Monthly Archives: June 2016

Run – Run Fast and It Will Be Over Soon


Running and running fast comes with its rewards.

After our Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run, I asked Lori (our speedster and Nutritionist of the bunch) how she was able to run the canyon so fast.  Her reply uncovered a training and racing secret so simple that it often gets overlooked.

“When you run fast, the pain does not last as long…”

So simple…the faster you run, the faster you race and the shorter the time you spend in the “pain cave.”  It’s that simple…focus on running your best in training or on race day and the miles will zing by.

runawayselfie

Have a great run…”Run it fast.”

 

 

 

 

 


Running – When I First Felt Like A Runner


When learning a new task, a new skill or developing a new way of life.  We have all had that moment in time when we feel like we have mastered the skill or transformed our old selves into a new image of who we want to become.  For we that was leaving being the old mental image I had of myself.  An image of the “short, fat man jogging” and becoming an athlete.

This is a letter I wrote to Runners World Magazine back when I first felt like a “real runner.”  Nearly 16 years later, 17,000 miles…and I’m still going strong!

This letter was written in June of 2001.  I received an reply from one of their editors concerning this letter, they were going to feature it.  But after the first contact, I never heard anything more.

thuletreadmill

(Running on a Treadmill, Thule Greenland, 2001)

 

Runners World
33 E. Minor St.
Emmaus, PA 18908

MSgt Brian Burk
PSC 1501  Box 1223
APO  AE 09704

1 Jun 01

Dear Runners World,

I write you this letter from “On Top of The World” Thule Air Base, Greenland.  I’m Master Sergeant Brian Burk serving on a remote tour in the United States Air Force.  I’ve been a runner on and off (mostly off) all my life.

Serving in the military is a challenging profession but couple that with remote tours (one year separation anyway from family) and being constantly on the go it’s hard (at least for me) to stick with any exercise routine.  The result was gaining 30 pounds over 7 years and falling out of shape.  One day you wake up and say “Gee I’m not 29 anymore and boy I sure look like it”.  For me that day happened 03 Aug 2000 when I set foot at Thule Air Base.  Looking in the mirror I made a pac with myself to not leave this place the same way I got here.  The challenge: lose 30 pounds and get my life back (fitness wise).  Being in the high arctic (900 miles south of the North pole) much of my running was going to be done indoors during “the dark season” on a treadmill.

They say any journey begins with the first step; my first step was a hard fought 2 mile run last Aug.  Now after a Artic Fall, Winter aka “the dark season” (Nov till Feb in 24 hour darkness), Arctic Spring (temps below –30) and our approaching summer (temps a mild 40 degrees) my 2 mile labors have blossomed into 20 mile long runs with monthly mileage averaging 125+.  I’ve lost 32 pounds, and regained my self pride.  Most importantly, although claiming to be a runner (jogger) all my life I now claim to be an athlete.

What got me through this…well my family number one (e-mail is great) with guidance and inspiration from your magazine and on line site.  Every month I scanned the pages looking for advice, inspiration and all the pictures of runners running outside.  After each successful long run my reward was to cut out a picture of someone running outside which I hung on my refrigerator.  Thank you for producing such a great tool.

Running is no longer something I claim to do…it’s me.  I borrowed this from Lance Armstrong and tweaked it to fit my lifestyle.

“This is my body.  And I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I’m on. What am I on? I’m on my treadmill busting my ass everyday.

What are you on?”

Sincerely,

Brian Burk

Brianthule
(Near the end of my Thule Tour, Aug 2001)

FYI:  At the time I thought Lance Armstrong was innocent.


Running – Racing – Ultra Marathons and My First DNF


It was going to be my 100th finish.

It was going to be my June race.

It turned out to be something totally different.

dnf face(My Instagram post with my DNF Face)

The 2016 edition of the Bethel Moonlight Boogie 50 Mile endurance race turned out to be something ugly, and something I had never faced before. Turns out for this year, I was not mentally tough enough. I decided to drop out just 15 miles into the race.

