, we heard from many locals that Ancora was a really nice restaurant but unfortunately it wasn't open until 5:00pm today so we heeded some other local advice and chose Swifty's right next door. Here are links to both locations (both receive consistently good reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor):
Swifty's is definitely more casual than Ancora but for a pub they serve really nice food. And although it's an Irish "bar and grill" there were many patrons in formal attire (for a theater event next door) plus several folks in business suits so you'd be comfortable in any attire without feeling out of place.
|Jim and I split the Calamari appetizer (sorry, it was devoured before|
I remembered to take a photo) and then this Grilled Salmon Salad...perfect
for a mid-afternoon snack.
When I asked locals for their list of top local attractions I often received a look of puzzlement in return. Time after time I heard "Hmmm, well...the Boilermaker is our biggest yearly event and it finishes at the brewery so you should do a FX Matt Brewery Tour....and, well, there's The Stanley Theater." Outside of that most people say they go to other cities for "attractions"...but a few also recommended the Munson Williams Proctor Art Museum. I got the feeling that people genuinely loved living in Utica but that it's not exactly a destination city, just a really nice place to live.
You can see by this view of a main thoroughfare in Utica, Genessee Street, that it feels more like "small-town America" than an urban metropolis...
|The historic Stanley Theater.|
I copied this from the website of the Stanley (www.thestanley.org):
We couldn't go in because they were preparing for an afternoon/evening event but from what we could see from the outside it was a charming theater. I love the fact that this Thomas Lamb creation still stands and that its patrons are intent upon restoring and renovating it for future generations to appreciate.
About 6 blocks from The Stanley and Swifty's we found the Munson Proctor Williams Arts Institute. Unfortunately the museum officials told us that they would be closing in 30 minutes so we didn't have time to take the official tour. Instead we browsed the museum shop and took in the art hanging in the atrium/lobby area and hoped to make it back here on Sunday afternoon. I researched their current collections and found 3 that I found of particular interest to me:
1) Monet to Matisse: The Age of French Impressionism
2) Peasants and Parisians: French 19-th Century Graphic Arts
3) European Masterworks on View (including works by European "modern artists" Kandinsky, Picasso and Salvador Dali)
|The view of the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute as you walk South on Genessee Street from The Stanley.|
We had plans to meet Todd and Dale for a pre-race dinner somewhere but until this afternoon I didn't know where or when that would be. I received a call from Todd as we were heading downtown saying that we were invited to eat at Dale and Lynda's house...and that he was back in town from his triathlon and would be there for the rest of the day. Jim and I jumped at the chance to join them because 1) we wanted to meet Lynda and spend more time with Todd's family and 2) Lynda was cooking a homemade dinner, something we rarely get to enjoy on race weekends. So, once the museum closed we headed straight for the Hart home...
(FACT CHECKER: I said that we went "straight" to the Hart home but in truth, Todd Hart told us the wrong street. We couldn't find Sage Road on any of our GPS systems nor could anyone local tell us where it was. We texted Todd to make sure we had the right road and he insisted that we did. He gave us basic directions and told us to call if we had issues. So, as we got closer we did see a "STAGE road" and figured it had to be the right road. It was. Apparently Todd never mailed anything to his brother and always found the house because he knew the area...he had been convinced that it was Sage road all this time, not Stage. :-) Todd, I'm only including this because I promised to give you a hard time about this...all in good fun, of course!)
|On our way out of the downtown area to meet Todd, Dale and Lynda.|
|All around Utica you'll find lush green fields, rolling countryside and many orchards. This may not be the most|
picturesque view but it gives you an idea of the bucolic landscape immediately surrounding central Utica.
|Lynda made a vegetarian spaghetti-bake AND a lasagna for the meat lovers...plus a fresh green salad on the side. DELICIOUS!! (Thanks, Dale, for reminding me to take a photo before I scarfed it all down and THANK YOU, Lynda|
for the fabulous meal!)
|This is Dale's plate...no "food touching other food" to affect his enjoyment of the|
|Todd and Lynda chat in the foreground while Dale and his nephew, Alex dine in the background. Jim has|
strategically positioned himself to catch everyone's conversation from a middle vantage point.
|One of the best pre-race dinners ever--thanks, Hart family!|
Dinner was so relaxing out on the deck and the conversations were all over the place. Eventually we talked about "metal fabrication" as this was something that both Dale and Jim have in common...though the guys were on opposite ends of the spectrum on this. Jim is president of his family-owned electrical enclosure business; they make metal boxes to hold wire way for the electrical and cable industries. Dale is an engineer and designs cutting-edge blades for airplanes and modern windmills. He brought out some projects they've recently been working on...really amazing stuff:
|...and this is a forged blade for an airline jet. They are working on technology to|
minimize bird strikes.
