Sunday, February 18, 2007

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high. There’s a land that I run in that I heard of only once in a lullaby. Dorothy certainly wasn’t singing about me or running but her words ring so true. I can overcome any struggle by going to my own personal land where I’m given strength by those from above. Is it over the rainbow? I don’t know but it’s definitely somewhere in a land where things are not taken so seriously. My body remains in this world but what lies in my heart is something only I believe to be true and only I am a beneficiary of. In the land where I run I have landmarks in each of my routes that are significant in that they remind me of lost relatives who are gone from this world but live on within my heart. As I run I may struggle but I know that if I persevere I will reach one of those landmarks and be filled with new energy.

There are many people still in this world today for whom I find strength but unknown to most there are three who no longer remain whom I rely upon for strength. My relationship with all three while they were alive was average at best but the memory of how each was special to me in their own way will live forever.

I was quiet child who wasn’t demanding or overbearing. I was extremely shy and withheld most emotions and thoughts. The three people I mention above tried very hard in their own way to get through to me and open me up. My shyness wouldn’t allow me to express my feelings toward anyone no matter how hard they tried. However, many years later I now feel the impact of their attempts and use what they taught me to my advantage as a runner and as a person.

First and foremost my Grandfather taught not through words but rather action. He was a man who couldn’t read or write but instead of crawling into a hole he worked hard to successfully raise four children, my mother included. He taught me that hard work brings pain but also satisfaction. He taught how to persevere through pain and more importantly he taught me not to complain about it. It’s there, live with it, work with it and run with it. He taught me that sometimes a good fistfight is the only way to resolve an issue but it’s not the first way. He was a tough guy and he is the reason that I’ve been successful at running in 100 mile races. He guides me as I train and he watches over me and protects me as I race. He gives me courage and he transforms his spirit into my heart and soul energizing me and giving me power. As I reach the landmark on my 20 mile training route that reminds me of my grandfather I stand upright, I run faster, feel better, and yes I even smile.

Secondly, a person that I’ve never spoke of in any of my writings, my Aunt, has had a major impact on my life. In 2001 she died tragically from cancer at a very young age. When alive she was vibrant, confident, and bold, all qualities that I strived to have and admired in her. She treated everyone equally including this shy young boy who tried desperately to stay in the background. She would have nothing of it and made attempts to seek out what was in my heart and bring me to the forefront. Despite the fact that she treated everyone equally I now look back and realize that she took special care to make sure I felt accepted. Recently I had a dream where she came to me and spoke words that lifted my spirit. I’ve failed to overcome several challenges over the last few years that I would be embarrassed to admit to anyone especially her. I think her presence in my dream was a way for her to tell me that it’s okay. Tears streamed down my eyes as I awoke because she was gone and I could never express my feelings towards her. However I do have a landmark on one of my running routes that will keep her memory in my heart forever. The landmark exists on my 14 mile route that I just so happened to be traversing the day I found out about her death. Half-way through the run I stopped in front of a newly constructed church and prayed. Every time I now pass by this church thoughts of her come to mind which in turn bring a smile to my face.

Finally the third person who is gone from this world yet still lives on in my heart is my Uncle. I’m certain that my Uncle saw himself in me even as I was a young child growing up in front of him. He lived well into his seventies before a tragic car accident took away his life. He lived alone and even though on the outside he seemed to be a crusty, bitter, old man it was obvious to me that on the inside he had a heart of gold. His outward emotions were a product of fear. He was afraid of almost everything and everyone. Most people he came in contact with never recognized his fears nor the defense mechanisms he utilized as a means of protection. His communication skills were severely deficient and his way of expressing emotion came off as arrogance or hatred. He was a smart man, God fearing organized, hardworking, and a caring man who contributed immensely to the success of his family but if given a chance could have contribute much more to the world.. My fondest memories were the times that he spent with my oldest brother and I while raking the leaves in the large yard that surrounded his home. Truthfully my brother and I never once raked one leaf as by the time we arrived he had the entire yard already cleaned up. His only request was for us to help him dump the piles of leaves in an empty barrel and then watch them burn. I now look back and realize he didn’t need our help but rather he only wanted our company. He never expressed emotion but I always knew he had a heart but couldn’t find a way to say the words he wanted to say. However when he did speak he spoke powerfully. His words left an indelible mark that will never leave and will always influence my decisions and my own self esteem. The words he spoke “never allow anyone to intimidate you” and his belief that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. My 10 mile running route includes a section that travels right past the area where his home was once located. I always stop in front of that spot and not only do I pray to God but I also talk directly to my Uncle. Sometimes I find myself apologizing for not giving my best while others I stand proud as I know he is proud of me. When I leave I feel stronger than before because I’ve allowed his spirit to enter my heart.

