Nutrition Review: Spring gels

In my history of running, I’ve never been one for gels. I tried them from time to time, but I always ended up with a sore stomach afterwards. They would give me some energy, but it was all lost when the cramping hit my gut. I recently came across a new gel called Spring, and for once in my running life, I have a gel that is finally working for me.

The premise behind Spring gels is that they are all natural, based on real food, that is minimally processed. What this means is that Spring gels are not quite like what you’ve had before if you’re used to things like Hammer of Gu. The texture of Spring is almost yogurt quality. It’s smooth and creamy vs. the thicker consistency of traditional gels. It also has some texture to it from the ingredients, but I don’t find it off-putting in any way.

They have a full range of gels, some with caffeine that I need to avoid, and some with more or less calories than others. I’ve tried a few of them now, and my personal favorite is the CanaBERRY. It’s fruity and tart, and tastes really fun. I also like the POWERRUSH flavor, which I find to be a bit more earthy in flavor. Which makes sense, since it’s made with beets. I still have a couple more to sample, but so far I like what I’ve found.

The most important part of all of this is that my stomach issues are non-existent with these gels. I down the gel and get back to running, and I’m not clutching my gut 15 minutes later. That’s a massive change from my previous experience with gels, and it’s incredibly refreshing. I’ve stuck to things like energy waffles, but after a while you want something different. Spring gels give me a whole new thing to keep in my toolbox on long training days and race day. I’m incredibly excited to make them a part of my regular routine.

If you’re like me, and you’ve had issues with gels in the past, give Spring a try. It certainly might not work for everyone, but it works for me.

Fitness week recap – 7/22/2019

Week Starting 7/22/2019
 24.3 miles
 62.5 miles
Steps: 105,642
 (51.94 miles –  27.64 walking)

Impression: The taper begins for Badger 100K. I kept my running mileage really low this week, and stuck to a proper taper. That means just under 25 miles completed. For my long run on Saturday I hit Afton State Park and got in an AMAZING 10 mile run. At one point I was feeling so good that I dropped everyone in the group and just cruised through the Snowshoe Loop, flowing with the singletrack like it was a ride.

I did up my bike miles a bit this week, including a nice quarter century ride with the wife on the Dakota Rail Trail. We didn’t take it easy on this either, and managed a 14mph speed for the average of the ride. I also managed to get in a solid push at the end, just barely getting a 5 mile segment under 20 minutes. I do think that I’m at the limit of what I (and my bike) can accomplish at this moment. I felt good throughout the ride, but I know that I probably can’t push it much harder than I did.

My hope is to still post this review next week, however I’ll be returning from my race, so there’s a chance it might end up on Monday morning instead.

Exploring Crow Wing County History

As a part of our weekend up in the Brainerd area we decided to pay a visit to the Iron Range/Soo Line Depot museum in Crosby, MN. We really had no idea what to expect from this, but thought it could be a fun little diversion in the day. The museum is only open limited hours and is staffed by volunteers, and supported by donations. However, a Saturday in the middle of summer is prime tourist time, so we didn’t need to worry about it being open.

IMG_4787.jpgUpon entering we were greeted by a friendly gentleman who asked us if this was our first time at the museum. He offered to give us a quick tour of the facility before we browsed on our own. Crosby is a small town NW of Brainerd, MN, and was at the end of a Soo Line spur. It was founded in 1910, and through it’s history has had a long relationship with the mining industry (as have many cities up in this area). More recently Crosby, and it’s nearby neighbor of Ironton, have been known more for the Cuyuna bike park and trail system. In fact our lunch consisted of a visit to the Red Raven which is not just a cafe, but also a bike shop.


Throughout much of it’s history though, Crosby has been a mining and logging town, started by George Crosby to support his mining operations in the area. This history was dominated by the worst mining disaster in Minnesota history, the Milford mine disaster. In the process of blasting new tunnels to search for ore they came up under a lake and the tunnel flooded with water and mud. On that day 41 miners perished, with only 7 escaping alive. It was a huge blow to the area as those 41 men left behind 80 children, and decimated the local economy. By the mid-30s the mine was closed for good.

It’s also rather fascinating that Crosby is the first city in America to have ever elected a Communist mayor in 1932. Given the mine disaster that had occurred, it probably is appropriate that an individual who was rabidly invested in worker’s having control over local politics. The experiment didn’t last long however, and mayor Nygard was defeated when he went for re-election a year later.

DSC01527.jpgBecause of the mining disaster a local memorial park was constructed a few miles north of the town at the site of the incident. We went up to this area and walked around the various paths and historical sites. The deer flies were out in force, so we couldn’t take our time like we would have liked to, but it was still a fascinating peek into the past. There are multiple monuments to the 41 fallen miners, with their names listed on various plaques and memorials. The site is also where the small mining “city” existed to support the operation of the mine. Despite only being concrete slabs anymore, the area still shows the general layout of where the buildings were. When the mine closed, the pumps were turned of and the area was reclaimed by the lake, making this a destination for scuba divers that want to explore an industrial area from almost a century ago.

