Breaking the Wall

Spanish Fork 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: Spanish Fork Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:13:55, Place overall: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Spanish Fork Half Marathon, 1:13:55, first place.

Originally was planning on running Peruvian Lodge, but it conflicted with a church meeting in the afternoon which I did not want to miss. I figured a half marathon would be a good for marathon preparation anyway. And we had a comp that would have gone to waste otherwise. Plus I had not yet won any races this year. So I guess I was like an injured tiger that cannot catch quick antelopes anymore and goes for easier meat.

Also, this half is a loop course, no downhill. I always wonder and estimate what my downhill performances are worth on a loop course. This would be a good chance to get a less disputable measurement. I say "less disputable" because race directors make no claim of course certification, and I do not have any knowledge of that course being certified. However, I saw some signs of a diligent effort to ensure correct length. All mile splits made perfect sense. I also noticed that mile 2 of the 5 K was at the exact same spot as mile 11 of the half, while the finish of the 5 K was marked a few meters before the finish of the half. This is how it is supposed to be - the distance from mile 2 of the 5 K to the finish is about 4 meters longer than the distance from mile 11 of the half to the finish. It was comforting to know that the race directors cared enough to pay attention to that detail, they were not rounding it off to 0.1 of a mile.

But regardless, past performances on this course have established a standard. So in some respects it did not matter if the course was exact. We had the following benchmark times:

Dennis Simonaitis 1:12:53 (2005), Mike Kirk 1:14:33 (2004), Chris Rogers 1:16:08 (2007), Chad Derum 1:17:42 (2007).

The race website reports also that Trevor Pettingill ran 1:08:31 in 2003. I also know that Matt Harmer ran 1:11 in the same race. This sounds suspicious. Although both were in good shape around that time, neither of them had a performance of comparable quality. Trevor ran 1:09:57 a couple of weeks earlier in the Great Salt Lake Half, which has a net drop of 100 feet and a couple of short hills in the last 2 miles. Trevor that year hit what my predictor said he would within 20 seconds in every other race with the exception of St. George - the predictor said he would have run 2:19:23 while his actual time was 2:20:35, and Alta Peruvian lodge which is so weird of a race that the predictor is off quite often. Matt had run the Great Salt Lake half in 1:13:38 (I think), and was on the upswing getting into better shape, but I still find it questionable that he would have been capable of a 1:11 on the 2007/2008 course. Sounds like a different course, or a wrong turn.

The site also reports that Rolando Sanjinez ran 1:14:15 in 2006. That one is particular suspicious. That same year he ran 1:13:29 in Hobblecreek. An equivalent performance on this course would have been around 1:19-1:20. He also never in his entire racing history reported by Athlinks.Com produced a performance anywhere near in quality to that time, not even in a 10 K. There is no way somebody could gain a 5 minute improvement in the half in two weeks after racing consistently for a month at the same level in a 10 K. At the same time, Tony Vakaafi ran 1:12:55 in Hobblecreek that year, and 1:17:58 in the Spanish Fork Half, which does make sense. That sounds like Rolando may have taken a wrong turn.

Dennis, Mike, Chris, and Chad appear to have legitimate times relative to each other and consistent with their performance levels that year. So I figured I'd use those times as a guide and dismiss the dubious ones.

Warmed up 2.5 some by myself, and some with Tom. With no surprise appearances at the start (aside from myself) I was racing three virtual runners (Dennis, Mike, and Chris) and one real - Chad was here to represent himself, and he was in better shape as well leaving me no room for the neural fatigue garbage. From Provo River Half and from the second leg of Wasatch Back I knew that when the neural fatigue hits me, Chad is faster. So it was important to avoid neural fatigue at least for the first half of the race. I had an expectation not to hit any based on how I felt and what I did the day before, but I was not 100% sure. Neurological Sasha Science is still very much in development and quite error prone.

Ron Greenwood asked me how fast I was going to run it. I said based on my analysis I should be around 1:14-1:15.

I came to the race with my home family in our natural gas 15 passenger van. With it being our recent purchase I am still quite excited about the idea of CNG. So when I smelled the fumes from the lead motorcycle I remarked that it should be converted to natural gas. We had a pack for the first 2 minutes or so, and then I started to pull away. However, while crossing a busy road about 0.5 or so into the race there was an incident. There was no police protection, and a bus was coming full speed. I waved to the bus hoping it would stop. The driver either did not notice me, or did not care and kept blasting full speed. So I had no choice except use the skills I learned in Moscow while crossing the Moscow Belt Route (a 4-lane highway) on a daily basis - run on the road in the direction opposite of the bus, and as soon as it passed me and I was behind it, dash across the road. This allowed Chad to catch up, but he did not stay with me.

