5 Simple Copywriting Rules for Non-Writers

In my career, I’ve learned there are two types of people in the business world – those who hate writing, and crazy people. Since I spend a significant amount of time writing for companies, I guess I fall in the latter category.

I love to analyze the differing styles of writers, and the ways they work with their words in order to make a good story great. It’s essentially my version of competitive research. I especially enjoy reading articles from writers who can engage readers without clickbait headlines such as, “5 Simple Copywriting Rules for Non-Writers.”

So this seems like a good time to share a few tips aimed at those of you who hate writing, but can’t escape doing it.

  1. You have three seconds to earn a reader’s attention so they’ll read for 30 more: If you have never had to write a sentence for a living, you probably didn’t even bother to click on the title of this article in your feed. That’s fine. You’re not my audience. But if you clicked on this link, I had about 30 seconds in the first three paragraphs to hook you into the meat of the story. If you’ve gotten down here to the bullets, I estimate I now have earned about three more minutes of your time. I’ll try to make it worth it.
  2. Never use an Exclamation Point: Exclamation Points are the lazy writer’s way to show importance about something. If you can’t make a sentence interesting enough to stand on its own, rewrite the sentence. When you are talking to someone in a meeting, do you suddenly shout at them? Of course not. No exclamation points. Ever. Got it? If you have to change the way you type to make sure “Shift-1” is harder to reach, you should do so.
  3. There is no such thing as, “very unique”: “Unique” is defined as, “Being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.” When something is “one of a kind,” it can’t be “very one of a kind.” Don’t exaggerate for exaggeration’s sake.
  4. There’s a difference between who and that: There are many times when a person who ((not that)) has a lot of subject matter expertise, can present information on a blog that ((not who)) has readers who ((not that)) will benefit from it. Understand that “who” is for people and “that” is for things.
  5. Never use the same word twice in a sentence: This is a tough one for many companies, especially those that have precious few adjectives to describe their product’s features and benefits. Just be conscious that when you are producing content for your web properties, you should be able to write the content in a way that the content doesn’t require the same word multiple times.

Writing can be a difficult game, but you should never fear it. A bad writer with great ideas is still more interesting to read than someone who is grammatically correct in their description of paint drying.

Was this useful? Kind of useful? Useless? I’d love to hear your own writing tips and tricks, as well as any grammar and punctuation rules that I’ve violated in this article.

Mark Cuban 2020?

Mark Cuban set about to troll President Trump, in what was surely the only newsworthy event from the NBA’s Celebrity All-Star game.

Source: USA Today

But wait a minute, does a Mark Cuban presidency make sense? Have the times changed so greatly, that this something we should consider? Let’s speculate a little for fun.

  1. He’s not beholden to a single ideology. Cuban has self-identified as a Republican. Living in Dallas, that makes perfect sense. But he also has called himself fiercely independent and supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. So while so many want to force people into binary positions of Democrat or Republican, it’s fair to say that Cuban has pro-business values while also respecting the social causes and rights of all Americans. That’s a pretty good set of qualities for a leader of the free world.
  2. He identifies with everybody. He’s a Billionaire who really did scrap and claw from a middle class upbringing. He became a reasonably successful millionaire, then managed to see the future, leveraging some simple technology deals into a $6 billion payday for his company. He is the guy the middle class high school student can look to and say, “I can do that too.”
  3. He’d be able to assemble an incredible cabinet and set of advisors. Cuban runs in entrepreneurial circles, regularly engaging with the best and brightest minds around. But he’s also part of the business establishment, being part of venture capital groups and working with the key influencers in many industries. And most importantly, he seems to value the input and opinions of others to help him make his decisions. That’s someone who could recruit a top-notch team.

So, could he win?

Well, that would probably be up to the Democrats in power today. Will the DNC have the same pollsters and strategists who mishandled the Clinton campaign running their 2020 program? So for the sake of argument, let’s say the DNC didn’t get in the way of a populist Mark Cuban campaign in the primaries and just let it play out.


I don’t know enough to know who the leading Democratic challengers will be. I assume Elizabeth Warren will be a front runner. So let’s focus the conversation on Cuban vs Warren and a bunch of wild cards.

  1. Cuban has his own financial resources and doesn’t need to rely on donations from fringe groups. He can buy a talented team and build a ground game. I don’t know if Warren could raise the same amount of money.
  2. He’ll win Texas, and probably all the midwest and rust belt states that Obama and Trump won. That’s a good starting point.
  3. Can he take Warren in New York, California and Florida? I don’t know.
  4. I don’t think he has an issue with women voters. He seems to have mainstream appeal across all genders.

General Election:

  1. There will never be an election in which more Democrats come out to support whoever is running against Trump. So he’ll have that going for him.
  2. After 4 years of being beaten up by Trump, every media outlet in the world would be giving Cuban free air time.
  3. He can be a unicorn – a Democrat who wins Texas. Assuming Democrats also win New York and California, he’s almost halfway home at that point.
  4. Then he wins the middle of the country, the people who didn’t get what they were promised by the current President.

