Breaking the Wall

December 05, 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: 0.00 Year: 3555.51
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: 33.72
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Got a running book. This is a significant development for me. I am a firm believer that only few books are actually worth the money and the eye strain. The book is Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. I find that many of his ideas are very similar to what I discovered in my own running experience:

  • train six days a week, rest on the seventh
  • it is the brain that initiates the fatigue shutdown, not the muscle
  • excessive shoe cushioning overtime creates feet that are prone to injuries
  • sitting on your bum all day long messes up your running form
  • recovery is as important as stress - beds make champions, miles just help them get ready for bed
  • drink by thirst, do not overhydrate
  • low ground contact is a sign of an elite runner
  • you slow down not because you are out of fuel, but because your brain thinks you are about to run out of it. You speed up not because you got more fuel, but because your brain thinks it is coming.
  • Elite runner stride has a well-time sequence of power surges and relaxations. The primary active agent of the fatigue-induced slowdown is the disruptions of those timings.
  • emotional stress is bad for your running performance, keep it down
I really liked his idea of visualizing that you are running on a non-motorized treadmill.

Another Crocs day. Ran 2 mile warm-up in 17:37 with Hyrum. Then figured the Uneventful-Half would bring me to the target mileage for the run. Ran by feel, focused on running on a non-motorized treadmill. The pace naturally got faster. After a while I decided to see what would happen if I did not monitor it for a while. I hit the 2 mile mark in 12:41 when I decided to stop checking the pace. Next time I checked my split was at 5.05, and it was 31:24, 6:08 average for the unmonitored section. Then I checked it again at 7.5, and it was 47:01, 6:07 average for the unmonitored section. Then I monitored it from then on, and tried not to let the observation influence the pace. It was a fairly steady 6:07 - 6:15 pace that appropriately reacted to the changes in the terrain, which told me I was truly running by effort.

Around 9.3 into the Uneventful Half I ran into Matt and he joined me. He has an interesting quality - whenever you run with him, you always feel like he is pushing the pace. Ran at around the same pace uphill to a little bit past Macey's with him (9:10 for 1.5), and then on the way back we were aided by the downhill, and both of us kind of cranked up the effort. I am not sure if I was responding to his moves, or if I was just making my own, but the pace eventually progressed into the sub-5:40 range. The last mile was 5:33. Total time for 13.11 was 1:20:13 (6:07.11 average). I toyed with the idea of cranking it up and catching the 1:20 guy, but I figured I would have had to run sub-5:20s, and I was not in the mood. Total time for 15.11 was 1:37:50.

Too fast for an aerobic run, perhaps, but I figured since I'd be running slow tomorrow, and I do not schedule hard speed workouts any more, and my body naturally wanted to run this fast, I'd let it.

Crocs - 65.41 miles.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:05, 1.5 with Jenny in 12:52, 2.55 in 19:46 including 2.11 with Benjamin in 16:47. All in Crocs.

Crocs - 70.46 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 7.75Nap Time: 0.50Total Sleep Time: 8.25
From George on Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 15:03:32

Good post on several fronts Sasha.

Curious, do you have an opinion on base building be a period in which you need to exclusively train the aerobic system (aka MAF)? It would seem to me that you take a bit more of a multi-phased approach with some work in the aerobic "zone", but then also training of the anaerobic system with work such as today's.

From Katie on Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 15:33:57

Hi, Sasha!

I was so excited to see a fastrunningblog. singlet in VA on Sunday! I wish I could have qualified and put in another good word for the blog!

Anyway, this sounds like a great book. Maybe it would help explain my 100% complete melt down in Virginia Beach yesterday!

Anyway, I'm thinking about running SLC marathon. Nothing was lost yesterday(except a toenail or two). Even though I've missed the OTQ's I still want to prove myself. Do you think Salt Lake City is a fast course? How does it compare to SGM?

From Tom on Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 16:02:47

Sasha interesting to hear your thoughts/comments on the brain book. I've had this book for a few months and have incorporated much of the suggested programs into my workouts. When I first read it I could have sworn that you had already read it since many of his ideas were so similar to what you preach on the blog.

I'm you have any opinion on the AccelGel (w protein) vs. regular-Gel (carbs only) debate that the book discusses? Or how about the idea that on at least some long training runs it's advantageous to NOT fuel at all during the run with Gels/GU/Gatorade, etc?

From wheakory on Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 17:07:32

You mentioned not scheduling speed work in your training anymore. Are you planning on just running tempo's and speed work when you feel a positive sign in your nervous system?

I've found that if I plan a tempo run (sometimes), I've got this dreadful feeling If I don't hit a certain pace then the training is not successful (bad brain signal) and that's happened. But if I'm in a training run (non-scheduled speed work) and feel real good and decide to go faster it seems to show better results. I believe the brain sends that positive feeling and you know you have the confidence in your legs to have an amazing run.

I'm not saying this happens all the time but sometimes.

