I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to the growth of certain popular products — both physical and media [1]. The pattern looks like this:

Company develops a breakthrough product

A unique product hits the market. It looks or operates in a way that feels distinct in an important way. It’s aggressively different from other things on the market.

  • iPod: bigger, heavier and more expensive than the tiny mp3 players on the market, but has a solid battery life and a massive amount of storage
  • Vibrams: shoes that look like gorilla feet, but some people swear it gets rid of their knee pain / plantar fasciitis
  • Marvel’s X-Men: a fictional team of superheros who are ordinary people with mutant abilities – depicted in comic books, tv shows, video games and movies

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I pretty much don’t do things halfway. So it won’t surprise you to know that despite having never completed a 10k distance race before I found myself entered to compete in two of them, one weekend after another. Here’s how that went.

Stanford Habitat for Humanity Home Run – 11/12 

Great race. As an alumni, I was excited for an opportunity to see the campus again and I was not disappointed: the organizers put together a scenic windy tour around Stanford. I raced in a new pair of shoes (yes, another pair!): the Vibram Five Finger Bikila’s (named after Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian who won 1960 Olympic marathon barefoot). [1]

I LOVE my Bikilas.

They weigh about the same as my other shoes (~7 oz) and have the same shape, fit and road grip as my VFF KSO’s, but more of the New Balance Minimus MT20’s “cushioning”. I think the MT20 are better for trails and the KSO’s are more flexible / truly barefoot-feeling but the Bikilas seem to exist to help you run fast. This praise comes with a warning: they really encourage you to run with a forefoot strike, (more than the KSO’s because of the 4mm Vibram outsole) not and even as a guy who runs exclusively in minimal footwear, my calves get a serious workout every time I run with the Bikilas.

My goal for the Home Run 10k was to run a smooth race and not push myself too hard. I aimed for a 9:20 pace and was able to stay roughly on target. I definitely spent most of the run chasing middle aged runners which didn’t do particularly much for my self-esteem [2]

I ended the race on a strong kick as usual and had a great time. Below is a screenshot of my race as tracked by Runkeeper. I was happy with how it went and of course, the money went to a great cause as Habitat for Humanity was studied in Forces for Good as a high impact nonprofits.

My official time was 54:57, putting me in 116th place out of 223. See official race results here.

EWEB Run to Stay Warm – 11/20

The second weekend I took a trip up to Eugene Oregon to compete in EWEB Run to Stay Warm, their gas/electric provider’s charity race which helps householders in tough financial conditions keep the heat on during the cold Oregonian winter.

Why did I pick this race? It was featured in Runner’s World’s run of the month! And also, it gave me a chance to rideshare up and down via Ridejoy!

I was Couchsurfing in Eugene and was fortunate enough to have my host, Jesse, drive me to the center and he ended up bandit running the race (that’s Jesse in green in the picture).

First off, it’s freaking cold in Oregon. I know all the race organizers get a laugh out of the fact that not only are we helping keep the heat on through the race, but we personally are staying warm in the 37 F weather through running.

I don’t think I prepared adequately for the race and struggled quite a bit in the middle. Here’s what I learned:

  • Dress appropriately
    I knew it was going to be cold so brought a jacket and a long sleeve Under Armor shirt. Sounds reasonable except that the jacket wasn’t meant for running and the compression from the Under Armor shirt made it hard to breathe [3]
    I spent half the race with a bunch of crap tied around my waist, which wasn’t great. Next time I do a race in this climate I’d make sure to either have a running-specific jacket, or at least arm warmers and perhaps longer shorts or tights that fit not *too* tight.
  • Don’t drink too much coffee right before running
    I drank a big cup of coffee less than an hour before the race — it was really cold (see above) and drinking a hot beverage made me feel better in the moment. However, later in the race my stomach was not doing so great and I think it was in part because of the java.
  • Get more rest before the race
    The week leading up to the race there was a lot going on at work, so I don’t think I rested adequately, which is unfortunately a tradeoff you have to make when running a startup.

