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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

The city of Mankato held their first marathon this past Saturday and Dale, Beth and I were volunteers at the Ridley Inc. water stop. 2000 runners signed up for the events which consisted of the marathon, ½ marathon, relay marathon and 10K. All indications are the weekend was a success.

The fun started for us on Friday night, when Beth ran the KidsK. It was a nice race and other than a few small toddlers taking a spill, seemed to go quite well. Afterwards we attended the Scheel’s Health Expo and the highlight was listening to Dick Beardsley speak. Dick shared stories about his various running experiences, which certainly are motivational. Adam was captivated while Dick spoke and a highlight for him was getting an autographed picture.

Dick ran cross country at the University of MN, Waseca, back when it was a 2 year college. I also ran CC at UMW about 5 years after Dick. It was fun to share a few memories and a few laughs about our coach and the school, now a federal prison.

Saturday morning we were at our water stop by 7:15 to help set up with the rest of the Ridley group. We eagerly waited for the runners and as we caught a glimpse of them approaching, we ran to our spots. I passed out water. Dale had instructed me to place the cup on the palm of my hand, since it would be easier for the runners to grab. He was right.

Things got busy and then before we knew it, we were told the last runner was approaching. We cleaned up the tables, raked up the tossed cups and took down the decorations as our job was done. When Dale and I dropped off the extra supplies downtown near the finish line, there were joyous sights and sounds as runners filtered through the crowd after finishing. Looks like Mankato’s first Marathon was a success.

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.

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

I have been wanting to write about the neat gear and gadgets I have employed while training, but had to wait for the final pieces to arrive.

Last summer, as encouragement to keep running through cold weather, I was given an Under Armour Cold Gear shirt and tights set. I used the set a lot as a base layer from December through February. I always felt warm wearing it and stayed dry, which is important in cold weather running. The only oddity is that it pulled the hair off the back of my calves and around my thighs.

I purchased a Brooks Nightlife jacket and matching pants as an incentive to run outside. The “construction worker” yellow of the jacket stands out, plus the retro-reflective accents made me visible in poor light and against the white landscape of our winter. I was amazed that material that felt like a cotton T-shirt could block so much wind, yet breathe and not give the parachute effect when in a windy situation. With those 2 layers, plus a third polypro when needed, I ran outside everyday in January and February except for scheduled days off and one stormy day where low visibility made it unsafe to run.

That same day, while at Run ‘N Fun in Burnsville, I purchased a Craft balaclava, also a Windstop product. Very nice. I remember that during my first run with it I couldn’t breathe until I adjusted mask down far enough. It protected my face from frostbite on those below zero runs.

I also purchased a Garmin 205 watch when I started my training back in early January. This watch lets me load in custom workouts, then runs through the intervals and keeps track of my performance. Combining time, distance and also pace has sharpened my training a lot. Hill workouts were run on a time basis, but I knew the total distance covered and if I was at the right pace. It is also nice to hit distances right, which makes the elapsed time mean something. Even though I live in a very squared – up area, I wasn’t able to estimate 1 km distances that well.

The final pieces arrived yesterday, with my Newton Sir Isaac S shoes delivered from Road Runner Sports. (These shoes are so new the company didn’t know they were on the way yet.) Newton shoes have 4 external lugs under the balls of your feet. These lugs encourage the runner to land on the midfoot, which is a stride that is closest to barefoot running, and considered more energy efficient than heel striking. Since January I have concentrated on changing my running form, and I wanted these shoes to help maintain my form as I grew tired, both while training and during the race. As of now, I have completed a .8 mile run (I was too excited to wait a day), and now a 3 mile easy run (in a 30 mph crosswind). I feel none of the soreness some associate with the transition to the Newtons, so I may be able to ramp up their usage quickly.

Other than the Pork Power shirts that will be proudly worn during Grandma’s Marathon, I think that covers the fun gear and gadgets that have kept me running the past 5 months. I am amazed that there are only 45 days to race day.

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” ~ Roger Bannister

Training for Grandma’s half-marathon is reaching its peak over the next few weeks,  while training on the farm is just starting to ramp up for the summer show season.

What, you may ask, does training for show season entail?  Our four children all show beef and hogs at several fairs and shows throughout the summer.  Currently the kids are working on training their five show heifers.  The heifers are the female cattle prior to having their first calves.  The kids walk over to the farm every day after school and put each heifer in a ten foot by ten foot pen.  They slowly work at gaining the animals confidence by sitting on the fence, scratching the animals back with a show stick, brushing the animal, and finally putting a halter on.  It is a slow process of gaining the animal’s trust.

