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: 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 Marathon (26.219 Miles) 02:46:16, Place overall: 9, Place in age division: 2
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Fast Running Friend Workout - 2017-09-16 05:07:17
Workout Totals: Distance27.168Time2:53:38.60Pace6:23.49
Top of Utah Marathon, 2:46:16, 9th overall, 2nd master, $250.

This was a strange marathon. Coming in I knew something was off from my workouts over the last two weeks and the Layton Classic 10 K. But I hoped that some rest during the taper would take care of it. It did not.

I started out with Nan and Matt Wolpert. The pace felt harder that what it should have, but I could keep it. I decided to hang in there for as long as I could figuring I really did not have much to lose. I ran in front for the first 3 miles, then Nan took over and I never felt like I had the strength to step forward and help with the pace. It would have helped as we had some headwind gusts, but Nan was strong and handled them just fine.

I made it to the half in 1:18:04 and then all of a sudden just did not have any drive to go. I backed off thinking I'll maybe run 6:10-6:15 for 5 miles before I go into the end of the marathon survival. That ended up being wishful thinking. I ran 1 mile in 6:21, and then 6:25-6:30 pace, and then survival.

The entire time somehow I felt the illusion of running well. Without a watch I would have told you that I was running 6:10-6:15. Positive thinking is good, but you need to back it up with physical strength which was lacking today.

Nan and Matt ran very well. Nan got the course record in 2:38:52. Matt won the masters with the master's course record in 2:38:41.

Nate Krah won with 2:27:01.

The official times were messed up by 27 seconds (which should be added to get the correct time). I reported the problem and the timer acknowledged it, but last time I checked they were posted incorrectly.

In the 5K Joseph ran 19:18 (2nd overall), Jacob 19:28 (3rd), William 22:08, Julia 22:51 (1st woman). Not sure why they were so slow - maybe the combination of getting up at 4:30 am, cold morning, and the lack of a good warm-up.

Even though my result today was disappointing, it was a good data point. The problem was clearly not fuel, but rather adrenal fatigue. I know what it is like when it is fuel - you can recover your pace partially by drinking something with sugar. It also does not happen at 13 miles. And in an odd way it was good to feel it for a long time and clearly separated from the fuel struggle to know what it feels like in and of itself.

I re-read my race reports from the past and recalled how it felt to run in the good races as well as in the bad ones. I am now inclined to think that the difference between my better years and my worse years was mainly in the adrenal performance. Which is both encouraging and frustrating. Encouraging because if I did discover a reliable way to train the adrenal performance I could run very well - even now that I am 44. Frustrating because adrenal performance is not easily trainable. There is a predictable way to ruin it - sleep less, eat poorly, have a stressful life, train more. But going the other way - sleep more, eat well, avoid stress, train moderately - does not predictably develop it. It is necessary, but not sufficient. Nevertheless, I believe adrenal performance is still governed by some law that we can learn if we try hard enough. Over the course of the next few years I will do what I can to learn it.
Leg 1:Distance0.950Time7:22.30Pace7:45.58
Leg 2:Distance26.218Time2:46:16.30Pace6:20.51
Split 1:Distance1.000Time6:02.90Pace6:02.90
Split 2:Distance1.000Time5:52.30Pace5:52.30
Split 3:Distance1.000Time5:59.10Pace5:59.10
Split 4:Distance1.000Time5:58.80Pace5:58.80
Split 5:Distance1.000Time6:03.50Pace6:03.50
Split 6:Distance1.000Time6:01.70Pace6:01.70
Split 7:Distance1.000Time6:02.80Pace6:02.80
Split 8:Distance1.000Time5:52.80Pace5:52.80
Split 9:Distance1.000Time5:54.50Pace5:54.50
Split 10:Distance1.000Time5:54.40Pace5:54.40
Split 11:Distance1.000Time5:59.10Pace5:59.10
Split 12:Distance1.000Time5:47.90Pace5:47.90
Split 13:Distance1.000Time5:54.80Pace5:54.80
Split 14:Distance1.000Time6:21.20Pace6:21.20
Split 15:Distance1.000Time6:25.50Pace6:25.50
Split 16:Distance1.000Time6:24.30Pace6:24.30
Split 17:Distance1.000Time6:29.70Pace6:29.70
Split 18:Distance1.000Time6:30.40Pace6:30.40
Split 19:Distance1.000Time6:43.70Pace6:43.70
Split 20:Distance1.000Time7:09.10Pace7:09.10
Split 21:Distance1.000Time6:37.90Pace6:37.90
Split 22:Distance1.000Time7:07.40Pace7:07.40
Split 23:Distance1.000Time7:01.60Pace7:01.60
Split 24:Distance1.000Time6:25.50Pace6:25.50
Split 25:Distance1.000Time7:14.90Pace7:14.90
Split 26:Distance1.000Time6:51.90Pace6:51.90
Split 27:Distance0.218Time1:28.60Pace6:46.42

