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: 51.55 Year: 2011.51
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: 881.43
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:33:47, Place overall: 3
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Quick report. Top of Utah Marathon 2:33:47, 3rd place behind Ezekiel Ruto (2:22:57), and Nick McCombs (2:28:42), who incidentally ran the exact same time I did last year, except last year we had good tail wind, but this year we did not. $250, back in the top 3 and real money (as opposed to $50 age division consolation cash). Nothing special I did this time except come to the race fit to run reasonably fast. Last year I put on a better performance, but it was not good enough. So in a way I cashed out on it this year.

The run put me in the 10 year TOU club which consists of only 16 people. In those 10 years I won twice, took one second place, four thirds, one fourth, and two fifths. My average time has been 2:34:02 with 2:27:46 being the fastest, and 2:39:12 the slowest. My average place has been third, exactly 3.0. So I suppose today was as close to average as I could get. An interesting way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of running the race.

Drove up alone in my Fast Running Van (Dogde Ram CNG). It was cheaper to drive than Zhu (Ford Escort Wagon). The whole trip from Provo to Logan and back cost me around $14. Stayed at Hotel de Petersen, my usual lodging place in Logan, thanks Paul and Stacey.

Ran a short warm-up to the bus, and some more to shake up the bowels at the start, total of about 1.5. For stretching climbed the fence several times. This was going to be a multiple star race, according to Paul's recent definition.

The temperature was great, maybe only too humid. The wind in the canyon was a mild head/cross. So I knew from experience we were headed for non-spectacular times, maybe 2:31 for me if I was on top of the game, 2:32-2:33 otherwise.

Ezekiel Ruto took off and was gone. His first mile must have been around 5:00. I figured he was going after the sub-2:20 bonus and the course record. He would have needed a break though to pull it off today. So I figured maybe it is good that he is gone so fast, maybe he'd come back. But the hopes were slim. At least slimmer for me than for Nick. I had to worry about not coming back myself to a possible dark horse to keep my money.

First mile was 5:31, then 5:40, then 5:30, 5:34, and 5:36 - 27:51 at 5 miles. The effort was the same. I was running with Nick, Eric Held, and our blogger Steve Cuttitta. Steve dropped back after about the first mile. Eric stayed with us until around mile 7. We chatted some. Nick and I showed Eric the backs of our shirt for the FRB commercial. Let's hope the effort was not wasted.

Mile 6 was 5:39, 34:42 at 10 K. The pace feels just right, although the splits are quite slow. That's OK, who cares.

The subsequent mile markers, at least some of them were in the wrong place. The pace was very steady, but the splits were very odd. Nevertheless we hit mile 10 in 55:36, 13 in 1:12:58, and made it to the half in 1:13:34. Next two miles were good - 5:29, and 5:35, 1:24:04 at 15. However, I started losing steam and lost contact with Nick at the aid stations at 15. This did not bother me too much since I was doing my best. I decided there is no such thing as a slow or a bad split in a race if that was your true honest best that day. Maybe slower than you expected, but you need to learn to be sufficiently humble to take what your body gives you and not get depressed.

Next two miles were all right - 5:51 and 5:50. Nick gapped me by 22 seconds. Then mile 18 in 5:54, and now Nick is 40 seconds ahead. How did he do that?

Now the hills. Next mile in 6:13. Not great but acceptable. Followed by 6:19. Now that was very non-spectacular, but that's what the body gave me.

1:54:10 at 20. Nick was around 1:52:50. Not surprising, as slow as I was running he should be gapping me fast.

Hoped to run 5:55 on the next downhill (1%) mile. 6:06 instead. 2:00:16 at 21. OK, here comes Kot Bayun, a cat from Russian fairy tales that disables its would-be attackers by putting them to sleep with magic. I'll be fighting him for the next 5 miles. Next 5 miles are rolling, no net elevation drop, lots of turns. Bad place to have Kot Bayun around.

Let's see if I can get Bayun off my back with a surge. Try running hard for one minute. No, does not work. He has a death grip on me. I am feeling OK, but the legs just do not want to move. I try to move them quicker only to be lulled by the soothing songs of my enemy Bayun. It feels like a dream when you try to run away from danger, you are not tired, but for the life of you you cannot move your legs.

Saw Paul, Cody, and Jon on their way to pickup and escort Andy. Next two miles in 6:30 each. 2:13:16 at 23. This is embarrassing. At least not as bad as in 2005 when I was slower than 7:00 on the downhill mile. Got a short outburst of rain. I liked it for 10 seconds, then I did not like it any more. However it seemed to shake Bayun up a little bit. Maybe in St. George I should ask somebody to stand at the top of the Winchester hill with a twig, or better, some freshly picked nettles, and whip me.

Did not feel power loss on the uphill at the end of mile 25. That is a good sign. Missed my splits at 24 and 25, 26 miles in 2:32:30, 6:24.7 average. OK, now press hard, break 2:34, beat the 40:00 guy for the last 10 K, in general minimize the bummer. As I was coming in through the chute they announced, and I remembered that I had this race 10 times by now, and I also remembered that my worst performance both in terms of time and place had been 2:39:12 for 5th (2005). That put things in perspective, and cheered me up a bit.

1:17 for the kick, 5:52 pace, not bad for the uphill with Bayun on the back.

