Breaking the Wall

Deseret News 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: 0.00 Month: 266.81 Year: 266.81
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: 1657.61
Brown Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 1438.17
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Schwinn Double Stroller Miles: 3.00Green Crocs 6 Miles: 55.02
Night Sleep Time: 44.50Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 46.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. The sacrament meeting talks were on dealing with adversity. One speaker mentioned his struggles trying to sleep-train his kids. He explained that this helped him understand why God leaves us alone to solve our problems. Raising children definitely has helped me understand this at a new level. It is no surprise to me that I hear "If God was really there he would not let us struggle" mostly from people who do not yet have children.

Another speaker mentioned an experience after the General Conference. A request was made for someone speaking Mandarin Chinese. He volunteered and got to talk to a woman from mainland China. She was impressed by Elder Holland's talk and wanted to be baptized. He helped make the arrangements for her to meet with the missionaries and she did get baptized. Later I talked to our local missionaries and they told me a missionary from mainland China will soon be serving in the Provo Mission. The Chinese are coming! 

Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 8.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 12.5 miles total. Rather unplanned, but I realized that I did not have enough miles for all of the children too late and figured I rather have a less than perfect taper than have Julia run alone.

Jenny did a 400 meter time trial at the Orem High track. Her time was 77.3, an improvement of 6 seconds over her PR from last year. Her splits were 18.5, 19.3 (37.7), 20.3 (58.0), and 19.3. I was quite happy about that. Now with proper endurance we will soon be seeing 2:40 in the 800 and sub-6:00 in the mile, and the endurance should be on its way - we finally figured out how to run 4 miles daily. She ended up with 4 miles total.

Julia did 3, Joseph 3, Jacob 2, William 0.5, Benjamin 8. Benjamin and I did a pickup for 0.5 at what I thought would be my marathon pace aiming for something like 5:45, but it ended up being 5:30 on a non-aided stretch. I was happy about that as well.

In the evening I showed Benjamin the video of Steve Cram setting the world record of 3:29.67 in the 1500 meters while racing Said Aouita. The reason I wanted him to see it was Cram's 400 meter kick. He never reaches the blazing speed of Aouita and almost gets caught on the home stretch, but his height and leg length prove advantageous in leaning so he ends up winning by 0.04 s. Benjamin has a similar strength - the ability to power through a long kick.

It is also interesting to compare the age progression - Cram was born in October of 1960. He ran 4:31.5 in 1973 , then 4:22.3 in 1974, 4:13.9 in 1975, 4:07.2 in 1976, then 3:47.7 in 1977. I do not have the exact date for the times, but it would reasonable to assume they were reached some time in late spring or early summer. Benjamin so far has 4:31.58 at 5700 feet of altitude in 88 F heat at the age of 14.4 which we should probably compare with Cram's 4.13.9 at the age of maybe 14.7. So about 18 seconds minus heat/altitude adjustment behind pace for 3:29 lifetime 1500, but hopefully he can close that this Thursday in Greensboro, NC.  He really does not need 3:30 1500 for a good marathon, 3:40 will be sufficient. But a low 3:30 will sure be nice. So I told him to stay within 10 seconds of Cram throughout his life up until he is 25 - let's see if he can do it.

Schwinn Double Stroller Miles: 3.00Green Crocs 6 Miles: 12.50
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. 5 miles total. Benjamin did 5, Jenny 4, Julia 3, Joseph 3, Jacob 2, William 0.5.

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 5.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
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Race: Deseret News Marathon (26.219 Miles) 02:37:57, Place overall: 2, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Deseret News Marathon, 2:37:55, 2nd overall, 1st master. With the double-dip this would be $750, without $500, with the modern socialist "everyone is a winner" "it is not fair that masters with all their experience rob younger runners of the money they deserve" it goes down to $250 - the official policy is not stated on the website and I have not yet received my money, so I suppose I'll find out later.

