Breaking the Wall

Week starting Mar 18, 2007

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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: 16.00 Year: 2314.91
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: 1185.83
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Easy run with Ted. I've done so many of those that my blog now ranks number 2 on Google for the search term "easy run with Ted". Feeling better. Ran the last mile in 5:48, felt strong, but did not like my form.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Jenny impressed me with an 8:02 mile after 0.5 warm-up. It's been a while since she's run this fast. Benjamin was playing rather crazy in the back yard and fell on a rock. He could run, but his form did not look good. I told him to take a day of rest.

We went swimming in the evening. I timed myself over 50 yards - 55 seconds. That is the fastest I've swam 50 yards since 1994 when I took Intermediate Swimming at BYU from Tim Powers, the BYU swim team coach. He tried hard to teach me good form, and made enough progress to where I improved from 60 seconds to 51 seconds in the 50 yard distance. But even with the improvement I was still significantly slower than everybody else in the class including all of the girls. Since then, whenever I would occasionally time myself I was consistently between 58 and 60 seconds. I think this improvement shows that the recent addition of shoulder weights in my Pettibon routine has been effective. I also felt more power in the right arm in the water.

I am very excited about this development. This is the first time something changed measurably in my athletic performance since the start of Pettibon if you do not count my informal vertical jump test earlier. This one is a lot more significant - with the vertical jump it could have easily been a measurement fluke, and I am thinking it was. I did not have standard measurement procedures, and the improvement was not recorded on the same type of test. A small thing, but I am excited. For the first time something improved. This small development strengthens my faith that running can also improve. 

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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First day of feeling almost normal. Only a little bit of runny nose and sinus pain. Ran a light tempo with Ted. We went on the standard 5 mile tempo course on the Provo River Trail by Geneva Road. Again, used the Weldon Johnson hit the split but do not look method. It produced interesting results this early in the morning (the tempo started at 5:00 AM). Splits by 0.5 - 3:10 - 3:10 - 3:06 - 3:06 - 3:07 - 3:04 - 3:00 - 2:58 - 2:55 - 2:49. Total time 30:25, first half in 15:39, second half in 14:46, last mile in 5:44. The first two miles felt way too easy cardiovascularly, but there was enough of a neurological stress for me to believe we were going a decent pace. Ted did not push it, so I did not either. Then I began to suspect that we were probably going way too slow, and started pushing it a bit. Then I started breathing.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Then went to see Dr. Jex. He showed an exercise with it he wanted me to do.  I am supposed to lay in a very strange position 6 minutes a day that produces the correct reverse twist for my hips. We'll see what it does.

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Easy run with Ted in the morning. Started to feel recovered from the sinus infection. The naps have been helping. Ran 1.5 at marathon pace effort at the end, timed the last 0.75 of it - 4:17. Heart rate of 148 at the end.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. 

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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Woke up from an interesting running dream. My dreams have become very close to reality when it comes to running. When I run in a dream, I feel the pain, my splits and times are very realistic. In the dream I was running against Paul Petersen in a 5 mile road race. The race started out flat, then had a downhill section, then flattened out again. It was a fairly fast course. In the beginning Paul pulled away. Then gathering all of my strength I closed the gap on the downhill right before we got to the final flat section. We had a mile to go.  Paul put in a surge to get rid of me. I first thought of letting him go, but then decided no way, I worked way too hard to catch him, and I have nothing to lose. There was another short runner with us I did not quite recognize. I tucked in behind Paul and tried to hang on. It felt very painful. The short runner dropped back a few seconds but was still within striking distance. Then we approached the finish and the kick started. I moved out into the passing position, and tried to turn on top speed. My legs felt like I was at the end of a mile race, they felt like lead, I could not pick it up any more. Neither could Paul, but he managed to stay ahead no matter how hard I tried. We ended up finishing with 25:03.1 for him, and 25:03.3 for me.

Now reality that followed the dream. Tempo run with Steve on the standard 10 mile tempo run course. We did it using Weldon Johnson's method of hit the split do not look at it until you are done. Went through the first 2.5 in 14:42. Heart rate eventually climbed to 150. Then as we turned around Steve started pushing it. I started feeling uncomfortable and asked him to back off. Next 2.5 in 14:24 with the pace fluctuating between 5:40 and 5:55. I would get the heart rate of 155 at 5:40 and 153 at 5:50. Not a big difference in numbers, but 5:40 required a lot more effort. It was probably mental - I was expecting to coast through the run at my marathon pace effort and did not want to push it. I should not be hurting that bad with the heart rate of only 155.

