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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Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals: Invisible Shoes

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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.

Zeitgeist Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho

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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.

Running America

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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.

Civility in Debate with Mountain Bikes In Boulder

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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.

My Apparently Successful Experience With Vicodin

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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.

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