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: 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
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Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Repeated the Saturday's workout today. 4x100 strides. 12x400 downhill (1% grade) in the Provo Canyon with 200 recovery. Averaged 69.2, last in 67.0. Then jogged back up, and did a 2 mile tempo run. Went through the first mile in 5:18, then got complacent. 8:01 at 1.5, time to get going. Picked it up and finished in 10:39. Overall, felt siginficantly stronger in the quarters, but only slightly stronger in the tempo run. Very possible that I was able to push myself more in the quarters, and thus was more tired before the tempo run.

Jogged some more in the evening with Benjamin and Joseph in the stroller. Benjamin got out with 0.5 to go, so I had to run the least 0.5 in 3:30 with him.

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A fairly lonely run this morning. Circled around the house in hopes of finding somebody to run with. Finally did run into Raymond at the end, and jogged with a bit. Then ran with the kids. Total of 10 miles for the morning run.

In the evening took Jenny and Joseph in the stroller. Did a warmup. Then a strength test - 2x100 meters in bounds. Covered the distance in 41 steps. It was 43 on Thursday, and I did feel more power in each step today.

Then Benjamin and his friend Paul joined us, and we jogged to the Slate Canyon hill. Did 4x60 uphill with Jenny and Joseph in the stroller, and racing Benjamin. Forgot to bring the ankle weights, and perhaps that was good - otherwise Benjamin would have destroyed me. 12.5 - 12.5 - 12.6 - 12.4. Barely passed Benjamin with 10-20 meters to go on all of them. Felt strong.

Then jogged to Provost, looped around a bit while the kids played, and then played soccer with Benjamin.

Later in the evening did bench press, narrow grip, 3 sets of 3 with 100 pounds.

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Had an interesting night last night. For some reason, could not go into a deep sleep for a while. Felt like it had something to do with running in the heat in the afternoon. Finally got up, ate a snack of fruit, bread, honey, and EmergenC drink, and laid down. Then went into power mode sleep - dremt about sleeping for 18 hours. When I woke up, most of the symptoms of heat exposure appeared to have been gone.

In the morning, jogged 8 miles starting out at 8:00 pace, and finishing at around 7:00.

Then went to the temple, came back, ran with the kids. Later in the afternoon took Benjamin and Jenny to the soccer practice. Julia went along for the ride. Parked the stroller at the soccer field and cruised around getting the rest of the miles in at about 7:30 pace. It was hot, about 85 degrees. Total of 15 miles for the day.

Benjamin scored two goals during the practice play. I think his coordination has improved quite a bit relative to his peers since last year. Last year he was about average in handling the ball, but his endurance permitted him to be all over the field in the midst of action. This time it seems like it is not just the endurance any more. I am very happy with this development. I have plenty of endurance, but very little explosive strength and coordination. In order to be a world-class marathoner, endurance is not enough - you have to have the speed to maintain to begin with. No matter how much endurance you've got, you cannot run 26 4:50 miles if 4:50 is all you can do all out. So if Benjamin can have my endurance, and unlike myself right now a very good speed to go along, we will see some good results.

This also raises an interesting question. My speed/explosive strength has never been exceptional, but it went from better than average at the age of 11 (60 meters in 9.6), to below average at the age of 17 (200 meters in 27.5). I hope that somewhere deep down there is an untapped speed potential that perhaps I will be able to unlock if I press the right buttons.

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Went to the Provo River Trail by Geneva Road to check my condition. Planned a 5 mile tempo run starting out at 5:30 pace to see how long I'd be able to hold it, and what will happen afterwards.

Warmed up 2 miles. Then started the tempo towards the Utah Lake. Flat course. Splits by the quarter - 1:22 - 1:23 - 1:24 - 1:24 (5:32) - 1:25 - 1:25 - 1:27 - 1:27 (5:44) - 1:29. After 1:29 I figured there was something seriously wrong, and decided to stop. Jogged some more, did 4x100 strides. Then went home, and ran some more with the kids.

I've had similar experiences before, but not so drastic, where 5:30 pace feels easy on the first mile, and then deteriorates to 5:55 in a mile, while the effort feels the same, and other than slow splits, nothing really appears to be out of the ordinary. Actually, it has been this bad before once - Thanksgiving 4 miler in 2005.

One could blame it on the legs being tired from the mileage and the marathon, but I think this is only a part of the story. When it is just the legs, what happens is that I cannot start at a good pace, but whatever pace I start at I keep. Besides, it takes quite a bit of beating to get my legs to go 5:55, and the legs did not feel tired.

In exercise physiology, when they have excluded the muscle itself as the limiting factor of performance, they blame it on the central nervous system fatigue. This is quite possible.

Right before the Thanksgiving 4 miler, I ran with every one of my kids in their races first before starting mine. With the oldest child being 6, and the number of kids being 4, this did cause quite a bit of load on the central nervous system. And did did show in the race - my splits were 5:10 - 5:19 - 5:51 - 5:26. I would have called the third mile long had I not run most of it earlier during the first lap, and had it not been marked by the quarters. Something just quit for 5 minutes, and I am quite certain it was not the muscles or the heart.

