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I woke up late today (yay – 12:06 hours of sleep) to the last 15 minutes of the elite women in the NYC Marathon. Watching them finish and then watching Mutai crush the men’s field over the last six miles was pretty inspiring. I haven’t run a marathon since October 2012 when I ran the Detroit Marathon but after a year of struggling to get into a rhythm I’m once again motivated – and interested – in doing another marathon. I’ve committed to being one of the 14 in 2014 that run the Boston Marathon – there’s a gang of well known tech entrepreneurs and investors that are doing this together as part of a big fundraiser. I’ll definitely try to get at least one marathon in before then just to be confident that I’ll get it done.
Last week I added back in something I used to do regularly, but had stopped for a year or so given my schedule and then ensuing depression. I did a full day of random day meetings on halloween. I sat at Amante Coffee all day, mostly in my cookie monster outfit, had random meetings, drank coffee, and ate cookies. I had a blast.
If you’ve never heard of random day, I’ll meet with anyone who signs up for 20 minutes. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade – it’s part of my “give before you get” philosophy that’s deeply embedded in the Boulder Startup Community psyche. I have no expectation of what I’m going to get out of these meetings, but some pretty magical things, including the creation of Techstars, have occurred as a result of them.
During the course of the day I had 12 meetings, three cups of coffee, a yogurt, a burrito, and two cookies. I met with the following people.
- Friend starting a COO / CEO search
- Attorney in town thinking of starting a seed fund
- Founder of a non-profit I recently supported
- Person looking for a new BD gig
- Founder of a natural foods company I just invested in
- BD person looking to get into the VC or Boulder scene
- Tech entrepreneur I hadn’t seen in a decade describing his new thing
- Content marketing person looking to be plugged into Boulder
- Founders of non-profit looking to expand outside of Boulder
- Partners in a non-profit looking for support for a robot competition
- New VC in town in the natural foods market
- Two entrepreneurs just starting their tech business looking for feedback
I was immediately able to help at least six of the 12. I have no idea what will come from the other meetings, but that’s part of the fun of random day.
I plan to do this again six times in 2014. So that’s about 80 random meetings – people I wouldn’t have met with – and who wouldn’t have had some time with me. If one powerful thing comes out if it, then it’s worth it. Regardless, I had a good day on Thursday and feel like I did something that contributed to the glue in the Boulder Startup Community.
On Sunday, 8/11 Amy and I had dinner at Brasserie 1010 with our long time friends Bill Ritchie and Andrea Barthello. We’ve known Bill and Andrea since the mid-1990s – we met through Young Entrepreneurs Organization. Bill and Andrea have a super cool company called Thinkfun (it used to be called “Binary Arts” – a name I really loved) and are a great example of a husband and wife entrepreneurial team. Bill and I spent many hours working on the early YEO web site, back before anyone had web sites, and the four of us enjoyed lots of time together at YEO events in unexpected places like Barbados.
I remember dinner at their house near DC many years ago with their son Sam. He was young – I can’t remember his ago – but somewhere between 5 and 9. We had a lot of fun, and I had a lot of hair. Somehow I ended up with the nickname “Scary Man” which stuck for a little while.
Over the years we lost touch. Bill and I would connect on something every now and then, like in 2011 when his brother Dennis Ritchie died. But we hadn’t seen each other in at least a decade.
You know that moment when you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time and your brain floods with serotonin. The smile you have almost rips a hole in your face, your heart rate rises 20 BPM, and you just want to jump up and down and do a happy dance? That’s how I felt when Bill and Andrea walked into Brasserie 1010.
And then there was Sam. He was genetically undeniably the product of his parents. 25-ish. Crazy smart, articulate, fun, and totally engaging. He pretended to remember me.
We had a blast. They were here a week early to acclimate to the altitude since Sam was going to run the Leadville Trial 100. Stud. We talked about a lot of different things, but kept coming back to Leadville. Sam works at Twitter so we talked about that a little, and then we were back to talking about Leadville. And ultras. He was clearly excited, a little anxious, and trying to get his head into it.
