Breaking the Wall

Striders Winter Series 10 Miler

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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 nine children: Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, Jacob, William, Stephen, Matthew,  Mary, and Bella.  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: 104.81 Year: 750.54
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 120.59
Red Crocs Lifetime Miles: 1909.35
Brown Crocs 1 Lifetime Miles: 280.91
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Another early morning run. Met Ted on the trail - he started from Smith's Field House at BYU. Figured since I was rested I'd better do a tempo. Ran 5 miles on the standard Provo River Trail course. Ted ran 2.5. We hit the first mile in 5:40. Then he had to stop for a bio-break at 1.75. I continued. Next mile in 5:40, and 14:10 at the turnaround. My heart rate monitor was not working. I think the battery is dead. But that is fine. I can tell my heart rate by feel most of the time, and use the heart rate monitor mostly for entertainment.

Next quarter in 1:27.7 - the turnaround always knocks me out of rhythm. Quickly sped back up to 5:40 pace. 17:03 at 3 miles (5:43). The next mile in 5:39. I kept hitting the lap split button, mostly to be able to see the time at the quarter instead of using the auto-split feature. I do get annoyed when The Toy gets the splits in wrong places even if it is only a couple of seconds off. If it was not dark, I would not even have bothered with lap splits, but it is a good way to turn the light on. I wish that Garmin had a feature to turn the light on for N seconds every M seconds. I also wish it would show your split with 0.1 second precision, or at least round it off to the nearest whole number rather than truncating the fractions. Seeing the splits of mostly 1:24 and only one of 1:25 misled me into thinking I was headed for a 5:37 mile. But those 1:24s were high 1:24s, and 1:25 was also a high one. So the mile ended up being 5:39, and I was a whole 2 seconds behind the 5:40 guy. And now I had to run the last mile uphill, and my quads were feeling tired.

I did the next quarter in a high 1:26 followed by a high 1:25. Now I was 4 seconds behind the 5:40 guy. On the next quarter I just about said, forget it, I do not want to chase him, I am too tired, it is too early in the morning, 5:41 is as good as 5:40 when I should really be in bed. While I was having those attitude problems, I ran it in 1:26.8. This gave me enough of a break to improve my attitude. I decided to give it an earnest try and put in a solid kick. I decided I'd start right with a quarter to go, and take 60 hard steps, then ease off. This was a mental trick. Two things were going to happen in that time - I would get good momentum, and I would be close enough to the finish to where I could take a few easy steps, and then push all the way through. It worked. I managed 1:17.8 on the last quarter, and 28:18.7 for the whole run beating the 5:40 guy to the tape.

Overall I felt I was not exerting myself cardiovascularly, but my quads were starting to quit when I tried to go sub 5:40. This is usually what I feel limits me most of the time. I suspect I run in such a way that overworks my quads and underworks other muscle groups. Fast 400 meter repeats in the past have helped me to some extent. I think I'll do them on Wednesday. 

Ran with the kids in the evening.

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Ran the usual route with Ted this morning. He uploaded our route to the Course Tool, as well as the tempo course. It is amazing what a military helicopter pilot can do with  a GMap. Ted has the eye of an eagle and amazing attention to landscape detail. Too bad the elevation profile supplied by the US Geo Survey does not have the right resolution. I think it put up the start of the 5 mile tempo at the right elevation, but it averaged in the drop to the adjacent Provo River for the rest of it. It says there is a 17% grade drop in the first 0.01 mile. The only way that is possible is if you jump down to the river.

I did some bum kick drills and short strides on the way out. On the way back we did 8x100. My splits were - 17.3, 16.9, 16.3, 14.9, 14.5, 15.1, 15.2, 15.3. The last two were up a slight grade. We did a fairly brisk 300 meter jog in between. The form felt better. I could feel some power on acceleration. I think I would have PRed in 100 on the track - it was dark, and early, I had to watch out for the mark, and those 100s are actually 1/16 of a mile which is about 0.5 meters longer that 100 meters. I am going to run 100 on the track on Thursday so I'll stop wondering if I would have PRed.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Julia surprised me - she ran half a mile in 4:55. That is the fastest a child has done it in our family prior to turning 4.5. Jenny did not like it - she likes to start out at 11:00 mile pace. It is nice to have a younger child to motivate the older. I do not think Benjamin would have been running as well had it not been for some positive pressure from Jenny.

