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: 16.00 Year: 2314.91
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: 1185.83
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Five Fingers 2 Miles: 69.45Bare Feet Miles: 18.56
Night Sleep Time: 60.50Nap Time: 6.00Total Sleep Time: 66.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to Church. Had a good experience in the Spanish branch. I love hearing testimonies in Spanish. You get to see a special new dimension, a new perspective. Even though it is a little blurry to me still due to my deficiency with the language. Then went to the English ward with the family. Then a missionary correlation meeting. Toward the end of the meeting I had a special prompting of the Spirit. It said - if you do not close your eyes now and get some rest you will be doing missionary work in the spirit world without a physical body until the resurrection. So I obeyed the prompting and really enjoyed it.

Took another nap in the afternoon to try to heal the body from the sickness. Talked to Ben Crozier. He told me his weight was not coming down very fast. I asked him if he was eating the Good Conscience Diet, which is "if you know it is not good, do not eat it". He admited he could do better. I told him that was the key to his improvement. He said he fully believed. I told him he needed to do more than fully believe, and referred him to an imaginary General Authority - a hybrid of Spencer W. Kimball and J. Golden Kimball. Spencer W. Kimball used to say "Do It!". J. Golden Kimball was known for adding emphasis with a strong word on occasion. I told him he needed to follow the advice of the hybrid Elder Kimball.

Night Sleep Time: 10.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 12.00
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A.M. Decided to take a bum day to let the body heal. Slept in. Ran 4 with Sarah. She did it in 38:29. I had a 44 second VPB and then caught up, so 37:45. Then 2 with Benjamin in 17:31. Feeling better, but still there is lingering weakness that I do not want to aggravate.

P.M. Felt better. Ran 2 with Jenny in 17:53, 1.5 with Julia in 13:28, and 0.5 with Joseph in 4:54. He repeated his record.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 6.00Bare Feet Miles: 4.00
Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
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A.M. Slept it in again to speed up the healing. The plan today was 2x2.5 mile tempo at around 6:00 pace in the middle of my regular 10.1. So 1.37 into the run I started the tempo. Ran at a fairly steady pace and finished 2.5 in 14:43 (5:53 average).  On the positive side HR behaved - was never above 152, and even dropped to 149 in the last half mile. This is almost normal, maybe even just plain normal if we account for the warm temperatures. However, I could feel a mild side ache on the right. I know what that means. The body says it is still healing from the illness. Also, while I did not mind the pace I did not feel exceptionally energetic and anxious to run fast. So I decided to forgo the second tempo, and just jog to the finish. Total of 10.1 in 1:14:32.

Then 2 more with Benjamin in 17:22.

Kept thinking about the plantar flexion thrust. That's when you flex your calf while on the ground, it raises you up on your toes, and also propels you forward. Haile seems to be running off that thrust quite a bit. I am interested in it because my quads fatigue quickly, but my calves are always fresh, which means they are bumming it. If I could learn how to use them properly for forward propulsion, this could make quite a bit of a difference. I have the oxygen, plenty of it, some could go to the quad, and some could go to the calf. Maybe I could even learn to push my HR to 178 with this calf recruitment.

In the past I felt I could not do it well because of landing crooked. Now after a couple of months of no shod running the landing crookedness is becoming less problematic. But I am still struggling with the thrust. Now the problem is the ankle joint. It feels too weak for full power calf action, I am afraid to injure it. It is good that I have enough neurologically subconscious common sense to know better than go wild with the plantar flexion. But it is bad that the ankle join is weak. It is probably a matter of time before it gets stronger. Maybe 4 months, maybe a year, maybe even two years. I need to be patient.

P.M. 2 with Jenny in 18:52. Julia ran 1.5 in 13:54. Then 0.5 with Joseph in 4:36. He smashed his record of 4:54. So much for the Jo-Jo little leg shuffle. Julia ran the first quarter with us, then picked it up and finished in 4:24. So her total time for 2 miles ended up being 18:18, faster than Jenny's.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 12.10Bare Feet Miles: 2.50
Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Started with 2 miles with Benjamin in 16:50 pushing William in the stroller. Then Sarah was all worked up because the kids were awake and took Joseph for a run with her while she pushed William and Jacob before I realized what was up. Sometimes women do not think straight. Once I did realized that Sarah was planning on pushing more weight than she could handle for 2 miles I jogged to rescue her from the streak of wild thinking and found her about 0.1 away from the house already coming back from Joseph's run. I took the stroller and Joseph, and ran back to the house while she did the rest of her run.

