TITLE: Blackjack AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 09, 2007 11:05 AM DESC: ----- BODY: I have just completed the fifth week of my 12-week training plan for the Marine Corps Marathon. Not quite halfway, but when I throw in the "bonus week" in Indiana and California that interrupted the start of the plan, I am through six of thirteen weeks -- and halfway to that last week before the race, when we let our bodies rest and our minds prepare for the big day. Today I ran twenty-one miles, one of my standard fourteen-mile routes followed by a standard seven-miler. After five miles, then seven, then nine, my legs were balking. My mind was thinking, "Maybe you should just do fourteen today. That's a good run. You deserve a break. You can do twenty-one next week." My mind was right. At the start of the program, this week called for a twelve-miler, recovering from a build-up to twenty-one miles last week. But early in August I had a bad 15-miler, which I attributed in part to my lack of mileage this summer. I listened to my body and made an adjustment in program, to build up to 21 more gradually. But one outcome of this change is that I haven't had a "drop-back week" since July. That's a week where I reduce my long-run mileage so that my body can adjust to the increased miles from the previous week or two. Usually I "drop back" every third week during training; my training plan drops back every other week. So I would have been justified to hold on fourteen and live to run another week. But I just didn't want to, sore legs or not. Running a marathon is about pushing your body -- and your mind -- to run when it wants to stop, when the wise move is to stop. This morning held a moment of challenge for me. The weather is perfect. My body is well-fueled. My mind wants to stop. But I want to run more. I ran. At twelve miles, I took a mocha mocha Clif Shot -- 100 calories, 70mg of electrolytes, and 50mg of caffeine. Have you ever baked chocolate chip cookies, taken one right from the oven, and indulged in that decadent sensation? This gel tasted just like that. I felt as if I should stop at the nearest Catholic church and make confession. For the rest of the run, my mind felt good as it commanded my legs to do what they must do: just keep moving. Some days hold moments of challenge that are at the same time moments of promise. I sense that this morning's challenge held such a promise. I've been struggling more mentally since my last marathon than at any time in the preceding three years. Today's run asked me, "Do you mean business?" My legs are sore, but my answer was "Yes". -----