Breaking the Wall

Top of Utah 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: 151.02 Year: 151.02
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Navy Crocs 2 Lifetime Miles: 1576.28
Neon Crocs 1 Lifetime Miles: 1353.22
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.219 Miles) 02:44:20, Place overall: 8, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Fast Running Friend Workout - 2018-09-15 05:16:01
Workout Totals: Distance27.318Time2:53:05.70Pace6:20.18
Top of Utah Marathon, 8th overall, 1st master, $300, 20th year in a row - every year they had it - in the top 10. Details to follow.

This race was an experiment. I felt that last year my performance was being limited by my adrenal glands, and believed the reason they went downhill was 20 mile long runs in August combined with 10 mile half-uphill/half-downhill tempo runs mid-week. So I felt I did not really have a choice - I had to be very gentle with any type of training that would put any significant strain on the adrenals. Through the fall and the winter, my tempo runs were usually limited to 2 miles with very occasional 3-4 mile tempos - all downhill. I almost completely eliminated the 20 mile long run - had just a couple that happened on accident. My typical long run was only 16 miles. However, I increased my daily mileage to 12 doing it usually in two runs - 8 + 4.

After 1:16:33 Utah Valley Half, which was not terrible, but not stellar, I felt that my heart needed some longer tempo stimulus. So I increased my tempo running on Saturday to 5 miles - all downhill.

The week before the race, I made sure to take a short nap in the morning or afternoon every day. I also tapered differently, reducing the mileage less than I normally do, but doubling all days except Friday, and running mini tempos all week - 3 hard on Monday, pacing a time trial on the track at roughly the marathon pace on Tuesday, then 2 at marathon pace down the canyon Wednesday and Thursday, and just 1 at marathon pace on Friday . I felt that the evening jog improved my digestion and helped me absorb the carbs better.

Based on the results of today, I am going to conclude that a) something worked, and b) long runs are overrated - at least in my case.

On two the race. I started out with Jason Holt, Matthew Williams, and Spencer Palmer. We ran the first two miles in 5:39 each. I felt good, but not good enough for the effort to be wise at the start of a marathon. So I gradually eased off to just a bit faster than 6:00. I ran the rest of the race after 2 miles alone. Mile 7 was a bit slower as it is flat while still at about 5000 feet. Things were going great until mile 10 where all of a sudden my right Croc strap clip came undone.

When I got home, I conducted an investigation and realized what mistake I had made. I had two identical pairs of Crocs. One was good, and had a bit under 900 miles on them. The other was bad and had over 1500 miles on them. I had retired the bad one as the clip on the strap on the right Croc started to get loose and caused a problem during a training run. However, the sole of that Croc was still in good shape, so it looked just like the other one with only under 900 miles. So I mixed them up running in one Croc with under 900 and the other with over 1500 that had a loose clip.

I turned around, ran back to the fallen Croc, reattached the strap, and kept on going. My mile split with all the trouble ended up being 6:20.

Then in the next mile I became aware of the magnitude of the disaster. The problem Croc came off several times. I tried running without it, but quickly realized did not have enough of Abebe Bikila in me. What do I do? If this had been any other race I think I would have just dropped out. But I was running this for the 20th time, and I had made top 10 in the 19 previous races. I had to do something. So I prayed. Then a thought came to me - press on the clip firmly to make sure it properly clicks. Then run shifting your weight towards the front of the right foot while doing the normal swing with the left. This will be slower and look and feel funny, but you will avoid the pulling back on the strap, which is what is causing it to keep coming undone, and this will allow you to finish the race. I did just that, and the strap after than came undone only once near mile 15 - which I was able to fix quickly as I was a pro at this by then.

Even with the modified form I was able to stay in the 6:00-6:10 range until mile 17, followed by 6:14, 6:18. The half split was around 1:19:04. Then came the TOU Heartbreak Hill, which to my surprise I did in 6:40. I was hoping for just sub-7:00. Then it flattened out and even dropped a bit, allowing for a 6:26 mile. Then mile 21, which is mostly downhill in 6:28.

I began to realize what was happening. The fallen Croc modified form hardly caused any slowdown on the uphill, but was costing me probably around 10 seconds per mile on the downhill. What was absolutely wonderful, something I should be very grateful for, was that I had enough strength in the back and in the calves to take the modified form for many miles without developing any sort of injury - only minor calf fatigue. I was gradually getting more and more tired from the miles, but was running quite a bit faster than last year. I was almost a minute ahead of my last year self before the Croc fiasco. Then by the half I was a minute behind instead due to the time lost on fixing the Croc combined with the inability to run fast on the downhill.

However, once I passed the half, and with the help of a flatter course, my current more energetic self, started to overtake my last years adrenal-fatigued body with vengeance, and by mile 20 I was almost full minute ahead!

The pattern of good uphill miles, and not so good downhill continued. The course was slightly different compared to last year, so not all the miles match up exactly, but the uphill/downhill pattern was preserved. It is interesting to observe that over the last 10 K all of my uphill miles were at least 10 seconds faster than last year, but the downhill ones were really a bummer - 13 seconds slower on mile 23, and only 1 second faster in mile 26.

