Brad Feld

Tag: Marathons

Marathon #21 is done. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 4:28:46 yesterday. Of the 21 marathons I’ve run, it was my third fastest (I did the Dallas Marathon in 4:28:00 when I was 17 and the Chicago Marathon in 4:05:27 in 2003.) And yes – I was surprised, as this was my fourth marathon in the past eight weeks.

When I got to Philadelphia on Friday I was tired and mopey, as evidenced by the post I wrote on Saturday titled The Last Marathon of the Year. When I talked to Amy she gave me some encouragement and told me that I’d get it done no matter what. Nonetheless I just felt flat and listless. My partner Ryan and his wife Katherine joined me for dinner Saturday night (Katherine ran the marathon also) and we had a nice Italian dinner at a local place called Giorgio on Pine. The food was tasty but the vibe was off and the service was slow so we sat around and worried about the race.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling good. The hotel (I stayed at the Four Seasons near the start) did an awesome thing I’d never seen before – they had a special breakfast for marathoners consisting of oatmeal, toast, a banana, a bagel with cream cheese, coffee, and a gatorade. I gobbled everything down but the cream cheese, met Katherine in the lobby 30 minutes before the start, and walked to the starting line.

The marathon and the half marathon had 27,000 runners, which is a ton of people. I made my way back to the second to last corral (where the 5 hour runners hang out) and settled in to wait for the start. They did wave starts so I didn’t cross the start line until about 7:25 (the marathon started at 7:00).

The weather was perfect. Cool but not cold, almost no wind, and a light cloud cover so it was light but not sunny. I had decided to run without any time queues so while I had RunKeeper broadcasting my race live, I had turned off all the audio notifications. This was the first time that I’ve run a marathon without knowing my pace at every mile split. So – I just ran.

As with all marathons, the first three miles were uncomfortable as I settled into a rhythm. We were pretty clogged up so there was a lot of dodging people, but things eventually settled down. I missed a mile marker somewhere and was at mile six before I realized it. I felt great so decided to run a little harder from mile six to the half marathon point. I didn’t overdo it, but kept a solid pace. I passed a surprising number of people (remember – I started in the back at a 5 hour pace) so I knew I was solidly ahead of a 5 hour marathon.

I went through the half way point feeling great. As I turned a corner, I saw finishers coming my direction. This turned out to be inspiring – from mile 14 to mile 16 I ran opposite the faster runners. I just zoned out, watched them, and picked up my pace. At mile 16 I was still feeling good and passing people so I kept cruising. I had no idea what my actual pace was, but I knew I was doing 10 minute miles since they had clocks at each mile and each time I passed one the minute ended in a six (e.g. 3:16:21).

I finally hit the wall at mile 21. I knew it would eventually happen – I literally felt my legs downshift. I went through that mile at about 11:30 and decided I’d just cruise at this pace until the end. But at mile 23 I got a second wind, could smell the finish line, and picked it up again. By mile 25 I was running as hard as I could – I’m sure my form was hilarious, but I continued to pass people as I headed for the finish.

When I crossed the finish line I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and ended the run. I saw 4:29:02 on my phone and was completely surprised – I had no idea I was under 4:30:00.

Philly – I’ll remember you fondly.

Tomorrow I’m running the Philadelphia Marathon, which will be the sixth marathon I’ll do this year and the last one for 2011. This year I’ve done marathons in Cincinnati, Madison WI, Bismarck ND, Newport RI, and St. Louis. My times have ranged from 4:47:27 to 5:24:45. Overall I’m pleased with what I’ve done, especially since I didn’t chance my normal life tempo for them.

As I sit alone in my hotel room the day before the marathon, I feel really flat and tired. I know at my core that it’s been an incredibly intense year for me and while I had an amazing summer, the last three months have been as busy, frenetic, and full of travel as any other time I can remember. I’ve run three marathons since labor day so I know that is adding to the fatigue, but I also know that my long runs have given me lots of Planet Brad time as I wrote yesterday as part of the RunKeeper Fitness Freak blog series.

This is the first marathon that Amy hasn’t joined me for. She’s in Tucson (where I’m heading after this) and even though we both talked about her coming to join me, I encouraged her not to this time since it was a lot of travel in the middle of a trip for her. My partner Ryan and his wife Katherine are showing up later today (Katherine is running the marathon also) so I’ll have some friends around, but I’m suddenly regretting not having her here.

