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Our big weekend in Duluth is just days away. Dale is ready to run the marathon, although with work projects his training hasn’t been as intense. Adam is running the 5K this year after having competed in the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon last year.

New to the Pork Power team is our daughter Beth, who will be in 7th grade. She’s planning on running cross country this fall, so as she works to get in her summer miles, the William R. Irving 5K provides a great opportunity. Dave and Suzie Olson along with their two daughters will also be running in Duluth. They are pork producers that live near us.

Having just spent last week in Des Moines at the World Pork Expo combined with other end of the year school activities has not allowed me much time to focus on this race. I sense that will change as we get closer to the actual day. Grandma’s Marathon is a great event and being part of the health expo as pork producers is a wonderful opportunity to talk about pork as a lean protein for athletes.

Beth asked if I would run with her during the race and of course I agreed to. But I have a feeling that once we get a mile or so into the race, her pace will quicken and I’ll be telling her to go ahead without me. It’s exciting to think of her starting her running career. I’m sure there will be many exciting races in store for her.

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Running motivation from a poster

 
“Is it raining?”, Brandon asked me at 4:30am, the morning of my 1/2 marathon race in Duluth.
 
“It doesn’t matter”, was my response.  After training for months, I wasn’t worried about the weather or my stiff knee or the wind.  None of that mattered.  I just wanted to soak in the feeling of the day, and virtually nothing could ruin that feeling.
 
I love the feel of race day.  Joy and pain and energy

Max didn't run fast enough

and exhaustion and smiling and crying and accomplishment.  It’s a high that is hard to describe.  The race went well, but the weekend was about so much more than the race itself.  The weekend was about bringing the four corners of my life into the center.  I call these four corners the “four F’s”. 
 
The four F’s in my life include family, faith, fitness, and farming.  Which F is taking priority depends on the day or hour, but often only one is in the center.  What is so great about Grandma’s Marathon weekend is that the priorities in my life come together and intertwine, and it is very seldom that this opportunity arises.   It’s a powerful feeling… pork power.
 
 
 

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.

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.

Grandma’s Marathon, 1/2 Marathon and 5K are less than 2 weeks away. Despite that, most of our discussions lately have centered around our families and farm activities. This is for good reason, since these are the activities that take up most of the time in our lives.

But as our races get closer, I get the feeling that most of us feel pretty good with where we’re at. Dale has a good solid base and isn’t feeling the aches and pains he did last year. I have more confidence since I’ve been running more. The boys are fresh off a successful track season and even though the 1/2 marathon is a stretch, they’ve vowed to run together and help each other out.

So the excitement builds and we look forward to the race, hanging out with our friends and meeting new people as we promote the product and lifestyle we love.  Stay tuned and see you in Duluth!

 

We broke ground yesterday on our sow expansion project.  There wasn’t a golden shovel to scoop the first dirt.  No press to capture the moment in photos.  All that was needed was a backhoe, a willing crew, and sunny weather. Thankfully, we had all three.

A farmer’s work day is always long, but now Brandon’s days will become extra-long.  Yesterday he started work at 6am, took a 10 minute lunch, snuck away to Maddie’s junior high concert from 7-8:30pm, went back to work and finished up around midnight.  Although the days are long, I think Brandon is really glad to be moving forward with the project finally.  Planning and doing all of the groundwork gets long and feels unproductive.

Training for a half marathon sometimes feels that way… it gets long and sometimes feels unproductive.  I’m trying a different approach to the training this year.  I’m only running 3-4 days a week in hopes of staying injury free.  We’ll see how this approach works and if my final time suffers because of it.  Seven weeks to go!

As I’ve been spending time training for the Duluth 1/2 marathon, Brandon has been working on plans for expanding our farm.  A lot has changed since the last time we expanded in 1997.

In 1997 Brandon was 25 years old with relatively little hog experience and not much of a track record in agriculture.  The steps it took to get a loan for a 1600 sow expansion were few and the biggest challenge was convincing Grandpa Schafer that expanding the sow herd was a wise idea.

Flash forward to 2011.  Today we are looking at doing an expansion that is half of what we were tackling in 1997, but the requirements from our lending company have been ten times what they were in 1997.  From balance sheets to building plans, from hog health status to manure management, the list of requirements seems to be never-ending to me.  Brandon is a patient man who thrives on planning and implementing those plans, so jumping through all of the hoops doesn’t seem to bother him.

I figured that Brandon’s production records would speak for themselves.  He has created a fine-tuned system  in our sow unit, with pig numbers any producer would be happy to have.  But times continue to change in agriculture and the challenge to run a profitable business continues to increase.  Lending company’s seem to have an inflated concern about the perceived risk in agriculture.  Regardless of whether this concern is legitimate, we have to follow the lending company’s rules in order to secure funding and expand our business.  This is where passion comes in.  It’s our love of farming that keeps us moving forward in the challenging industry of agriculture.

I was walking the other morning with my good friend, exercise buddy, and therapist all rolled into one.  She’s great!  Her name is Lori.  I can talk to Lori about problems I’m having with my job, family, vehicle, pets, anything.  She is always supportive, but more than that she is always honest.  And if I’m out of line, she will let me know it.

Back to the other morning.  I was going on about how I couldn’t decide between running the 1/2 marathon and full marathon.  I’ve talked to her about this countless times this winter, and I think she finally got fed up with it. 

“Why can’t you just make a decision?  Decide on one race and deal with it.  If you make the wrong decision, too bad,” was Lori’s exasperated response.

It was just what I needed.  I did one final weighing of my reasons for doing the race.  Camaraderie was at the top of my list.  I definitely wanted someone to train with and share the experience with, so my decision became simple.  I have a fellow pork producer friend, Teresa, who will be running the 1/2 marathon, so I too will be running the 1/2 marathon.  The time spent training for a 1/2 marathon outweighs the race about 30 to 1 (of course this depends on your particular training schedule).  Anyway, point being, I don’t want to spend all that training time alone.

So, my decision is made.  On with the training.  Everyone needs a friend like Lori to give them a kick in the backside once in a while.  Thanks, Lori!

This week Brett & Adam registered to run the Gary Bjorklund 1/2 Marathon as part of the Pork Power team during Grandma’s Marathon weekend. I am excited for them, but also a bit nervous. This distance is considerably more than what they have done before. While they will be doing it as part of their Cross Country training, I hope they don’t hurt something that would affect their season. (Boy, doesn’t that sound like something a Mom would say?) 

Really though, I am proud of them for making the commitment. It’s something they have been talking about ever since they found out the MN Pork Board would be a sponsor and the Pork Power team would return to Duluth. They still talk about what a great time they had last year and although their race will be different, I hope they have just as much fun.

Perhaps I’ll even get them to share a few of their training experiences through this blog. Stay tuned.

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