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!
At 3:55pm yesterday I cried.
I was getting ready for a Google Hangout back to my office with my partners and I noticed something about an explosion at the Boston Marathon on twitter. I did a quick scan of Twitter, clicked through to a few links, and realized a bomb had gone off near the finish line.
I went blank – just stared at my computer screen – and then started crying. I called Amy – she hadn’t heard about it yet and told her what had happened. I collected myself and called in to my Hangout. My partners were all shaken also – Seth lived in Boston for many years, Ryan has done several marathons, and Jason just did his first marathon last year in Detroit.
During our Hangout I sent some emails out to friends in Boston. Four close friends were on the third floor of the building above the first explosion. They were ok – but shocked and very shaken up. Emails continued to flow with me checking in on people and people checking in on me since they knew I was a marathoner and on the east coast.
My emotion shifted from sadness, to a wave of being horrified, to temporary anger, back to a very deep sadness. At the NJ Tech Meetup, before I started talking I asked for a moment of silence to recognize the people who were at the Boston Marathon, especially those who were injured. I can’t remember exactly what I said – I just know that I teared up again before my talk.
On my way back to Manhattan, Amy and I talked. We were both incredibly sad. And lonely – she’s home and I’m in NY. She was supposed to go to Boston yesterday for a Wellesley board meeting – she decided not to go because of some stuff going on. She would have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, just down the block from the explosion. It’s all too close for comfort.
Lying in bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned until 1am. I kept thinking about being in NY on 9/11, about running the Boston Marathon, about the bike accident I had in September where a turn of the wheel a different direction would have meant lights out for me. It was some combination of PTSD, sadness, obsessions, and contemplation of mortality. I finally fell asleep.
This morning on my run with Reece Pacheco we talked about it a little more. I haven’t even begun to really process this. Brent Hill sent out a tweet to me and a bunch of friends to commit to running Boston in 2014. I’m in.
I just contributed to the Boston Tech Communities fundraiser for the Boston Marathon victims. All proceeds will be donated completely to programs working with victims of the attacks including Red Cross, Children’s Hospital, and others.
On Sunday I’ll be running the Detroit Marathon with a bunch of friends including my partner Jason Mendelson who is running his first marathon. Becky Cooper, our CFO, and Jill Spruiell (Jason’s EA) are also running their first marathon, as is Andrew Tschesnok, the CEO of Organic Motion.
As this is my second marathon in my Random Act of Kindness series, Amy and I are again raising $10,000 for someone on GiveForward. We’ll be matching $5,000 of contributions from this community with a gift from us of $5,000. Our recipient this time in Max Simmons who we refer to as Jedi Max. We don’t know Jedi Max – we just know he’s fighting cancer and is awesome.
Here’s Jedi Max’s story:
Max is a fun-loving, spirited seven year old who has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforming or GBM, a type of brain cancer. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The doctors have already removed most of the tumor, though he still has a long road ahead. He will be receiving chemo and radiation. Max’s treatments are an hour’s drive each direction and he will be receiving them for six weeks, five days a week. His parents, Jay and Scott, are concerned about not meeting the non-medical expenses such as gas, food, and other things that may come up. With how things stand now, Jay may not be able to return to work. Max loves everything Legos and Star Wars. He is doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart is as big as Texas. He is a true Jedi Warrior!
In our last Random Act of Kindness campaign, we raised over $10,000 for Justin Salcedo who is now cancer free! Let’s show Jedi Max the power of the community and do it again.
“Success rests in having the courage and endurance and, above all, the will to become the person you were destined to be.” – Dr. George Sheehan
When I heard that presidential VP candidate Paul Ryan said something like he had run a “2-hour-and-50-something” marathon, I knew immediately he was lying. I don’t know a single person who has ever run a marathon who doesn’t know the exact time it took him or her to do it. The 2-hour-and-50-something language didn’t ring true to me and I smiled when I read Andy Burfoot and George Hirsch’s essay in the NY Times titled The Honorable Clan of the Long-Distance Runner.
