Breaking the Wall

Orem International Thanksgiving 4 miler

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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: Orem International Thanksgiving 4 miler (4 Miles) 00:21:50, Place overall: 10, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Orem International Thanksgiving 4 miler, 21:50, 10th overall, 1st in the age division, got the turkey. "International" in the name of the race is rather an exaggeration. However, it is technically correct - sometimes people from foreign countries run in this race. This is a big family race. They have kids races for every age, and give awards to the youngest participant, the oldest participant, the biggest immediate family, and the biggest extended family. Last year Joseph won the youngest participant awards - he walked 100 meters in 4:10 pushing a toy walker. That was the only way he could cover the distances, being only 10 months old. Two years ago, they had some extra turkeys. I proposed the award to the most pregnant participant. Sarah won it, being 8 months pregnant and having finished the race in 57:00. Her closest competitor was 6 months pregnant. This particular race has been becoming more and more of a challenge over the years as the number of my children increased. It does take quite a bit of nervous energy for me to help N children get ready to run, and then run with every one of them and cheer them on. Although I have been setting PRs in 5 Ks and 10Ks in other races, my times have been getting progressively worse in this one. I have been getting frustrated, but this year decided to take it in stride. I'll make sure the kids have good races, and then see what's left for my own. Did a bit of a warmup, then it was time for Joseph's race. He walked 100 meters in 1:05 taking 5th place in the boys 0-2 division. Joseph turns 2 in January. Then Julia (4) ran 400 meters winning 3-4 girls division in 2:02, and beating all the boys as well. She and I had this conversation several times in the last two months: "Julia, what are you going to do on Thanksgiving?" "Run fast and get the turkey!". "what happens if you do not train?" "Another girl gets the turkey!". "What happens if you get tired and slow down?" "Another girl gets the turkey!" "What happens if you start crying?" "Another girl gets the turkey!" I was pleased to see how the physical and mental preparation bore fruit. Benjamin and Jenny's 800 m race followed. Since they were in the same race, I had to choose who to pace. It was a tough call. I figured Benjamin would need some extra help as he was racing in the 7-8 division, and he is 7, which means he'd be racing older kids. I instructed Benjamin earlier to start out fast to get out the crowd. He overdid it a bit - 19 seconds in the first 100. It took me a while to maneuver out of the crowd of little kids and catch up to him. I told him to ease off a bit. 44 at 200. Then the lactic bear jumped on him. 53 for the next 200 (1:38 at the turnaround), followed by 56. However, slowing down to 56 allowed him to recover. With 200 to he was ready to kick. 23 on the next 100, followed by 21 on the last. He gave it all he had and outkicked two 8 year old boys, which quite remarkable. It is not unusual for a smaller kid with more endurance to beat a bigger one. But it is nearly impossible for a smaller one to outkick the bigger unless the bigger gives up. Both kids fought it as hard as they could. Benjamin's push on the last 200 got him 4th place in his division and a PR of 3:18. In the meantime, Jenny won her division with 3:51. Then I paced Abby, our friends' daughter in the mile. She ran 7:57, a PR by 38 seconds. Finally done with kids races, now my own. Given the recent sickness, and the known difficulty of racing after kids races, I had two goals - break 22 minutes, and win a turkey by either making top 5 or winning the age division. At the start, it looked like it could take breaking 20:00 just to make top 5 - there was a huge crown of college runners from all over the state that came to visit family for Thanksgiving plus Josh McAdams. However, winning the age division with 22:00 was quite realistic - being 33 I am in a rather non-competitive age division. Most college runners by that age have lost their edge. I decided to approach the race with a caution attitude, and be thankful for every quarter at 5:30 pace or faster. The college crowd led by Josh McAdams. I ended up a bit behind from the start, and then started working my way through the pack until I found a couple of guys to run with. We hit the first mile in 5:18. HR climbed to 161. Afterwards, I was able to follow Hawk's quarter marks on the road. The pace dropped significantly. There was a headwind, but it dropped way too much, so much that I started feeling very comfortable. Next quarter in 1:25. Picked up a bit to 1:22. Then 1:27. This was enough for me. I broke away from the pack and hit the next one in 1:21, 5:35 for the mile, 10:53 at 2 miles. HR hit 169. Tried to hold 5:30 pace. Next mile in 5:32. HR down to 166. Caught two bandits at 3 miles, this race always has a lot of them. Hawk does not mind as long as they do not cross the finish line. One of them was going only 3 miles. The other was going all the way. I tried to encourage him to go faster by tucking in behind really close, but that did not work - he did not have much aerobic energy left. So I had to break the wind for him, or get a slower time. Since he was a bandit, the faster time at this point was more important than beating him. Tried to push it, hard to shift gears into a headwind. The next three quarters 1:24, 1:23, 1:23. Turned on the last quarter, now tailwind. Was able to kick, ran the last quarter in 1:14, 5:24 for the last mile. The bandit, being apparently a college runner, had lots of anaerobic juice left and pulled away from me on the last 200 as if I were standing. My last 200 was 36 seconds. HR maxed out at 172. My finish time was 21:49 on my watch, 21:50 officially. Josh McAdams won in 19:19. Full race results are available here. Ran back to meet Sarah. Met her at around 3.2. She finished in 36:52, 91st out of about 270 women. Not bad at all for having had a baby 4 months ago. Cooled down with Ted. At the awards ceremony Joseph got a turkey in a raffle. So we ended up with 4 turkeys. The performance in the race indicates I have gotten healthier since Monday. It is interesting that HR locks in at 166, and I feel like I cannot go faster after a surge that brought it up to 169. It might have something to do with the lack of anaerobic training recently. But I think it is more than that. It provides a clue to my dilemma of why I can do 5:00 - 5:10 - 5:20, but not 5:20-5:10-5:00 in a 5 K. HR stays fairly low on the first mile even if I am running 5:00 - it would take in about 0.5 to hit 160, then it probably hits 165 at 0.75, and then reaches 170 at the mile. The race showed that I can get up to 170 and hold it for a minute or two, but then it is too much, I drop back to 166. So if I want to run the first mile in 5:00 I need to hold 170 for maybe a minute, while if I want to run the last one in 5:00 off regular race pace, I need to hold 170 for the entire mile. If I am right, it logically follows that to improve my 5 K I need to create a workout that would hold my HR at 170 for the maximum possible amount of time. I think I'll give it a try sometime in March.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From Chad on Fri, Nov 24, 2006 at 16:11:58

Wow, four turkeys! Not bad for a morning's work. This sounds like a very competitive race, great job.

From Paul Petersen on Sat, Nov 25, 2006 at 15:57:02

Sasha, try this workout: 1600m at 5k pace, jog 400m, 3200m tempo at 10k-15k pace, jog 400m, 1200m at 5k pace, 3200m tempo at 10k-15k pace, jog 400m, 800m at 3k pace. It will keep your HR near its max for the duration of the workout, I guarantee. The workout is called "The Michigan", because it was a common workout at the University of Michigan while my coach was running there. The workout is a beast and helps develop sustainable 5k/10k/XC strength.

From G on Thu, Feb 01, 2007 at 19:00:22


Your link to the thanksgiving results is not working. The correct site is

Happy Trails.

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