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
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 1 Miles: 74.01
Night Sleep Time: 51.50Nap Time: 4.00Total Sleep Time: 55.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. We had a lesson on honesty in Sunday School. Then a lesson on Priesthood in the Elder's Quorum, and then a fast and testimony meeting. Our Bishop's councilor told a story about two boys. One got a bunch of stuff for Christmas, and  he went through it and said, is that all? The other got a box of manure and he started digging with excitement - there must be a pony there! I really liked that story.What a difference the ability to see a diamond amidst the dross can make!

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. Today is the 19th anniversary of my baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was baptized 19 years ago in a lake in Moscow. Incidentally, I had circled that lake frequently on my runs a few years prior.In the absence of religion of any kind, running gave e a thread of life support at that time to stay away from harmful substances that harm the body and cloud the mind and the spirit, and to avoid falling into depression in view of the grim political, social, economical, and spiritual climate of the Soviet Union in its final stages of existence. When the opportunity came, I learned the truth about God and His plan of Salvation, and accepted it. This helped me put my running into the proper context, and have a deeper reason to pursue this talent.  So perhaps it is symbolic that I was baptized in that lake.

I was blessed with an interesting opportunity to celebrate it. A couple from Argentina that was baptized a year ago approached me at church and introduced me to the wife's brother whose name is Esteban. Esteban lives in Spain, but was here in Provo for a visit. He is a runner, so they were excited to have him meet another one. Our family is known in the neighborhood as "the family that runs", "the guy that is always running", "the guy that runs with his kids", or "el señor que corre con sus niños, y la señora tambien".

So I ran with Esteban this morning. Benjamin joined us for 4 miles. We caught up to Sarah and ran with her for about 0.8. I had a chance to speak some Spanish. It was nice to have a partner for most of the run. We averaged around 8:00 for 10 miles in spite of Esteban's being out of shape.

I found out Esteban was on his way to Las Vegas next, and gave him Jeff's number and e-mail.

Jenny and Julia ran 1.5. Joseph ran 1 mile. Jacob did 0.25. I ended up with a total of 11.4. I picked it up in the last mile and did 5:35.9.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 11.40
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran 4 with Benjamin, 1.5 with Jenny and Julia, 1.5 with Joseph, and 0.25 with Jacob. Then another 3.6 including a pickup for 2100 meters in 7:00.5. Again focused on the calf push off, and got results similar to Saturday. I felt a bit sluggish from the start, but the pace did not seem to get much harder as the run progressed. So it is harder to get going, but easier to maintain the pace. This is consistent with the idea that soleus is primarily made of slow-twitch fibers, so if you are able to delegate some of the quad work to the soleus, you will lose a little bit of initial spunk, but will be able to hold the pace for longer.

From that develops another thought. When you try to run fast, soleus would resist recruitment because it will think it is not fast enough and will want to delegate its work to other muscles that have more fast twitch fibers. So then the challenge is to train it to not be lazy at fast speeds.

I remember watching Haile Gebrselassie in the movie Endurance and noticing a very energetic calf action. It left me thinking for a while. It's been over 10 years, but I am still thinking. It is not so much the matter of calf strength - you can get calf strength by going to the gym, so if it was all the matter of strength, every gym bum that works out his calves would be a great runner. It is more about the art of significantly recruiting your calf when running for the purpose of forward motion thus relieving the burden of the quad. Perhaps the East Africans and few Caucasians have that art naturally somehow, while others have to work to develop it. Like singing voice.

Total distance was 10.85.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 10.86
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 10.75 total. 4 with Benjamin - last 0.5 in 3:01. 1.5 with Jenny, Julia, and Joseph. 0.25 with Jacob. 5 more alone.

P.M. 2 miles with Sarah pushing Stephen in the stroller.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 10.75
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran to the BYU track with Benjamin. We did a 200 meter challenge. Unfortunately it was not a good way to do it as both of us had diarrhea. So we were somewhat lethargic. But we both did OK more or less. I did 31.1, he was 31.4. I stayed behind him for the first 100, then outkicked him in the second. As soon as we finished we saw Jon Kotter. He was doing some 800s and 400s and told us he was embarrassed by the 2:11 800 splits. That is why he is a 28:48 10,000 meter runner. Not just because of that, but I believe this plays an important part. If you want to be good you need to see performances that are kind of good but do not reflect your true potential as unsatisfactory. One way to do it is to call the embarrassing. If a certain level of performance leaves you feeling naked you will be in a hurry to find some clothes.

Jon was about to do a quarter in 60. I decided to join him for the second half, and briskly jogged across the field to the start. This did not give me much rest from the first 200, but I was able to keep up with him with the 200 in 31.2.

