Breaking the Wall

Deseret News 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: Deseret News Marathon (26.219 Miles) 02:37:57, Place overall: 2, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Deseret News Marathon, 2:37:55, 2nd overall, 1st master. With the double-dip this would be $750, without $500, with the modern socialist "everyone is a winner" "it is not fair that masters with all their experience rob younger runners of the money they deserve" it goes down to $250 - the official policy is not stated on the website and I have not yet received my money, so I suppose I'll find out later.

The time was not very fast, but it was fast enough to be the fastest master time for this version of the course. I get extra perks for being old, I suppose.

James and Allie were nice enough to let me stay with them the night before. James gave me a differential equation problem to solve before I went to bed which I worked on in my mind while trying to fall asleep. Once I solved it I fell asleep immediately completely forgetting about the race or anything else. I highly recommend this method. I recall a study a while ago that recorded the highest number of yawns per student during a lecture among a number of technical courses in the one on differential equations.

The race went like this. In the first 4 miles which are a very steep downhill I ran with Jon Kotter and John Rosswog. The splits were 5:13, 5:10 (10:23), 4:59 (15:22), and 5:33 (20:55). Around 4 miles Jon pulled ahead while John fell back. It stayed that way all the way to the finish with each gap increasing by about the same amount with just one exception. I stopped for a VPB shortly after mile 5. So mile 5 was 5:27 (26:22), then the VPB mile had some uphill on top of the standard time loss, so it was 6:18 (32:40).

Then the climb up the Little Mountain started. I thought I was going to get 6:30 on the next mile, but the perception of strength apparently was deceptive. My split was 6:44 (39:24 at 7 miles). Then I knew that 2:36 would be really good, but things could go as bad as slower than 2:40. To keep it from being slower than 2:40 I adjusted the effort listening carefully to my legs and my heart. I feel that this early pace adjustment was critical for being able to hold it together reasonably well and running under 2:38. 

Next mile which starts up but then changes to down demonstrated that 6:44 was not just from being cautious on the climb - 6:19 (46:43) - that mile should be under 6:00. Do not recall my split at 9 miles, but at 10 I was 57:35, which gives me 11:52 for the next 2 miles. So I am finding some kind of a rhythm, but still lack the power - both in the legs and in the heart to move like I did last year.

From 10 to the half I moved at a fairly steady pace and hit the half split in 1:15:35 - so 18:00 for the 5 K. Not stellar, but still sub-6:00. Then somewhere around 15 I needed to go to the bathroom again. 5:30 AM start leaves me helpless - I went three times before the start, and still could not get all of it out - it is just too early. Knowing that I was fairly safe in second place and first master I considered using the official one due to the heavy presence of the half-marathoners, mostly ladies, but when I ran past it it was hopeless. There was a line of about 5 people. So I did not have a choice - failure to VPB would have had tragic results. I quickly realized that it would be better to be seen squatting by one lady runner that will try hard not to look in your direction anyway than to have all of the spectators on the course and at the finish see the consequences of your failure to squat at the right time. I was able to find a decent spot and resolve the problem quickly enough to have 6:18 split for that mile.

 Around mile 16 I saw Steve Ashbaker running towards me. He ran with me from that point to the finish. It was very helpful to have him around and meant a lot to me. As expected the Hogle Zoo Monster attacked me when I ran past the zoo and things became difficult from that point. I made it to mile 20 in 1:58:33. From that point I set a goal not to bleed too much off 6:00 pace. My next uphill mile was 6:38 (2:05:11). I was quite happy with it. Then I ran 5:56 for the downhill mile (2:11:07). I was quite happy that I put a gap on the 6:00 pace, but I knew this was going to be the last sub-6:00. 4 more to go. Plus 385 yards, just like the sales tax. Always remember to add the sales tax, commissions, and fees into the advertised price or you may find yourself not having enough money to pay for the purchase.

Next mile was 6:16 (2:17:23). It was mostly downhill had some minor uphill - you bust through it as it if it were nothing in the third mile of the 10 K, but in the marathon that uphill hurts. I was happy about it. One more mile - 6:06 (2:23:29). Two more to go, plus the sales tax. Calculating the marathon sales tax this turns out to be only 0.84%. I think if we could get enough people in Utah to run we could reduce our sales tax to 0.84%. A runner could just run, maybe literally, for office, win the elections and then push it through. We would also be able to afford it economically - it is my belief that as people remove physical fat from their bodies they also remove mental fat from their thinking. Thinking lean they will figure out how to run the government better than we do now off less money.

Mile 25 - 6:16 (2:29:45). Not too bad, but there is the last mile which is a subtle and steady uphill. We all know that mile.

Mile 26 was as miserable as it is always. After running it one more miserable time I think I have an idea of how to deal with it. I need to verify prior to the race that the blocks are indeed  exactly 1/7th of a mile as advertised. Then I need to have a clear idea where the boundaries are and run from block boundary to boundary targeting 55 seconds (or maybe faster or slower depending on what condition I find myself in) for each block. When you are hurting having the accurate immediate feedback and a very immediate challenging but attainable goal is absolutely critical to achieving top performance. When you push and it hurts a lot, if you can feel that this brings dividends you will dig deep and find that extra strength.

