Breaking the Wall

Top of Utah 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: 266.81 Year: 266.81
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: 1438.17
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:35:19
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Top of Utah Marathon, 2:35:19, 8th place. One phrase summary of the performance is "better than embarrassing" or "it could have been worse without being the worst I've run in the last few years".

Going into the race I had a few issues. Undertrained due to foot and recent sickness, and inflamed attachement of plantar to the heel in the left foot (Josse helped me figure that out tonight, and scraped/massaged it as well). Two weeks ago I experienced fuel issues in the last 5 miles of a 20 mile run which should not have happened and were probably the result of being slightly out of shape.   On the positive side I felt my form has smoothed out from running on grass, and the leg power felt decent.

I debated between two options for the race. Keep HR at 152 or try to go out a bit quicker and survive. I do have a tendency to crash at the end some even if I go out slow. At the same time I was curious to see if maybe I'd be able to overcome that tendency. 20 minutes away from the house I realized I had forgotten my HRM. This made the decision easier, so it was go out quicker and hang on.

The field was loaded. 4 Kenyans at the start. Paul, Nick, no Seth, Steve, Jon, Vance Twitched, Joe Wilson (out of shape, but you never know), Bryant Jensen from Weber State, and Eric Held who has improved dramatically in the last year.

I followed Paul and the Kenyans. The pace was quick but not insane. I considered backing off after 3 miles when Paul pushed it and we hit a 5:21, but then he got some water and dropped back behind the Kenyans who did not want to go faster. For a good reason - they were out of their own (2:14) or even Paul's shape! So I stuck with the pack a bit longer. We went through 5 miles in 27:11. Then in the sixth mile Paul hit the gas again and I said now is the time to back off and run my own pace.

In about a mile or two Nick caught up to me, and I followed him until 10. Then it was time for me to get refueled. Aaron, Nan Kennard's husband, brought the bottles to me. I backed off and let Nick go. 10 mile marker was wrong. I remember it being wrong last year as well. My time was 54:50, but it was probably closer to 55:40.

When I backed off from the lead pack one of the Kenyans had already lost his wheels and was behind. I caught up to one more and we were running together, but I knew he was done. Then when Nick caught up that helped me separate myself from that Kenyan. But there were two more ahead, plus Paul, plus Bryant. Not good for a sore footed undertrained man, but that's life.

1:13:03 at the half. Then a tailwind picked up and carried me for a couple of quick miles. 5:29, and 5:39. 1:23:39 at 15. Eric Held caught up to me, but then fell back.

Got my bottle at 16 from Aaron, enjoyed it.

I was feeling decent and maintained a slightly sub-6:00 on the Hollow Road and all the way to mile 18. Felt good on the uphill. Ran the next two miles in 6:15 and 6:20. 20 miles in 1:54:05. Got another bottle at 20 from Aaron, enjoyed it as well. Aaron gave me an update on Nan - 1:20 at the half. Perfect. On pace for a course record, and she would need to close in 1:15 to chick me if things do not go so well. So I am relatively safe.

Figured I was headed for a 2:33 maybe a little under. However, then there was a surprise.

Next downhill mile in 6:11 instead of 5:55. Legs do not want to move, no motivation. And then a complete disaster - 6:51. No, not quite complete. Next mile in 7:00 or so! Odd. The foot started complaining. Not good. I considered dropping out. There were several reasons I did not. I believe if you get a comp and can finish without damaging your health you should, and I felt that in all honesty I could finish without serious health damage. I also thought that there was a remote possibility of somebody from the lead pack dropping out or royally blowing up, which then would put me in the money. It was my 11th time running the race, and I wanted to keep my streak of sub-2:40 finishes.  And, not the least important - in my state of mind I could have gotten lost trying to find a short cut to the finish and end up running close to 26 miles anyway.

Of course this was enough for Eric to start closing. I regrouped and picked it up to 6:40. Probably the sugar from the honey kicked in. Then Eric caught up to me around 24, and then Jon passed both of us as if we were standing still shortly before 25. Well, we were standing still, so no as if. Eric used the commotion to pull away from me, and I had nothing to respond with.

I believe I saw 2:27:21 at 25 and 2:34:01 at 26, so another 6:40 mile. Could be worse. Tried to reel Eric in, but did not have the strength. Set a goal to beat my Five Finger time at Utah Valley (2:35:46), got to have some kind of goal even when the race is falling apart. Pushed as hard as I could in the last 385 yards. Got 1:18, that is actually 5:56 pace, not too bad.