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 22:31:01

George - I did not train anaerobic system today. I do not get anaerobic until the pace is faster than 5:20. I do believe in aerobic focus, though. Anaerobic running for me is a more of an accident, I reserve it for the kick in a race, or for a 5 K.

Katie - SLC is a slow course. About 7 minutes slower than STG for a 2:20 - 2:30 marathoner. Probably 8 minutes slower for a 2:50 - 3:00. But they have had a fairly weak women's field lately, if you can do 2:55 you'll probably be in the money ($500). And you'll get to meet some bloggers.

Tom - I do not have an opinion on Accelerate vs non-protein sports drink, never tried it. I do fine on runs up to 20 miles with nothing. I do better in a marathon if I take highly concentrated Powerade or Gatorade in the middle, though.

Kory - I plan on doing speed when I happen to have a partner. And runs like this when I go a bit faster on accident. After my experience last winter, I am inclined to think in the direction that the need for speed work is very much overrated. If you race at least once a month, and pick up the pace sporadically on occasion, that is really all you need.

From George on Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 05:53:21

I am not saying I subscribe to this theory, but there is a thought that you are begining to metabolize from your anaerobic system as soon as your HR goes above a certain number (assumedly a number that is true for most of the population ... 180-age, +5 for an athlete of your level of training). What is your HR at 5:20 pace?

From Sasha Pachev on Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 17:51:20

According to the 220 - age formula I am 47 years old. My max HR is 173. Somewhere between 2000 and 2004 I suddenly aged 15 years (although I did not lose any of my top end speed, and improved on every distance from 5 K to the marathon). Then I stopped aging, again, if we are going to make the age-based HR estimates right. My resting HR has not changed since the age of 16. So I really do not pay much attention to age based formulas.

However, I race a marathon at over 90% of my max HR. At 5:20 I imagine I would hit around 163. I get 130 at 6:40 pace, 145 at 6:00 pace, and 155 at 5:40 pace.

From saamijeff on Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 18:31:00

Yes be careful of the 220-age formula. If you want to really know wear a monitor. I went the other way, I have not aged in 15 years,( although I run now and did not during many of those 15), my max HR is 183 same as it was when the formula would have been correct in 1994.

From George on Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 11:11:33

Sorry - I may not have explained myself well. The MAF theory (at a high level) is that you metabolize from your aerobic system at 180-age. This, of course, is a generalization. You could determine your exact aerobic HR with an expensive test, but for most folks (mean +/- 1 std dev), this works. There are a couple of ways to modify it (for low max HR folks, do a % of max for example; or as an other example do + 5 if you are well trained athlete, -5 if you are a new athlete). The thought is, and one that is heavily subscribed to by Mark Allen, is that in marathon endurance events - you are primarily stressing the aerobic system versus the anaerobic. Hence, you dedicate a significant portion of your training to base work - or training at or below maximum aerobic function. At first, many folks are slow - but then you adapt and become more efficient (faster) at this slower heart rate.

From what I can tell, supposedly your aerobic pace would be currently 6 min pace. Above that and you are begining to stress your anerobic system and metabolize from it.

Much better explained at:

The issue for me is I am not sure I fully subscribe to NOT going above maximum aerobic function at all during the base building - but MAF advocates say this is key.

From Sasha Pachev on Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 15:48:52

I know for sure that I can race very well off high volume without ever breaking 6:00 pace in any of my workouts. I just experienced a string of PRs off that type of training. I do not know if the cause is in the purely aerobic vs partially anaerobic running, though. I attributed it to letting my nervous system rest and heal.

I would also argue that if racing a marathon is 98% aerobic, then anything slower than 5:45 on a flat terrain in Provo would be very well withing my aerobic territory. Which would have made my morning run purely aerobic with the possible exception of the last mile. And even then, I have watched my patterns of slow-down in marathons, and there is a common theme - I go one pace (about 5:30 sea-level flat equivalent) for 12-16 miles, then fairly quickly transition to another pace (about 5:55 flat sea level equivalent) and maintain it to the end without a further slowdown. I tried starting out slower, what happens is I transition to the slower pace regardless. I wonder if my true marathon pace is really around 5:30 flat sea level equivalent, or possibly even faster, but my nervous system gets tired after 12-16 miles of running hard. The subjective feeling would definitely agree with that theory. I do not feel light headed or sore when I slow down, my legs just start refusing to turn over fast enough. I do not feel particularly tired or sore when I finish, and have no problem running back and pacing somebody.

From adam on Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 16:27:25

regardless of heart rate, you would be doing anaerobic work for anything that is your 100-400m race pace, or 10-30s sprints. Some say that 800m race pace can be included in that, but I think that is more applicable to runners in the 1:40-1:50 range. (Slower than that and they are in 1500m range, and that is becoming more aerobic).

The percentage of aerobic/anaerobic increases with the increase in distance. And so for a 2:23 marathoner like Sasha, he wouldn't be getting into anaerobic range at all running in the mid 5 minutes (unless he kicked a 28sec 200m at the end).

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