Breaking the Wall

Provo River Half 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: 146.13 Year: 2768.94
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: 22.05
Race: Provo River Half Marathon (13.1 Miles) 01:12:14, Place overall: 3
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Quick report, details to follow when I have more time. Provo River Half 1:12:14, 3rd place. Jeff won with 1:08:55, Dave Holt was second with 1:09:56. Barely held off Adam Wende (4th), and Chad (5th). Walter was 6th, so that's at least 1-6 FRB parade.

Struggled with neural fatigue pretty much from the gun, but as it usually goes with this problem, things kept getting worse as the race progressed until they just could not get any worse. I was able to run with Dave for the first 2.5 miles, then ran alone the rest of the way until Adam came up to within 10 seconds of me around 10.8. Then my first thought was I don't care if he passes me, then I told myself to do my best, figured that if I could just bluff 5:30 pace for half a mile, that will play a trick on both the neural fatigue and Adam, and then I'll be safe. The operation was successful.

More details. No trouble felt in the warm up, actually maybe a bit feisty. Noticed that the mind was not quite there on the bus - had a hard time connecting words into sentences. From the gun the pace felt a bit fast, but sustainable. First mile was 4:57, then 10:00 at 2 miles (by the official mile marker). Dave and I tried to hang with Jeff, but backed off after about 0.5 or so. Noticed that I was not breathing very hard, but felt unmotivated to breathe harder. Nevertheless decided to stick with Dave. Made it to about 2.5, then I was supposed to take a quarter, but could not pass Dave to do the job. Then I just could not hold the pace, not even for another quarter if they had told me the race ended right there. So I backed off.

Dave and Jeff gradually kept disappearing into the distance. The uphill on the highway actually did not feel too bad. Hit the official mile 5 in 26:11, then 32:02 at 6 miles. Started experiencing an urgent need for a VPB, but there were no good bushes on the highway. Then shortly before mile 7 I grabbed some leaves off a tree on the run, and shortly after jumped into a conveniently located bush. Because there were so many people on the trail, I could not do my patented technique, so I lost about 10-12 seconds instead of the usual 5. The quarter was 1:35, and the ones that followed were in the 1:22-1:25 range.

Hit the official marker 10 in 54:21. Saw Iain Hunter running in the opposite direction. Was stuck at around 5:35-5:40 pace. Was not breathing very hard, but could not go any faster. We made a turn at 5200 N and I noticed that Adam was about 10 seconds behind with Chad about the same distance behind him. My first thought was that I do not care. The race already went down the toilet. I just want to get to the finish and ensure a deeper blogger sweep, and I do not care about which order we come in. Then I told myself that this was a bad attitude, and I needed to fight it out to the finish no matter how poorly the race was going. Then a thought I occurred to me. Although I was neurally fatigued, if I gave it all for 0.5 mile I could run 5:30 pace. Adam and Chad would not have the cardio and the glycogen storage to run 5:30 pace on the flat at this point. So that would give me another 10 seconds on them at least. Then I could jog at 6:00 pace for a bit, recover, and maybe even kick at 5:30 pace, and that should be enough to hold them off. So I just focused on that 0.5, and it worked.

My GPS showed 13.20 for the distance. That may be right, may be not. Who cares anyway? It is a new downhill course. We have to figure out what its worth empirically in any case. My conservative guess is a minute slower than Bryce Canyon, and three minutes faster than Striders Half with the headwind this year. Probably about the same, no more than 30 seconds faster if at all compared to the 2006 and 2007 versions.

No cool down after the race, had to hurry to make it to a temple wedding of our friend.

For those who do not know what neural fatigue is all about. It is when your body can go faster, except the brain or the nervous system is malfunctioning and in spite of your most noble efforts does not produce or deliver the signals that are strong enough to get the muscles to perform at their potential. The symptoms are that your breathing becomes more comfortable, your heart rate drops, but the legs are in slow motion, they start feeling unbearably heavy when you try to push the pace, and your normal race pace very quickly becomes so impossible that you cannot do it for another quarter mile even if you did not have to go any further. This is one of the days when you can run a 5 K at a slower pace than you normally race a half marathon. Yet you can still finish the race at a slower speed wondering the entire time why you cannot go faster when nothing hurts. This is a very frustrating experience and it is very easy to get depressed and mentally quit. The sad part is that if you just kick back and coast to the finish you run only 5 seconds per mile slower than when you are giving everything you've got, when normally this much difference in effort would give you 20 seconds per mile.