(Did I mention that Jim makes metal boxes?)
|Next course: Sweet cantaloupe and homemade Strawberry Shortcake.|
|Dale gets the fire going strong just as the evening shadows grow long.|
|What a fun, relaxing and special evening at the Hart home.|
|As the sun sets Jim and I say our good-byes and our thank-you's for a wonderful meal and evening. We will|
see you all bright and early at the Boilermaker tomorrow!
|A beautiful sunset escorts us back to hotel.|
Sunday, July 12th: RACE DAY!!
Thanks to Todd for his "hometown advantage" he told us exactly where to park this morning so that we'd have our cars easily accessible from the Finish Line. We met at 5:30am in time to catch the first shuttle bus to the starting line area. Usually I'm in charge of scoping all of this out so it was a refreshing change for me to be a follower rather than a leader here in Utica. Todd, you ROCK!
Here's a selection of photos from the race festivities:
|Thanks, Dale, for taking this pre-dawn photo of the TeamUP Trio.|
|I wonder how long it's been since these 2 brothers rode a school bus together.|
|Our view from the seats in the back of the bus...we weren't the only runners planning ahead.|
|The sun begins to rise along our ride to the race start.|
|Still about an hour before the race starts and the crowds are pouring in.|
|We find a grassy area to relax while we wait for any media updates. We're sitting beside the gear check table so|
that when we're ready to head to the start line we can just drop our stuff and go.
|By this time the starting gun has gone off and the lead runners are probably on their|
second mile already...we're all still shuffling forward.
|This is what 15,000 runners looks like from my vantage point in the crowd.|
|At least we have time for plenty of selfies!|
|Jim is wearing a running shirt that Dale gave to him, it's a shirt promoting Dale's company, Tect.|
As you learned from our dinner at the Hart's, Tect makes aerospace and power generation components.
Maybe the shirt will make Jim faster!
|The Hart brothers are ready to roll.|
|And we're off...finally making it to the start line!|
|Don't try to find us in here, this is a shot I "borrowed" from the website. I just wanted to show you|
how many thousands of runners pack the streets of Utica every second-Sunday in July.
|I didn't get many race course shots because I was paranoid of tripping over someone or something the whole time. The|
course was truly beautiful but because it was so crowded I really had to watch my footing.
|Todd and I ran together the whole race and along the way he pointed out famous landmarks.|
|Ok, not the best image but it was my first reward after the race...a root beer popsicle, ice-cold and delicious!|
|Dale was ahead of us by about 10 or 15 minutes but he paid for his speed with blisters, ouch!|
|Great run, Dale...see, if you take 12 years off you're plenty rested for a great 15K.|
|We found Lynda waiting for us right where she said she'd be, on the steps of the Polish Community Center. Thanks|
for your support today, Lynda.
|We weren't anywhere near the official stage, it was just too crowded to manage our group in the thick of things...|
|But even from our spot at the Community Center we had plenty of company.|
|This photo, from the Saranac website, shows last year's crowd. They estimated that this year was even bigger but roughly|
40,000 people head to the brewery for the post-race party each year.
|Thanks again to the Hart's for the predetermined plan to meet here after the race. I'm not sure we would have ever found|
each other in this crowd without a plan.
After a nice cool-down at the post-race party Lynda suggested that we all return to their house for an
encore of yesterday's meal; she had plenty of leftovers and we'd be able to talk and relax before getting on the road back to Syracuse. You didn't have to ask me twice!!
|Todd enjoys round two of Lynda's lasagna...|
|...I've got another heapin' helpin' of her spaghetti and salad...|
|...followed by a heaping helping of Strawberry Shortcake! Everything tasted even better|
the second day.
|This little fellow is Pocket who resides in a large "garage apartment" at the Hart home.|
experience...and you did such a great job sharing your story and inspiration here in Central New York. I can't wait to TeamUP with you again! One last thank you goes out to Allard, without their braces and their support it wouldn't be possible for Todd or me to run. We are proud to to spread the
Get Back UP Today message on behalf of the great folks at Allard!
|My view from the plane back to NC while Jim stays an extra day to work in Syracuse.|