The time was not very fast, but it was fast enough to be the fastest master time for this version of the course. I get extra perks for being old, I suppose.

James and Allie were nice enough to let me stay with them the night before. James gave me a differential equation problem to solve before I went to bed which I worked on in my mind while trying to fall asleep. Once I solved it I fell asleep immediately completely forgetting about the race or anything else. I highly recommend this method. I recall a study a while ago that recorded the highest number of yawns per student during a lecture among a number of technical courses in the one on differential equations.

The race went like this. In the first 4 miles which are a very steep downhill I ran with Jon Kotter and John Rosswog. The splits were 5:13, 5:10 (10:23), 4:59 (15:22), and 5:33 (20:55). Around 4 miles Jon pulled ahead while John fell back. It stayed that way all the way to the finish with each gap increasing by about the same amount with just one exception. I stopped for a VPB shortly after mile 5. So mile 5 was 5:27 (26:22), then the VPB mile had some uphill on top of the standard time loss, so it was 6:18 (32:40).

Then the climb up the Little Mountain started. I thought I was going to get 6:30 on the next mile, but the perception of strength apparently was deceptive. My split was 6:44 (39:24 at 7 miles). Then I knew that 2:36 would be really good, but things could go as bad as slower than 2:40. To keep it from being slower than 2:40 I adjusted the effort listening carefully to my legs and my heart. I feel that this early pace adjustment was critical for being able to hold it together reasonably well and running under 2:38. 

Next mile which starts up but then changes to down demonstrated that 6:44 was not just from being cautious on the climb - 6:19 (46:43) - that mile should be under 6:00. Do not recall my split at 9 miles, but at 10 I was 57:35, which gives me 11:52 for the next 2 miles. So I am finding some kind of a rhythm, but still lack the power - both in the legs and in the heart to move like I did last year.

From 10 to the half I moved at a fairly steady pace and hit the half split in 1:15:35 - so 18:00 for the 5 K. Not stellar, but still sub-6:00. Then somewhere around 15 I needed to go to the bathroom again. 5:30 AM start leaves me helpless - I went three times before the start, and still could not get all of it out - it is just too early. Knowing that I was fairly safe in second place and first master I considered using the official one due to the heavy presence of the half-marathoners, mostly ladies, but when I ran past it it was hopeless. There was a line of about 5 people. So I did not have a choice - failure to VPB would have had tragic results. I quickly realized that it would be better to be seen squatting by one lady runner that will try hard not to look in your direction anyway than to have all of the spectators on the course and at the finish see the consequences of your failure to squat at the right time. I was able to find a decent spot and resolve the problem quickly enough to have 6:18 split for that mile.

 Around mile 16 I saw Steve Ashbaker running towards me. He ran with me from that point to the finish. It was very helpful to have him around and meant a lot to me. As expected the Hogle Zoo Monster attacked me when I ran past the zoo and things became difficult from that point. I made it to mile 20 in 1:58:33. From that point I set a goal not to bleed too much off 6:00 pace. My next uphill mile was 6:38 (2:05:11). I was quite happy with it. Then I ran 5:56 for the downhill mile (2:11:07). I was quite happy that I put a gap on the 6:00 pace, but I knew this was going to be the last sub-6:00. 4 more to go. Plus 385 yards, just like the sales tax. Always remember to add the sales tax, commissions, and fees into the advertised price or you may find yourself not having enough money to pay for the purchase.

Next mile was 6:16 (2:17:23). It was mostly downhill had some minor uphill - you bust through it as it if it were nothing in the third mile of the 10 K, but in the marathon that uphill hurts. I was happy about it. One more mile - 6:06 (2:23:29). Two more to go, plus the sales tax. Calculating the marathon sales tax this turns out to be only 0.84%. I think if we could get enough people in Utah to run we could reduce our sales tax to 0.84%. A runner could just run, maybe literally, for office, win the elections and then push it through. We would also be able to afford it economically - it is my belief that as people remove physical fat from their bodies they also remove mental fat from their thinking. Thinking lean they will figure out how to run the government better than we do now off less money.

