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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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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

Half-Marathon Finish Line

3:33AM.  I opened my eyes and the hotel alarmclock read 3:33AM.  I sighed with relief, not because I could roll over and go back to sleep.  I sighed because “three” has always been “my number”.  So when I saw a series of threes, that could only mean good things.  Sure, you can call me superstitious.  I consider “threes” my sign that I’m moving my life in the right direction.  Seeing threes on the morning of Grandma’s half-marathon confirmed that I was ready to tackle 13.1 miles.

The reason I was doubting myself was that I had been sick.  Sick enough to go on antibiotics (against my better judgment) five days before the race.  The antibiotics messed with my digestion, and I was having stomache cramping every time I ate.  Not a good thing when running for two hours.

I got up at 3:33 so I could eat far enough in advance of the race (starting at 6:30AM) so if my body decided to reject the food, I wouldn’t be on the race course yet.  I woke Maddie up at 4:15 and we silently went through our routine of getting ready to run.

The starting line was shoulder-to-shoulder people.  Quite an amazing feeling.  At 6:30 we starting moving forward, stopped, moved forward, stopped, and finally we started moving forward without stopping. 

The first miles flew by as we jockeyed for position and settled into a comfortable pace.  I put my arm around Maddie and said “I’m so blessed to be running this race with you.”  At mile four we took our first gel-pack with water and continued on.  Maddie was running a few steps ahead of me and I told her it was O.K. for her to run on her own if she wanted.  With that permission she strode off ahead.  I watched her Pork Power shirt back until I could see her no more.  I checked in with my body.  Everything was feeling good.  I vacillated between the external stimulation (the massive lake to my left, the sound of bagpipes, the encouraging shouts, the sweating runners) and the internal conversation (you’ve got this, my legs feel good, they call that a hill?).  Around mile seven, two jets flew over signaling the start of the full marathon.  Tears filled my eyes from the power of the moment.  During mile eight a slight cramp moved through my stomache.  “Oh no you don’t!”, I willed my stomache to calm down.  It seemed to work, and the cramp faded. 

The final miles were blessedly uneventful.  Within sight of the finish line I saw my family in the crowd.  I high-fived Brandon and moved on to the finish.  I broke two hours, which was my goal. 

I never thought farming and running would intersect.  It’s a powerful feeling to have my life align like that.  I guess you would call that Pork Power.

Early Monday morning I quietly slipped down the stairs to Maddie’s room.  I gently shook Maddie’s shoulders to wake her up without waking up the rest of the family.  “What time is it?”  Maddie asked as she woke out of her deep sleep.  5:00AM.  Memorial Day.  Time to go for a run.

But not just any run. 

On Memorial Day we weren’t running to train for Grandma’s Marathon.  We were running to honor my sister Marci, Maddie’s aunt, who died 2  years ago.  My sister Melissa, along with two of her daughters, picked us up and we drove up to Como Park to race in the Challenge Hearts and Minds 5K.  Marci dealt with different mental health issues during her life, and we feel that this race is the perfect one to remember her with.  Last year we had red shirts made to wear for the race, so we were all wearing those once again.

The weather was perfect.  55 degrees with just a whisper of a breeze.   As I strode out all I could think about was how each one of us is running our own race called life.  We don’t know whether our life race will be a sprint, 10K, or even a marathon.  What’s most important is that you run YOUR race.  Embrace your unique race whether you have rain, heat, shin splints, or sunshine. 

After the race we celebrated with breakfast at Little Oscars Restaurant.  Post-race breakfast would have been Marci’s favorite part.  Now, back to training.