It’s an amazing feeling to be able to express my self the way I do when I run but I wish I would have had the courage to express myself to the people I spoke of above while they were alive There’s no pain associated with the words I love you but there certainly is pain if the people you care about most are gone before you can say the words. Somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow why then, oh why can’t I. I haven’t been able to find the courage to use the words I love you to those I care about most but I believe it would come easier if I allowed the words to flow without question or much thought given. This is exactly how the birds do the impossible and find their way over the rainbow. No questions asked and not a lot of thought given. Just action!

Dave B.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My definition of a runner

I started running at the age of 27 as a means to control my emotions while going through a difficult divorce. At first and for a significant time the path I chose to run was a loop around my neighborhood. I traversed this loop 5 days a week at a consistent pace which allowed me to finish in 9 minutes flat each time. I certainly never considered myself a true runner. My older brother was my inspiration and what he accomplished as a young man training to be a part of his high school cross country team defined true running to me. I admired what he did so much that I was certain it was something I would never be able to match. My own goal was obviously to release my emotions through exercise but in large part I also wanted to be able to share a passion my brother had introduced to me. Thoughts of how excited he became after running 7 miles from our home to my grandfather’s house had always been in the back of my mind and still is today. I had always wanted that feeling of satisfaction and excitement and finally many years later as a young adult I made a concerted effort to acquire it. In no way did I ever think I would be able to be considered his equal and be called a runner nor did I want to. I only silently wanted to explore his world and feel and see what it was about. Even today I respect the discipline and work ethic my brother demonstrated as a child. He worked hard to make himself the best at whatever he attempted and he silently taught me many life lessons in the process of doing so. A middle child, I never said a lot but I certainly observed his every move and reap the benefits even today.

My purpose of writing today is to share my thoughts about my definition of a runner. A runner is anybody who runs any distance, any pace and at any frequency. If a person runs a ½ mile one time a week he or she is a runner. If a person runs a 14 minute mile he or she is a runner. If a person signs-up for a local 5K but finds that he or she is unable to finish that does not make the person any less of a runner. Be confident in who you are and do not allow those that run more or run faster or run everyday to intimidate you into believing they’re more of a runner than you are. Each of us has different ability levels that may allow one to reach the finish line before the other. That does not make the winner more of a runner than the person who comes in last or even the person who could only run 3 miles of a 5 mile race. It’s about effort and how much you’re willing to put forth. I know people who run both in the front and in the back and each have the same qualities that define a runner. Each is dedicated to the sport, well disciplined and willing to sacrifice time, energy, and time with their families in order to perform their best. Running is not about winning or losing but rather it’s about pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits while having fun at the same time. Always keep in mind that there are good runners but there are no bad runners and on Monday despite where you finish all of us still have to go to work.

I’ve never been in the habit of recognizing outstanding performances of others but this week I feel it is only appropriate to do so. 23 year old Jenn Shelton from Virginia Beach demolished the course record at the Rocky Raccoon 100 last week by running 14 hours and 57 minutes. Let me do the math for you. That equates to one hundred 8 minute and 58 second miles or four consecutive sub-4 hour marathons. She did so on a course that is widely considered the easiest in the United States but as a person who has run there I can assure you the course in no way can be compared to that of a flat asphalt road. She had challenges in the way of roots and mud to overcome which could have potentially slowed her considerably. I heard reports that not only did she have to overcome the natural challenges but also had to persevere though a nasty fall and resulting broken nose. As an ultra runner who participates in these types of races I rarely distinguish between men and women when I run. I consider everyone an equal with the ability on any given day to beat anyone whether male or female. In Huntsville, Texas on February 4th Jenn Shelton proved that what I believe is correct. Never underestimate anyone because we all have the potential for the greatness that Jenn displayed last week. Congrats to her and all of those that participated with her.

