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: 90.98 Year: 2713.79
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) 01:09:38, Place overall: 2
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Provo River Half Marathon - 1:09:38, 2nd place.

This race race was supposed to be just a glorified tempo run. I had run 91 miles in the 5 days prior with no day less than 17 miles total, and two Big Workouts. However, I ended up with a non-Hobblecreek trusted length half-marathon PR, as well as the course PR, even faster than any time I've run it from 2003-2005 when it was about 40 seconds to 1 minute shorter. I did run the Provo River Half in 2002 in 1:09:45 on a course that somehow lost about 0.5 mile and did not have the uphill section on the old highway, and I was still able to beat that time today. So in short, I've never run a half marathon faster than my time today on any course I would consider being of the accurate length except Hobblecreek, which is an entirely different animal.

At the start I found Dave Holt and asked him if he would trade leads with me every quarter. I figured he was in shape to run about 1:12 on a good day, and 1:13 on a not so good day, but he has been starting out a bit faster in his races and he would not mind doing it today especially if he gets to draft half the time, so hopefully if we bring him alive to the old highway hill, then I would not be alone on that tough section. After that, if he cannot go, then I could just press really hard and maybe catch the 1:11 guy by the finish.

But, as it often happens, things do not quite turn out as you expected in a race. Early on, I noticed that I was feeling better than I expected and was going faster, which would have been bad news for the old Dave, but we had a different Dave today. He was doing the pace I wanted to go during his lead shifts of his own free will. To make things more interesting, Mike Dudley happened to be in the race, and caught up to us around 2 miles. I asked him if he wanted to participate in sharing the lead, and he agreed. So we went like that taking turns every quarter for most of the race from that point.

We hit the 3.23 mark at Vivian in 16:23, 5:04 average . This is actually my PR for that section by 5 seconds, with the earlier being set in a workout where Steve Ashbaker and I did it trading leads and 3.23 was all we were doing, not a half marathon.

From Vivian to the bridge at Nuns (around 5.5) we were a bit slower than 5:20 on the flat section, and then around 5:10-5:15 on the downhill. Then on the uphill on the old highway we ran a bit under 6:00 (going by the GPS), and then around 5:10 pace on the way down.

Hit the official 10 mile mark of the race around 52:30, which I believe was accurate. This is very good - I raced the Provo River 10 miler in June in 54:13 which is identical to this 10 miler with the exception that you have and out and back on the old highway (with about a mile uphill into a headwind, and then back down) in the half marathon instead of a nice gradual 0.5% down 2 mile stretch in the 10 miler, and the 10 miler has an additional 15 second stretch across the bridge. So probably this 10 mile split is about 30 seconds slower than the 10 miler race.

We were going about 5:20 pace down my standard stretch from Nuns to the mouth of the canyon early on. At about 10.5 Mike cranked up the gears, Dave fell back, I tried to hang in there with Mike. He dropped me shortly before 11. I hit 15:55 for my standard 3 mile tempo.

Held 5:20 pace for a bit longer, up to the press building ( 11.7), then we turned, instead of a gentle 0.5% down we now started hitting minor rises and no elevation drop, so slowed down to around 5:30-5:35 going off my GPS. Mike won with 1:09:03, I got 1:09:38, Dave got 1:10:06 - 39 seconds faster than his Bryce Canyon time!

Then ran back with Dave to find the Fast Running Mommy. Dave turned around after a couple of miles. I found Sarah at around 9.8 mark, and then ran back with her. She finished in 2:08:21, but she took a couple of long bathroom stops (I told her I'd teach her how to make them fast, but she said no thanks) which she estimates cost her about 6 minutes. With the warm-up, total of 20.25 for the whole run.

In the evening ran 0.5 with Julia in 5:15, then the run to the swing with Benjamin and Jenny trading places on the bike, and Jacob and Joseph in the double stroller - Jenny 1.52 in 13:53, then Benjamin 2.02 in 15:48. Afterwards, a mile in 7:08 without the stroller or kids. I am happy to have the need to specify that mile was without the kids. Benjamin could have kept up with me for sure, and Jenny possibly could too with some extra motivation.

Life time record for the mileage in a week. Previous high was 111.92 earlier this year. I do not think of 116 as high any more. With my recovery routine this feels like routine training, like I am not running the mileage just to prove a point. Based on the feedback from my body I feel this is the optimum healthy training volume for where I am at. I do not feel tired, in fact without the memory and the record of everything I did this week I would not be able to tell. Legs are not sore at all, and I am not feeling any unusual fatigue, in fact, rather energized compared to normal.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From Logan on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 17:13:43

Great race today and it was nice that you were able to run with Dave today. Another awesome week of training.