Mile 25 - 6:16 (2:29:45). Not too bad, but there is the last mile which is a subtle and steady uphill. We all know that mile.

Mile 26 was as miserable as it is always. After running it one more miserable time I think I have an idea of how to deal with it. I need to verify prior to the race that the blocks are indeed  exactly 1/7th of a mile as advertised. Then I need to have a clear idea where the boundaries are and run from block boundary to boundary targeting 55 seconds (or maybe faster or slower depending on what condition I find myself in) for each block. When you are hurting having the accurate immediate feedback and a very immediate challenging but attainable goal is absolutely critical to achieving top performance. When you push and it hurts a lot, if you can feel that this brings dividends you will dig deep and find that extra strength.

At the end of it I met my family. Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, and Jacob, along with Stephen and Matthew in the stroller were awaiting me. They joined me but unfortunately the front wheel on the stroller did not get properly attached and fell off as Benjamin was running with it. So he stopped to fix it and we continued without them. Sarah and William were running ahead of us. Seeing a target in front I instinctively accelerated and passed them shortly before the finish line - this got me to dip a little below 2:38, which was nice. Even though we had that stroller accident, I felt happy to have my family with me at the finish. 

So it took me 8:12 to run the last 1.219 miles. That is 6:43 pace. This can be improved. I think with the intermediate block-to-block approach I can improve it by 15 seconds prorated for fitness next year (so compare it to the mile before it in other words).

Afterwards I took Benjamin to Greensboro, NC for the national USATF Junior Olympics meet. We almost did not make it. When we got to the SLC airport, United told us that our connecting flight to Denver was cancelled. Their proposed alternative arrangement would get us to Greensboro after the start of his race. So we started scrambling for alternatives which included visits to the Frontier and Southwest ticket counters which we had to do ourselves because United does not have a deal with them. If only Frontier flew to Greensboro every day we would not have even been dealing with United - Frontier can fly to Greensboro and back for $459 one way for two people in two legs vs $786 (cheapest alternative) by United in three legs. Finally United figured out a way to put us on a Delta flight to to Denver and the problem was solved except we had to hustle to make it and I had to run, or, rather, speed-limp, through the airport on severely damaged marathon legs.

This was Benjamin's first flight since he was 1.5 years old, and he really enjoyed it. 

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 26.52
Night Sleep Time: 4.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 4.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Benjamin ran the 1500 qualifier heat at the USATF Junior Olympics Nationals in Greensboro, NC. Our plan was to just run the heat regardless of whether he qualified for the final or not because the final is on Sunday. We just wanted a shot at the Utah state record in his age division which is 4:29.36. He ended up qualifying with 4:30.84 setting a new PR and missing the record by 1.48. There were 12 qualifiers for the final, and he was the last one.

We learned something at that race. There is a youth racing pattern of a jack-rabbit start, slump in the middle, then a fast kick. We were aware of that, but what we did not realize is that it persists at all levels rather than apply just to the slower runners. The reason perhaps is that most youth train at low mileage and a lot of speed work which primarily consists of intervals 400 meters and shorter. At least I cannot think of a better explanation.

The lack of awareness of that pattern killed the record attempt. Adjusting for the impatience of youth but at the same time hoping for some level of sanity among the best of them I told Benjamin to start out towards the end through the first 200 meters, then make his way into mid-pack by the 400 mark hitting 68, then pass 3 runners or so in the second lap which I estimated would yield around 71-72, a few more in the third yielding around 72-73  and then kick as fast as he could in the last 300 which would hopefully bring something in the range of 4:22-4:28 for the whole thing.

