Breaking the Wall

Ogden Half Marathon

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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: 291.02 Year: 1935.71
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: 805.63
Race: Ogden Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:12:08, Place overall: 2
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ogden Half, 1:12:08, 2nd place.

With the help of the Booth family (Chad is on the blog),   was able to conduct the Eden sleep-in operation. I placed my getaway car at the Union station in Ogden, had Chad and his wife Kelli pick me up taking with me the minimum I needed for the night that could be shipped back by the warm-up clothes shipping service, stayed with them overnight, then woke up at 5:45 AM, got dressed, stuffed my possesions in to the drop-off bag, and jogged to the start. Happily missed the 5:00 AM bus.

Warmed up, looked for trouble. There was not much - Alexander Thomas and Albert. Well, Alexander is a whole lot of trouble, but that is just one outclassing runner. No Hobbie, no Teren, no Seth, no Jeff, no Nick, no Mike Vick, no Paul, no Shin, no Nate Hornok, and no out of state guests or collegiate runners in the outclassing division. Of course, no Kenyans. In the beatable class no  BJ,  no Jason, no James (Fiddy), no Fritz, and no Steve. Just Alexander and Albert. So in short, not much trouble, and no wonder. You get what you pay for. LOL, what does that then say about me if I came to run? :-)

Spotted a most peculiar sight. A porta-potty with a sign "V.I.P." on it. You had to pay $300 to get in. And no, unlike St. George, somebody who made top ten the year before, or had the potential to make top ten this year was not welcome to use it. In fact, he was not super-welcome in the race to begin with either. This, of course, led my train of thought to the origin of the term VPB, which was created  for the specific purpose to ridicule the concept of VIP bathrooms at big races. Even though St. George has elite runner bathrooms, and Salt Lake has a secret bathroom that is not advertised to the general public, Ogden was the first marathon in Utah to introduce the concept of VIP!  I immediately visualized a bush with a sign above it, in big letters - V.P.B.!

From the gun I ran without thinking for the first quarter which was a mistake. I followed Albert who followed Alexander, and it felt hard because it was too fast. Then I told myself to be humble and stop having a mental block about letting Albert get ahead.  From that point on I had my head engaged. I let both of them go, and largely ignored them trying to find my own rhythm. I started find it towards the end of the first mile.

5:30 at mile 1. Rolling. 5:13 for Alexander, 5:25 for Albert.

Mile 2 - 6:10 (11:40).  Uphill. I felt good on the hill, started getting a little excited, passed Albert, he latched on, but I did not care. Was surprised how slow that split was, it did not feel that slow. Based on that began to think that perhaps a low 1:13 would be a good goal for today.

Mile 3 - 5:27 (17:07). Slight down.That felt good, although not too good. Upgraded my goal to 1:12:40. Albert is on my tail. Telling myself to relax, think pace him, do not think drop him. Do not worry about dropping him, if he is not fit, he will fall off on his own, if he is fit, he will show it later, when he starts showing signs of strength, ease off, let him pass, and sit on him, have him help me get a faster time. But he sounds like he will not be around after 8.

Mile 4 - 5:24 (22:21) . Slight down. Life is getting better with every mile, and the 5:30 guy is starting to come to me. Albert still around, but struggling.

Mile 5 - 5:20 (27:41). Down. Albert fell back.

Mile 6 - 5:23 (33:04). Down. The pace is starting to feel hard.

Mile 7 - 5:33 (38:37). Less down. Felt hard. The goal is now around 1:12:30.

Mile 8 - 5:20 (42:57). Down. Celebrated catching the 5:30 guy. Wondering if sub-1:12 can happen. Encouraged by the memory of having run 5:23 in the 23rd mile of the marathon in 2006, which would be the 10th mile of the half. Which means there is enough downhill in it to do it.

Mile 9 - 5:25 (48:22). Down. Hoped to put more gap on the 5:30 guy, because I will need it once we hit the trail with all the turns, bumps, and flatting out.

Mile 10 - 5:15 (54:37). Down. Exactly what I was expecting. 23 seconds ahead of the 5:30 guy, can I hold on to that? Goal upgraded to sub 1:12.

Mile 11 - 5:32 (59:09). Less down, turns, bumps, aka micro-hills. Happy I lost only 2 seconds to the 5:30 guy.