It’s a far out scenario, but reasonable at the same time. The question is if it’s a job he’d actually want.

A Conspiracy Theorist’s Predictions for the 2017 NFL Playoffs

We all know the NFL playoffs aren’t rigged. But if they WERE being written by a team of storytellers in New York, here’s how it would go down.

Houston: No NFL team has ever won a Super Bowl in the year their city hosted the game. The host city needs the tourist revenue. So no Houston this year. 1st round out.

Oakland: Their QB is out so they should have no chance. BUT, that wasn’t supposed to happen. The NFL needs the Raiders to become America’s favorite team so that either Oakland or Las Vegas will build them a new Billion Dollar stadium. Oakland is going to the Super Bowl behind a rookie QB who has never started an NFL game. Cinderella plus history + need for stadium = NFL preference.

Seattle: This is a tough one. The NFL finally had a team full of interesting characters a few years ago. Richard, Marshawn, Earl, Russell, Kam, and everyone’s favorite grandpa coaching them. But then something happened and the storytellers saw their characters go off script. Beast Mode quit, the goody-two-shoes QB married 50 Cent’s ex, Earl got hurt and spoke of retirement, Sherman seems to have lost his cool. This isn’t a team the NFL loves anymore. This is the team that goes down inexplicably this year.

Detroit: The Cavaliers, Cubs, Indians, Donald Trump… notice a trend? The world is conspiring to provide some relief to the Rust Belt. Detroit gets a cinderella win this year, even though they stink.

Miami: No one cares about the Dolphins, including Miami. If a team loses a playoff game and no one in the city notices, did they actually lose? Doesn’t matter. 1st round out.

Pittsburgh: I’m pretty sure the Rooneys and Maras have a deal with the NFL that one of them gets to win the Super Bowl every 4-5 years. They also fit well into the Rust Belt conversation. I see them to the AFC Championship where they do what is best for the league and lose to Oakland.

Giants: The Giants vs Cowboys rivalry is going to be THE rivalry for the next 3 years. But it starts in earnest next year. This year is the appetizer where we learn how important the regular season will be to each team. The Cowboys get a bye, the Giants go down in the best game of the 1st round. OR, they win a few games and end up losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship where home field matters. This is a tough one.

Green Bay: Is it the end of an era? Or is this the transition year where Aaron Rodgers gets a new cast of characters to make great? Once Tom Brady is gone, Aaron Rodgers will have another 5-7 years. I think Green Bay gets a win but goes on a Super Bowl drought until Rodgers’ final year when he gets to have his Peyton Manning Swan Song. OR, they have to bow to New York and let the Giants vs Cowboys NFC Championship game take shape.

New England: Every year, they could be the team that wins it all. They’re the guys you know will get there one or two of every three years. And this year they are simply going to need to take one for the league and let Oakland get to the Super Bowl. It’s just good business sense to let Oakland beat them.

Kansas City: Blah. No one outside of Kansas City cares about Kansas City. A league that saw TV ratings go down this year needs a HUGE Championship weekend and Super Bowl. Neither of those lead to Kansas City success. Out as soon as possible.

Atlanta: The Falcons have managed to get tax payer money to get a new stadium built. That was rewarded with a trip to the playoffs. But the idea of Aaron Rodgers vs Dak Prescott is too good to pass up.

Dallas: GOD the NFL needed Dallas this year. It’s a ratings bonanza. Kids love Dak and Zeke. Old guys love Dez and Whiten. This is NFL gold. Pencil them in to go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Round 1:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Houston (4) and Pittsburgh (3) over Miami (6)

NFC: Detroit (6) over Seattle (3) and Green Bay (4) over New York (5) (or vice versa)

Round 2:

AFC: Oakland (5) over New England (1) and Pittsburgh (3) over Kansas City (2)

NFC: Dallas (1) over Detroit (6) and Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) over Atlanta (2)

Championship Round:

AFC: Oakland (5) over Pittsburgh (3) in a classic AFL battle that makes the old people happy.

NFC: Dallas (1) over Green Bay or New York (4 or 5) in a classic NFL battle that makes old and new young people happy.

Super Bowl: TBD.


6 Business Lessons To Learn From Bruce Springsteen

3 hours and 45 minutes. That was the amount of time Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played at Key Arena on Thursday night. What can a musician teach a business person in 4 hours? Here are some simple lessons of which I was reminded.

1) Treat your customer right
How do you get you most ardent fans, all who have seen you play multiple times, to spend hundreds of dollars to see you again? Deliver them something so over the top, that they can’t say no to you. Do something unheard of – like playing “The River” from front to back for 2 hours, and then delivering another hour and 45 minutes of your hits. No intermissions, no fake encores, just turn on the lights and start playing.

2) Deliver consistent product
Once Springsteen hit his groove, he continued to deliver what his audience wanted. Sure, he dabbled here and there with some things like Tunnel of Love, but for the most part he has kept driving updated versions of what his customers were clamoring for. And when he wasn’t producing new material, he was on the road reminding his customers why they loved him.

