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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
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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

As I turn the calendar to 2011, I close the books on 2010. Some of  the financial stuff has yet to be done, mostly because I have spent a lot of time watching basketball games. Adam & Beth have a combined schedule of 10 basketball events over the first 2 weeks of 2011, some with multiple games.

There are a few things that I learned while running those 1500.5 miles last year.

First, there are some really neat clothes for runners on the market now. I am not a real clothes horse, but winter running requires protection. I am constantly amazed at the protection from cold that some of these newer materials offer. Thanks Goretex for the Windstop technology. I also picked up some YakTrax to eliminate the poor road condition excuse I used this last December.

Second, a middle-aged guy can learn how to run with a new stride technique. Last January and February I surfed the internet enough to pick up on the barefoot / minimalist running trend and eventually read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. A very good story to read. With the new stride technique came the chance to try new shoe styles. While I still have fewer shoes than Monica, I know I closed the gap considerably in 2010

Third, a middle-aged guy can learn to run fast again. I followed a race training plan by Matt Fitzgerald and found speed again. Even though I was disappointed with my 3:30:29 Grandma’s Marathon finish based on training results, I was pleased with it from a perspective of a low mileage base leading up to last January. I also clocked 2 sub-1:32:00 half marathons last year, finishing 4th in my age group both times.

Fourth, due to those half-marathon finishes, I learned that I should start closer to the starting line to fully capitalize on my chances to bring hardware home:) After the Big Woods run, the race director told me that chip timing was used for finish times and placings, not for net times.

Fifth, running is a great way for me to relax. A couple stressful moments happened in the past year that long runs, and the ensuing endorphin rush, helped me get through. I am thankful that I am now in good enough shape to be active that long.

2010, and the miles I put in, transformed me into a runner again. I enjoy training, I enjoy racing, and I enjoy reading about the feats of fellow runners. For my part, I will try to best last year’s mileage and put more of my thoughts on this site.

Grandmas weekend was a blast, and the race wasn’t too bad, either.

As I reflect on what transpired, the moments that stick out had to do with people. Things started for me Thursday afternoon. After arriving at the Radisson, I went out for a run to loosen up. At the street corner I met a skinny guy in running gear that was looking for a good route to run. I volunteered to help him, even after admitting that I hadn’t been down near Canal Park for many years.

I quickly sized this guy up as being much faster than myself, but we did fall into a common pace and conversation easily. This gentleman was from Ethiopa by way of New York, and had been invited to run the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon. He was a little cagy about his projected finishing time, but the end result is that he finished 3rd in the race.

After working at the Expo for a couple hours, and receiving very positive feedback from those sampling pork, I grabbed my race packet and wandered around. I was greeted by a guy seated behind a table “You must be Brett and Adam’s dad.” (We were wearing the same Pork Power shirts). This man was Dane Rauschenberg, who had run 52 marathons in 52 weeks during 2006. Quite an accomplishment, and also an inspiration to many runners.

On Friday the boys and I spent time talking to Vali Tomeschu, the coach of the Romanian women that won gold at the Beijing Olympics marathon. He had some coaching tips for the boys, and wanted to hear how they finished at the William A. Irvin 5K that night.

Friday afternoon we watched Beth run her Whipper Snapper race, along with Callie and Shayna (Joe and Teresa’s daughters). Their races were short and fast, and the girls looked strong running. It is a thrill to see them finish so well.

I stayed at the Expo Friday afternoon, and reached the people-meeting zenith for me. Dick Beardsley was signing his book, and I talked to him for about 15 minutes. Various topics were farming and running, UM-Waseca, where Lori also went to college, and our promotion of pork at Grandma’s. Later, I made it to the presentations, catching the tail end of Kara Goucher’s talk, then Dick’s talk. During the question and answer period for Kara, a lady 15 feet from me said that she had something to give Kara that has been around for 25 years. She was talking about a laurel wreath (given to winners of the Boston Marathon), and that she was Lisa Weidenbach, the last American woman to win at Boston. Kara politely declined, since she wanted to earn hers.

The 5K race went about as I expected, with 1500+ runners causing a traffic jam and a slow start. The 5 Stevermers, Brett, Adam, Lori, Joe and Jenna, foundtheir stride and ran good races. Once again, it was so exciting to see family members working hard and having success.

I will save a blow by blow review of Grandma’s for the next time. My bus ride to the start went quickly because the person seated next to me was a good listener and experienced marathoner. A resident of Boston, he had helped a friend re-qualify at the 2010 Boston, so had traveled to Duluth to qualify. He is a physical therapist, and gave a few pointers on the miniscus tear that I am dealing with. I enjoyed running past the Bacon Section and proudly pointed out my Pork Power shirt. I also met up with some runners from Rochester that I had met 3 weeks ago at the Med City half.