Mile 12 - 5:43 (1:04:52). Flat,  turns. During this mile I was confused. For a while I wondered if I was still on the course. There were a couple of opportunities to turn, but there was no mark telling which way to go. I decided to follow the simple rule of if there is no indication to turn, do not turn, go straight. It worked, I stayed on the course. However, the confusion resulted in a loss of focus, and easing off on the pace a bit. Towards the end of this mile I almost ran into two policemen riding their bikes. I overheard one of them say to the other not to "run into joggers". I was happy that he said that, I needed something that would elicit a strong emotional response. I tried to get angry about it, but could not. I thought to myself, I just went past him going 5:30, and he calls that jogging? Well, maybe if he were Ryan Hall or Haile he would have the right to say that, but how can he call this pace jogging if he himself would struggle to keep it for a quarter? But those were just thoughts, there was no emotional response that I hoped for. 12 miles of hard effort had left my adrenal glands in a mellow condition.

Mile 13 - 5:38 (1:11:30). Flat, turns.    Trying to squeeze something out of myself, but nothing comes out.

Kick - 38 seconds (1:12:08). Most likely either mile 13 mark was in the wrong spot, or the finish line was 5-10 meters off. It should have been at least 36. I did speed up, or at least kept the pace. No emotional response to the crowd cheers, though. The 5:30 guy beat me by 2 seconds.

Alexander Thomas won in 1:10:19, I was expecting him to run 1:06-1:07, at least 1:08, but apparently he decided to jog today. Albert was third with 1:13:26.

A humorous moment at the finish. My official name is Alexander as well. Sasha is a well-recognized Russian nickname for Alexander. So after he and I finished the announcer says - here comes the third place finisher. I bet his name is not Alexander. Hmm, I thought, he is going to have some fun when he finds out it is Albert. He did. The race was won by three Slavic Als. Alexander is from Yugoslavia (I think Serbia or Croatia), and Albert is from the Ukraine.

Afterwards jogged back, paced Jen Jones from Florida who I met at the starting line for a little bit. She told me her best 5 K was 19:50, best marathon 3:12, she ran 90 miles a week, and could race a marathon at 92% of her max HR. An interesting case. I believe it means she is just not able to push her max HR very high for reasons not related to the cardiovascular system itself. Similar to what I have. If I could run a 4:20 mile, I'd be able to hit my true max HR. She ended up with 1:31:32, officially second, but I saw a girl right ahead of her that for some reason was not in the results that should have been second.

Then jogged back to the aid station between miles 21 and 22 of the marathon. On the way up saw Seth, he ended up with a new course records of 2:22:51. He is finally starting to run somewhat near his marathon potential, which I believe to be 2:13 on the Ogden course, and 2:10 in Dubai, assuming his collegiate mile speed is still accessible. Then saw Nick - he ran a decent race as well beating the old course record with 2:26:02. But I think his true potential on that course is around 2:16. Again assuming that the collegiate mile speed has not been permanently lost. No Hobbie in the marathon either. Thinking out loud, if we could find a nice sponsor for Utah Valley, we could have quite a show with the top three under 2:20, and top ten under 2:30, and that without the Kenyans. With the Kenyans, even faster. Ogden has plenty of money to do it, but they choose to spend it on things like a 10 page full color glossy paper pamphlet explaining the pre-race routine times 7000+.

Saw Fritz and Walter before getting to the station as well. Fritz finished in 2:37, Walter in 2:41.

Did some work at the aid station. Tried to spot runners that were visibly out of fuel, and fed them double dozes of Powerade. Was originally going to pace Mike Warren, but he told me not to wait for him if somebody who needed it more asked for it first. Melanie Burnam ran by and asked to be paced, so I went with her. She was running strong and passing a lot of people. I liked that for a couple of reasons. First, I like the people I am pacing to do well. And, I started to get tired, and appreciated that she was getting me to the finish quickly. She ended up finishing fifth with 3:07:36, a new PR, and only 2 minutes out of money. Not bad for a mom with 5 kids and a young baby.

After the race I could feel an odd form of fatigue. I called Sarah, and told her that I finished second in 1:12 in a tone of voice that was more appropriate for reporting 20th place with 1:25. Then in the same tone I told of a number of PRs from the bloggers. So when I got home we decided it would be better if she followed the kids on a bike for their runs. They ran their usual distances.

Saucony Type A Miles: 24.80
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
From edrickt on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 19:53:50 from

Nice job, Sasha! Thanks for sharing.