3) Work with a strong team
Look at the folks he works with, and those who have passed. Solid musicians who do things better than he can. You don’t see him doing a vanity song on the piano or sax to show us he can play any instrument. He has the E Street Band, who are a key part of his storyline, and critical to the customer’s overall experience. Oh – and don’t be afraid to bring on someone like Eddie Vedder for a freelance consultant role.

4) Let your team discover their own creative outlets
I bet there are fans of Silvio Dante who has no idea he was the lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen (while even fewer Lilyhammer fans had a clue.) And plenty of Conan O’Brien lovers didn’t know who Max Weinberg was hanging out with on weekends. These were creative outlets where the guys in the shadows could get some spotlight and be known for being more than, “That guy who plays in Bruce’s band.”

5) Work harder than everyone else
Did I mention 3 HOURS AND 45 MINUTES. Without a break. With stage diving. At 66 years old. You don’t just do that. You train for it. You eat right, train better, and have the will to get it done. You practice so that you know exactly how to be the most efficient with your effort. You plan so that you know how to give everyone a couple of minutes here and there to get some water (or whatever they need) to stay on top of their game. This isn’t stumbling onto a stage at Bumbershoot and goofing around for 45 minutes. Any half-ass band or company can fake it for a little while. But that’s why he’s been selling out stadiums for 30 years.

6) And of course, it’s good to be The Boss.

American Politics are Dead, and I Blame Social Media

I hear the gasps now. “But Andy, your mortgage gets paid because of social media. How can ANYTHING be social media’s fault?”

In the beginning, we all promised that social would lead to the democratization of media. Finally, one person with a great point could be heard by the masses, without the media getting in the way and distorting the message. That was the goal, the dream, the vision.

But what do we have instead?

Everyone in my Facebook feed who posts something political, made their decision who to support months if not years ago. I have yet to see a single post where someone says, “Here is a really well thought out article that discusses two sides of a complex issue. Please read it so we can discuss as mature adults in a reasonable fashion.”

No, every political post is along the lines of, “Another example of how Trump sucks.” Or, “Here’s why Hillary is going to jail.” Or, “Look, GOP is imploding. LOL HAHAHA #DemsRule.”

And really, this is our fault. We took a channel that we could own, and turned it into a circus. People complain about how biased FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC are. But they need to look at their own Facebook and Twitter feeds. Individuals pander to their friends and followers worse than the media does. No Democrat reads an article about John Kasich and posts, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought about this before. He seems to make sense.” No, everyone moves on to the next article in their Flipboard hoping the headline says something like, “Donald Trump declares he likes to eat puppies.”

Ari, Chris and I learned this in 2007 when we built MyElectionChoices.com (ironically we lost the url to some Chinese spam company). People were really happy when their results confirmed the beliefs they had entering into the survey. They were very displeased to learn that they had something in common with the opposite party. Sometimes I wish we could try that experiment again. But I bet we’d find the same results.

So instead of a place to learn, social media has become an echo chamber where like minded individuals like each other’s posts, which triggers the algorithm to deliver more of the same types of posts that the same people can like even more. Social media is now built to make sure you don’t see a differing opinion, especially one that requires reading and/or thought. We’ve built a channel where everyone who believes the same thing can put on blinders and believe everyone sees things the way they do.

And that is the exact opposite of what the democratization of media was supposed to be about.

NWEN First Look Forum – Connecting the Dots

The Northwest Entrepreneur Network hosted one of its signature events last Wednesday, the spring version of First Look Forum.  (For those who want to know the whole format, check the appendix at the bottom of this post.)  In a nutshell, it’s a several month process that brings 12 entrepreneurs who have never pitched their business before, together with 60-70 VC’s and Angels.  Very cool format. 

This year’s group of 12 finalists spanned the gamut from fusion to chocolate.  My colleague Shelley Whelan already posted a nice follow-up on the NWEN blog.  But Alissa Johnson from the Alliance of Angels had a clever idea for a blog post, and allowed me to steal it from her, since she is too busy at VCIC to put it together.  Her idea – explain how if all of these companies became successful, how might one use all of them in a single day.  So here goes, using me as the example.

As soon as I woke up, I’d log into the dashboard of FLF winner Guide Analytics.  The company helps patients manage heart failure and avoid hospitalization through the continuous monitoring of edema.  Patients wear a bracelet around their ankle, measuring ankle size and relaying that info via bluetooth and wireless devices to the main computer.  Now I don’t have heart problems, but I’d be able to check on my aunt’s status, and make sure everything was ok.  The system will tell us when she is in danger of a heart attack, and lets us get her to the doctor before it happens.

I’d get in my car and head to work.  I’d stop for coffee first at a certain store, because I could get some valuable points to help me in the BodSix game I was currently engaged in.  (This is still in development, so I can’t share too much here.)  But soon I’d get into the office and say hi to the staff.  One of my team members, a woman getting married soon, would be choosing bridesmaid dresses from Little Borrowed Dress. Her bridesmaids would be able to rent these silk dresses for $75, rather than spend $230 for some taffeta number they’d never wear again anyway.  Our happy bride-to-be is also showing pictures of the bridesmaid dresses to her fiance, who lives in New York, on their private page at SnuggleCloud, a personal online space for couples.

