Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sting or Bee Stung

Some of you know that my favorite (absolute favorite!) energy food for trail running is Honey Stinger products.  It was a long, painful road of puking and nausea during races that finally brought me to try Honey Stinger gels and chews.  You see, years ago (we're talking the late 1990s when I started running ultra-distance trail races) I used to eat GU and Cliff-shot products because to be honest, that's all that was really available at the time.  I had friends who swore by them.  I tried them, and in shorter races (50k) they worked fine for me, but after that point (50 mile and 100-mile distance) my stomach was an absolute wreck.  Put that together with the fact that our choices of electrolyte drinks were Powerade and Gatorade and it made for a very difficult situation.

Over the years, I figured out that my stomach just does not tolerate maltodextrin, which is the main sugar source in many energy products.  When I take it in, my stomach immediately cramps.  After hours of ingestion, my stomach is bloated and will not let food pass to digest it.  I begin vomiting.  It's a painful way to end a race.  There's enough pain in ultra-distance running without puking your guts up while you are out there.

Honey Stinger products are either made with pure honey, or organic tapioca sugar.  When I eat them, my stomach says, "More, please!" which is an excellent way to stay fueled during a race, compared to the alternative that I experienced in the past with maltodextrin products:  "NO MORE ~ blurrrp!"

Last week, I put in an online order to Honey Stinger to stock up on some organic gels and chews before a couple of races that I have coming up.  I didn't need any gels right away, so I let the box sit in my kitchen for the week, and hadn't opened it until today.  Much to my pleasant surprise, the kind folks at Honey Stinger had added a jar of pure, organic wildflower honey to my order as a gift!  Gosh, I love this company.  My tummy is happy, my body and brain function during races, and now a sweet treat.  Every year at the Outdoor Retailers' Show in Salt Lake City I make a point to stop by to say hello and rave about how much I love their products.

I put in another order today, because you can never have enough Honey Stinger.  And they just came out with two more flavors:  Strawberry-Kiwi and Chocolate (both caffeinated).  Hopefully they will come before my big race next week.

And with that, I give you a very interesting story on the history of Honey Stinger, told to me by my friend Leon Lutz (of Pennsylvania)...  enjoy!  And remember:  Sting or Bee Stung!  Packet in, Packet out!  Happy trails!

"I'm going to take a few hundred keystrokes to share a story that has long fascinated me.  Back in the early '00s, I [Leon] worked for a bank (of all dog forsaken employers) and created legal documents (of all dog forsaken things) for corporate loans (of all... well, you get it).  When you create such binding documents, you need to research the full legal name of the borrowing entity from its current legal name all the way back to its genesis.  One of our "regulars" was Dutch Gold Honey, a born-and-bread Lancaster, PA-based company.  Turns out that way back in the '40s, successful businessman Ralph Gamber, after seeking medical attention for some health issues, was told by his doctor to get a hobby before he dropped dead from the stress of work.  Perhaps begrudgingly, Ralph got himself a nice relaxing hobby in the form of a beehive, but... being a driven individual, he ended up a few years later with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of hives and an ahead-of-its-time concept for a healthy alternative to candy bars.  His EN-R-G bar didn't put a dent in the (by then) 1950s candy bar business but his thriving hives did lead to the establishment of Dutch Gold Honey, today the largest family-owned honey producer in the United States.  They were the ones who first put honey in the bear-shaped bottles if that helps put their impact into perspective.
AND, LEON, WTF does this have to do with... ?
I'm getting there.  Ralph had a son, Bill.  Just as driven as his father, Bill took over for Ralph years later as the head of Dutch Gold and (I believe) he still sits on the board.  Bill had a son of his own, Bill Jr., who moved west before I had a chance to meet him.  The kid stayed busy running, climbing, riding mountain bikes, hiking, camping, etc.  'Cept entrepreneurism was in his blood and he was driven in his own right and from that eventually came Big Agnes, the cool little (though less little all the time) company that builds some of the sweetest tents, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags on the planet.  Junior also had a honey heritage and plucked grandpa's original business name from the history books to reestablish EN-R-G Foods and Honey Stinger as we know it today.  Through my job, I've since become friends with Bill, Jr. and we swap stories now and then about life back here in the Keystone state and our peculiar strain of 6 degrees (not even) of separation.
It's a small, beautiful world and sometimes the departing and then reconnecting paths that we walk are incredibly intriguing."

You can read more of Leon Lutz's ramblings stories on his blog:

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