Well, my last attempt to run the Mason-Dixon Trail ended the same as my first two: far short of Chadds Ford. This time I only made it to Wrightsville (mile 54) after getting almost halfway and 72 miles in my other two tries.
It was pretty amazing how quickly the wheels fell off. I was doing great, just cruising along and then within a couple miles I was done. Physically, I felt awesome. Mentally? Note so much.
My issue was that I couldn’t get it out of my head how much farther I still had to go. I do best when I run aid station to aid station in races. Well, there weren’t any aid stations out there. Wrightsville was my last resupply until I reached Havre De Grace 76 miles further down the trail. I knew what was going on mentally. And I fought it for a couple miles, but I just couldn’t reframe my thought process.
I remember running with a guy a couple years ago at Eastern States who was planning to drop at the next aid station. He was moving well and not struggling as far as I could tell. He had finished a couple hundreds before, but had reached the point where he didn’t want to keep going. He didn’t have anything to prove and would rather be home with his wife watching some Netflix. I agreed with him that he was making the right decision. I mean, life’s too short to be doing things you don’t want to be doing. Friday night I was exactly where that guy was. Sure I could keep going. but what’s the point when it’s not what I wanted to be doing?
Going into the run, I was committed to start, but I wasn’t all-in on finishing the run come hell or high water. Even though I had spent a lot of time working on this project over the past 5 years, this wasn’t something I was overly passionate about. This is best exemplified by the fact that I didn’t plan my running year around the attempt. I signed up for all the races I wanted to do and then decided to take another stab at the MDT when I had a blank spot in my calendar. It wasn’t a “I’ve got to do this and this is the best time to do it”. It was [shrug] “I’m not doing anything else, so might as well try to run 200 miles”.
You want to talk about setting myself up for failure. Running 200 miles self-supported is an incredibly hard thing to do and I thought I could just knock it on a random weekend. This is something you’ve got to be 110% committed to and that just wasn’t me. Sometimes it’s tough to tell what your motivations are to do things. I had attempted the run twice before and it just seemed like the inevitable thing to do was try again. Whether I really wanted to or not. It was almost like I was on autopilot. Of course, I didn’t realize this until afterwards when my decision to quit didn’t really bother me. All my other DNFs have been at best mildly disappointing. This one didn’t phase me in the least.
First off, I had fun while I was out on the trails. Sure they were mostly roads, but I enjoyed my time out on the MDT. It didn’t hurt that it was mostly a walk with very short run breaks thrown in.
Secondly, I learned something about what motivates me (or doesn’t) to run long distances. Turns out the race atmosphere and community aspects of ultras are huge draws for me. Not that I can’t do solo adventures, but it’s not where my stoke lays. Multi-day efforts I think are also something I’m going to shy away from. I learned that one at CBU, but like most things in life I need to relearn lessons over and over and. . . you get the point.
The obvious question is whether there will be a 4th attempt. I won’t say never, but it seems highly unlikely right now. Who knows where my interests will be in a couple years. All I know is that I won’t be attempting it until I’m incredibly passionate about doing the trail and its the focus event of my calendar.