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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.

As many runners have done, I have been pouring over articles to assist with training, gear and nutrition as I get closer and closer to Grandma’s Marathon. While I have noticed many trends, there are a few items I want to add from my own experience. Since my farming operation is based on raising pigs, I will admit an obvious bias towards pork consumption, so bear that in mind as I ramble on.

Exercise of any sort involves the use of your muscles. Running requires extensive use of your largest muscles, and a day or two after exercise, soreness can set in (at least until your body acclimates). Exercising muscle breaks them down slightly (the soreness) and triggers a reaction for your body to start building more muscle fibers to accommodate future strain. In order for your body to do this, it needs protein, and more importantly, it needs the amino acid building blocks in the proper balance to create protein. (We balance our pigs’ feed rations based on amino acids, feed intake and location in the growth curve)

While in college, my nutrition professor mentioned that the amino acid proportion in eggs was 94% balanced for humans, meat (pork, beef, poultry, lamb) was in the 70-75% range and plant proteins ranged from 10-50%, depending on the source. Based on this, meat is a great source of protein for athletes, because we have used the animal’s biological system to take the raw products (usually corn, soybean meal, ethanol byproducts and a vitamin & mineral premix) and convert it into a flavorful and nutritious meal. It is interesting that the one meat commonly considered OK to eat by running publications is chicken. A 2006 USDA study found that six common cuts of pork contain 16% less total fat and 27% less saturated fat than they did 20 years go. It also found that pork contains NO artery-clogging trans fats, and it includes essential vitamins and minerals.

A serving of roast pork tenderloin, for example, is an excellent source of protein, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorous and niacin, and a good source of riboflavin, potassium and zinc. Pork is a lean, low-calorie, relatively low-cost source of high-quality protein – 1 3 ounce tenderloin has 2.98 grams of fat compared to 3.03 grams fat for the same-sized serving of skinless chicken breast.

When you do prepare pork, do your best not to overcook it. The best aid in doing this is a meat thermometer. When the interior of the cut reaches 150F, remove the pork from heat and cover, letting it rest for another 5 minutes. The heat near the surface of the meat will continue to penetrate inward, raising the temperature past 160F, but removing the pork from heat will keep the moisture inside and help retain tenderness.

As far as training goes, I have had my extensive long runs (20 and 22 miles) over the last two weekends. I was satisfied overall with how they went. I am looking forward to auditioning the Pork Power racing shirts at the Med City Half-Marathon starting in Byron, MN this Sunday. After that, one more large mileage week before the taper, then Grandma’s on June 19.

“You can’t make footprints in the sands of time if you are sitting on your butt. And who wants to make buttprints in the sands of time” Bob Moawad

Many people have  considered changing what they eat to make a change in their body.  This is commonly referred to as a “diet”.  But, have you ever considered changing what you eat to maximize your mental health?  I rarely hear this subject talked about, but I know first hand the powerful impact of sugar on your brain.

Four years ago I was searching for help with my ever-increasing exhaustion, depression, and “checked-out” way in which I was living my life.  I was looking for a natural change and didn’t want to have to turn to prescription medication.  I ran across a magazine article that described sugar’s powerful influence on the brain.  Too much sugar can cause a false “high” which cannot be maintained over a long period of time.  Eventually, eating sugar no longer results in a “high”, but can start to have adverse effects such as exhaustion and depression.  

I figured I had nothing to lose and decided to cut sugar out of my diet.  Now, realize, I had been eating “a lot” of sugar.  I loved chocolate!  So, one Friday in August 2006, I went without eating any candy or sweets.  The next day I woke up throwing-up sick.  My body was addicted to sugar and going without it made me ill. 

The process of kicking the sugar habit was a long one and I felt like giving up quite often.  I would dream at night of eating cookies.  But, I started feeling mentally better almost immediately and this change kept me from falling back into my old eating habits.  The one event that just about crushed me and sent me back to chocolate was when my sister, Marci, died.  That was a time that really tested my resolve.

