Breaking the Wall

Provo River Half 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: 232.17 Year: 3533.69
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: 734.48
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Five Fingers 2 Miles: 72.50Bare Feet Miles: 18.50
Night Sleep Time: 47.25Nap Time: 4.50Total Sleep Time: 51.75
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church.

Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M.  10.1 with Jeff in 1:17:39. Did a new version of explosions. Instead of going all out from the start for 40 meters or so, I did 100 with the last 40 or so all out, and the first part just a nice coast to find a good form before starting to sprint. I liked it better this way, the all out part felt like I was going faster. The first explosion was a regular one, and then I got the idea. I timed the 100s. They were 16.8, 17.2, and 17.5. Not very meaningful, because who knows how fast I was going at the coast speed and how long, but at least it tells me once I started sprinting I was significantly faster than 4:40 pace. But I was still wondering how fast I was really going in the explosion part. So I decided to run an all out 100 after the fat mile.

We ran the fat mile in 5:37. No tricycle guy to chase today, but Jeff must have been thinking about him because our last two quarters were 83 and 80. Out of fat range. But the first two were OK. That 80 second quarter felt like I could race a half at that pace if only the muscles and the neural drive cooperated. HR was 157. Then we ran my all out 100. I had never done it in Five Fingers before. So I set my Five Fingers PR of 15.4. I think I can go faster - just need to not be afraid that they are going to fall off. My normal PR is 13.9, but that was on the track and after a couple months of hill sprints and 800 meter specific workouts. My shod PR on the trail is around 14.6. But it was good to know that I could hit a decent (by my standards) sprint speed mid-run in Five Fingers.

2 more with Benjamin afterwards barefoot in 15:56. Had a little accident about a mile into it. Stubbed my big toe on asphalt. That actually does not hurt any more than having your finger pricked for a blood test, but it sure is messy. My right foot was covered in blood almost entirelly, and the left one was sprinkled. Made me think of animal sacrifice in ancient Israel. At first I was concerned, thought maybe I should cover it with a leaf to avoid blood loss, but then once we stopped and I got a good look, I figured it would be fine. So we ran back, Benjamin caught the 8:00 guy with the last mile in 7:31.

P.M. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:01. 2 with Jenny in 19:30. Julia ran the first 1.5 with us in 14:34.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 10.10Bare Feet Miles: 4.50
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Did some sort of a redemption run after the Saturdays fiasco. Yes, I know I had every reason not to run well on Saturday, but I wanted to make sure it was a true neural fatigue no-warm up cocktail bummer rather than an indication of a more serious problem. So I told Jeff to pace me at 79 per quarter (5:16 pace) to failure, do not try to make up with a 78 if he accidentally hit an 80, do not hit any 78s. Jeff has to be given explicit instructions just like the Lamanites in Alma 23:2 regarding Nephite missionaries: "he sent a decree among them, that they should not lay their hands on them to bind them, or to cast them into prison; neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them" - everything that he could be tempted to do to run me into the ground needs to be spelled out to him or else I am in deep trouble. But once he receives the instructions he follows them with the exactness of the sons of Helaman.

After failure the plan was to run my best to the finish and still try to get Five Fingers PR for the 5 mile tempo of 27:25.

So it went like this (yes I am a geek and I remember every quarter): 79, 81, 79, 78.5 (5:18.5), 78.5, 79, 79, 80 (5:16.5, 10:35), 79, 83 (13:17), 84, 84 (5:30,16:05), 86, 88, 85, 83.5 (5:42.5), 83.5, 83, 82, 80 (5:29). Total time 27:16.7, new Five Finger PR for the course, and only 28 seconds slower than shod best. 5K split around 16:41, 19 seconds faster than in Saturday race. Average HR 161, max 169 reached in the last quarter. After prior to 79 pace failure it was 165. Then it dropped to 162 as I slowed down to 84s. Did not see what it was at 88, but once we were doing 83s it got up to around 164. Around 3 miles legs started caving badly However, 86/88 quarter combination was enough to allow me to regroup and pick it back up to a respectable pace.

This workout eliminated some creeping doubts about getting old and worn down, etc. Nevertheless, the sensitivity of the nervous system to stress is still a concern. I really did not do that much before the race to stress it, most people would have handled that type of "stress" just fine. Part of the problem is that just about the only symptom of stress is that I run badly. So I just have to say - I know this is stress - I do not really feel it otherwise until I start to run hard.

Finished 10 miles with Jeff, and then added 2 more with Benjamin in 16:. He ran a quarter PR in 81 with the splits of 22 - 21 - 19 - 19. Due to the fatigue from the tempo I mispaced him again, but he recovered with a strong kick.

