Breaking the Wall

Big Cottonwood Half

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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: Big Cottonwood Half (13.109 Miles) 01:08:59, Place overall: 3, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Big Cottonwood Half, 1:08:59, serious downhill course, hopefully this is a decent performance, 3rd overall, 1st master, $50 for overall, not sure if they have master money.


The race earns my award for bathroom availability. There were no major waits which is remarkable for a race this size. A little unglorified detail that nevertheless if neglected can turn things ugly.

As I mentioned the race is a major downhill - 2800 feet of total drop with hardly any uphill - only a few minor bumps in the last 3 miles. From the start I tried to run with Jon Kotter and Bret Hales, but after about a mile felt that the pace was too fast, and eased off. I quickly got passed by Zach Marx - a visiting runner from Colorado. I did not like that - overall money went three deep, and there was no master's money as far as I could tell from the website. I still care about that - being able to win prize money is a symbol of status even if I do not depend on it to pay the bills. You do not have to race a young hungry and broke recent college graduate for a trophy, but he will be there to race you for cash.

I observed no mile markers until mile three. At mile three my split was 16:02. I was not happy about that - I hoped it would be at least 15:30 with a grade like that. But at the same time I was not sure if it was accurate - there were no painted marks on the road, just a sing that is easy to move or misplace. Painted marks can usually be trusted - somebody likely painted them right when they were measuring the course as opposed to trying to remember where to place them the night before the race in the absolute and complete darkness of the canyon.

Somewhere around the third mile I heard steps behind me. I did not like that either. Fortunately I got into a rhythm and then those steps started to quiet down. With the steeper grade I started seeing 4:45 splits based on the marathon marks and the highway mile posts. I also observed that Zach was not building a gap on me anymore. That was the positive. The negative was that in spite of scoring four stars prior to the race the earily hour and the bowel bouncing of the decent created the need for another star, except this one, according to Paul's categorization, is a negative if it happens during the race.

I noticed the gap with Zach actually started to close. First 26 seconds, then 24, then 11. Around mile 7 or so Chad showed up and joined me. He was able to keep up for about a mile which we did in 5:03 according to the marathon marks. Then he had to drop back. I figured it was a good sign. Chad according to my calculations would stick around at 5:30 pace down the Provo Canyon for more than a mile on a bad day. So that means we were probably doing something that was faster than 5:30 Provo Canyon equivalent.

Around mile 9 I caught up to and passed Zach. He did not offer much resistance. Later I learned that he was suffering from an upset stomach. Now that I was in the money position my spirits were lifted and I decided to try hard to retain it. The official 10 mile split was 51:13. We got out of the canyon and were on the trail which was not as steep anymore, but still going down. I got to 11 mile marker in 56:47 (5:34). Then I heard steps. I did not like it. I was tired. I did not have the energy to fight for my position. But I told myself - fight until the 60 minute mark. So I hit the gas and pretty much went into a long kick mode banking on psychology. For me and for Zach. For me - after 60 minutes I can tell myself there are only maybe 8-9 more minutes of pain left. For Zach - I knew there was a reason I was able to catch him earlier, and that he was not able to hang with me, and that it must have cost him something to get into the audible range now. He must be near his limit. If I could only hang on for long enough he might break for good. Amazing how mean runners can get in a race to each other.

Mile marker 12 - 1:02:25 (5:37). What happened to Zach? I went around a few corners and did not see him at all. I passed a few spectators and heard cheers for myself but not for him. Maybe he took a wrong turn? In any case, got to keep running scared just in case. You never know what kind of action might be developing behind you.

Mile marker 13 - 1:08:14 (5:49). After that kicking hard to be under 1:09. Made the turn onto the finishing stretch and realized that my suspicions were correct - it was more than 0.109 from mile marker 13 to the finish. Dipped barely under 1:09 covering that stretch in 45 seconds and headed straight for the bathroom.

Afterwards cooled down with Chad for 0.5 miles.

Brett Hales won with 1:05:06, Jon Kotter was second with 1:05:47. Zach was 4th with 1:10:29 - he did not take a wrong turn after all, his stomach cramped up a lot.



Green Crocs 6 Miles: 16.00
Night Sleep Time: 5.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 6.00
From Yasir on Sat, Sep 14, 2013 at 13:54:19 from

wow congratulation sir 7 minutes short from the American half marathon record.

From Jenruns on Sat, Sep 14, 2013 at 14:38:52 from

Nice job! I saw you at mile 13 and cheered for you!

From Burt on Sat, Sep 14, 2013 at 19:40:59 from

Solid half marathon time as always.

From Steve Hooper on Sat, Sep 14, 2013 at 21:18:32 from

Great chatting with you at the race! Fantastic race time as well!

From crhudman on Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 15:57:30 from

Great race. Nice meeting you. Thanks for all the work you do with the blog it's helped me out a ton!

From Tara on Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 19:50:44 from

Congrats Sasha!

From Jake K on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 19:12:43 from

Nice job mixing it up w/ the young bucks, Sasha. This might have been the fastest masters half marathon of the weekend... but then Haile Geb had to go and run sub 61 and ruin it for you :-)

From RileyCook on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 09:33:20 from

Downhill or not, that's still a great run! Is that a PR for you Sasha (aided obviously)?

From Sasha Pachev on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 11:36:15 from


I ran 1:07:03 in Hobblecreek in 2001. There exists a rumor that the course was short, but Hawk swears it was certified, and I vaguely recall seeing a certification document somewhere. In 2003 they changed it to go on the trail which I think made it slower, but I've run three more 1:07:xx performances since then. My non-Hobblecreek PR is 1:09:40 in the Provo River Half 2007, which is more legitimate. The Big Cottonwood performance is the fastest time since 2005 with the disclaimer that 2005 was the last time I ran Hobblecreek. I suppose we will find out what my Big Cottonwood performance was worth in two days at the TOU.

From RileyCook on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 12:41:01 from

I haven't run Hobblecreek, so I can't really speak much to its length or speed, but it certainly seems faster than it should be given the elevation profile.

Have a good run at TOU!

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