Get Involved: Tommyknocker Ultras Volunteering

The past few months have revolved around running…but I haven’t always been the one with a bib pinned to my shorts! I have discovered that some of the best motivation and inspiration to get yourself outside for a run is to help others do the same. And the best way to do this?! Volunteer at a race! You’ll get to watch runners take on new distances, push the pace, turn an ultra around and just enjoy life. It makes you want to get out there yourself…but it’s also a reminder that running without fully recovering is a bad idea!

Just over a month ago I roped Marissa into volunteering at the Tommyknocker Ultras in Woodland Park, CO. I was a volunteer at this race by default – I had been working with Human Potential behind the scenes and I wanted to watch their first official race unfold. Since racing a 50K the weekend before Run, Rabbit, Run 100 would have been a terrible idea I showed up to volunteer instead. I knew the Race Director and most of his core crew personally so when I arrived with Marissa in tow the night before the race they didn’t hesitate to put us to work. Our first task? Rock hunting.

IMG_20140906_122136770 Recovering after some intense rock hunting…next to the tent we rented from Auckland Outdoors!

Yup, rock hunting. We needed a rock for the start [the race was named after miners and there was an axe – the race would be started/finished with an axe into a rock]. We may have been in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains but there were NO rocks to be found! We actually had to drive a mile or so down the road and wrangle a rock from the woods. I kid you not. At the very least my poor Forester earned it’s keep that night!

The next morning we were all up bright and early to get everything ready for the 8am start. Marissa and I handled last minute check-ins then became the RD’s chauffeur once the race started. We headed out to check in on various aid stations and make sure the runners were not getting lost. The aid stations were doing great…but the runners were struggling with the course markings. Not so much because they weren’t there…but because a rather disgruntled landowner decided to re-route the race course! This homeowner didn’t want people running near his property, even though the course was on a very public forest service road. Rather than just suck it up and go about life like a grown adult this landowner chose to play with bright orange spray paint + marking tape and send the poor Tommyknocker runners all over the countryside!’

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…it was a beautiful countryside, but when you’re lost, thirsty and tired it’s easy to stop caring about the views!

At the end of the day the runners either ran a 25 miles or 40 miles…definitely not ideal. However, Human Potential and its crew gets kudos for jumping into action to do as much damage control as possible. Volunteers were sent out to remark the course and then run it in reverse to find racers and a roaming aid station was put into play to keep the redirected runners hydrated and fed. This was definitely a situation that could have been much worse – it was far from ideal for Human Potential’s first race but it did give Human Potential an opportunity to prove just how much they care about the runners.

As for my day?! I had a blast volunteering! I got to sleep in an open field, eat donuts for breakfast, snag handfuls of Jelly Belly’s from various aid stations, stay fueled with “vacation coffee”, spray paint a mini boulder bright orange, sprint through pouring rain and nom down on finish line BBQ. Worth the drive? You betcha! Will I be out to volunteer again? Of course!

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Up next with Human Potential? The Indian Creek Fifties in Sedalia on November 1st. Will I be there? You betcha, only this time I’ll be a runner! Marissa got the itch to take on an ultra while volunteering at the Tommyknocker Ultras so it’s only appropriate for her to have her first race over 13.1 miles go down with Human Potential, right?! Not up for running an ultra yet?! Come out and volunteer…you never know what you may talk yourself into!

Beyond the Filters

When the majority of your life is spent online it is EXTREMELY easy to topple over the event horizon and spiral down the black hole of “their life is SO much cooler than mine, why do I suck so much?!”. Trust me, I know this. I spend an insane amount of time online and since Twitter is literally my job I cannot just shut off the computer and walk away. I am required to pay attention to everyone else’s adventures + accomplishments + awesome lives. It’s inspirational, it’s motivating and it’s full of gorgeous pictures.

It is also extremely easy to hate on my own life because it isn’t one gigantic snow capped mountain surrounded by farting unicorns and the perfectly composed photo. On the weekends I can turn this off. I can walk away from Instagram, from Twitter, from Feedly…and just get lost in my own little mountain bubble where the mountains majestic and the weather is perfect and everything feels right.

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But then Monday morning rolls around…and I get to spend hours scrolling through feeds filled with stories everyone else’s fantastic weekend full of perfect adventures and laughable mishaps. It’s so easy to let yourself tip toe over that tiny gray line that takes you from “ooh, that looks incredible, someday I’ll do that!” to “ugh, why did I even bother with my tiny recovery hike, what they did looks SO much cooler!”. It’s a sad, scary place to be. At the moment your jealous is hiding it but deep down you know you’re adventure was just a great…because every moment you get to go outside and explore is a moment worth living.

So, how do you avoid that black hole of self doubt?! You put life into perspective. You pay attention to what’s going on around you, in real life…not behind the filters of Instagram or the vague tweets on Twitter. You forget about what the internet cares about and you live.

On your drive up Lefthand Canyon on a mission to get some fall weather running footage/photos for the internet you notice the family enjoying their time together in the very river that ripped their lives apart last year [an area that was heavily damaged in the 2013 Colorado floods]. You pick up on how they are finding a way to be happy and make the most of life, even if their garage is literally a pile of sticks behind them.

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You take the time to chat with someone at a trailhead and offer up the water you have in the car when you realize they were seriously banking on the “seasonal closure” of this trailhead’s water access to come a week later. Rather than be jealous of the incredible mountain biking photos they will have to post online you can give them mad respect for taking on their longest ride ever along trails you’ve only run in short segments.

When chatting up a friend about the less exciting parts of training for an ultra [such as nutrition and balancing life + running and all that jazz] you learn that their running has been a whole lot more than the smiley emoticons that show up on Instagram. This leads to a long conversation with almost nothing off limits and you walk away with a new found respect for every single one of their goals, their failures and their successes!

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This is when the reality check of “oh, right…everything posted online is filtered!” slaps you in the face. And it’s not just the Valencia filter on Instagram we’re talking about here. People are posting about the exciting parts of their lives. They are sharing only the version of themselves they want the internet to see…only the parts that are worthy of double taps and RT’s and comments. Because that is what the internet is all about. That’s why we love the internet, and it’s also why we sometimes hate ourselves far more than we ever should.

With this realization you can go back to being proud of the reality that is your life, back to being happy about the adventures you managed to fit into your busy life schedule, back to being satisfied with the accomplishments you have pulled off against all odds. This is the moment when your leap away from the self doubt side of that tiny gray line and firmly plant yourself on the motivational side. This is when the internet and all of its social platforms goes back to being a never ending stream of inspiration, encouragement and excuses to get your butt outside to make your own story to share! Don’t let all of the filters make you forget about this moment…