Friday, 29 May 2009

Genetically... Awesome?

I haven't had time to write my blog on running in Sweden, will try and do that sometime soon.. however... I just got a mail through from 23 and Me to say my genetic profile is ready!
It was supposed to take 6-8 weeks... Now, as I work in this business, I am aware of the technology that 23 and Me use and how long running a sample takes. To be honest I'm either impressed by LabCorp's turnaround times or surprised they aren't busier.
Its 7:45 on a Saturday morning. My wife is out at work and my lil 2 year old son is sitting beside me eating his breakfast and insisting that I should give him chocolate. I guess this is a good time to check out what sorta genes Ive passed on to the little guy.
I'm going to write some notes on this as I go along.

First of all... Where do I come from????
This was the one bit I was figuring i could guess with about 99% accuracy.
First glance..
Yes, I'm European.

I'm highlighted by the green icon at the top of the Europe part of the scattergraph.
I can zoom in and find I'm from Northern Europe and then one more click and.. YES, I am Irish.

So.. yeah, no surprises there. Apparently my maternal haplogroup is H4a, most commonly seen in Irish, Polish and Arabs and apparently is the same maternal haplogroup as Warren Buffet. My paternal haplogroup is R1B1c. This is most common in western europe particularly among Irish, British, French and Basque people. I am SO frickin Irish. Seriously, if I were more Irish I would be a leprechaun or a pint of Guinness. I could be proud of this, or embarrassed at being inbred. At least my maternal and paternal haplotypes are not identical. :)

So, on to the meatier stuff, the clinical reports. Again, this is the area I work in, so this is of particular interest to me. I fully appreciate that there can be many errors here but its still of interest.

Interesting stuff. I don't flush when I drink alcohol, which I knew. I can taste bitterness, which again I know. My Earwax type is wet... which I definitely knew. My eye colour is "likely blue", well that's close enough, my eyes are blue/ green and vary so technically speaking on any given day it is indeed likely they will be blue. Lactose wise I am likely tolerant. I had often wondered about this. If I eat breakfast cereal early in the morning I feel like crap. Sometimes dairy does make me feel bad, other times it doesn't bother me at all. At least I know whatever the problem is its not likely to be genetic. I'm not resistant to malaria, so I guess I will be as pissed off as ever at mosquito's and interestingly my muscle performance indicates I'm a likely sprinter. Interesting, if i probe this a little I find the following info..

I have "Two working copies of alpha-actinin-3 in fast-twitch muscle fiber. Many world-class sprinters and some endurance athletes have this genotype."

Of course they also add the "genes vs environment" caveat

"...muscle fiber only contributes a small part to your overall athletic performance. Other physical characteristics, such as lung capacity, and behaviors, such as regular exercise, also make important contributions to your prowess in sports. "
Which of course, I know. Its interesting info tho. At least I am not genetically inhibited.
Lastly on this section... Im not resistant to norovirus or HIV. Bummer.

Well, the lil guy is getting impatient so thats enough for now. The research reports are interesting so I may cover these in a separate post.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Running Seattle.....

My attempts to run everywhere in the world are continuing successfully!
This week I was in Seattle. Hell of a journey getting there. Left Belfast on Monday morning and flew to Newark first, had about 4 hours of waiting around then another 6 hour flight on to Seattle. I arrived late on Monday night having travelled for about 20 hours in total. The picture above was the view from my hotel room that night. Quite nice to have a view of the most recognisable feature of Seattle. After that amount of travelling it was particularly useful to remind me what city I was actually in.

The next morning I woke early and headed out for a long run. The guys at Brooks Running (my favourite shoes!) had recommended that I head to Greenlake for the loop. I looked on Google maps and Greenlake was about 4 miles from my hotel and seemed to be around a 3 mile loop, so I figured on around a 12-14 mile run altogether and I set out.

I always like to listen to music or podcasts when I run... but being in Seattle, there was no way I was listening to podcasts. My soundtrack to the day was to be Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

It was a beautiful morning and a really nice area to run in. At one point I had to stop at a bridge (the Fremont Bridge I think) as it was opening to let boats through. I think I can safely say this was a first... I don't think I have ever had my running interrupted by a passing boat.

I made it to Greenlake and it was beautiful. Great scenery and great for running too. There was always a bit of the path that was gravel, packed earth or grass, so I got to give my legs a little break from pounding the concrete or tarmac for a while and they thanked me for it.

As I ran along, I stopped at one point to take a quick photo of my shoes in their spiritual home.

The scenery was spectacular. Really nice environment for running and very popular. The best thing was that round the lake, there was a nice path, but there was also always a part where you could run on gravel, packed earth and grass, giving the legs a much needed break from pounding the concrete!

I have to say I was even tempted to jump in the water for a swim. The hotel I was staying in had no pool so I faced a week of no swimming and was tempted to try a bit of open water swimming. If it wasn't for the garmin, ipod, shoes etc I probably would have.

This guy had the right idea though...

When I got towards the end of the loop, i found a nice bit off to the side where I could run up into the woods and run on the trail through there. Nice and hilly and lots of fun.

I had actually planned out my route carefully and knew there was a branch of Road Runner Sports near the lake, so I did another half lap of the lake and headed there to pick up some gels. I had planned on doing so. Had figured out where the shop was, even knew in advance what I was buying.

