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Our weekend in Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon was successful on many levels. First, as pork producers we were able to interact with people at the health fair. This allowed us to share information with them on preparing pork, especially how to avoid overcooking it. The moist juicy pork samples they tasted were a great example of how cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145° and then holding it can create product that is enjoyable to eat and packed with lean protein and vitamins. Many were surprised that we were actual farmers and running races during the weekend. Yes, you can eat pork and run.

 The second success was our actual races. Everyone turned in great times. It seems all of us felt better prepared and perhaps more at ease since this was our second year of competing. Many times we talked about the challenging weather we had to train in these last few months; rain, wind, cold, heat and if you go back far enough, blizzards. The discipline to train during the rough weather definitely helped. As I faced the wind on the back stretch of my race I thought, “This is just like running against the wind on our road. I can do this.”

 Finally the third success was the power of friends coming together and sharing their life experiences.  Saturday afternoon as we strolled along Superior St. we not only reflected on our races but what was happening with our farming operations, our kids and ourselves. It’s important to have the support of family and friends, to have someone grab our arm and help us when we waiver.

 Thank you to everyone who has helped this year’s Pork Power team be a success, not just as athletes but as people working together to promote pork, family and friends.

I want to begin this post with a huge thank you to all the pork producers in Minnesota. Your financial support and willingness to sponsor Grandma’s Marathon is phenomenal.

Our weekend started with a couple promotional shifts during the Expo. Once again, handing out samples of loin roast and having the chance to interact with runners and their families about the nutrition of pork and the recent change in recommended cooking temperature was a great experience. Thursday night gets a little slow in the DECC Arena during the last hour, so I spent a lot of time interacting with various vendors of running and a couple of Olympians that were there. (a shout-out to Lorraine Moller.)

I saw Beth running the 1/4 mile Whipper Snapper race, and her late charge to a 4th place age group finish was cool. I headed back in to listen to Frank Shorter finish his talk, then got inspired again by Dick Beardsley. My take home message from him this year was to give it 100% and not be disappointed with the results if you do. Lori ran a fantastic 5K, shaving a couple minutes from last year.

The boys and I got up at 4:00 to get dressed and sample some of the light breakfast that the Radisson offered. They went off to the Garry Bjorklund start with Theresa S, Monica, & Theresa K, all great mothers for them. Later I learned that they finished the race in 1:40:05 fashion, having run and experienced it together. They finished 30th and 31st in their age group.

It was raining on the bus ride the Two Harbors, but quit as I got off the bus. I met up with Eric FitzSimmons, another Pork Power runner, and also Ben Linder, a med school student from Easton. We chatted and got off to a nice smooth start.

Weather in the 40’s, cloudy, and a nice tail wind are a nice combination for distance running. After a couple miles, I decided to push a little harder and see what would happen. I rolled through 13.1 miles in 1:31, and even though I felt a little tired, decided to do system checks every 2 miles, instead of walking like I had done last year. About the only issues I had were energy (just enough with a combination of ShotBloks and orange slices) and slight cramping in my right hamstring (I just didn’t press as much the last 5 miles). My finish time was 3:04:29 (chip), which is 1:00/mile faster than last year’s effort. It is good enough to allow me to register for the Boston Marathon on the first Monday, so I will get for 2012. Overall I placed 304th, 240th of males and 24th in my age group. Further details, and even finish line footage, are available here .

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. -Steve Prefontaine

With four days left until my 1/2 marathon race, I thought I would be more ready mentally.  But my thoughts have been distracted by pig barns and boar collecting and finding a job  and preparing to host our neighborhood pignic.  The fact that my knee is only half ready for the race hasn’t really bothered me with everything else that’s going on.

I’m sure Brandon is building hog barns in his sleep at this point.  We have gilts arriving in three weeks and one of the buildings needs to be ready to receive them.  Gilts are the female pigs before they have had a litter.  Once they have had a litter of piglets, they are then called sows.

Boar collecting has been “interesting” in a temporary facility.  In my old boarstud, I felt completely safe with narrow alleys and secure gating.  In the sow unit it seems as if the alleys are too narrow so the boars don’t want to walk there or they are too wide where the boars can turn around.  I don’t enjoy coming head to head with a boar.  I would rather stay at his tail.  I know it’s all part of growing pains, but it is just that, a pain.

I’m also at a point where I need to decide whether pigs are my job choice.  There’s definitely plenty to do, if that’s what I choose, but I’m not by nature an animal person.  So I’ve been looking into what my employment options are.  I have to say, after being a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, finding a job isn’t as easy as one may think.

