Breaking the Wall

Utah Valley Half-Marathon - pacing

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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: 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: Utah Valley Half-Marathon - pacing (13.11 Miles) 01:15:21, Place overall: 11, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Utah Valley Half-Marathon pacing Benjamin - 1:15:21, 11th overall, 1st master, $150. Yes, Benjamin ran fast enough today to allow me to win the masters while staying with him the entire race. This was my first race as a master if you do not count the ward "fun run" a week ago.

I was originally planning to run the marathon, but two days ago felt that I should run the half with my 14-year-old son Benjamin. I see now that this was an inspired decision. I know he needed me there. The Lord also gave me a sign of sorts - the stars aligned and with the help of my advanced chronological but not yet quite as advanced biological age, a generous prize structure, and the absence of Iain Hunter, I was able to win $150. Even though we are quite well-off financially nowadays, cash prizes still excite me. It is rare that a cash prize goes unclaimed by a decent competitor. So it does feel good to be the competitor that claimed the prize.

Race account mile by mile.

1 - 5:39 - Downhill. Lots of runners still around, I am recognizing Steve Anderson and Steve Ashbaker. Benjamin is faithfully on my tail with the absolute minimal gap, just like I have taught him. I listened to him, his breathing sounded good. The split was 11 seconds faster than planned, but I sensed that Benjamin's effort was maybe slightly higher that ideal, but not 11 seconds. So I eased the effort maybe by 2 seconds per mile, and continued.

2 - 11:18 (5:39) - Lesser downhill. Steve Anderson pulled ahead, Steve Ashbaker is with us. I was surprised that we repeated 5:39 with what felt like an easier effort and what looked like a lesser downhill. Probed Benjamin's breathing - it sounded like he was handling the pace fine, so I maintained the effort.

3 - 17:11 (5:53) The Heartbreak Hill of the UVM. Was pleased with the split on the climb and Benjamin's response to it. We dropped Steve Ashbaker and passed Steve Anderson. After that we were in no man's land the rest of the race, but that was what it took to run 1:15 today. Had I gone for the marathon and left Benjamin to fend for himself, he probably would not have had the confidence to break away at this point. Contrary to what I had supposed, there would have been nobody to run with him.

4 - 22:57 (5:46) The end of the UVM Heartbreak Hill followed by a steep decent. Benjamin groaned a couple of times, but it sounded positive - meaning "I am mentally struggling, I have the fear of having to run another 9 miles like this now that I've run 4 and I am quite tired but I am in control of it, I now what it takes to win against it". We passed a water station, and I established the ritual that I would repeat at all water stations later on grabbing a cup, turning around and dumping it all on Benjamin. 

5 - 28:30 (5:33) We hit some nice downhill. Benjamin is still doing well.

6 - 34:10 (5:40) Flatter, also I may have eased off a little sensing that Benjamin might be about to start struggling. I am figuring our 10 K split was around 35:20, which is a PR for Benjamin, and is actually my masters PR as well.

7 - 39:50 (5:40). Nice slight downhill grade. I observed that we had 39:12 split at the 20 mile mark of the the UVM, which means about 10 K to go.

8 - missed the split. Benjamin is hanging in there, groaning more, but maintaining contact.

9  -  51:14 - 11:24 for two miles, 5:42 average. Dave Taylor joined us here for a 4 mile tempo at the end of his 16 mile run.

10 - 57:07 (5:53) - 10 mile PR for Benjamin. We did the last 5 K in 17:55. Benjamin is now in the unchartered territory. He's never run more than 10 miles hard. He worried about being there. I did not as much - I know if someone is holding pace through the first 10 he does not crash too bad in the last 3 in the half. If you are going to crash after 10, there is usually some pace bleeding after 6.

11 - 1:03:08 (6:01) - uphill mile. Benjamin survived it with our encouragement. Now the time to shift gears in the last two miles and see what we can get.

12 - 1:07:57 (5:49) - gentle decent to the finish. I shifted gears mildly to recover from the uphill mile, and Benjamin responded.  

13 - 1:14:44 (5:47) - Benjamin took the initiative and gave it a courageous push in the first half of this mile and I thought I was going to get dropped in the last quarter for a minute or two. But then he ran out of juice and I was in control of the pace again. 

13.1 - 1:15:20 on my watch, 1:15:21 officially. The kick in 36 seconds - 5:30 pace. We finished together side by side, but the official timing was messed up - Benjamin ended up with something really odd - 1:15:26 chip time, 1:15:29 gun time - it should have been 1:15:21/1:15:21 - I wrote to the timing company about it and hopefully they will fix it.

In the afternoon Joseph, Jacob, and Jenny ran in the track meet. I managed to look up the start time in the wrong place, and we got there late. Nevertheless, the meet officials were nice enough to organize a special 800 meter heat  just for us at the end of the meet. Jenny won the battle against the 86F heat and the wind and qualified for the meet in Eugene with 3:01.66. Joseph and Jacob were still feeling the effects of the bug they picked up and struggled - Joseph ran 3:18, Jacob 3:25. Jenny's splits by 200 were 41, 47, 47, 46. I was happy with that - she courageously pushed from the gun and then kept pushing all the way. Now all of our children 6 years and older (Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, and Jacob) have the qualifying mark. Benjamin will run 3000 with the goal of setting the Utah state record in the 13-14 year old division, everybody else is running 800 trying to break 3:00 (Jenny, Julia, Joseph) or get to is as close as possible (Jacob).


Green Crocs 5 Miles: 15.00
Night Sleep Time: 6.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.00
From Chad Robinson on Sat, Jun 08, 2013 at 22:30:31 from

What a phenomenal performance for Benjamin. You definitely made the right call and $150 to boot. Benjamin is certainly a good student of following close (I have had my heels kicked by him several times). Congratulations!

From Russ on Sat, Jun 08, 2013 at 22:32:14 from

Congrats on the Masters win, and even more for coaching your son to a fantastic debut in the Half. Congrats to your son for a great race.

From Holt on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 07:11:51 from

Congrats to both of you - what a neat memory this will be!

From Steve on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 07:26:05 from

Good race Sasha. That's a lucky kid to have you with him

From steve ash on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 07:34:17 from

Congrats to both you and Benjamin. I see some great things and some good times in your future. Thanks for the ride and the company. I had great time yesterday visiting with you and your family.

From Jake K on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 07:49:44 from

Great run for Benjamin, and excellent pacing by you. A great example of how consistency and smart running pays off. Cool that so many of the kids will run in Eugene... That will be quite an experience!

From Dave Taylor on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 08:26:41 from

Thanks again for the great workout, looks like there's a new force to be reckoned with in the HM scene!

From allie on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 08:56:59 from

congratulations to both of you! that's a great debut for benjamin.

From bdase on Sun, Jun 09, 2013 at 12:05:45 from

Sasha I had the opportunity of watching the finish of the half and I have to share with you; as a father it was a very special and inspiring sight to see you and Benjamin kicking in together side by side. Well done to you both.

From RileyCook on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 10:14:51 from

Awesome job Sasha. That's awesome for you to pace your 14-year old to a 1:15 debut half! And congrats on the master's victory.

From Superfly on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 13:55:43 from

Good job to Benny! That's awesome. We were all excited down here last week to see how he'd run- and he did great. Congrats!

From Tara on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 18:52:57 from

Very impressive, Sasha. How exciting for Benjamin to see he could do more than 10 quality miles and to walk away with a couple PR's. A Master's PR while pacing is an added bonus too:)

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