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For many of us in the farming community, this spring was challenging to say the least. Extremely wet weather not only delayed planting, but forced many of us to talk about “preventive planting.” We’re now facing the warm days of summer and it is hard to believe that summer is really here and almost half over.

June was a big “pork” month for the Stevermer family. If you recall from my last blog, both Adam and Brett had the opportunity to take part in a couple of agricultural tours through the MN Pork Board. It was extremely beneficial for both boys. Even though they have been exposed to many aspects of agriculture, they still came away learning something new. One thing that made the biggest impression was the use of technology in agriculture. From packing plants to drones to manufacturing, technology helps make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and even safer for the workers.

A highlight for us is our weekend in Duluth at Grandma’s Marathon. This is the fourth year the MN Pork Board has been a sponsor and we now have people looking for us. They have come to appreciate the great taste of pork (especially on a cold morning after a long run) and are also starting to understand that pork is a healthy, lean protein.

There are many great opportunities to learn, for kids and adults, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.

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.

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.

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!

 

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

My trail shoes have replaced my snowshoes on the rug inside our front door.  I always have a pair of running something or other sitting inside our front door.  I haven’t officially retired my snowshoes for the season yet.  I do realize it is only February.  But I am hopeful that my road running is making a strong comeback.

I moved back to running on the road last week.  Oh, it was an amazing feeling!  I felt so light, even though my weight is always at its highest in the winter.  It just felt good to have my shoes meet the gravel without a snowshoe attached.  Switching things up always feels good, whether it is a different route, outfit, or running partner.

I’m still contemplating which race to run in Duluth as part of the Pork Power team.  Full marathon or half-marathon?  I need to decide soon, as I get on with the training.  I’m not sure why this has become such a difficult decision for me.  I’m sure something will spark an answer for me soon.

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.