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: 155.37 Year: 492.80
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) 02:39:03, Place overall: 8, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Executive summary: 2:39:03, 8th overall, 1st master, $500, broke my own master's course record from last year. This was a miracle run - with Mary's birth I was not sure I was going to run at all, but on Tuesday Sarah and I talked about it and she said she was recovering well and could handle the household with the help of the kids, so I made the arrangements. I was not expecting much, just hoped to finish at all and maybe a little better than embarassing, but after a little tempo run on Tuesday with Benjamin I knew that at least the first half would give me more than that, and just hoped not to completely blow up in the second. I ended up doing 1:15:35/1:23:28, last 10 K in 41:01, more positive that usual, through the first half I felt good enough that if you had asked me what I was headed for with normal endurance I would have said 2:35, but I knew I would have to pay for my lack of 10 mile tempos at the end of 20 in the second half. At that point I just hoped to do a little better than my last year's time, but ended up doing more that a little better.

Details to follow...

Fast Running Friend Workout - 2014-09-20 05:28:25
Workout Totals: Distance26.870Time2:44:18.00Pace6:06.88
Now the full report for the race. I stayed with Steve Anderson. Set my alarm incorrectly, but fortunately woke up in time to make it to the bus.
Leg 1:Distance0.650Time5:14.80Pace8:04.31
Leg 2:Distance26.220Time2:39:03.20Pace6:03.97
The race. It was my 16th time on this course. 16 out of 16 - I do not know if there were any other runners that have run all of them. 6 years ago they had a special 10 year club ceremony, and I recall maybe only 5-10 people.

At the start saw a few familiar faces, and met a few new friends. One of them was Bryce Carr. I had actually met him before briefly. We ended up running together for a good portion of the race and spoke mostly Russian.

Tylor Thatcher won with 2:21:54, then Jason Holt 2:26:59, Jake Krong 2:28:14, Jon Heslop 2:31:42, Daniel Bishop 2:33:26, Nate Hornok 2:36:41, then Bryce and myself.

Poor Nate - he was in the 5th place for most of the race, but ended up being the ram in the thicket to be sacrificed by Daniel. For consolation he got $50.

I must admit I started having ambitions to perform the sacrifice myself but lacked the strength, plus I would have had to hold off Daniel which would have required a higher level of fitness.
Split 1:Distance1.000Time5:37.30Pace5:37.30
It felt easier than expected. A pack formed with Bryce, Nate Hornok, Jon Heslop, Steve Anderson, and Mike Stutz.
Split 2:Distance1.000Time5:43.20Pace5:43.20
Still in a pack, this mile felt good. I am starting to count my blessing. The pace is faster than I was planned and it does not hurt yet.
Split 3:Distance1.000Time5:37.30Pace5:37.30
This is starting to hurt, but I am not willing to lose contact with the pack. When in doubt, I prefer the optimistic approach hoping that either the pack will slow down, or that I will find a way to relax and find the rhythm.
Split 4:Distance1.000Time5:39.60Pace5:39.60
One more aggressive mile with the pack. Steve Anderson backed off somewhere around here. Bryce and I also decided to back off and run more conservatively.
Split 5:Distance1.000Time5:52.40Pace5:52.40
Working together with Bryce.
Split 6:Distance1.000Time5:50.60Pace5:50.60
With Bryce.
Split 7:Distance1.000Time5:52.70Pace5:52.70
With Bryce - saw a moose.
Split 8:Distance1.000Time5:51.20Pace5:51.20
Working with Bryce to catch up to Mike.
Split 9:Distance1.000Time5:41.90Pace5:41.90
We caught up to Mike. I explained to Bryce what we were going to do next with the help of a joke in Russian. Khruschev, a Soviet leader of the 60s, used to say: "Let's catch up to, and pass America!" A response to that is that it is OK to catch up to, but we'd better not pass because America will see our exposed rear end. The Soviet Union was the first to send a man to the outer space, but this was a show-off, the economy overall had a lot of embarrassing gaps and severely lagged behind. So in the spirit of that, we just tucked behind Mike and followed him for a while.
Split 10:Distance1.000Time5:48.50Pace5:48.50
Sticking with the plan of not passing America for the reasons mentioned in mile 9 note.
Split 11:Distance1.000Time5:58.10Pace5:58.10
A lull in the pace. I think this is where all of us had some kind of an aid station mishap and lost some time.
Split 12:Distance1.000Time5:40.80Pace5:40.80
Back to faster speeds.
Split 13:Distance1.000Time5:46.90Pace5:46.90
Perfect pace.
Split 14:Distance1.000Time5:45.40Pace5:45.40
Magic wind carries us, but we are using it to conserve energy. All in all I think the plan of catching up to and not passing "America" was good - Mike pulled us at a good pace up to here.
Split 15:Distance1.000Time5:49.80Pace5:49.80
The pace is still good.
Split 16:Distance1.000Time5:54.70Pace5:54.70
Around here Bryce decided it was time to follow Khruschev's original plan, pass "America", and take off. I did not quite feel ready for it and stayed with Mike.
Split 17:Distance1.000Time6:04.60Pace6:04.60
With the pace dropping to slower than 6:00 I considered passing Mike but decided against it. I knew that I needed to save the energy - with my endurance not being where it aught to I needed to be careful.
Split 18:Distance1.000Time6:14.80Pace6:14.80
Mike is starting to lose it. I am not feeling super great, but I think better than him.
Split 19:Distance1.000Time6:34.80Pace6:34.80
Uphill mile. I passed Mike and started working my way to catch up to Bryce.
Split 20:Distance1.000Time6:38.60Pace6:38.60
Another uphill mile. This was a cause for concern, but at the same time a reason for optimism. Concern because I could not increase the pace. Optimism because it was still respectable and statistically I have in the past averaged around whatever I do in this mile for the rest of the race. And if I could do it, I knew I would be getting the master's course record. If I did not get passed by another master, that is, which is always a threat.