When I reflect on my week, I was extremely happy. A bunch of good things happened, I had a few awesome board meetings, some of the companies I’m involved in released / announced neat new stuff, and I got to spend a ton of time with students at CU Boulder (Monday), University of Michigan (Thursday), and MIT (Friday). So the only thing I can pin my flatness on is fatigue.

Having run 20 marathons, I’m not concerned about finishing the one tomorrow. I don’t really care about my time – I’d be happy with sub 5 hours, but it’ll be whatever it’s going to be. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day, the course looks interesting, and there are apparently over 30,000 people running the full and the half, so I’m just going to go with it.

Over the last few weeks, many people have asked me and encouraged me about my marathon running. While I describe myself as strongly intrinsically motivated, as I sit here I realize that the encouragement is helpful. So – to anyone who has been supportive, thank you! And, if you want to track me tomorrow, it starts at 7am EST (although I probably won’t cross the start line until at least 7:15am) and I’ll be broadcasting my progress on my RunKeeper account.

Marathon #19 in the “run a marathon in each of the 50 states” is done. I completed #19 in Newport, Rhode Island yesterday. The course was beautiful, the day was perfect, the volunteers were great, and my performance sucked. I finished in 5:13:36 – not my worst marathon, but no where near the 4:45:00 I was hoping for.

While my running base is great, I made three mistakes. I flew across the country from San Francisco to Boston on Thursday and sat hunched over my computer the entire flight. When I woke up Friday morning my upper back and neck were killing me. They settled down by Sunday morning when I woke up, but I was physically tense. Next, while I ate right on Friday and Saturday, I don’t think I ate enough. When I woke up Sunday morning I was hungry – never a great sign before a marathon. I had a normal breakfast (about 500 calories), but I only ate about an hour before the run so I don’t feel like it got stored up properly. Finally, the course only had water the first eight miles and then only every other mile – gatorade didn’t appear until mile 8. I ended up dehydrated and underfueled.

The race looped back to the starting line for the finish of the half marathon. I saw Amy at 13.1 miles and she jogged with me a little. Even though I went through the half at 2:24, I knew I was in trouble. When Amy asked how I was doing, I said something like “I’ve got nothing in my legs – it’s going to be a long 13 miles.” Fortunately, I’ve been there before and know that I can run 13 miles when I’ve got nothing in the tank, so I just soldiered on.

If you look at my mile splits on RunKeeper, you can see the great fade begin around mile 16.  I was between 10:30 and 11:30 until mile 16 at which point my pace shifted to around 13:00 per mile. I was able to hold that pace, with a 12:00, a 12:22, and an 11:28 at the end, but that’s because I was working hard with my new friend Puck who paced me in (or I paced him – I don’t remember) for the last few miles.

My friend Warren Katz finished his first marathon (at age 47) and his wife Ilana cranked out a PR for a half in 2:00. It was a huge marathon weekend – my partner Ryan McIntyre ran Amsterdam with Lindel Eakman (one of our investors – his first marathon) and my partner Jason Mendelson did the Amsterdam half marathon (his first, after having major hip surgery a year and a half ago). As a bonus, Ryan’s wife Katherine ran the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon. Way to go gang!

On Sunday I’m going to run the St. Louis Rock and Roll Marathon with my friend Matt Shobe (now at BigDoor; was one of the co-founders of FeedBurner). Matt paced me through the Huntsville, AL several years ago and is a great marathon partner. This is the first time I’m doing a marathon on back to back weekends. While I’m crisscrossing the country again this week (New York today and tomorrow, then San Francisco Wednesday through Friday before heading to St. Louis), I feel pretty good “the day after.” I’m in a mild state of disbelief that I’m going to do this again in six days, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels.

Once again my sherpa Amy was amazing. She’s got an awesome blog post up with some beautiful pictures of Newport and the marathon.

A few years ago my running coach – Gary Ditsch of Endurance Base Camp – introduced me to the idea of a “double long run.” In this I do the typical weekend long run on a Saturday and then repeat it on Sunday. At first, I hated these, but they’ve grown on me and are now my favorite run.

