Breaking the Wall

Top of Utah 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: 188.26 Year: 188.26
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: 1657.61
Brown Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 1359.62
Race: Top of Utah Half Marathon (13.109 Miles) 01:14:49, Place overall: 12, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Top of Utah Half - 1:14:49, 12th overall, 2nd master, $75. 

Stayed with Steve Anderson the night before.

Warmed up a little over 2 with Jake. At the start there were a lot fast runners - money went 5 deep and there were two people that broke 1:10 and went home empty-handed. Fortunately the race had a charity fund for the senior citizens of which I ended up a beneficiary along with Walter and Rob Murphy.

My goal was to go under 1:14. I thought a performance similar to what I ran in the Provo River Half would be sufficient. So either I ran worse, or the course is not quite as fast as I thought it was. In any case, report mile by mile to the best of my memory:

1 - 5:31 - ended up alone a little ahead of Ben VanBeekum and Jon Heslup but quite a bit behind Walter who opened in around 5:08. In retrospect, I should have just sat behind Ben and Jon and saved energy.

2 - 5:31 (11:02) - Ben and Jon caught up to me and I got on their tail. Walter had 10:42.

3 - 5:40 (16:42) - Ben and Jon pulled ahead, I felt the pace was too fast for me.  They did 5:27, Walter was 16:11 at 3 miles - 5:29.

4 - 5:44 (22:26) - Ben, Jon, and Walter gapped me by a little more.

5 - 5:27 (27:53) - here comes the famous Blacksmith Fork Canyon tailwind. Around this time Ben passed Walter, so I ran most of the remainder of the race watching Walter and Jon from behind.

6 - 5:30 (33:23) - more of that tailwind

7 - 5:30 (38:53) - tailwind helps keep the momentum

8 - 5:43 (44:36) - end of tailwind, fatigue, lack of serious traning and possibly old age are beginning to show

9 -  5:45 (50:21) - hanging on

10 - 5:52 (56:13) - not good, but at least sub-6:00

12 - 12:33 for 2 uphill miles (1:08:36) - oops - there goes sub-1:14, now sub-1:15 is in jeoprady. How did this happen? Maybe missing the split at 11 was part of the problem. I was not feeling great, but was not feeling too bad either. Could have pushed this a little harder maybe. Or maybe not, who knows.

13 - 1:14:18 (5:42) - Saw Walter coming to me, but he was too far ahead to catch. I tried, though.

last 0.1 - 31 seconds

Walter finished 36 seconds ahead, which was less than ideal - in the ideal world that number would be negative. However, I did have concerns around mile 10 that the gap might be as bad as over a full minute which did not materialize.

Riley won in a breakthrough race with 1:05:16. Jake was a close second with 1:05:38. Then John Coyle with 1:06:10 - I talked to him afterwards, he said he lost some time on a VPB. Then Bryant Jensen 1:06:55, Jason Holt 1:09:05, Scott Keate 1:09:22, Jacob Howell 1:09:55, Ben VanBeekum 1:10:58, Jesse Dunn 1:12:57, John Heslop 1:13:12, and Walter 1:14:13.

Ran a cooldown to make the total 20 miles running back on the course. Headed back on the course, experienced a bathroom emergency. Saw some people outside of their house, asked them to use their restroom. Afterwards made it to mile marker 11 and a little past going the other way, then ran back. By then I was with people headed maybe for 2:07-2:08. Nobody wanted to run with me until I had passed the 2:05 pacer. For some reason they had a hard time believing that a) they could run faster at least for a little bit and b) I would slow down to the best they could do. In the last half mile I found some people to pace.

During the race my legs felt strong but not quick. 5:30 was about my limit and that required fresh legs and nice downhill. I need to do something to fix it. Probably tempo runs down the canyon - I have not been doing those lately.

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 20.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
From RileyCook on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 09:51:44 from

Nice race Sasha. Congrats on the 2nd place master's finish.

From jtshad on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 12:23:31 from

Congrats on a strong race.

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