This isn’t a political post but my disclaimer is that I have no time or energy for Paul Ryan so my bias is out of the way. But I simply hate when people lie. As a kid, my parents made it painfully clear to me that lying isn’t acceptable. I remember being punished a few times before the age of 10 – once was for stealing baseball/football cards (my cousin Kenny’s OJ Simpson card and another friend’s cards – a bunch of them) and once for lying about where I had been. In each case, I was grounded, but also had to admit I had lied and then tell the truth to the person I had deceived, which was even more painful than being grounded.
Those are the two lies I remember. I’m sure there have been other white lies or lies of omission since then, but I feel confident from about age 10 forward I turned off the “it’s ok to lie” switch in my brain. It’s part of my approach to life – I am honest and direct, even if the information is painful to hear or to say. I try to say it in a soft way when it is painful, but I don’t dodge it.
If I make a mistake, which I do often, I own it and correct it. I view making a mistake as very different than lying. I used to exaggerate more and my first business partner Dave Jilk would often call me on exaggerating and we’d have long conversations about the difference between exaggerating and lying. I ultimately agreed with Dave and now I try not to exaggerate – I’ll be optimistic in the face of an uncertain outcome, but I try never to exaggerate about historical or factual data, and when I do I correct myself publicly.
I hate lying. It’s a non-starter for me. I have passed on investing in companies that I wanted to invest in because I thought the entrepreneurs had lied to me about something in the deal process. I’ve disengaged from companies I’ve been involved in because I’ve been lied to, even ones that were doing well. I’ve stopped interacting with people who I had developed a relationship with because they lied to me. I’ve ended friendships, including long ones, over deceit. The stimulus for my first divorce was a lie from my ex-wife (an affair that she had.) And I simply have no time to develop a relationship with someone who I think lies.
Marathon running is the ultimate example of this. You can’t lie about running a marathon; you will eventually get caught if you do. Every marathon I’ve been involved in (now 22 of them), including several with under 250 people in them, has a tight set of rules around finishing that are easy to understand and are recorded diligently. I think I can, without looking, tell you the time of all 22 marathons I’ve run. I can’t get it to the second, but I learned after my first marathon when I was a teenager that you get to drop the seconds – a 5:07:40 marathon (my Boston time) is 5:07; a 4:05:27 (my Chicago time) is a 4:05. But there is no such thing as a 2-hour-and-50-something marathon (which turned out to be a 4:01, which is still super impressive in my book.)
Just finishing a marathon is a huge achievement in itself. Paul Ryan’s 4:01 is faster than my PR over 22 marathons (4:05) – it’s beyond me why he would feel compelled to lie about this. He should be proud of his 4:01!
Don’t lie. It’s simply not worth it. And if you are going to lie, don’t bother wasting your time with me.
Let’s end Friday on a high note. The recipient of our first Random Act of Kindness in support of my marathons is now cancer free! If you go out this weekend, do a random act of kindness. Buy the meal for a young couple in the same restaurant you are in. Tip 50% instead of whatever you normally tip. Do something unexpected for someone you don’t know.
Marathon #22 is in the books. I ran the Missoula Marathon today in 4:48:00. It’s my first marathon since the American River 50 Mile Race and it put the demons from the 50 miler firmly in my rear view mirror.
I was a little nervous going into this one as my longest run since the 50 miler was only 12 miles (last weekend). I’ve been running consistently up in Keystone the last month, but shorter distances because of the altitude (9000 feet), the hills (lots of them), and the trails (most of my runs). Last week was my first week over six hours of running and I got to around 32 miles, but I felt very light on the distance going into this marathon.
I knew I had a huge base from my training for the 50 miler but I hadn’t really started enjoying running again until the beginning of June. So I started off slow using an 8:2 pattern (8 minutes running, 2 minutes walking). It took a few miles for me to settle down but my goal was to do the first half in 2:30 and then see what I had in me.