Somewhere around here Daniel Bishop flew by me as if I were standing still. He ended up running 2:33:26 with the last 10 K in a little over 35:00. This was a very remarkable performance for him, his previous PR was 2:42. I could not even dream of latching on.
Split 21:Distance1.000Time6:18.20Pace6:18.20
The last downhill mile, last chance at a swan song, so to speak. 6:18 was all I had, but at least it was something that was closer to 6:00 than it was to 7:00. Now I just need to survive the next two miles.
Split 22:Distance1.000Time6:47.40Pace6:47.40
I consider miles 22 and 23 the darkest miles of this course. At this point you know you have no more steady downhill, you are tired enough, the finish is still far away, and you are roaming through neighborhoods with no clear goal in sight. Year after year this has always been the place that gave me the highest amount of negative thoughts. So I told myself - just make it through those miles without bleeding too much time, or just make it somehow.
Split 23:Distance1.000Time6:46.30Pace6:46.30
One more dark mile - closing the gap on Bryce.
Split 24:Distance1.000Time6:24.10Pace6:24.10
This mile has always been a mile of relief. Only two miles left, it has a short downhill dip that helps you get going, so you usually end up with a faster split. You begin to believe that you can actually get to the finish in some respectable time. This year was no exception. I passed Bryce around here.
Split 25:Distance1.000Time6:52.00Pace6:52.00
Even though this mile is uphill, it has a lot of crowd support. You do not feel alone anymore. You know the finish is near. Bryce passed me back - this was unexpected. Usually if you pass somebody this late in the race, and he cannot find another gear to go with you, he is done. But Bryce was an exception. I do not think I ever witnessed such a comeback in 60 marathons.
Split 26:Distance1.050Time6:47.00Pace6:27.62
This mile was a little long. I estimate it at 1.05. I think I will e-mail the race directors next year and remind them to make sure mile 26 is in the right place. This could be worth as much as 5 seconds for the overall time in this case. The reason is that the correct location of this mile would make the mile marker visible from about 200 meters, so seeing the mile marker cheers on the runner and gives him a goal to chase. Then seeing a faster split for mile 26 infuses hope for a good finish time, and stimulates the kick.

During this mile I passed Bryce again. It is noteworthy that both times I passed him on a downhill. I wonder if his quads were so trashed he could run downhill anymore.
Split 27:Distance0.170Time1:05.00Pace6:22.35
Kick. Given the time it was obviously shorter than 385 yards. But if you adjust for the long mile 26, this works out perfectly. I tried as hard as I could to make Bryce not want to catch me, but did not succeed. He kicked and passed me right before the finish line finishing half a second ahead.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From jeffmc on Sat, Sep 20, 2014 at 21:43:02 from

Good job Sasha. I think this is a positive sign for you that may indicate that the spina bifida is not slowing you down as quickly as I once thought.

Have you been doing anything different lately (over the last few months) to try and alleviate the issues that the spina bifida causes?

From steve ash on Sat, Sep 20, 2014 at 22:21:27 from

Not a bad time at all Sasha. Good job and congratulations on your new arrival.

From MarkP on Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 14:58:56 from

Super race. Keep lowering those master PRs!

From Superfly on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 13:15:07 from

Nice job Sasha.

From jtshad on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 13:25:12 from

Nice run and congrats on the Master's CR!

From Sasha Pachev on Sat, Sep 27, 2014 at 15:14:18 from

Thanks, guys. Jeff - cannot think of much that I did different except a small change in the diet. A couple of years ago I started eating milk products in the hope that the extra calcium would prevent the trouble vertebra from falling apart. But a few months ago I began to observe that my weight is consistently 3 lb or so higher that it used to be. It was difficult to detect at first because my weight fluctuates a lot. But finally I got to the point where I started hitting the previously unachievable points, so I knew that something was up. I decided to drop the milk products and the weight returned to the normal range, and along with that the running performance.

That said, I do not believe that weight is that critical in the performance. But in my case it became a factor because it was 3 lb of dead weight in the wrong place coming from the inability of the body to metabolize a particular food type with absolutely no giveback. E.g. if it was 3 lb of muscle mass/usable water/glycogen, I would have used it and not noticed a performance drop.

From jeffmc on Sun, Sep 28, 2014 at 22:41:46 from

Hmmm, that is interesting. Just based on my intuition I would think that if your performances are not improving at short distances (5k or shorter) but are improving in the marathon, the weight loss may be the answer.

However, if you can run a 5k faster now than you could a few months ago I would be more inclined to believe that something else caused the improvement. I would be curious to see how you do in a short race/time trial here in the near future.

One idea that I had was that chasing Benjamin may actually be helping you to improve some as you are spending more time at faster/uncomfortable speeds than you did previously. Even at your age, sarcopenia is a potential issue if the intensity of training does not provide a sufficient stimulus to activate type ii muscle fibers frequently enough.

Exercise that is primarily low intensity will generally only activate type ii fibers if you spend so much time on your feet that the type i fibers are all burnt out during the run. I would be hesitant to believe that you burn out the type i fibers regularly (excepting during long runs) as your runs with the kids lead to a slower pace, and occasional stops, both of which would prevent that from happening.

So basically what I am saying is, maybe Benjamin forcing you to work harder is causing increased type ii muscle fiber activation, and you are improving because your type iia (aerobic type ii) fibers are becoming stronger? Just from reading your blog it seems like you have been able to keep up with him better on your shorter tempo runs lately.

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