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.


A Story For Those of You Who Gutted Out Time at the End of the Bench

If you’ve had conversation with me lately, you’ve probably had to hear me tell the tale of Niki, the Senior JV player who got called up to varsity for the last game of her senior year for Senior Night, and got in a fun 15 minutes of play at the end.

Well, the story gets better.  Here’s a story from the Seattle Times from last night’s Girls High School State Tournament:

Defending Champs Skyline Advances | Girls 4A State Soccer

SAMMAMISH — Fresh off its ascent to the No. 1 spot in the nation, top-ranked Skyline immediately went out and validated that status.


Two quick first-half goals and stout defense propelled the Spartans one step closer to their third consecutive Class 4A state championship with a 5-0 win over Mount Rainier in Tuesday’s first round of the state playoffs at Skyline High School.

Junior forward Michelle Bretl scored her first high-school hat trick and has four goals in the postseason for Skyline (17-0). She leads the team with 15 goals this season.

The Spartans’ depth showed, as well. Reserve Niki Gerlach, a senior playing in her second varsity match after a last-minute roster switch when Nicole Candioglos came up ill, booted in a rebound shot in the 78th minute. Gerlach, listed on the roster as a team manager, had been playing on the junior varsity.

“With Niki, it’s kind of a fun story,” said Skyline coach Don Braman. “On Senior Night, she had an assist and nearly scored a goal and was kicking herself, so it was fun to see her stick one in the net. She has worked hard.”


If you’ve ever sat on the sidelines and wondered why you are putting in all that effort for no guaranteed payout, this should remind you.

Pete Carroll on “How to Run a Social Media Program”

(Republished from Spring Creek Group blog.)

It’s not often that you get the chance to sit down with a two-time NCAA National Champion, and current NFL coach, to talk 1-on-1 about business and strategy.  And sadly, this was not one of those times.  But I did get to share a room with 300 other people to listen to the new chief Seahawk, Pete Carroll, share some wisdom and philosophy about business and coaching.

Carroll’s presentation was not actually entitled, “How to Run a Social Media Campaign.”  But with 400,000 Twitter followers, he could probably run an entire event on the matter if he so wished.  He spoke about general leadership and business philosophies, but when you peel away the adjectives, they are also extremely sound strategies for a social media program as well.  In honor of the 12thman, here are 12 philosophies I walked away with (and which will likely soon in up in one of our presentation decks).

(Quotes are paraphrases of Carroll’s speech, not necessarily direct quotes, and the photo is from the PSBJ recap.)

1)      “I wasn’t ready to be a head coach when I ran the Jets.  So it was a mistake to get involved.  But when I finally figured it out and was ready for the next role, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and what it would take to put it together.” Social media translation – If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t rush in.  Figure out what you need to do, and what it will take to get there.  Write everything down, start your program and make refinements along the way.  But know what the goals are, and what pieces you need to make them happen.

2)      “Look forward to the challenges ahead of you, rather than worry about them.” – If you’ve built out a solid plan, you can anticipate where there may be hurdles. When you are prepared and ready to face difficulties, whether they are organizational, technical, or content centric, you are in the proper mindset to find the right solutions in an efficient manner.

3)      “We all win sometimes.  But if you want to win forever, you figure out why you are winning.” –It’s not just that anyone can get lucky, it’s that everyone will get lucky at some point.  If you rest on a few wins without figuring out what exactly got you that bump in traffic or spike in friends, you’ll only be successful until the next company (possibly a competitor) gets their stroke of luck.

4)      “Winners battle for a competitive edge in everything they do.  Find those who want to do things better than other people, and you all will achieve greater things. Fight, scratch and claw to find a better way.” –Don’t just pick an employee or agency because they are convenient or easy.  Pick those with drive and passion to be better than others, and your campaigns will reflect that more so than someone who just wants to get a check.  Simply doing something because, ‘it’s how we’re used to doing it’ is not acceptable for a social media or marketing program.  Do what it takes to make something special happen.

5)      “Accomplishment is one thing, but it’s more important to understand how someone feels about that accomplishment.” –A line on a resume or a completed project only gets you so far.  Understanding whether the person thinks they could have done better, and how they’d do it over, is a better predictor of who is going to execute a quality campaign for you, and how your campaign is going to evolve over time.

6)      “Find the folks that other people are listening to.  Make an impact on them first, then the rest is easier.” –Identify your influencers.  But don’t try to sell them garbage.  Carroll used the word “impact” which is key.  Be “impactful” to those who matter the most, and you’ll get their support.

7)      “3 or 4 people in a crowd out of 15,000 can change a community.” –Carroll’s program to fight gang violence had a monetary return.  It cost about $100k to support each of these 3 or 4 influencers.  Each gang-related death costs the city $1 Million in legal fees.  So for every death Carroll’s group prevents, the city avoids having to pay out $1 Million.  Social media may not lead to direct sales, but can you determine if it is preventing additional costs on expensive PR efforts later?

8)      “Do things better than anyone else has ever done before, in all the things you choose to do.” — You don’t have to do everything, but if you are going to do it, don’t just do it well, shoot to do it better than everyone else. Basically, “mediocrity” not “failure” is the enemy of “excellence.”

9)      “Know your philosophy.  If you can’t articulate your own philosophy in 25 words or less, how do you expect anyone who works for you or around you to explain it to others?” –Your social media program needs a vision and a voice, and it needs to be articulated to everyone in your company.

10)    “John Wooden had his own way of doing things that were unique.  He could draw on people from all walks of life, because they could all focus on his unique way.” –Your brand needs its own unique identity, philosophy and vision if you want people to be drawn to it.  If you do things out of a standardized process or playbook, you only cater to those people who agree with that playbook.  If you do your own thing, you can draw everyone who believes in the vision.

11)    “Empower yourself to do everything you can do, in the areas you control.  Don’t worry about the things you can’t.” –Don’t stress about whether people will say something negative.  You control the product you develop, the price you sell it for, and the way you promote it.  You control how you respond to your customers and how you cater to their needs.  Focus on that, and don’t waste energy on the other stuff.

12)   “Evaluate, Address areas of concern, and fill the holes.”  –This goes to the Spring Creek Group philosophy of 1) Analyze Data, 2) Develop a Strategic Plan, and 3) Engage the Community.  Take a good hard look at what you have, figure out the best course of action, and then be relentless in fulfilling those needs.

You can follow Carroll on Twitter at @PeteCarroll.  Also, a full-length video of his speech can be found on the Seahawks web site.

Iceland Day Seven-ish

We’re getting into the home stretch here in Iceland.  It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, which enables/forces us into a coffee shop for some much needed picture uploading.  We spent the middle of the week on the northern coast, based out of Akureyri.  From there we launched into day trips to Husavik for some whale watching, Grimsey Island to officially hike in the Arctic Circle, and around Lake Meadv (sp ?) which included some of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever seen first hand.  More info to come when the shock of 168 consecutive hours of daylight weares off….

Iceland Day Three-ish

There will be a series of rather long posts as more time presents itself.  If you want to cheat and see the preview version of the first three-ish days in Iceland, check out the pics on my Facebook page.

I say three-ish, because it’s hard to really keep track of days when it never gets dark.  We landed about 6:00am Sunday in Iceland.  So the pics begin at around 8:00am at the Blue Lagoon, then inlcude some random shots, and then really pick back up again Monday night on a tour of Geysir and Goldfoss (waterfall).  It really doesn’t get dark here.  Around 11:00pm, if it’s dark, cars need to use headlights, but you could still play a game of catch without any problem.

Off to Aukreyri (sp?) on the North coast today (Tuesday).  More soon.

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!