Issues of The AgriculturistFall of 2012 Spring 2012Fall of 2011Spring of 2011Fall of 2010Spring of 2010
The Agriculturist

Tech's Iron Man

Jessica Lopez

Tech's Iron Man

A race against more than miles and endurance, an Ironman race is against yourself. More than just perseverance and dedication, an Ironman is 2. 4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running, all in 12 hours and 35 seconds.

Scott Burris, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University, is known for not just his excellence in teaching, but also his passion for triathlons and having completed two Ironman races.

Steven Fraze, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, said the triathlons Burris does are a good release from the workplace.

"He has a passion for it, and I don"t begrudge anyone having a passion for doing things outside of work," Fraze said.
Burris said he became involved in agriculture through his high school ag program and was very active in that.

"That became my career choice, and what I learned was the work ethic, skill set and disposition that I have," Burris said. "That has defined my personality."

Fraze said he thinks Burris uses many of the same skills in the classroom that he uses in his training, leading up to and during the race.

Burris uses focus when evaluating his students. He sets goals for where he would like them in regard to learning outcomes. Then, when he does assessments, he likes to see marked improvement. This is the same as when he is training for triathlons. Fraze said he does all of this with a high intensity and is very dedicated.

"He is pushing against himself all the time," Fraze said. "And I think it is the same in his teaching; I think it carries over and it is evident in the awards he has won."

Not only does Burris use the same qualities in teaching and triathlons, he has also influenced others in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications to have a healthy lifestyle and exercise.

Jessica Fry, a master"s student of agricultural communications, and Corey Duysen, a doctoral student in agricultural communications, both said Burris has encouraged them to sign up for half-marathon races.

"He is very good at inspiring and empowering people," Duysen said

Fry and Duysen said before they were encouraged by Burris to run, neither one of them believed they had enough endurance to run more than a few miles.

Duysen said there is something about Burris" personality that encourages you to do things that may seem impossible. She said Burris gave her the confidence to commit herself to training for a half marathon.


Fry first got the opportunity to run at the base of the Arenal volcano with Burris while in Costa Rica on a faculty-lead study abroad program.

"He inspired me to run further," Fry said.

Another person who Burris has influenced through his triathlon training is his training friend, Chris Toelle. Toelle said that no one can do Ironman training alone, and he depends on Burris for support while going through many weeks of training.
"Once you start training together, you are like brothers," Toelle said. "What makes what we do possible is having friends like Scott."

Through training Toelle and Burris become good friends. Their families have also bonded while supporting their triathlete family members.

Toelle mentioned that training for an Ironman is a sacrifice not just for the athletes, but also for the entire family.
"Finishing an Ironman is a family accomplishment," Toelle said. "Our families have to allow us to do it."

Burris said he thinks that the commitment to finish an Ironman race has been one of the best things he could do for his two daughters.

"In their eyes, they think there is nothing that I can't do," Burris said, "and that is something hard to earn from your children. In their mind, I am equivalent to Superman."

Burris' wife, Kendra, said she agrees that completing an Ironman is something that her daughters admire in their father. When he was a high school ag teacher, Scott enjoyed playing golf and also restored an old land cruiser. No matter what the hobby, Kendra said he is always committed to something. These days, she said the family talks about his workouts on a daily basis.

"He is honestly the most self-disciplined person I have ever known in my whole entire life," Kendra said.
With Scott's family support, he has been able to complete the 140-mile race two times with plans of completing another in August.

"Every time I run a race, I want to see if I can do the one that is farther," Scott said.

Scott said he notices what an accomplishment finishing an Ironman race is, but he was not prepared for the overwhelming emotions of crossing the finish line the first time.

Scott said he was overcome with the emotion of making a goal, working diligently for a long period of time, and having all of the hard work pay off.

"It's not the day of the race that is such a big deal. It is the pay off for the months of preparation," Scott said.
As with anyone who has achieved greatness, Scott does not see himself as superman.

"The truth is, what I do, I don't think is anything special. I have just committed to it."

© 2012 Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education & Communications