DSC01534One other claim to fame of this area is the Project Man High II in 1957 which sent Dr. David Simons to the edge of the atmosphere in a capsule attached to a weather balloon to test what the human body was capable of. Dr. Simons was the first individual in history to see the curvature of the earth, ascending to 19 miles above the earth, recording data for 32 hours. This feat helped propel America in the space race with crucial data on how to best protect astronauts on future missions. There is a replica capsule in the museum that you can sit in and see what it was like for his day and a half experiment.

History happens all around us, every day. We’re drawn to the big events, the ones that change the entire world as we know it. Moments in time that become touchpoints for future generations to use to understand a specific time and place. However, there are also the small stories. These are things that don’t continue to exist in the general knowledge of the population, but yet have a significance. Taking a bit of time to explore unfamiliar history gives us a chance to see the world just a slightly bit different going forward. Even in a small town of less than 3000 people, there is history that can teach us about how we got to where we are today as a society. Disasters like the Milford mine had an impact on working conditions of future miners. Discoveries around the human body and space travel have opened up huge advancements in science and technology. These all took place in a little town in northern Minnesota, faded from the memories of most people, but still discoverable because a community decided that history was important, and worth keeping alive.


Brewery Review: Brainerd, Crosby, and Little Falls Breweries

A couple weeks ago, we headed up to the Brainerd area for a weekend getaway. As is our custom we hit some breweries while we were up in the area. Once again, this trip showed me that you can get decent craft brew outside the metro areas. Although none of these breweries would be considered a destination on their own, they are all well worth the visit if you’re in the area.

img_4776First up, Starry Eyed Brewing Company, in Little Falls, MN. This brewery is right off the highway and has ample parking next to it’s hop farm. It was cool to see another brewery that is investing in growing some of it’s own ingredients. We got a flight, and some food from the fundraiser going on outside, and I started my tasting. Overall, the beers were on  point for style, but the one that stuck out for me was the coconut porter. That one was top notch, especially if you really like coconut flavor.

img_4781After we had gotten settled into our campsite, I headed in to Baxter to visit the new location of Jack Pine. I’ve been to Jack Pine before, a few years ago when they were in a different location, and I was curious to see their new space. I remembered being really impressed with their beers the last time I was there, however this time, I found their selections to be just average. Perhaps it’s because the last time I was there in the winter, and their winter lineup is more impressive. Nothing was particularly bad, but there were only a couple of standouts. The most impressive being their jalapeño cream ale, which was incredible. The heat balance was perfect for me, and I loved every last sip. I brought home a crowler of it and shared with with friends this past weekend. This is one that I could see getting every time I visit.

img_4793The next day we ended up in Crosby, MN and visited Cuyuna Brewing Company. This is a small brewery in what has become a very bike centric town. They had a nice selection of fruit style beers, and they were all really solid. I brought home a crowler of their apple lime saison that they did in collaboration with Sociable Cider Werks, as it was a great blend of beer and cider. They also had a nice cozy taproom, right on main street, with friendly people behind the bar.

img_4798Our final stop of the trip was Roundhouse in Brainerd. This is another one we’ve been to before, and our impression of it was probably tainted by the wonderfulness of the evening. It was a snowy night and there was music playing, and some folks working on the giant Jenga game. It’s a night that felt relaxed and special. However, this time it was a little less pleasant. There were a couple people who insisted on smoking on the patio, and seemed like they had been drinking a bit too much. They were a little over the top and it diminished the enjoyment of the evening a bit. The beer was all pleasant, and I liked that I could get a good Grodziskie. It’s not a beer style I drink often, but I don’t mind one once or twice per year.

Overall, it was a great weekend of fun, and the brewery tourism was just one part of it. It’s nice to have so many options when we travel, and if you’re ever heading up this way, I’d encourage you to give these places a solid try.

Fitness week recap – 7/15/2019

Week Starting 7/15/2019
 44.3 miles
 22 miles
Steps: 143,483
 (72.56 miles –  28.26 walking)

Impression: This week is peak week before my 100K in two weeks. That meant that I had to put a lot of biking aside, and spend more time on feet. The culmination of the week was when my friend Mike and I hit the Luce Line trail for a long Friday night gravel run. Our original intent had been to do 20 miles on the trail, however, Friday also saw the highest temperatures and humidity of the season. The dew point hit 80 degrees in the afternoon/evening, and despite a quickly dropping temp, the first 4 miles of the run was miserable. We kept carrying on and I decided to cut the run at 15 miles. By that point, the toll from the earlier heat, and the oppressive bugs made me decide that it was enough.

Mike suggested a 5 mile run in the morning to round it out, and after sleeping about 6 hours I decided to go ahead and follow his advice. I then wrapped up the weekend with a 10 mile run this morning. It’s certainly not my highest weekly mileage ever, but it’s up there. I’m ready for a couple weeks of tapering before the big race. I’ll probably focus a bit more on biking the next 14 days as a way to keep cardio going, but keep pressure off my feet.