Breaking the Wall

January 15, 2021

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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: 107.61 Year: 107.61
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: 1276.97
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Ran with Ted in the morning. Some variation today - did a 2.5 mile tempo on the way back in 14:40, then came back to Ted. Total 10.24 in 1:09:17. Enough snow and ice on the road to make it annoying, but not enough to make it really slow.

Ran with the kids in the evening. Lots of snow by then.

Went to see Dr. Jex. My lower back curve in the neutral position standing up was 27 degrees. This almost withing the normal range, which is 35-45 degrees. However, no noticable improvements in running. Two possibilities - either the postural improvements do not carry (at least right away) from static position to dynamic (running), or the shape of the lower back is not a significant factor in the running economy. I sure hope it is the former, otherwise I'm back to square one on the whole running ecomony improvement project.

It does make sense to me that having a proper curve in the lower back should give you some extra spring on take-off. Then you can run like a kangooroo, effortlessly bouncing like a ball.

Next step is to figure out some exercises to develop a proper dynamic curve in the spine as opposed to static. That is something the Pettibon method does not have, or at least I have not seen it in the instructions and excerises.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From Maria on Sat, Dec 23, 2006 at 12:53:31

Running economy is one of the more elusive aspects of improving performances. I think it has more to do with chemical processes in muscles than any one part of the body. Some runners use less oxygen to maintain certain speed than others. Most important predictor of running economy seems to be the proportion of slow twitch fibers, because they are more efficient in using oxygen. This is more significant than biomechanics. Have you had your proportion of slow twitch and fast twitch fibers measured? I would think you have predominantly slow twich fibers, given that your best event is the marathon. Anyway, you can't do anything about that, short of muscle transplant :), which would probably be considered doping. Another predictor, which certainly can be influenced by training is the cumulative number of years running, but I think you must have hit the limit in that. I can't imagine 22 years of consistent running not maxing out on this. This leaves one last predictor - a combination of biomechanical characteristics. It's pretty vague, and the problem is that it is a combination of how you're put together, not any one individual part. Pfitzinger mentions length of femur relative to tibia, but again, you can't improve things like that.

All of this means that it is very hard for an elite athlete like you to increase running economy (not that you shouldn't try). I think that at your level, you need to consult with serious experts in physiology and running economy researchers, undergo some testing and see if there are some recommendations in exercises or certain workouts specifically for you that may help. What worked for others may not work for you. Good luck!

From Brent on Sat, Dec 23, 2006 at 14:24:13

Sasha, Merry Christmas. Thanks for the blog and all your supporting comments. See you at the races.

Brent and Sylvia

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Dec 25, 2006 at 09:21:20


Thanks - Merry Christas to you and everyone else.

Maria - I have some evidence that makes me think the poor biomechanics is my limiting factor. I can jump 27.50 in a ten-fold jump, which according to the charts should give me 11.8 in a 100 meter sprint. My best 100 meters is 13.9. My interpretation is that the strength and the explosive power is there, but for some reason I cannot use it while running.

Also, I have a VO2 Max of 75, and can race a half marathon at 92% of my max HR. With this level of aerobic capability, I should be able to run a 5 K in 14:10. My best 5 K time on an honest (not extremely downhill) course is 15:37.

I've never had a biopsy done. It would be interesting. However, I do not anticipate finding an unusual proportion of slow-switch fibers. I do get tired on middle distances and experience the fatigue of a typical middle-distance runner. In fact, I belive was it not for the biomechanical flaws, I might have become a miler. I ran 1000 m in 3:03.8 a month before turning 13.

I believe there are two reasons I succeed in the marathon - one, persistence - relatively few have enough, which lowers the standard, and two, you can get away with more biomechanical waste at slower speeds.

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