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.
If you are a running enthusiast you’re going to love today’s Brad Feld’s Amazing Deal. Today’s deal takes the barefoot running phenomena to its logical conclusion. Invisible Shoes, created by two former lead designers from Nike and Reebok, are the closest you will ever get to feeling barefoot, even if you aren’t. They’re perfect for running or walking or yoga. Did I mention that you put them together yourself for the perfect fit? Awesomely loving the DIY world.
At $16 (normally up to $35) these are definitely worth a look.
I love America.
I ran the Zeitgeist half marathon yesterday in Boise, Idaho with my friends Pam Solon and Mark Solon (Pam kicked our asses). It was a cold and icy morning with a beautiful blue sky. The course is hilly – a long two mile hile at mile 2 and then a one mile hile at mile 8. But following each hill was a corresponding downhill so that evened things out.
The most awesome thing about a half marathon is at 13 miles you only have 0.1 mile left, not 13.2 miles. While I knew this, I didn’t really appreciate it until I hit the 13 mile marker and could see the finish line. Even though I finished in 2:21:03, I did the last three miles all sub 9:00 (8:44, 8:38, 8:56).
Boise was a blast. I’ve been here once before and stayed with the Solon’s that time as well. They’ve become great friends – I’ve done a few investments with Mark, but I just love hanging out with them. Their kids are turning into interesting little people, they are awesome hosts, and they are great people.
On Friday night I did a Beers with Brad event at The Watercooler. About 75 local entrepreneurs showed up and we spent two hours talking about entrepreneurship, Boise, and how to create long term, sustainable entrepreneurial communities. We also had pizza and beer, which was a good warmup for a great pre-run Italian meal at Asiago’s.
A good night sleep, followed by coffee, a quart of Mark’s amazing blueberry peanut butter smoothie, followed by a dump, or two, and then a half marathon. Note to self, don’t drink a quart of smoothie before a race unless you want to have to stop twice on the course to pee.
The race was beautiful. A half marathon is a long training run for me at this point, but there’s always a notch of additional energy around a race. I ran naked (no music) – just enjoyed Boise, the scenery, the people, and the funny conversions I heard at the back of the pack (e.g. “don’t tell Jim and Scott I’m also sleeping with Mike – he’s really good in bed, but I don’t want them to know.”)
We did the normal post race “eat a bunch of food” thing at Smokey Mountain Pizza. We eschewed naps and watched a Will Ferrell movie instead. Our goal was hilarity – we had a total fail as Mark picked Everything Must Go. Not bad, not good, but not funny.
A quick hangout followed at friends house and then dinner at Highlands Hollow Brewhouse. Yes – the fries were awesome and they even had a bunch of veggie things.
The line of the weekend was when Pam, who has just started using Twitter and Facebook again after a hiatus, said “I need more friends.” Feel free to help her out.
The only thing missing was Amy.
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.
I’m opposed to opening up Eldorado Canyon Trail to Mountain Bikes. However, when I read the article titled “Boulder open space official: Return to civility in West TSA mountain bike debate” I was infuriated by the tone of some of the people opposed to mountain bikes on these trails.
My partner Seth Levine is a huge mountain biker. He and I had a thoughtful exchange about the issue of MTBs on the Eldorado Canyon Trail. We disagree on this issue but it was a substantive exchange. As a long distance runner, I explained that while most MTBs were good actors, a small percentage weren’t. Even on reasonably well shared trails, I’ve been run off the road numerous times by MTBs careening around a blind corner on a downhill or when someone somewhat out of control flies by me. Single tracks are tough to share and I spent much of my time on them paying attention to traffic if I run mid-day, but I’ve had this problem on all shared trails. Worst of all, I’ve been hit several times by MTBs and I can only think of one case where the person stopped and checked to see if I was ok (I was, but pretty sore the next day.) Seth and I ended our discussion with agreement that we’d go hike Eldorado Canyon Trail together and discuss this further, which will be fun regardless of whether we end up agreeing on a position on the issue.
In general, I’m very comfortable with trails being shared. Over time, I’ve learned how to anticipate when to pay more attention to MTBs and often just run off trail when I can (on the side of the trail, which of course is not what the Open Space people want but it’s safer for everyone.) But I still really struggle on single tracks, or tight trails, especially when one side is mountain and the other side is a steep drop. Having run Eldorado Canyon Trail about a hundred times, it’d be a really rough trail if it became mixed use, and I’m pretty sure I’d stop running it. That’s part of why I’m opposed to MTBs on the trail – I just don’t think it’ll work.
However, when I read the article in the Daily Camera today, the folks arguing against MTBs represent the kind of hostility in debate that undermines their entire position. Their attacks are emotional bordering on hysterical (in the “not funny definition of the word”) and excessively polarizing. It’s not dissimilar to the type of language we often see at a national political level in the extreme partisan case and I find it incredibly distasteful.