Today I did a 16 mile run in San Francisco that followed a 14 mile run on Saturday. I did the same run (Market to Embarcadero to the Golden Gate bridge, over, and then back) but added on an extra mile on the bridge today just because I felt like it. I think this is the furthest double long I’ve done (30 miles) – I know I’ve done some in the low to mid 20’s, but I felt like I broke through to a new level today.

I also covered 45 miles this week. This is the first week I’ve done 45 miles in a decade and remarkably it was only on four days of running (I usually run five days a week, sometimes six). I had two early morning flights (to Kansas City on Tuesday, back home on Wednesday) and didn’t run either day. I also had a rest day on Friday. So, I’m closing in on 50 miles a week, which feels great.

I’m gearing up for back to back weekend marathons in October – Newport, Rhode Island on 10/16 and then St. Louis on 10/23. I was a little nervous about my ability to get these done, but my rapid recovery from the Bismarck marathon two weeks ago and the monster week I just did has me feeling good.

For all of you out there supporting my running, especially Amy, thank you!

Marathon #18 – the Kroll’s Diner Bismarck Marathon – has been conquered. My goal was to do it under 5 hours – I finished in 4:54:48. It was a small marathon – I finished #100 (out of 124) marathons, #1 (out of 1) for 45 year olds, but #10 (out of 10) for the 45-49 age group. So I got both first and last place on age, depending how you slice it (kind of like how investment bankers do their league tables.) RunKeeper Live worked remarkably well – Amy, my coach Gary, and whomever wanted to track my progress could in real time – and my iPhone still had 60% of its battery left when I finished.

This was my third marathon this year – the other two were Cincinnati (5:24:45) at the beginning of May and Madison (4:47:27) at the end of May. I had two great months of running over the summer in Europe, with my best month in a decade in Italy. I weighed in a little heavy (213) for this marathon – I’ll blame it on two months of amazing French and Italian food – but felt totally comfortable with the race. If I stay on track for the year, I’ll knock off six marathons, and my upcoming goals are 4:45 for Providence, finish St. Louis (the following week – no time goal), and 4:30 for Philadelphia a month later.

I’ve been to North Dakota once that I can remember – a trip out to Fargo to visit Great Plains Software (before Microsoft bought them). It was in December and brutally cold. Bismarck in September was better (50’s), but it rained all day Friday and during the race on Saturday. We stayed in a very simple hotel that was recommended by the marathon. It was fine, but only one wifi device could be connected at a time (and we had five, so there was plenty of AT&T traffic from our room). The restaurant scene was shopping malls and chains – we ended up having profoundly mediocre meals driven by ordering off of plastic menus.

The flooding resulted in a change to a new course. This course was two loops – starting in a nice little park, looping at St. Mary’s University, with most of the course back and forth on a boring highway with a one mile hill (200 ft.) tossed in the middle. Overall it was a really dull marathon, although the people on the course were incredibly nice and helpful. All the water stops were staffed and they occurred about every mile. There was no food, but one person was handing out Jolly Ranchers so I managed to pick up four of them (ahem – two loops on the same road). The combination of the steady rain and lack of scenery made me very happy I had my iPhone with me. I was powered by Girl Talk, Mumford & Sons, the Decemberists, and Lady Gaga.

My sherpa (Amy) was once again awesome, including taking some great photos which are up on her blog. I love doing marathon trips with her – it’s always such a relief to have her waiting at the finish line for me. We were going to stick around and see Bismarck on Sunday, but after realizing we’d already seen it on Friday and Saturday after the marathon, we decided to head home a day early. Sushi on Pearl Street tonight – and no plastic menus.

Over the weekend I read Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America written by Marshall Ulrich. Ulrich is one of the most amazing ultra-distance runners in the history of man and turns out to be a great story teller as well. I founding his book to be riveting and subsequently downloaded the movie about the run across America that he did called Running America 08.

The movie was dynamite. The run across America took place between September 2008 and finished (coincidentally) on November 4th, 2008. There were three stories woven together in the movie: (1) Marshall’s success effort to run across America, (2) Charlie Engle’s unsuccessful effort, and (3) a backdrop of interviews with American’s all across the country during the time of the run.

In Marshall’s book, there was plenty of discussion about the original partnership between Marshall and Charlie which led to the join effort to run across America in world record time. However, Charlie stopped a third of the way through due to injuries and some drama ensued, which wasn’t covered in the movie but was reasonably well explained in the book. All of this just added to the remarkable feat of accomplishment by Marshall Ulrich.

