Monday, July 13, 2015

Training Journal

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Training Journal

2 miles; Burbank HS; very hot but felt optimistic.  Mostly walked

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Exercise Changes Fat and Muscle Cells

-by Gretchen Reynolds, from the New York Times

Exercise promotes health, reducing most people’s risks of developing diabetes and growing obese. But just how, at a cellular level, exercise performs this beneficial magic — what physiological steps are involved and in what order — remains mysterious to a surprising degree.

Several striking new studies, however, provide some clarity by showing that exercise seems able to drastically alter how genes operate.

Genes are, of course, not static. They turn on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from elsewhere in the body. When they are turned on, genes express various proteins that, in turn, prompt a range of physiological actions in the body.

One powerful means of affecting gene activity involves a process called methylation, in which methyl groups, a cluster of carbon and hydrogen atoms, attach to the outside of a gene and make it easier or harder for that gene to receive and respond to messages from the body. In this way, the behavior of the gene is changed, but not the fundamental structure of the gene itself. Remarkably, these methylation patterns can be passed on to offspring – a phenomenon known as epigenetics.

What is particularly fascinating about the methylation process is that it seems to be driven largely by how you live your life. Many recent studies have found that diet, for instance, notably affects the methylation of genes, and scientists working in this area suspect that differing genetic methylation patterns resulting from differing diets may partly determine whether someone develops diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

But the role of physical activity in gene methylation has been poorly understood, even though exercise, like diet, greatly changes the body. So several groups of scientists recently set out to determine what working out does to the exterior of our genes.

The answer, their recently published results show, is plenty.

Of the new studies, perhaps the most tantalizing, conducted principally by researchers affiliated with the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden and published last month in PLoS One, began by recruiting several dozen sedentary but generally healthy adult Swedish men and sucking out some of their fat cells. Using recently developed molecular techniques, the researchers mapped the existing methylation patterns on the DNA within those cells. They also measured the men’s body composition, aerobic capacity, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and similar markers of health and fitness.

Then they asked the men to start working out. Under the guidance of a trainer, the volunteers began attending hourlong spinning or aerobics classes approximately twice a week for six months. By the end of that time, the men had shed fat and inches around their waists, increased their endurance and improved their blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.

Less obviously, but perhaps even more consequentially, they also had altered the methylation pattern of many of the genes in their fat cells. In fact, more than 17,900 individual locations on 7,663 separate genes in the fat cells now displayed changed methylation patterns. In most cases, the genes had become more methylated, but some had fewer methyl groups attached. Both situations affect how those genes express proteins.

The genes showing the greatest change in methylation also tended to be those that had been previously identified as playing some role in fat storage and the risk for developing diabetes or obesity.

“Our data suggest that exercise may affect the risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity by changing DNA methylation of those genes,” says Charlotte Ling, an associate professor at Lund University and senior author of the study.

Meanwhile, other studies have found that exercise has an equally profound effect on DNA methylation within human muscle cells, even after a single workout.

To reach that conclusion, scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and other institutions took muscle biopsies from a group of sedentary men and women and mapped their muscle cell’s methylation patterns. They then had the volunteers ride stationary bicycles until they had burned about 400 calories. Some rode strenuously, others more easily.

Afterward, a second muscle biopsy showed that DNA methylation patterns in the muscle cells were already changing after that lone workout, with some genes gaining methyl groups and some losing them. Several of the genes most altered, as in the fat cell study, are known to produce proteins that affect the body’s metabolism, including the risk for diabetes and obesity.

Interestingly, the muscle cell methylation changes were far more pronounced among the volunteers who had ridden vigorously than in those who had pedaled more gently, even though their total energy output was the same.

The overarching implication of the study’s findings, says Juleen Zierath, a professor of integrative physiology at the Karolinska Institute and senior author of the study, is that DNA methylation changes are probably “one of the earliest adaptations to exercise” and drive the bodily changes that follow.

Of course, the intricacies of that bogglingly complex process have yet to be fully teased out. Scientists do not know, for instance, whether exercise-induced methylation changes linger if someone becomes sedentary, or if resistance training has similar effects on the behavior of genes. Nor is it known whether these changes might be passed on from one generation to the next. But already it is clear, Dr. Ling says, that these new findings “are additional proof of the robust effect exercise can have on the human body, even at the level of our DNA.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Just a thought about the "DNF"

For those runners who don't make it to the official finish line at Badwater, I say fuck the finish line. The finish line is inside your own heart and the race is never, never over. Ultras aren't about belt buckles or PR's or any of that other shit. Ultras are about giving it your all, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and enjoying each moment in which you live up fully to the potential of your soul.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Food Porn

Someone asked me the other day if I am the kind of person who takes pictures of my food before I eat it. Well, sometimes, damn it, I am that person. I can't help it.

