Breaking the Wall

Top of Utah 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: 244.22 Year: 3545.74
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: 734.48
Race: Top of Utah Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:11:13, Place overall: 4
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Top of Utah Half. 1:11:13. 4th place. Got beat by Teren (1:06:38), Seth (1:10:37), and Josh Stefen (1:10:46). Held off Jon (1:11:40), and Paul (1:12:14). Better quality race than two weeks ago in Provo Half. Details to follow...

Now details....

Stayed at Paul's house. Got to see little Seth. Got to race the big Seth as well. How do you get your shirt to finish 46 seconds ahead of you? Let Seth borrow it, of course :-)

Warmed up with Paul. We saw two moose. Paul wondered if the plural of moose was meese. I thought it should be mooses. Turns out both of us were wrong. I did Googled it and found that the correct form is moose. Go figure. I've run TOU every year they've had it (9 times) without ever seeing a moose, and now two at once!

Paul invented a new concept. I think he should patent it. For every bathroom visit prior to the start of a race you get a star. For every stop during the race you lose a star. So at the start this was going to be a two-star race for me.

With the latest neural fatigue problems I did not have firm expectations for the race. I told Paul the night before it could be as fast as 1:09 or as slow as 1:14. I figured the best way to work around the neural fatigue would be to run as unmotivated as possible. I noticed that neural fatigue often kicks in from an overexertion of some kind - a hill, a surge, or a pace that is a tad too brisk held for 10 minutes. It is easy to mistake it for the consequences of getting into oxygen debt, but overtime I learned to distinguish the two. If it is just oxygen debt, you will breathe harder for a minute or two afterwards, back off the pace a bit, recover, and then you are good to go again. Maybe 3 seconds per mile slower than what you would have otherwise. Neural fatigue is a different beast. You step into the red zone, and you are out for the rest of the race. The breathing slows down. The heart rate drops. The pace drops to as much as 20 seconds per mile slower and stays that way to the end. You keep telling yourself - I am feeling good, I am going to pick it up, you think you are picking it up, but the splits show otherwise. You try to kick in the last 50 meters, and you cannot. It is like a bad dream when you try to run away from a robber but your body is paralyzed for no understandable reason.

Mile 1 - 5:27. Running with Josh Stefen. Teren and Seth did 5:19 - they are both jogging. Feeling sluggish.

Mile 2 - 5:17. The downhill got steeper, I picked it up, dropped Josh, started closing on Teren and Seth. Got excited, and pushed harder hoping to catch up to them. Then there is this feeling - you get too excited, the neural fatigue will get you. Do not red line. So I eased off. Teren/Seth did 5:19.

Mile 3 - 5:25. Josh caught up to me, and gapped me a bit. I thought for a while he was gone. Then there was a short steep downhill and I caught up to him. Told myself, ran with him to 4, you can at least do that.

Mile 4 - 5:21. Drafting behind Josh changed from miserable to sustainable, I think I can make it to 5.

Mile 5 - 5:14. More downhill, some tailwind, starting to feel good. 26:44 at 5 miles.

Mile 6 - 5:12. Even better. We are now ahead of the 5:20 guy. At the start it looked like averaging 5:30s would be a challenge. Thinking about gapping Josh.

Mile 7 - 5:15. Happy to gap the 5:20 guy some more, will need that for sure later on. Tried to gap Josh as well, but was not successful. Now drafting behind him.

Mile 8 - 5:25. Not enjoying it as much on flatter ground, but the pace feels sustainable.

Mile 9 - 5:21. Cannot complain about that. Don't think the grade has changed, still about 0.5% down, and we are still ahead of the 5:20 guy. Did not expect that so late in the race.

Mile 10 - 5:29. Some headwind, but Josh has wide shoulders. 53:26 at 10 miles.

Mile 11 - 5:46. Uphill started. At first it felt bearable, but the further we go, the harder it gets. I am feeling like I am carrying a bookcase that I am about to drop.

Mile 12 - 5:57. Uphill continues. I cannot hold the bookcase any more, it goes down. I think the bookcase's name was Josh. He is gone, has about 10 seconds on me. I am thinking with the downhill on the last mile I can close the gap.

Mile 13 - 5:39. Legs are just not moving. Here comes the neural fatigue with all of its ugly symptoms. I see Josh putting a gap on me. I see Seth within reachable distances. I am not breathing very hard. The legs do not hurt. Josh is worth some cash and circuit points. Seth is worth some cash and circuit points. I want to catch them and I want it bad. But there is nothing I can do no matter how hard I try.

Last 0.1 - 31 seconds. A desperate attempt at a kick. My watch said 1:11:11. Official time was 1:11:13.

Paced Breanna during the cool down/extra miles. Then went to find Bonnie, but missed her - ran right past her and did not spot her in the crowd. Ended up with 21 miles for the workout.

Interesting how the hill knocked me out. This has happened before. In 2003 St. George I lost contact with the OTQ pack at 9 miles going up a long gradual climb, and never recovered. That same year I was running well in the first 6 miles of the Springfield marathon until we hit a hill about half a mile long. Afterwards I was not myself for the rest of the race. However, I've had good days when a long hill did not bother me in spite of taking it hard. Last year I did fine in the Provo River half, Salt Lake (Emmigration Canyon) half, and Park City Half. This year I did OK on the Avon pass in Wasatch Back.

My theory. The hill increases the amount of neural output. On a bad day this could put me in the red zone of neural fatigue. Something pops in the brain, and it stops working for the rest of the race.

T4 Racer - 467.93 miles.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:50, then 2 with Benjamin, Jenny and Jared in 16:39. Jared had a side ache and fell behind.

Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
From Lucia on Sat, Aug 23, 2008 at 21:16:21

Congratulations Sasha, you are amazing!

From Kelli on Sat, Aug 23, 2008 at 23:59:40

Glad it was a better race for you, hopefully your neural fatigue is wearing off.

I enjoyed meeting your wife, glad she came to support us all since she couldn't be with you! She is great, but you already know that!

From Jon on Sun, Aug 24, 2008 at 00:15:25

Nice race today. Looks like you broke out of your funk- averaged faster at this half marathon than your recent 5k, I think.

From Snoqualmie on Sun, Aug 24, 2008 at 12:14:16

Congratulations on the quality racing! And for summer racing that's really awesome. You inspire me.

From Christi on Sun, Aug 24, 2008 at 20:57:34

Sounds like you enjoyed the race more than Provo Half. Congrats on another amazing performance!

From Jon on Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 22:42:48

By the way, everyones watch was exactly 2 seconds faster than official time, so official time is wrong.

From Lybi on Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 23:54:04

What an exciting race, Sasha! Sounds like you are still discovering ways to optimize your racing--even with all your experience. That's just amazing. Great job!

From camilla on Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 02:01:16

Sasha! You are so awesome! You did such a great job! You run so darn fast!

Would you like me to keep running 4 miles each day? Let me know, I just do what you tell me to do! You are the!

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