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Wow, it is hard to believe that when I jokingly stated maybe I should run the 5K in Duluth, I would actually end up doing it. I started back in April with training and on Friday, June 21 I will finally be running my first 5K.

Yes, I said my “first” 5K. I like the feeling I get from being able to run like I have been. I am not fast but I have been feeling very good when I get done.

I find myself making healthier eating choices as well. It truly does all tie together.

I worked an Oink Outing at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market this past weekend.  There was a woman and her sister that stopped to ask a couple questions about eating pork. Their initial question was “Is it true that pork causes high blood pressure?” This is a question that I am sure a lot of people have had. My answer….No. It does depend on what cut of pork you are talking about; if you mean ham, bacon or sausage – very possible due to the curing processes that are used, however, if you mean fresh pork – no, not from what I know about pork. Fresh pork chops, loin roasts and tenderloins are not high in sodium as there is no extra processing done to them other than being cut and packaged. If you add sauces, marinades and some seasoning blends you can add high sodium contents. I am a firm believer in knowing what you are adding to items that increase fat, sodium and cholesterol contents.

I love to cook my pork bare bones, give me garlic, pepper and a little salt. That just brings out the flavor of pork and that is all I need. Watching the internal temperature of the pork is the most important thing in the world. If it gets over done is it dry with no flavor. Cook it to 145 degrees internal temp, pull off the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and its always juicy and tender.

So there is my key to wanting to keep running. It has made me more conscious of my health and how I want to improve my eating habits. Of course that includes cooking and eating more PORK!

I will post next week to let you know how I did in my first 5K. 🙂

Goals help us stay focused and provide motivation. Even a simple goal like cleaning off our desk can keep our mind on the project and create satisfaction when completed.

This summer I’ve been exercising aimlessly. After I ran the 5K in Duluth in June I wanted to do an event towards the end of summer that would give me something to shoot for and stretch my talents. For example, last year I did the Iron Girl Duathlon.

All summer I watched various races come and go but could never get excited about any of them or find one that didn’t conflict with my schedule. In the back of my mind I saw the 10K race in Mankato as a possibility. Sure, it would challenge me since I haven’t run a 10K for almost 30 years, but it was later in the season than I preferred since the race is Oct. 21.

So I would keep finding excuses not to sign up and as summer came to a close I realized I was on the path to letting my exercise routine fade away like the summer daylight hours. I became increasing frustrated with myself knowing that if I let an opportunity like the Mankato 10K pass by I would be mad at myself for not trying. Then again, for whatever reasons the last few times I ran it was hard, and that was only 2 miles. How could I survive 6?

The answer was right next to me…Dale. He said he would run with me and knowing I had him at my side to help me through any rough spots gave me confidence that I could complete a 10K. So I signed us both up for the 10K and went out and ran 2 1/2 miles. It was the best run I had in a long time. Perhaps a sign that my decision was the right one.

Now I have a goal, a purpose for running and exercising even though the daylight hours are getting shorter and the days cooler. It feels good to have something to focus on. Funny thing is that my running is going better too. I suppose those 90° summer days did drag me down, but mentally I have more confidence in myself. I’ve been running 4 miles consistently and am looking to do 5. Once I do that I know I can do 6, especially with Dale running along with me.

What I enjoyed about the Iron Girl Duathlon last year was the challenge of doing something I’d never done before. It meant setting a goal and then working hard to achieve that goal. I’ve decided I can’t let the fear of failure overcome the opportunity to succeed.

I’ll admit this writer of the Pork Power blog has gone through a bit of writers block recently. It seems I would begin to start a subject, only to get part way through and decide it wasn’t really what I wanted to say.

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in number of events that involve promoting pork to people who don’t typically interact with pig farmers. From the Boston Marathon in April, to Grandma’s Marathon in June, to the Oink Outing in Edina a few weeks ago, I’ve had a chance to give them a healthy, tasty sample of pork and more importantly talk to them about raising pigs.

The marathon events were just plain fun. While I enjoyed interacting with people at the Farmers Market Oink Outing in Edina, I had a number of conversations that made me realize how much people just don’t trust pig farmers anymore… and that makes me sad.

