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: 24.00 Month: 151.02 Year: 151.02
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: 1353.22
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.219 Miles) 02:40:28, Place overall: 2
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Fast Running Friend Workout - 2015-09-19 05:19:21
Workout Totals: Distance27.220Time2:48:51.00Pace6:12.19
Top of Utah Marathon, 2:40:28, 2nd overall, $1000 - first master, but they did not double-dip. Weaker competition than normal today. Splits below, full report later...

Full report. This was my 17th time running Top of Utah out of the 17 times they've had it. Stayed with Steve Anderson. At the start met an older runner from South Carolina named Jon Johnson if I remember right. Showed him the city of Oz (nice hidden bathroom at the start) - he was impressed.

For some reason the competition this year was not as strong as in the past years. Even Riley originally came to do a tempo run for 20 miles, but when he saw that running the remaining 6 was worth $1500 he decided to go for it.

Top finishers:

Riley 2:32:08
myself 2:40:28
Jason Howe 2:40:40
James Fisher (from Boise, I might not have gotten his name right) 2:41:54
Bryce Carr 2:42:54 (I think)

I placed bottles with EmergenC and dextrose at 7, 13, 17, and 21. The bottle at 21 ended up having $250 value - kept me from losing the second place.

Mile-by-mile details to follow.

Overall take from the race - I need to start doing my staple 10 mile tempos at the end of 20 to deal with the fuel problem. I suppose I learned today the difference between jogging 20 miles maybe with a short tempo at the start vs running 20 miles with a long tempo at the finish.

On the positive side I was stronger on the hills, and felt much better than I ever have after finishing a marathon since I became a master. Afterwards on my way to Jamba Juice I got stuck in traffic, so I just parked and ran. I felt that the heart was a little bit tired, but I did not feel that deadly heart fatigue or sore legs. I am very excited about this improvement. Now I just need to do something to covert it into a better marathon performance.
Leg 1:Distance1.000Time8:22.40Pace8:22.40
Leg 2:Distance26.220Time2:40:28.60Pace6:07.22
The race.
Split 1:Distance1.000Time6:06.50Pace6:06.50
Riley wanted to warm-up, I did not feel like taking the lead and pushing the pace, so we had a slow mile.
Split 2:Distance1.000Time5:50.90Pace5:50.90
Riley picked it up. This dropped everybody except myself and Bryce.
Split 3:Distance1.000Time5:45.20Pace5:45.20
Now the pace is where I want it to be.
Split 4:Distance1.000Time5:37.80Pace5:37.80
Now it is too fast, but I do not want to run alone yet, and I want to make up some time for the slow warm-up.
Split 5:Distance1.000Time5:39.80Pace5:39.80
Too fast.
Split 6:Distance1.000Time5:41.80Pace5:41.80
Too fast.
Split 7:Distance1.000Time5:49.90Pace5:49.90
This mile was naturally a bit slower, I think, so more effort to run the same pace. Decided I've had enough of red zone running, and it is time to drop back and run my own pace. Riley and Bryce went ahead.
Split 8:Distance1.000Time5:50.10Pace5:50.10
Grabbed the bottle at the start of mile 7, but did not feel like drinking much of it - felt like the water was sloshing in the stomach which is the sign that it is not being properly absorbed.
Split 9:Distance1.000Time5:48.20Pace5:48.20
Good mile, feeling strong, relatively.
Split 10:Distance1.000Time5:55.60Pace5:55.60
I think the grade got less steep here.
Split 11:Distance1.000Time6:01.10Pace6:01.10
I am starting to get concerned.
Split 12:Distance1.000Time5:50.80Pace5:50.80
Maybe things are OK after all.
Split 13:Distance1.000Time5:51.40Pace5:51.40
Still OK. 1:16:24 at the half. Grabbed a bottle, drank some, but not a whole lot.
Split 14:Distance1.000Time5:50.30Pace5:50.30
No magic tailwind today, but still was able to run reasonably well.
Split 15:Distance1.000Time5:54.20Pace5:54.20
Happy to be sub-6:00 at the point. Saw Steve Anderson somewhere around here. He was not in the race, just cheering.
Split 16:Distance1.000Time6:00.30Pace6:00.30
Still not slower than 6:00.
Split 17:Distance1.000Time6:04.20Pace6:04.20
A bit slower than 6:00, but still respectable. Grabbed a bottle, drank a bit, but did not feel like finishing it.
Split 18:Distance1.000Time6:12.10Pace6:12.10
Happy with this one.
Split 19:Distance1.000Time6:27.60Pace6:27.60
Uphill mile. Starting to close on Bryce, happy with the split.
Split 20:Distance1.000Time6:23.80Pace6:23.80
Another uphill mile. Really happy with how I felt here. Passed Bryce.
Split 21:Distance1.000Time6:16.20Pace6:16.20
Cause for concern. This should have been 6:08 if everything was normal. I knew at this point that I should be running with the bottle until it was empty.
Split 22:Distance1.000Time6:57.80Pace6:57.80
OK, no fuel. The absence of 10 mile tempos at the end of 20 is showing. Attacking the bottle, trying to salvage the remaining miles.
Split 23:Distance1.000Time7:01.20Pace7:01.20
Starting to get really worried. If the stomach malfunctions and the dextrose does not absorb I could quickly go down to 8:00.
Split 24:Distance1.000Time6:29.80Pace6:29.80
Wew... Uphill ended on this mile and it has a little drop. But it was still a better effort that the previous miles. Dextrose is going in. I'll make it to the finish in some respectable time.
Split 25:Distance1.000Time6:58.10Pace6:58.10
Uphill mile. Decent result. Unfortunately my bottle was empty by now. I consumed 700 ml of my magic drink over the course of 4 miles. I tried to grab Powerade at the aid station, but missed. Hopefully the dextrose I consumed can get me to the finish.
Split 26:Distance1.050Time6:57.00Pace6:37.14
This mile starts with the uphill, then starts going down. And mile marker 26 was again in the wrong place. Fortunately I was prepared for it.
Split 27:Distance0.170Time1:06.90Pace6:33.53
Kick. Not too bad. Happy to have held on to second - thanks to the bottle.