Why did I give up some would ask? My only answer is that I was never really committed to the race in the first place.  I signed up about two months prior to the event, just before my Grand Canyon run.  I did so more to see some friends and to get a another Boogie (I ran in 2015) hand crafted mug. I did not enter the race for some larger purpose, such as testing myself, to prove to myself that I could run the distance. I signed up for the mug, a nice mug but not nice enough to run 50 miles in June when I really wanted to be home. Plain and simple I was not mentally into the race.  From the first step, I kept thinking of being home…spending time with my wife and not wanting to suffer again.

Five things I learned From My DNF.

1.  You must be committed to a race, if you’re going to stick it out when things turn ugly.  It is so easy to sign up for a race, but are you really committed?  This race will make me think twice before I click and sign up.

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2.  Every race does not have to be an Ultra.  Lately every race I’ve run tends to be in the ultra distance.  I need to get back to running races of varying lengths.  I can still view myself as an Ultra-runner and run 5ks, 10k and half marathons. 

3. To finish some of these long races under difficult conditions you have to be ready to visit the pain cave.  To finish the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run a month earlier I had to go deep into my pain cave, and I was not ready to go back in to that dark place again…at least not this soon.

4.  It’s okay not the end of the world to DNF.  Driving home (3 hours) I was very down on myself.  I was not happy with my performance or my being.  Then it hit me, my 17 year running career will NOT be defined by one event.  It simply was not my day (night).

5. I would run again.  The world did not end, the sun came up the next morning and my legs worked during my next run. I’ll learn from this tough night and come back ready to run again.

Have you had a bad race.  Have you signed up for a race for all the wrong reasons?  Have you dropped out just because you were not into the race?  Share your experiences with us.


Things Non Running People Have Said To Me About My Running


It’s a strange world we live in.

Once people figure out that I’m a serious long distance runner they normally fall into one of two categories.  #1 Non runners, who are interested and supportive of my efforts, and fellow runners, some with more experienced and others who seek out information or conversations with me about running.  #2 The non runners who either want to convince me that running is bad for me or equally want to persuade me that they could run at the same level that I do (or longer and faster) if they just had the….(choose one) time, motivation, genetics, money, cool shoes, physical gift, and etc, etc, etc.

13119962_10209293162754954_3322676477634451765_o(In the middle of a 24 hour run)

I’ll admit it, if I can do this (run ultra marathons)…anyone can.

I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite non runners quotes about my running.

1.  “You’ll need those knees when you get into your 50s.”  After hearing this unsolicited comment, I simply smiled and continued on my run, FYI I’m 52.

2.  “I could run a marathon, if I wanted to.”  I agree with you, with the right motivation anyone can run a marathon…likewsie, anyone can run an ultra marathon, but isn’t life about motivation?

3.  “Running is bad for your heart, it (running) is going to put you in the grave early.”  That might be true or not. There have been a lot of contradicting studies published lately, but my lazy, ding dong eating, 24 Pepsi a day lifestyle before my running life took off was without a doubt going to kill me at a young age.

finish(Finishing at Umstead, 2014)

4.  A week after my first 100 mile finish I had a family member call me to inform me…“You can’t run a 100 mile race.”  I paused for a moment after they informed of this great piece of information.  After growing bored with the dead silence on the phone line I replied, “thanks, but I just did in 22 hours 51 minutes and 5 seconds.”

5.  Maybe the best one, “God, did not intend for us to run.”  Really……

I’m still amazed at how far I’ve come simply by putting one foot in front of the other. I’m equally amazed every time someone e-mails me about running.  Or when someone seeks me out at a race. Or simply asks me a question or wants my opinion on any running related topic.  Running has brought me a long way.

If you are not a runner, I respect that.  Enjoy whatever it is you do.  I have great respect for those who lift, do cross-fit, swim, bike or do whatever it is that keeps you fit.  If you choose not to be fit, that’s great too, but please don’t try and convince me to join you in that lifestyle…been there done that.

5mileronfortlee(After a run it’s fun to look to the future,
what does it hold for you?)

“We all have a different path in life…I choose to run mine.”