At the finish we had Paul in 2:23:07, Josephat Chemjor 2:25:08, Sammy Nyamongo 2:28:12,  Nick 2:28:46, Bryant 2:31:10, Jon 2:34:16, Eric 2:35:00. In 9th place Vance Twitchell 2:39:05 and Tylor Monson 2:39:22. The entire top 10 under 2:40. Interesting result from prize money increase in the current economy. Paul's winning time was very solid, but it was slowest win since after 2005. But if I remember right, first time 10th place was under 2:40. I suppose the conclusion is that what the winner will run is sufficiently unpredictable and correlates less with the prize money, but the depth of the field correlates a lot stronger.

Paul's win was very impressive. I suspect somehow he managed to become  2:13 guy currently wearing a 2:23 guy's clothing. Or I should say this. He's always been a sub-2:13 guy, but the clothing was so thick that he appeared to be slower. It is nice that he is willing to serve as a guinea-pig for the rest of us to learn from documenting his trials and how he overcomes them.

Nan ran great. 2:44:10, new course record. Her last 10 K was faster than mine by about a minute. It is one thing to have the math tell you you can run a good time, but actually running it takes you to a new level.

After the race once the endorophins wore off my foot started to fuss a lot. I had a hard time keeping up with Cody and Adam walking to the car. Even though both of them fell apart a whole lot worse than I did in the race I could not keep up with them walking and had to ask them slow down.

P.M. Kids ran their usual distances on their own with Sarah's supervision. The times got messed up except for Benjamin's which was 17:27.

Saucony Type A Miles: 26.92
Night Sleep Time: 6.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.50
From Bec on Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 23:50:29 from

Nice meeting you and other from the blog today. Way to go on your race. You are an incredible athlete.

From Burt on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 01:01:08 from

Solid performance as always. Thanks for the blog!

From jtshad on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 09:54:48 from

Way to push through and finish when it wasn't coming together. A solid run all the same.

From Superfly on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 11:33:43 from

Like Jeff said...a solid effort. Hope you can kick all your little aches and pains soon.

From redrooster on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 12:48:38 from

Sasha, I love reading your reports, always useful information on techniques and strategies for me to help me improve. looking forward to the rest of the story. great race, and great to talk to you at the finish. Take care of that foot, Scott

From Brent on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 13:41:40 from

Sasha, as always, giving it your all, 500 commando points. Thanks for sharing your race experience.

Stay Kool, happy feet, B of BS Rools out

From seeaprilrun on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 14:50:17 from

You hung on and finished! Great job! Sorry to hear about your plantar fascitis. It is a bugger to heal. I hope it heals quickly for you. There are faster days a-coming for you and your performance is AMAZING anyway and nothing to sneeze at. Not many folks can run that kind of time injured and not at their peak.

From rockness18 on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 20:05:45 from

Always enjoy your reports and appreciate the running insights...your detailed experiences help the rest of us mortals to learn.

From Jason McK on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 20:14:59 from

Good luck with the foot. Nice race!

From Britta on Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 21:57:54 from

It is so fun to read your race reports. You are truly inspiring. You accomplish things most of us only dream of. With all your hard work you deserve to acheive them.

Thanks for the blog!

From MarkP on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 14:10:49 from

Great report and nice to see you push through the defeated mindset at the end.

From JD on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 14:45:34 from

Impressive performance given the way you were feeling. It was good to meet you before the start.

From Huans32 on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 15:10:31 from

Great report Sasha. You should some great X factor there in the last bit in not quiting. Way to keep the streak alive. And great race.

From Rossy on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 16:23:19 from

Way to tough this race out and considering everything, a 2:35 is an extremely impressive time! Also, I could not agree with you more, the TOU field was loaded very fast runners.

From Jon on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 17:43:11 from

I've been waiting for the end of the race report to comment. Nice job in your race, especially given the foot problems you have had (wasp, tendon, etc). You went out strong with a goal and fell off a bit, but you certainly gave it your best. I can't comprehend that you have done this race every year plus about 50 marathons total.

They did quote you extensively in the Logan newspaper about food and fueling, too. Kind of cool.

From Lindsey Dunkley on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 18:26:51 from

Race well sounds like you pushed through a lot and never gave up...good job!

From ChrisM on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 03:44:18 from

Well done on toughing it out, and it's good you beat your five fingers record.

Nice race report as always

From Cookielover on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 12:09:16 from

Congratulations on your race! I know that this was not the finish that you had anticipated, but you kept on going and finished in an incredible time (whether you realize it or not). You have a gift! Rest up and let your body heal.

From Paul on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 13:08:53 from

Good race considering the foot problems and interruption in training. Hopefully you will get to full health soon.

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