« swipe left for tags/categories
swipe right to go back »
Our beloved dog Kenai died Wednesday at 10:20 am. He was at our house in Eldorado Springs with Amy and our other dog Brooks. It was sudden and unexpected – he went quickly and painlessly. He was 12.
My last moment with him was the day before when I left the house to go to the office. I had my bags with me as I was heading out for an overnight trip to Oklahoma City. He always followed me to the door whenever I left town (he knew what my Filson bag meant). This time he was lying on his dog bed near the door downstairs. He looked up at me with one eye – in that magical way he sort of doggie-winked at me all the time – and I patted him on the head as I walked by and said “goodbye old man – see you soon.”
Kenai was a magnificent dog. 110 pounds. Beautiful. Extremely well tempered. He loved to be with us and he loved to run wild in both Eldorado Springs and Keystone. We’d let him out and he’d run off for 30 minutes, or an hour, or sometimes a few hours. He’d always come back, sometimes with a deer bone and a big smile, and demand his treat with his signature “rrrr-rrrr-rrrr” bark. It made me laugh every time – he knew what he wanted and damnit he was going to get it.
Until a few years ago we regularly went to the Reservoir. This was one of my standard short runs when I was home and a walk that Amy and I often do together. Kenai has this drill mastered – he’d cover about twice as much distance as us as he’d jog ahead 100 yards, turn around and come back to us, and then jog ahead again. When we got to the Reservoir, he’d always be in it already, going for a swim, chasing the ducks which he never caught, and just enjoying being a dog alive in the wilderness.
Like me, he was an excellent sleeper. I remember waking up late on many Saturday and Sunday mornings with him still asleep, often where Amy used to be in the bed. On weekend days after I’d worn myself out from the week, he’d just hang around close to me, doing nothing but keeping me company.
When we got Brooks, Kenai was six. This was the same age his older brother Denali was when we got him. There was something beautiful about the symmetry of this and, after a short adjustment from being the young dog to the old dog, Kenai played his role as older brother perfectly. He taught Brooks how to run around on our land, chase deer, elk, and squirrels, bark at the occasional bear, sleep through pretty much anything, and give us golden retriever eyes in an effort to get just one more treat. They played rough with each other – just up to the edge of too much – and Kenai would always back off when he knew it was getting out of hand. He loved Brooks, just like he loved Denali, just like we loved him.
Kenai – you were an amazing companion. I didn’t think I could love a dog as much as I loved you. I’ll miss you dearly. Thank you for making my life a better one. Enjoy the giant treat yard in the sky.
It’s never is ok to have a brain fog slowly lift and realize you are bleeding all over yourself. It’s a calm moment when you are in that state where it takes another five seconds to realize what just happened. No pain, no panic, but no understanding. Just observation. “Something just happened. I’m bleeding. What happened? Where am I?” followed by “Oh shit I just had a nasty bike crash.” A terminator style system check begins to ascertain damage when all hell breaks loose.
In my case it was a very controlled chaos. One of our guides – Marko – was whatever the Czech version of an EMT is. By the time I realized who I was and where I was, he was in my face, telling me not to move, stabilizing my head as he directed someone else to untangle the bikes from me. As the fog lifted, I felt ok, could talk, and he realized my jaw wasn’t broken. He commanded me not to move yet as he emptied his emergency kit. He looked in my eyes and made sure they responded. He asked me a few questions which I presume I answered correctly. He made me move my jaw around more. He did a scan of the rest of my body, especially my legs, and then started taping up my still bleeding chin.
By this point the fog had completely cleared and I knew what had happened. I was on vacation for a week in Slovenia celebrating my partner Seth’s 40th birthday. Seth is a huge cyclist so his wife Greeley gave him a wonderful present of a week bike trip with seven of his cycling buddies and his three partners. We were on day four of an outstanding life experience together.
Until this summer I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was in high school other than a few random times on vacations. I’d never done any serious cycling and had completely missed the cycling craze of the last decade. Six months ago Seth helped me buy a bike – I’ve been mixing it in all summer with my marathon training, discovered Strava, learned how to shift gears properly, had started to learn what gear I should be in, experienced several back to back 30 mile training rides, and started to learn about how doping worked since that seems to be the central theme of many cycling conversations right after detailed descriptions of accidents.
The rides in Slovenia were awesome. The first day was 70 km – mostly flat. I took the second day off and then had another great 70 km day – by this point I was in a groove. On day 4 we had a huge 20km 2500 climb and descent, so I decided to run the hill which ended up being just about a half marathon. I started before the cyclists and finished 15 minutes before they did.
