Breaking the Wall

September 22, 2019

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Orem,UT,United States

Member Since:

Jan 27, 1986



Goal Type:

Olympic Trials Qualifier

Running Accomplishments:

Best marathon: 2:23:57 (2007, St. George). Won the Top of Utah Marathon twice (2003,2004). Won the USATF LDR circuit in Utah in 2006.

Draper Days 5 K 15:37 (2004)

Did not know this until June 2012, but it turned out that I've been running with spina bifida occulta in L-4 vertebra my entire life, which explains the odd looking form, struggles with the top end speed, and the poor running economy (cannot break 16:00 in 5 K without pushing the VO2 max past 75).  


Short-Term Running Goals:

Qualify for the US Olympic Trials. With the standard of 2:19 on courses with the elevation drop not exceeding 450 feet this is impossible unless I find an uncanny way to compensate for the L-4 defect with my muscles. But I believe in miracles.

Long-Term Running Goals:

2:08 in the marathon. Become a world-class marathoner. This is impossible unless I find a way to fill the hole in L-4 and make it act healthy either by growing the bone or by inserting something artificial that is as good as the bone without breaking anything important around it. Science does not know how to do that yet, so it will take a miracle. But I believe in miracles.


I was born in 1973. Grew up in Moscow, Russia. Started running in 1984 and so far have never missed more than 3 consecutive days. Joined the LDS Church in 1992, and came to Provo, Utah in 1993 to attend BYU. Served an LDS mission from 1994-96 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Got married soon after I got back. My wife Sarah and I are parents of eleven children: Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, Jacob, William, Stephen, Matthew,  Mary,  Bella.  and Leigha. We home school our children.

I am a software engineer/computer programmer/hacker whatever you want to call it, and I am currently working for RedX. Aside from the Fast Running Blog, I have another project to create a device that is a good friend for a fast runner. I called it Fast Running Friend.

Favorite Quote:

...if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie


Favorite Blogs:

Miles:This week: 0.00 Month: 146.13 Year: 2768.94
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Navy Crocs 2 Lifetime Miles: 1576.28
Neon Crocs 1 Lifetime Miles: 22.05
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Gerry Lindgren tempo. Interesting results.

Again, this tempo is done like this - go out hard at your dream pace until you can't. Then run the rest of it at your best pace in that condition.

Warmed up, did some strides to be ready for the 5:00 pace. First mile: 75,77,79,82 - 5:13. Legs started caving on the second(!) quarter. HR never went above 164. The breathing was the hardest in the first quarter. Hmm... - last week I managed a 5:08. Am I holding back, or am I in worse condition?

Second mile: 85,86,86,87 - 5:44. Same as last week for the total, but 87 at the end is a bad sign. HR drops to around 160.

Third mile: 90,90,92,91 - 6:03. 13:57 at 2.5. HR drops to 153(!) Michelle is going to chick me if I run like this for the second half. Emily is going to chick me for the whole tempo. I am trying every trick I know to go faster with absolutely zero results even though I am barely breathing. It feels like the end of a marathon. Some food for thought.

Fourth mile: 92,91,90,90 - 6:03. HR had sporadic spikes to 155 in the last two quarters. Interesting.

Last mile: 91 (up a slight grade), 88, 86, 83 - 5:48, and 28:51 for the tempo. 14:54 for the last 2.5. Emily did not chick me, got to enjoy small success! And I put a whopping 23 second gap on Michelle's second half yesterday. And I outkicked her in the last 200 by a whopping 1 second (40). For sure I thought earlier that she was going to beat me on that segment today. Something interesting happened in this mile. With 1 K to go all of a sudden I started running faster. No heroic effort. The earlier miles when I could not break 6:00 for the life of me were a lot more heroic. But all of a sudden I started breathing like I would in a tempo, HR went up to 160 and I started running 5:44 pace feeling like I could go further.

Jogged some more to make the total 12 miles.