Finally, we host a “pignic” every June to show appreciation to our neighbors and the people we do business with for helping us achieve our business goals.  It’s a fun social event, but of course there are details that need to be taken care of ahead of time.  Every year in the past, Brandon has roasted a hog and we have served pork sandwiches.  I told Brandon the other day that there is no way he is going to have time to roast a hog this year.  I thought he may refute the statement, but he agreed.  So, yesterday I ordered pulled pork from our local catering guy, Russ.  It felt so weird to be ordering pork since we always make our own, but I guess we need to know our limits, and I think we’ve already crossed those.  So the pignic plans are underway.

And then there’s the half marathon.  This is the most relaxing part of my life right now.  I love to run, even with a bad knee.  I love the race atmosphere, with energy that is palpable.  I love that I am pulling two huge pieces of my life, pigs and running, into one place.  Go pork power!

Summer vacation is officially here for my kids!  They had their last day of school yesterday and celebrated by having about 25 classmates over to our house for a party.  The 9th and 10th graders hung out together while the 3rd and 6th graders kept me posted on what the older kids were up to.  I completely trust my girls, but they forbid me from checking in on them, so I needed to have someone report back on the older kids whereabouts.  The classmates had a great time playing football, capture the flag, and having a mud fight in our pond.  All good, clean (well not all clean), fun for kids. 

Today, the first day of summer vacation, my oldest three children headed off to work.  Our kids will not be spending their entire vacation going to sports camps, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and watching TV.  Instead, they are expected to work on the farm, even if that means missing out on some of the events their classmates are taking part in.  Our children don’t always find this fair, but we feel work experience is an important piece of raising responsible, self-reliant future adults. 

After I delivered all my kids’ friends to their respective homes today, I went for a run with Teresa K.  The 1/2 marathon in Duluth will be Teresa’s 1st 1/2 marathon and she is so ready.  I have been training with her for a few months, and just when I got done whining about my lung problems, I started having knee issues.  I’ve been wearing two knee braces on runs now and I think these will see me through the race.  I’m not pain-free, but the discomfort is tolerable.  Teresa is a yoga person and has had no injuries or illness.  Maybe I’ll try to work yoga into my training routine next year.  Couldn’t hurt.

Track is an interesting sport. Most of the events, except for the relays, are judged on individual performances. Yet, at the end, it’s the collective scores of these individuals that decide which team has done the best.

All season Adam has been running the 3200 m. run. His times have improved and he’s set some pretty aggressive goals for himself. Therein lies the challenge. For the True Team meet, the one that decides which team gets to go to the state tournament, the number of entries is limited. In order to get the best team score, the coach must choose the individuals that can run the fastest, even if it means some of these guys are running multiple races like the 800 and 3200, which they don’t often do during the season.  

Despite Adam’s improvement, he’s not one of the fastest 2 guys on the team. In his heart he knows it’s best for the team if the other 2 guys to run, but he’s still crushed by the fact he couldn’t run fast enough.

As we discussed this the other night, my own heart was breaking. Adam is unselfish and he wants the team to do well. Yet you could see the disappointment in his face as he realized he wasn’t going to be the one to run that race to help the team. He had given such a great effort, yet in his mind he fell short.  As I repeatedly told him how proud I was of him, I also reminded Adam that he’s an 8th grader and that the other two guys were a Jr. and Sr. He’s done quite well and his time will come.

I know that Adam will use this as a learning experience and it will motivate him to run even better. Perhaps one day he’ll be on the other side of the fence and as a Jr. or Sr. he’ll be looking into the eyes of an 8th grader and remembering that he was once in that spot.

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it”

          John Wooden

Bronchitis.  An innocent enough sounding word by itself.  But try to pair bronchitis with running and you get terrible results.

“How long until I can run again?”, was my question to the doctor last night.  I finally went to see the doctor after coughing for two weeks straight.  The doctor told me I would have to hold off on running at least through the end of the week.  I was braced for the worst, so didn’t feel that taking off 4-5 days from running was too bad.  I was also given a prescription for a z-pack, an antibiotic, and an inhaler to use every four hours.

I do everything in my power to avoid antibiotics, but figure this time an antibiotic is the quickest way to my goal of getting back on track with my 1/2 marathon training.  I’m going to get healthy, tweak my training plans a bit, and be back on track in no time.

Running and taking a nap are at opposite ends of the activity spectrum. Yet often when I have a cold, as I did this past week, I find myself trying to choose which activity to do. This was the case on Tuesday, which if you recall, was the best weather day we had this past week. Battling a cold and coming home from a busy day at work, I debated whether to go for a quick run or just make supper and relax afterwards.  In the back of my mind I knew that some type of exercise makes me feel better, it’s finding the motivation to take the first steps.

I found my motivation in the form of Beth, my daughter. When I got home I asked her if she’d ride bike with me as I ran. In a cheerful voice she replied “yes Mom.” While it was only a 2 mile run, the activity combined with the sun on my face and the pleasant conversation of my daughter was just the tonic I needed. To top it off, Dale had prepared supper and everything was ready when I got back home.

