Breaking the Wall

Salt Lake City Half

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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: 51.55 Year: 2011.51
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Neon Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 881.43
Race: Salt Lake City Half (13.11 Miles) 01:11:23, Place overall: 6
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. SLC Half, 1:11:23, 6th place.

Ran a warm-up with Jeff. Ran into Julie Thomas. Found out she has 6 kids now. So that raises the fertility rate of the top 3 in St. George last year to 3 children per woman (assuming Christina does not have children),  which is 1.1 higher than the national rate, and 0.8 higher than the Utah rate. To make Julie's accomplishment more remarkable, she raced St. George with her baby being only 6 months old. 150 years ago tough women crossed the plains while bearing children. 150 years later their equally tough descendants run fast marathons in between bearing children.

The plan was to hang out with Jeff, Seth, and the Kenyans regardless of the pace, and then do the best I could once the marathon and the half split. So I was up for a surprise. I could be running a survival race, or a negative split race, or anything in between. And in all honesty I did not care, when there is no chance for prize money I am happy to be a participating spectator and do not mind running a minute slower by running somebody else's race.

Today, however, being a participating spectator helped me run better. Details to follow, mile by mile:

Mile 1: 5:21. Teren and Alexander Thomas in the lead of the half far ahead, Nate Hornok trying to hang on with them, James Moore (Fiddy) out there between them and us. I am with the lead pack of marathoners which includes Jeff, Seth, evenutal winner Joseph Mutinda (2:13:19 PR on March 1, 2009), Moses Kororia (28:05 10 K, 1:01:49 half in Nairobi, 2:12:04 PR in Dallas in 2006, since then not so hot in the marathon (2:15-2:17), which I suppose why he was here instead of Country Music), and Ezekiel Ruto, the Top of Utah winner of last year. BJ Cristenson, who was supposedly out of shape (is he ever really in shape?) and told us he was going to run 1:15, and Jason Shoenfield. I believe we saw Fritz there for a little bit as well. Others in the pack I did not recongize.

This mile was downhill, but even still it felt so easy that even with the downhill adjustment I questioned its length. However, there was a red mark on the road, and Seth's Garmin beeped right there. So I was willing to believe it was right.

Mile 2 - 5:33 (10:54). A little down and about the same amount up. Felt harder, believable, but still not straining myself.

Mile 3 - 5:23 (16:17). Downhill. Felt too easy, like I was slacking. Started feeling antsy to go, but decided to stay true to the original plan.

Mile 4 - 5:15 (21:32). Downhill. This was the most educational mile of the race. I pulled alongside Moses and a thought occurred to me to try to follow his rhythm stride for stride. I tried and succeeded, it felt right, and the pace started to feel a lot easier. I have had those experiences before, and consider them significant. They do not happen very often. It is possible to borrow somebody's better rhythm. You need to be going the right pace, and you need to have the right rhythm instructor. Two requirements - he needs to have a good rhythm period, and that rhythm also must be within the optimal range for your body type. Chances of it happening are very rare, but I've raced enough to have it happen. So far the following runners in addition to Moses have been able to feed me the rhythm: Craig Lawson, Nick McCombs, and  Hobbie Call. Now that I am thinking of this I could possibly add Mike Dudley and Lewis Jones. There may have been more cases when I was not aware. I'll discuss the concept of rhythm on the forum later.

Mile 5 - 5:32 (27:04). Slight uphill. During this mile the half and the full split. I ended up with BJ and Jason. Jason and I contended for the coveted spot right behind BJ. If you've ever seen BJ you would know why. 6'6 tall and a solid frame to support the height. Felt a lot harder. I tried to remember the rhythm I had borrowed from Moses earlier.

Mile 6 - 5:15 (32:19). Appeared flat. Even though BJ pushed the pace, and the mark was painted on the road, I was quite sure the mile was short. I was expecting the next one to be long. Around this time we caught James.

Mile 7 - 5:11 (37:30). Slight downhill. Also painted on the road. I suppose mile 6 was not short after all. That cheered me up quite a bit, which I needed because BJ kept pressing the pace, and I was hanging on for dear life.

Mile 8 - 5:16 (42:46). Slight downhill. Eventful mile. First Jason fell back as BJ kept pressing the pace. I stayed with BJ but quickly got miserable enough to drop back as well. Jason caught me but I was able to latch on. A little bit of downhill relieved my leg strain and I was able to relax and find a good rhythm again.

Mile 9 - 5:21 (48:07). Very slight down if any. Still with Jason, and BJ is not moving away from us. In fact, maybe we even closed a second or two. Feeling a good rhythm.