We turned around and in the same pattern continued to another 2.5 in 14:28. Then another turnaround. I decided this time I would not hold Steve back, let him run whatever he feels like, and just grind my teeth and hang in there. But I did tell him I wanted it closer to marathon pace than threshold. The pace eventually became 5:40, the heart rate this time climbed to 158, and this time it felt more comfortable. Perhaps now my mind came to terms with the idea that it was going to be hard. Then on the last mile Steve picked it up. I tucked in behind him hanging on for dear life. Without a watch and the split times to look at to soothe the pain, I began counting 100s - 1500 to go - still alive, 1400 to go, still alive ... 300 to go, can't believe I am still alive. Finish, I made it! 57:43 for 10 miles, 14:09 on the last 2.5, 5:30 on the last mile, probably about 5:23 flat mile equivalent. We even split the last mile. The heart rate climbed to 163 in the first half, and then to 165 in the second for split average, maxing out at 166.

Ran with the kids in the evening. 

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Easy run with Ted in the morning. Dropped him off at 6.5, then went on for more. Decided to do a short tempo to feel the waters. Ran 1.25 in 6:42 from the DI bridge to the railroad bridge on the trail. It is a slight down, about 0.5 %, but it does roll. Heart rate eventually climbed to 159. Legs felt strong, I felt I was getting a lot of power in my stride.

Ran with the kids in the evening. Got the GMap plotting feature in the course tool to the point where I could make it public. Check it out. Lots of little and not so little things are still lacking, but at least you do not have to go to GMap Pedometer and do the GPX dance to upload your course. One step at a time we'll get there.

The new feature helped me discover an interesting problem in Google Maps. There appears to be a shift or a small discrepancy between what you see, and the coordinates Google Maps API gives you. Here is my evidence for it - I clicked around the parking lot where the Provo River Trail intersects the Geneva road to get an idea of what the actual elevation of it is. I figured, I am getting averages of 30 meter squares from the US Geo service. Well, the parking lot is big enough, and it is nearly perfectly flat, you should not be getting any variation more than 1 foot or so. Well, the elevation data I am getting shows there is a 10 foot deep hollow right in the middle of the parking lot, which matches the width of the adjacent Provo River. When you click on the Provo River, there is no drop in the elevation, and it actually happens to be above the hollow of the parking lot. I am still not quite sure what to do about it. Paul, any ideas?

I do have a friend who is a runner who works for Provo City, and does survey measurements. Maybe I should have him stop by and get the actual coordinates of some easily identifiable point in that parking lot, then file a bug reports to Google Maps.

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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Tempo run on the Provo River Trail. Warmed up. Then ran 2.5 out in 13:46. Did not look at the watch until I was done. I was anticipating 13:55 and thought I had slowed down on the last 0.5. It turned out that quite the opposite happened - my splits by 0.5 were 2:49 - 2:44 - 2:44 - 2:44   - 2:43. The heart rate eventually made its way up to 162. On the way back, which is always slower due being a slight uphill, I had quite the opposite experience. I thought I was running 13:52. It turned out to be 14:04. The splits were 2:52 - 2:50 - 2:46 - 2:50 - 2:46. The heart rate was much higher - it climbed to 165 on the last 0.5 for average, and maxed out at 167. Nevertheless, I did feel strong and in control through the run.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. 

Need to do more of those runs to get used to the pain of running at threshold. I wonder about the whole physiological model of threshold, how accurate it is. There have been some recent studies that showed the concept of threshold is rather artificial. I define it as the pace you can sustain for an hour in a race situation. Physiologically, it is defined as the point where you break down lactic acid at the same rate you are producing it. When I reach the threshold pace, my quads start feeling funny. It feels like I am eating a lemon, but the feeling is coming from the muscles. It is as if I could actually taste the acid that is building up. When I was a teenager, I never felt it in the muscle, my breathing would just become uncomfortable to the point of feeing like I was about to vomit. Now I still breathe pretty hard, but I could breathe harder if my muscles would let me. Although I can hold that effort for an hour in a race, when I am in good shape it becomes very uncomfortable and requires a lot of concentration. When I get out of shape or if I am just having a bad day, I feel like I am not working very hard, but just cannot go any faster. 
So I have a strong suspicion that the threshold for me is not so much about the lactate level in the blood or muscle, as it is in the ability of the nervous system to deal with it, and still keep firing at the muscle even if the muscle is fussing and trying to inhibit it. I have had quite a bit of experience where an anaerobic workout once a week in combination with tempo runs would raise my threshold pace past the level that I was reaching with tempo runs alone.

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