I took Saturday off, slept a lot, and read What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen.
Kate Fagan has written a must-read book for every parent of a high school or college athlete.
The story of Madison Holleran is a heartbreaking one. Maddy was a star athlete in high school, in a big (five kids) happy family with two engaged parents. She played soccer and track and, after almost going to Lehigh for soccer, ended up going to Penn for track.
And, that’s when everything started to go wrong.
Maddy committed suicide a few days after returning for the second semester of her freshman year after trying, unsuccessfully, to quit the track team.
Maddy’s family gave the author, Kate Fagan, incredible access, which allowed Fagan to write a powerful book. Many different themes are explored, against the backdrop of Maddy’s development as a teenage athlete, the internal pressures of today’s teen, the struggle of entry into college and separation from home, and how depression can take hold of someone. While Maddy’s story is central to all of this, Fagan includes her own experience as a college athlete in areas, that make the writing incredibly relatable.
It’s not an easy book since you know the ending when you start it. It’s simple to fall in love with Maddy – she’s a delightful American kid. The joy in her friendships and experiences start off rich and light. You see the turn into darkness happen slowly. And, because it unfolds against the backdrop of Fagan’s analysis and intellectual exploration, it makes it more accessible.
On Sunday, I came across a full-page ad in the NY Times with Michael Phelps talking about his own depression for a new product called TalkSpace. I found a short video for it, which is below.
As a bonus, there’s a section in the book about Active Minds with some interviews with members. This is an organization for mental health in college students, which Amy and I support through our Anchor Point Foundation and that I wrote about in the post Mental Fitness, the NFL, Active Minds, and the Competitive Workplace.
If you are a parent of a teenage or college athlete, read this book. If you want to learn more about mental health and depression, read this book. And, if you want to get involved in organizations like Active Minds, just drop me an email.
Enjoy his narration of the video of him running the first sub-four-minute mile. It’s delightful.
I love his number (41) – a prime, and somehow signaling something about the first sub-four-minute mile, along with Chataway’s 42 (the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.)
I’m going to run my next marathon in October. I haven’t chosen it yet, but I’m getting close to deciding which one I want to do. And – I’m looking for some help on my training.
Early this year, we invested in Dick Costolo’s new company, Chorus. Some of you know Dick from Twitter, where he was CEO for four years. But you may not remember that before he was at Twitter, he was at Google, and before that, he was the CEO / co-founder of Feedburner, where we were one of the investors and I was on the board.
I loved working with Dick at Feedburner. When he joined Twitter as COO (and then CEO), I was happy for Twitter but sad that I didn’t get to work with him on a regular basis. If you are connecting the dots, you’ll remember that Twitter bought Gnip, where Chris Moody was CEO. Moody worked for Dick for a year before Dick left Twitter and now Moody and Dick get to work again since Moody has joined Foundry Group.
It’s a delightfully small world.
But – back to the help I’m looking for. I’m interested in having up to 24 people join my marathon team on Chorus. If you are a regular runner who is game to get on a training plan with a goal of running a marathon in October, you qualify. You’ll get to be an early pre-beta Chorus user (it’s somewhere between alpha and beta right now), give feedback on it, and be part of my next marathon gang. Oh, and you need to have an iPhone, as it’s iOS only for now.
If you are interested in being part of my Chorus Marathon Team, email me.
It’s summertime and Snoopy is happy.
I’m happy also. Summer is my favorite season. I’ve always been at my most creative in the summer and some of the profound life experiences that influenced me happened during the summer.
When I was a pre-teen, summer meant tennis. Endless tennis. Eight+ hours a day in the Texas heat except for the three weeks I went to Camp Champions. It was awesome. I remember one summer with over 30 days of temperatures over 100 degrees. A break for lunch inside at the North Dallas Racquet Club felt really decadent. It was always a challenge to get back outside at 1pm, but we did it. And kept playing tennis.
I spent the summer between 11th grade and 12th grade living in Knightsbridge, just outside of London, and working for Centronics at their office in South Kensington. I wrote software on an Apple ][ to design the character sets for Centronics printers, ran a lot, learned how to drink beer, got into the drama of the Falklands War, and endured a Tube strike.
In college, summer meant going back home to Dallas. I worked for PetCom for several summers, putting in 80 – 100 hours per week writing software. Then one summer I rented a house at 2430 Denmark in Garland, Texas from my mom where Feld Technologies really got its start. I drove my mom’s Mercedes 240D around that summer – it went from 0 to 60 in about two minutes.