Mile 10 -  5:34 (53:41). Flat. Jason surged and dropped me. Lost the rhythm, trying to survive. Legs are starting to cave.

Mile 11 - 5:37 (59:18). Slight down. Trying to find the rhythm, legs caving, but still strong in the 5:40 range.

Miles 12 and 13: 11:35, probably around 6:00 for 12 (uphill), and 5:35 for 13 (up for about 0.1 then down). I am basing the breakdown off James' split of 5:59 for mile 12 along with him saying he was keeping the distance neither gaining or falling back. When I realized how far uphill we had to go, I started doing disaster calculations of what time 19:00 for the last 5 K would give me. 1:12:41, still respectable. Fortunately it was not that bad, last 5 K was 17:42, almost as fast as I was racing flat 5 Ks at the beginning of the year, at least in the same minutes. Felt stronger on the uphill than I anticipated I would when I saw it at mile 11. There was a surprise of a different kind. There was a wall of 5 K walkers, that was expected. What I did not expect is a wall of slow moving bikers from the bike tour. Then on the downhill the bikers started passing me back.

Kick: 30 seconds. Was surprised that I had some kick in me.

Finish: Alexander Thomas 1:06:22, Teren  1:07:09, Nate 1:09:15, BJ 1:10:38, Jason 1:10:43, me 1:11:23, James 1:11:37.

Afterwards ran with James back to Jeff. Did not quite make it to Liberty Park before we saw Joseph Mutinda. We stopped immediately and timed him at the spot a little after mile 23. 2:01:23. I figured he was headed for around 2:17 and commented that the economy must be really bad if $2500 with a possibility of not being paid for a year produces 2:17 on this course. Moses Kororia 2:03:05, Seth 2:07:23, Ezekiel Ruto 2:07:55. Finally Jeff 2:13:05. We ran with him back to the end. He was out of fuel badly. He does not run well on fats. So only about 7:30 pace on fats, that is what kills him. When he runs 5:30, there is pleny of leg power, and there is plenty of aerobic support, but he is burning carbs like a semi because his fat base pace is only 7:30. One advantage of bonking in the marathon is that you find out your fat base pace. For a comparison, mine is 7:00. On the positive side, in St. George his fat base pace was 8:15, so there is a substantial improvement.

So Jeff finished in 5th with 2:35:07, $100, first marathon prize money (not counting St. George age division appearance fees), first W-9, first running-related media experience. His interview was hillarious - he showed KSL his check which he said he was in a hurry to cash.

P.M. 2 with Jenny in 18:50, Julia ran the first 1.5 in 14:35.

Saucony Type A Miles: 20.50
Night Sleep Time: 6.75Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.75
From Matt on Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 14:36:18 from

Congrats on a great race. You inspire me.

From jun on Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 16:45:51 from

Great race report and it sounds like you had a lot of fun. It was a great day.

From Eric Day on Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 17:20:33 from

Where is the rest? Don't leave us in the middle of the race!!??

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 17:22:10 from

Eric - hold your horses, I do have to work some time.

From MichelleL on Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 20:51:04 from

Great job on the race Sasha! Very speedy. So perhaps getting in the rhythm early is a key to a great race?

From Eric Day on Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 13:42:51 from

Finally, the last 5 miles.

Guess they felt longer to you than to me.

Good race, I agree on the take it as it comes side, sometimes its good to do it that way.

From britta on Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 16:29:00 from

Does Julie Thomas have a fast running blog? I would really like to check it out. 6 kids and as fast as she is, truly an inspiration.

From seth on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 14:25:48 from

Good job Sasha. I was interesting watching you force the Kenyans to run the tangents.


BJ is out of shape compared to his running ability his performance is not great. He has the ability to run with Teren and Aleksandar, but he has to split his training time between 3 events to get ready for the Ironman Tris. So I wouldn't get on his case when he says that he is out of shape running wise. He knows what it feels like to run up front and maintain those faster paces.

From Burt on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 14:35:48 from

Ha-ay! You finally finished. Good report.

You know, it's been said that Paul Peterson is probably the best marathon runner on the blog, and I would tend to agree with that. Of course with Seth coming on, that could change. Now when it comes to the half marathon, who would you say is the best? Criteria: PR and consistency. I think I could show the stats to prove that you would rank higher than Paul on the list.

From Sasha Pachev on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 16:30:30 from


Julie does not have a Fast Running Blog. At least yet.


Paul in his best shape will beat me in my best shape by a lot in the half and in the full. Speaking of right now, Jeff will beat both of us in the half. So will Sean Sundwall or Seth. Sean, Seth and Jeff will be a race, not sure who will win.