The first crash happened about 1 km from where I was waiting. Seth got a flat tire on a steep downhill and bit it immediately. He was ok beyond bruised hip and severe road rash – he shook it off and at this point I rejoined the group and got on my bike. I started off tentatively and was in the back of the pack as everyone else took off.
In hindsight there was no way I should have gotten on the bike. The next 1.5 km was a steep downhill and as I picked up speed to 40 km / hour I thought to myself something like “wheee this is fun” as I caught up with everyone in front of me. I then noticed a bridge coming up that corresponded with a sharp left turn. At this point, I have very little recollection of what happened. I’m sure I started braking but I knew I was going too fast. My partner Ryan was directly in front of me and I was coming up on him fast – I remember him saying, in a very calm, rational voice, “what are you doing?” The next thing I remember was blood dripping from my chin.
Those that observed what happened tell me that Ryan let out a blood curdling scream, I crashed into him as I was trying to make the turn, my bike got tangled up in his, and I went over the handlebars. The visor on my bike helmet was broken, so I clearly landed on my head – probably first since my chin only needed four stitches and my jaw wasn’t broken, although a molar was.
Thankfully Ryan was fine. He broke my fall and ended up with a few scrapes but other than being shaken up by his partner attempting to mate bicycles, he was ok. I had a daydream the next day about the two of us going over the side of the bridge tangled up together which just reinforced how glad I was that I hadn’t caused him to be injured.
Marko and Ron – the leader of our tour were awesome. Marko got me cleaned up and Ron tossed me in the van and took me to a local clinic in the next town (we were several hours away from a major hospital.) The doctor saw me in 30 minutes and stitched up my face in five, charged me 52 euros, and sent us on our way. We went to our hotel where I found out there was a dentist who had an office behind the hotel. Remember – this is a tiny little town in Slovenia (Kobarid). The dentist was amazing – he had better equipment than I’ve ever seen in the US, used a laser scanner to reconstruct my tooth, printed a new tooth on a milling machine in a back room, and within an hour sent me on my way with a new tooth for a mere 250 euros. From now on, I’m doing all my elective dental work in Kobarid.
All of that was on Thursday. I’m back in NY where Amy and I are planted for the next ten days. Other than stitches, a pair of nasty road rash cuts, and bruised ribs, I’m fine. I’ll be back on the bike again – I was having a lot of fun until suddenly I wasn’t, but the memory of that moment will fade with the scars. I guess I’ll be growing that beard I’ve been avoiding for a while.
I was going to write something about a new book I’ve just published but I woke up this morning and that felt trivial so I’m going to save it for next week. Instead, I’m going to talk about my day yesterday.
My long time friend (dating back to the mid-1990′s) Andy Sack has testicular cancer. Before I get into things, he’s in the middle of chemo, has a 95%+ cure rate, is open and public about what he’s going through, and has an incredibly positive attitude.
I’ve tried to call or write Andy every day since his diagnosis. I’ve probably done it 80% of the time (I know I’ve missed a few days.) Every day at 5pm my iPhone gives me a reminder to “call Andy Sack.” Most of the time I get his voice mail and leave a message, other times we talk for a few minutes. While I was off the grid last week in Hawaii I sent him a postcard every day. Either way, I get a chance to tell him that I’m thinking of him and give him some additional energy from out in the universe, wherever I am. But this was the first time I’ve been able to get to Seattle to spend time with him.
I took the early flight from Denver to Seattle and we met up at the Kinect Accelerator where the program has just started. We found a room to just sit and talk for about 45 minutes. After a hug and a heart felt welcome, we started talking about how things were going. Our first 15 minutes were filled with lots of tears and emotion as I gave Andy a gift from a few of his friends including me and Amy and we connected physically for the first time since he was diagnosed.
I was curious about the experience he was having and he was very open about chemo, how it impacted him, and what the process was. We talked some about the dynamic of a loved one being sick or hurt since Amy’s had a broken arm for the past few weeks. While the broken arm isn’t in the same category as cancer, it has changed the way I’ve thought about caregiving as it’s the first time I’ve had to be – in Amy’s words “her man servant” – in our relationship. Amy called during this time and when the Imperial March (Amy’s personal ringtone) started playing on my iPhone Andy laughed a good belly laugh. I put Amy on speaker, the three of us had a nice talk, and then we wrapped up and had a TechStars related meeting.