From cgbooth23 on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 21:28:58 from

GReat job Sasha, you were a celebrity around these parts, after people heard you were staying at our place, I had a dozen or more people asking how you did, including my kids who watched you fly by at the aid station at the Oaks! it was good to meet you!

From Brent on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 21:58:55 from

Sasha, always enjoy reading the detail of your race reports. You always look so focused, strong and determined. 500 commando points.

Stay Kool, Great Day for a Race, B of Bs Rools out

From Snoqualmie on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 22:08:27 from

Congratulations on your race!

From wheakory on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 23:01:07 from

Did you think that the fast start and mental block maybe could have hampered you the last few miles and caused you to miss 1:11?

When your mind wanders or losses focus it's so easy to get off pace and stride. I wouldn't think though that this would have caused you any problems though (just asking), because for some a fast start really doesn't hinder them if you run the rest of the race in balance.

Did you have any negative miles that you felt you could have improved on? I think your time is awesome and a very nice job of getting second place Sasha. You truly are a wonderful runner.

From Amber on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 23:49:38 from

Nice job and nice meeting you! Thanks for all the advice!

From Mike Warren on Sun, May 17, 2009 at 00:02:24 from

Sasha, great race! When I look at any sport and compare great athletes, I always look at consistency and longevity. If your not winning a race, your always lurking somewhere near. My hats off to you for many great years of this type of running. NOT EASY!

From Lucia on Sun, May 17, 2009 at 14:45:33 from

Congratulations Sasha, you are simply amazing!

From Jon on Sun, May 17, 2009 at 15:42:40 from

Good job, Sasha.

From Mark on Sun, May 17, 2009 at 17:04:31 from

Excellent race Sasha, well done!

As for the "jogging" comment it is weird. I have caught myself watching at a 5K and seeing the leader go by at a 5ish pace but for some reason it doesn't look as fast as it would look from the 1st person perspective.

From Barry on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 12:19:41 from

Great race on Saturday! Will you do me a favor and read my report for my race on Saturday and tell me what you think i should do to help me improve? Thanks Barry

From jtshad on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 18:26:57 from

Great race...way to run smart and run your race and not someone else's.

Utah Valley should be fun! See you there.

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 18:54:07 from


My thoughts. First, your performance was comparable in quality to Salt Lake. I am not sure if Ogden course is faster than SLC. It should be from the elevation profile, but I have never seen super fast times on it. Maybe it is the hill at the start, another suspect is the way they run the course is not the way it was certified - according to Bill Cobler who certified the course it is certified on the tangents with both lanes made available to runners in the canyon, while in reality they give you only one lane. So that would add about 0.1 of a mile. Possibly difficult to follow correct tangents due to the high number of turns on the course. But regardless, in reality the course is not as fast as it is on paper. So your performance was maybe a little worse than SLC, but not much worse.

One thing I noticed about your training is that you backed off the mileage significantly in April. So perhaps you were suffering a bit from that as well. In the future you may want to train through races for the next two years. Sure, tapering can help you run faster in one race, but it will hurt you in the next. I believe there is no reason to do that unless you are so tired from your training that you feel it is time for a break, or unless you are planning on running a life time super-PR. But you cannot do that frequently, or else you will lose your conditioning.

Another thing I would recommend is weekly time trials on the same course. Measure out a course approximately 3 miles long. You do not even have to know how long that course is exactly. If it takes you about 20 minutes to run it at a hard pace, that's good enough. Run it at a hard effort, maybe 10 K race pace plus or minus once a week. Do not taper for it, run it with tired legs. Do not quite leave everything on the road either. Run the hardest you can without disrupting your normal training routine. This will help you see what works for you in your training/recovery routine and what does not.

From Burt on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 21:08:22 from

Another awesome half for you. Time to update my data and see how much you shrunk that standard deviation.

From JulieC on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 12:50:55 from

Sasha You are so awesome to perform so well and help Melanie!!! (but I am a little disappointed you didn't run back a second time to save me at mile 24 where I lost pace significantly :))) ). I just couldn't speed up after mile 17. Could the water have something to do with it? It was really gross water and I kept missing the powerade from then on too. I just cramped up after mile 23. The Wall as I put it. Dang!!! I was hoping to look stronger at the finish!! Any advice would be welcomed. I really feel I have it in me to perform better. Let me know!! And once again Great Run For You!!!

From Matt on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 13:27:26 from

Thanks agin for another great report. My BP raised just reading it. Congrats again on a great race.

From barry on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 21:27:56 from

Thank you for the advice, that really helps a lot!

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