Breaking the Wall

Top of Utah 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: 81.04 Year: 418.47
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Navy Crocs 2 Lifetime Miles: 1576.28
Neon Crocs 1 Lifetime Miles: 1353.22
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Night Sleep Time: 48.00Nap Time: 2.50Total Sleep Time: 50.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest.

Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 11.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with James, Daniel, and Derek Taylor. Daniel went 3 miles, James 6, Derek around 8. Afterwards ran 1 with Julia in 9:42, and 2 with Benjamin in 16:22. Jenny joined for 1.5 in 12:48. Pushed Jacob during Benjamin's and Jenny's run.

P.M. Pushed Jacob and Joseph for 5 miles. 40:57.  Five Fingers are celebrating their first 1 K miles. Still in good condition - just one small hole under the right big toe. I wonder if I should just wear them down to the holes, gradually get used to the surface, and then just run barefoot period.

Five Fingers - 1000.97 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Derek. Did the Gerry Lindgren 5 mile tempo. Derek just started after reduced mileage, so he is being caution. So he just did the first and the last mile with me. We also found Matt and he joined us for a portion.

Mile 1: 75, 77, 75, 82 - 5:09. Forgot to make the prediction after the first quarter. Derek pulled away after the first 0.6 and finished it in 4:58. Matt made it to 0.5, I think. HR peaked at 161(!) and I lost steam without being able to push it any higher on this mile. I wonder if I would get better results if I did 78,78, then hold 75/76 until failure, if I'd be able to do more of those this way. Should try this next time, which will be in a week.

Mile 2: 87, 86, 86, 86 - 5:45. Legs feel heavy, cannot go any faster, but HR drops to 156(!). This is a joke. Shouldn't it go up to 165 at least to clean up the lactic acid? Am I weird, or maybe this is normal? We should try this on Jeff when he gets back. If anybody wants to try the experiment as well, please go ahead. Protocol - go to the track or well-measured flat road segment, warm up, then run your dream pace that is much faster than what you have been able to sustain even in a 5 K recently until failure, then run the best pace to the finish of 5 miles. Record quarter splits along with HR patterns. If you live near Provo, I'll be happy to lend you my HRM and run alongside (if I can).

Mile 3: 86, 86, 88, 86 - 5:46. 13:46 at the turnaround. HR at 157.

Mile 4: 88, 86, 86, 86 - 5:46. HR at 158.

Mile 5: Derek joined me and stayed with me. 86, 86, 84, 82 - 5:38. 28:04.1 for the run. Last 2.5 in 14:18. Managed to get HR to 161 in the kick.

Almost exact carbon copy of Saturday run with minor variations. With Derek's help I pushed the 3rd quarter of the first mile, which gave me a faster first mile. But then the fatigue was greater and I ended up running 6 seconds slower for the whole run. HR, however, was lower. Part of it was the difference in the temperature. It was warmer on Saturday. But not that much warmer. And I should be able to sustain my HR above 161 in any weather.

Too early to make any serious conclusions, but the emerging pattern appears very interesting. Pushing the pace harder in the first mile so far has produced a lower(!) HR in the remaining 4 miles, not just a slower pace.

Ran a cool down with Derek, then 2 with Benjamin in 15:29, and 1 with Julia in 9:29. Julia set a 0.5 PR over the second half - 4:11. Total of 15.8 for the run.

P.M. 1.5 with Jenny in 13:18. 

T4 Racer - 446.93 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Derek and Matt, then some alone, and 2 with Benjamin in 16:18. Total of 11.5 miles. Julia ran 1 mile with Sarah.

P.M. 5 miles in 39:43, including the first 1.5 with Jenny in 13:25.

Five Fingers - 1017.47 miles.

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. Ran the first 2 miles with Daniel, then he biked. Found Matt on the trail, he joined me for a bit. Ran the rest alone - 12.1 miles in 1:29:54. Then 2 more with Benjamin in 15:27, including a lunch-with-Daddy qualifier 0.5 in 3:04, a bit of a jog to rest, and then picking it up to finish the mile in 6:54.

