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July 23, 2013

Celebrating 22 Years with 22 mile run

Gold Systems logo with name

On June 21nd, Gold Systems celebrated our incorporation twenty-two years ago!  Now let me tell you a story about how I ended up running twenty-two miles from my house in Gunbarrel to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to celebrate the occasion.

Sometime during the dot com boom I was sitting in my backyard with my friend Herb Morreale and we were talking about the difference between companies that give it all they've got for a year or two and companies that take the longer view.  From my backyard I can see a few mountain peaks, and I said to Herb, "See that green pointy looking mountain?  We couldn't possibly sprint to that mountain from here, but I'll bet we could get there eventually under our own power if we picked our route, planned a little and didn't kill ourselves along the way."  It was something like that anyway. 

My point was that we were both in businesses where it seemed like we were running a series of marathons rather than one fast sprint.  That idea always stuck with me and I reminded people at Gold Systems that to last we needed to sometimes conserve our energy and not burn out along the way.

Later I figured out that the mountain is Sugarloaf Mountain.  The peak is about twenty-two miles from my backyard and it stands 3,655 feet higher at 8,917.  It's one of our smaller Colorado mountains.  About three and a half years ago I started running after reading the book "Born to Run" and the idea of actually running to the top of that mountain started to get more real with every mile I ran.

Just a week or two before the anniversary of Gold Systems I decided it was time to do it.  I was in good shape, and it would fall on a Friday so I could run to work in the morning, get a few things done and then take off for the summit after our company Bar B Q. 

(Click on the images below to see them full size)

Friday morning arrived sunny and hot, but I was excited to get on the road.

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My first view of Sugarloaf after leaving my house came at about mile three.  I remember thinking it looked a long way away.  I knew I could run the distance but I wasn't as positive about the climb with the heat, but I figured I could just keep going even if I had to walk and I would make it.  The photos below make it look a little farther away than it appeard to me then, but not by much!

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I arrived at Gold Systems and had a problem to deal with, so that distracted me from the big part of the run head of me.  We had a nice Bar B Q around noon where we grilled out hamburgers (beef and vegi) and hot dogs.  I had a hamburger and chips and then of course had to have an anniversary cupcake.  I wondered how that would sit in my stomach later.


After a few more emails and congratulations to everyone, I hit the road again.  The heat hit me and I realized I was going to have to be careful with water.  I had a small backpack with water and Gu, and I expected to be able to fill up at Eben G Fine Park towards the end of the Boulder Creek Path.


The Boulder Creek Path is always nice and I used the time to reflect on twenty-two years at Gold Systems.  I can't even guess how many people have helped us get to this point.  Year ago I calculated that we had created over 1,000 years of employment and it is well beyond that now.  So many people have been a part of this and it has gone so far beyond what my co-founder Jim Fudge and I imagined in the beginning.  I appreciate everyone who's worked here, and all the friends, partners and customers who kept us going all these years.  It hasn't been easy, and it hasn't always been fun, but it's been a great accomplishment by everyone involved.

I remembered to stop for water at the park, but it was overrun with kids, and the line for the water was just too long.  I reasoned that I hadn't drank that much and though I got a quick drink, I didn't fill up my pack.  We have a saying at Gold Systems - "Lessons will be repeated until learned."

The Boulder Creek Path starts climbing up alongside Canyon Boulevard and I was suddenly out of the shade.  I wondered about finding another water stop but didn't want to add even more miles to a run that was looking big enough already.

This is what it looked like for the couple of miles that I was on Canyon.  I was worried about getting through the tunnel since there is only the smallest of sidewalks, but I picked my time and sprinted through when there were no cars in sight.  I made it to the other end just before a car came around the bend.  Sometimes even when you are running a long distance, you have to sprint, so it's best to have some reserves in the tank for the occasion.  Same as in business.

I also had to jump from one side of the road to the other quite a few times over the next two miles. The shoulder was OK, but it wasn't consistent on either side.  Minor course corrections are to be expected.


The cars rushing by helped to make the time pass quickly and I was on Sugarloaf road in less than 20 minutes after leaving the trail.  That's where the real climb begins, and thankfully there were some clouds to keep some of the sun off of my head.  In just another 20 minutes or so I had climbed (slowly!) up enough to have a good view of the canyon and Boulder Creek below.  This was starting to get real.

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From Sugarloaf Road to Sugarloaf Mountain Road it is 4.7 miles, and it is steep uphill all the way.  I ran as much as I could and walked when I needed to, but I kept going.  People driving uphill in cars would wave, as would people on bikes flying downhill.  I only saw one guy riding uphill and an hour later he passed me on his way back down and seemed really surprised to see me still going.  He said "wow!" as he zoomed past, and that one word carried me up the next couple of miles.  Whoever you are, thank you!

I've seen a lot of interesting things on the roadside as I've ran, but finding a telephone jack on the side of the road seemed surreal. How many phone lines have I touched in twenty-two years?  And what does it mean that this jack is just sitting here on the side of the road?  It probably fell out of a truck, maybe on its way to the dump.  Times are changing.


Most of the rest of the way up Sugarloaf Road I ran on the road, with quick hops to the shoulder when I imagined that a driver was texting as they made this drive to Boulder for the ten thousandth time.  By the way, I was wearing my Fivefinger shoes all the way, until I got to the trailhead and changed into trail shoes for the last rocky mile.


Finally I came around a curve and saw Sugarloaf Mountain for the first time since I was East of Boulder.  It was great to see it looking so big, but it was still a ways off and the clouds were getting darker.  I was also starting to worry about my water supply, like you do when you pass a gas station on the Interstate with an 1/8th of a tank of gas and an untrustrwory gas gauge.


Around 4:30 in the afternoon, I got to my last turn.  I had a good map and a cheat sheet of the turns and milestones, so I knew I was getting close and that I could finish it when I turned on to Sugarloaf Mountain Road.


And then right about here, on the last few miles to the trail head, I ran out of water.  When I say "trail head" that's where most people park their cars to begin the hike to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.  I was expecting a friend to be there with a bag I had put together with water, food, and my trail shoes for the rocky last mile, so I wasn't worried when I ran out of water.  I also figured I could go back a mile or two and knock on the door of a house or cabin and beg for water if I needed it. 


Unfortunately my friend missed the turn and went about 10 miles on down the road.  Lucky for me there was a guy there packing up his ATV and he gave me a couple of bottles of water, so I sat on a rock and enjoyed being off my feet until my friend found his way back to the trail head.  Although it still looks like a long way to the top in the photo below, it was only another .68 miles.


It was a nice walk up to the summit, with great views on all sides.


If you click on the photo below you can see my starting point that morning way off in the distance.  Maybe you can, because I couldn't see my part of the county much less my house, but it's out there somewhere.


I expect I'll always remember this run, and I hope it always inspires me.  I had run the Colfax Marathon a month before and barely finished, and it was on flat pavement.  A lesson here is that things can and often do get better.  I could have convinced myself not to even try  the Sugarloaf run based on that marathon experience.  This should have been a harder run, but it wasn't.  Probably because I wanted this one so bad and I really did enjoy the experience of doing something that I had only imagined might be possible years before.  Or maybe it was just a different day and because I tried, I did it.

This run was really a tribute as much as it was a test.  Thanks to my wife Cindy (who has a new book for sale!  :-) )  She still doesn't know why I would do something like this but she still supports me.  And I'm talking about both the company and the run.  Thanks to Jim for suggesting we start a company way back when, and thanks to everyone else who has worked here or been a customer or who has just dropped in to help when needed.  This run's for you!






July 23, 2013 in Entrepreneurship, Running | Permalink


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