Breaking the Wall

August 07, 2020

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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: 16.00 Year: 2314.91
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: 1185.83
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Jeff, Daniel, and Tyler Cannon. Jeff and I thought we felt good enough for a tempo run. So we attempted one after a warm up. First mile was supposed to be a good rhythm mile, then 5:20, then fast. From the get go it felt hard. The first mile was 5:46 and I felt like I did not want to go any faster. Then we sped up reluctantly to an 81 quarter, followed by 78, then I backed off and let Jeff go, 80, 81 for a 5:20 mile. HR was 162-163 at 5:20 pace, but I felt like I could not push it any higher or go any faster. Assumed adrenal failure, decided it would be counterproductive to try to run through it in training since I already do that in races. So at that point I eased off. Jeff ran 5:19 - 5:08 for the last two miles. At 5:04 pace Jeff's HR was 184. Then we jogged back. Did a fat mile in 5:58. Measured the respiratory rate of 17 breaths per 100 meters. 

Then I proposed that perhaps there is a pattern (for me) of 15 breaths per 100 meters on a good day, and 17 on a bad day. Jeff suggested that there is too much room for error in this test. I wanted to know how much, so we decided to run half a mile at around 6:00 pace counting breaths in the second quarter with the goal of breathing as little as possible. Our half mile time was 3:01 with the last quarter in 1:29. Jeff took 20 breaths over the last quarter. I took 49.  10 in the first 100 meters. It was really odd to breathe this way, and I think eventually I would have had to revert to the natural breathing pattern if we were to continue.

From that I developed a working theory. There is a certain optimal air volume per breath, and it is fairly consistent on any given day. It is possible to breathe in more than that, but the faster the pace, and the longer you go at it the harder it is to do it. That optimal air volume, however, on a good day will be higher than on a bad day. It is not related to the heart performance. In fact, for the same runner, it is possible to have a lower HR at the same pace with that optimal volume reduced at the same time, so he is breathing harder even though HR is lower! Another illustration of how unrelated this is to HR is comparing me and Jeff - Jeff's optimal respiratory rate at 6:00 pace is 13 breaths per 100 meters. Mine on a good day is 15, and 17 on a bad day. Good day and bad day HR for me would be about the same. Yet his HR at any pace is 15 bpm higher than mine.

So in short, for me: good day - can sustain HR at 165, natural respiratory rate 15 times for 100 meters at 6:00 pace; bad day - HR cannot be sustained above 162 for signficant periods of time, natural respiratory rate 17 times per 100 meters at 6:00 pace. The HR has been tested for a while already, so I am quite sure about that. Respiratory rate needs more testing. But what I like about it is that if it proves reliable, 0.5 miles of 6:00 pace could tell me what's up, and that is a very non-invasive test.

P.M. Decided to try the new shoe. Well, I had that shoe ever since I was born, but had not used it much. It is completely free and available to all, and is called Bare Feet. Sarah said being a city boy I would not be able to handle it on asphalt. I ran 2 miles with Jenny in 18:44 (Julia ran the last 1.5 in 14:10), and 2 more with Benjamin in 16:29. It hurt a little bit, but once the run was over, the only negative result was minor blisters on the tips of the big toes. Noticed that even compared to Five Fingers, Bare Feet form was different, noticed my right hip flexor working harder. Will probably need another 3 months before I can do all of my easy miles barefoot.

Brooks T4 Racing Flat Miles: 10.00Bare Feet Miles: 4.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
From Jason McK on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 12:56:34 from

I see that you use the Vibram 5-Fingers and you obviously have a lot of miles in them. Do you recommend them for anything specific, or do you just have the 'right feet' for them?

From Sasha Pachev on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 15:46:38 from

Jason - I am using them to prepare for the full barefoot transition. An interesting fact - to my knowledge every single runner that broke 27:00 in a 10 K grew up running barefoot. There has been a handful of shod-in-childhood sub 2:07 marathoners, but most of those did grow up running barefoot as well. I do not know if an old dog (as in 36 years old) can be taught new tricks, but it is worth a try.

If anything, it would be cool for a non-African to run a sub-2:30 marathon with no shoes. Right now the biggest obstacle for me is the toughness of the soles.

From Jason McK on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 17:29:04 from

So the motivation is speed? Do you still have a standard running posture or is your posture more like the CHI runners?

From rattletrap on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 18:02:33 from

Interesting stuff Sasha. I'm curious how your breathing correlates to your stride. I've never thought about number of breaths in a certain distance, but I have recently started keeping my breathing in sync with my steps and it seems to have helped improve my average pace.

From Sasha Pachev on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 16:40:46 from


After some experimentation in the past I concluded that one should not mess with his running form. The most magic running form for you is the one you end up with after many miles, a good portion done at a faster pace. There is no magic form for everyone, so the idea of teaching some pre-packaged running form method is fundamentally flawed.

I have also done some testing with an HRM. The goal was to reduce HR at the same pace, or to run faster at the same HR by trying tricks. There was only one trick that worked, and it was to focus on powering hard on ground contact and then relaxing ASAP as soon as you were off the ground. If you succeed you have the form you often see in a sub-2:07 marathoner - smooth effortless lope at sub-5:00 pace. It is not easy to do due to what I would call neuromuscular inertia but I believe this ability is naturally developed to some extent when you are forced to run fast for a long time when tired.

So perhaps the Quality X is 70% or so in the low "neuromuscular inertia".

Rattletrap - I have never worried about it. However, I am fairly certain that my leg turnover does not change very much at the same pace from day to day, definitely not by 12%. The natural breathing rate does. So some days I am either not running in sync with my breathing or at the very least am running with a different steps per breath ratio.

From rattletrap on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 18:59:40 from

I never used to worry about my breathing pattern. In fact, I always thought if I was even thinking about it I must be doing it wrong. Recently I tried keeping my breathing in sync with my steps to cure a side ache and after a while decided that keeping everything in rhythm like that made running easier for me. I guess it could be like you said about size does not necessarily fit all. I'm getting good results for now, but I just hope I'm not developing a habit that I'll need to break later. Thanks for sharing this kind of stuff on your blog. It really is fascinating.

From Jason McK on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 11:55:59 from

Thanks for the info. I just bought a less structured shoe (NB MR790) and plan to move to the Vibram 5-fingers. I guess that I'll just slowly work in more miles until my feet are strong, then let my form develop itself.

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