Life after death:

Walked around a bit, chatted with Nick, drank some Gatorade, ate a banana, then started walking towards Paul's house. Realized it would be a long walk, so I started jogging. Cheered Steve Cuttitta, Albert Wint, and Eric Held as they were finishing. Great race for Albert - 2:42:25, a new PR. Albert has a challenge. He is missing a flap in his aortic valve. Shows that a respectable marathon is possible even with a bad heart. Eric PR'ed as well, and was the first finisher from Logan, hopefully a treadmill for him if NordicTrack did not back out.

Then cheered Ben VanBeekum and Bill Cobler. Jason Shoenfield was right behind Bill, so I used that to scare Bill into a good kick. Jogging started to feel better, the back was a bit stiff at first, but then I warmed it up. Saw Andy being escorted by the crew, considered joining them, but felt too lazy, too wet, and too anxious to get changed.

My watch was still going. Got to Paul's house about 2:56 into the race, and a devious plan entered my mind. I wanted to qualify for Boston! I will be clocked by the time I get out of the shower. I've qualified before (Rocket City 2003) by the time I was driving, but I did not shower then. And I did not have to run very far to get changed - my clothes were at the finish, and I changed in the bathroom of a nearby hotel. And I did not shower. My time then was 3:02 (2:37:25 in the actual race), did not get the seconds. The reason for the hurry was that I needed to get to the airport. So this one would be a lot more challenging, I like long showers, especially after a marathon.

So I hurried as fast as I could, and made it out of the shower by 3:05:37. I even beat my first marathon time (3:05:51). Another challenge. Can I BQ by the time I am driving? Hurried again, gathered my stuff as quick as I could, and ran out to the van. 3:09:33.

I was up for another challenge. I remembered than now that I am 35 they give me extra 5 minutes to qualify. Well, if they give that, I am not going to waste it. Decided to try to BQ by the time I pull up to the pump at LW's gas station. A small traffic jam and a couple of red lights made it a real challenge, but I made it by 3:15:53.

T4 Racer - 619.05 miles

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:45, 2 with Benjamin in 17:44, Jenny ran the last 1.5 in 13:16.

Night Sleep Time: 6.75Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.75
From leslie on Sat, Sep 20, 2008 at 20:13:21

Congratulations on great race!!

From Jon on Sat, Sep 20, 2008 at 22:37:08

Congrats on the race! Interesting statistics of your history with the race and on joining the 10 year club- it says a lot about your consistency that you have always been top 5.

By the way, you wrote TOU 1/2 in the title.

From JulieC on Sat, Sep 20, 2008 at 22:52:16

What is a good way to get a PR at TOU? My friends are disappointed to not qualify for Boston with this race. I ran it in 1999 and barely qualified. It seems that just about everyone (except speedies like yourself) lose pace at 20 miles. I know it is flat there but how do you overcome this problem? Also is the elevation more significant than here or St. George? I am glad to be running St. George but it would be nice to be strong enough to pull off a good run at TOU some year.

From RivertonPaul on Sat, Sep 20, 2008 at 23:06:24

Congrats on a nice race. I promoted the blog with a number of people, hope they sign up.

From wheakory on Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 02:03:45

Great race Sasha, and earning the money. You'll be ready for SGM. Probably with a decent tailwind you could have gotten a 2:30.

From Teena on Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 22:09:00

As always ... FANTASTIC RACE!!

From jtshad on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 07:08:34

Congrats on a strong race once again.

From Lucia on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 09:16:05

Excellent race Sasha, congratulations! Those $250 will go a long way in improving the website ;)

From Cuttitta on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 12:35:03

I was the dark horse.

Too bad I was 8 minutes back. Nice race Sasha, sometime we will meet up and run.


From luzylew on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 14:02:03

Happy TOU 10th anniversary! What a great milestone to be able to count back so many years of consistant success. You're Amazing Sasha!

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 17:40:13

Everybody - thanks for the cheers.

Julie - you can PR in TOU in two cases - a) you are in better shape, and b) your last PR was set on a slower course. If your PR was set in St. George, you have only one option - a), and it needs to be a very strong a) especially on the day with no tailwind like this year. If it was set in Ogden, b) is an option when there is a strong tailwind the entire way out of the canyon. If it was set in London, Berlin, or Chicago on an ideal day, your only option is a) regardless of the tailwind. If it was set in Boston, Richmond, or St. Jude, and there is no tailwind, your option is still a).

Bottom line - when you are not fit, no strategy will lead you to a PR. When you are fit, your body will find the strategy.

It is not just the mid-pack runners that lose it in the last 8 miles. Of the top 5 men, only Nick McCombs and Albert Wint ran a 2 minute or less positive split. Here is the data: Ezekiel Ruto 1:08:43/1:14:14 (+5:31), Nick McCombs 1:13:34/1:15:08(+1:34), me 1:13:34/1:20:13 (+6:31), Steve Cuttitta 1:16:59/1:24:50 (+7:49), Albert Wint 1:19:52/1:22:32 (+2:30).

Historically, very few people who finished in the top 5 have been able to run a less than 2 minute positive split, and I would say on average you would see 5-7 minute positive split in that group.

From JulieC on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 22:58:00

Thanks Sasha. After reading it a few times I caught on to what you were saying with all the a's and b's. I will opt for being more fit. Great run for you. Keep it up!!!

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