Perhaps the experience today is a blessing in disguise. In the past, I used to pray before a workout that I would be able to reach a particular time goal. But recently I decided to pray so that the workout will be for my benefit to help me reach my long term goals. Perhaps this drastic slowdown is an answer to my prayer highlighting a limitation that I have been neglecting somewhat. I keep working on my speed, muscle strength, heart, glycogen stores , but if the brain cannot give enough spark, all that work does not help very much. Now assuming that the problem is indeed what I think it is how do you get the brain/central nervous system to be more robust?

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Had some good rest yesterday. Went to the USA Track and Field Meeting. Got to visit with Demetrio Cabanillas, Bill Cobler, Ericksons, Eric Peterson, and a few others. This was good for the mind, as my work lately has been quite boring. I am in the middle of re-writing a fairly messy piece of code for a client that computes a large number of sales statistics for a hotel reservation system. That alone would cause a severe central nervous system fatigue!

In any case, today I wanted to measure what that rest, both physical and mental did for me. So I went to the same spot as yesterday, and ran the same course. Since I am running in the Provo River Half-Marathon tomorrow, I decided to keep the tempo down to 2.5. This would give me enough of an idea of what is going on as most of the problems happen between miles 1 and 2 for me. Again, the goal was to maintain 5:30 pace for as long as possible.

Warmed up, did 4x100 with ankle weights 19.0 - 18.8 - 18.8 - 18.8.

Quarter splits for the tempo run - 1:21 - 1:19 - 1:21 - 1:22 (5:23) - 1:23 - 1:23 - 1:25 - 1:25 (5:36) - 1:25 - 1:25 (13:49.9 for 2.5). Much better than yesterday, but still not quite there. However, the rest did me some good.

Again, the same pattern, except at higher speeds - 5:23 felt right, and then something quit. However, it did not quit so bad - I was still going 5:40 steady.

Let's see what happens tomorrow in the race.

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Race: Provo River Half-Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:14:00, Place overall: 1
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Provo River Half-Marathon 1:14:00, first place.

This was Curt Catmull's race, which means a lot of expected and unexpected adventure. I was running the timing system as usual. Stayed up until midnight setting it up at the finish. With the latest problems I've been experiencing in tempo runs, and with the lack of sleep on top of that, I knew better than to expect a fast time. However, winning the race was a reasonable goal.

Curt by some miracle managed to bus 1500+ people up to the start of the race in the South Fork of the Provo Canyon, and start the race on time. Unfortunately, this was too much on time. I barely got out of the bushes, and started making my way through the crowd to the starting line when he sounded the horn. He does not sleep at all for two days before his races, so being a little jumpy is natural for him I suppose.

I started my watch with about 1 second delay, and began to make progress through the congestion of runners without much success. Then I thought of something - use the siren. As I howled like an ambulance to the best of my ability, people started stepping aside to let me pass. It took me only 30 seconds or so before the traffic was thin enough to not need the siren any more. By about half-mile I was finally in the lead.

Mile splits - 5:33 (steep down, crowd interference) - 11:02 (5:29) - 16:11 (5:09, steep down) - 27:26 (5 miles) - 33:08 (5:42, part uphill) - 39:17 (6:09, mostly uphill) - 44:44 (5:27) - 50:18 (5:34) - 55:52 ( 5:34) - 1:07:08 (12 miles). Then it took me 6:51 to get to the end, which is a bit too long. The course has been changed. I think in the past it was about 45 seconds short, and now it has become about 30 seconds long. I remember always getting some incredibly fast split on the last 1.1 in the past.

The entire race I was feeling just like I did in my tempo runs. Not really feeling tired, but something is blocking me. Tried to deal with it using an artificially high turnover. There was nothing I could do about power, which gives you stride length - that was involuntarily capped. However, I did have some control over the stride frequency and moved my feet as quickly as I could possibly put up with. This drove me nuts, but at least I could go fast enough to be in the lead.

After the turnaround (about 6.8) on the old highway I saw Ron Greenwood was about 45 seconds behind, and began to be concerned. He has a lot of potential. If he had been training, he could easily close it. So I ran scared from that point on to keep him off. I was never really sure I had it until I got to the credit union drive-through, and saw I had about a minute lead.

The course change was rather interesting. We ran through a drive-through of the Utah Community Credit Union. Maybe next time UCCU should offer a cash prize to the runner that reaches the drive-through first, and hand it to him right there.

As I approached the finish, I heard the very familiar "go Daddy!". Wow, this is quite a surprise. This was quite an effort for Sarah to get our five children ages 7 through 3 weeks ready that early in the morning all by herself, and get them to the race. She also brought a video camera to tape me. I appreciate her efforts very much.

My watch said 1:13:59. However, I added a second to that for the official time since I started a bit late. Ron was second with 1:14:56, and then Chad Derum with 1:15:29 - new PR.

The race was over, however, I was done only with the first half of the full marathon for the day. I still had to time the rest of the runners, and scan 1500+ bar codes. Recruited a couple of volunteers to help me (one of them, Ken Cushing, had just run the race in 1:24), and we went to work. Finally done.

Went home, got the results published on, ran with the kids in the afternoon. Went on a date with Sarah, then did bench press at night, usual deal, 100 pounds, narrow grip, 3 sets of 3.

I am still amazed at how Curt manages to bring that many people together on such a shoe string budget. The whole race has been for a number of years held together mostly by Curt's enthusiasm.

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