From Maria on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 18:01:27

Great time, Sasha! How does your running now feel compared to 2003, when you ran 2:24 at St. George? If your race times are faster now, it may point towards possible 2:22. It would be nice to be in 2:20 shape to give yourself some cushion in case of bad weather or some other thing can go wrong. One thing is clear - high mileage does work for you very well. I remember you said somewhere that you tried 100+ mpw before and it only made you feel tired, but this time your level have clearly increased. How do you explain this?

From dave holt on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 18:22:14

Sasha, thanks again for the help and confidence booster today. That was a great race!

From JohnK on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 18:28:14

Great race & very inspiring to hackers like me. An especially strong performance given the tough week you've had. You are on a roll!

From steve hooper on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 18:28:16

Sasha - you guys did a great job in the race today. I'm impressed with how well you felt after so many miles this week. Keep it up!

From Brent on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 19:00:18

Sasha, what is there to say, except your awesome. Great race.

From Sasha Pachev on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 19:10:48

Everybody - thanks for the comments. Maria - in 2003 I ran a shorter course (by about 40 seconds to a minute) that was identical to the current up to about 12.3 mark in 1:10:05 in a competitive situation with only 64.5 miles in the five days prior to the race, 3.2 of them at marathon pace, and 11.7 at threshold. This year I had 91.2 miles in the five days prior to the race with 13.3 at threshold and 0.2 at VO2 Max. I would say this is the first race I've run, this year or ever that points to the reality of being able to qualify for the Trials in St. George, where it is not "I hope for some invisible luck or miraculous breakthrough to carry me through the race". It is rather ironic that it happened at the end of a record mileage week.

Regarding the reason that made high mileage effective this time. I believe in the past I just hoped that the magic number 100 would give me a miracle, and when it did not, I'd assume that it would not ever work and would go back to 80 and occasionally 90 mile weeks. This time I planned it a lot better. Three key principles - beds make champions, do doubles, and stay lucid. Beds make champions - in bed by 10:30pm or a Russian dictation for me, and smelling the socks for Sarah (credit goes to Lybi for coming up with the idea, and to James for stinking up his socks bad enough), plus a nap after the morning workout if the body requests it - blessings of working at home; do doubles - always split the mileage into two runs, no less than 5 for the shorter; stay lucid - the blood sugar must not go down , a doze of Powerade and honey sandwiches after every workout, good nutrition overall, and always a snack with honey when the mind refuses to concentrate during the day.

From James on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 19:12:43


Awesome race today! I think you had one of, if not your best 1/2 performances ever! You have to be pleased with cutting 4 1/2 minutes off of last years time. You are running strong right now, and if you keep it up you could be very close to a trials qualifier at St. George. That was the same course as last year, right?

From Paul Petersen on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 19:19:30

Sasha - nice job. Your three key principles are very similar to what I am doing. I've managed to take 7 naps in the last 8 days, totaling about 9 hours of extra sleep -- tacked on to the 7.5-8 hours of sleep I get at night as it is. Although I am not self-employed, I may as well be, as far my work hours go. The extra sleep, along with splitting easy runs into doubles, has helped me do high mileage and actually feel good (ie - quality workouts), which has eluded me during previous high-mileage attempts. I think I am eating about 4000 calories/day as well. Pretty much if something is in my viewshed, I will eat it. Just ask Chad.

It all surely adds up.

From Clay on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 19:33:01

Nice job Sasha, it was good to see you guys again at the start... It was good to meet Ted as well...

From Lybi on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 19:54:11

Yea! I'm so excited for you Sasha! What a good year to be having PR's in the longer distances! I'm sooo glad you are benefitting from more sleep. Thank you for crediting me for the consequence idea, but I have to say that all the credit has to go to you for consistently following through. I am learning about consistency from this blog.

From Mike k on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 21:06:20

Good job Sasha! You are ready for an A attempt.

From Tom on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 21:28:53

Congrats Sasha! you deserve this.

From Michael on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 22:37:46

Fantastic effort Sasha - I admire your dedication and effort

From Chris Rogers on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 23:00:07


Outstanding race today. It definitely shows how great your training has been over the last few weeks, and gives a glimpse of some great fall marathons to come!

From Cody on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 23:03:15

Great race! I have to agree with everyone that this is a great sign of a realistic shot at OTQ. Best of luck in your continued success and in your training. We are all rooting for you!

From James in Sunny AZ on Sat, Aug 11, 2007 at 23:40:58

Sasha, congrats on a great race (especially considering you were just planning on it being a glorified tempo run). I agree with the others, all indicators are pointing to an OTQ race at St. George. Thanks for the example of consistency and dedication.

From Holly on Mon, Aug 13, 2007 at 10:52:14


From jtshad on Mon, Aug 13, 2007 at 11:54:55

Nice race Sasha, man your mileage and times are impressive and inspirational!

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