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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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I’ve Been Afraid To Run

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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.

What’s The Best Online Transcription Service?

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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?

Learning A City By Running Around In It

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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.

A Great CEO Is Always Building Muscles

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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.

Dumb.

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 A 50 Mile Race For The First Time

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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.

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