Breaking the Wall

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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: 88.07 Year: 2386.98
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: 1257.89
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 5 Miles: 76.00
Night Sleep Time: 43.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 44.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church as usual. We had a Fast and Testimony meeting, then a lesson in Sunday School about gifts of the Spirit.

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Total of 12. Did a pickup for a mile. Benjamin did 5, Jenny 3, Julia 3, Joseph 3, Jacob 2, William 0.5.

Benjamin took the AP Chemistry test today at Orem High. This is going to be an interesting benchmark of our educational method. Last year he took Calculus BC test and got a 4, which I thought was a good result for a 13-year-old, but I know calculus well enough to teach the AP test material. I know some chemistry, I successfully challenged BYU Chem 105 19 years ago, I do have a good memory, but it is not perfect, I have not done anything with chemistry since them except occasional curiosity reading, and I found that I did not know enough to teach Benjamin, and I did not have enough time to learn it all either. But I found out that I did not have to. We came up with a study plan, used, sample tests, Google, and a textbook. He learned what I could not teach him and he taught me some of that in the process as well.  Benjamin came home feeling quite confident in the result, but we will find out how well he learned this when the test scores come out in a month or so.

The concept of an environment where the student exceeds the teacher is something I consider critical for effective education. Not just home school but at any level. When you have a real job, you have to self-learn, you have to figure things out that nobody can teach you. It is a good skill to learn at a young age.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Total of 12. Benjamin did 5, Jenny 4, Joseph 2, Jacob 1, Julia 3, William 1. Joseph took Stephen for a short run as well. Stephen is still in diapers, so he does not run regularly as a workout.

Benjamin took the AP Computer Science test. Of the four he is taking this year - Chemistry, Computer Science, Calculus BC, and Physics C: Mechanics this might be the easiest for him because he has quite a bit of programming experience. He had to learn Java for this test - most of his experience is in PHP, although he has programmed in Perl and C as well. He felt quite confident after the test, which is a good sign. He also was the only one taking the test. There were about 20 students at Orem High taking the Chemistry exam, but Orem High does not offer Computer Science as a course so Benjamin was it. But they were nice enough to order the test for us and administer it. They only have to proctor, and send it somewhere else to grade, so it is no big deal for them.

I was perhaps naively surprised that nobody else had thought of learning Java on their own and taking the test like Benjamin. If you get even just a 3 (out of 5 graded on a curve) that is a 3 hour credit at BYU for the introductory Computer Science course. Only $89 - compared to around $500 or so worth of tuition - quite a deal. Well, I am posting it here so the cat will be out of the bag.

I did a 3 mile tempo run from the magic spot in the canyon to the house. First mile downhill, then a rolling climb back to the house. Ended up with 17:08. Did not think I'd be running much faster than 6:00 due to the hamstring tension, but it partially went away, and I realized how much had missed my hamstring. But then in the last mile I started to struggle with the pace I think due to not getting good sleep the night before - for some reason I woke up and just lay there from a little before 5 until I finally decided to get up a little after 6. My time was 17:08.

Julia did 800 meter time trial today at the Orem High track. I paced her. She started out a bit too fast going through the first 100 in 21, but I did not hold her back because she had held herself back too much in the past. I also noticed that if I hold my kids back when they are starting out, they get the wrong idea and settle into a pace that is too slow. So I just let them go and follow them. Once they drop below the target pace, I step forward.

Her 200 was 45, then 1:34 at 400 (49), 2:24 at 600 (50), and the last 200 in 46 finishing in 3:10.8 which is a new PR by 6 seconds, and her first PR of the year.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 6.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with the kids. Total of 11.5. Jenny did 3, Julia 3, Joseph 3, Jacob did 2.05 miles on our nasty course in 15;48 with the splits of 8:08 for the first half, and 7:40 for the second. I was quite impressed by that. It all started with me challenging Jacob to catch an adult runner ahead of us. He did it without too much of a problem, I invited the runner to join us but he was too intimidated to run with us even though I told him Jacob was only 6 years old - maybe that had the opposite effect. Once Jacob got going, he was maintaining a decent pace, so I challenged him to break 16:00 and he did with vengeance. William did 0.5.

Benjamin took AP Calculus BC today. It took quite a bit out of him. The stress of a third AP test wore on him, and early on he felt his mind was clouded. But then it cleared up and he felt more and more confident in his answers. So we'll see what he got - the worst thing that can happen is that he did not get a 5 - he already has a 4 to his credit from last year. So he ran only 3 miles today to avoid getting sick as he felt a cold coming on - we do have a little cold going around the house.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 11.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Total of 12. Today finally was the day when Benjamin did not have an AP test. I finally got to run with him for the first time this week. We took it easy because he felt like he was catching a cold last night. I also was aware of the stress of those tests, so we had to adjust the mileage to make sure it did not push him into the red zone from that. This made be appreciate home schooling. We do not have to worry about external academic stress except when it is time to test. This has academic benefits, but it also has general health benefits which translates into running benefits among other things. We give academic stimulus when we feel the child can take it, and in the amount that we feel is beneficial. In running the timing and the amount of stimulus is critical - if you do it wrong you either overtrain or undertrain. I believe the same is true in schooling.