Dinner ended with big hugs. We went to my office and I got a Fitbit One for Sam as I wanted to see what happened when it crossed over 100,000 steps in one day (the most I’ve done is 97,000). I gave Sam a copy of Venture Deals, which Dick Costolo (Twitter’s CEO) wrote the forward to. We hung out with Pat Minotaur and just kept talking, not really wanting the evening to end. Eventually we sent them on their way back to the hotel.
Sam ran the Leadville 100 last weekend. I just read his amazing post on the experience of running – and surviving – the Leadville Trail 100. It is mind blowing. It’s no surprise that Sam is a spectacular writer, but his journey on this ultramarathon was pretty awesome. He literally “came back from the edge of death” halfway through to grind it out in 26:15:12.
If you want to hear an amazing story of perseverance, love long distance running stories, are fascinated with ultramarathons, wonder what Twitter engineers do in their spare time, or just want to revel in a great story, go read Sam Ritchie’s Leadville 100 post right now.
Oh – and the Fitbit worked perfectly – at 100,001 steps, that’s what the screen showed!
At 3:55pm yesterday I cried.
I was getting ready for a Google Hangout back to my office with my partners and I noticed something about an explosion at the Boston Marathon on twitter. I did a quick scan of Twitter, clicked through to a few links, and realized a bomb had gone off near the finish line.
I went blank – just stared at my computer screen – and then started crying. I called Amy – she hadn’t heard about it yet and told her what had happened. I collected myself and called in to my Hangout. My partners were all shaken also – Seth lived in Boston for many years, Ryan has done several marathons, and Jason just did his first marathon last year in Detroit.
During our Hangout I sent some emails out to friends in Boston. Four close friends were on the third floor of the building above the first explosion. They were ok – but shocked and very shaken up. Emails continued to flow with me checking in on people and people checking in on me since they knew I was a marathoner and on the east coast.
My emotion shifted from sadness, to a wave of being horrified, to temporary anger, back to a very deep sadness. At the NJ Tech Meetup, before I started talking I asked for a moment of silence to recognize the people who were at the Boston Marathon, especially those who were injured. I can’t remember exactly what I said – I just know that I teared up again before my talk.
On my way back to Manhattan, Amy and I talked. We were both incredibly sad. And lonely – she’s home and I’m in NY. She was supposed to go to Boston yesterday for a Wellesley board meeting – she decided not to go because of some stuff going on. She would have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, just down the block from the explosion. It’s all too close for comfort.
Lying in bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned until 1am. I kept thinking about being in NY on 9/11, about running the Boston Marathon, about the bike accident I had in September where a turn of the wheel a different direction would have meant lights out for me. It was some combination of PTSD, sadness, obsessions, and contemplation of mortality. I finally fell asleep.
This morning on my run with Reece Pacheco we talked about it a little more. I haven’t even begun to really process this. Brent Hill sent out a tweet to me and a bunch of friends to commit to running Boston in 2014. I’m in.
I just contributed to the Boston Tech Communities fundraiser for the Boston Marathon victims. All proceeds will be donated completely to programs working with victims of the attacks including Red Cross, Children’s Hospital, and others.
On Sunday I’ll be running the Detroit Marathon with a bunch of friends including my partner Jason Mendelson who is running his first marathon. Becky Cooper, our CFO, and Jill Spruiell (Jason’s EA) are also running their first marathon, as is Andrew Tschesnok, the CEO of Organic Motion.
As this is my second marathon in my Random Act of Kindness series, Amy and I are again raising $10,000 for someone on GiveForward. We’ll be matching $5,000 of contributions from this community with a gift from us of $5,000. Our recipient this time in Max Simmons who we refer to as Jedi Max. We don’t know Jedi Max – we just know he’s fighting cancer and is awesome.