Red Crocs Miles: 27.17
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From seeaprilrun on Sat, Sep 23, 2017 at 13:29:33 from

Do you think, that as a master's runner, there may now be a benefit to changing your training and doing something completely different, which might open up a new door in how your body responds--now that you are older and respond differently. I keep reading about the benefits of super polarized training and the surprising benefits to endurance runners of high intensity interval training, which is counter-intuitive for a marathoner, but maybe it would help kick start a sluggish adrenal system?

From Sasha Pachev on Sat, Sep 23, 2017 at 14:26:41 from


What I observed this year is that I have been responding best to what I thought was less than ideal. I had a hard time scheduling long workouts for myself due to the need to run with younger kids, so I started doing milder but more frequent workouts. This gave me a course PR of 1:15:04 at UVM half and a good performance in the Murray Fun Days 5 K (taking in view the slow nature of that course). Then it seems once I figured out how to find time for long workouts things started slowly going downhill culminating in the 1:28 second half at TOU after what should have been a moderate start which did not feel moderate at all.

So my conclusion so far is that the rules of training the hormones are very much different from the rules of training the heart and the muscles. In my entire running career I have focused on training the heart and the muscles. Over the course of 33 years given this long of a time I have on occasion accidentally stumbled upon success in training the hormones, and that was when I had my "super-performances".

The hormones are much more difficult to understand. Consider this, for example. On Tuesday I was feeling not that great but not terrible as far as I could tell in the morning and raced 1 K in cross-country in the evening - feeling I would say positively average. The time unfortunately did not say much due to the nature of the course. This was on the heels of the marathon on Saturday. On Wednesday morning I was feeling strong and decided to do a test that I know for me correlates very well with success across the board - a quarter mile pickup at the end of 8 miles uphill near the house. I ran it in 75. Last Monday it was 83 at the end of 10. On Thursday I ran easy feeling about as positive as on Wednesday. Then on Friday (yesterday) I paced Joseph on the mile on the track towards the start of my run. I felt on the negative side of things and could barely manage 5:30. Out of curiosity I repeated the quarter mile test at the end of the run and 83 was all I had. What the heck?

There was a factor - it got a bit colder, there was a drizzle, and humidity was 96% but this does not explain the slump. Except if you maybe consider the dark sky affecting emotions, or some weird air pressure sensitivity. Interesting enough, all of the kids and Sarah struggled on their runs that day as well for some odd reason.

Then today I ran a total of 16. First Chad and I paced Sarah down the canyon for 3 miles in 23:40, and then I paced Chad for the first 2 miles of a 3 mile tempo starting and finishing at the same spot, and then ran hard. From the start it felt good. I got 17:36 total time, and felt very strong in the last mile 3/4th of which was uphill into a headwind.

Then I repeated the quarter test at the end of 16 on the same stretch and got 76. What the heck?

I am still scratching my head trying to understand the fluctuations. They do not seem to be related to anything that a runner would think as significant. Sleep was mostly the same. Diet was mostly the same. Prior day training loads varied a bit, but it seems that the performance was better with the higher prior day training load. I am beginning to wonder if they are rooted in deep underlying emotions that I am barely aware of.

So my experiment over the next three weeks or so is to construct workouts that I am looking forward to - challenging enough that I would feel that I accomplished something but with targets set on purpose to the levels that are quite well within my limits. And something that can be done 4 times a week or maybe even more. So something like a 2 mile tempo down the canyon at 5:40 pace maybe with the last quarter fast. At this point I suspect that what the workout itself does physically is not as important as what it does emotionally. Then we can see if that does anything.

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