Old Friends and The Intensity Of An Ultramarathon

I’ve run one ultramarathon – the American River 50 Mile Endurance race. It seriously fucked me up for a while.

On Sunday, 8/11 Amy and I had dinner at Brasserie 1010 with our long time friends Bill Ritchie and Andrea Barthello. We’ve known Bill and Andrea since the mid-1990s – we met through Young Entrepreneurs Organization. Bill and Andrea have a super cool company called Thinkfun (it used to be called “Binary Arts” – a name I really loved) and are a great example of a husband and wife entrepreneurial team. Bill and I spent many hours working on the early YEO web site, back before anyone had web sites, and the four of us enjoyed lots of time together at YEO events in unexpected places like Barbados.

I remember dinner at their house near DC many years ago with their son Sam. He was young – I can’t remember his ago – but somewhere between 5 and 9. We had a lot of fun, and I had a lot of hair. Somehow I ended up with the nickname “Scary Man” which stuck for a little while.

Over the years we lost touch. Bill and I would connect on something every now and then, like in 2011 when his brother Dennis Ritchie died. But we hadn’t seen each other in at least a decade.

You know that moment when you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time and your brain floods with serotonin. The smile you have almost rips a hole in your face, your heart rate rises 20 BPM, and you just want to jump up and down and do a happy dance? That’s how I felt when Bill and Andrea walked into Brasserie 1010.

And then there was Sam. He was genetically undeniably the product of his parents. 25-ish. Crazy smart, articulate, fun, and totally engaging. He pretended to remember me.

We had a blast. They were here a week early to acclimate to the altitude since Sam was going to run the Leadville Trial 100. Stud. We talked about a lot of different things, but kept coming back to Leadville. Sam works at Twitter so we talked about that a little, and then we were back to talking about Leadville. And ultras. He was clearly excited, a little anxious, and trying to get his head into it.

Dinner ended with big hugs. We went to my office and I got a Fitbit One for Sam as I wanted to see  what happened when it crossed over 100,000 steps in one day (the most I’ve done is 97,000). I gave Sam a copy of Venture Deals, which Dick Costolo (Twitter’s CEO) wrote the forward to. We hung out with Pat Minotaur and just kept talking, not really wanting the evening to end. Eventually we sent them on their way back to the hotel.

Sam ran the Leadville 100 last weekend. I just read his amazing post on the experience of running – and surviving – the Leadville Trail 100. It is mind blowing. It’s no surprise that Sam is a spectacular writer, but his journey on this ultramarathon was pretty awesome. He literally “came back from the edge of death” halfway through to grind it out in 26:15:12.

If you want to hear an amazing story of perseverance, love long distance running stories, are fascinated with ultramarathons, wonder what Twitter engineers do in their spare time, or just want to revel in a great story, go read Sam Ritchie’s Leadville 100 post right now.

Oh – and the Fitbit worked perfectly – at 100,001 steps, that’s what the screen showed!

  • ObjectMethodology.com

    Yep, you walk a fine line when doing extraordinary things. I remember when I was 19 and trying to bench press 400lbs. I pushed too fast and got 385lbs for three reps but ended up with an injury. Back in those days a 400lb bench was not that common for 19 year olds.
    I learned a great lesson from that. You can’t make progress if you hurt yourself trying to make progress.

  • Scary man! Thanks for the write up, Brad. The set of tags on this post is wonderful 🙂

    It was great seeing you guys again with adult eyes. I’m back on the streets of San Francisco, though Jenna and I are starting to fantasize about moving out to Boulder. I’ll keep you posted as that gnawing ache grows stronger.

    • Boulder welcomes you anytime. And remember to tell Jenna that Amy is from Alaska (I noticed she was also from Alaska from her twitter description.)

      • jenna

        Thanks Brad! Out in California it feels like I’m the only Alaskan for a hundred miles. I would love to meet another one out in the wild. Hopefully we can get back out to Boulder soon so I can do so. Until then I will be wondering how I’m going to react to that minotaur sculpture.

        • You’ll like Pat Minotaur. He’s cool and mellow to all of my friends. He protects me from the bad people.

  • I went there and read it. What an amazing achievement and stamina he has, and he’s only 25. Wow.

  • Andrea

    My face felt the same, and so did my heart – I almost did jump up and down – couldn’t have been happier and could not have started out the week better – so happy – loved being with you and amy and meeting Pat M – he is a kind fellow – could maybe use a pair of shorts 🙂 – love to all – more soon