From paul on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 17:04:06 from

Nice job on Saturday Sasha. It's a nice improvement after your winter health issues. Keep the momentum going.

Sean, Seth, and Jeff in a half would be a good race. I will have the pleasure of being in the same race as Sean in just over a week in Indianapolis. Note that I phrased it "being in the same race," not "racing against". ;-) Sean will be going for 1:07:30, and I'm just hoping for something under 1:10:00. But anyone else else is welcome to join us for a nice, flat, sea-level half marathon challenge.

From Burt on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 17:36:38 from

I've been crunching numbers. Maybe I should post it on the Discussion Forum so that someone with better statistics knowledge than I can analyze it. As far as I can tell, Seth has no prior HM times. Also I'm going off times alone. I am not converting the times into flat sea-level courses. So far I see that Sasha has the fastest half marathon time and Jeff has the fastest average. Of course I only have a sample data of 3 races for both Jeff and Sean. Jeff also is the most consistent with a standard deviation of 1 min. 6 sec. What's impressive is Sasha's standard deviation of 2:38 over 19 races. That's consistency. I wonder what would happen if I took out Paul's early 4 first halves. That could change things.

From Sasha Pachev on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 19:17:19 from


Seth has run 1:09 split in Twin Cities on a windy rainy day. Forget the standard deviation. When it is time to get skinned by a faster runner, he just skins you, the standard deviation is not of any help. He is going to run a couple of minutes faster than your average time minus the standard deviation, and you will most definitely fall within your standard deviation from your average time.

Also you absolutely cannot compare times from different courses without proper adjustment. Some halves are just plain short. Others are downhill. Yet others are certified, loop, have hills and have headwind. With that I could run 1:14 on one course, and then run 1:07 a week later on another. Which I have actually done before.

From Burt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 01:13:53 from

I appreciate your modesty Sasha. But let's go back to the original question: who's the best? Not the fastest and not who currently would win a race. First we would have to define what the "best" means. That is subject to interpretation. There have been many debates on who is the greatest athlete of all time. I saw a list last year that included Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods (what a joke), Haile Gebrselassie, Dan O'Brien, Jim Brown, etc. How can you possibly compare athletes of different sports? Often you can't even compare athletic ability of athletes in the same sport because there are different positions. So for pure athletic ability I might lean towards the decathlete or a marathon runner. But there would be arguments that individual greatness or talent outweighs athleticism.

In that light I can understand not comparing individual races without proper adjustment. There are so many factors to weigh in: weather, elevation, elevation change, true length, competition, etc. It's apples to oranges. Do I think there is a way to quantify all of these factors? Of course. But as nerdy as I am, I'm not going to attempt it.

So how do we define best half marathoner? Is it PR? Is it fastest average? Is it most consistent? Is it frecuency of racing? Is it longevity? Again, I'll leave that to individual opinion. But I would say that frecuency and longevity would weigh heavy in my determination of "best". That would eliminate Jeff, Seth, and Sean. Now the only people left are Sasha and Paul. There may be others on the blog that have run enough halves to qualify (Walter Brown or Jeff Shadley?), but speed wise, the two of you are a step ahead of them. So they are eliminated. My numbers included 18 HMs for Sasha over the last 9 years and 10 HMs for Paul over the last 6 years. I think that's a big enough sample to have a high enough confidence level that some of those races compare evenly enough. So now we're no longer dealing with apples and oranges. If I were to eliminate Paul's first 4 HMs, the numbers would sway towards Paul being the best. But four are enough to not be considered outliers considering the sample size and using longevity in the equation. So the numbers sway back to Sasha being the "better" half marathoner.

A race between Seth, Jeff, and Sean would be awesome, but would it crown one of them best? Nope. Now race them several times against each other, and we can get a better idea. No doubt they are the fastest right now, but give them some more HMs under their belt before they can be considered best.

Now I'm off to the publisher to publish this book I just wrote.

From Sasha Pachev on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 14:23:40 from

Burt - if I am best at anything it would be performances and dollars of prize money earned overtime per unit of Quality X. Which makes me wonder what would happen if somebody with a higher amount of Quality X did the same things I did overtime. Two approaches to pursue this - do something to increase my Quality X (very difficult, next to impossible, but must not give up, otherwise may just as well quit racing because it is not interesting any more ), or find a willing lab rat. Jeff so far has been a very good one. I am excited to watch him progress.

From Burt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 14:34:56 from

Me too. I love to be able to rub shoulders with what I consider elite athletes on a forum like this. Unfortunately Seth has set his blog to private or something, but at least I can say that I have had some interaction with the guy who came in right behind the Kenyans in the SLCM.