I went through the first half in 2:31:38 right on target. I felt really strong and decided to just keep cruising to mile 18 and then open it up and see what I had left. Mile 17 was 11:34 and then the following miles were 10:19, 10:06, 9:57, 9:58, 10:11, 10:21, 10:02, 10:08, 9:14 with a 7:54 for the last 0.2. Eight of the last nine miles used an 8:2 pattern (I ran the last 1.2 without a walk break) so the times are even more powerful since my running pace during these segments was often sub 9 minute miles, which is very fast for me.
Basically, I scorched the second half. 2:16:22. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a big negative split (2:31, 2:16). While I was glad to be done, I had plenty in the tank when I crossed the finish and could have easily kept going for a while.
Missoula has been really fun. I can’t remember if I’ve been here before (I’ve been to Bozeman plenty) but it’s a neat town, the people are super friendly and smart, and there’s a budding startup community which I’m going to blog about tomorrow.
For everyone who has welcomed me here the past few days, thank you! For those of you who supported my random act of kindness for Justin Salcedo, we ended up raising $11,487 for him. Wow. Huge thanks and hugs to everyone.
And Amy, once again, you are an amazing sherpa. I couldn’t do this without you.
Yesterday at 4:57pm I hit send in Gmail and submitted the final draft of my newest book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneur Ecosystem In Your City to my publisher (Wiley). I’ve still got two more revision cycles – one in a few weeks when I get the final copyedited version and then one last review of the page proofs but the book is done. The publication date is early October but if history is a guide it should be out by mid-September.
Startup Communities is the first book in a four book series I’m doing called Startup Revolution. I’m spending most of this summer in maker mode at my house in Keystone and doing all my normal work, but I’m not travelling at all and trying to spend as little time as possible doing random stuff. June was just awesome – I feel rested, happier, and more productive than I’ve felt in a very long time.
My deadline was the end of day on July 5th. Specifically 11:59pm on July 5th. It felt phenomenal to get done a day early. I went for a short bike ride (I have a marathon this weekend in Montana so I’m tapering), had some dinner, grabbed some ice cream and popcorn, and watched the first six episodes of Damages with Amy. Four hours later my brain was calmed down from a 40+ hour focused push to get the book out.
Today feels like a total bonus day. I’m heading out for lunch with Amy, grabbing some salt tablets for my marathon, working on random stuff this afternoon, running an hour to dinner and then eating with two good friends (and Amy). We get up early tomorrow and head to Montana.
Life is good.
When you support a family member in need, you’re doing the right thing. The community you are part of is counting on you, and fulfilling your obligation to them is part of being a member of that community.
What happens, though, when you help someone you don’t know? What happens when one community deliberately seeks out someone who needs a leg up and attention and support and reaches out – with no possibility of reciprocity? That feeling is extraordinary, and as I run the 29 marathons I’ve got left to go to make my 50 marathons by age 50 goal, I have been thinking harder about fundraising as part of this experience.
After my close friend Andy Sack was diagnosed with testicular cancer, the impact of a medical emergency really hit home for me. Andy’s fully recovered after surgery and a 62 day chemo regimen – the experience caused me to think a lot about what families go through when a loved one is ill.
During this time, I met Ethan Austin, the co-founder of GiveForward at Lindzonpalooza. I was blown away by what they are doing and decided to team up with them to do 29 random acts of kindness over the next few years.
For each of my upcoming marathons, I’m going to run in support of one of the GiveForward campaigns. Amy and I will kick off the fundraising with a commitment of at least $145,000 ($5,000 per marathon) and encourage our extended community to contribute whatever they can. We may increase this amount in the future ($5,000 will always be our minimum) depending on the total level of contribution (more contributors = bigger contribution from us.) I’m also going to do some random things for the people who contribute on a marathon by marathon basis – look for me to have some fun with this rewarding my community for helping with a random act of kindness.