See ya
Dave B.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My 2003 Grand Slam Attempt

I've documented the preparations and methods I used to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2003. Hopefully my words will put those that will attempt in 2007 at ease with the knowledge that they too can do it. It can be accessed here.
The link is now working.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

1st Attempt at 50 miles

I try my best to share any information I may have that could possibly help people run longer distances. I feel no one should have to suffer through the unknown. Those that make their first attempts sometimes need just a little boost to get over the hump. I have no special secrets to reveal but rather through my words I hope to reveal just how easy running can be if you just do it through your heart. Recently a very good long distance runner from my area requested some advice about how to make her first attempt at 50 miles. Two veteran ultramarathoners also from my area shared some great ideas with her and I supplemented them with what I wrote below. I'm not one to keep my ideas to myself or within a certain group so it was only appropriate for me to share with those that read my blog as well.

While there are many things that factor into a successful 50 mile run the number one recommendation I make to everyone is be confident in your ability. Believe in yourself!!! Surround yourself with confident individuals and block out negative comments from those that may not be. If it's in your heart to do so you will persevere through adversity and cross that finish line under any circumstances.

I'll give you some advice but I suggest that you read, comprehend and use what you think will work for you. Anyone who has completed a 50K or marathon most certainly has what it takes to complete a 50 miler. It's not about ability but rather desire and how much of it that you have. A marathoner obviously has his or her own training methods that have worked. If they worked for the marathon distance there is no reason why it won't work for something twice as long. My suggestion is to try to do one long run per week equal to or more than 20 miles. It would be beneficial to run a 50 K as one of those long runs but not necessary. There is no need to increase your weekly mileage beyond that of the long run. Obviously the more you run the better you will be trained and could potentially run faster but at the same time you need to be cautious. Train your body for what lies ahead but don't break it down into bits and pieces. Running trails would be excellent training for those who are not use to rocks, roots and mud. Again it's not absolutely critical to do so. If you can't or don't have access don't fret because you will be okay.

Do not forget to train your mind as much as your body. Research the course and visualize yourself running on parts with a smile on your face. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line and allow the feeling of satisfaction to consume you. I can assure you this method will be a tremendous help and it will also allow you to gain confidence which in turn will release the burden of worry. Find a goal other than finishing the race that will motivate you. Run for a friend that can't , run for a family member who has had an impact on your life or just plain old run for what's in your heart. Running is not always about crossing the finish line as what we do sometimes influences others to change in a positive way or look at life in a more positive way. To some, running may seem like a sport that has no effect on anyone other than the participant but take a look around as you run and you will realize just how wrong that is. Run with your heart, run for someone else, receive the benefit while at the same time having an impact on someone around you. The energy you generate from that alone should be enough to get you to the finish.

At the start of the run never look past the first mile. Intimidation is something you can not allow and looking at the entire distance can break you down little by little. Just run with the knowledge that you will be spending the entire afternoon in the woods with friends. Make it about time rather than miles. Have fun with it!! Pretend and fantasize that you're at a party or a football game tailgating or somewhere else where time is consumed easily while you're having fun. Never worry about what lays ahead!!!

In the later miles it will become more about the mind then the body. Maintain a positive outlook and never allow thoughts of failure to enter your mind. There is plenty of time so the only pressure you will have is the pressure you place upon yourself. Your mind will try many times to trick you into believing you can't continue. You can overcome that by running, walking or crawling forward at any pace. Ultramarathons are by definition a series of ups and downs that if dealt with properly ultimately end in a feeling of euphoria.

Take care of yourself while running. Carry water, eat at the aid stations and wear the proper clothing. Be prepared to take care of yourself and never rely on aid or any other help that may be advertised or offered.

Don't worry, don't be intimidated, be confident in yourself and have fun!!!!

Dave Bursler