From Matt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 14:56:51 from

Your earlier post about best all time athlete is probably the most arguable sports topic of all time. While even limiting it to decathletes and Marathon runners I doubt either would excel at the other events.

I have a buddy who says he wants to sponsor a post race event at the St. George Marathon. First one to cross the finish line and bench press 300 Lbs wins a $1,000.00 dollars. If he lowers the competition to 250 lbs I might consider training but regardless they are two drastically different competitions as are most sports.

I think most great athletes do share a couple common factors, desire to win, focus, and dedication. I believe although Sasha is extremely modest he possesses all of these. However his most admirable athletic trait may be his durability. At this I feel he is definitely tops on the blogs. He is the most consistent running, training and racing. He is the Cal Ripken of local running. I am sure there are races he could duck out of but he is our energizer bunny. That is extremely impressive.

From britta on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 16:09:16 from

At risk of sounding errogant.. My husband could win the 1,000 dollars for crossing the finish line fastest and benching 300 lbs. He has never ran a full marathon but his fastest 1/2 was 1:23 last year and he ran that on only about 25 miles a week. At the races he has participated in someone has always stopped him to ask how he is so fast for being a big man. He is 6 ft and 175-180 lbs. He is in great shape. His first love is lifting weights so he spends most of his exercise time doing that. He can bench 300-320 so maybe I will try to talk him into participating in a competition like that.

It's okay to brag about your spouse.. Right?

From Sasha Pachev on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 16:23:08 from


Encourage your friend to go through with his idea.


Encourage your husband to run the most miles that would still allow him to bench 300 lb after finishing a marathon. I suppose he would need to be able to have his max around 350 because right after you finish you will be quite off your max.

Is anybody willing to sponsor the marathon + 10 step long jump immediately afterwards event? I have a feeling I would have a much better shot at it than just the marathon alone. Although I would probably lose to Michael Wardian unless I can make up on the jump what I lose in the run.

From britta on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 16:29:01 from

Yes, Matt encourage your friend to follow through. I have been trying to get my husband to run a marathon and this might be just the kind of competition that would get him to do so.

Sasha, I think that is probably true. He will need to work up to more running and more lbs. in the bench.

I am gettin all excited I hope this turns into a reality!

From Burt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 16:36:41 from

Britta - I would get done and bench press your husband while he bench presses his 300 lbs.

From britta on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 17:09:48 from

Burt, You are too funny. I will be sure to bring the camera along!

From Burt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 17:20:42 from

I haven't bench pressed since high school. And I could only do 165 back then. I think I have a little more upper body strength now, but who knows? In high school I did have the distinction of being the only person who could clean more than he could bench. Did you know that glory days will pass you by in the wink of a young girl's eye?

From Matt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 17:43:11 from

I rembember doing something similiar sophmore year bench 175 clean and jerk 185. Not as uncommon as you might think usually the body type is a realitvely good sprinter (fast twitch) with less upper body strength or longer arms. Power clean is a great full body lift that can hide chest strength.

The longer people lift the less often this tends to happen. Chest strength improves and speed becomes less of a factor on your ability to jerk the more you lift.

I think I might pursue this idea more with my buddy though. I guess all prize money is good prize money and having two vastly different events tied toghter would be interesting.

From Burt on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 18:00:16 from

I noticed that all the real high jumpers could power clean just as much if not more than the real buff kids, and I had some mad hops in HS.

When I was a freshmen, the fastest sprinter in the school was also one of the strongest bench pressers. My theory was that he had so much upper body strength that he could get his arms pumping so fast that it would translate into leg motion.

From seth on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 13:33:32 from

I have you all beat. My max bench press was 135 in high school, and I have never power cleaned anything.

Seroiusly speaking I think it would be tons of fun if races had specific little events you had to do along the way, like a fitness amazing race.

From paul on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 13:39:31 from

How about having to bench your body weight 20 times, or something like that, rather than a set weight? Once upon a time I could do that.

Or how about this: the Big Sur Mud Run.

You have to do drills, pushups, and stuff like that during the race, plus climb over barriers. I think it is 5M.

From Burt on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 16:12:20 from

I've heard those aren't worth the money because they don't put the mud pit until right at the end. Who wants to jump in a mud pit right before you finish 5 miles?

By the way, maybe we could add David Holt, Logan Fielding, and Clyde Behunin into the mix of half marathoners. I haven't crunched any numbers on them yet, but Holt is looking good.

From seth on Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 14:02:14 from

Yeah, Logan, Dave and Clyde are all great runners. Definitely some of the best on the Blog. Keep up the great work guys!

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