What is the craziest thing a non runner has told you about your running?


Running the Olympic Marathon, A Road To Recovery And Beyond


The road from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to the Olympic Marathon

In 2002 Jonathan Swiatocha was 10 years old and traveling with his family when they were hit by a underage drunk driver.  The driver impacted the side of the Swiatocha’s family van while traveling over 80 MPH.  The accident left him with a TBI and paralyzed for 12 days.  More can be read about Jonathan’s accident and recovery here.

runtovictoryA

What I found fascinating about Jonathan’s story was that he was not “just” recovering…Jonathan’s goal is to excel right into the Olympics.

Q.  I read that you walked 12 days after your TBI, when did you first think about playing or running again?

Answer:  When I first got released from the hospital, I wanted to go back and play with the other kids! What ten year old wouldn’t? It was at least couple years later when I really thought about playing sports again.

Q.  Were you a runner/athlete prior to the accident?

Answer:  Yes, I was an athlete before the crash! I played soccer, basketball, baseball, etc..

Q.  Did the accidents side effects/after effects effect your ability to run, play and partake in sports as a youth?

Answer:  Yes, Doctors told me when I got released from outpatient therapy to not jump right into things especially sports but they told me that I could never play contact sports like football, hockey, soccer, etc… But that was ok because I developed a passion and love for the sport of running!

Q.  At what part of your recovery did the doctors suggest you get back to running/sports?

Answer:  The doctors really didn’t know if I would’ve been able to go back and play sports.  Because of the severity of my brain injury and being so young, they didn’t know how my injury would affect me as I got older, that part was a mystery…

Q.  Did that step of recovery come with any additional challenges?

Answer: The challenges that I faced were really more mental and emotional because that part of my brain was the side that was damaged! Problem solving, cognition, memory, mood swings, behavioral problems, conversing with my peers were the major challenges I faced.

One point that really impressed me with your story is that you seemed to accept your challenges and not get upset at life, your luck and or at God.  I hope that I could accept it in the same light as you did but honestly, I could see myself being very upset, at least for a short time.

Q.  What advice would you offer someone who may be waking up today facing a major health challenge?

Answer:  My advice is to first put your faith and trust in God and let him fight the battle your in! If you do that, I promise you will be victorious!!! Stay humble, stay positive and believe that everything will be ok.

runtovictory1

The Olympics…..now that is a goal.

Tell us a little about your running resume.

Q.  When did your first realize you had the talent for the Olympic stage?

Answer:   When I decided to stop running for school, I was in a really dark place in my life!  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, so I needed to go back to where I was comfortable. My dad started to coach me and as I started to train under him; I found that I was getting stronger not just in running but in every area of my life! I set a goal, declared it and have believed that I will achieve it every single day! Where or when I achieve it, I don’t know.  What I do know is that I’m closer to becoming the 1st Olympic runner with a TBI than I was yesterday!

Q.  You’re aiming at running the marathon, what made you select that distance?  Or did the marathon select you?

Answer:  The marathon is a race that is not just about being physically strong it’s mental! It’s an event that’s not for the faint of heart and I’ve always been a runner that can excel more at the longer distances rather than the shorter ones.

Q.  How has your training been going?  How close are you to an Olympic qualifying time?

Answer:  My training has been going well! The one thing about having a goal to qualify for the Olympics is that it’s a process, everything has to come together: training, health, race, course, conditions, weather, nutrition, etc… So for me, since I’m only 24 years old were taking things one day at a time! I’m closer than I was yesterday.

Q.  How has your TBI affected this goal, your training or desire?

Answer:  My TBI has effected my goal more in a positive way because of the impact it has on people when I share it with them! My training is long and strenuous at times but if you want to be a world class athlete, you have to train like one. For a long time, I let my TBI keep me from reaching my highest potential but no more! I made a vow not to live by fear, anger or pride and live my life by faith and faith alone! I guess you can say I have a strong desire and hunger to reach my goal.

