Sunday, March 11, 2007
Meet the crew - Dave Bursler (Dave #2)
Dave Bursler is "Dave #2" on my Badwater crew. I met Dave a couple of years ago when I was looking for a pacer at Western States. He offered and I accepted and we've been friends ever since. He and my David crewed for me for the first part of the run, and then Dave joined me at Robinson Flat, mile 62, and paced me to the finish. I struggled a bit in the race because of an early ankle injury, so I was moving slower than I had planned. Still, Dave rolled with the punches and we modified our goals, which allowed us to enjoy the rest of the race rather than get pressed down by the thought of failing to meet the 1st goal. We talked. We got along. For two people who hadn't even met until just the day before the run, our friendship came easy and oh, say, by mile 86, it felt like we were old friends.
This is my favorite photo from that race:
We are on No Hands Bridge, just 3.5 miles from the finish line in Auburn. It was this very point where I looked at Dave and said, "Let's GO!" and we took off at a nice pace over the bridge and up to Robie Point and on to the finish. This picture captures what was for me the most exciting moment of the shared experience.
So, let me tell you a little about Dave and his surperb running resume. (Here is just a sample.) Put simply, Dave is a fast runner. He also has phenomenal endurance. While I do not know his PR's at the typical ultra distances, I know he finishes near the top in nearly all of his races. Sure, he's had a "slow" (relative term here) race now and then, but there's no doubting his talent and training excellence. One accomplishment in particular that stands out is his 15:57:25 finish in 2006 at the Rocky Racoon 100-Miler. That finish earned him 2nd place in the 2006 USA 100 Mile Trail Championships.
Talent and training excellence are nice traits to have. But thing is, those are NOT what are most important to Dave. He realizes that life is more than running and "winning." It is about heart and soul. It is about quality.
Heart and soul are what Dave is made of. He has a penchant for self-expression and has cleared his mind and emotions more than once in his writings. He "says it like it is" and he accepts both praise and critical responses. He is a like an onion, layer under layer: fast, talented and quiet at first glance; kind, generous, and sincere beneath that; and pure gold at the center. What you see is what you are willing to see....at least that's what he has been known to say in so many words. I guess I can appreciate the layers - we all have them to some extent - but I also know that my David and I have always seen the gold. Call it intuition or a gut reaction or whatever.
Dave is the type of person who likes to challenge himself. He entered Badwater last year, and as some know, he was also selected to run Hardrock, which was just a week before Badwater. He was going to do them both, but was pinned into making a decision between the two when an unexpected injury (are injuries EVER expected?) caused him to have to make a choice between the races. He decided on Badwater. He "trained" for his recovery from the injury, putting as much effort into that as he would have done running. And he did recover...not fully...but enough to toe the line and give an honest effort. That is, after all, what he always gives. (You may ask, Doesn't everyone give an honest effort? And I would respond No, that is not always the case. It is with Dave though.)
So, with his own Badwater crew, he ventured into and through the desert. As every one of us ultrarunners knows, anything can happen during a race. Hence the saying, "barring any unforseen circumstance, I plan to finish in about X hours." So, Dave's goal was, of course, to finish, and also to buckle in under 48 hours. I'm sure he had even higher goals than that, and barring any unforseen circumstances, those higher goals were certainly reasonable. Well, the story finishes with an incredibly strong 44:55 finish after a incredibly tough mid portion of the run. You can read his own account here.
I've always admired the fast and furious runners who can roll through the hills and valleys and toughen out a finish when - I would think - it'd be easy to quit and return the next year when you are at your best game. I know what Dave is capable of; I ADMIRE him greatly for hanging tough and at times almost crawling his way through much of that unforgiving course to a mighty strong UPHILL finish. All that, and the guy STILL buckled with plenty of time to spare!
So, Dave is the only one on my crew who has literally "been there, done that." Everyone else has a wealth of experience, but he is the only one who has run the race. He knows first hand what it feels like to cover every step of those 135 miles with your own two feet. I wrote about him earlier in my blog: "Why I Run Ultras." Like most Badwater runners, Dave's story is inspirational. And THAT's what it's all about - Heart and Soul. Dave's been there, done that. He's got it and he exudes it.
Yep, THAT's what I want fueling me along for 135 miles in 130 degree heat on a road that stretches seemingly forever into the distant horizon.