Fitness week recap – 7/29/2019

Week Starting 7/29/2019
 67.9 miles
 3.6 miles
Steps: 195,536
 (95.67 miles –  27.77 walking)

Impression: Race week! This week was two small runs, a quick bike commute to the train station, and then the big race. I completed my first every 100K. I felt tremendously ready for this race, and everything was going great till about mile 50. After that everything fell apart and I learned some good lessons. I’ll write up a full race report later this week with all the details.

One of the bad things that happened to me, was that I got a couple of really bad blisters on the balls of my feet. I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be back to running, so this week might be another down week before I head out of town for the Marquette 50K next weekend.

Taking the plunge at Tuscobia

I’ve gotten very involved in the winter ultramarathon scene, including putting on our own winter ultra. One of the reasons I started a small 40 mile race is because I wasn’t sure if I could handle doing the longer distances myself, and I figured there were others out there in the same boat. However, being the race director of a race means it’s hard to actually compete in the event yourself.

However, last year our dear friend Randy Kottke passed away from his battle with cancer while we were all up at the Arrowhead 135 race. Being among everyone up north, celebrating Randy’s life, was powerful. When I attended a small remembrance gathering for him there was a board where you could put up a note, saying what you would do to remember Randy. I decided that I would take the plunge and attempt the Tuscobia 80 mile race.

This morning I signed up and put my money where my mouth is. This one’s for you Randy.

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.