So Benjamin just ran 4 with me and Jenny today, and then 5 more with William. Then I took Jacob for 1 mile, and then Joseph for 2. I learned something about Joseph today, it just came to me. Again, another benefit of home schooling and home coaching at the same time made possible by having a telecommuting job. There is no way I could do those things if I had to be at an office all day - even if the scheduling worked out, the stress would have made it difficult for me to observe those things. We started the run, and around a quarter into it I challenged Joseph to beat Jacob's time of 15:48 from the day before. Eager to prove that he is faster than his younger brother,  Joseph accepted the challenge. About a mile into it he started slowing down complaining about a side-ache. But I could tell that it was more than that. Yes, the side ache was making it difficult, but he was not dealing with it right. I let him stop and do a few squats to stretch things out but also for a mental reboot. He when he started running, he was still having a bad attitude, and going a slower pace. Then something clicked, and he sped up. By that time he was a good 20 seconds behind Jacob's pace. He shaved off the difference down to 4 seconds by the end, but still ended up behind with 15:52.

Then it just dawned on me - Joseph has a hard time doing things that require effort and need to be taught how to do it in a special way. Not uncommon for an 8-year-old boy, but he struggles with it more than our other children have so far. A famous quote from him a couple of years ago. Jacob was telling him that he (Jacob) was feeling lazy. Joseph's response: "You are not feeling lazy, you are feeling tired. Lazy is when you have the energy to work, but you do not want to work". We all laughed because we knew Joseph was intimately familiar with the matter.

So I thought of a remedy. It was a non-running remedy but I felt it would benefit his running among other things. I told him to read Benjamin's physics textbook. Joseph objected saying that he had tried and it made no sense to him. Then I knew that this was exactly what he needed. I told him: "When you find something that does not make sense, do not just lay the book aside or read past it. Find me or Benjamin, and ask us to explain to you what that means. Spend more time than 5 seconds fighting with it before you declare that something does not make sense."

The next day later I found him reading that textbook on his own initiative at 9:00 pm in the van while we were coming back from Jenny's play.

Julia ran 3 miles. I added 2.05 at the end on the same Joseph-Jacob nasty course in 11:46.9.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. I did my long run today because of the kids' track meet the next day, except I kept it medium long because I had to work immediately afterwards, and I knew I was not going to get adequate recovery if I made it full 20.  So I ran 8 out uphill in about 59 minutes, and then 8 back down in 46:20- 5:47.5 average. I struggled in the last 2 miles, and especially in the last mile. It did not feel like fuel, I think it was the heart. In fact, for the last two weeks I've felt like I've had a hole in my heart. Well, I do not think there is really a hole, otherwise I would be dead, or at least would not be able to run at all. It is probably just the thinning out of the muscle and it is probably very minor, but to me it is not because all of a sudden my pace drops by 10 seconds per mile terrain adjusted in the last two miles of an 8 mile tempo at the end of a long run, so I call it "a hole".

I have actually considered the idea of training runners to recognize what is going on with their heart by performing the tests at the times they felt there was something different. The idea is this - a trained runner with some HRM experience knows his HR without having to measure it. He knows his pace by feel. With some training he could be taught to identify his stride rate. By the same token he could be trained to identify his lactate concentration and blood glucose level by feel. What else? How about the thickness of the heart muscle in different parts of his heart? Probably a good number of important parameters. Why is this important? A runner with some scientific training paying close attention to his body overtime would be able to formulate a hypothesis about some process that a scientist would never think of because the runner has 24x7 access to a multitude of sensors and can processes their input subconsciously - a luxury not available to a scientist even in the best equipped lab. Then the scientist could test it and prove it in a lab.

I wrote to a couple of researchers about it. They agreed with me that it was a good idea, but as far as I know it never progressed beyond the status of a good idea. I suppose if I really wanted to push this beyond it I could get a degree in cardiology, get my hands on the equipment, and start doing it. Or maybe there is a better way - I need to become good friends with a cardiologist that has access to the equipment, is a bit of an unconventional thinker, and is interested in exercise. If you know anybody, give them a reference to this post.

