By Randy Zuniga
Mile 56, the last aid station. It was roughly 10:30 at night. Not sure because I was exhausted. I was asked what I needed. I just told them to top off my water bottles. Both bottles were yanked from my vest. Next thing I knew I had a cup of electrolyte in one hand and a cup of chicken noodle soup in the other. The two water bottles were back into my vest and I was reaffirmed how awesome I was doing… Off I went into the darkness… Seven miles later I arrived at the finish line… My first 100K was complete…
The Cuyamaca 100K was on 10/03/2015 just outside of San Diego, CA. A grueling race with lots of steep climbs, rocky trails, and unforgiving exposure to sun. I survived the course because of the volunteers. I thanked as many as I could and I still felt indebted to their tireless efforts.
A month before the race my friend Taryn Graham sent me a message of Facebook that her and her boyfriend Cody were coming out to crew me for my first 100K. Now Taryn and Cody are about as expert as they come. They both crewed Taryn’s mom (Terry Abrams) when she was the first woman to complete the Badwater triple back in 2012. I knew a crew was important, but I had no idea how until that day.
My brother did the race with me. This was the first time for the both of us doing a 100K. We filled our ice chest with what we thought we might need for the race… Beer, a couple of Gatorades, and some McDonald’s cheeseburgers. We forgot a bag of chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, and a bottle of Pedialyte on the counter at home.
The aid stations were amazing. Everything was so well stocked. Chips, cookies, sandwiches, ice water, Coca Cola, electrolytes, salt tablets, etc. As I ran up to the stations, the volunteers were already approaching and asking me what I needed.
At one aid station, everyone was decked out in hula skirts and coconut bras. It was Luau themed station and it was AWESOME. The volunteers enthusiastically wait on the runners hand and foot, constantly reminding us how great we’re doing. They never missed a beat.
When I arrived at mile 28 my crew (Taryn and Cody) asked me what I needed from the ice chest. They popped it open. They had run down to the nearest town to an Albertsons and restocked it. Amazing deli made sandwiches, energy bars, small cans of Starbucks expresso… It was just what I needed. They knew what I needed before I did. I can honestly say I finished that race because of them. Whenever I encountered those two, they already knew what I needed to eat, what tablets I needed to take, and how much more electrolytes I need to put into my system. I never had to think… Just run… And I needed all of my energy for just running.
I hit the last two aid stations late at night. Pitch black on trail and not sure if I was still on course. I saw this bunching of lights. Aid Station! Music was pumping and the volunteers are as enthusiastic and helpful as they were at 8 a.m. In my delirium from exhaustion – I wasn’t sure if I was at Disneyland. And of course, my awesome crew had a warm slice of pizza waiting for me.
This aid station is where my brother arrived about 30 minutes after me. His shoes and socks were full of small rocks. For the past miles he was too tired to take them off and empty them so he would maneuver his toes until the rocks nestled between his toes. Cody and another volunteer sat him down, took off his shoes, and cleaned his feet with their bare hands. When they were done they tied his shoes back on and sent him on his way. That’s dedication.
At the very last aid station, at about 10:30 p.m., those two water bottles were shoved back into my vest and I had roughly seven miles left to complete the race. I finished my chicken noodle soup. My awesome wife volunteered to pace me and I wanted the company.
Everywhere I had turned somebody always wanted to go out of their way and help. The volunteers were the backbone to the ultra. I can’t help but think that without them, most of the field wouldn’t finish… Because I know I wouldn’t have and I thank them all.