The only thing I didn't really account for was having to carry the damn things.

So, for the 5.5 miles remaining in my run, I was carrying a plastic bag with two big bulky boxes of Gu gels. Just for the record.. I would recommend against this.
During the week I also had the opportunity to do a little bit of sight seeing. Invariably this involved a visit to Pike Place market and to the first ever Starbucks. Which was really cool. Much as I dislike Starbucks global domination, I do love their coffee and drink it a lot. So It was nice to, for once, drink some Starbucks and know I was having coffee in a local coffee shop.

Amazingly enough, the branding in the original Starbucks (and a few others that I saw that I assume were also early branches) actually have a different branding. They use brown instead of green in the logo and the mugs and other merchandise were quite distinct too. Its quite impressive to see that such a massive company actually maintains a distinct brand for specific shops.

Coffee tasted exactly the same, of course!

One last point of interest. At the meeting I was at, there was a raffle for a kit to be genotyped by the direct to consumer genomics company 23 and Me. As I work in this field myself, I am fascinated by this. I'm not sure if the world is really ready for direct to consumer genetic testing. Futher, I'm not sure that what is offered presently has a real medical benefit or value. However, as a matter of interest and for purely informational purposes I think its great. Ive maintained since I first heard of 23 and Me that I would love to do it but would never pay for it. Luckily I won the raffle and so Ive spat in the tube and FedEx'ed it off to them. In 6-8 weeks I shall find out the results. I will undoubtedly write a blog post on this!

One final note. Am pretty that despite having two transatlantic flights in the week, to the west coast no less, I still managed to do my highest mileage week ever. Just over 40 miles! I also managed to get in 23 miles on the bike (11.6 at home on a real bike, 12 miles in the gym in Seattle).

Just to finish off.. a map of the long run...

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


This is a totally random blog posting, from my phone while sitting at
an airport. Waiting to board a flight to New York, then onward to
Seattle. Long day ahead.

For some reason this memory popped into my head and I thought it worth

A few months back on a trip to San Francisco, I went to a health food
/ supplement store. I had run out of the stuff I take to prevent knee
pain. A lot of people use glucosamine/ chondritin, I actually use a
supplement called cissus. It was recommended by a friend with bad knee
problems and when my knees were hurting I tried it and it seemed to

Anyway, there I was searching the shelves of the store when one of the
employees came over to me with the usual "can I help you sir?"

Usually my male pride, y'know that genetic imperative that refuses to
ask for directions, makes me reply "no thanks I'm fine"

This time, though, I had a dinner appointment, so I replied that yes,
she could help. As soon as I said yes, she started to lead me across
the shop and said something like "I assume its endurance supplements
you are looking for"

For real?

I thought I was hearing things. About a year before I would have been
more inclined to expect to be asked if I was looking for diet pills.

A few years before that, as a party animal, drinker, smoker and all
round unhealthy (but still pretty damn fun) guy, my grey palor would
have been more likely to cause her to say this

"Look, to be honest sir, this herbal stuff can only do so much. Most
of it is a total crock. You need a doctor."

But here I was being asked if I was looking for endurance supplements.


Sent from my mobile device

Friday, 1 May 2009

When you run in places you visit, you encounter things you'd never see otherwise

The title is a quote from Tom Brokaw... and it is very true.

Was in Boston this week. Boston is a big place for the Irish to visit. Many of the people I work with have lived there. Of course, Harvard being there is a significant reason for this, but generally speaking the Irish love Boston.

Personally, I never really got why. I had been a few times and thought it was OK.

This time, I got the opportunity to understand a little more of why people love Boston. I arrived on Sunday night and went for a 5 mile run down by the harbor. Which was very nice.

As I was running down by the harbour, I just happened to run by the volvo ocean race which was pretty cool. Didnt expect that at all!

On Monday morning at 6am, I awoke to this view... and I headed out for a 10 mile run.

I ran through town, round Boston Common, round the duck pond then went to the river Charles and ran alongside the river for a few miles. It was Beautiful. I have to say, I can really see the appeal of the city.

Running alongside the river was beautiful...

I love cherry blossom.

Usually traveling, especially to the states, totally scuppers my training. Amazingly though, this week I managed to stick with it despite the travel. As I mentioned, I actually ran on the night I arrived. I ran again on the Monday and the Tuesday I ran down by the habour again

On the Wednesday morning I manged a 1000m swim. First time Ive tried to swim this distance without breaks. Felt pretty good afterwards. Flew home wednesday night and on thursday night I managed to make it out for a 13 mile cycle followed by 50 pushups and 100 situps.

Today, Friday, I managed to get back to the pool for another non-stop 1000m swim.
So... Today was day 6 in a row of working out. Considering I was on two transatlantic flights on two of those 6 days, thats pretty good going.

So, just for the hell of it, Im gonna try and see how many days I can go or without a rest day.
Running a 7 mile leg of the Belfast marathon on Monday. Looking forward to that. Longer run and a decent bike ride to get in before then. Will update again when I finally cave in and take a rest day.

Have a fair bit of travel over the next while so there should be blog posts from Seattle, Sweden, San Diego and San Francisco again over the next two months. Busy times....