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. Ran the first 6 miles with James, the rest (6 more) alone. Total time for 12 was 1:29:21. Had to stop for a VPB, told James to go ahead. Then caught up to him. During the catch-up decided to practice 5:00 pace. Ran a quarter in 76, and then another 100 in 20 with no stopping. It felt unsustainable. Not sure if better or worse than yesterday, but I was not going to try to find out. I'll wait until Saturday.

The idea now is to focus on 5:00 pace. I must be able to hold it on my 5 mile tempo to have any dreams of an OTQ. Sure, I'll only need to run 5:18, and at sea level, but it would need to be on a rolling course for 26 miles, and likely on a less than perfect day. So I figure at the very least I need to be able to transition from 5:00 being a near-sprint to a brisk tempo pace. I am figuring the cardio is there to support it, but something, some component X (neural drive?) is missing. Some day I have more of it than others, but never enough. Perhaps the days when I have less are most meaningful for study - the problem is more apparent, and hopefully this will inspire a solution.

P.M. 2.05 with Benjamin and Jenny to Benjamin's soccer practice in 18:49. Pushed Julia in the stroller. 1 on grass with Julia in 10:38. 2.17 back in 16:54 pushing Jacob. 

Five Fingers - 968.12 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
From Steve Hooper on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 01:23:30

Sasha - I was thinking out your "neural drive" issue. Have you tried any tests with caffeinated GU products?

I have run tests in past races and noticed a significant difference with feeling engaged and aggressive.

From MichelleL on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 11:02:41

I'm in the same boat but about a minute behind. Right now female OTQ is 6:22 pace, but they will likely tighten and not continue A and B for women, at least not an 8 minute spread. Assuming they tighten to just 2:45, that would then be 6:18 pace, and I would definitely need to feel comfortable at 6:00 pace, perhaps for as long as 7 miles, to be able to ensure a flat 2:45 marathon. I do think you need to work on your speed, but the question is what's the best way for a marathoner to improve speed? I would think longer intervals (1000 to 1 mile) would be part of the answer.

From Phoenix on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 16:15:43

Sasha, do you have a group going long on Saturday? I'd like to go 2 hours at 8:20-8:30 pace, maybe a little quicker the last 1-2 miles (that may be too slow for anyone). Also, I've got a few ideas on neural drive.

From Sasha Pachev on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 16:18:10

Steve - I am opposed to caffeine for a number of reasons. Aside from the Word of Wisdom implications, or perhaps not aside but to go along with it, caffeine instead of fixing the root cause of a low neural drive instead temporarily overrides the symptoms. And you pay for it later. If you keep using it eventually you will not be able to get your normal neural drive without caffeine. Not to mention the side effects of caffeine use such as irritability and insomnia. About the last thing I need is a drug that makes me more impatient.

Michelle - what I noticed in my experience. Short intervals work on short speed. When I worked out with BYU team in 2001, I noticed an interesting pattern. The staple workout was 3 or 4 times 1600. And almost everybody could do them under 5:00. Yet very few could run a 5 K at that pace. The 5 K they raced went like this - they would go through the first mile under 5:00 just like in the workout. Then all of a sudden there was an abrupt drop to about 5:15-5:20 pace. I see this pattern at every college meet.

On the other hand, I noticed another pattern. If a guy is ahead of me at the mile in any race 5 K or longer, that is not necessarily a problem. However, if he is still ahead at 1.5 with the same or greater margin than he was at the mile, that is a much bigger problem. With rare exceptions, he is pretty much gone. The only exceptions to that in my entire racing history involved a very long race (half marathon or longer), and the guy ran out of fuel.

So my thought is - if you can train your body make it to 1.5 at a steady dream pace when it believes it will have to go past that point without much of a slowdown, you are over a major hurdle. I would say you've got 95% of the dream pace down, you just need the aerobic base and the fuel to make it sustainable for the whole marathon.

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