The people we will support will not be people we know. Rather, they will be people who inspire us and who we want to shine a random act of kindness on. Our fundraising efforts will be a complete surprise to these families, and our hope is that we can create a little unexpected joy for the people we support.
The first random act of kindness is Justin Salcedo from Devine, TX who has testicular cancer. I’ll be running the Missoula Marathon on July 8, 2012 in Missoula, Montana for him. His family friend set up a GiveForward page for him and wrote the following description:
Justin Salcedo is from a small town south of San Antonio, TX. We live in Devine, TX. He is a good athlete, a good son, and a good friend to everyone. Always has a smile on his face. He just recently found out he had testicular cancer. His mother is the one who told me the story of how he found out about his cancer. I have known him for about 17 years. My sister-in-law baby sat him when he was little. My son and Justin were in pre-K together, they were in little league baseball, our local youth basketball league, Middle school athletics and 2 years highschool athletics. So for this news it was a shock to me and I am not his immediate family. It feels like dream…..
The GiveForward campaign is called Kicking Cancer. Our goal is to raise at least $10,000 by May 31st to help out Justin and his family. Let’s do this for Justin and show the world how the power of a community can deliver random acts of kindness.
PS – if you can’t afford to donate, I urge you to share Justin’s GiveForward page on your Facebook wall or give Justin a “virtual hug” by leaving words of encouragement on his page. Neither of these things will cost you a dime but they might mean the world to Justin.
I get to work with a lot of great CEOs. When I reflect on what makes them great, one thing sticks out – they are always building their muscles. All of them.
As a marathon runner, I’ve got massive legs. Marathoner legs. They’ll look familiar to anyone who runs a lot. In contrast, I have a wimpy upper body. I’ve never enjoyed lifting weights. So I don’t spend any time on it.
I’d be a much better marathon runner if I worked on a bunch of other muscles as well. I’m starting to get into a swimming regimen, I’m riding my new bike around town and this summer I’ve got pilates three days a week as a goal of making it a habit. By the end of summer I hope to have a bunch of other muscles developing and a set of habits that enables me to finally maintain them.
The key phrase above is “I’ve never enjoyed lifting weights.” When asked, I say I’m bad at it. Or that I simply don’t like it. Or, when I’m feeling punchy, that jews don’t lift weights.
Of course, these are just excuses for not working on another set of muscles. If I don’t like lifting weights, surely there are things I like doing instead. I’ve always been a good swimmer – why don’t I have the discipline to go to the pool three days a week and swim? Most hotels I stay in have a swimming pool or have a health club nearby. Swimming is as easy as running – you just get in the pool and go.
“I’m bad at it and I don’t like it.” That’s what runs through my head when I lift weights. For a while, I used this narrative with swimming. But when I really think about swimming, the narrative should be “I’m ok at it and I like it.”
So why don’t I do it? I don’t really know, but I think it’s because the particular muscles I use when I swim are intellectually linked to the weight lifting muscles, which gets me into a loop of “I’m bad at it and I don’t like it.” So rather than break the cycle, I let my muscles atrophy.
Yoga is the same way. I struggle with Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. It’s too fast for me, I struggle to remember the poses, and my glasses constantly fall off, and I can’t follow what’s going on. So I say “I’m bad at it and I don’t like it” and then don’t do it. But I do like Bikram Yoga. It’s slower, there are the same 26 poses, and I like the heat. So why don’t I do it? Once again, the narrative gets confused in my mind and it turns into “I don’t like yoga.”
All of this is incredibly self-limiting. Rather than fight with “I’m bad at it and I don’t like it” how about changing it to “I’m not good at it but I’m going to try new approaches and find something I like.” There are many different approaches to building a particular muscle so rather than use a one-size fits all approach (e.g. I must go lift weights, which I hate), search for a different approach that you like.
If you want to be a great CEO, you need to be constantly building all of your muscles. There are going to be a lot of areas you think you aren’t good at. Rather than avoid them, or decide you don’t like them, figure out another way to work on these muscles. You’ll be a better, and much more effective CEO as a result.