P.M. 2 with Jenny in 17:23. Julia was not feeling well today, so we put her in the stroller after the first mile in 9:48. Jenny at that point was 8 seconds ahead with Jeff. Jeff ran with us to 1.5, helped me push the stroller, then went on grass for 2 miles and ran to our house. Jenny's closing mile was 7:43, she wanted to earn a prize. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:17.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 12.00Bare Feet Miles: 2.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.75Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 9.25
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Early morning run (5:15 AM) because I went to the temple this morning. Due to the early hour both Jeff and I were dragging. Did not catch the 8:00 guy until the fat mile about 6.5 into the run. The fat mile started out sluggish as well with two 91 second quarters, but then we woke up and ran 85 and 84 to finish in 5:51. Total time for 10.1 was 1:17:45.

P.M. 2 with Benjamin in 15:57, 2 with Jenny in 18:51. Julia ran the first 1.5 in 14:03. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:03.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 10.10Bare Feet Miles: 4.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 10.1 with Jeff in 1:13:58. Did quarters in the middle. Due to the lack of time decided to slow down the quarters and speed up the recovery. So the target was 72 on the repeat, 60 on the 200 recovery (8:00 pace). I timed the recoveries. It went like this:

73.3 - 52.1 -  70.9 - 55.9 - 72.1 - 57.8 - 73.1 - 57.1 - 73.4. It was very tough. The recoveries were faster than target by enough to make it hurt. The leaves and twigs on the road did not make it easier for holey Five Fingers in the last two quarters, that was part of the reason they were slower. And of course the brisk recoveries were getting to me by that point. The total time including recoveries was 9:45.7 for 1.75, or in other words 5:34.7 average. What is interesting that this regimen gave near zero chance for HR to recover. It would rise to 165 during the repeat, and then would register a 157 average during the recovery segement. I believe it did drop to around 150 before the start of the next repeat. The max registered at 169, probably during the last repeat.

Then on the way back we did one more "seal the death" quarter in 67.5. Jeff was actually around 66 on that one, he dropped me in the last 100.

Then we somewhat leasurely continued jogging to the house. Lori, who we see frequently on the trail, but usually runs in the opposite direction, got out on the trail just at the perfect time to join us. So we ran with her for about a mile. Then Jeff looked at his watch and realized he was late for work. So we took off and ran the last 0.65 hard. I timed the last 1000 - it was 3:23, about 5:25 pace.

Then 2 more with Benjamin barefoot in 17:30 pushing William in the double stroller.

P.M. 2 with Jenny in 18:16. Julia ran the first 1.5 with us in 13:54. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:16.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 10.10Bare Feet Miles: 4.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.75Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.75
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 10.1 with Jeff in 1:09:46. Looks like I picked up a small bug. My eyes have been hurting on Wednesday, and some yesterday. So something was going on, but it did not show until today. To make things worse, I took a long time getting dressed, so we had to hurry through the run to get Jeff to work on time. First I noticed that I was breathing way too hard at pedestrian paces (7:30), but I chalked it off to not being warmed up. Then I tried the explosions, the new version where I run 100 coasting the first 60 meters or so, and then sprinting the rest, and they were not very energetic: 18.8 - 18.3 - 18.2 -17.8. Then we discovered my HR was consistently 3 beats higher than Jeff's, or in other words 10 beats higher than what it should be. This would have been the time to turn around, jog back home at 8:00 pace or slower, and get back in bed.

But I was still operating off inertia and not listening to my body. So we kept on going at around 6:40 pace, and then ran the "fat" mile. First quarter in 81 blew the fat aspect, and also just about killed me. We eased off to 86, and 87, but then ran the last quarter in 82 to finish the mile in 5:36, and that was another moment of truth - legs were caving going that slow for that short. I should have called 911 at this point, but I did not have a cellphone, and I lacked the judgment to slow down and jog in alone at 8:00 pace to contain the damage. So instead I kept going with Jeff at sub-7:00 pace to the end.

Got home, ran another 2 with Benjamin in 17:00. Afterwards legs were shaky. Showered, ate breakfast, read the scriptures, and jumped in bed hoping to repair the damage. On the positive side of things after a 2 hour nap at least the eyes are not hurting. So there is a hope that I might be in race condition tomorrow. Otherwise I'll be smart and pace Ben Crozier instead.

P.M. 2 with Jenny in 18:51. Julia ran 1.5 with us in 14:06. 0.5 with Joseph in 4:56.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 12.10Bare Feet Miles: 2.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.75Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 9.75
Race: Provo River Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:13:34, Place overall: 4
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Provo River Half Marathon - 1:13:34.7, 4th place.

At the start of the race I was still feeling sick. But not sick enough to pace Ben Crozier. So I decided to start with a moderate effort and try to maintain it if I felt healthy, and jog in otherwise. We did a nice 2.5 mile warm-up, and even found a non-virtual bathroom about a mile away from the start for a bonus.