Plenty of food for thought. Clearly a case of neural fatigue. But also an interesting twist. We are deal with some odd resource here. Neural fatigue is just underscoring the importance of that resource, makes it come out more in plain view. Today it got exhausted in a bit over a minute of running at 5:00 pace to where I could not hold that pace anymore. It continued to get exhausted at a pace as slow as 5:44 to the point of not being able to run sub-6:00. Running slower than 6:00 partially replenished it to the point of being able to run 5:44 again, and that replenishment was very sudden. It is not blood lactate levels - if it was, HR would have stayed high to clean up, and the breathing would not have calmed down. Fluctuating blood sugar is a reasonable possibility, but if it was, I should have felt weak and fuzzy headed during the slump, and I did not. There were absolutely no symptoms other than I could not go sub-6:00 no matter how hard I tried. And it felt just like the end of St. Jude last year, and Salt Lake, and Ogden this year. I know I need to go faster, I feel good, the head works, the legs are not sore, I know every second could cost a few hundred bucks, and for the life of me I cannot go faster.

So what is that mysterious resource? My first thought was something in the brain. How do you find out for sure? My first thought was I need a brain scan machine to measure me every day, and see what is different between good days and bad days. But who is going to give me a brain scan machine along with the necessary expertise? That is wishful thinking. Come on, think of something more simple.

After some thought, I had an idea. In the absence of equipment we use the infamous Sasha Science. Question number of one - once we know it is section X in the brain, what are we going to do to fix it? Well, we are going to try a number of different things and measure how they affect that section X. Can we measure how that section X is doing without a brain scan machine? Sure. Gerry Lindgren tempo with the HRM tells us everything we need to know. Only one problem. Gerry Lindgren tempo is a rather invasive measurement. I can do it only twice a week at most. However, here is an idea. Do a whole bunch of those tempos. Always make a prediction for the split at the mile, and the finish time for the whole tempo after the first quarter based on how I feel. Keep doing that until I start getting it right. Once I perfect the skill I will only need to run one quarter in 75 to know what would have happened in the whole tempo. I can run one 75 second quarter every day! So that gives me the benefits of daily monitoring with a brain scan machine without having to pay a cent for it. The beautiful thing is that if I am completely off the target, and it is not in the brain, or if it is but the modern day science has no way of measuring it, the method still works! Columbus thought to the end of his life that he had found a new way to India, but that did not change the consequences of his discovery - thanks to him we are now here in America. Inspired pursuit even with factual errors beats being exactly true to the fact but treading in your own tracks with no inspiration. I can try different things, measure the results, quickly, and hopefully find something that works.

Of course, there is no free lunch. It might take a long time to develop a sense that is keen enough to know what's up from just one quarter. But at least it is worth a shot.

T4 Racer  - 410.13 miles. 

P.M. 1 with Julia in 9:45, 2 with Benjamin in 16:40 with Jenny joining us for 1.5 in 12:53, and one more mile alone.

Five Fingers - 954.9 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 8.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.50
From wheakory on Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 13:21:55

What about just trying to do more V02max work on the track and track intervals to try to get faster?

It could be that we just reach a point where physically or by our genetics we just can't get any faster once you reach a certain peak. I don't know you could put so many theories into this.

From Sasha Pachev on Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 13:43:25

I've tried lots of VO2 Max over the years work with essentially no results. If no human has ever come close to it, I'll accept a genetic limit theory. Sure, perhaps God does not want us to run faster than 60mph for safety reasons, as well as to keep us humble, and He programmed a natural governor into our genes.

But if lots of humans have done tons better, and you are a human, no reason to throw in the towel and make a popular appeal to genetic limits. It is just a fancy and socially excusable way of saying I give up. The problem that prevents you from doing as well is likely fixable, and would be fixed if you tried hard enough.

From wheakory on Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 14:49:55

I believe that conditioning your upper body by doing sit-ups and push-ups has really helped me. Having the upper body toned when your fatigued really does help. Especially later stages in a marathon.

Your right there's no reason to give up. What about trying to improve your turnover rate by doing a lot of hill work-outs... just a thought. I know your knowledge surpasses mine on this subject. But there's got to be something holding you back. What goes through your mind after you hit that first mile around a 5 minute pace. Maybe you need to have more positive reinforcement thoughts. I know if I dread doing a tempo run the outcome is not what I want to achieve.

Have you tried cutting your mileage down a bit and doing more quality workouts vs quantity? I know you get enough sleep, which I'm a bad example for that discussion.

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