Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ACOI Conference Notes & Race Report

So a few weeks ago, my wife, the lovely Dr. Reeves, tells me that I am welcome to attend a medical conference with her. Here is the skinny. It is the annual meeting of the American College of Osteopathic Internists. It is in San Antonio. At the new Marriot Hill Country Resort & Spa. And it will be a kid free, four day weekend covering our 15th wedding anniversary. Bingo! To make things even better, I am given clearance from the tower to go for a daily run and participate in the Friday Fun Run Race or as I called it, the Doctor Dash. Booyah! But more on the race later. The photo above is the view from the resort as the sun rose after the race. The course wound down the hill and into the canyon where the fog is settled.

My plan was to attend some lectures, get some runs in and otherwise relax. During the welcome dinner we met Cynthia, a doc from NYC that serves the Chinatown area. Turns out her husband is an avid runner and is working on his membership in the 50 States marathon club and wants to start running ultras. They even spent their honeymoon running Antartica (marathon for him, half for her). Back to the conference. The focus this year is on obesity. A rising epidemic not only in our country but around this big blue marble we all live on and call home. At least it was a topic of interest to me and not something like arthritis. I have had an interest in obesity which was only sharpened the more I searched for ways to improve my running performance and overall health. Books I read such as The China StudyEating Well for Optimum Health and Proof Positive helped me understand the nutrition side of the equation. Now thanks to running and some personal philosophy I consider myself to be a bit smarter than the average bear when it comes to nutrition. So naturally I'm interested in the conference lectures. Following are some of the  more interesting points I jotted down from the lectures. Again, I am not a medical expert so these notes are written in a manner that made sense to me. However, I have included the speaker's info for reference.

At breakfast the first day I attended an interesting lecture. The speaker had the audience think of the known history of man as a single 24 hour period. In terms of obesity the initial 23 plus hours are remarkably unremarkable. But about 23h45m the agricultural era is born and shortly after that the industrial period. Both of these would have a significant impact on obesity. In the last 15 seconds of the day, say since about 1980, obesity has exploded. Think about it. The invention of processed and frozen foods to be mass produced. Food packed in cans, wrapped in plastic, boxed up and shipped from the factory right to your local big box, mega retail grocery outlet. Just rip it open, pop it in the microwave and eat.

I'm 40 something and grew up eating mostly home cooked meals. Fast food joints were a luxury to us. A treat for special events. Most of the food we brought home from the store had to be eaten before it spoiled. Most of it didn't have an extended shelf life. Foods are now more calorie dense than before with the processed ingredients. Even something as simple as beef, no longer holistically pasture raised, now contains more fat and cholesterol with less protein and nutrients. Not to mention the addition of growth hormones and antibiotics. And to make matters worse portion sizes have ballooned. Lumberjack sized servings are now normal. Today's kid meal was yesterday's full size adult meal. And to top it all off, study after study shows a dramatic decrease in the amount of regular physical exercise people get in our world today.

Some interesting tidbits from the same lecture. Babies breastfed longer than 12 months have a markedly reduced incidence of obesity as adults. Adequate sleep on a regular basis helps keep people at a more ideal, age appropriate weight. The magic time being the often suggested 8 hours nightly for adults. For kids the number is 10 hours per night. This last one is the most surprisingly to me. Obesity is contagious. It has been documented that individuals who have close social relationships with someone who is obese, a spouse, sibling, parent or close friend, are more likely to suffer from obesity. In my mind the opposite is true. A person who is surrounded by fit folks, maybe runners, is more likely to be a more fit and healthy person.

Mia Taormina D.O.
Has Obesity Gone Viral
Guess how many U.S. states have an obese population of less than 20 percent? Zero. That's right. An epidemic of obesity is spreading across the U.S. at an alarming rate. Is there a viral etiology? Yes, in humans there are three different adenoviruses that have been shown to increase the likelihood of obesity. These viruses can result in suppressed immune function and the accumulation of body fat without an increase in caloric intake. Both bloodborne and airborne transmission of the viruses has been observed in animal studies. Infected lab subjects experienced a rapid and significant body mass increase. Does the gut flora on these subjects differ? Yes. There are between 15k-32k different kinds of flora in your gut. Some are good to have and others not so much. Studies suggest that some flora are more efficient at processing calories (gram negative) than others (gram positive). High GI tract flora is generally better than low GI tract flora. Your gut flora composition is more or less set by the age of 1. Think about that. This is why breast feeding beyond 12 months has repeatedly been shown to have huge benefits for a child. High fat, processed foods can shift gut flora over time to a more gram negative environment. Gram negative flora is able to extract more calories from ingested food. This can be reversed over time to more gram positive that includes more pre and pro biotic friendly flora with a healthy, whole food, plant based diet. For an individual predisposed to obesity (ad+) what this means is that their calorie in/calorie out equation requires more work to be effective. In other words, that individual has to work harder to maintain a healthy weight and BMI. 