With about half a mile to go, I experienced a sign of adrenal health. I realized that it was very unlikely that either Nate Hornok or Merrilee Blackham would catch me. I was concerned about Nate, as he was worth some circuit points and cash as a master. But it would have been particularly embarrassing to get chicked by a master while winning the masters division. I was worried about it the whole race. So when I realized it was not likely to happen, and also that the whole fallen Croc ordeal would be over soon, I felt some excitement, and I could feel the adrenaline rush, a mild one, but still a rush. I tried to speed up, but quickly ran into a problem. The heart felt weak. Well, something always has to be the limiting factor, and this time - aside from the fallen Croc form - it was the heart. It could pump enough at the pace I was running, but could not pump any harder. Something to work on over the next year.
Leg 1:Distance1.100Time8:45.20Pace7:57.45
Leg 2:Distance26.218Time2:44:20.50Pace6:16.10
Split 1:Distance1.000Time5:39.00Pace5:39.00
Split 2:Distance1.000Time5:39.00Pace5:39.00
Split 3:Distance1.000Time5:48.00Pace5:48.00
Split 4:Distance1.000Time5:56.80Pace5:56.80
Split 5:Distance1.000Time5:59.20Pace5:59.20
Split 6:Distance1.000Time6:00.40Pace6:00.40
Split 7:Distance1.000Time6:07.40Pace6:07.40
Split 8:Distance1.000Time5:57.50Pace5:57.50
Split 9:Distance1.000Time6:00.30Pace6:00.30
Split 10:Distance1.000Time6:20.10Pace6:20.10
Split 11:Distance1.000Time6:54.90Pace6:54.90
Split 12:Distance1.000Time6:03.20Pace6:03.20
Split 13:Distance1.000Time5:59.30Pace5:59.30
Split 14:Distance1.000Time6:04.10Pace6:04.10
Split 15:Distance1.000Time6:12.70Pace6:12.70
Split 16:Distance1.000Time6:07.60Pace6:07.60
Split 17:Distance1.000Time6:14.40Pace6:14.40
Split 18:Distance0.000Time0:00.20Pace0:00.00
Split 19:Distance1.000Time6:18.80Pace6:18.80
Split 20:Distance1.000Time6:40.40Pace6:40.40
Split 21:Distance1.000Time6:26.80Pace6:26.80
Split 22:Distance0.000Time0:00.20Pace0:00.00
Split 23:Distance1.000Time6:28.10Pace6:28.10
Split 24:Distance1.000Time6:48.20Pace6:48.20
Split 25:Distance1.000Time6:52.50Pace6:52.50
Split 26:Distance0.000Time0:00.20Pace0:00.00
Split 27:Distance1.000Time6:39.60Pace6:39.60
Split 28:Distance1.000Time6:45.70Pace6:45.70
Split 29:Distance1.000Time6:50.90Pace6:50.90
Split 30:Distance0.218Time1:25.00Pace6:29.91

Brown Crocs 2 Miles: 27.32
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From Donald Davis on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 at 06:16:18 from

Congrats Sasha. Better than anything, seems like you have gotten some good insights from your performance yesterday based on your training in the past few weeks. Hope things continue to improve!

From Jacob Flaws on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 at 13:07:41 from

Great job!!

From Kenny the Apache on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 at 15:07:27 from

Awesome race Sasha! Even as you get older, you still show great races and performances in the masters division.

From Tom K on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 03:48:18 from

Sasha, Congratulations on this race and your remarkable consistent performance over the years! Very smart training adjustment. How did you realize the adrenal gland problem? Long runs are overrated! This is big news!

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 16:18:20 from

Just added some more to my race report, will add a few more things during the week.

Tom K - you can feel the adrenals being a limiter like this. You are running and overall feeling good. Nothing hurts, the breathing is comfortable, the legs do not hurt. You look at your split, and realize it is slow. You try to speed up. But for the life of you you are not able to! You would see this in aerobically fit older runners more, women over 50 in particular. A young man usually has enough adrenaline to run his fuel, heart, or muscles into the ground first - even if he has a high level of aerobic fitness.

If it is the heart, you are able to speed up for a few seconds, but you start feeling like you are getting more oxygen than you can handle, there might be some usually minor pain in the heart area, and you might feel a bit nauseous. The heart rate may or may not be elevated. Sometimes it is just too weak to pump faster, and it is protecting itself, so a low heart rate at the end of a marathon does not necessarily mean your heart is not limiting you.

If it is the fuel, you are running past a lawn and you wish you could just blend with it becoming another blade of grass, forget about the race, and stay there forever. You feel weak, unmotivated, want to give up, wonder why how you could have been so stupid to even start the race, start telling yourself you do not care about what happens, etc.

If it is the muscle breakdown, it is hard to tell during the race as you have the endorphines, but you will notice that you lack the strength to get up even a minor hill, and also your form feels a lot more awkward on anything steeper than 2% downhill. Muscle breakdown is easy to catch afterwards - you will not be able to walk without a limp.

Very often, three of the four, or sometimes all of them combine together to produce a "super-awesome" marathon experience to motivate us to train better next time.

From Tom K on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 19:27:19 from

I'm sure I have experienced the super awesome marathon experience! Thanks for the explanation.

Reassembling shoes while running 6:10 miles? That's great! You're a high speed croc cobbler! Go man, go!

From allie on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 10:36:53 from

amazing history with this race -- congrats on the top 10 all 20 years. you might have the biggest moose collection in the world. :)

hope the race can continue on strong in new hands.

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