We went to lunch with David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars. We talked about work, but we also talked about life. Andy was total present – he was having a good day physically and emotionally – and it was great to be around. After lunch David got in an Uber and headed to the airport to go back to Boulder; Andy and I walked around the corner to his office and BigDoor’s office (he’s on the board of BigDoor with me, their office is on the first floor, his is on the second.) I said hello to the BigDoor folks, hung out for a while and caught up on email while Andy had a meeting upstairs, and then he drove me to my hotel and we said goodbye for the day.
I had a few more meetings and then ended back up at the Kinect Accelerator for the Mentor Mixer. The program started on Monday and this was the first meeting of all the mentors. I gave a talk about how to be an effective mentor during the introduction to the program and afterward noticed Andy in the back of the room. This was a nice surprise as I didn’t expect to see him again on this trip. We hung out at the mixer a little and then took off to go have another meal together – this time alone. We talked about a few experiences in the distant past and I vividly remembered a dinner in Brookline in the 1990′s with Andy, Alexa (his wife), and Amy. I couldn’t remember the restaurant, but I had the visualization of the entire experience in my head and shared it with him (he remembered it also). We talked more about a wide range of things – some business, some personal – and just enjoyed being together.
I got more than my fair share of his time yesterday. And it was awesome. As I was laying bed at 11pm drifting off to sleep I thought of him some more, some of the ups and downs we’d had together, and how much I treasured him as a friend.
We’ve been through lots of things together. One of the first things he said to me when he saw me was “your support of me through this period eliminated any fears I had lingering about our relationship in the context of any money that I’ve lost for you.” I’ve invested in a number of things that Andy has done dating back to his first company (Abuzz, which was a success and acquired by the NY Times for about a 4.5x of my investment.) But we’ve also had lots of things not work (Bodyshop.com – 0.5x, Judy’s Book – 0.25x.) However, I never, ever have worried about it – my willingness to keep trying and working with great people trumps the specific returns of any individual transaction. And more importantly, my personal friendship and loyalty is built on trust and a long term arc of honesty, not transactional results. While we’ve both screwed up plenty of things along the way and had our share of disagreements, we always resolve them and move forward. I’ve told Andy this several times in the past, but when you face mortality you have a chance to really understand (and express) this.
I wore my Fuck Cancer shirt all day. Several people gave me positive comments on it and one stood out. Near the end of the day, a woman who I didn’t know said “great shirt.” She looked at me with acknowledgement and a real spark of connection occurred. I realized, at that moment, that cancer is a disease that defines many people at a profoundly deep level, especially when they survive it.
On Saturday I’m running a 50 mile race in Sacramento. I’ve been thinking about this all week as I try to get my mind into it. It’s been hard to get real focus on it because I’ve had a busy week and I know that Friday will be my transition day. But as I sit here, the 50 mile run doesn’t seem that hard. Sure – it’ll be a physical and emotional challenge, but it’s not surgery, a 64 day chemo regimen, and the emotional challenge of “beating cancer.”
Life is short. And uncertain. Live it every moment. Andy – thanks for being you and letting me be part of your life.
My dad is one of my best friends. His birthday is on Saint Patrick’s Day and it has been a bright green celebration for as long as I can remember. He turned 74 today and we had dinner tonight at Oak at Fourteenth with Amy, my mom Cecelia, my sister-in-law Laura, my brother Daniel, and their daughter Sabrina. We had a wonderful evening and it reminded me once again of the importance and delight of family.
I’ve learned many things from my dad during the 46 years I’ve been on this planet. Following are a few pivotal ones that have shaped my life.
Age 10: I told my dad I didn’t want to be a doctor like him. I didn’t like how hospitals smelled, I was bored when we did rounds together (I just wanted to sit in the corner and read), and I didn’t like being around sick people. He told me that I could do anything I wanted to do.
Age 12: I hated learning Hebrew and thought being Bar Mitzvah’ed was stupid. My dad didn’t fight me on how I felt, but he told me tradition was important and this was a seminal jewish tradition. I procrastinated as long as I could and then crammed over the last few weeks. He sat with me, coached me through it, and was patient with me when I continued to fight the process. My Bar Mitzvah was a powerful learning experience, and, while I eventually became an atheist, am glad that I participated in the key jewish tradition.
Age 17: After two months at MIT, I was ready to quit. All of my friends had gone to UT Austin, including my girlfriend, and I was homesick and lonely. As we wandered around Concord, MA on a beautiful October day, he told me to give it a year and if I still didn’t like it, I could go somewhere else. But he told me I’d be short changing myself if I didn’t give it a year. By spring time I had fully embraced MIT and never looked back.