I’m glad I forced myself to do a little bit of exercise. In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that Wednesday night, I did spend most of the evening relaxing on the couch. Thursday I felt much better. I’m sure it’s a combination of rest and exercise that helps me get over my cold, but I can honestly say that when I’m not feeling good, I try to exercise. Whether it’s the blood pumping or the endorphins flowing, something about it helps me feel better.

The other morning Brandon received a frantic phone call from another employee searching for a gun.  Of course Brandon’s initial response was “What are you going to shoot?”  But, I get ahead of myself.

The story really began when Max was born and he entered the world with a gun in one hand and a foot trap in the other.  I exaggerate a bit, but Max has been obsessed with hunting, trapping, and fishing from very little on.  He has slowly accumulated enough hunting paraphernalia to last him a lifetime.  Whenever I ask Max, “Why do you need one more hunting gadget?”, he will always respond, “Why do you need one more pair of running shoes?”.  Point well taken.  He equates his love of hunting to my love of running.  It’s never enough!

Back to the story.  Max was hanging out at the farm one day and had some very small foot traps with him.  Too small to catch anything bigger than a mouse he said.  He decided to set the trap about three feet from the entrance to our shop.  Without a second thought, he moved on with his life.  Until the other morning when Max’s foot trap did catch something bigger than a mouse.  In fact, caught in the trap was a ornery skunk.  To make matters worse, Great Grandpa’s 70-year-old gun wasn’t working.  I can’t believe the gun would pick a moment like that to call it quits.

So, Brandon received a call from our employee looking for a gun that was manufactured in the past decade. Of course we had one at the house.  Heck, Max has enough guns to last him a lifetime… Oh that’s right, you can never have enough guns or running shoes!

Last Monday night I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural RunSMART program that is based in Mankato. This program is a 3-legged stool for runners based on physiology, psychology and nutrition for endurance athletes, and specifically, runners. It is the brainchild on Cindra Kamphoff, PhD at MSU-Mankato, and utilizes the talents of Bob Pettitt, PhD and April Graff, MS for the physiology and nutrition aspects, respectively.

Our first session involved learning strengthening exercises, plus a run-through of dynamic and static stretches. We also had a musculoskeletal screening process to identify weaknesses and imbalances in our body. This screening will be combined with next week’s video gait analysis that will appraise my running technique. I hope to end up with knowledge of what I need to focus on to enable me to run pain and injury-free for years to come.

We spent time discussing the psychology of running (50-90% of performance) with Cindra. There were 4 men in my group, 3 of us masters (1 a triathlete) and a younger guy that has gotten into ultramarathons recently. We seemed to be on the same page about what makes up a mentally tough runner, and shared some of our race experiences and some of our road blocks to better performance. One common theme was importance of family, and how to balance that with the admittedly selfish commitment required of endurance sports.

Next Monday, along with our video gait analysis, we will have our current nutritional intake analyzed and critiqued. We also will have a 3 minute “run to exhaustion” to help us determine training paces and race goals.

Overall, the RunSMART program wraps up the Mind, Body and Nutrition of sports into a neat package. I know that these 2 sessions will help me improve as a runner. I hope that we can create a follow-up session in a month or two to assess progress towards our goals.

 

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein

 

Training for the 35th Grandma’s Marathon has been going well for me. This is the first time in 33 years that I have trained through the winter following a marathon season. In the past, it was busy-ness that was my excuse as the training miles disappeared during harvest.
This winter went well for me. I had tapered off in November and December, running about 10-15 miles/week. I resumed marathon training miles the last week in December, a week ahead of schedule.
Having kept a decent log of my miles and times last year, I am able to compare and contrast. So far in 2011, I am running a few more miles, but more importantly, my workout times are usually running about 30 seconds/mile faster than last year. So with this in mind, I was looking for a challenge.
I got that challenge with Team Ortho’s Get Lucky Triple 7k (half marathon). This race was held on Shepard Road in St Paul just above the Mississippi River last Saturday. A chilly day, it was 27 degrees at the start, with a slight head wind. My goal was to not get psyched out by the pace I was running, but to run hard and see what I could do.
This was an out and back race, and I was within a mile of the leader at the turn around. Even more impressive, he had about a 2 minute gap on the rest of the field, and there were less than 20 ahead of me. While it was mostly uphill on the way back, I just kept chugging away. I finished with a PR 1:25:56 time, about a 6:34 mile pace, that was good enough for 15th overall, 3rd masters and 1st in my age group. Even more satisfying was looking at my mile split times and seeing the consistency in times, only 16 seconds spread over the race (except first and last miles).
5 days later, I feel mostly recovered. I will try a tempo run tomorrow, and should be back on the training schedule, now that I have used that extra week I had started with. Keep running!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

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