Brad's Books and Organizations

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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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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.

Book: The Lure of Long Distances: Why We Run

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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.

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