You get the idea. Every summer is a different adventure for me. Several years ago I wrote Startup Communities and Startup Life over the summer. This summer I’m finishing up the 3rd Edition of Venture Deals and writing the first draft of my newest book #GiveFirst. I’m gearing up to be in marathon shape with the goal of running the Portland Marathon in October. And I plan to make a healthy dent in my infinite pile of books.
This summer is going to be about writing, running, and reading. While the rest of the US is playing politics, I’m going to side step that since I expect the amount of negative energy around it will be legendary this cycle. I’m in a great rhythm around our portfolio and investing so I know what that tempo will be like. And, while I’ll travel a little, Amy and I planning on spending the summer in Boulder.
I’ll see you around town, if you are here. And now, I’m off for a two hour run.
I had my first good run in over two months. It was only 3.2 miles, but the weather was perfect and I felt great.
On March 30th, I ran 12.2 miles. It was a horrible run – I couldn’t breathe well from the beginning of the run. We’d just gotten back from a week of vacation in Mexico and I’d done 27 miles in the past five days. It was my third to last week of training before the Boston Marathon and I was planning on capping off a heavy week with a 15+ miles. After 12.2 miles, covered in a snail like pace of over 2:42:00, I called it quits. When I got home, I laid down on the ground to stretch and immediately couldn’t breathe. As in – not at all – zero oxygen getting in. After 15 seconds, I panicked and realized that if I didn’t figure out what was going on in the next 30 seconds I was going to be in serious trouble. I sat up and managed to choke down some air. After stabilizing, I told Amy what was going on. She tossed me in the car and drove me to urgent care, where I learned about bronco spasms and what a nebulizer was.
I took a week of antibiotics and tried again for a short run the following Saturday. I covered 3.2 miles (same as today) but couldn’t breath and my HR was at 170 within two miles. Crazy. I decided not to run the Boston Marathon (in two weeks) and began what turned into a bizarre and scary three weeks of investigation into all the things that could be wrong.
All the bad, scary tests came back negative. No cancer. No heart muscle damage. No pulmonary embolism. No lung impairment. After ten days on prednisone, I could breathe better but felt completely like shit. Every night I woke up after a few hours of sleep in a swimming pool of my own sweat. It got so bad that Amy put a garbage back under my sheet so I wouldn’t ruin the mattress.
I ran eight times in May – never more than 4 miles. Most of the runs were tentative – slow and careful. None felt normal. None were satisfying, except the four mile one in Tucson during our week off the grid. My weight went from 205 (before all of this) to 200 after the prednisone to 214 this morning. Clearly I was not finding any sort of physical equilibrium.
Today felt right. After two miles, it occurred to me that I wasn’t thinking about my breathing for the first time on a run since my shitty 12.2 mile run. I was just running, enjoying the morning, and smiling at the sunshine. I wasn’t scared of dying on my run anymore. I felt normal again. Well – as normal as I ever feel. Finally.
Yesterday’s post on Searching For A Collaborative Writing Tool elicited some great feedback and suggestions from y’all. It was super helpful and I’ve got a lot of things to try. For now, Amy and I are working in Google Docs (which was a suggestion from a few of you) but there are a couple of neat tools that I’ll definitely play around with.
Today I’m looking for the best online transcription service for when I’m NOT connected to a computer. In my fantasy world, I talk into my iPhone and magically get a transcribed text document back. It can’t be dependent on my being online as there are plenty of places where I’d be transcribing things where I wouldn’t have a cell signal.
Any thoughts / suggestions?
This morning I had a gritty, sweating, damp, dirty run down Bowery through Chinatown and back. It was a short run – only 30 minutes and my coach’s note for me was simple and clear: “One of those “throw away” runs that mean a lot to long term fitness improvement.” So I did it.
I’ve never run down Bowery. I’ve done the East River many times and ended up under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge, but I don’t recall ever seeing them from the top. The Manhattan Bridge totally surprised me – as I approached it I had a sudden flashback to running in Paris around the Arc de Triomphe.
As I was running, I realized that I’ve learned many cities by running them. I used to be terrified of Paris – now I love it – and I attribute that to running all over the city. Rome fascinates me and I can run through it forever, always discovering new things. I’ve figured out how Manhattan works through all of my runs over the years. San Francisco is less of a mystery to me now that I’ve run all around the city. And I’ll never get lost in Boston or Cambridge because I’ve ran the damn thing so many times.
After my run I had breakfast and then walked from the East Village to Times Square in the rain for a meeting. Muggy, damp, soggy, dirty, grimy, splashy, gritty New York. Lots of construction, lots of noise, lots of people. But something magical about it. The perspective on foot is always powerful, at least to me.
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.