We’d probably have a client coming in that day, and undoubtedly, there’d be some furniture issue in some hard to reach angle of the room.  Thankfully, we’d have our new Flipout Screwdriver, which would enable us to fix it.  Before the client got to our office, we would have downloaded the reports from ReadyPulse, a company that provides insight on what works best to grow your audience on Facebook and Twitter.  Our client – a software company – is probably using AgileEVM, a product that helps with agile software developments.

We’ll want to take the client to lunch afterwards, so we’ll check UrbanQ a way for us to discover places and experiences we’ll like, from our mobile device.  UrbanQ might recommend a nice waterfront restaurant, where we notice all the ships using Fusion Engines developed by Woodruff Scientific.  These ships are actually sing sea water and the elements inside of it, to generate fuel through fusion.  The restaurant is great.  So I log into Meevine and ping my friends about it.  Hopefully we’ll all be able to pick a date soon.  

It was a long day.  So when I get home, I open up a high-end chocolate bar I got from Chocolopolis, something that goes nicely with my Spanish Rioja, and that I’ll probably pick up more of for the dinner party I’m throwing later this week.  I end the day reading a book about baseball history that had been turned into an iPad application by Appitude.  I use this app because I get to do more than just read the book – I’m part of a virtual book club, chatting on my iPad while scrolling through the text and pictures.  Some of my real life friends happen to be reading, and I’m connecting with other baseball history fans. 

That’s how I’d be able to utilize all the businesses who made it to the finals of this First Look Forum.  I encourage you to go check out the companies who already have products live, and signup to get ont he beta list for the others.


Appendix: About First Look Forum

  1. Over the course of several months, about 70 entrepreneurs, who have never pitched their business plan to an investor group, apply to FLF.  Everyone who applies gets some business plan coaching from NWEN’s Exec Director, or someone from the investment community.  
  2. A screening committee then whittles those 70 plans down to 20.  More coaching.
  3. Those 20 get parsed to 12.  Still more coaching.
  4. Then the even itself.  Each of the 12 gets 5 minutes in front of the most influential group of VC’s, Angels and investors in the Puget Sound.  5 finalists are chosen for 2 more minutes of pitching, and then a judging panel selects a winner.


Why 30+ Year Olds Have More Fun on Facebook than Our Junior Counterparts

I just don’t understand when people my age tell me, “Facebook is just for kids.”  I will argue that the best part about Facebook is in fact lost on these newbies, and us more mature folks are getting the best it has to offer.

To wit: My friend’s daughter is 15.  She has something like 700 friends.  Basically every person she has ever met is on her Facebook page.  There has never been a time in her life in which she was not keenly aware of what her people were up to.

No consider the 30-something year old who is tip-toeing into Facebook for the first time.  First he finds some work friends and maybe some folks he plays soccer with.  Then a few folks from his last job.  Then a few people from the town he used to live in, then college guys and then back to high school and elementary school.  People he hasn’t talked to or heard from in 20 years are now available.

I mention this because this has happened to me twice now in the last few weeks.  An old friend from college disappeared off the planet, reappeared on Facebook and it allowed us to have lunch and catch up.  Meanwhile, the next time I’m in New York in June, I will be able to meet up with a friend I last saw in New Orleans circa 1986.  

Now, today’s 15 year olds won’t get to enjoy this type of reunion.  So I’m sticking with my story – Lil’ Green Patches and SuperPokes may be fun and all, but it’s the reconnecting with long lost friends that makes Facebook as powerful as it is.

Happy Holidays

Dear Santa:

This year I would like an additional 15 hours a month.  I certainly think it’s a reasonable ask, since if you would just give me an extra 1/2 hour a day, I could really do a lot more for mankind.

First off, I’d write on this blog more often, and while that doesn’t seem like it’s really going to benefit society that much, follow me on this.  If I write more, more people will continue to read.  And if more people read this, I’ll feel better when I look at the traffic numbers.  And if I feel better after looking at the traffic numbers, I’ll be less grouchy at the end of the week.  And if I’m less grouchy, I’ll be able to spread that joy to all your loyal subjects, or customers, or whatever you call them.

Now before you say no, hear me out.  Because I don’t need all 15 hours to write.  So, I’ll make you a deal.  Give me 5 to write, I’ll donate 5 to charitable causes, and give me 5 more to deal with work stuff – not the boring work stuff – but helping employees and clients to make sure they are all in a good mood too.  So then, that 5 hours you give me would pay itself forward to a lot of people, and then they’d all be in a better mood too.  It’s really a sound investment on your part.

This isn’t a whim, and I have the logistics all figured out.  With the exception of one weekend in Las Vegas that really shouldn’t count, I have not been awake between 4:30 and 5:00am for a long time.  So, all you need to do is let me repeat that 1/2 hour every day, which would then give me an extra 1/2 hour of sleep.  So, instead of my normal bedtime, I’ll go to bed 1/2 hour later, since I know I’ll get it back.  See, the plan’s simplicty is it’s greatest attribute.