Mile splits are based on the race mile markers. Knowing those would be reliable from the last year race reports I did not bring a GPS.

First mile split - 5:37. I think we climbed some, but it was subtle. I lost about 3-4 seconds on the bus. Chris had 5:52 last year. Not feeling overexerted, but neurologically just staying a little bit below the red line. I know something about that red line - you cross it, and the race is over. The challenge is to sense it since I could cross it without breathing very hard. But I think I am learning.

Mile 2 - 5:40. More uphill. Happy to still have 3 seconds on the 5:40 guy. Knowing what's up ahead I knew I would need every one of those seconds. Good news - ran uphill breathing energetically, but without perceived neural overexertion. That is a sign of the neurological health and bodes well for the rest of the race.

Mile 3 - 5:46. Still uphill. Not very steep. Still feeling good. Quick relaxed stride. Moving as fast as I can without crossing the red line.

Mile 4 - 5:43. Not bad considering the steep rhythm breaking bump in the middle. But the rest of it was flat, that helped. Hit the red line briefly on the bump, but did not go over. The bump did not bother me very much otherwise, recovered quickly. Another good sign. Only 6 seconds behind the 5:40 guy after the bump mile, and based on what I heard the next mile is faster, looking forward to it.

Mile 5 - 5:33. The reports were verified. This was a good mile. Had a slight barely noticeable downhill for a portion. I did not notice it until I had to come back, though. Shows how biased the human mind is in the area of recognizing blessings vs adversity. I wondered why I was able to move my legs so quick without much effort all of a sudden. A church hymn came into my mind during this mile. My favorite one - A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. I find it interesting how a slow tune can help a fast pace. The tune might be slow, but the message is deep, and thus it brings the power. Happy to be 1 second ahead of the 5:40 guy.

Mile 6 - 5:47. Started with a slight down (I think), but then there was a steep bump, and maybe it was more than a bump. There goes my lead over the 5:40 guy, but he better watch out because I am feeling good, and we'll be dropping elevation on the way back.

Mile 7 - 5:54. Steeper climb. Slowest mile of the race, but I was expecting that from the race reports. Felt strong on the uphill. Hit the red line, but not for long enough to go over it. The 5:40 guy is laughing at me about his 20 seconds lead. I am shaking my fist at him in hopes of a quick revenge now that we are that highest point of the course.

Mile 8 - 5:28. Downhill, finally. But too abrupt which made it too short. Now done with the loop, running the course backwards, and seeing the crowd going in the opposite direction. Recognized a couple of people in the crowd - Kim Lee, and Josse's mom. I am sure there were more that I should have recognized as people were greeting me by name. My face recognition ability does not work very well at race pace. The 5:40 guy now has only 8 seconds, but still is hoping to hold me off. Better give him a name - I think his name is Mike Kirk, aka Virtual Mike.

Mile 9 - 5:40. No downhill, that is my excuse for not closing on Virtual Mike. He is laughing at me, looking back, and poking out his tongue. In the meantime Virtual Dennis is feeling pretty safe.

Mile 10 - 5:39. Seeing the uphill in front of me, realizing what helped me run 5:33 going the other way, and being tired of Virtual Mike's teasing I pressed a bit harder, but still a tad under the red line. Then we did the mile 4 bump backwards, and I floored it on the down-bump to steal a second from Virtual Mike on a slow mile that he hoped to gap me on.

Mile 11 - 5:36. Virtual Mike is concerned. His lead is down to 3 seconds, I am gaining momentum, there is downhill up ahead, and there will also be a kick. He is hoping for sudden neural fatigue which can happen, but we would need some uphill for that, and there is not much except for a little bump with about half a mile to go.

Mile 12 - 5:35. Virtual Mike has been passed, and I think now has lost all hope. Virtual Dennis is out of reach, but sub-1:14 is not. If I finish in 1:13:something, he will not laugh so hard at me looking down from his 1:12:53 podium. Saw the 5 K crowd going the other direction. They started exactly 1 hour after we did. So the ones that are faster than 6:00 mile could possibly be catching some half-marathoners, the ones that are in that range could possibly be racing them, and the ones that are much slower will be getting passed by half marathoners. Interesting situation. So the 1:18 guys could possibly have some fun racing Holly Hagerman. She ended up chicking the field with 18:51, and she is a master. How about that - the entire field got chicked by a master! First time I've heard of something like this in any race anywhere. To add injury to insult, a good portion of the field got virtually impregnated (for lack of a better term) and strollered as well by Jennifer Hughes who ran 24:50 while 29 weeks pregnant (I think) and pushing a stroller. Fast ladies live in Woodland Hills, Michelle has some good company.

