Breaking the Wall

Utah Valley 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: 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
Race: Utah Valley Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:41:31, Place overall: 8
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Utah Valley Marathon, 2:41:31, 8th place.

The fields was loaded today, but the times were slow due to a headwind from about 7.5 to about 20.  I felt the effects of headwind a lot. Up to 7.5 I was doing great. I worked together with Jordan Perry and Scott Keate, we traded leads every 4 minutes. Jon Kotter and three Kenyans were up ahead. Riley Cook and Bryant Jensen were behind but they caught up to us around 7. Our splits were 5:33, 5:32 (11:05), 5:31 (16:36), 5:31(22:07), 5:41 (27:48),  then with some headwind/crosswind next two miles in 11:34 (39:22). Little did I know that I would have only one more mile in the race that would be under 6:00.

And then we got onto Hwy 189 heading to Provo, and the headwind started. Last night Scott expressed concerns about the headwind in the forecasts. I dismissed it saying the wind is never too bad when it does blow the wrong way, and it usually blows the right way anyway. However, today was an exception. It was more than just occasional gusts - it was steady and relentless, and gradually eating away at my hopes of a decent time. This was bad news for me for two reason. Slow time is one. Ability to compete is the other. Lately I have experienced problems with the headwind consistently slowing down more than what is usual even for me which is more than the average runner in my bracket. I tried to address them by doing speed into a headwind with no results. I am wondering if my lower spine experienced some deterioration in the last year. Regardless of the cause, it is a fact that at this point headwind is a serious competitive disadvantage for me.

I quickly went from being conversational to struggling to maintain contact with my partners. It was an odd feeling. I still felt like I could talk, the headwind did not tax my breathing. But I just did not have the power in the legs to go the pace, or so it felt. Perhaps the wind was changing the position of the torso which made it impossible due to the vertebral defect to get either good bounce out of the spinal column or push with the leg muscles effectively.  

I struggled for about a mile, then lost the contact for good, and now had a problem. The headwind moved me down into a lower bracket, but I had been in a higher bracket for the first 7.5 miles which was enough to gap my current bracket by a lot. So I was alone, battling the headwind, and whoever would come from behind I would not likely be able to keep up with because anybody who could catch up would want to go faster. Those who would go the pace I could handle were too far behind to be able to close the gap. And that pace was somewhere in the 6:20-6:40 range. There was one 5:55 mile (downhill), after that no downhill could compensate for the wind for me. I got to 10 miles in 57:55, so that is 18:33, 6:11 average, but that was helped by that miracle 5:55 mile. 1:17:06 at 13 (19:11 for 3 miles, 6:24 avg), 1:17:53 at the half.

Things started to look ugly. I was concerned that inefficient headwind running could run me out of fuel, and then I would be jogging (more than I already was), and that jog could start very early, so this could be a very long day. Unlike my last marathon, though, I had good things going for me - I was healthy, and I had good opening miles, which is an indication of good fuel levels, and I also felt not too weak in the fuel department even with the headwind. 

 Nevertheless, the idea of 6:20s that early in the race that could eventually deteriorate into who knows what did not sound appealing to me at all. I really did not want to run any further. Nevertheless, I had taken a comp, and when I do I make it a matter of principle to finish unless there is a serious risk to my health. I knew that it would matter to Hyrum to have one more person in the results with a time under 2:50 especially on a day like this when sub-2:50 becomes a more rare commodity. And I did not want to set a bad example for my children by not finishing the race I could have finished. So I just pressed on hoping that if things got worse they would not get much worse.

Was still at sub 6:00 average at 15 - 1:29:50, but that was the last mile where I had sub-6:00 average. Got passed by a runner I did not recognize in the 16th mile. Tried to go with him, told myself try until 16th mile marker, but after about a quarter mile realized he was out of my bracket under these conditions. Saw Jeremy around mile 17, he ran with me for about half a mile or maybe a little more. It helped a lot. Kept watching my mile splits. They seemed to be stuck around 6:24. Well, at least they are not getting slower, and maybe in the last 6 there will be no headwind.

20 miles in 2:01:48. So 31:58 for the last 5. That is almost exactly 6:24 per mile, 2 seconds faster. If I hold that, that is a 40:00 10 K, add a little slippage in the last miles, so we are looking at 2:42. With the wind this is better than embarrassing. 