At the end of it I met my family. Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, and Jacob, along with Stephen and Matthew in the stroller were awaiting me. They joined me but unfortunately the front wheel on the stroller did not get properly attached and fell off as Benjamin was running with it. So he stopped to fix it and we continued without them. Sarah and William were running ahead of us. Seeing a target in front I instinctively accelerated and passed them shortly before the finish line - this got me to dip a little below 2:38, which was nice. Even though we had that stroller accident, I felt happy to have my family with me at the finish. 

So it took me 8:12 to run the last 1.219 miles. That is 6:43 pace. This can be improved. I think with the intermediate block-to-block approach I can improve it by 15 seconds prorated for fitness next year (so compare it to the mile before it in other words).

Afterwards I took Benjamin to Greensboro, NC for the national USATF Junior Olympics meet. We almost did not make it. When we got to the SLC airport, United told us that our connecting flight to Denver was cancelled. Their proposed alternative arrangement would get us to Greensboro after the start of his race. So we started scrambling for alternatives which included visits to the Frontier and Southwest ticket counters which we had to do ourselves because United does not have a deal with them. If only Frontier flew to Greensboro every day we would not have even been dealing with United - Frontier can fly to Greensboro and back for $459 one way for two people in two legs vs $786 (cheapest alternative) by United in three legs. Finally United figured out a way to put us on a Delta flight to to Denver and the problem was solved except we had to hustle to make it and I had to run, or, rather, speed-limp, through the airport on severely damaged marathon legs.

This was Benjamin's first flight since he was 1.5 years old, and he really enjoyed it. 

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 26.52
Night Sleep Time: 4.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 4.00
From Holt on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 17:32:54 from

Good job Sasha. Hope you find the $750 waiting for you when you get home. Good luck to Benjamin.

From Red Leader on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 17:36:58 from

Nice Race! Also my blog doesn't have a mileage board on my calendar. So could you fix that for me? Thanks.

From Britta on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 18:07:19 from

Great race! The picture of you crossing the finish with your family in the background was priceless.

From Teena Marie on Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 09:39:40 from

Congrats!!! Very nicely done. :)

I also appreciated your comment about making very short term challenging goals that allow for immediate feedback. I am definitely going to use that on my own and with my patients in the clinic when they struggle. Wonderful advice.

Congrats again.

From jeffmc on Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 11:26:22 from

That seems to be a solid result for you considering you have publicly stated that your focus is now more on your children rather than on your own accomplishments and your training has demonstrated as much (fewer miles run, fewer workouts, running marathon specific workouts and long tempo runs less frequently).

How do you feel about Benjamin's race on Thursday (I cheated and looked up the results)? I am sure you will mention specifics when you write it up, but it seems that despite starting in almost dead last for 300 (50.644) he still went out too fast, and his 300-700 split suffered accordingly (1:15.577). However, based on your comments regarding his lack of top end speed I wonder if his last 400 would have been no faster even if he started off slower? It makes me think that on this particular day even with perfect pacing he would have run no faster than 4:29 low or 4:28 high. Either way, it was a solid result (even if he was not happy about it) as he was the final time qualifier for the finals (that I am sure he is not running) on Sunday. I am sure that running with so many people around takes some adjustment as well, with the additional trouble of having to pass many of them in lane 2 as they die off.

From allie on Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 15:51:00 from

sasha - i almost fell asleep at the wheel when you were solving that problem on the way to the bus. :)

congratulations on second overall, first masters, and yet another solid showing at des news. interesting thoughts on how to approach that horrendous final mile. i've never been able to get my body to respond on 800 south, despite plenty of incentives in the form of both time and placement. i like the idea of breaking it up into smaller goals for immediate feedback. i'm always focused on the not-yet-visible finish line, with nothing in between but the thoughts of how much pain i am in. makes for a very long mile.

i'm glad you and benjamin were able to arrange a flight in time, and i'm sorry you had to speed-limp on des news legs.

you are always welcome to stay with us for des news or any other SLC race. your family, too. we don't have eight extra beds, but there is plenty of floor and couch space. :)

From Sasha Pachev on Sat, Jul 27, 2013 at 21:40:29 from

Jeff - I feel pretty good about Benjamin's race. He obviously is capable of more given that he's run 4:31.58 in 88 F at 5700 feet, but given a long trip, humidity, some wind, and bad pacing, 4:30.84 is decent. His second lap was a matter of self-confidence. Everybody slowed down, the fast start threw off his sense of pace, and he miscounted the number of people he should have passed in it. Because we rarely visit the 1500 meter speed zone in workouts he has a tendency to settle for a 3000-5000 pace if he does not focus. Once he heard the split, he sped up. But having to accelerate was a punch two on top of the fast start, so his kick was not as sharp.

From Jake K on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 12:06:39 from

Nice race Sasha. Like Jeff said, I'm impressed by the run considering you've shifted your focus a bit this year. Congrats on the double dip (assuming they pay up!).

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