Mile 13 - 5:28. Trying to dip under 1:14. Spent most of the mile making a promise to myself to floor it no matter where I was once my watch said 1:13:00. Tried to shift gears several times, but there was not much of a movement. Lived true to my promise at 1:13:02 but still felt like there was not much of a go in the legs. Saw 1:13:26 at 13 miles. Need only 34 seconds for the kick. Not hard assuming mile 13 is in the right place, but if it is a little off it may be a challenge. Assume it is off and on the wrong side, pedal down the floor, but the engine feels maxed out already. Close my eyes, try to not be distracted. Also this mental game of seeing the finish line closer suddenly once you open your eyes works wonders. They have a tape stretched out and everything, full show. Benjamin comes to help and starts racing me towards the tape. Several thoughts go through my head - his 100 meter PR from last spring is 17.7, he is fresh, and I do not want to get beat to the tape by my 9-year-old son! So I was able to find another gear and pull away from him a little bit.

The kick was 30 seconds by my watch (4:34 pace), which gave me 1:13:56, but my official time was 1:13:55. I am glad my stomach was empty and I did not take anything in during the race. After I finished I started making the throw up motions with my throat but nothing came out.

Could not wait for anything, had to get dressed and get going ASAP to take Benjamin to his soccer game, and then help Curt with the Provo Marathon. Benjamin's team won 5-1.

T4 Racer - 529.53 miles

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:18, 2 with Benjamin in 16:45 with Jenny running the first 1.5 in 12:44.

Five Fingers - 1281.52 miles

Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
From Easier Meat on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 12:11:19

Nice race, Sasha. You looked very strong.

From Metcalf Running on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 12:40:33

Congratulations on your first 1st place this year!!! Looks like you had a very good race.


From paul on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 13:06:02

That's quite the intro: 8 full paragraphs before the race even starts. This will keep me entertained throughout the day today.

From Tom on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 17:28:48

Enjoyed your report Sasha. Congrats once again on 1st place and the tough effort even without having anyone else around (other than virtually) to push you.

Many runners say if you double your SF 1/2 marathon time that will give you a good prediction for SGM goal time. Now that you've run the race, I'm curious what Sasha-science says? Is 2xSFHM-time = SGM-predicted-time?

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 17:44:18

Tom - only if you blow up. Mike Kirk ran 1:14:33 in Spanish Fork, and then 2:23:37 in St. George the same year. Chad ran 1:17:42, and then 2:32:59. If you are running 60+ miles a week and do not blow up on the downhill you should be able to run 3-5 minutes faster in St. George than double your Spanish Fork time.

From Tom on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 17:53:25

That's what I was hoping you would say. I occurs to me that many of the runners I know that quote the 2x formula are running more in the 30-50 mile a week range for large chunks of the year and only go higher than that for maybe a few weeks in the summer. So for them double SFHM time is probably about right.

From Dale on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 18:02:18

Great race Sasha. Glad you're starting to get this neural fatigue issue sorted out. Very entertaining race report too.

From Superfly on Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 19:42:13

LOL! Holly Cow! Sorry Sasha but I'm with Paul on this one. That intro was amazing! Paul if we could only be at Fudruckers or IHOP right now with the rest of the guys.

Regardless of past performances- Your race this year was a good one. Way to find another gear at the end.

From Paul T on Tue, Sep 09, 2008 at 14:14:58

Thanks for the detailed report, Sasha. I love getting inside the head of other runners and seeing how they mentally approach races (and training). I learn a lot.

Your Frogger-like move to avoid the bus sounds impressive.

Congratulations on the win!

From wheakory on Tue, Sep 09, 2008 at 16:22:29

Nice run as always Sasha. You really did finish the last few miles strong and your nervous system didn't fatigue on you. That has to be good progress going into TOU and St. George.

What Model/year is your CNG van.

From Sasha Pachev on Tue, Sep 09, 2008 at 17:59:13

Kory - it is Dodge RAM B2500 1996.

From Jennifer Pachev on Tue, Sep 16, 2008 at 16:52:11

I helped with the marathon to.

From RivertonPaul on Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 15:38:18

Belated congrats. You've probably seen the pic, but just in case:

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