Breaking the Wall

August 24, 2019

Recent EntriesHomeJoin Fast Running Blog Community!PredictorHealthy RecipesSasha Pachev's RacesFind BlogsMileage BoardTop Ten Excuses for Missing a RunTop Ten Training MistakesDiscussion ForumRace Reports Send A Private MessageWeek ViewMonth View
15% off for Fast Running Blog members at St. George Running Center!


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: 173.50 Year: 2475.51
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Navy Crocs Lifetime Miles: 2133.34
Navy Crocs 2 Lifetime Miles: 1360.04
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran 4 with Benjamin, 1.5 with Jenny and Julia, 1.5 with Joseph, and 0.25 with Jacob. Then another 3.6 including a pickup for 2100 meters in 7:00.5. Again focused on the calf push off, and got results similar to Saturday. I felt a bit sluggish from the start, but the pace did not seem to get much harder as the run progressed. So it is harder to get going, but easier to maintain the pace. This is consistent with the idea that soleus is primarily made of slow-twitch fibers, so if you are able to delegate some of the quad work to the soleus, you will lose a little bit of initial spunk, but will be able to hold the pace for longer.

From that develops another thought. When you try to run fast, soleus would resist recruitment because it will think it is not fast enough and will want to delegate its work to other muscles that have more fast twitch fibers. So then the challenge is to train it to not be lazy at fast speeds.

I remember watching Haile Gebrselassie in the movie Endurance and noticing a very energetic calf action. It left me thinking for a while. It's been over 10 years, but I am still thinking. It is not so much the matter of calf strength - you can get calf strength by going to the gym, so if it was all the matter of strength, every gym bum that works out his calves would be a great runner. It is more about the art of significantly recruiting your calf when running for the purpose of forward motion thus relieving the burden of the quad. Perhaps the East Africans and few Caucasians have that art naturally somehow, while others have to work to develop it. Like singing voice.

Total distance was 10.85.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 10.86
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
From jeffmc on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 16:35:48 from

Just a couple thoughts:

In a previous post you listed our measurements from a couple years ago, and you related this to calf strength. I would be hesitant to look too much into the calf size as an indicator as most of my family members have big calves except Andrew (and he has the fastest 400m of all of us), while small calf size has also been correlated with good running economy.

High levels of plantar flexion on toe off have also been shown to correlate with good running economy, which ties in a little closer with your premise that the soleus plays an important role.

If you look at many world class runners such as Bekele, or Tadesse, you will notice that they have comparatively huge quadriceps in comparison to their size. I think that their may be a tie in between strength of the quads, and the ability of the body to utilize this strength through the full range of motion. The soleus may play a role in helping these runners to utilize this strength, potentially acting more as a stabilizer?

From experimenting in the past with what you are doing now, I think that it can be beneficial, however if you don't remember I brought on a minor calf injury when I ran an all out 400m focusing on the toe off (so be careful).

I also think that there is something to be said for what goes on from the feet up through the core. So, when you are focusing on toe off you may want to also pay some attention to what changes may be occurring in your knee flexion, hip flexion/extension, pelvic tilt, etc. Sometimes our experimenting may cause additional changes elsewhere in the body. Some of these additional changes may be good, and some may be bad, while sometimes it may be one of the changes that were not our primary focus that end up making the biggest difference in performance.

From steve ash on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 20:50:37 from

Thanks Jeff, That was pretty insightful. It makes me wonder about my own bio-mechanics, ie-I have small quads.

From jeffmc on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 21:56:38 from

Steve, I don't necessarily think it is the size of the quads that matter as much as the ability of the body to utilize the strength that is there, as many of the top Kenyans do not have large quads. I mentioned Bekele and Tadesse, as they are the world record holders at the 10000m and the half marathon, and it could be that the great strength they have in addition to very efficient muscle firing patterns helps push them over the top performance wise.

I think that Sasha's focus on the soleus may in fact help in the sense that it would help him learn to use the power in his quads more efficiently, while it is also possible that a weak calf muscle would change the firing patterns to such a degree that it would not allow him to use the full extent of his quad strength.

From Sasha Pachev on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 13:31:55 from

Muscle size can be used as a hint of sorts at what the problem may be, but is definitely not a conclusive driver of performance. I am suspecting, for example, that the cause of my calves being small relative to quads is that I run in a way that places undue emphasis on the quads. This is also supported by the fact that whenever I fall off the pace, the perceived signals of fatigue are always coming from the quads, while the calves do not seem to feel any different than if I were jogging.

But at the same time small muscle size is OK, and is actually a benefit if you know how to recruit it well. So it is all about the subtle balance that is difficult to put your fingers on. Probably the best way to develop it is try different drills, strengthening exercises, and propioceptive cues and see which ones produce faster pace with lesser effort in situations where you cannot cheat yourself into believing that you are running faster with less effort.

Add Your Comment.
  • Keep it family-safe. No vulgar or profane language. To discourage anonymous comments of cowardly nature, your IP address will be logged and posted next to your comment.
  • Do not respond to another person's comment out of context. If he made the original comment on another page/blog entry, go to that entry and respond there.
  • If all you want to do is contact the blogger and your comment is not connected with this entry and has no relevance to others, send a private message instead.
Only registered users with public blogs are allowed to post comments. Log in with your username and password or create an account and set up a blog.
Debt Reduction Calculator

Featured Announcements
New Kids on the Blog
(need a welcome):