Yesterday Maddie’s race training and animal training intersected.  One of our heifers, Reba, got spooked and jumped out of her pen.  Now, you can’t run after a heifer to catch her. You have to think like an animal and predict which way she is going to move in order to get her back where she needs to be.  Maddie, along with Brandon and her siblings, put on many miles through the neighbors fields and pastures and then through our own planted corn field trying to move Reba back towards her pen on our farm.  Just when she seemed to be moving in the right direction… BAM… she would run the other way.  I really don’t work with the cattle, Brandon’s turned me into more of a pig person, so I watched the whole ordeal from our deck overlooking the farm and neighboring land.  The kids and Brandon made quite a team, and finally, two hours later, Reba was back home with her friends.

Maddie’s running training definitely helped keep her endurance high during the heifer marathon.

Once the heifers are trained, the kids will move on to training the steers.  When school lets out all of the animals will get bathed, blowdryed, brushed, and walked every day.  The  pigs also will get walked and bathed, but don’t need quite as much discipline, since they are not led by a halter.  It’s a full summer, but the kids wouldn’t have it any other way.

Under the photo section is this PorkPower blog is a picture of my family at a road race this summer. Everyone did really well, especially Beth. If you recall, one of my goals for doing the 5K was to run like the rest of my family. Doing things together as a family is important to us. We’re fortunate that we all like sports and athletic activities. But we also like to go to movies together or play games or just hang out. Our Friday night “Family Fun Night” in which everyone gets to take a turn choosing the activity for a Friday night; is an important event to us.

I hope you have been reading Monica’s blog about her and Maddie running. I’m so excited for them. I can’t wait to cheer them on at the finish line.

By the way, my sons, Brett and Adam have also decided to run the William A. Irvin 5K in Duluth before Grandma’s Marathon. Both of them run cross country and track, so they’ll be ahead of me. But just knowing we’re doing something together makes me feel good.

Before I decided to commit to run Grandma’s Marathon, I asked my kids if they would let me run it. Confused, Adam (13 years old) asked “If you are running the race, why are you asking us if you can do it?” My response was that while the race is 26.2 miles, there are hours and hours of training before June 19, and with planting season being very time-dependent, I may not be able to make as many track meets and other events, and they may get to contribute by helping with chores. He understood the answer, and still thought I should go for it.

That answer is closer to becoming reality now. I have spent parts of the last 4 days under the planter, changing opening disks and adding Keeton Seed Firmers to each row unit. Each row is taking about 25 minutes now that I have a system down, and I have 5 left (of 31). Some of the struggle is wiggling under the units 2 or 3 times to remove and install parts, plus retrieval of the new stuff. This has been a good opportunity to see what pieces fell off last year, and notice what will get a closer look next spring. I am thankful to have a nice shop to work in, but the cement is hard on my knees (and butt) at times. Also some of the positions I am in contribute to a greater feeling of “tired” than when I am working with pigs. I have complained enough about this job that I think all in the family will be glad when it is done.

However tough the work is on the farm, I use it as cross training and core workouts. There aren’t too many days that go without handling a few 50lb feed bags. Also, I get the opportunity to maneuver market weight (270#) hogs and sows (500#+) often enough that my balance and footwork stay in top shape.

Running – wise, I had a good week. Like Monica mentioned in her last post, the winds have been challenging, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Saturday’s long run was 14 miles, with increasing speed the second half. My plan called for the last mile to be at half-marathon pace (7:15), and I hit that at mile 13. The last mile, not really forcing the pace but with about 8mph wind behind me, was at 6:53. Finishing that run, plus the interval and tempo runs that were at more intense levels, really increased my confidence in my current physical conditioning. I am on track to cover 47 miles this week with a long run of 16 miles and about the same mileage next week. I am not sure how running and planting will mix this spring, but I have a very solid base that will carry me through one or two missed workouts.

There are no “magic buttons” to push. There are no “secret workouts”,  no “wonder food.” The time wasted looking for these things would be better spent working out.- Vies

Today Dale and I ran 2 miles together, which is something we haven’t done for years. For him, it was an easy training day. For me, it was a chance to run outdoors for the first time this season. Quite frankly the strong winds were intimidating so I figured having him run with me would help. It did.

The run felt good. Yes, the winds were strong as we went out, but Dale helped me keep an even pace. Coming back, I felt like I could open it up, but once again he encouraged me to keep a steady consistent stride.

My knees feel fine and I felt like I could have pushed myself more. But Dale says I shouldn’t push myself to the point of exhaustion. Feeling good and wanting to run again is important and that pretty much hits the mark. My run felt good and I want to go out again and try a little longer distance.

We think of running as an individual sport. But having someone to run with you, to guide and encourage you, can be a real asset.