Last night completely of her own initiative Sarah committed to working on her Russian more seriously. She speaks quite well, has good accent, can say what she needs to, but she does have her struggles. She cannot yet speak with color reordering her words just the right way, remembering to insert zhe and other forms of emphasis in the right places to make it sound natural, picking a more naturally sounding word vs a standard dictionary-recommended translation of what she would have said in English, without the fear of odd word forms that are particularly foreign to an English speaker, without the fear of using long words with several tongue-twister consonants in a row, etc. For the last 11 years she has fought the idea of learning to speak Russian like a native, but now the day has come. We are going to work on it.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:36, then 1.5 with Jenny in 11:55. 

Five Fingers - 1033.77 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.50Total Sleep Time: 8.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Derek, dropped him off, then ran alone, then ran into Justin White and his friend Chris, ran with them a bit, then more alone. Decided to try race pace for 0.5. Hit 2:44 going down about 0.5% grade. Felt good. Carefully listened for the signals of neural fatigue, but heard none. At least over 0.5.

Finished 11 miles, then ran with the kids. First 1 with Julia in 10:30. Then we loaded Julia and Joseph in the double stroller for me to push, and put Jacob in the single stroller for Benjamin to push. After the first 60 meters Benjamin said that Jacob was a lot heavier than he had thought. That sounded suspicious. I checked out the stroller, and sure enough, the break was on. We fixed that, and kept going. Benjamin did better than I thought he would. 12:54 for 1.5. That is 8:36 pace average. The combined weight of Jacob and the stroller was probably closely approaching Benjamin's own weight. Jenny, of course, had to take advantage of the chance to show off and pulled ahead in the last third of a mile finishing in 12:38. I stayed with Benjamin.

Good to know that in case of emergency we could cover a 5 K at 9:00 pace without the aide of a motor with all of the five kids. When William is born, we will need one more seat in the stroller, but hopefully by then Julia will learn to ride a bike.

I have been taking in a lot of Powerade lately, and it has been going in very well, never making me feel like I've had too much. Makes me wonder if the latest neural fatigue struggles were from a very subtle carbodepletion. Or another way to look at that - something happened that increased the brain demands for glucose, and not receiving enough the brain responded by limiting running performance. I've had this happen before. In any case, the practical implication is that the body needs to be fed a lot of carbs.

Five Fingers - 1047.33 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Race: Top of Utah Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:11:13, Place overall: 4
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Top of Utah Half. 1:11:13. 4th place. Got beat by Teren (1:06:38), Seth (1:10:37), and Josh Stefen (1:10:46). Held off Jon (1:11:40), and Paul (1:12:14). Better quality race than two weeks ago in Provo Half. Details to follow...

Now details....

Stayed at Paul's house. Got to see little Seth. Got to race the big Seth as well. How do you get your shirt to finish 46 seconds ahead of you? Let Seth borrow it, of course :-)

Warmed up with Paul. We saw two moose. Paul wondered if the plural of moose was meese. I thought it should be mooses. Turns out both of us were wrong. I did Googled it and found that the correct form is moose. Go figure. I've run TOU every year they've had it (9 times) without ever seeing a moose, and now two at once!

Paul invented a new concept. I think he should patent it. For every bathroom visit prior to the start of a race you get a star. For every stop during the race you lose a star. So at the start this was going to be a two-star race for me.

With the latest neural fatigue problems I did not have firm expectations for the race. I told Paul the night before it could be as fast as 1:09 or as slow as 1:14. I figured the best way to work around the neural fatigue would be to run as unmotivated as possible. I noticed that neural fatigue often kicks in from an overexertion of some kind - a hill, a surge, or a pace that is a tad too brisk held for 10 minutes. It is easy to mistake it for the consequences of getting into oxygen debt, but overtime I learned to distinguish the two. If it is just oxygen debt, you will breathe harder for a minute or two afterwards, back off the pace a bit, recover, and then you are good to go again. Maybe 3 seconds per mile slower than what you would have otherwise. Neural fatigue is a different beast. You step into the red zone, and you are out for the rest of the race. The breathing slows down. The heart rate drops. The pace drops to as much as 20 seconds per mile slower and stays that way to the end. You keep telling yourself - I am feeling good, I am going to pick it up, you think you are picking it up, but the splits show otherwise. You try to kick in the last 50 meters, and you cannot. It is like a bad dream when you try to run away from a robber but your body is paralyzed for no understandable reason.