Benjamin did 6, Jenny 4, Julia 2, Jacob 1, Joseph 2, William 1.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 16.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Did 12 total with Steve Ashbaker and Chad. We ran out 6, then on the way back did the 3 mile tempo course from Nunn's Park to the mouth of the canyon. On the positive side of things, I woke up without the feeling of "the hole" in the heart. One difference between this night and others was that when Matthew woke up Sarah did not wake me up to get him. I have been getting up and bringing him to her to nurse because if she gets out of bed, she has a hard time falling asleep. I have been falling asleep after getting him right away, but I think he has been timing his wakefulness just when my sleep was in the middle of doing heart repair. 

In any case, because I ran hard yesterday, my plan for the tempo was to just keep company to Chad and Steve. I was hoping the pace would not be much faster than 5:40, but I was wrong. We went through the first mile in 5:19. Then I knew that the heart repair was good because this pace felt very manageable in spite of the 16 miler with an 8 mile tempo the day before.  Shortly after 2000 Steve dropped back, but Chad was still pushing it. We hit 1.5 in 7:59. I was sitting behind Chad for two reasons. One is that I was lazy and I did not want the pace to be any faster than it already was. The other was that I felt that if I had approached the run taking responsibility for the pace, I might go too fast for both of us because I was not sure that Chad could hold 5:20 pace all the way. But when Chad's pace started to slip I decided to step forward and help him - I felt that 5:30 was good for my health, and that it would also help Chad get a really good time and a confidence builder for the Ogden marathon. So we ran like that to the end. We hit 2 miles in 10:45 (5:26), 2.5 in 13:31, and then finished in 16:16 (5:31 for the last mile).

Jenny ran 3 miles including 1 with William.

P.M. Took Benjamin, Julia, Joseph, and Jacob to the USATF track meet in Park City at the Park City High track. The reason we were there was to practice competing, and get some official times for the track meet in Eugine on July 13 which requires qualifiers. Jenny could not do it because she was in a play - she would have to get her qualifier in the next meet. The meet qualifying standards are here. So Joseph and Jacob had to run 3:30 for the 800, Julia had to run 3:20 because even though she is still only 10, she counts as a Midget because her birth year is 2002, and Benjamin had to run 11:30 for 3000.

With Benjamin we had several plans - plan A was to break 10:00, plan A+ was to take down Josh Rohatinsky's Youth state record of 9:49, plan A- was to run a little slower than 10:00, and plan C was to hit the qualifier of 11:30 for the Eugine meet.

There were some things against him - the track is located at the altitude of 6770 feet, his race started at 1:30 pm with the sun shining brightly, there were only 3 other runners in the race, which was better than the worst we were afraid of, but none of them could help with the pace even for a lap, Benjamin had done no speed for two weeks - the first week due to the injured piriformis and the second due to the AP tests and a minor cold, and he did take three AP tests this week which took quite a bit out of him. So I held the A+ and the A plans out there, but I knew that it would be difficult to get them. However, trying to get them he would do the best that he could under the circumstances, so I told him to pace for 10:00, and if things were good, go for the record, and if not, hang in there and just do his best.

He ran 10:10.3 with the following splits: 78.9, 79.2, 79.6, 83.0, 84.9, 85.1, 85.1, 34.6. The altitude got to him on the fourth lap. This was a good learning experience and it reveals something we need to work on - aerobic conditioning. Well, his conditioning is OK, but he is aerobically underdeveloped, which is not a surprise - he is in the middle of maturation, which creates an imbalance with the body being too big for the cardiovascular system, but I've seen it worse. In fact, I think because of his training this growth-related aerobic capacity lapse has been mitigated so well that you have to take him to 6700 feet or have him run a fast pace past 3 miles to notice the problem. But it is good to know the problem exists. I was very happy with this performance, and particularly with his ability to muster a 34.6 kick with no competitor in sight unless you count the ones being lapped after struggling with several 85 second laps.

For a comparison, Josh ran 9:49 at 5782 feet when he set his record. So now I think we can say for sure that Benjamin is honestly within 21 seconds of that performance by all counts.

A well-meaning coach suggested that next time Benjamin should run in "real shoes", which Benjamin wisely and politely corrected explaining that he has run all of his PRs in Crocs including a 200 in 29.

Joseph and Jacob were in the same heat and they dominated it. Joseph went through the first lap in 95. I yelled at him to speed up, and he did hitting the next lap in 91 high finishing in 3:06.97. Jacob was second with the first lap in 97 and the second lap in 99 finishing in 3:16.15, which is his new PR. Both qualified for the meet.

Julia ran the first lap in 92, but then on the second lap her low iron came into play at the higher altitude and she struggled. But she still held it together and finished in 3:11.8 (still do not have her official time) in third place in the Midget girls and hitting the meet qualifier of 3:20 with room to spare.

I ended up jogging about 0.5 going back and forth. Joseph and Jacob ran about 1 each total, Julia around 1.5.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 12.50
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 5 Miles: 76.00
Night Sleep Time: 43.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 44.50
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