Then Benjamin and I ran back. Total of 5.5 miles.  I did 1.5 with Joseph, 1.5 with Jenny and Julia, 0.25 with Jacob, and 1.5 more alone with the last 0.75 in 4:09.0. Total of 10.25.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 10.25
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Started with 2 by myself, then 5 with Benjamin. We caught up to Sarah and ran with her for 1.5 miles.  Jenny and Julia did 1.5 on their own. I did 1.5 with Joseph and 0.25 with Jacob. Then 2 more with the last 0.75 in 4:07.5. Again focused on the calf push-off. Total of 10.75.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 10.75
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
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Race: Provo River Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:12:08, Place overall: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Provo River Half Marathon - 1:12:08.6, first place. Curt called me last week as said he had signed me up and given bib #1. So I had to run and live up to the expectations.

Sarah prayed last night that I would run comfortably and alone. The important part of her prayer was answered - I did win, but it was not comfortable, and I was never alone. Which is good, I think, because a contested win teaches you more than a solo tempo run.The Lord gives you what you need, not necessarily what you asked for.

Come to think of it, the run was not that uncomfortable. I never felt like was done, could not hold the pace, etc.

I warmed up 2 miles, then saw Justin Park. He had run 1:10:41 in the Utah Valley Half this year, so I knew he was in good shape. We agreed to work together for as long as we could taking leads every 2 minutes.

At the start, Jon Kotter and Ian Hunter, who were not in the race, but just doing a hard workout along the race route, joined us. Justin and I stuck with our plan, while Ian and Jon ran with us, sometimes a little behind, sometimes a little ahead for the first 4 miles, then dropped us.

The splits in the first 4 miles, according to Curt's marks were 5:03, 5:07 (10:10), 5:26 (15:36), 5:09 (20:45). Maybe the third mile was a bit long, and the fourth a bit short, but I think the 4 miles were more or less accurate. They are down a fairly steep grade, and are quick.

Then it flattened out, but still some gradual downhill sections with flat breakups. Our split at the official 6 mile mark was 31:55, so 11:10 for 2 miles. Could have been right. I timed us on the triangle marks, and we were going somewhere in the 5:30-5:40 range.

The next mile was about a quarter on a mild downhill slope, and then the rest of it uphill and into the wind. It was Justin's turn to lead, and I wanted to pass him because he started going very slow and it felt too easy. I was also getting concerned that if we went that slow somebody might catch us from behind. Then I said to myself, just wait until it is your turn to lead, you'll find out why Justin was taking it so slow. I did. Having somebody to hide behind when you have a headwind makes a lot of difference. My effort on Justin's turns eventually normalized as the wind subsided. 

We had mile 7 officially in 5:48 (37:43). I think it was short. We were barely moving on the uphill part. Next mile in 6:02 (43:45). Could possibly have been right, as we were done with the uphill and turned around. The next mile was long, possibly to make up for the short mile earlier. It was all downhill, we were on the move and we ended up with only 6:00 (49:45). This was followed by another short mile - 5:15 to hit the 10 mile marker in 55:00. I knew this one was short for sure because the triangle marks clocked us at 5:31. But mile marker 10 was more or less correct in sum.

At this point Justin started struggling, which surprised me some. He sat back for 4 minutes. But then he recovered and led at a good pace, so I rested behind him for 4 minutes.

Next mile was definitely short, 5:02 (1:00:02) - triangles showed around 5:34, followed by a long mile to make up - 5:58 (1:06:00), with triangles showing 5:36. Incidentally we covered my 3 mile tempo course in 16:41 which is not a bad time for the end of a half marathon.

At this point Justin was sitting back, and I decided it was time to start racing. I think when two runners are about equal, they should work together rather than actively try to break each other until the last mile. Maybe last two miles. But no more than that. The place outcome will be the same - the stronger one will be ahead, but early racing will hurt the times of both.

I knew that Justin's kick was better than mine. Therefore I needed a safe 5 second gap with 400 to go in order to win. I was OK with the pace we were going, but did not feel like I could pick it up enough to break him by running up front. Nevertheless, that was my only option. So I focused on the calf push off, and it resulted in a speed up of about 5-10 seconds a mile. This proved sufficient. I gapped him a little. Then I heard that he had closed it some, and got seriously concerned. One more push, smooth and steady. This time he did not cover the gap, but it was far from over. Without a sizable lead he can eat that gap with his kick. So I kept pressing with two purposes in mind. Increase the safety margin, and fatigue and demoralize the competitor to take the sting out of his kicking fangs. Running is an interesting sport. Most of the race you are working together. But then you start to race, and you are using mean tactics against your friends. They do the same to you. But when you finish you are still friends.

With 400 to go I said, there is no way I am losing this race, and started the best kick that I had in me. It ended up being good enough, and I won by 6 seconds.

Ran a 5 mile cool-down. Pace another runner. His name was Matt Chadwick. He ended up with around 1:46, but that included a long bathroom stop. He is planning on joining me next Saturday for a part of my run.

Kids ran on their own. Benjamin did 4, Jenny and Julia 1.5, Jacob 0.25.


P.M. 1.5 with Joseph.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 20.00
Night Sleep Time: 6.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 1 Miles: 74.01
Night Sleep Time: 51.50Nap Time: 4.00Total Sleep Time: 55.50
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