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Was originally planning on 12x400. However, I caught the same scratchy throat type of cold again. Decided not to push the body too hard, but I still needed some anaerobic speed. Figured 6x400 would be the right type of workout. Did them with Ted, he ran them a bit slower, but not too far behind.

Warm up, then we started on the flattest portion of the trail. First 5 very consistently between 70.2 and 70.9. The recovery was usually a very slow 200 meter jog except one time we did 300 to get to a better place, one time we stopped for my bio break,  and another time (before the last one) we stopped for Ted's. But that is OK, this workout is more about speed for me than recovery, I just keep the recoveries fairly short to get it done in a reasonable amount of time, and I can get away with a very slow 200 meter jog.

On the last one pushed a bit on the last 200 meters. Got 68.5. In all repetitions the anaerobic bear started to climb on me at 200, and was comfortably (for him, not for me) sitting on my back by 300. However, as the last repetition shows, I could run through it for a while with a little bit of willpower application. Probably all of the repetitions were about 0.5 to a full second slower from having to ease off before the mark so as not to miss it. It was still dark.

Did a fairly long cool down. Ran to the library and back with the kids in the afternoon. Benjamin did well on the way back - hit a mile in 7:39 fairly relaxed, and in spite of a side ache.

Treating the cold with large doses of onion mixed with agave to make it somewhat edible.

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The 100 meter sprints on Tuesday have stirred my curiosity as to what I could do on the track in an all out 100. Today was not quite the best day to do it, but there will never be a best day. So I decided to give it a shot. Ted and I warmed up to the Provo High track. Then I did a few accelerations to get ready. Then Ted timed me from a standing start. In two attempts I managed 14.8 and 14.6. Nothing unusual - just about what I used to get in the past, although I had never tried them in the dark before, or at least never ran that fast in the dark and that early in the morning. It felt awkward to run from a standing start.

I can think of a few reasons why the sprinting felt a lot better on Tuesday. One, is I had not done it on Tuesday yet. Two, I had not done the 400s the day before. Three, they were not from a standing start, which I think for me makes a lot of difference - having to accelerate that fast tenses me up for 60 meters or so before I can finally get into the groove.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. My cold got a bit worse during the day, and I've even considered skipping the 10 miler, but then I attacked it with large doses of garlic and fluids with electrolytes (EmerenC) and it got quite a bit better. 

Now what is the big deal about 100 meters? I believe regardless of what distance you train for, if you are a runner you need to know how to run. 100 meter sprint is a good home test of your running form. Let us think of a bike for an analogy. Let us say we have untrued wheels. Riding a slow speed will take more energy, but you can still do it. However, riding at a high speed will be impossible even if we try to do it for a very short period of time. If your distance performance suffers, there is an equal probability that the problem is endurance or biomechanics. However, if your sprint performance suffers, the endurance factor is eliminated. The element of natural or trained explosiveness comes into play, but I believe it is not as important as the endurance for a long distance event. It is not unusual to find men that do not do squat for exercise of any kind, and can still run a 12.0 100 meters or faster. That is only 20% slower than the world record. 20% slower than the world record in a marathon is 2:30. How many guys can run a 2:30 marathon with no training?

Thus, training in a marathon can obscure or compensate for the effects of bad biomechanics. But it is much more difficult to do it in a sprint. And it is nearly impossible to do it for somebody with dominant slow twitch fibers. On top of the untrued wheels bike effect, he has another problem. If you train him to sprint, he has very little he can train. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that if a slow twitch dominant runner can do a decent 100 meter sprint, he is doing it mostly off good form. And, if the sprint is slower than a certain threshold, the problem is biomechanical.