I was able to pull it together toward the end of the race and finish strong but it was definitely not easy. I am sort of amazed I finished slightly faster than the Stanford race. I definitely worked a lot harder…

Check out the differences in the splits (from Runkeeper)

Eugene Run to Stay Warm Stanford Home Run

Official finishing time was 53:57, placing 86 out of 272 runners. Official results here. Runkeeper link here.

Now that these two races are over, I’m taking a little time to rest, recharge and prepare for my next race. I’m jumping into a half marathon distance, which I’ve been told is a bit of a leap up from the 10k. We’ll see what happens! As always, I’ll keep you updated on how things go. Shoot me questions or comments down below!


[1] I’ll be honest, I’ve coveted the Vibram Bikilas since hearing that Vibram was building a version of the shoe specifically for runners, but since I already owned KSO’s and then getting  the New Balance Minimus Trails, I didn’t feel it made sense to get another pair. But I’ve kept hearing good things from my running friends and when I got linked to a special 30% off deal, I took the plunge.

[2] I’m mostly kidding – it doesn’t necessarily feel great to get passed by someone 20+ years older than you, but after reading the book Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon, I’m heartened by the author/running coach’s rule that most runners don’t hit their peak until 30 and no matter what age you are, if you haven’t been much of a runner, it’ll take about 7 years of serious training for you to reach your lifetime best. So I confident to know there’s so much progress I can look forward to making.

[3] I don’t know why but after getting this shirt as a gift, I always want to try to wear it for running, despite the fact that it’s a little too small and exerts force against my chest cavity opening and closing – making breathing just that much harder. I definitely learned my lesson this time.

I finished my second 5k race a few weeks ago at Steven’s Creek Trail. I ran with my roommate Michael (who’s doing his own startup OYO Glasses) and completed it in 25:58, finishing 72nd out of 232 people (7th out of the 16 guys in my age group). It was slower than my first 5k by about 90 seconds which is kind of a bummer, but my training was also a bit off (you’ll see why in a minute). Also, this time I had shorts on. =)

I don’t want to turn this blog into a training / race log so I’ll focus on some useful things I’ve learned before and after the race.

Avoiding Feet / Ankle Pain


I'm screaming not from ankle pain here but just from general exhaustion in my all-out sprint to the finish.

I ran my first 5k in Vibrams and it was great. But after running in Vibrams all the time on pavement, I found my feet and ankles really starting to bother me. I took some time off to see if I just needed some rest but even after not running for most of August, it still hurt when I started running. I knew I wasn’t running hard to enough to have that serious of an injury, so I needed to try new tactics: Continue reading

I never liked running as a kid.

I remember running the mile at gym one time and taking over 11 minutes. My dad made fun of me – “You let a bunch of girls beat you!” – and I was embarrassed. Luckily, as a gymnast, my job was to operate at 95% of my max energy for about 20-90 seconds and then rest. Sustained physical exertion wasn’t really part of my vocabulary. Wen I got to college we’d run a few miles once in a while  and I would hate my life. Panting, cramps, headaches, exhaustion. How anyone could enjoy running was beyond me.

(I bet you know where this is going)

In the last few months, running has become a really exciting and fun endeavor for me. I’m not running very far or very fast, but I’m really enjoying it. So much that it’s lead me to participate in my first athletic competition in over two years[1]:

On July 31st, I’ll be running in the SF Marathon’s 5k race [2].

What happened? How did I go from hating running to loving it? Three things: a desire to push myself, a pair of Vibrams Five-Fingers and RunKeeper.

A Desire to Push Myself

Since a bit before starting my startup, I decided to drop my gym membership. I was mostly working out at work, in quick, 15 minute break periods, and I didn’t want to pay the monthly fee. Unfortunately, this limited the kinds of exercises I could do – mostly bodyweight stuff like pushups, situps and pullups.

I have to say this – it’s a lot easier to push yourself when you’re working out at the gym than when you’re working out at home or in the office. I did do the 100 pushup challenge with my coworker Jordan which was fun, but doing a lot of pushups get kind of boring. I was looking for a new challenge.