Giving up sugar completely may not be the answer for everyone.  But it is important to know how big of an influence too much sugar can be on your mental health.  Maintaining a balanced diet is the “key”.  Protein is such an important piece of a healthy diet, and pork is a tasty and easy option for your protein needs.  Happy eating!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am traveling with the United South Central High School Band and Choir as they visit St Louis and Memphis. This trip has been good so far, and I give high marks to the students on this trip. Their performances have been great, and their behavior has been outstanding. Today we will visit Graceland, the Civil Rights Museum and Beale Street. Most of the kids are jazzed for today’s events (pun intended).

One of the very difficult things to do as you travel is maintaining some sort of diet and exercise regimen. It is very easy to eat healthy at home when you have total control of the foods available to you. On the road, and especially on a bus trip, food choices can become limited. The bus will stop where there are a couple fast food joints available, and choices become more difficult. One way I combat this is to eat well at the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, thus keeping fuller during the day. In fact, this morning’s breakfast included an omelet, some thin sliced ham, a bowl of raisin bran, a bowl of fruit and coffee. Now this sounds like a lot, but with the apple I stashed away, I could probably go until mid-afternoon before needing to eat. Also, I am at a stage in the training process where excess energy stored as fat can be metabolized on my long runs. This is a short term situation that will be changed Monday morning when I get home.

The training portion would be easier to accomplish on the road if I only had to be responsible for myself. Chaperone duties mean I have to be available on a moment’s notice, and the schedule is more rigid when traveling with about 80 people. So, Thursday morning I ran at 6:00am, doing 1/2 mile loops in an adjacent strip mall parking lot. Traffic picked up during the last loop, so I was glad to be done. Last night about 18 members of the track team needed a workout, so I was one of 4 chaperones that participated. It was a short tempo workout compared to what was on my schedule, but it was 1-1/2 miles at speed, so it felt good. We may have time for an easy run tonight, then tomorrows’s bus ride home will be a forced day off.

Don’t think “if”, think “how.”

The treadmill is my ally. During the winter or when the weather is bad, the treadmill is my form of exercise. Even if I’m feeling sluggish, I tell myself, “a little exercise is better than none.” Last night, I ran 2 miles in 18 minutes, 41 seconds. Not blazing speed for you runners, but for me, it’s the furthest and fastest I’ve run in a long time. It’s a small accomplishment on my way to a bigger goal.

One of my other goals is to try new pork recipes. I found one for Thai Pork Pizza on the MN Pork website. Go to, and then click on the icon for Easy Meals in Minutes for Easter and Beyond. This pizza is refreshingly different and pork loin contains less fat that many other pizza toppings. If you get a chance to try it before I do, let me know what you think.

“Guess what? The MN Pork Board decided to be a major sponsor of the 2010 Grandma’s Marathon, and I kinda volunteered that you would be interested in running it.”

Those words came from my wife Lori after she returned from a Promotion and Image Committee meeting last December. My immediate response was lukewarm because my mind was swarming with the possibilities, and responsibilities, laid in front of me. Now I am in full training mode and looking forward to June 19, 2010, when I race from Two Harbors into downtown Duluth.

I grew up on the farm south of Easton where we now live, and I am the 3rd generation of Stevermers to live and raise pigs here. My operation consists of 150 sows farrow to finish, with about half of the production sold as Compart Premium Duroc Pork. I also raise corn and soybeans on 450 acres.

As the days roll by to this marathon, I want to keep you informed of my progress. I will post some of my training accomplishments, blog some about the nutritional importance of pork in my diet, and share some insights about running in general. Other Pork Power team members will also chime in.

At this time a few pork producers have been invited to run the marathon’s associated races – the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon and the William A. Irvin 5K. If you are a running hog farmer and would be interested in this promotion, please contact Pam at the MPB office.

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.