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 | TrackBack

July 05, 2012

SARRC Sea to Summit 34k run, Adelaide, Australia

A few weeks ago I visited Adelaide, Australia to be a mentor at the Innovyz START technology accelerator. That was a great experience, and I'll write about in another post, but first I have to talk about the weekend I arrived in Adelaide.


A few weeks before the trip I started looking on line to see if there might be a nice 5 or 10k race that I could run since I was arriving on a Saturday and wouldn't have to show up at the accelerator until Monday morning. What I found was the Sea to Summit race, put on by the South Australian Road Runners and Walkers Club. I'm sure I had heard about this race before and remembered that it was considered to be a "can't miss" race. I think I read every word on the website trying to figure out if I was going to be up for the run. It was to be 30k, starting at the ocean and climbing to the top of Mount Lofty, the highest peak in the area at 2,500 feet. It was was described as a "bush run" which made me wonder if there might be crocodiles and dingos to contend with, or at least poisonous snakes. Having read A Sunburned Country, I was pretty sure there would be some sort of lethal plants or animals to contend with.


My biggest fear was the trail itself. As my friends know, and are probably tired of hearing me say it, but I believe that traditional running shoes are evil devices guaranteed to hurt people. I wear Vibram Five Fingers or I wear nothing at all. I found the website for the Heysen Trail which the route would use, and they specifically said "Good walking shoes, or boots, with grip soles. Thongs, sandals, elastic-sided boots and smooth-soled sneakers are not appropriate." I will admit, that was pretty good advice in hindsight.
I kept telling people in the weeks before that I was going to run the race, but I had not actually signed up. Then the night before I was to leave I got an email from Andrew Hyde promoting his new book, TRAVEL. Wanting to help a fellow Boulder entrepreneur, and thinking what better to read on the plane than a book about travel, I bought the book and started reading it. Even the first few chapters were enough to cause me to think differently about the trip, so the next morning while sitting in the Denver airport, I signed up for the race. I decided I would just figure out the logistics when I got there and I'd do my best.

I left Denver Thursday afternoon and arrived in Adelaide Saturday afternoon, stayed awake all day and went to bed at my "normal" time with an alarm set for a 6:15 AM Taxi that I had arranged. I ended up being dropped off on a dark street near the ocean well before the race was to start and before anyone else had arrived. Walking down a trail, in the dark, to where I thought the starting line might be, I was startled by the sound of what I thought was either a homeless man snoring or a Dangerous Australian Creature. Either way, I decided a retreat back to the street was the best move, and I found another trail that looked promising. That one also had the strange sound, so I made one more detour and found my way down to the ocean via what looked like a boat ramp where I found an almost empty parking lot where the race was to start.

Thinking about Andrew's book, and the lesson he's learned about just getting out there and talking to people, and trusting that things would work out, I walked up to a couple of people who were obviously runners and introduced myself. Within a few minutes I was welcomed to Australia and assured that I would not only make it to the top of the mountain, but that someone up there would help me find a way back down. I was also told that the sound I had heard was not a crocodile or homeless person snoring, but was most likely a male Koala.
(Photo by Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)
The Australians seemed pretty amused that I had been frightened off the trail by a Koala, though they did admit that they (the Koalas) could be testy at times. The rest of the day I spent too much time looking up into trees hoping to spot a Koala, but I never did. I did manage to fall twice by not looking where I was going, and I came home with what I'm told Australian trail runners call "badges." Everyone else calls them cuts and bruises.


As the sun was coming up, most of the racers made their way onto the rocky beach and many joined me in actually touching the water before moving to the starting line a hundred yards back up the hill. Then Terry Cleary, the race director, stood on top of a cooler or "Esky" as they call it, and talked to the runners. He reminded us to be careful and have fun, but he also reminded us that we would be running on land that passed through Kaurna country, who are the traditional owners of the land. In fact, the race would be supported by Neville Highfold and other members of the "Mari Yerta Men's and Young Men's Aboriginal Corporation." Terry talked about respecting the people and the land, and it was a great way to start the race.



The race started, and off we went climbing stairs and then a series of single-file switchbacks to get out of the park by the ocean. We ran through neighborhoods on the street for a few miles and then into a park. I had heard that the race could be tough just because it was easy to miss a marker and end up off the trail, but I thought the race was very well marked. I did miss a turn, but it was my own fault. As we got farther along what is know as the Heysen Trail, it became more rugged, but I was just amazed by the beauty of the land and the unfamiliar trees, bushes and birds.

The best part of the race was the people. Terry (I call him Australian Terry now so people won't think I'm talking in the third person about myself) caught me pretty quickly, even though he must have been one of the last runners to start. I introduced myself and we talked a bit, and then he ran on as I was running at my "just finish the race" pace. I caught him twice more, but only because he stopped at every aid station to thank the volunteers. Because of that, we got to spend a lot of time talking and it was just a great way to spend what could have been a lonely and tough race.


Everyone else I met was also very friendly, and two literally gave me a hand up after I fell and made sure I hadn't broken anything. If anyone from SARRC is reading - thank you for a WONDERFUL experience! And Nina, thank you for encouraging me and sharing your story those last few miles, and for the offer of the blister pads. I probably should have taken them!


The race ended up being 34K or 21.32 miles according to my GPS. I finished in 5 hours 21 minutes and 30 seconds, which was just fine since my goal was just to finish. After the second fall I think I started taking it a little easier, so now of course I'd love to go back and try again for a faster time.