So look, have one of your guys run the numbers on this, because I think you’ll see this is a win-win-win Xmas present.  More content on the blog, more smiles from the author, more smiles from everyone 2 degrees away, plus a healthy benefit for a charity (you can even choose the charity.)  It sure beats a BB Gun.  Let me know what you think.

Yours Truly,


Happy Thanksgiving

Well Happy Thanksgiving, aka “Shopping Season Eve”.  I thought it was a good time to remember the early days of Thanksgiving, as described by my Grand Papa Ernest.  Grandpapa swore that his Grandpapa’s Grandpapa was there.  With a giant glass of Wild Turkey in one hand, he would gather the kids and happily relive the tale of the first Thanksgiving….  

You see, one day word came to Plymouth Rock that a Macy’s had opened in New York.  None of the men knew what a Macy’s was, but the women swore that they simply could not be caught at New Year’s in a gown that was not from this glorious place.  Tales of lavish rooms filled with every kind of merchandise imaginable excited the oldest and youngest women in the town.   And all their freshest inventory arrived the 4th week of November.

Now the trip from Plymouth to New York was at least a day in each direction.  So for a full day of shopping on Saturday, the women had to leave on Friday.  At first the men saw no problem with this, and they approved the plan that the town women had come up with.  

But on Saturday, after a full day of no one fixing them a meal, the men were singing a different tune.  They were hungry, then hungrier on Sunday, and when the women returned, the men were drunk on wine and whiskey, with no food in their bellies.

So the next year, the town elders decreed the women would not be allowed to travel to Macy’s.  One of Macy’s marketing people read the Plymouth blog in which this was discussed, and checked with other towns.  Plymouth was not the only town in which the women were flocking to Macy’s, and what seemed like sure success seemed in peril.  The marketing guy realized something must be done.

Being a man of the world, the marketing man knew quite a few Native Americans.  He quickly struck a deal with one of the chiefs.  The chief had been working with the Macy’s buyers for months to get their hand crafted moccasins and shawls into the fall season, but to no awail.  In return for Macy’s carrying the merchandise, the tribes would reach out to their pilgrim friends.

The tribes would invite the men and women of each town to a giant feast, to be held the 4th Thursday of November.  There would be way way way too much food.  And so in an act of kindness, the tribes allowed – almost forced – the pilgrims to take the leftovers home with them.  

With a house full of leftovers, and tons of extra ale and wine, the men pilgrims suddenly realized an exciting three day weekend might be had.  However, their wives, who were now stuck in town, had given them a long list of demands and chores.  

The men were not pleased, and quickly convened a meeting to discuss options.  With all the food and drink, they certainly could allow the ladies to go to New York.  But they might not make it in time.  

A few of the unmarried men said they would be happy to see this Macy’s and lead the group.  Thus they quickly organized a giant horse and buggy-pool.  They left at the break of dawn, combining the buggies together to make colorful super buggies, and played their musical instruments to pass the time.  They did not stop until they reached New York, where they saw many other caravans and combined them together.  They quickly ended up in a long line, where they proceeded straight to Macy’s.

The men were home and happy.  The women were shopping amidst a mass of chaos and frivolity.  The Native Americans had goods in the store.  And Macy’s never looked back.

My Grandpapa swears his Grandpapa’s Grandpapa was that marketing guy from Macy’s.  I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

Rich Kline vs the Vineman

(Updated version – more updates to come with more pictures)

So the staff hit the road for Healdsburg, CA this weekend, to cover the Sonoma Vineman Ironman Triathlon. In one corner – a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race and 26.2 mile run in scorching 95 degree heat. In the other corner – Rich Kline, a mild-mannered financial advisor from Phoenix who now lives in Sacramento.

Working n his favor, Rich has a year of training and a strict vegetarian diet. Maybe more importantly, he has the advantage of having been dating or being married to my sister for the last 15 years, so he has experience with long extended periods of mental challenges, fatigue and confusion. (Just kidding. I gotta get the kid sister shot in there somewhere.)

It’s man vs nature. Here is the story….

Friday 5:45pm, T-Minus 13 hours

Most of Team Kline is all settled in now. Rich’s parents (Dick and Margaret), sister Susie, sister Sandy, her husband Chris and son Tyler, my sister Liz, and me. We’re all bunking in a giant house in Healdsburg, a small but cute Sonoma town with 2 traffic lights and no McDonalds. 3 friends of Rich’s (Tom, Jason and Cheryl) are making the 15 hour drive down from Seattle as we speak, and should arrive later tonight.

You can feel tensions starting to rise a little. Mom is nervous about the health, Dad is nervous about success, everyone is curious how it will all play out. Chris (since he’s Rich’s brother in law, I guess that makes him my sister’s husband’s sister’s husband) whips up a huge pot of spaghetti, so we are all properly carbed up for the race tomorrow. If he needs it, we will be able to transfer energy or nutrition to Rich by mental osmosis.

Friday 7:45pm, T-Minus 11 hours to launch.