It seems there was a time when farming was a noble profession. Farmers didn’t make much money, but they were growing food for people, which was good. It also meant those people were free to get other jobs and not have to be farmers. Somewhere along the way, a few bad apples have ruined it for the rest of us and now the common thing to do is call all farmers “corporate farmers” who practice “factory farming.”  Ouch, that hurts.

I had people in Edina tell me they won’t eat meat because of the way animals were housed. When I told them about our farm and how we take care of pigs, you could see them make the mental transition to “Okay, now I trust you, but I don’t trust the other people.” So how do I explain to them that the vast majority of pig farmers in MN and the U.S. can be trusted, even if you don’t have the chance to meet with them. I want them to know that with the guidance of our veterinarians and consultants, we can make the right decisions on the welfare of our animals and we don’t need someone else making that choice for us.

I’ve never taken the trust of someone else for granted. I’ve tried to teach my kids that trust is an important part of someone’s character; it’s a measure of someone’s worth. So how do I explain to my kids that a whole new segment of society thinks we’re “worthless” and can’t be trusted to take care of the very animals that provide our livelihood.

Just as important, how do I get people to trust pig farmers again?

“I survived the 2012 Boston Marathon”. That’s the shirt that Dale wants someone to create so that he can buy it. 87° temperatures and running a marathon are two things that do not go well together. Yet Dale was able to stay upright, when unfortunately many didn’t, and run a very respectable 3:45 marathon.

Our weekend in Boston was memorable; not only for the heat but for the great opportunity we had to promote pork during the Health Expo. As I walked into the Event Center, I could smell the inviting scent of grilled pork. Even though the place was packed and I couldn’t find our booth, I knew the Pork Power team was there. We had lots of people ask why pork was at the Health Expo. When we tell them how well a lean protein like pork fits into an athlete’s diet, you could see their head nod in agreement.

Over and over we instructed people on the proper way to cook pork and how that really does make a difference in juiciness and taste. In the end, our goal was to create a positive impression, to provide a little education and to encourage people to continue to buy pork.

Having goals and committing to the hard work and discipline to achieve those goals applies to most everything we do in life, from promoting pork to running marathons. Sometimes things happen beyond our control but that doesn’t make the preparation or the effort needed to accomplish the task any less significant.

Simply having the courage to take on a daunting task reflects the true character of a person.

Congratulations Boston Marathon Finishers

For those of you that don’t know it, Dale is running the Boston Marathon on April 16th. The Boston Marathon is probably one of the most famous marathons. Even people that don’t run recognize the name. Dale has been training very hard, or perhaps I should say diligently over the last 5 months. He’s a man with a plan and he’s sticking to it. I hope that brings him success at the race.

The Pork Power Blog got its start about 3 years ago when the MN Pork Board decided to be a sponsor at Grandma’s Marathon. A group of us pork producers, who happen to be runners, decided to share our experiences, both on running and being pig farmers.

In April at Boston, the MN Pork Board will be exhibiting at the Health Expo. It will be a great opportunity to share the message of how pork is a lean and healthy protein that fits into an athlete’s diet.

It’s going to be a busy time in Boston. Not only do we have Dale running and the Health Expo, but I’m going to be running the 5K on the 15th and I just found out I was selected to be a volunteer at the Marathon. I’ll be helping with the clothing check at the starting line. It should be a great experience.

Watch out Boston. The MN Pork Producers and their “Pork Power” are on the move.

Like most parents of basketball players, especially those with multiple players, the winter months become a blur of gyms, games and more games. Beth has finished her season and Adam’s last game will be Monday night.

Both kids have done well. Their skills have improved and they’ve gained a greater understanding of the game. As Beth’s coach I’ve had the privilege to coach these girls since 3rd grade and have watched them improve. I’m excited for them next year as they move into Junior high basketball where they will get more practice and more playing time. It will be fun to see how they do.

I must admit that not having somewhere to be on a Saturday morning is a bit odd. We’re so used to running around that it feels strange to stay home and actually focus on things that need to be done around the farm. Some projects we’re working on include:

  1. Finishing the chicken coop- this will house our chicks this spring and Brett’s rabbits when they have babies in a month
  2. Watching our 4-H pigs as they progress though the farrowing barn and nursery. Beth, who is pictured here, is quite excited about the pigs that we’re looking forward to taking to the fair this July.