I think taking pictures of your food is actually a pretty good technique for staying mindful of what we have on our plates. It helps us see what we eat in a slightly more objective way. Not to mention, sometimes it's just fun to show off that really awesome dinner creation.
Here are some of my most recent meals:

Grocery Wars and the Art of Consciousness: Making Good (and Bad) Food Choices

I'm not the healthiest person by any stretch of the imagination, but damn it, I try! When I go to the grocery store, I like to fill my cart with nutritious, healthy foods. It makes me feel good about myself to know that I made decent food choices in a world dominated by preservatives-riddled, sugary junk foods. I felt that sense of accomplishment today at the store when I went to the checkout lane. Here were my groceries:

I probably could do without the processed meats: the beef jerky, the turkey bacon. But, I mostly stuck to the essentials: that's a big ass bag of kale in the upper right hand corner. I got a tub of baby spinach, some carrots, radishes, onions, avocados, lots of tomatoes, a head of cabbage.

It's funny, as I was waiting to be rung up, I happened to glance over at what the people behind me were buying. And, yes, I took a picture (discreetly, of course). I know, I know... It's none of my damn business what people are buying, but I couldn't help it, honestly.

Now, I'm not trying to take the moral high ground here. Trust me, I can get down and dirty with the best of them: chocolate, cheesecake, ice cream... I love it all. But, I think it's good to reflect on our food choices every now and then. We should absolutely take pride in our wise decisions about food and learn from our misguided ones. But, we can't do that - we can't finally get real about what we're putting in our bellies - unless we open up our eyes to the reality of things. In this regard, consciousness is the art of staying alert. I, for one, intend to be a lot more mindful.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Upcoming Races 2013

Saturday, April 4, 2013 - 50 mile St. James the Apostle Charity Run, 907 W. Theo, San Antonio, TX, 78225. To raise money for building improvements to the school.

Saturday, May 18, 2013 - Keys 100 Mile Run

Saturday, June 15, 2013 - Mohican 100 Mile Run

Saturday, September 14, 2013 - Plain 100 Mile Run

Saturday, October 5, 2013 - Yellowstone-Teton 100 Mile Run

Location:San Antonio,United States

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I applied to Badwater. I don't think I will get in. I am nervous.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cactus Rose 100 Race Report

Was I ready to run 100 miles? Had my training been adequate? Should I have done more hill training? Should I have done more running on the trail? Did I have enough supplies? Enough food? The right gear?

These questions plagued me in the days leading up to Cactus Rose 100. I was scared. Not just nervous. But full-on, totally, shaking-in-my-shoes scared. I am a naturally doubting person. I have doubts about many things in life, especially the unfathomable future and my own adequacy to face it. People tend to regard doubt as a vice instead of a virtue. And sometimes they are right: doubt can be a debilitating thing.

But, sometimes it can be quite beneficial. Doubt allows for open-mindedness. It makes you see the world in new terms. It makes you cautious and humble. So, it was with a sense of deep humility that I approached my 100 mile race on October 27, 2012
I had no intention of breaking a certain time goal. My plan was to finish. I wanted to go out cautiously, maintain a steady, relentless forward motion, and enjoy myself as much as possible. I can honestly say that I did just that.
I will never forget, for instance, the sheer joy of setting up a tent before the race, curling up inside with a good book (Stephen King's "The Shining"), a bar of dark chocolate, and kicking back until race time. I'll also never forget the exhilaration of hearing the wind howl outside my tent and feeling the immense satisfaction and relief at knowing that I set up a sturdy dwelling to withstand the elements!

But, I don't want to give you the impression that my pleasure came solely from my isolation and independence. That would be dishonest because I was neither isolated or independent in my mission to complete Cactus Rose. My success would not have been possible without the countless people who supported my efforts - from the race directors to the race volunteers (Olga and her invaluable support at Equestrian Aid Station), from the friendly faces I spotted on and off the trail (Cheryl, Mark, Logan, Jason, Steven, Gordon, Liza, Jesse; the list goes on and on) to the support I received at home (my parents, my friend Fernando, even my co-workers, and my friend and mentor Lisa Smith-Batchen). In short, I was never alone out there.

I won't bore you with details about how I felt after each loop (suffice it to say, I felt good for the first 65 miles and shitty for the rest). I also won't bore you with details about what I ate and how often I urinated and all that nonsense. I will merely say that nothing extraordinary happened. Ultras aren't necessarily dramatic (real life isn't all that dramatic either - not like in the movies). Sometimes, it's just about plugging on quietly and steadily.

What I will write about is having Doug Ratliff as a pacer. Badwater Doug. Dougie. Love that guy. Love his wife, Jazzy. Without them, this whole undertaking would have been considerably more difficult. Doug ran 45 miles with me. Like a good friend and pacer should, he helped me without coddling me. He pushed me. To him, I feel I owe my buckle.

So, Cactus Rose 100 is done. Fine. Now, on to other things...

Location:Bandera, TX