Well, after the first 100 Benjamin was in the last place, and after the first 300 in 50.644 he was third from the end. That is while on pace for a 67 quarter. His split was the slowest among all the final qualifiers.  The new technology now provides the splits every lap with the 0.001 precision for all runners - I love it. If it was available a year ago and I had a chance to look at the splits we would have gotten the record in this race.

In the second lap everybody in his heat slowed down a lot. Benjamin learned an important lesson - you must have standards of your own and you cannot just follow your peers. He does know that at a higher level, but in absence of tangible metrics and in the heat of the race he digressed to the standard teenager thought pattern of following the peers. He passed a few, but it was not enough. His split from 300 to 700 was 75.577 - third slowest among the qualifiers. He was thinking that the leaders in his heat were running around 70 (instead of 73-74 in reality), so he was not focused on them, but instead on the midpack guys who were running around 77 instead of what he thought would be 74.

I yelled the split out to him and he started moving. My split was more drastic - 76.0 due to the visual inaccuracy, so he pushed it. His lap from 700 to 1100 was 72.841 which now was the second fastest among all the qualifiers. In the last lap he started moving well from 1100 to 1300 but in the last 200 lost steam - probably the combination of fatigue from travelling, high humidity (73%), quick start, and having to surge in the third lap, got to him. Nevertheless he still had a decent finish in 71.774 which still was the second slowest of all the qualifiers.

Afterwards we went for a jog. Half way through we realized we did not know where our car was. So we spent the rest of the distance locating the car. To be more exact Benjamin was the one who jogged. I speed-limped on my marathon legs.

We flew back the same day and got home shortly after midnight. 

Night Sleep Time: 5.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 5.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Speed-limped 5 miles in 45:29 with the kids. Had to ask them to slow down. Joseph did 3, Jacob 2, Jenny 4, Julia 3, Benjamin 7, William 0.5.

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 5.00
Night Sleep Time: 5.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 5.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Last night made some tea out of maral root extract and drank it. This morning the soreness was considerably less - could walk down the stairs without pain. Running was still painful, but I progressed quite a bit beyond speed-limping. Ran a total of 6 miles with the kids averaging around 8:30. Benjamin did 5.5, Jenny 4, Joseph 3, Jacob 2. Jenny and I ran the last 1.5 miles at sub-8:00 pace. This was my first sub-8:00 experience since the marathon.

P.M. Adventures. We went to Sarah's niece's baptism in Brigham City. On the way back around 7 miles south of the Brigham City exit the serpentine belt of our old van (we have two now) decided to break. I learned what happens when serpentine belt breaks - the engine is still going but gets hot fast, the power steering is gone, and GEN light comes on indicating a problem with the alternator. We got rescued by Sarah's family - it took two cars - a mini-van and a suburban, and they got to Sarah's sister's house in Taylorsville. The van got towed to Ogden. I got on the Front Runner with Jenny and we rode to the Orem station from which I ran all the way to the house, which was 4.2 miles. I considered calling somebody for a ride, but decided I was not going to take 30 minutes of someone's time to save 20 minutes of mine.

Jenny ran about a mile with me, then walked the rest of the way until I came back and picked her up. Fortunately a couple of months ago I bought the right kind of church shoe - I say church shoe because the last time I got dressed up for something that was not a church function was a job interview in 16 years ago. Once my technical skills improved I did not need to dress up to get a job anymore. Those shoes cost me only $25, I bought them at PayLess, they way 13 oz each, which puts them in the category of a heavy trainer, but they have a flexible sole, much more flexible actually than your typical heavy trainer. So they are quite comfortable for running. Legs felt good but it was hot. Fortunately Benjamin happened to have a spare T-shirt which I put on instead of my white shirt. This made the run less miserable. 

Then I dropped Jenny off at her party and drove to Taylorsville to get Sarah and the rest of the kids. Benjamin and Julia ran 2 miles 

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 6.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Schwinn Double Stroller Miles: 3.00Green Crocs 6 Miles: 55.02
Night Sleep Time: 44.50Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 46.00
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