The other day I had a difficult meeting with someone who was upset with me and a decision I had made. While we were having the discussion, he referred to the meeting we were having as “date rape.” I was momentarily furious because the comment was completely over the line. I understood that he felt fucked by me and – while I didn’t agree – he was certainly entitled to his opinion. But accusing me of date rape was unacceptable to me, especially given that I’ve had first hand experience on the receiving end of rape. He backed off when I asked if he was sure he wanted to use this language (and if he had said yes, we would have been done talking), but it undermined his argument to me based on the personal attack that I didn’t think corresponded in any way to what was happening.
The vitriolic in the MTB debate has a similar impact on me. It doesn’t help the discussion, undermines the position opposing MTB’s on Eldorado Canyon Trail, and is generally offensive to anyone trying to understand and think through the issue. It also shines a bad light on the community in Boulder which I think is a special place that embraces incredibly diverse people, perspectives, and behaviors. And it creates emotional justification for the small number of bad actors in the MTB for their behavior (e.g. “they don’t want us on their trails so fuck them.”)
Boulder, you can do a lot better than this. Let’s have a real debate about this issue and make a rational decision about whether or not to open up these trails.
I had my first pain free run in five months. And I’m very happy right now.
In March, I hurt my back. This was my first real running injury since I started running marathons in 2003. I’ve had some ankle twists and some knee bruises from all the trail running I do, but nothing that kept me off my feet for more than a month. This time I lost five months ; the last time I tried to run was two months ago.
I didn’t get serious about figuring out what was going on until half way through July in Alaska when I realized I just wasn’t getting better. My pain on a daily basis never got below a three (on a 0 to 10 scale) and I often was in the six to eight range. If you saw we get up out of a seat in the last five months, you knew I had a lower back injury. The pain gradually settled at the very base of my spin in the middle of back – it was localized, but sharp and chronic.
So I stopped running completely, increased the amount I was swimming up to a couple of times a week, and started the process of getting professional help. My first big goal was to rule out something serious, so I decided to get an MRI. That took a while (doctor visit, referral, scheduling). I had two different doctors read the MRI – each told me that there was an issue, but there was no need for surgery and steroid injections would likely be useless. So, I started the “sign up for physical therapy process.”
In the mean time, my general practitioner gave me a prescription for vicodin. I’m very afraid of drugs and have always avoided them. I don’t remember if it was a movie I saw about drugs in elementary school (I saw movies on sex but never was afraid of it), my parents, or something else but they’ve just never been my thing. I am a Vitamin I users and I used it for a while to try to manage my chronic gout, but eventually gave up and went on Allopurinol. I’ve had other prescription medicines over the year, but I’ve stayed away from anything illegal, even our friendly herb which is basically legal in Boulder. So the idea of taking a narcotic sort of freaked me out.
I was in so much pain after the US Open (and sitting on the stadium seats for two days) that I went ahead and took one pill. The bottle said I could take four a day, so I figured one a day would help without being dangerous. Amy and I flew from New York to San Diego and I took a second one. On Friday I flew to San Francisco for the day and took a third one. When I woke up on Saturday morning I was pain free for the first time in five months. So I decided not to take another one on Saturday.
On Sunday when I was sitting at my computer I started to stand up and had an extremely loud “pop” happen exactly in the region where the pain has been. Amy heard it from across the room and immediately shouted out “are you ok.” My back then went into a spasm – something that’s only happened a few times – and for about ten seconds I couldn’t talk or breath. But, when it stopped, I still had no pain.
I flew back to Boulder Monday morning. I decided not to take any more vicodin until I had at least a pain level of three again. As the week passed, the pain didn’t reappear. On Wednesday I saw a spine specialist who works with athletes as part of the PT referral process. I spent 30 minutes telling him the story from beginning to end and then we went and looked at the MRI together. He again confirmed that surgery was unnecessary and – more importantly – that the MRI showed a few clear signs of distress that would explain the chronic pain, but that steroid injections would be useless. We did a few diagnostic things and then he gave me his hypothesis.
He suggested that it’s likely that the small amount of vicodin I took broke the pain cycle I had been stuck in. Once the pain was gone, my body was able to move in certain ways that resulted in a natural adjustment (the big pop) of an area of my back that was stuck. Having it adjust naturally was much more effective than if I’d gone to a chiropractor. It had never occurred to me that this would happen, but when I think about the number of times my back adjusts in other spots when it gets out of whack this made perfect sense to me.
I’ve now had a week of no back pain. I haven’t taken anything – not even Vitamin I – in a week. I went for a few swims this week and a short run today. I feel great.
For everyone out there that has been patient with me, offered suggestions, and provided help over the past five months, thank you. Who knows whether this really solved the problem or not but this is the first time in a while that I’ve been optimistic about it.