I’ve been running a lot in Europe this summer and am starting to feel another level of base building. My friend, and CEO of SendGrid Jim Franklin did the Leadville 100 this weekend and another friend just asked if I want to do a 50 miler with her in the spring of 2012. I’m also thinking about spending a month running the Colorado Trail next summer. First up however are four marathons in September and October.

I love running and reading about amazing running accomplishments. It’s even more inspiring to realize that I’m not washed up at 45 as many of the great ultra-runners are cranking well into their 50’s and 60’s.

It wasn’t pretty, but I got it done. Marathon #16 was the Cincinnati Flying Pig and was the first marathon I’ve done in over a year. My march toward a marathon in every state continues. I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing in the photo below, but the medal proves I finished the marathon.

Flying Pig Marathon

I’ve had a good month of training and expected I’d break five hours. My goal was to do 11:30’s for the first half and then pick it up for the second half and come in between 4:50 and 5:00.

Things started off pretty crummy. There was a light rain and I had trouble getting warmed up during the first few miles. I had a fierce headache and seriously considered dropping out around mile 5. I took my hat off to wipe my hair back and my headache miraculously disappeared. I looked inside the hat and realized the fabric had bunched up from the rain (it was a new baseball cap) and was pressing on my right temple. I ditched the hat and immediately felt better.

Miles 6 to 9 were a solid uphill climb. I like hills so it didn’t bother me much but at some point I felt like I was in an Escher print. I sped up a little in mile 10 but forced myself to slow down to stay on plan.

My plan worked fine for the first 13 miles and I went through the half way point at 2:33. I tried to pick it up a gear but had nothing in my legs. Aerobically I was fine – my heart rate never got above 160 – but my legs were just dead. Miles 14 to 20 basically sucked. I just slogged through them at a 12 to 13:30 pace. I had input / output problems by this point – I ended up with seven pee breaks along the course. I don’t really remember much of the last six miles, although by 24 I knew I had it in the bag and somehow managed to speed up a little.

I finished in 5:24:45 – a very slow marathon for me. But I crossed the finish line which is all I was really focused on.

Amy and I had a fun weekend in Cincinnati. The Flying Pig is a big festival so there was plenty of great marathon energy around town. My coach Gary Ditsch came up to see me run and we had dinner the night before with him and his wife Nikki. I had ice cream at Graeter’s every night, stayed in the classic Hilton Netherland, had Skyline Chili, and watched Atlas Shrugged in the old style Empire Theater. While the marathon was a struggle and I eventually got tired of the pig puns, our adventure across America continued with a satisfying and successful weekend in Cincinnati.

If you are a fan of Californication, you’ll recognize my homage to Hank Moody. As a marathon runner, I regularly encounter one of the mildly unpleasant aspects of long distance running. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. And it’s not always straightforward.

This morning I had a great 80 minute run in Boulder starting on the Boulder Creek Path downtown. Wednesday night I had a sushi orgy with Dave Jilk, CEO of Standing Cloud. We’ve been overeating sushi for 27 years together going back to when we were in school in Boston when sushi was referred to as “Japanese food.” We spent a couple of hours together talking about Standing Cloud while consuming a lot of sushi and saki. Yum.

This morning I got up at 4:45 hoping that after a couple of cups of coffee I’d be moved to do something useful in addition to responding to all of my email. At 6:30 I’d waited as long as I could (I had an 8:30 phone call and a board meeting starting at 9) so I hit the road.

At around 29 minutes into the run, the deeply uncomfortable feeling that every runner knows of “I have to go – and right now” predictably came over me. I had just crossed under the bridge at Foothills and had turned left. I spotted the CU Foundation building and figured it would be open at 7 and anyone inside would be friendly. As I approached the entrance, a person was going inside so I grabbed the door after them, went in, and starting hunting for a bathroom. As any runner knows, once you shift from running in the cold to walking in a warm building, the time you have to find the bathroom decreases even further.

I couldn’t find the fucking bathroom. I wandered around on the first floor, found the weight room, found some showers, found the cafeteria, found some locked doors, but couldn’t find the bathroom. In a mild state of panic, I found a person sitting at a desk and meekly asked “can you point me at a bathroom.” She looked at me like I was a terrorist – granted, I was in running clothes and a blue knit hat – but I can’t imagine I looked like anything other than a runner who desperately needed to take a dump.