Here’s Jedi Max’s story:
Max is a fun-loving, spirited seven year old who has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforming or GBM, a type of brain cancer. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The doctors have already removed most of the tumor, though he still has a long road ahead. He will be receiving chemo and radiation. Max’s treatments are an hour’s drive each direction and he will be receiving them for six weeks, five days a week. His parents, Jay and Scott, are concerned about not meeting the non-medical expenses such as gas, food, and other things that may come up. With how things stand now, Jay may not be able to return to work. Max loves everything Legos and Star Wars. He is doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart is as big as Texas. He is a true Jedi Warrior!
“Success rests in having the courage and endurance and, above all, the will to become the person you were destined to be.” - Dr. George Sheehan
When I heard that presidential VP candidate Paul Ryan said something like he had run a “2-hour-and-50-something” marathon, I knew immediately he was lying. I don’t know a single person who has ever run a marathon who doesn’t know the exact time it took him or her to do it. The 2-hour-and-50-something language didn’t ring true to me and I smiled when I read Andy Burfoot and George Hirsch’s essay in the NY Times titled The Honorable Clan of the Long-Distance Runner.
This isn’t a political post but my disclaimer is that I have no time or energy for Paul Ryan so my bias is out of the way. But I simply hate when people lie. As a kid, my parents made it painfully clear to me that lying isn’t acceptable. I remember being punished a few times before the age of 10 – once was for stealing baseball/football cards (my cousin Kenny’s OJ Simpson card and another friend’s cards – a bunch of them) and once for lying about where I had been. In each case, I was grounded, but also had to admit I had lied and then tell the truth to the person I had deceived, which was even more painful than being grounded.
Those are the two lies I remember. I’m sure there have been other white lies or lies of omission since then, but I feel confident from about age 10 forward I turned off the “it’s ok to lie” switch in my brain. It’s part of my approach to life – I am honest and direct, even if the information is painful to hear or to say. I try to say it in a soft way when it is painful, but I don’t dodge it.
If I make a mistake, which I do often, I own it and correct it. I view making a mistake as very different than lying. I used to exaggerate more and my first business partner Dave Jilk would often call me on exaggerating and we’d have long conversations about the difference between exaggerating and lying. I ultimately agreed with Dave and now I try not to exaggerate – I’ll be optimistic in the face of an uncertain outcome, but I try never to exaggerate about historical or factual data, and when I do I correct myself publicly.
I hate lying. It’s a non-starter for me. I have passed on investing in companies that I wanted to invest in because I thought the entrepreneurs had lied to me about something in the deal process. I’ve disengaged from companies I’ve been involved in because I’ve been lied to, even ones that were doing well. I’ve stopped interacting with people who I had developed a relationship with because they lied to me. I’ve ended friendships, including long ones, over deceit. The stimulus for my first divorce was a lie from my ex-wife (an affair that she had.) And I simply have no time to develop a relationship with someone who I think lies.
Marathon running is the ultimate example of this. You can’t lie about running a marathon; you will eventually get caught if you do. Every marathon I’ve been involved in (now 22 of them), including several with under 250 people in them, has a tight set of rules around finishing that are easy to understand and are recorded diligently. I think I can, without looking, tell you the time of all 22 marathons I’ve run. I can’t get it to the second, but I learned after my first marathon when I was a teenager that you get to drop the seconds – a 5:07:40 marathon (my Boston time) is 5:07; a 4:05:27 (my Chicago time) is a 4:05. But there is no such thing as a 2-hour-and-50-something marathon (which turned out to be a 4:01, which is still super impressive in my book.)
Just finishing a marathon is a huge achievement in itself. Paul Ryan’s 4:01 is faster than my PR over 22 marathons (4:05) – it’s beyond me why he would feel compelled to lie about this. He should be proud of his 4:01!
Don’t lie. It’s simply not worth it. And if you are going to lie, don’t bother wasting your time with me.