While my second attempt at the Mason-Dixon Trail FKT wasn’t a repeat of my first, it did rhyme.
TL;DR – I gashed my shin on a rock after 70 miles and got picked up after 72 miles.
It’s difficult to put into words how frustrating this ending was for me. I was in the middle of a really solid run. Not perfect by any imagination, but I was 2 hours ahead of my last attempt. I had literally just finished the hardest section of the MDT and mentally crushed it. I was rolling.
And then I wasn’t.
There are three primary reasons why people don’t finish ultras. Either their bodies aren’t strong enough, they break mentally, or something random happens. My DNFs at C&O and Bighorn definitely fall into the mental category. My body obviously wasn’t up for the MDT in May. But this time?
One wrong step.
It’s not like I don’t trip and fall down when I run. Goodness knows it’s the rare race that I don’t hit the dirt at least once. Heck, I’d already managed to skin up one knee earlier that evening. So you could say I have a lot of experience with falling down and not doing much damage. Typically, the biggest risk is going downhill as your momentum will magnify the force of impact. This time I tripped/slipped on a rock stepping uphill and “fell” all of maybe 2 feet.
All of that to say, this just seemed like bad luck. The longer you go in ultras and the more ultras you do, the more likely that random variables will pop up to derail your run eventually. And you know what? That doesn’t make it any better. If anything, it makes it worse. We like to think we control our destiny when we run. As long as we put in enough training miles, set up our logistics correctly, and execute a smart run; then we’re assured of reaching our goals. The thought that we could do everything possible right and still not finish is a very bitter pill to swallow. You mean we’re not in complete control? Gasp. The horror.
I guess that also means that failure is inevitable in ultras at some point. And while our society has conditioned us to look down and feel bad about failure, we should be a little more discriminating than that. Show up late for a meeting at work? Yeah, you should feel pretty bad about that. Unable to finish an ultra? Not so much. How about a 200 mile unsupported run? Intellectually, I know I should be pretty excited that I can even consider starting such an endeavor let alone finishing one. Emotionally, it’s a different story. Sigh.
So now what?
I pretty sure I’m done attempting to finish MDT in one go. I’ve given it two solid efforts at this point and have fallen (obviously pun intended) short both times. I’m taking this as a sign from God that this just isn’t for me. But I don’t think I’m quite done with the trail entirely. There’s a very low key, fatass style race each June call the Mason Dixon Longest Day 100K Challenge where you try and run 100K on the MDT during daylight hours. That sounds pretty fun.
[Post note: For those with delicate sensibilities, I decided against including a picture of the 8 stitches I received at the ER on the ride home. You’re welcome.]