The most important people were the ones I spent the rest of Saturday with: my family and friends that were in Duluth. Thank you for your support, and thanks to the MN Pork Board for spurring me on to run my 7th marathon, a Boston qualifier.

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

A couple of the closing quotes I have used here have been attributed to “Vies.” While he needs no introduction to the residents of Faribault County, or to long-time followers of high school running in Minnesota, there are some readers that do not fit in those categories.

Kent Viesselman’s reputation as a teacher preceded him. The kids paid attention, because not doing so would result in a trip outside the room, where lockers would get banged about. I remember learning geometry proofs as a 10th grader, being guided through the process, yet allowed to flounder enough early on that I wondered if I would get it. (I did). Also, Vies ran marathons! In 1980, that was a big deal. I couldn’t imagine running 5 miles, to say nothing about the full 26.2 distance. The man was insane!

The next fall, as a junior, I became a member of the Wells-Easton cross country team. I joined the team for 2 reasons:: 1) to get in shape for wrestling season, and 2) because I noticed the respectful relationship between the coach and his runners. I had not put in many summer miles, using the THINK method instead. I floundered through well enough, ran a few races on varsity, and learned more about racing and competition than I thought I needed to.

As a senior, I repeated my summer mileage technique (walking chest-high beans gave my legs a good workout), and actually whipped into shape pretty well. I did develop some knee issues that sidelined me during some practices, but I was there for the races. I remember racing in Mountain Lake after not running in 3 or 4 practices, felt great and did about 11:30 in 2 miles, then a quarter mile into the cool down, my knee hurt. Try explaining that one to Vies. Our team was his first State qualifier for cross country, and we placed 9th at the State meet.

Many of the training tips and in-race comments he gave stayed with me when I started running for fitness after college. A desk job had softened me, and running was an obvious way for me to change that. I am still amazed while in a race that I use the techniques he drilled into us – run past the top of the hill, focus on the next runner ahead until you can pass them, cut people off at the corner with a good apex, try to stay with the guy/gal that just went past you. At a local 3 mile race last summer, I praised my son Brett on a corner that he took, and accelerated through, just as I was catching up to him.

While my career as a high school runner was short, I am proud to say that my boys are now being coached by Vies. Yes, even though he retired from teaching about 10 years ago, he has not given up coaching. I continue to feel his competitive fire at meets, still enjoy his comments on runners and how they’re doing, and love to watch his interactions with his team members. Middle school kids hang out with upperclassmen, and become part of a team. Ability is admired, but so is leadership and dedication. Alumni runners come back and are greeted and regaled as if they were champions. Current runners are pushed and cajoled to get faster or try harder. I know that as they look back on these years, they will truly appreciate the man they had as their Coach. Thanks, Kent.

There’s a big difference between backbone and wishbone.

Setting the goal is not the important part. The important parts are determining what you must do to reach that goal, and then doing it.

Wave when you go by. This is one of those days when you gain a day on everyone else. (It was about 0F that day)

The world is run by those who show up.

I gave a couple extra nuggets by Vies for your enjoyment.

Brett and Adam are entering into the “thick” of the track season. Brett has been running the 3200 meter (2 mile) race at the varsity level. His time has been right around 12:00 minutes, with his best being 11:55. He hasn’t placed very high, but seems to be improving as he runs against older, stronger guys.

Adam runs the 1600 meter (1 mile) race mostly on the Jr. High level, but has competed in 1-2 varsity races. His time has been right around 6:10 minutes, with his best being 6:02. His goal this year is to beat 5:55.

A track meet has a very different tempo compared to other sports. When you watch a football or basketball game, there is almost constant action. Track however seems to be periods of inactivity interrupted with a race. However, as you look over the field, there is always something happening. Runners are warming up or cooling down. Field event people are jumping or throwing.

Short distance events take place in front of the grandstand. This allows for a great deal of audience participation as they cheer their runners towards the finish line. However, when you’re a distance runner, there are a lot of quiet spots around the track as you circle the 4 or 8 laps it takes to run 1600 or 3200 meters. I always felt it was particularly challenging for the 3200 meter runners as their event is second to last. The meet has been going on for 3 1/2 to 4 hrs and the sun is ready to set. People are anxious for the last event, the 4 x400 relay and to go home. Yet here we have these dedicated kids who have waited all night to perform their event. The crowd is thinner and the cheering might not be as loud, but that doesn’t stop them from “leaving it all on the track” as we say.

Once you understand how a track meet flows, it really is a great event. Listening to the crowd roar as the lead runner crosses the finish line can send shivers down your spine. It does mine.