So I would roughly put people into the following groups (some adjustment might be needed, it would be nice if somebody did a research on this):

GroupIdentifying Qualities
With proper biomechanics, 100 meters under 11.0 for men, under 12.5 for women. Trained for distance, slow down way more in longer distances than what McMillan calculator estimates.
Middle-distance runners
With proper biomechanics, 100 meters under 12.0 for men, and 13.6 for women. Trained for distance, slow down according to the McMillan calculator from 100 to the mile, then a bit more towards 5000 meters, then much more after that.
Regular distance runners
With proper biomechanics, 100 meters under 12.7 for men and 14.4 for women. Trained for distance, slow down a little bit less than the McMillan calculator curve from 100 meters all the way to the marathon.
Distance runners with unusually high proportions of slow twitch fibers
With proper biomechanics, 100 meters under 14.0 for men, and 15.8 for women. Trained for distance, hardly any slow down from 100 meters to 800 meters - can almost run 800 in 8 times their 100 meter PR. However, the slow down from 800 to the marathon matches that of the Regular distance runners.

I would be a regular distance runner with bad biomechanics. Sometimes we explain away the poor performance in 100 meters of a regular distance runner by saying he just does not have a lot of fast twitch muscles. I think it is a mistake. First, if he does not run 100 under 14.0, he either has biomechanical issues, or some form of mild muscular dystrophy or some other health issue otherwise. Second, if he indeed is so slow twitch, when properly trained, he will very closely approach his 8x100 PR time in 800 meter race.

The above is an expression of my intuition I've gained from  22 years of running experience. I would really, really like to see some research on this, though. If anybody has any feedback on this, feel free to comment. I am very much open to correction/clarification of my ideas. 

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I was originally planning on doing my regular distance today. However, the cold has changed my plans. I figured even if I did not have to race tomorrow, going 10 miles in the morning still would not have been as beneficial as 6. I met Ted on the trail and we ran at an easy pace.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

Went to see Dr. Jex. He said the hip weights would do me no good, at least the kind that he tried on me. X-rays showed that if I put them on, my hips become even more imbalanced that in neutral position.  So we scheduled a long session Monday to try all kinds of things, take X-rays, look at them, and then decide what to do next. I think he has a lot at stake now. First, professional honor. I know that if I am working on a programming project for somebody, and it does not quite work, I really do not like to say, well, too bad, I've tried my best. I'll try my very thorough best before I say it, especially when it is something critical to the business of the client. I think he is the same way - if it does not work right away, he will not just quit. 

Another aspect is that I have already maxed out my potential with what training and diet can do. I suppose there is some room for improvement if I could run 120 miles a week and sleep 10 hours a day, but that is not happening, not at least until I find a way to make money without being there doing it all the time. Which is still at least a few years away. My current regimen has produced very consistent results for the last three years. To the point where I go to a race knowing exactly the time I am going to run. It is good my times are not getting worse, but they are not getting better.  If I improve even only 5 minutes in the marathon due to his treatment this will serve as a loud indicator that he has some magic in his hands.

Started working on integrating a Google Map into the Course Tool, so you would not have to go to GMap Pedometer to make maps. 

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Race: Striders Winter Series 10 Miler (9.86 Miles) 00:59:02, Place overall: 6
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Winter Series Striders 10 miler, 59:01.8, 6th place. To to a mistake by the race director in laying out the course the morning of the race, we ended up cutting off a certain distance that was 0.14 according to my Garmin 305. But in the end it does not matter, as we all ran the same race, and the course was so hilly that the time is meaningful only in comparison with other people in the race.

My cold started getting better the day before. However, I was still not quite healthy. As Ted and I drove up to the race, I decided I would pace Chad for the first three miles, if I felt healthy enough. Then take off if I felt good, or just hang on and finish the race if not. When I got to the race I remembered that Chad was not running. I convinced Steve Ashbaker to hang around with me for the first three miles. He agreed, figuring a slower start could do him some good.

We went through the first uphill mile in 5:54. It felt easy. Too easy. Ted caught us and told us to speed up. Joe Wilson was way out front, followed by Paul Petersen and Bob Thompson a distance behind. I was in a group with Steve, Ken Richardson, Ted, and Albert Wint.

Second mile was downhill. We pushed a bit harder, and got a good split - 5:11. Only 10 seconds behind Paul and Bob. The pace felt good. I even thought of making a move to catch them, but decided it would not be a good idea for a couple of reasons. I was not fully healthy, and I know that in that condition the early miles for me feel a lot easier. And the hills were coming up.

