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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. 🙂

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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?

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.

Lori has been doing some heavy lifting on this blog for a while, so I thought I would step in.

At this time last year, I was feeling pretty good about my running accomplishments. I had completed a big year for mileage (1500.5) and had a Boston qualifying run at Grandma’s, which was the first running event sponsored by the Minnesota Pork Board.

Fast forward to closing out 2011. I raced a half marathon in St Paul with a good enough time to get a nomination for MN Runner of the Year (I happened to Google my name). I raced Grandma’s 25 minutes faster than 2010, and was within 1:30 of my lifetime PR for 26.2 miles. I must have reached my running goals on that race, because it was tough to get inspired to train hard the rest of the summer.

Qualifying for Boston again was a true highlight, and I was able to register for the race on the first day. I also had lined up our flights and hotel rooms early, so we won’t scramble trying to get those nailed down. The only thing left to do was train.

Looking for a different challenge, I signed up for the Master Run Coach program, which follows training principles set down by Arthur Lydiard. Without going into details, a runner needs to have a large aerobic training base to add speed to as he gets closer to the race. I am finishing my base training this week, putting in about 70 miles. Wow.

One last thing. I ran 1785 miles in 2011, nearly 20% more. Most of that occurred in the months of November and December, when Boston training kicked in, and snow and ice were not problems like 2010.

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.

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

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!

 

Typicially when we run, it’s to benefit ourselves. The exercise is good for our mind and bodies. But running can also help others. Many weekend races involve a charity and this past weekend Dale and I ran the 7 on 7 near Mankato to help the Backpack program in Mankato. This program is designed to discreetly get nutritious food to kids over the weekend by sending it home in their backpacks.

It was a great day for a run and the course was challenging, since we were running on trails at 7 Mile Creek Park. I ran the 5K and had just one hill to climb. Dale ran 7 miles and had to climb about 4 hills.

We both ended up second in our age group, which as I like to say, means we need to either get faster or older. In any case, this was a good tune-up run for Grandma’s Marathon weekend, plus we’re helping kids get a good meal. Both good things to do.

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