George Bray M.D.
Obesity: From Here to There
If you keep your weight in check or are working towards a healthy weight you enjoy a lower risk of death due to multiple comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, pulmonary disease, hypertension and such. Likewise, you will have less risk of conditions such as diabetes (type II), high cholesterol and sleep apnea. That all sounds good to me. In a nutshell achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it comes down to just one thing and one thing only. There is no magic pill. No surgery that will make the problem go away. Sure, there are things a doctor or surgeon can do to assist an individual. But more than one of the guest lecturers simply stated: one must burn more calories than is taken in. Period. You wanna lose weight? That's the plan. Switching to a more healthy diet (low fat, whole foods, plant based) will lower your caloric intake. On that note my main source of runner friendly food advice is Matt Frazier and company over at No Meat Athlete. Add in some exercise and you will be well on your way.

I also need to mention a keynote speaker by the name of Eric Greitens. Former Navy Seal, Rhodes Scholar, best selling author and CEO of The Mission Continues. Eric spoke about his journey from Navy Seal to Humanitarian as outlined in his book The Heart and The Fist. Through his leadership at The Mission Continues military veterans (wounded and disabled) are awarded fellowships to serve in their communities. Several life changing stories were shared. This book is at the top of my must read list.

That's me above at The Alamo. As a Texas raised boy I had to post this. Note to self, next time take the water bottle out of your pocket. Now the race report. Apparently at each convention a small fun run 4 mile race is held. I told my wife to sign me up. I also mentioned that there was a pretty good chance I might win (given the likely small field and lack of fast runners). She just rolled her eyes. The race was Friday morning. I got down to the lobby early enough prior to the 0630 start and got in some warm up time. After getting the sleep shaken off I went back into the lobby to get out of the chilly breeze. I met another participant and we got to chatting. Before I knew it 0630 rolled around and we were the only ones there. We rushed to the other end of the resort where the conference desk was located. We asked about the race and were told they had already left. We rushed outside and found a group of about 50-60 runners ready to go and getting last minute directions from the leader. All I heard was something about running down to the end of TPC Parkway and returning to the resort. That meant running about 1 mile down the hill and then turning back, twice. Then two groups were split up, those in the 2 mile and those in the 4 mile race. I slid over to the 4 mile group. Then it was 3-2-1 Go! So I did. Immediately a fella in a Mother Road Marathon shirt from last year (I ran that marathon too) shot off like a bullet across the parking lot. I quickly settled in to what I thought was as fast a pace as I could hold for 4 miles. What exactly that was I have no idea because it was too dark to see my watch. In short order the lead runner put  a decent gap on me and another guy that was right on my shoulder. I peeked back and saw it looked like a 3 person race. However, I also realized that the guy in the lead was out of my league if he maintained that pace. I'm guessing he was a 6:00 or so and I felt my max would be about 7:00 considering I had run 6 hilly miles fairly hard the day before and was still recovering from Twin Cities Marathon. As we approached the turnaround I got a good look at the leader. His pace had slowed noticeably. With a mile of uphill next I thought I had a chance if I pushed it. So I did. I caught and passed him over the next quarter mile and pulled away. As I did the guy that had been on my shoulder faded away in the darkness. Just when I thought I was in the clear I heard footsteps from behind and they were coming fast. A quick glance revealed a new face. And it was young and belonged to a guy that looked like he had legs and plenty of gas left in the tank. OK, about a half mile left, just push it a bit and see if he hangs. He did. A quarter mile left to the resort and then another lap. That last quarter is up a nice kicker and back across the parking lot. I was gassed. I knew if he made a move that I would likely not have an answer so I went all in and began a tired kick. He just stayed right on my shoulder. We got back to the start and I decided, right then and there, that 2 miles at max effort was good enough for me today and stopped. He stopped with me and I shook his hand telling him I thought he had me. As we each caught our breath over the next minute or two the original leader came around and started his second lap. Then the guy that stopped with me looks up and asks if that was 4 miles. I told him no, just 2 miles. He wanted to do the 4 and took off. In the end he passed the leader and won the 4 mile race. So why did I drop to the two? Well, my legs were dead. My time was 13:18 for the race, a 6:39 pace. That's 20 seconds faster per mile than my best 5k to date. I know I would not have been able to keep that pace up for another 2 miles. At worst I think I would have finished third and likely second. But since the last race I won was probably back in third grade, circa 1976, I decided a "W" would be nice. And as Mike Rush told me, "A win is a win. I don't care if it was only two people." So I'll take it and the shiny Italian made gold medal. 


  1. James, Great blog as always. Congrats on the win! Like Mike says a win is a win! - Tim

  2. Thanks Tim and I appreciate the comment. It's nice to know someone might actually be reading my posts.
    Hope the calf continues to improve for you. Looking forward to Tulsa. If you're running long Sunday morning I could join you for an hour or so.