The headwind subsided some in the last 10 K, although it was still present. I began to use the knowledge of my recently discovered condition to help with the speed. A way to partially compensate for the missing chunk of L-4 on the right side is to contract the right glut to help with support. I've always known that if I managed to do that at the right time during ground contact I run faster. But now I knew why, so I remembered it at this point in the race. It was not easy, it did not want to contract, the timing of contraction was difficult, it felt like a complex acrobatic maneuver that required focus. But it obeyed me somewhat, and I was able to slightly pick up the pace.  My last 10 K was 39:43 at a fairly steady pace which is 6:23 average, and I was able to finish faster than the projected 2:42 by 29 seconds.

Ahead of me - two Kenyans went 1-2, Jon Kotter third, then Bryan Jensen, Jordan Perry, Runner X (will find out who he was when the results are posted), and Scott Keate. At least that's all I could gather at the finish line. Apparently Riley and one of the Kenyans dropped out. Not sure about their times, I left before they got posted at the finish, and they have not been posted online yet. But I do know that Jordan got around 2:35 and Scott around 2:37.

Benjamin took 2nd place overall in the 10 K with 38:42, which is now his 10 K PR. During the awards, the announcer first observed that the third place overall finisher was 15, then she realized that the second place overall was 13. Benjamin remarked it would have been funny if the first overall was 11, but that was not the case.

P.M. 0.3 with William. Kids did their runs. Jenny and Julia did 2, Joseph did a total of 2 including his track meet, Jacob did 1. Joseph ran 800 meters in the USATF Utah Junior Championship. He was very excited about it, and did quite well winning Sub-Bantam boys in 3:16.13. In fact, he beat all the Bantam boys as well, and lost by a second to a Bantam girl - they were all in the same heat, but the awards were separate. What is impressive is that he managed to run a negative split (1:39/1:37) in spite of the windy conditions. Then we saw a funny line on the stadium display - "Joseph Pachev Fast 3:16.13". Fast Running Blog, which is Joseph's team, got appropriately abbreviated to just Fast.



Green Crocs 3 Miles: 27.20
Night Sleep Time: 6.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.00
From JulieC on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 15:11:35 from

WOW!! waiting for more!! Wind only makes us stronger!! :D.

From Dan Varga on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 15:34:22 from

Way to hang in there and still pull a great time. Sounds similar to my experience about the same time. It is an odd thing to have that much energy loss so early, and was hard to just explain it on the wind, but I'm sure that was a major contributor for me at least.

From Kelli on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 19:02:21 from

My favorite part of that report is that you stayed in it to be a good example for your kids and for the race director. Nicely done and HUGE wow to your son!

I have never thought so much about how the wind affects your fuel in a race until reading that. Interesting. It was rough to say the least.

Saw you and your family at the finish, but after predicting I could possibly hit a 2:55 marathon and being told NOT to run so many marathons in order to do it, I decided to hide in shame. ;o)

From allie on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 19:28:46 from

sounds like a tough day with all the wind, but i'm impressed by your determination to finish it out as best as you could. you are definitely a good example to your kids -- looks like they are already doing great things in the running world. congrats to benjamin on his PR and joseph fast on his strong 800m.

From scottkeate on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 19:32:48 from

Nice work on a very difficult day. Thanks for establishing the precedent for trading the lead so early in the race. It made a big difference.

From JulieC on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 19:36:07 from

we should all be thankful this race didn't start this afternoon. The winds right now are incredibly harsh!! but MAYBE if it were a tail wind ;D fast times all around!!

From RileyCook on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 19:45:19 from

Sasha, way to hang in there man. It was nasty out there today. It was nice to finally meet you. Good job and I hope to run with you again soon.

From Tom on Sat, Jun 09, 2012 at 20:27:03 from

Great job hanging tough until the end Sasha. And nice to talk to you today for a bit. Big congrats to Benjamin and Joseph as well.

From jtshad on Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 05:58:54 from

Nice job demonstrating perseverance to your kids and the heart not to quit, that is an admirable trait. Sorry about the issues today, but you ran a strong race in the tough windy conditions.

From Superfly on Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 09:59:09 from

Sorry about the hard conditions. Way to work through the course and run smart for the day.

From Tara on Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 10:03:07 from

You made the best of hard conditions for sure! Way to fight Sasha!

From Scott Ensign on Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 21:07:31 from

always inspiring to read your reports and gain your insights. nice job today on a tough day.

From Jake K on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 09:35:10 from

I really admire your attitude about sticking it out as long as your health allows it. Not only a good example for your children, but for other elite runners as well.

From James on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 21:42:22 from

I thought you ran super tough, even though you say the wind hurts you. Very respectable time for the conditions.

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