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  • Writer's pictureTristan Wilson

Lessons from a 50-Mile Race: How Running Helped Fuel My Startup Journey

A little over 2 years ago, I was struggling to run even a quarter mile without having to stop and catch my breath. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and gyms and group workout classes were no longer an option, I decided to take up running despite the fact that I had previously "hated it". Gradually, I improved my endurance and was eventually able to run 3 miles without stopping. Running became a regular part of my daily routine, and as I started to eat healthier, I noticed an improvement in my overall well-being.

One of my friends invited me to participate in a relay race in Oregon, and I had a great time running more than 16 miles in 24 hours. That experience sparked my interest in longer distance running, and I soon signed up for my first ultramarathon. I barely made it through the 50K race, but it was a huge accomplishment for me. Since then, I've devoted myself to a daily exercise routine and last month, I was able to complete a 50-mile trail race. Despite the cold weather (it was 18 degrees at the start) and the grueling 13-hour duration, I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish. Running has been a challenging but rewarding journey for me, and I'm grateful for the positive impact it has had on my life.

Last year, I took the plunge and started a business to address problems I had encountered while working as an estimator in the highway construction industry. We frequently lost out on desirable jobs and left money on the table in the jobs we did win, due to a lack of effective tools. Despite my fears of failure and self-doubt, I pushed through and developed the idea for Edgevanta. However, after seeking feedback from potential customers and realizing that our original idea wasn't going to work, we iterated and decided to build a SaaS software platform instead. Our development team worked tirelessly to create a minimum viable product and released it to customers last month.

I don't want to give the impression that we have all the answers or that we've already achieved great success. We are still early in our journey and are working hard to understand what our customers really want and how we can deliver on that in our mission to increase the predictability of the project acquisition process for highway contractors. I'm proud of our team and grateful for the support of our advisors, collaborators, and customers. We have a long way to go and I'm excited to see where this journey takes us.

Below are a few things I learned along the way in training for the 50-miler and starting a company.

1. Hard stuff involves discomfort

It's obvious, but it's not always easy to remember when you're in the thick of it. During the race, I felt great at mile 10, terrible at mile 32, and euphoric at mile 45 (mostly because I knew I was almost done). It's amazing how quickly your body can go from feeling like death is imminent to a state of elation. In startups, there are similar extreme highs and lows. One day it feels like success is guaranteed, and the next, a setback makes it feel like you've been punched in the face and have to get right back up for more. To stay even-keeled in training and racing, I tried to focus on one mile at a time or just getting to the next aid station. One of the toughest parts of startups can be early customer engagement. No successful startup has avoided this process and it must be done, no matter how daunting it seems at the outset.

2. Comparison is the thief of joy

It's tough to figure out what we can control and not waste time worrying about things beyond our control. During the race, I tried not to compare my time to others, because it would have driven me crazy. Instead, I ran my own race and didn't try to keep up with others. Sure, I kept an eye on my pace and had an internal pace goal, but mostly I just wanted to finish before the cutoff. In business, I've learned that worrying about other people's visible startup success, fundraising, and growth relative to our company hasn't been helpful to me. So, I try to focus on solving the customer's problem instead.

3. “Put your ass where your heart wants to be”

This is a title of a book by one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield. His work has had a huge impact on my life. I knew I wanted to be a runner before I started, but I kept making excuses not to start. The same was true for the business. After months of "looking for the right opportunity," I realized that it wasn't going to come and I needed to just get started. As Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation". Fear is a killer of dreams. If I wait for all the lights to be green before I start, I'll never get going. It's important to remember that the right progress, even if just a tiny sliver, is better than avoiding the task that I don't want do, which is often exactly the thing I need to do most.

4. Accountability partners

Advisors and collaborators who can provide knowledge and share ideas have been invaluable in our journey. It's also helpful to have someone else to hold me accountable and make sure I get stuff done. In running, friends to run with and a coach have helped me stay on track.

5. Teams matter

People are what make organizations and teams stand out. Doing great work with people you enjoy being around is incredibly rewarding, especially when the team is small. I've had the pleasure of working with awesome people in my career, and these relationships grow stronger as the challenges become tougher. My sister and support crew Nancy (pictured right) was a huge backer throughout my training and race. I could not have done it without her!

6. The Pain Cave

Courtney Dauwalter is one the most prolific ultramarathoners in history. She talks about during low points in races she imagines that she is literally a miner with an ax in her own pain cave by carving out more capacity for the difficult. Ultras have been full of lows and I’ve found that barring an injury it is almost always mental. The moments where I have been embarrassed, uncertain, and confused on the startup journey have been excruciating at times. Walking out of someone's office who has basically just said “hey your idea sucks and I wouldn’t pay for that” made me feel foolish. Did we listen? Did we learn? Is what we are doing morally and legally okay? Can we grow from this? Will we survive? If we can answer yes, then it will likely be fine. The pain cave grows and we are capable of handling more and more.

7. Gratitude

Gratitude is an important mindset to cultivate, as it helps us to appreciate the opportunities that come our way. Every opportunity is a privilege, whether it's the chance to solve a problem for a customer or the opportunity to push ourselves to the limits. It's important to remember that it's the journey, not the destination, that is the most valuable and enriching part of the experience. So, as you go about your day, take a moment to appreciate the opportunities that come your way. Whether it's the chance to learn something new or the chance to connect with others, these moments are what make life rich and meaningful.

Thanks for reading this post. At Edgevanta, our proprietary SaaS platform enables highway contractors to track and forecast critical market dynamics and increase the predictability of the project acquisition process.

We wish everyone a Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!

Sincerely, Tristan Wilson

CEO and Founder

Edgevanta, LLC


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