White Crocs 2 Miles: 27.22
Night Sleep Time: 6.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.50
From Rob Murphy on Sat, Sep 19, 2015 at 21:50:36 from

Solid time Sasha…

There's a definite decline. All the energy is in ultra running, trails, mud runs, spartan runs, and color runs these days. Grinding it out at a fast pace on the roads is passé.

From Dave Taylor on Sat, Sep 19, 2015 at 22:23:45 from

Nice race, you'll never get me off the roads :)

Especially if it's a half

From Jon on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 05:02:22 from

Well, congrats on the 2nd place and money. And catching Bryce.

I had no idea the competition was dropping that much, though. Interesting.

From flatlander on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 05:08:07 from

That's a very good day, congratulations. Great that you did so well and at the same time identified a path forward.

From allie on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 06:32:43 from

17/17, i like it. congrats on a good race and hanging on to 2nd -- an escape from the thicket. :)

From steve ash on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 07:43:39 from

Very nice Sasha:) And the 1000 bucks aint bad either.. Congratulations.

From Paul on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 09:17:24 from

Good job, solid time. I'm thinking of getting out for TOU next year. Got 2 more to go until I get in the 10 year club.

From josse on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 13:04:58 from

Great job Sasha! What type of dextrose do you use?

From Steve on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 at 16:09:01 from

Great race Sasha and a stellar year of running. I told Bob H to get his website updated since you have now broken the Masters TOU record twice.

From Ben VanBeekum on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 16:02:41 from

Sasha- That is a great run! What do you think you would differently in training to get the half splits more even! Also congrats on the Masters course record.

Jon- I dont think the competition is dropping. Though it has been a crazy year of no one racing. It is a qualifying year and everyone is seeming to put all there eggs in the basket in STG. I'm thinking 2:25 in STG might not even be quick enough for a top 10 finish

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 16:46:00 from

Thanks everybody.


I get my dextrose from Amazon, HomeBrew vendor, $25 for 10 lb bag with shipping (Prime). It was funny - they thought I was making beer so they sent me a bunch of ads for beer making equipment and supplies.


I could improve the split some by doing more 10 mile tempos, however, 3 minute positive split (which makes it even in St. George and about 6-7 positive in TOU) is my optimum breakdown. E.g when I ran 2:27:46 in 2003 my first half was 1:10:31.

The reason, I believe is at least in part in the spinal defect that alters my biomechanics, wears out certain muscle groups too quickly, and makes me race against the clock in a way - for me the race breaks down into the first 15 miles with the better form, and 11 or so with the worse form. You can think of it as running the first half on asphalt, and second through the swamp. No matter how fresh you are, when you hit the swamp you will not be going very fast.

So what I have to do is bank some time in the first 15 while I can, then quickly shift gears and budget my energy for survival. If I try to hold back, it is not worth it - I would have to lose 3 minutes over the first half to gain maybe only 1 over the second.

If I find a way to stay young enough for long enough, they might invent a nanorobot or some other magic that repairs vertebra, then I might see an even split marathon that produces a PR. Right now this sounds like science fiction, but I consider this within the realm of possibility - on my end I can fight the battle of staying young enough.

I do not know why everybody would be going to St. George in a qualifying year. Last I checked, which was just now (one more time to be sure) you could not have more than 450 feet of elevation drop to get an OTQ. Did I miss something?

In any case, I suppose I cannot complain about a less competitive situation in TOU this year since I got $1000 out of it.

From Jon on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 16:48:26 from

Yeah, I thought STG and similar races are not OTQ anymore. Neither would TOU.

From Ben VanBeekum on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 16:51:46 from

Jon what it seems is the ones trying to qualify or running a qualifier out of state and the ones just looking for a fast time are running STG

From JPark on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 19:47:07 from

Congrats on a very fine race Sasha! 17 of 17 is very cool. Though its a great race, the only time I ever ran it was back in '04 (hot day if I recall); a year you won it handily. Steve Ashbaker, Steve Anderson, Paul P, and Walter were also there that day.

From Steve on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 23:02:47 from

That is really cool. Before I ever joined the blog I think. Might have been one of my first marathons ever. Forgot about it.

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