Doing something for the first time is always fascinating for me. In an hour I’ll be starting the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run which will be the first ultramarathon I’ve ever run. Assuming that RunKeeper and my iPhone works (with it’s special magic Mophie juice pack), you can track me live on my RunKeeper account. I also imagine my wife Amy will be tweeting things out during the day.
While I’ve done 21 marathons, there’s a big difference between 26.2 miles and 50 miles. I’ve spent the last three months studying it, training for it, and thinking about it. Today I get to experience it. It started out with a simple question. My friend Katherine McIntyre (my partner Ryan’s wife) says it best in her post “Crazytown.”
So, at the end of August I sent a link to the American River 50 mile run to my marathon-running friend Brad, with the subject line “Crazytown?” and asked if he had any interest in doing that race. Within 48 hours he signed on to do it with me. Gulp. Ah, the danger of hanging out with people who have the same willingness to dive into an unknown and quite large challenge. So, I was committed.
I didn’t really start thinking about it until January, when I also went “gulp” and decided it was time to get serious about training. There’s no way I could have done it without the help of my coach Gary Ditsch and the support of Amy, who put up with about 50% more running than usual, including about six weekends that were basically all about running.
While we were in Hawaii, Amy and I decided that it’d be too much for her to come sherpa. She’s still struggling with a broken wrist and she didn’t want to add anything else to what I had to do or think about. It was a tough decision because I love it when she’s with me on these marathon (and now ultra marathon) weekends. But due to the magic of technology, she’s close by and I’m thinking of her a lot.
My amazing assistant Kelly Collins (who is also a runner) offered to run the last ten miles with me so she’s here with us. I know it’s going to be great to have a friend who knows me well help me through the last 20%. At dinner last night with Katherine, Ryan, and their son we all acknowledged how special an experience this is and how much we appreciate all being here together. And, as I sit here eating a bagel with peanut butter on it and hoping the coffee I’m drinking does it’s special magic trick in the next ten minutes, I’m deeply appreciative of all the help and support I’ve gotten from my partners, friends, and people I don’t know directly but have an online relationship with who have been helpful along the way.
Thanks to everyone who has provided any sort of support – especially emotional – during this journey. I’m looking forward to the experience of the next 12 hours. See you on the other side.
I’m heading out for my first run of 2012 and plan to do exactly the same run I’ve done the last two days. This is a training style my coach Gary calls a “double long weekend” where I do identical back to back runs with the goal of having the second one be stronger than the first. Today I’m doing my first “triple long weekend” ever where I do three in a row and depending on how I feel tomorrow I might do it again because I love this particular run.
Last night while the world was celebrating New Years Eve, Amy and I spent the evening doing one of our favorite things that we do together. I read a book and she knitted. Sometimes she reads, sometimes she knits, but we always play footsie while we just hang out quietly together, listen to some mellow music, pet our dogs, and relax together.
I read Robin Harvie’s The Lure of Long Distances: Why We Run. I think I have four copies of this – I bought it for myself on my Kindle, Amy gave me a copy for my birthday, and two other friends gave me copies of it. I started it in the bathtub yesterday just before dinner time (after my run) and finished it around 9pm mountain (so well before New Years Eve New York time).
If you are a runner of any distance, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s part biography (of Harvie’s running, including his effort to run what is known as the world’s hardest run – the Spartathlon), history of long distance running, storytelling about great runners, travelogue, and philosophical treatise. Some of the sections were dull – I just skimmed them – but everything about running, especially Harvie’s very personal introspection, was fascinating, inspiring, exciting, scary, and often easy to relate to.
As I begin 2012, I find my long distance running becoming an even more important part of my life than it has been. I love to run alone, with no music, and just experience the running. I much prefer trail running to street running but I do plenty of both. I still track my data and use it to guide my effort, but I find I care much less about my times and more about how I feel. I used to be satisfied with five hours a week of running – I’m now finding that I’m hungry for more like eight to ten and feel this amount increasing.
Combining my running with travel, work, writing, reading, being with Amy, and all the other things I do is hard. The travel has made it especially challenging and I’ve decided that I’m going to try some things differently this year, both around my travel and my running. One chronic mistake I make when travelling is breaking my routine and starting my “work day” too early. At home, I usually have from 5am to 9am to do my own thing, which includes a run. On the road, I’m often at a breakfast meeting by 7am. No more – I’m going to start my “on the road days” at 9am, no matter what’s going on. I’m also going to use the time to explore the cities I’m in – I love to run in cities as they are waking up, even in the dark.
It’s light outside and the trail beckons. I’m off to complete segment #3 of this weekend’s triple long. See ya.