Then I went on my regular run. It was nice and cool when I ran with Benjamin, but by the time I started it got warmer. So I mentally adjusted my HR expectations for what was healthy, and was actually curious what it would hit in warmer temperatures at faster speeds. What I have noticed in the past is that when it is warmer or I am dehydrated the HR is signficantly higher at slower speeds, but only a little bit higher once I speed up.

The plan was again 2x2.5 at a brisk pace. I am trying an experiment this week (and will probably do it every other week or so). I need to find an effective neuromuscular stimulus. Obviously the faster you run, the longer you do it for, and the more frequently you do it, the more stimulus you get. The question is how much is too much. The answer is not easy.  I cannot push the heart to its true limit. My muscles are never sore. My bones never hurt. The limit is more subtle. It is somewhere in the nervous system, or maybe neuroendocrinal system, or in other words either the nerves or the glands or both are the limiting factor. How in the world do you train a gland? Especially if you do not know what that gland is. And glands are funny things. They do not hurt like muscles. You push a muscle too hard and it immediately starts whining at you. The gland  has a tendency towards passive-aggressive behavior, it will remember everything you've done wrong at some random time in the future and get you for it when you least expect it.

But going off intuition I decided to try something like this. 2x2.5 at a bit sub-6:00 pace daily for a week. Alternate with week of normal hard/easy sequence. Adjust by feel as necessary. Adjust by feel here is the key. It is like solving an equation using a numerical method. Where you start does not matter that much as long as it is somewhere close to reasonable. What is important is that you evaluate correctly after every iteration where you should go next to approach the solution.

So I warmed up and then ran 2.5 in 14:37. The pace fluctuated some. I would get excited and speed up to 5:45. Then I would space out and slow down to 5:55. HR at the end climbed to 155 with the last two quarters in 86 (5:44 pace). Some mucus but no side ache. Felt more energetic than yesterday. Took it as a sign that the body was healed enough to run one more of those. So I did it on the way back, same stretch. This time I felt more motivated to push, so I did. I had a song going through my head. It was a sacrament hymn. I was not driven by its rhythm, but rather by the depth of the message. I ended up with 14:32. The pace was more steady, but again there were surges and lapses. HR got up to 156 in the last mile, and went up as high as 160 in the last quarter done in 86. That quarter is uphill, though, and usually produces higher heart rates for the same pace.

Jogged home and finished 10.1 in 1:09:48.

P.M. 2 with Jenny pushing William in the stroller in 17:50. Julia ran the first 1.5 in 13;58 with us.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 12.25Bare Feet Miles: 2.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
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A.M. Had an odd night. For some reason had a problem going into deep sleep. Could be several reasons. Congested nose from the cold, warmer temperatures in the house, late nap the day before, or the effects of running fast two days in a row. Nevertheless, I woke up on my own. Come to think of it I was feeling very similar to the morning of St. Jude Marathon in 2007. So maybe 2:30:32 was a bummer race after all. If so, it would be quite encouraging.

Decided to run just one 2.5 tempo today to let the body heal better. Felt odd. Rather sluggish in the warmup. Then once I started running fast I liked it. But I did not like the gas mask suffocation feeling that came from the congestion once I started going fast. It was cooler in the morning, but that gas mask I think drove my HR up a bit. Ended up doing 14:34 with the peak HR of 157. Towards the end it was fairly stable at 156 at 5:48 pace. This is about 4 bpm higher than normal, I'll blame it on the congestion.

There was also a feeling of mild fatigue from the leftovers of the cold. When I finished the tempo I was very unmotivated to run. The loss of drive seemed to be coming from the nose congestion. So I dragged at almost 9:00 pace for a while. About 5 miles into the run I just felt like I wanted to lay down on the ground and take a nap.  I would have done it except I knew of the abundance of insects in that area,  and also that I needed to get home in a timely manner to start the day. But then as I went along the motivation began to return so I gradually sped up to around 7:10 in the last couple of miles. Total time for 10.1 was 1:14:47.

Then ran 2 more with Benjamin in 16:15. Paced him through a quarter in 76 mid-run, that is 5:04 pace, mind you. I had to work, especially with a congested nose and giving splits every 100 meters. Which were: 18 - 19.5 - 19.5 - 19. I am excited about this. He is only 10.5. I ran 500 in 1:45 at 11.5, and then 300 in 58. In the last year his quarter speed just took off. A year ago he was barely breaking 90. I have a feeling 3 years down the road he'd be doing "Daddy, give me five" during my mile time trial.

P.M. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:23. 2 with Jenny in 19:05. Julia ran 1.5 with us in 14:14.