To prevent it you need to sleep well, eat proper amounts of carbs, avoid stress, and not speed on your base runs. Sometimes it happens anyway even if you do everything right. Many people never have to worry about it because their cardio/glycogen storage will hit a limit first before they reach the limits of their neural drive even on a bad day.

On the positive side, the neural fatigue this year was much milder than two years ago when I ran 1:14:00 on the same quality of the course. I believe it was also less severe than during Minuteman 5 K. At least I was running 5:50 up a slight grade at the end of a half marathon instead of at the end of a 5 K, and I could do several sub-5:40 miles down 1% grade after running 7 instead of only one after running one. And I could will myself into running 5:30 pace down a slight grade for half a mile, something I do not think I would have pulled off in the same place at the end of Minuteman. So things are getting better.

As to the cause of the neural fatigue, there are two suspects. A popular opinion suspect is DesNews, but I question it. Last year there was no neural fatigue (I surprised myself with 1:09:40) even though every muscle of my body hurt for three days after DesNews. This year in DesNews it was just the cramped calf. The rest of the muscles had not experienced noticeable damage because I ran too slow. However, it is a possibility that the pain in the calf lasting for 2.5 hours caused some brain damage.

Another theory is itching skin. My skin has been itching pretty bad over the last couple of weeks, and it has interfered with the quality of my sleep. Two years ago when the neural fatigue was worse, the skin itched pretty bad as well and my sleep suffered. It affects not only sleep. It puts me on alert during the day, so towards the end I have been somewhat irritable. Our kids have been doing a lot of push-ups, squats, and household jobs for various rule violations. All well deserved, they have been taught and warned multiple times, but I normally do not notice that much.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:48, then 2 with Benjamin in 16:20 with Jenny running the first 1.5 in 12:33. It started raining and we got soaked.

T4 Racer - 385.13 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 6.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.00
From Burt on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 15:11:34

Great job!

From Kim on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 16:18:28

Congratulations on a successful operation! Also on the 3rd place finish and the FRB parade!

From Kelli on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 16:59:22

Awesome, as always! And, that is great that the first 6 runners were from FRB!! Too cool for this site!

Thanks for going over the course a few times yesterday so the rest of us would not get lost!! I was worried, really! I can not think of anything worse than getting lost at the end of a race...

From Tom on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 17:25:30

Sasha nice job holding off Adam and finding the will to overcome the neural fatigue at least to some degree. I learn a lot from your race reports, but perhaps I learn most from those that don't go so well.

From Gary on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 19:18:56

Great job Sasha and to all the FRB,

From marion on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 19:26:12

Excellent race! FBR made a most impressive showing!

From Adam RW on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 22:29:02

Sasha, Sorry about the bad race but I have to say you helped pull me into a new level. Seeing you and the temptation of finally getting you sure helped push me through some of the harder portions of this race and kept the pressure on the final miles. Thanks for the motivation.

From Desi L. on Sat, Aug 09, 2008 at 22:39:42

How do you prevent neural fatigue? Congrats on an outstanding race!

From Lucia on Sun, Aug 10, 2008 at 12:46:38

Sasha, you are unbelievable! 3rd place, even when fatigued. Wow!

From josse on Sun, Aug 10, 2008 at 13:02:06

Great job Sasha! Neural fatigue is a hard one, I know:)

From Dale on Sun, Aug 10, 2008 at 20:30:02

Way to run a good strong race despite the fatigue. Keep at it and you'll keep getting better at pushing it back, I'm betting.

From walter on Mon, Aug 11, 2008 at 14:03:26

Sasha, when I started seeing you clearly I got exited but couldnt pull a bluff for 1/2 mile like yourself! Hey your not the one that marked quarter miles in white paint on the course are you? I saw them and it kind of psyched me out! I would rather see them my last two miles so I could gear up. Great race for coming off of DES News so soon. You have such a strong will power! Congrats. See you at TOU!

From Christi on Mon, Aug 11, 2008 at 19:32:40

Congrats on your 3rd place finish!

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