We decide to drive to the starting area to check out where Rich will be plunging himself into the Russian River the following morning. The drive there takes much longer than we expected, and there’s a harsh realization that tomorrow we will need to leave the house at 5:00am to safely have Rich ready for the 6:45 gun. That means bugle call at 4:30. As far as I am concerned, this really isn’t the right side of 4:30am to be looking at.

Friday 9:45pm T-Minus 9 hours to launch

Final preparations. Everyone knows they need to get to sleep, but no one can find the will. Liz and Rich are doing final pre-game routines, counting sandwiches, testing tires, packing all the bags he’ll need for the stages. The rest of the family is crammed upstairs, nervously pacing. The rest of the crew arrives.

Saturday morning, 4:30am – 6:45am, The House

The alarm goes off too early, but everyone is already awake and amped. Nervous energy flows through the house as everyone waits for Rich to emerge. No one wants to wonder “what if he doesn’t finish?” It’s kind of like a wedding where you aren’t 100% sure the bride is going to show. But the big day is here, so we’re all ready to do our parts, no matter how small they may be.

We retrace the drive from last night, leaving a little late, and dump rich out of the truck about 6:00 near the race zone. It’s still not quite light.

We walk down to the starting line at the beach, and with just enough time to sit around and experience some pre-race jitters. We see Rich from time to time and there’s a little wandering around, with no one quite sure what to do. Too late, Rich wonders if he should use the restroom. But the line is 20 minutes long with 10 minutes till the gun, so it’s better left as a thought unthunk.

The water temperature is announced at 73.2 degrees, which people say is cold, but to me feels much warmer than the pre-sunrise crispness that fills the air. Steam floats off the surface of the river, and some sarcastically quip that it means the water must be really hot. The temperature means that wet suits are allowed, which affects about 500 of the 510 swimmers. Rich is not one of these affected since he did not bring a wet suit, so his pale white frame is easy to spot amongst the army of gray body armor.

All of a sudden, they are calling for racers and Rich is setting up in the water. No big pre-race group picture, no cheer, chant or pep talk. He’s just in the river wading around with Ironman veterans and rookies alike, all indistinguishable from one another. It’s just a mass of white hats in a cold river, none of them 100% sure they’ll make it through the next 10-12 hours by crossing a finish line.

The horn sounds, and off they go.

(Time: 7:15am) Time into race: 00 (hours) :31 (minutes):00 (seconds)

Rich hits the halfway point in the swim. Out of maybe 100 guys in the group, he’s about 14th or 15th we estimate. A good start. Average swim time at the Vineman is 1:15, so he’s way ahead of an average pace.

(7:45am) 01:00:27

Rich emerges from the water triumphantly. Next step 112 miles on the bike.

(8:45am) 2:00:00 ~Mile 20

We’re really not sure what kind of access we’ll have to the riders, so the three cars full of support are a little nervous driving toward the 1st spot on the map that we think we may be able to scream, cheer and shoot a few pics. We’re also not sure how fast Rich will be riding, so we have no idea whether we are late or early.

We get to our stopping point and evaluate. Judging by the studs riding by, on bikes that cost more than my car, we don’t think Rich has passed by yet. These guys are shooting hard into a hard right turn, and jokes fly about how Rich is almost sure to slide ride through the intersection and into the drainage ditch on the other side of the road. Every yellow speck in the background gets us fired up. But yellow shirt after yellow shirt simply pass by. Finally, when we are barely paying attention, Rich zooms by. We all miss good picture ops, but he’s smiling and having a blast. He seems in good shape.

(9:15am) 02:30:00 Alexander Valley Road ~Mile 35

Full of confidence, we travel south and then east a short distance to catch Rich at what should be about the 2/3 rd mark of lap 1. We are now starting to recognize some of the racers, having seen them enter and leave the water, and pass us on the bike course. We are trying to judge Rich’s condition by the unofficial race results we are tallying individually. Things like, “I think the hot girl in pink was further ahead of the green dude last time.” And, “The dude with the funny helmet looks slower now.”

We are obviously the largest fan brigade at the event, and arguably the largest in the history of modern triathlons. Every biker seems to be jealous of Rich’s entourage. Plus we have cool shirts.

Rich sees us and decides it’s a good time to stop and say hi to his fans. He looks good. Still strong, but complaining about bad socks. Our shopping list now includes a change of socks for the next stop. He hops back on the bike and we move in the opposite direction – heading home for showers and sandwiches.

(10:15am) 03:30:00 The House

Rich is winding through the Sonoma Hills. We are tired and need baths and food. My body, after several unsuccessful attempts to contact my brain, has finally been able to ask, “WTF? We got on a plane, so it seems like
vacation. Then we got up at 4:30, which is certainly not vacation. Then we sat in the sun, which feels like vacation, and are now having a Margarita at 11:00am. Please explain.”

Team Kline discusses how we think we are making an impact on many of the riders, since we are starting to see the same folks. We can’t tell if we are confidence boosters, or mild amusements on the track.

Rich calls and says he is ahead of schedule. We pack the gear and hit the road to meet him at the next stop.