After the race, Australian Terry invited me to dinner at his house, which I accepted, and I had the best welcome to Australia that I could have hoped for by Terry and his wife Gay. It really was fantastic. Monday morning when I arrived at the Innovyz START office space, I was limping a bit and people thought I was crazy for having ran the race at all, much less after flying half way around the world. For me, it is on the list of the best experiences of my life, and it was the very best running experience I've ever had. Even with the "badges."


Thanks to Andrew Hyde for giving me a different way to look at travel, to Australian Terry and all the other SARRC people, and of course thanks to Jana Matthews and Innovyz START for inviting me to Adelaide!

July 5, 2012 in Running | Permalink | TrackBack

October 19, 2011

Running a Marathon is NOT like running a business

Terry Gold Marathon

Many years ago I got the idea that running a business was like running a marathon. Or better yet a series of marathons, with the occasional sprints as needed.  Well, last Sunday I ran my first marathon and I have to say it was EASY compared to running a business.

There are some similarities, and some really big differences and I've learned something about myself, which was the point of running the marathon in the first place.

Here are some of the similarities of running a marathon and running a business.

Both require a certain amount of preparation and planning before starting.  If you don't plan, you have a very high chance of failing to finish, and you'll likely be miserable from the very start.  There are a lot of people who have ran marathons in Boulder, and I talked to quite a few during my training so I didn't have any big surprises while running.  Thanks Herb, Brad, Jim, David and everyone else who encouraged me to do this.

When Jim and I started Gold Systems twenty years ago, I only knew a couple of entrepreneurs, so we made a lot of rookie mistakes that we could have avoided if I had known more entrepreneurs at the beginning.  If you are thinking about running a marathon or starting a business, find others who have done it who are willing to give you the important tips that you won't find or notice in the books. 

It helps to know what to expect.  It was easier to learn about what I was in for with the marathon than it was for the business.  Having people give you advice is great, but it also really helps to hear what it is going to feel like once you are in the race or working in the business.  For instance, I was not prepared to think about my business every waking moment, which I did for many years.  I had no idea it was going to be so consuming.  Had someone told me that it was normal early on, I think it would have been easier.  I've learned to give my brain a break, but the business is still there ready to jump to the forefront of my thoughts anytime day or night, but now I know it is normal. 

Have fun.  One of the best pieces of advice about the marathon was to "enjoy the run."  Whenever I started to feel bad, I reminded myself that this was supposed to be fun, and somehow that helped push the pain away.  Come to think of it, I'm finding that works in business too. In business some entrepreneurs seem to brag about how miserable they are, and how much they sacrifice for the business.   I've been that guy, but If you find you're having a lot more bad times than good times, it means something is probably wrong and an adjustment needs to be made.  I'm a much better leader when I'm having fun, and I'm a much better runner when I'm having fun. 

Pain is temporary.  Until last Sunday, I had never ran more than 20 miles, but I was confident that whatever pain and soreness I would have right after the race would be gone in a few days, and it was.  I've had more painful days while being an entrepreneur than I experienced with the marathon, but I still sometimes forget that the next day, the next week, the next month, it will be better.  I like to say that lessons will be repeated until learned, but hopefully the next time I have a painful day I can remember that I just need to get through it and then things will be better. 
Now for a couple of big differences between running a marathon and running a business.
Focus.  Phylis pointed out to me that to run a marathon, you pretty much just focus on finishing, but in business it can be very, very hard to focus.  In business I've come to terms with the idea that there are more things to do than there are hours in the day.  It's my job to figure out which things I should get done and which should get passed on to others, or simply left undone.  There are always more good ideas and opportunities to consider than time and resources allow, so I think it is much harder to focus in business than it is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other until the marathon finish line is crossed. 

The Finish Line.  Cindy pointed out that in business there is no finish line, or if there is, you don't usually know where it is.  That's an amusing thought to me.  Consider a race where everyone lines up not knowing how long the course is, or whether it will be hot or cold, hilly or flat.  Then somewhere along the way, someone yells, "finish line in 1 mile!" and everyone starts sprinting.  Then the runners hear, "just kidding, keep running."  In business I've seen entrepreneurs quit because they got tired of the race, or they thought that they somehow had entered the wrong race. 

So there you have it.  Running a business is a little like running a marathon, but running a business is in my opinion a lot harder and I think even more rewarding.  Stay focused, keep putting one foot in front of the other, be prepared to change when the race changes, and above all, enjoy the race as much as you can.  


Update 10-21-2011.  The marathon is done, I'm completely recovered and ready to go again.  I'm getting up early and jumping on the treadmill and I'm looking forward to the weekend for a long run outside.  Thanks to everyone for the comments!  Greg put a link to another post into his comment about running and entrepreneurship, and it is really worth checking out.  Here it is:  http://blog.finette.com/post/11370209405/never-walk-a-talk-about-entrepreneurship-and-running


Update 10-28-2011.  Soon after I posted this, I received a very nice email from Miguel Chang who lives in Taiwan and has a website called Sportsnote.com.  Miguel asked if he could translate my blog post into Chinese, and of course I was happy to have him do it.  Here is a link to this post at Sportsnote.com   Thank you Miguel!    


Sportsnote page

October 19, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Running | Permalink | TrackBack