Vibrams Five Fingers

These shoes and the barefoot running movement has stirred up a lot of controversy. A quick quote from a New York Times article on the subject:

Recent research suggests that for all their high-tech features, modern running shoes may not actually do much to improve a runner’s performance or prevent injuries. Some runners are convinced that they are better off with shoes that are little more than thin gloves for the feet — or with no shoes at all.

Plenty of medical experts disagree with this notion. The result has been a raging debate in running circles, pitting a quirky band of barefoot runners and researchers against the running-shoe and sports-medicine establishments.

After reading some of Born to Run, a book about a running buff who always got injured until he studied a tribe of indigenous people in Mexico, modeled their running style (barefoot) and emerged an injury-free runner, I wanted to check it out.

As many of you know, I blew out my knee doing gymnastics about 4 years ago and running seemed like it’d be out of the picture. But proponents of the barefoot running movement argue, and some scientific research suggests, that running barefoot puts much less strain on your knees and other joints because you are absorbing most of the impact through your calf rather than having the shock hit your heel and travel all the way up your leg.

I’ve also seen folks running Vibrams, which are very thin rubber shoes that are more like gloves for your feet – including individual slots for each toe. I thought they looked kind of quirky and cool, and decided in May to buy a pair and give the whole bare foot running thing a shot.

It was awesome.

Running in Vibrams feels great. It made me feel light and bouncy – like a kid. As a gymnast we generally train with no shoes or socks, so I really appreciate having sensation in my toes and the ability to grip the ground with each step. This was a turning point for me. I think I ran 4 or 5 days that week – just a mile loop near my house. It was almost fun. I even wrote down my times for the first couple runs – (which were terrible)- but for the sake of transparency I’ll share them:

  • 11:47 (yes, that is barely 5 MPH!)
  • 11:32
  • 10:59
  • 10:21
  • 10:07

I started off miserably slow, but it’s amazing how fast the numbers start dropping once I kept working at it. But the final piece to the puzzle here is some technology:

The RunKeeper iPhone App

I first encountered this app in my Facebook news feed like 6 months ago, but re-remembered it after I started thinking about how I was going to track my progress when I didn’t know how far or fast I was running at any given time.

Cue RunKeeper. This is one powerful little app. It tracks where I’m going, how fast I’m going and gives me audio coaching on how I’m keeping up with my target pace. I get map of where I went, elevation metrics and an easy way to let my friends know I’ve been putting miles in.

In general I’m not a huge “data freak” who tracks everything they do, but RunKeeper makes it easy and useful, which is just a huge plus. It’s free too so if you’re a runner, I definitely recommend you check it out.


To tie this all together: my desire to push myself is what caused me to give running a shot, the Vibrams have made running fun and interesting and RunKeeper has allowed me to track and measure my progress, which gets me interested in running farther and faster.

I’m really glad I’ve found a way to enjoy running. As I said earlier, I’m not running very fast or very far, but I love being able to push myself physically in a new way. I end most runs tired but not exhausted (once in a while, I’ll really push myself) and I feel great for the rest of the day.

One minor cavate to this positive story though is that I did sort of strain my calf recently. It makes sense – all that impact is getting absorbed by the muscle in the calf – it’s a lot to handle and I ramped up my miles pretty quickly. I was careful though and took a full week off from running and now I’m back in the game. Yay!

I’ll let you know how the race goes as well. My expectation is that I’ll run it in under 25 mins (you can see that I did 3.14 miles in 27:39) but my stretch goal is to do a sub 20min. I have a feeling I’ll be pretty juiced up at the starting line and the adrenaline boost might take some minutes off my pace. We’ll see.

Thanks for making it all the way to the end of the post. Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your experiences with running or your feedback in the comments!


[1] I’m still somewhat skeptical about whether or not running is a sport. It’s physical effort, that’s for sure. But is splitting wood a sport? How about endurance dancing? I guess if it requires physical ability, can be competitively measured and enough people do it, it’s a sport.

[2] The SF Marathon has an interesting “Progressive Marathon” concept where you run 23 miles, tracking it on a workout sheet, before doing the 5k and “completing the marathon”.

[3] I actually strained my calf recently and took a week off to recover, so it’s true that somethings my enthusiasm and “push through s you can probably see in July I’ve only run once, due to a strain in my calf, but