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 Every year we try to work the Oink booth or the Promotions booth at the State Fair. I like to do it for two reasons; first I enjoy meeting people and talking to them about raising pigs and preparing pork. Second, I think it’s a good experience for the kids. It teaches them how to support the pig industry through their involvement and how to interact with people.

 Last Saturday the boys worked in the Oink Booth while Dale, Beth and I were in the Promotions booth. The boys spent time with the sow and litter and answered questions, mostly regarding the pigs’ age and how much they weighed. The largest boar is also a great attraction but the ultimate draw has to be the paper pig ears that people get to wear. You see them all over the fairgrounds. I’m not sure what the record is for assembling paper pig ears in one hour, but I know it’s a lot, especially when people are standing three deep to get them.

 In the Promotions booth, questions deal mainly with cooking pork. Most people overcook pork and end up with a dry piece of meat. Four words of advice… Use a Meat Thermometer. This year I was amazed at how many people took the recipes we had on the counter. Many commented that they stop here once a year to get new ones and that we have some of the best recipes. Beth spent most of her four hour shift restocking supplies. She did have to sneak away once to look at the carved butter heads of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants.

 At the end of our shift, the boys came back with stories about pigs and people. Dale and I had a number of good conversations and felt we had the chance to educate a few people on what we do and how to prepare pork. Beth was just happy to hang out with us as you can see by the picture. All in all, a good day promoting pork.

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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

 This week we have 4 track meets on 4 separate nights. Next week it’s 3 track meets on 3 different nights. With such a busy schedule, preparing and eating a nice sit-down meal is just not possible. Plus, we live 10 miles from the nearest grocery store and any type of convenience store, so “take out” food is not a good option. The kids can only eat so much frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese. They will even roll their eyes with the “not again” look when we’ve had too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

One thing that works well for our family is pulled pork. Slow cooking a shoulder roast until it’s fork tender creates a meat that works well in a bun, between a flour tortilla or even on a salad. It’s a quick meal without all the disadvantages of typical fast food. We roast a large quantity of pork at one time and then freeze it in small packages. This allows us to pull out a package from the freezer and have a nutritious meal in only a few minutes.

Another thing I try to do is to prepare a good meal on a day when I have time and then have leftovers for another day. Sunday I doubled my recipe for meatloaf and actually prepared it on the grill. I formed a loaf, put it on an aluminum foil covered flat baking sheet and then put it on the grill for about an hour. We had meatloaf for supper and enough left over for sandwiches or a quick meal.

Sometimes life moves pretty fast and taking time for a relaxed meal around the table isn’t an option. But fast food doesn’t need to be filled with empty calories. With a little planning, pork can be the answer to a fast, flavorful and nutritious meal.

Ever had a task you knew you needed to do, but it still overwhelmed you? If you recall, I’ve been increasing my running mileage to get closer to a 5K. But the time had come when I knew I needed to run the 3.1 miles, to break through my barrier. Fortunately the other day Dale’s training called for an easy workout; a perfect opportunity for us to run together. When the time came, I’d been busy with other tasks, plus the wind was blowing; again. It would have been easy to postpone the run, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy with myself. I admitted my nervousness to Dale as we started out down the road. Well, 3.1 miles later I had completed a great run, filled with confidence, knowing I’d overcome my fears.

My son Adam is experiencing the same situation as he faces the possibility of running the 4×100 relay for an upcoming track meet. When I asked him about his apprehension, it had to do with never having run that short of distance. He isn’t confident that’s he’s fast enough. Time will tell how things turn out.

What don’t we do because we are afraid? How do we teach our kids to face up to their fears and apprehensions and to help them understand that in the end, they will be a better person for doing so?

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing, which you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

For the most part, my workouts are to help keep me fit vs. preparing for a competition. I like to have a routine where I’m working out about every other day. This week I was out of town for a few days and wasn’t able to work out. I’m not sure if it’s more mental or physical, but I usually feel a little guilty not keeping my routine. It’s as if I’m afraid all the progress I’ve made will disappear.

My first night back home I jumped on the treadmill and did 20 minutes of intervals. For me, that’s running fast for 2 minutes and then walking at a good speed for 2 minutes and then repeating the sequence. It felt good to stretch my legs and challenge my muscles. Over the weekend I did a 2 mile run on the treadmill at about the same pace or a little faster than I had previously done.

Whatever the routine, it’s important to get regular exercise. I can see it’s important for my kids too. If they go through a stretch where they haven’t exercised and have sat around quite a bit, they seem out of sorts and a little edgy. For our family, exercise needs to be part of our routine to keep both our body and mind in shape.