Breaking the Wall

Salt Lake 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: 304.65 Year: 3606.17
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: 806.96
Race: Salt Lake Half-Marathon (13.1 Miles) 01:13:25, Place overall: 4
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A very long day. It started with racing the Salt Lake Half-Marathon. Ran it in 1:13:25. Got beat by Mbarak Hussein (1:05:17), Simon Sawe(1:05:33), and BJ Christensen (1:10:59). Not quite sure what to think of it. I am inclined to believe this is a better performance than two weeks ago in Ogden. I held by heart rate in the higher ranges for longer, although it still was not what I wanted it to be. Went out with the leaders from the gun. The marathon and the half started at the same time. At first it was more like the jail break in the Russian movie Gentlemen of Fortune. The police put in an infiltrator and organize a break for the three inmates of interest. The fourth one joins them. They ask him why he ran. He answers: "Everybody ran, so I did run too". Then I began to think about the reasons to continue to run fast. Enjoy the company of great runners while I can. Some TV time for the Wasatch Running Center. So I figured I'd hang in there for a while. We did the first mile in 5:03, probably 1-2 % down. I was in a pack with Mbarak Hussein, Simon Sawe, BJ Christensen, and Dave Danley who was running the marathon. I told Dave we were going 5:00 pace several times, but he kept going. We backed off a bit from the Kenyans and BJ. Second mile in 5:23, some down and some up. Next mile uphill in 5:47. My heart rate was hovering around 164, and I felt the pace was very aggressive. But I wanted to push it for as long as we were with the marathoners to make things a bit nicer for Steve Ashbaker. The more people are out front, the faster the marathon lead pack will go. And the faster it goes, the more casualties for him to devours in the last miles. I knew I could relax for a mile, clean up the lactic acid, and then pick it back up and still run a decent, even if less than perfect race.

Pushed hard on the downhill down 21st south, hit the mile in 5:05. After that, we split from the marathoners and the mile markers were fuzzy. I had an idea of how fast I was going from the Garmin. But I was not so much concerned about the pace reading as I was about the heart rate reading. Garmin may be off on the length of splits, and there could be subtle factors such as a slight grade or slight but steady head or tail wind. But I know that if I can sustain my heart rate above 160, I'll be running well. I went in spurts. Sometimes I would get into good rhythm, Garmin would start giving consistent splits of 1:22 per quarter, and HR would be at 161. Other times, I would see it drop to 157 and the splits go down to slower than 1:25. Interestingly enough, running at HR of 161 was a lot more pleasant than at 157.

This observation, as well as a number of others in training led me to formulate a theory that Steve Ashbaker suggested I post in the blog. When running 15 K -  half marathon type of race, what we would call anaerobic threshold pace, the traditional exercise physiology states that you reach a steady state when you are breaking down lactic acid at the same rate you are producing it. But I suspect in reality things are a lot more complicated. The lactic acid levels are in a state of constant flux. They go up and down. When they go up, two things can happen. If the muscles and the nervous system are not conditioned for the lactic acid tolerance, they will shut down before the heart and the lungs can respond by delivering extra oxygen to clean up the lactic acid. If the muscles and the nervous system are properly conditioned, though, the muscles will work through it for a while, and in time the heart and the lungs will start working at a higher capacity making the faster pace sustainable. This explains why doing brutally fast 400s with 200 meter recovery on top of regular aerobic training make a difference of 10-15 seconds per mile in my half-marathon pace, and 5-7 seconds per mile in my marathon pace. The 200 recovery is a great form of aerobic training - you learn to clean up anaerobic byproducts very well.

I got to 10 miles in 53:30. Kept on going, ran the last 5 K in 17:55. They were a couple of guys from Westminister college on my tail. I knew they were somewhere there and could be dangerously close. So I pressed hard enough to make them not want to catch me.

Ate a banana, and ran back to find Steve. Followed the course and got to the start of the 5K. Figured I needed to seriously refuel to be prepared for the pacing job. Was very pleased to see Hobie Call in second place. He was two minutes behind Lemo, and pressing hard. Hobbie ended up finishing second, and missed the qualifier again by a minute. I think he can get it at Grandma's. Then there was another Kenyan, then Nick McCoombs, Dave Danley, Steve Tanui, and now here comes our Steve. A little later than I expected him, but very strong. I drank 4 cups of Gatorade to have the energy for pacing him, and I needed every ounce of it. He was going faster than me in the half. He got my HR to 161, and it hurt. A grimace started showing on my face. We flew past Steve Tanui. Steve (Ashbaker) was very excited about passing a Kenyan. He has never had the experience. He asked me if the Kenyan was just messing around. I told him no, he is just done. Now he needed to pass just one more guy to be in the money. Dave Danley was the next victim. I know the feeling, I've been on both sides of the deal. For some reason, I like to compare it to Abraham finding a ram in the thicket to offer a sacrifice. All of a sudden, there comes a dead runner out of nowhere, and you know he will not fight you. You also know you are in the money once you pass him. You begin to rejoice. I also know what it feels like to be the ram.

Steve had about a mile left. I told him since he was in the money, he should now do it by himself to avoid possible, although very unlikely complaints about receiving assistance from a pacer. I slowed down and ran with Dave to the end.

Congratulations to Steve on a new PR (2:36:31), great last 5 K (17:45), and 5th place in a tough company.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Also for our date Sarah and I did her long run, which was 6 miles. So that gave me 29 miles for the day, and 101 miles for the week. 

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
From Nick on Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 00:53:17

Great work Sasha! 29 miles in one day, and half of them were threshold at that. whew. It looks like you really ran well, and Im sure the new additional mileage you are doing is definitely going to help you out.

From ArmyRunner on Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 09:24:30

Happy Birthday Sasha!

From christi on Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 10:42:20

Hi Sasha- Great job on the SL 1/2! I answered your questions regarding my "tempo" run on my blog. I always love your tips!

From Maria on Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 14:51:34

Good job! This is a great time, especially for not tapering and at the end of 100 mile week.

Running 6 miles on a date - how novel! I wish my husband would find it exciting :).

Oh, and happy belated birthday to you! Did you just move into another age group?

From ashman on Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 19:33:16

Its your birthday today? Well Happy Birthday! And many more...

From calcio on Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 20:06:31

I posted some info about your theory you might like on my blog. It was a bit too long for here. Great job on the whole day/race.

From Scott Browning on Mon, Apr 23, 2007 at 00:41:56

Great run Sasha - you are quite the machine!! Happy Birthday - if the above posts are correct. I would like to hear more about your 400 meter with 200 recovery set. How do recommend doing the set, rep count, pacing, etc... Any feedback you could give would be greatly appreciated. Again, well done yesterday!

From wheakory on Tue, Apr 24, 2007 at 15:18:05

Incredible threshold mileage for the day. That's definitely going to put you over the top in the Ogden Marathon. Very impressive.

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