All was well until the second trip on the Red House loop. I took the descent nice and easy in the dark, lighted only by my single headlamp. It was much cooler now, and I was getting somewhat sleepy.
I got lost for a short time on the loop, but I stayed calm and back-tracked to where I had been. I made it to the Red House aid station. I finished Red House, then reached Tunnel Creek aid station. I drank some Starbucks Double Shot and Ensure, then resumed.
The climbs and descents to Bull Wheel and Diamond Peak seemed to take forever, now that it was pitch black. I was concentrating hard to find the course markers and avoid falling asleep on the trails. When I saw the first signs of sunrise, I perked up and started to sprint. I was now chasing race cutoffs!
I looked at my pace chart,which I always write on my left arm in Sharpie. It said I was getting close to the Diamond Peak aid station cutoff. I continued to sprint hard, but carefully.
I reached the aid station just before 7 a.m. on Sunday, thinking it was only seven minutes before cutoff. But since my pace chart writing had smeared, I found out that I had a 37-minute cushion.
With a renewed sense of confidence, I left for the second beastly climb to Bull Wheel. The second trip was better, even after 80.3 miles. It was much cooler and I knew how slow the climb would be. It took me an hour to get to the peak.
I reached Tunnel Creek, and then Hobart. I felt intact. I was happy to see the volunteers at both aid stations. They all said I was looking strong, which meant I looked better than I felt! I drank some strawberry smoothies, thanked the volunteers for being there, and took off for Snow Valley.
Upon reaching there, the Boy Scout troop was already starting to pack up. I was very thankful to still be going and knew that I just had to keep moving to get to the finish. After the final weigh-in (I was down six pounds), I started the long descent to Spooner Summit aid station, the final one before the finish.
The descent seemed to take forever. My feet were feeling every step. Then I got lost a few more times. Some of the trail mark ribbons were spread out, and I had to stop and go back and forth to make sure I was on the right track.
At 3 p.m., one hour before the final race cutoff and less than a mile from Spooner Summit, I got lost again. I told myself to calm down and continued looking for the course markers. I saw two hikers and asked for directions. Then I took off sprinting, with time getting short.
At the next aid station, I spent no more than one minute. One of the volunteers called the finish line on her cell, "The final runner is coming in." Hearing that was great!
I continued on, alternating between running and power walking, constantly catching my breath. I made the final turn, saw the finish line and yelled, "Is that it?" I crossed the finish line with only about 26 minutes to spare before the final 35-hour cutoff. I was so relieved. I had somehow finished a tough race without a pacer.
I was the final (60th) finisher out of 106 starters. I was so happy to get my finisher's belt buckle. I was thankful to God for giving me the strength to do what I love, and for everyone's support and encouragement. I was happy to get back to the hotel and call my family to let them know that I finished.