Her: “Do you work here?”
Me: “No – I’m just on a run and I need to use the bathroom”
Her: “That’s not allowed here”
Me: “C’mon, your not serious, pretty please?” (followed by my best hurt puppy dog look)
(Silence for about five seconds as we stare at each other and I hop from foot to foot)
Her: “Ok, but if we let anyone use the bathroom here, hundreds of people would come and trash our bathrooms”
Me: “Thanks so much – I really appreciate it”

Of course, the bathroom was 10 feet from the front door – I had walked right past it in my desperation. I did my thing and felt 1,427,523x better. As I exited the bathroom, I saw my new friend standing by the front door with another person.

Me: “Thanks – I really appreciate you letting me use the bathroom”
Her: “How did you get into the building”
Me: “The front door was open – I just followed someone in”
(She fiddled with the door and looked perplexed)
Me: “By the way, I’m a donor to the CU Foundation and have a bathroom named after me in the ATLAS Building
Her: “Well thank you!” (I could swear I saw her roll her eyes)

The rest of the run was uneventful. Fun, but uneventful.

I have a simple request for all humans out there. If a runner asks to use your bathroom, let him (or her). If I’m on a trail run in the middle of nowhere, I reluctantly have an effective “shit in the woods” method. But if I’m in a city, while I can pee in 30 seconds anywhere by just pretending I’m a dog, it’s not so easy to jettison the alien in the middle of the street.

I had a new experience today.  At 7am I had my first MRI at the Boulder Community Hospital.  I was a little nervous, although I’m not entirely sure why.  I was in and out in 45 minutes – it was fascinating.

I hurt my lower back about five months ago (actually, exactly on March 13th at about 1pm at my parents house in Dallas).  I went for a two hour run and then took my dad to Fry’s for his birthday to buy him a new color printer.  As I unloaded the printer from the car, I lifted correctly, but then twisted left and immediately knew I’d screwed myself.  I rested a week and started running again in advance of a marathon in mid-April in St. Louis.  I had a great three hour run in Charlotte the first week of April and thought I was ready to roll.  Amy and I drove to Santa Fe the following weekend; when I got out of the car when we got back to Boulder I had enormous lower back pain.  I got a massage the next day (big mistake) and when I woke up Tuesday morning in a hotel room in Seattle I couldn’t get up off the toilet, nor could I completely straighten up.  Four weeks of rest and three months of intermittent running with regular recurrence of back pain in the same spot after a few days caused me to finally decide that I’m hurt and need to figure out what’s going on.

Boulder is fortunate that it has a great community hospital system.  There are plenty of new facilities and the people are very nice.  I checked in and got my paperwork.  It was already completed via my doctor’s referral.  The charge for the MRI was $3,696, my insurance plan allowed $1,078, and there was $0 co-pay or money owed by me.  I was completely stunned by this – I expected to at least have to pay a $20 co-pay.  The entire billing / checkin thing took about as long as it takes to checkin on FourSquare.  I pondered where the difference between the $3,696 and the $1,078 was coming from, or whether it simply vanished into the ether.

I went to the Imaging Center with my Dark Side of the Moon CD, ready to chill out in a tube.  I changed into hospital scrubs and was escorted to the MRI machine by a lovely nurse who talked me through everything.  The machine I was in didn’t have a CD (it had an MP3 player) but my head was in a cradle that wouldn’t fit the earphones so I punted on the music.  I got a little “panic thing” to squeeze if I freaked out and then went into the tube.

I basically had a noisy 20 minute shivasana.  They did six scans, most between three and five minutes.  The noise was loud, but rhythmic.  I had earplugs so it was more like a weird electronica thing.  I did my share of isolation tanks in college (I went through an isolation tank phase) – this was much shorter, much more comfortable, but much noisier.  As is my practice with shivasana, I dozed off near the end.

They pulled me out, I walked down the hall, and picked up a CD with my scan on it.  The software is pretty ancient, doesn’t run on my Mac, but worked fine on a PC.  I have no idea what I’m looking at – well – other than my lower back and pelvis region with all the ensuing pieces – but it’s pretty amazing to look at and ponder.

It’s fun to be a human, even when you are hurt.