Five Fingers 2 Miles: 12.10Bare Feet Miles: 2.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.50
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A.M. Decided to have another bum day to give the body a chance to deal a fatal blow to the illness. Slept in. Ran 5 miles pushing William in the double stroller. Some of it with Sarah. Felt good, but still decided to continue to bum it for the most part. For a quick evaluation and also to catch up to Sarah ran a mile (the last one of the Fast Running Blog 5 miler course, so mild uphill) in 5:58. HR at that pace climbed to 157 starting out at 134. I was going around 7:00 to get it to 134. Normally without the stroller I would need to go around 6:30 to get 134, and maybe 5:30 to have 157 by the end of the mile. 5:30 would eventually take me to 161. So I figure the stroller was worth maybe 25-30 seconds a mile. William did like sub-6:00 pace enough to fall asleep. The stroller starts making a humming nose when you go faster, nice for putting babies to sleep. Total time for 5 miles was 39:47.

Then 2 more with Benjamin in 16:53.

P.M. 1.5 with Julia and Jared in 13:28. Jenny was sick, did not run. 0.5 with Joseph and Benjamin in 5:15 (William in the stroller). 2 more with William in the stroller and nobody else in 15:41.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 7.00Bare Feet Miles: 4.00
Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 10.00
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A.M. Had some doubts about whether it would be good for my health to run my planned 20 miler, but a prayer removed the doubts. I noticed HR was a little high, but at the same time I was willing to move quicker than slow dragging death from the start, which was a good sign. Forgot to have a drink before the start, but then stopped at Walgreens 1.55 into the run to go to the bathroom and got some water out of the fountain. That did not seem to do much for the elevated HR. But I was feeling decent otherwise and I know that I do have a few heart beats to spare so I was not worried about it.

First mile was 7:54, which is quick for me for the first mile. Then a bit slower than 7:00 the rest of the way. The route was from the house to Bridal Veil Falls and back. Uphill going out, downhill coming back. HR was 134 at 7:12, 139 at 6:40 up 1-1.5% grade. Yes, I am a geek and I was taking splits every 100 meters during the easy part of a 20 mile run. I know this is high for me, just not sure exactly how high because I do not run that route often enough.

The trail was full of runners and bikers. That made the run more interesting during the easy part, but the hard part was a mix. On one hand it was nice to get occasional cheers and have targets to catch. On the other hand at times I felt like I was driving an ambulance in heavy traffic.

Reached the first 10 miles in 1:12:24, and then started running hard. For some reason I had a very hard time finding the rhythm and maintaining it. Did a mile in 5:59, then 5:45, 5:50, and then lost concentration and started going around 6:00. I even thought maybe this was a sign of a problem, and perhaps I should abandon the tempo, but then I thought - 20 miles is 20 miles, it is going to be hard regardless, and the choice is between another 40 minutes of running vs another 50 minutes of running. I decided to choose 40 minutes.

For some reason rocks, twigs, bumps, and turns were really throwing me off. Yes, stepping on a twig is a distraction when wearing Five Fingers. Maybe I am just spoiled by running with Jeff all the time. With him I do not have a choice - find your rhythm after a setback or get dropped. So I am expecting that when he is not around.

The encouraging sign was that HR was dropping to 147 from a more normal 151-152 when I lost concentration and slowed down to slower than 6:00. I interpreted it as that my health was fine and it was OK to push, or at least maintain the effort.

Then I really lost the rhythm around 16 miles into the run. There were some rocks on the road, not as bad as the last time Jeff and I ran that route (4th of July), but still enough to contribute to the confusion. The headwind did not help either along with some uphill. So I ended up slowing down to around 6:20 and then had a hard time shifting gears. The turns and the bridges later on did not help the cause. The 6:00 guy caught me and left me in the dust.

Finally with 1.5 to go I said I've had enough of this 6:20 jogging and gave it a more serious push. After about half a mile I was able to get up to 6:00. And then the momentum carried me and I was going 5:40 before I knew it. So I ended up running the last 0.75 in 4:16 (85,86,85 - 5:41 average).  Almost got the 6:00 guy for the last 10, but ran out of road - 1:00:07, total time for 20 was 2:12:31.

Afterwards I was coughing a lot. When the respiratory system is not 100% it might still do OK when you are going, but it really freaks out when you stop.

P.M. 1.53 with Benjamin, Jenny, and Julia to Walgreens to buy Benjamin Crocs. 14:16. Sarah picked up Jenny and Julia. Jenny did not run more because she was recovering from her stomach  troubles yesterday. The Crocs were not wide enough, so Benjamin and I ran back empty-handed in 11:39. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:13.

Five Fingers 2 Miles: 20.00Bare Feet Miles: 3.56
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Five Fingers 2 Miles: 69.45Bare Feet Miles: 18.56
Night Sleep Time: 60.50Nap Time: 6.00Total Sleep Time: 66.50
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