(12:30pm) 05:45:00 Kinley Road – Mile 70

The bike race is roughly 2/3 over, and by our estimation Rich has been riding since about 1:00:00, so he’s maybe 4:45 in. That would pace him to maybe a 6:30 – 7.0 hour ride, getting him to the marathon about 3:00pm – 3:30pm. I have no idea if that’s a good time. Sunset is at 8:45pm or so, that would give him about 5 – 6 hours for the marathon in the light.

He sees us and stops to change socks and generate some energy from the admiration and support. He seems to be slowing down just a touch, but still seems pretty strong.

(1:30pm) 6:45:00 Alexander Valley Road – Mile 92

We get here after a stop at the Safeway where we all hydrate on Full Throttle and Icee Pops. Like Oklahoma Tornado Chasers, we are finding that tracking Rich is a triathlon in itself – driving, waiting, and cheering.

Right now, we’re waiting.

Some of the bikers we recognize seem to have stretched their lead over Rich. There are a lot of cocktail napkin calculations going on. We know we are 20 miles from the finish, so Rich will be about 85% done when he hits us. If he hits us at 1:45pm, he’ll have been on the bike about 5:45, which would still pace him to a 7 hour bike ride and to the marathon at 3:00pm.

1:45 comes and goes, and we keep looking for yellow shirts. Jason starts optimistically trying to figure out if he could have passed us BEFORE we got here, which would mean he caught a second wind and is ahead of what we were hoping for.

1:55 goes by, and no one is holding serious to the notion that he’s rolled past us. We are still cheering for everyone, and the riders still seem to mix between amusement and thankfulness when they see us. Liz wonders whether we are breaking Triathlon etiquette by magically showing up all over the course.

1:57 and for the 23rd time since we got here, someone says, “I see his yellow jersey.” Unlike the previous 22 times, this time they are right. No stop this time, just a drive by of “What’s up?” Let’s call it 2:00pm. Time on bike 6 hours. 15% left. Maybe 2 hours to go. We hope he speeds up a little. Otherwise he may be running in the dark.

(2:30pm) 07:45:00 Downtown Healdsburg

Team Kline is tired. And hot. And we need to go to the bathroom. So we do what every modern triathlon team support team does. We go to Starbucks.

Our brains are a little bit fried and no one can properly calculate what time we should get to the spot where the racers transform from lunatic bikers into maniac marathon runners. We’re all rookies, no one knows the answer, and so we hustle out of Starbucks a little ragged around 3:30pm.

(3:50pm) 09:05:00 Windsor High School

We’ve landed at the running start/finish line. We’re unpacked. We’re edgy. We don’t know where Rich is. For all we know, he’s at the bottom of the canyon – or at the bar – but no one is thinking like that. We don’t have to wait very long, as Rich turns the corner with a big smile. Poof! He turns into a runner.

Team Kline separates. The race course is designed so runners do 3 laps up and back, so if strategically placed, we could cover almost the entire race course with support. I head to the furthest reaches and make it to the 2.5 mile mark. Tom, Jason and Cheryl take up about 1.7. Sandy, Susie, Liz and Tyler head to Mile 1.0. Dick and Margaret hold down the fort at the starting line.

Rich takes a little break, choosing “having a chance to finish” over “needing to shave 10 minutes of my time.” He’s on the road at 4:00.

(Editors note: At this point, the stories are an amalgamation of several field reports, so no one can vouch for the complete accuracy. In a few instances, slight exaggerations may occur.)

(4:15pm) 9:30:00 The race course

It’s 129 degrees when Rich hits Mile 1. This is a good, because it’s at least 10% cooler than the 145 degrees when he started a few minutes ago.

(4:35pm) 09:50:00 Rich hits Mile 2.5. Mile 2.5 is notable because of a hard left turn into a hill that goes up at about a 45 degree angle. It’s sadistic and just plain wrong to include this hill in the race. Part of Team Kline joins Rich for the jog up Mount Sinai. Rich explains that this is nothing compared to the murderous mountain range that swallowed him whole in the last leg of the bike component. At least, that’s what we think he said. Actual words were something like. “Bike. BIG HILL. Hard. Hurt bad. Lap 2. Not good. Time to go home yet?”

For a brief moment at Mile 4, Rich contemplates that a 2 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 4 mile run, while not Ironman, really does count for something. After all, he reckons, it’s 118 miles more than anyone else he knows has swam, biked and run today.

Some calculations are done, and it’s determined he’s trained for this race about 1000 hours in the last year. 4 more hours won’t kill him. An accord has been reached. He will continue. We will push him.

(4:50pm) 10:05:00 We make the turn and head back toward the starting line.