Q.  What does a typical training week look like?

Answer:  

Sunday – Long run

Monday – Recovery run

Tuesday – AM Speed workout/ strength and conditioning + PM Recovery run

Wednesday – Easy run

Thursday – AM Speed workout + PM strength and conditioning

Friday – Easy run

Saturday – Rest or Easy run

Noticed your writing a book.

runtovictory2

Q.  How is that coming along?

Answer:  Yes, I’m officially writing my first book right now! It’s going great, it’s a process but I believe that the finished product will be something very, very special!!!

Myself I’m writing a fictional running story, I know firsthand how intense the writing process can be.  Best of luck with that project, it just may be harder than qualifying for the Olympics.

Loved this quote on your FaceBook page:

“Strength doesn’t come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Q.  Is that a Jonathan original or did you borrow it from someone?

Answer:  Thank you, it’s a quote from someone else that I saw and was really inspired by it!

Thank you so much for your time, I’m sure your experience and recovery will help others.  I’m sure you’ll agree recovery may just be the first step.  After recovery there’s the rest of your life and other goals and your story highlights to not just be satisfied with recovery excel in life after recovery.

Any last words you would like to share with my readers?

Answer:  If you’ve been inspired by my story and want to follow my journey, please feel free to follow me on social media! To all my brothers and sisters living with TBI, don’t give up! Don’t give in! Your life has meaning and your alive today for a reason! You can and will overcome what your going through right now, I know because I’m overcoming it! And you can too.

You can follow Jonathan on Twitter: @RunToVic and Instagram: @runtovictory  Facebook Page at Run To Victoryon and Jonathan Swiatocha. You can also reach Jonathan via email at: swiatochaj@gmail.com

More can be seen on Jonathan’s marathon journey on this video interview: on NBCDFW.com

Thanks again and good luck keep us posted on your road to the Olympics.

Brian


Muhammad Ali – The Greatest – My Thoughts


I can’t remember when I first heard of Muhammad Ali, or saw his greatest on display.

He simply always was…

Muhammad-Ali-I-am-the-Greatest.-I-said-that-even-before-I-knew-I-was.

Ali simply was the lighting fast heavyweight boxer, with a larger than life personality in my view of the sports world.  I remember his exchanges with Howard Cosell on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, I remember the great boxing matches, with Frazier, Foreman and Spinks.  I remember the great catches phases and comedic rhymes.  Mostly I remember a boxer who seemed for a period to outclass his competition.

Ali, in my opinion changed the sporting world.  He put on a show unmatched by any other sports in its time.  Ali gave sports a social platform.  He moved sporting matches into headline news and top billing entertainment.  The boxing world has never seen the draw like it had during Ali’s finest days, except for a brief time when Mike Tyson was on the rise.  Certainly boxing is not what it used to be when Ali ruled the squared circle.

Now we remember maybe the greatest boxer, athlete, and showman of all time on his passing.  The sports world will be a smaller, lesser place without Ali.


Running – Marathons – Ultra Marathons and Eating Elephants


One foot

One stride

One mile

At a time

I’m not even sure where this I came up with mantra, but it works.

No matter the situations I’ve faced in my life I’ve tried to keep them in perspective.  From my early days in the military when my primary duty was aircraft maintenance ensuring our tail number made its mission take off time.  To later in my career where I was responsible for our Special Operations Unit meeting the deployment time lines, I’ve kept it simple.

eatinganelephant

I’ve blogged about this simple thought process before.  “How do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.”

The same approach applies to running and racing.  Whether I’m in the last leg of a fast 5k, the last miles of an Ultra or the last set of hill repeats, how do I ensure I finish?  One bite at a time…

One foot

One stride

One mile

At a time

13226746_1237562866254867_7126512203488526329_n (2)(Finishing the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run
was a test in eating the elephant)

The next time you find yourself struggling with running or anything life throws at you remember this thought.  The next time your lungs are on fire.  The next time your legs are heavy.  The next time you’re about to give up.

Eat the elephant

One bite at a time

“If I knew it was going to be this hard, I would have done it a long time ago.”

David Clarke,  Badwater 135 and Multiple Leadville Trail 100 Finisher