The night before inspired by Clyde's suggestion to use a tire repair kit for Five Fingers we stopped by at Home Depot and bought some gasket rubber along with superglue. Total cost of $5.98 with tax. Sarah used that to patch the holes in the bottoms, and it worked great. I think with this hack Five Fingers can go to 3000+ miles. I think if all runners were like me Vibram would be selling Five Fingers with a hole repair kit. And McDonalds and Microsoft would go out of business. If I succeed in replicating myself in sufficient numbers the news headlines will say "Sasha Ruins US Economy!"

I told Jeff with my health issues he might not want to run with me for any portion of the race, but he said that given no prize of significance he was in no hurry to start running hard at the end of another long week. So the start was very leisurely. I found my HR at around 146 after about a mile, and not straining myself too hard. Rich Borget went with us for about a mile then dropped back. Then Jeff started stepping on the gas a bit, and I realized for the sake of preserving my health I needed to drop back.

About 2 miles later Justin Park and Eric Harris caught up to me, and we formed a group for a while. We could still see Jeff, so that gives you an idea of how leisurely he was going. At this point we were on the Provo River Trail, and finally I had a chance to access the pace off the quarter marks. I was pleasantly surprised to find it still in the 5:30 range. HR was around 155. Half-way through the hill around mile 7 Justin pushed it, Eric went after him, but I felt it was a bit out of range for me in my current condition, so I held back. Gauged my pace on the uphill off the marks - it was around 6:05, was happy with that considering the day.

Once the uphill ended (about a mile), I had a hard time shifting gears, so I was stuck around 5:40. It went on like this for a while, and then 5:40 began to deteriorate into the 5:50 range. The body began to demand a chance to heal and legs started to cave. HR maxed out at 159 on the uphill, and the stabilized at around 151-152. Once the pace started to slow into the 5:50 range, HR dropped to 149.

Surprisingly Justin and Eric were not moving away from me at a particularly fast rate. I though, if I could just run three normal miles (5:20), I'd get them. But that was of course wishful thinking. If I did have anything close to three normal miles in me I would not have let them drop me in the first place.

On the positive side of things I felt at peace with my body responses. Possibly the first time in my life racing in this condition. I knew what the body was capable of, what was healthy for it, and did not try to make it run faster than it should have been that day. Even though the sickness meant getting beat by people that normally would not have much of a chance. I think it works both ways when a faster runner who is sick gets beat by a slower runner or maybe is still ahead but close enough to stir the appetite. The faster one gets a lesson in humility. The slower one gets a confidence boost. I remember being really excited to be closing on Craig Lawson at the end of 5 K and getting beat by only 8 seconds one time when he had an ear infection.

Another positive aspect was the form. I felt the Five Fingers were finally starting to make a headway in fixing the form. It felt smooth. Not a lot of power due to sickness, but there was efficiency. Which I feel had kept me from going over 1:15 today.

Throughout the race due to the lack of accurate mile markers I had only an approximate idea about what time I was headed for, but I did not care that much. I just wanted to get to the finish. I was happy to see that it was a somewhat respectable time. As a bonus, a Five Finger PR. I had never raced a half in Five Fingers, but I did hit 1:15:04 split in the Utah Valley Marathon. So now I have an official Five Finger PR for the half.

Jeff did very well. In spite of his jogging in the first 4 miles, and in spite of not having anybody to push him, once he started pushing himself he was hitting solid 5:00 pace down the Provo Canyon, and ended up with 1:07:53. I think with a little bit of work he can hit the Trial Qualifier through the half. That would be cool. Hey, wimps run the full marathon to qualify. Real men run the half. Supermen run the 10,000!

Eric ended up second with 1:12:32, and Justin 3rd with 1:12:37.

Met a lot of bloggers at the finish.  They had some solid performances. Dustin managed a 1:18 in spite of his belly. When I saw him at the turnaround, and got an idea of how fast he was going I said wow, he has some serious Quality X to run so fast with this kind of belly and so little training. Rich ran 1:21, a new PR.

Jeff and I ran a cool down. I went only 2.5, Jeff ran 6.

Kids ran with Sarah in the evening as a precaution for me not to get more sick. Benjamin, and Julia ran 1.5, Jenny ran 2, Joseph ran 0.5. Benjamin was also not feeling well, he and I might have picked up the same thing.

Then Tim and Lindsey Dunkley came over for a visit with their kids. We had a good chat.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 18.10
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Five Fingers 2 Miles: 72.50Bare Feet Miles: 18.50
Night Sleep Time: 47.25Nap Time: 4.50Total Sleep Time: 51.75
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