Mile 1 - 5:27. Running with Josh Stefen. Teren and Seth did 5:19 - they are both jogging. Feeling sluggish.

Mile 2 - 5:17. The downhill got steeper, I picked it up, dropped Josh, started closing on Teren and Seth. Got excited, and pushed harder hoping to catch up to them. Then there is this feeling - you get too excited, the neural fatigue will get you. Do not red line. So I eased off. Teren/Seth did 5:19.

Mile 3 - 5:25. Josh caught up to me, and gapped me a bit. I thought for a while he was gone. Then there was a short steep downhill and I caught up to him. Told myself, ran with him to 4, you can at least do that.

Mile 4 - 5:21. Drafting behind Josh changed from miserable to sustainable, I think I can make it to 5.

Mile 5 - 5:14. More downhill, some tailwind, starting to feel good. 26:44 at 5 miles.

Mile 6 - 5:12. Even better. We are now ahead of the 5:20 guy. At the start it looked like averaging 5:30s would be a challenge. Thinking about gapping Josh.

Mile 7 - 5:15. Happy to gap the 5:20 guy some more, will need that for sure later on. Tried to gap Josh as well, but was not successful. Now drafting behind him.

Mile 8 - 5:25. Not enjoying it as much on flatter ground, but the pace feels sustainable.

Mile 9 - 5:21. Cannot complain about that. Don't think the grade has changed, still about 0.5% down, and we are still ahead of the 5:20 guy. Did not expect that so late in the race.

Mile 10 - 5:29. Some headwind, but Josh has wide shoulders. 53:26 at 10 miles.

Mile 11 - 5:46. Uphill started. At first it felt bearable, but the further we go, the harder it gets. I am feeling like I am carrying a bookcase that I am about to drop.

Mile 12 - 5:57. Uphill continues. I cannot hold the bookcase any more, it goes down. I think the bookcase's name was Josh. He is gone, has about 10 seconds on me. I am thinking with the downhill on the last mile I can close the gap.

Mile 13 - 5:39. Legs are just not moving. Here comes the neural fatigue with all of its ugly symptoms. I see Josh putting a gap on me. I see Seth within reachable distances. I am not breathing very hard. The legs do not hurt. Josh is worth some cash and circuit points. Seth is worth some cash and circuit points. I want to catch them and I want it bad. But there is nothing I can do no matter how hard I try.

Last 0.1 - 31 seconds. A desperate attempt at a kick. My watch said 1:11:11. Official time was 1:11:13.

Paced Breanna during the cool down/extra miles. Then went to find Bonnie, but missed her - ran right past her and did not spot her in the crowd. Ended up with 21 miles for the workout.

Interesting how the hill knocked me out. This has happened before. In 2003 St. George I lost contact with the OTQ pack at 9 miles going up a long gradual climb, and never recovered. That same year I was running well in the first 6 miles of the Springfield marathon until we hit a hill about half a mile long. Afterwards I was not myself for the rest of the race. However, I've had good days when a long hill did not bother me in spite of taking it hard. Last year I did fine in the Provo River half, Salt Lake (Emmigration Canyon) half, and Park City Half. This year I did OK on the Avon pass in Wasatch Back.

My theory. The hill increases the amount of neural output. On a bad day this could put me in the red zone of neural fatigue. Something pops in the brain, and it stops working for the rest of the race.

T4 Racer - 467.93 miles.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:50, then 2 with Benjamin, Jenny and Jared in 16:39. Jared had a side ache and fell behind.

Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Night Sleep Time: 48.00Nap Time: 2.50Total Sleep Time: 50.50
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