Age 21: Dave Jilk (another Saint Patrick’s baby) and I started Feld Technologies. My dad was our third partner, sat on our board, and contributed continuously as a mentor to us as we figured out how to create and build a company. He personally guaranteed a $20,000 line of credit with his bank which was our beginning working capital (which we stupidly used up immediately, although that made us realize we had to be profitable and cash flow positive from the beginning because there was no more money to tap.) Almost every year Dave, my dad, and I would go away somewhere for an annual meeting. I remember these weekends fondly as they shaped the path of our business. My favorite line from this period that I remember from him was “if you aren’t on the edge you are taking up too much space.”
Age 24: My father resisted the easy temptation to say “I told you so” when I got divorced. When I dropped out of a PhD program, he told me he supported any decision I made. When I was feeling sorry for myself, he’d remind me cheerfully that “everyone pees in the shower.” His unambiguous support of me, at a period of darkness in my life, was priceless.
Age 29: When Amy and I decided to move to Boulder, the first words out of my dad’s mouth were “that’s a great idea.”
There are many more like this, but this should give you the sense for it. In addition to being one of my best friends, he’s been an incredible mentor, business partner, and supporter. I love his sense of humor, his joie de vivre, and his endless curiosity. He always lights up any room he’s in, is always learning, and keeps on trying new things.
Dad – happy birthday. You are awesome. Green suits you.
I’ve been obsessively tracking data about myself since 2009. The most visible data I track is on Daytum which includes Miles Run (by location), Books Read (by type), Airplane Flights (by carrier), and Nights In Town (by city). I also track all of my running data (most recently on RunKeeper and SmashRun) and all of my health data (including what I eat) on Fitbit. I track plenty of other stuff, but those are the public / systematic things.
I started doing this in 2009 – see My 2009 By The Numbers for how I was thinking about things then. This year I’m thinking about things more categorically, based on a set of activities I do that drive what I spend my time on. Here’s where the year ended up.
Running: I had a great running year – probably the best in a long time. I ran six marathons, including four in eight weeks, and the last one of the year was the fastest since 2003 in 4:28:46. Overall, I covered 1,125.91 miles (not including the 6.5 miles I’m going to run today). 339 were in Boulder; next best was a monster month in Tuscany of 156.97 miles. I crossed 100 in Keystone and had another strong month in Paris at 94.65 miles. You can tell that I had two weeks of vacation in Tucson this year, plenty of short runs in cities I traveled to for work (SF, NY, Seattle), and then a bunch of marathons.
Weight: I started the year at 208, hit a high point of 219.4 at the end of October, and weighed in at 202.8 this morning. My goal is to be 190 on 12/31/12.
Sleep: I clearly missed a few days since I only have 354 days reported for this year. I often get asked how often I travel vs. sleep at home. Eldorado Springs is where I call home so I was there 99 nights. Boulder, which is a condo I have down the block from my office logged 40 nights. So – for the year, I was in Boulder for 139 of 354 nights, or 39% of the time. Keystone was very light this year – we were only there 25 nights (and 14 of them were the past two weeks). You can see my month in Tuscany in August and month in Paris in July, two weeks of vacation plus a little in Tucson (I guess I like Tucson), 16 nights in New York, 10 nights in San Francisco, and 10 nights in Seattle. I was only in Boston five nights this year – that will change in 2012 as I’m spending the second half of January there. While I swore off red eyes several years ago, I still ended up doing three of them this year. And if you are curious about the other 16 places, they are Los Angeles, Newport, San Antonio, Napa, Boise, Ann Arbor, Bismarck, San Diego, Orlando, Kansas City, New Orleans, Washington DC, Montreal, Portland, and Colorado Springs.
Reading: I didn’t read that much this year – only 41 books. In contrast in 2010 I read 52 books and in 2009 I read 78. Business, Biography, and Mental Floss were all even at 7 and then Philosophy, Fiction, and Sports at 4 each. I’ll definitely read more in 2012 and as you’ve probably noticed I’ll continuing blogging my reviews.
As a special bonus, I’m about to cross 6,000,000 steps logged on my Fitbit. That’ll happen today on my run. I wonder if I’ll get a badge for that.
When I reflect on 2011, I had a great year on many fronts, both personal and professional. I’m looking forward to 2012 and am doubling down on my personal commitment to myself to focus on things that matter and ignore the noise.