What’s next? Track season will start March 12 and then we’ll be going to meets and watching kids run. Dale will be running the Boston Marathon is April 16 and I’ll be doing the 5K on the 15th.

I’m excited for Boston since the pork producers will have a booth at the Health Expo. What a great opportunity to share the good news about Pork Power with thousands of health conscious runners. Stay tuned; we’ll share more as the time gets closer.

Fall is my favorite time of year, but it creates a challenge for exercising, at least during the week. The days get shorter, the temperatures cooler and the kids after-school activities more frequent, which leaves less time for biking or running.

Yesterday I left work a little early. The temperature was right, the winds negligible and the sunlight still beaming. I hopped on my bike and took off down the road. My muscles complained a bit with the unfamiliar movement since I’d been doing more running and less biking lately.

The right combination of layers and windproof gloves kept me warm, except for my ears, which were uncovered. Gradually I found my rhythm and even though it wasn’t my usual speed, it still felt good. I checked my watch and the sky. The sun was starting
to lower itself on the horizon. My bright pink vests increases visibility, but I still didn’t want to get caught in the dark.

I made the turn for home and increased my pace. So did the sun. It was a race, who would reach their destination first?  I made it
home as the shadows grew longer and the air cooler but still a bit of light in the sky.

Today, I beat the daylight but soon it will be no match. Even though I plan to run outside during the winter, the shorter days and challenging winter weather means much of my exercise time will be spent inside.

This Sunday I will compete in the Iron Girl Duathlon which will be held at Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington MN. The race starts with a 2 mile run, followed by a 22 mile bike ride then finishes with another 2 mile run.

I signed up for this race on June 20, after watching the boys run the Gary Bjorkland ½ Marathon in Duluth. Their determination and desire to take on a challenge inspired me to do the same. I’ve spent the summer running and biking, putting on more miles
than I ever have in the past. I realize I’m not doing as many as some other may be, but it’s still an increase for me. Mentally it has been a great experience to take on challenges, set goals and accomplish them.

I have to admit I’m starting to get nervous, or perhaps excited would be a better word. After focusing on this race all summer, it’s only a few short days away. From all I hear, it’s a great event. Since I haven’t done this before, I don’t have any specific times in mind. My only goal is to compete as well as I can and to have fun. My kids call me Iron Mom and I can’t wait to be one after the race on Sunday.

One of my goals this summer was to run a longer distance race, somewhere between 5-6 miles. I was able to accomplish that goal today with Dale’s help at the Freedom Run 8K in St. Peter. Physically I thought I could probably run that far, but mentally I knew I’d do better and enjoy it more if someone ran with me. Dale, coming off Grandma’s Marathon two weeks ago agreed to be my running partner and pacer.

 The whole family loaded in the van at 6:00 am this morning, since Beth was running the 1 mile kids race and I needed the boys to stay with her while we ran. It was a beautiful morning and as we gathered at the starting line, I wasn’t too nervous but I told Dale my goal was not to walk at all.

We started off at a nice pace and as we ran I already was starting to sweat. Having experienced stinging sweat in my eyes on some of my training runs, I borrowed Beth’s headband that she got at Grandma’s Marathon which really worked to absorb the sweat.

We ran at a consistent pace, slowing slightly for the hills. Dale and I didn’t talk much but I appreciated his words of encouragement and the steady sound of his stride next to mine. As we passed mile marker 3 going up a slight hill, I knew things were going to be okay. As we came upon mile 4, I was ready to pick up the pace a bit, which was the right time since we were starting to go downhill.

As we ran down the hill Dale encouraged me to open up my stride and then as we neared the end, he told me to go after a lady ahead wearing a hat. Just as I surged, she did too, but I passed her right before the finish line and finished with a time of 46 minutes, 50 seconds. Not a course record or even a placing for my age, but still a nice time.

 The race was important to me mentally and physically, to give me the confidence to know I can run those distances. I really appreciated Dale’s support and I know it was hard for him not to just break out and run faster.

 Beth finished the morning with a nice one mile run, finishing second overall and the first girl.

 Setting goals is important; but achieving those goals gives us confidence to do even greater things.

 

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.