The wrong turn happened some place during the third mile. For the record, the split at mile marker three was 17:05, which was long. The race director guessed that one, it was not at the certified location. By that time I was with Ken and Steve. Shortly after, the climb started, and I fell behind. Running up the hills I decided to pay attention to two things - first the feeling, and second the heart rate to catch possible errors of perception, and also for the purpose of gaining experience and understanding. I figured as long as those hills were, I needed to stay right at my anaerobic threshold for best results. If the competition is pulling away, do not worry about it. They are stronger on the hill, and there is not much I can do about it now. The time to worry about it was before the race. All I can do by pretending I am as strong as them on the hill is lose it half way through the hill, not be able to go fast on the downhill, and end up further behind. Otherwise, with proper pacing, I might even be able to catch them on the downhill.

Official mile 4 (3.86 on the GPS), 21:44. Steve and Ken are within sight, Bob and Paul are out of sight. Hills are getting nastier and there seems to be no end of them. 28:07 at the official mile 5, 6:23 mile. Now the official mile markers are actually separated by exactly one mile since we are back on the certified course. The next mile has a nasty climb, I saw one quarter in 1:57 on the GPS, and otherwise were comparably slow. However, there was a downhill stretch towards the end which saved the mile split somewhat - 34:58 at "mile 6", 6:51. I closed a bit of a gap on Ken on that stretch. I wished it were longer.

Now the infamous 10 K hill. Paul called it the stairway to the place for those who sin and do not repent for a good reason. I am hitting 1:50-1:55 quarters, and Ken is not gaining much distance on me, and I can still see Steve, and he is not separating from us either, at least not by very much. Interestingly enough, as I kept the effort at my perception of anaerobic threshold my heart rate dropped from 162 in the early sections of the hill to 158 later on. I have seen this before running up Squaw Peak. The heart rate starts to drop towards the end of the hill. The hill has to be fairly long, though, so that you cannot get through it with a surge of effort. And it needs to be steep, about 6-7%. The way I feel the threshold is by the feedback from the quad. Right around there it starts feeling a bit sour, that is the best I can describe that feeling. On a flat or slightly downhill sections I get that feeling at around the heart rate of 161-163 if I am well rested and having a good day. On a bad day, I might get it at 157. It is that feeling that keeps me from going faster in a tempo run or a 15 K/10 mile/ half-marathon.

What is interesting is that in the past, I used to go by breathing to determine the correct pace for the half-marathon. Now it is not the breathing that limits me any more, it is that feeling of muscular fatigue in the quad. I suppose going up a steep hill for a while overworks the quad, and it starts quitting, which drives the heart rate down.

The hill keeps going up and up. I am starting to believe there is no end to it. Finally, we reach a point where I see no roads above us. That is a good sign, the hill is over. A short downhill stretch at the top give a bit of a saving grace for the mile split. 42:07 at the 7 mile marker, 7:09 for the mile.

Now the downhill. Here the mind is playing tricks on me, I knew it would. My heart rate goes down to 155 for a second. I push it a bit, now 157. Starting to get into a good rhythm. Now 160. Next mile in 5:24, starting to close a bit on Ken. Headwind is not helping. Next mile, less steep down in 5:32. Ken now is only 3 seconds ahead. I decided I'd do my best to pass him. But I think he decided he'd do his best to not get passed.

Nasty climb on the last mile. He pulls ahead, then comes back a bit. The climb is over. Now he shifts gears faster than me and is gone for good. I am pressing as hard as I can, but I just cannot shift my gears that fast. Right as I am approaching the finish chute my heart rate is only 161. And I am thinking kick, kick, get him! 59:01.8, last mile in 5:59, Ken is 13 seconds ahead, Steve  37 seconds ahead.

Short cool down to not make the cold worse, then the Zmei Gorynovich treatment after that (a clove of garlic). Zmei Gorynovich is a three headed flying fire-breathing serpent in  Russian fairy tales. My mom calls me Zmei Gorynovich whenever I eat a lot of garlic.

Overall, I thinking although the cold was a factor, mostly it was the hills that killed me. Nothing new. The hips and the spine need to be fixed. I am happy I was able to run somewhat decent under the circumstances. I am looking forward to the half-marathon, which is mostly downhill. 

Ran some more with the kids in the afternoon.

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