(5:32pm) 10:47:00 Furious calculations are being tabulated as Rich is handed off to his next group of handlers at the aid station that was at Mile 2 on the way up the track. This equation is tough because of the way the course is set up. Dividing 26.2 into 3 equal loops creates a decimal that is not easy to tabulate, and roughly resembles something as easy to fathom as Pi squared. (Technically, it’s 8.73333333). So if Rich meets you at mile 2.5, you make the turnaround, and then you drop him off at Mile 2, how freaking far is that. Now add the fact that you ran most of those miles with him in the now 110 degree heat, and try to figure it out. It’s like taking the SAT in hell. We settle on the idea that he’s doing about a 15:00 or 16:00 mile. About 18 miles left = 4.5 more hours. That’s a 10pm landing and a 15 hour 15 minute day. It will definitely be dark – if he finishes at all. How will running through sunset – or the moment he figures out he won’t finish in daylight – affect his psyche?

(7:07pm) 12:22:00 Wife Liz joins the upper mountain support party. We are under threat from race management that running with Rich could cause him disqualification, so we are limited to seeing him pass by, driving up the course, waiting, and repeating the process. We’re settled up at the 4 mile mark so we can see him, then let him hit the turn and come back our way. Rich has a sort of crazy look in his eyes. He may finish the race, he may machete everyone on the course. It could go either way.

(8:15pm) Rich ends lap 2. Still in his 15:00 to 16:00 pace. He tells his mom, “You know, this race is a little more than I thought it would be.” Duh. The sun is falling and the temperature has dropped to about 22 degrees. It’s so cold it could be snowing. But he has made the deadline and heads back out. He’s not sure he’ll make it back, but there a
re enough support folks on the path that we’ll roll him up and down the hill if he tries to quit. None of us think he will try to quit. He’s just being funny.

(8:48pm) 14:03:00 Some racers still haven’t made it down for their last lap. They only have until 9:00, so many of the fans still around are waiting with nervous anticipation. It would be an extreme disappointment to not get to run the last 8 miles and finish.

(10:08pm) 15:23:00 We found rich about 45 minutes ago in the dark, lying in a ditch. Shuttering. Mumbling. Crying. Muttering something about Mulder being Homer Simpson’ dad.

No, just kidding.

We found rich about 45 minutes ago, walking past the turnaround point, and with about 3.5 miles left in the whole race. We estimated it would take him about an hour, based on what he was considering was “walking in a straight line.” So, that would be about 10:25 or so. We’re packing up and getting ready. We’re excited, smelly, tired and wondering if Rich will pass out in the truck, or find a 134th wind and stay up all night telling us stories. His one request has been fulfilled – we have Guiness at the finish.

We have agents out at the 1 mile and ½ mile mark guiding him home. If he is walking, they should be able to walk with him. The rest of us are headed to the finish line.

Note: Liz heard there was a triage area near the finish line. In this case, triage means, “Place where people throw up in copious amount. Neither Liz or I do well near this kind of “triage” so we will be carefully avoiding it.

(10:15pm) 15:30:00

We get the call from the field. Rich is one mile out and closing fast. We are heading to the finish line. The whole team is extremely excited.

(10:23pm) 15:38:47


Rich reacts, in his own words:

Screaming, cheering, hands waiving, and darkness…the pain is on mute, everything else is cranked up on high. I am not a very strong runner, but I feel like one right now- I feel fast but more than that I feel gratitude. The cumulative outpouring of support and emotion was the difference between finishing and quitting, I can say so without any doubt. The hugs, high fives, and smiles were the ultimate validation of the last 15hours of work…and the only things I lacked were the words to really thank each of the people that were there screaming for me. And crossing the line—stopping and knowing that I had done it—was one part euphoria, one part stupor. All day long, I heard people say the important truth of an endurance race, “You’re doing it!” Without a doubt, the process and grind are what this race is all about…but nothing comes close to hearing, “You did it!” while sharing it with so many people I love. From the bottom of my hamburger meat feet to the top of my wobbly head I feel light and free…and gratitude for my legs, my arms, my heart, my lungs, my head, and my family. THANK YOU ALL!!!! You are IronFan’s and that in itself is a real endurance race. YOU DID IT!!!!


Chris Kmetty, brother-in-law, gives us his report:

Rich, you were truly an inspiration to us all and a very large inspiration to Tyler. As a father it is amazing to see the people and moments that shape him. This was a day that I will remember for the inspiration that you gave to us that drove each and every one of us to help you succeed. We all knew that you were carrying us all with you and we in our own small parts were there to help carry you in any way we could.

Tyler was more than excited to cheer on all of the competitors as they came by, clapping for each and letting us know, “Mommy, hurry bike.” So that we would all clap and cheer on each biker, but when the yellow biker came by that we all knew was Uncle Rich. Tyler would let out, “GO RICH!”

Tyler endured the entire day in and out of the car somehow in his way knowing that he was there to support Uncle Rich.

When Tyler and I were watching the runners finish late into the night Tyler was there clapping again for the runners that he cheered for hours before on the bikes as each one finished into the arms of awaiting friends and family we waited for our inspiration to come around the LAST bend.

As Rich approached the finish line, he gave all the people lined up at the finish line a high five and finished strong with a last kick and the ever present smile that Rich is known for. He invited all of us to be here on a special day for him and in a way that only Rich can do, he carried himself and all of us near and far across the finish line on the most difficult day in sport. Uncle Rich is an Iron Man!