Breaking the Wall

Uneventful 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: 266.81 Year: 266.81
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: 1438.17
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 4 Miles: 91.30
Night Sleep Time: 53.50Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 55.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. We had another return missionary couple speak in the Sacrament meeting. Our stake is very good at sending out missionaries, both young and senior. Then we had a Sunday school lesson on prayer, and a lesson in the Elder's Quorum on Sabbath day worship.

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 with the kids. Jenny did 3.5, William 0.5, Joseph and Julia 2, Jacob 1, Benjamin 7. Did 2 of it with the weights. Added enough to make the total 12. Did a pickup for 0.5 uphill in 2:56.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 12.00
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 with the kids, then some alone. 2 miles with weights. Jenny did 3.5, Benjamin 7, Joseph and Julia 2, Jacob 1, William 0.5. I did a pickup for 0.5 down the canyon in 2:33.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 12.00
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 with the kids, and that was most of my run even though I did a total of 12.3. Did 7 with Benjamin, 2 with Julia and Joseph, 1 with Jacob. 1 of them was with weights. Jenny did 3, including 0.5 with William. Benjamin and I did a pickup for 600 in 1:45 down the canyon. This is actually Benjamin's PR for 600.

P.M. 5 miles with Julia and Joseph following me on a bike. I prayed on Saturday to know what I should do with my training, and a thought, a good one, came to me that I needed to do what I could to squeeze in a moderate amount of doubles. Today was the day when I managed to squeeze in another run. Joseph and Julia kept up fine, in fact, 7:30 pace, which is what I ran, was too slow for them.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 17.30
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with the kids and a little bit alone. Total of 12. Benjamin did 7, Jenny 3.5, Julia and Joseph 2, Jacob 1. Benjamin and I did a pickup for about 0.5 at around 5:40 pace. I ran 2 miles with the weights. Julia rode the last two miles with me on her bike as well.

P.M. 5.3 miles to the canyon and back in the dark. 

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 17.30
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
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A.M. Today was another day of mile records. When you have a large running family you can say that. Somebody is always breaking a record. So today Julia ran the full mile (1609.34 meters) on the track in 7:00.9. That is a PR by 22 seconds. Her splits were 1:42, 1:47, 1:48, 1:40 and 3 seconds for the extra 9.34 meters. So by the high school standards she is a sub-7:00 "miler", as their mile has only 1600 meters. Julia ran total of 3 miles. Jenny did 3, Jacob 1, and Joseph 2.

Benjamin also set a record. To help him mentally prepare for breaking 5:00 mile on the track I thought it would be a good idea to break it on the trail first going down the Provo Canyon, which is about 1% grade. I consider that mile to be roughly equivalent to the ideal track mile. Orem High is not ideal because the track is exposed to the canyon wind, so it is more than honest.

So in the middle of our regular 7 mile run we did a mile time trial. The plan was for Benjamin to lead the first 500, then I take over and take him to 1100, then he passes me and kicks while I keep the pressure from behind.   We executed the plan almost perfectly - the only mistake was he hit the first quarter in 76 instead of 73. But we made up the time later. Our splits were 76, 73, 73, 70 with 4:52.5 for Benjamin and 4:52.7 for me.

Having a son go sub-5:00 I suppose is a milestone, pun intended.  It is quite exciting that his time was only 10 seconds slower than my best time ever on that course while he is only 13. This is to be expected, though. He has my genes, he has been trained from the age of five with me using all of the experience I gained over the years, he was delivered naturally and breastfed for about a year (then Jenny got in the queue and cut off the milk supply), has consumed very little if any junk food in his entire life, and does not have a congenitally defective spine. His drive to win is strong, and he is committed to doing what it takes. So with the above you would expect the son to outperform the father by quite a bit. It is however one thing to reason about why your son should be fast, and it is something else to actually witness him get fast and realize all those hopes. I am well aware that many fathers have reasoned legitimately why their sons should be fast, but only a very small fraction of them have had those hopes come to fruition. So I do not take this blessing for granted.

This mile felt very close to all out for me except for the first quarter, which felt like a jog. But then when I had to lead hitting 73s it was hard. But once Benjamin took over I recovered and felt strong in the kick. I even considered passing Benjamin and trying to outsprint him, but he boxed me to the edge, and I figured if I moved to the other side to pass he might instinctively shift, which would make him slower, plus I was tired enough already. My competitive drive was satisfied by just not getting dropped. I did, however, get my fastest time of the year, and I was happy to have been able to do it with a 6 second negative split. 

We ran home, then I ran one more mile with Julia on a bike. Total of 12. 

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
Race: Uneventful Provo River Half Marathon (13.11 Miles) 01:13:02, Place overall: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. After the problems at the actual Provo River Half marathon I began to wonder I had issues in the area of half-marathon endurance that were more than just a hurt rib cage. So I decided to repeat the race, this time "uneventfully", or in other words completely alone.

I took the first and the last place with the time of 1:13:02, and am generally happy with the effort. This was 1:46 faster than in the actual race, so it does show that the rib cage problem was a significant drag two weeks ago. I was sluggish at the start. First mile (going off race mile markers) was 5:19, followed by 5:23. At this point I was 5 seconds behind my pace two weeks ago. The 4 mile split was 21:32, so 5:25 average for the next two miles. I knew I was running slow for the generous 3 % grade, but I could not get myself to go faster. It did not look slow to the people I was passing, and they were quick to comment, but it was still slow. It is all relative, I suppose. 

Once I got out to the less steep grade, however, I maintained the pace better than I thought I would. I timed a 5:33 mile on the markers. After the first 4 miles, the official markers on this course go a bit wild, so it would be more reliable to keep track by the land marks - those do not move. My split at the letter S at the start of the uphill was 35:28. A mile later at the mark that said 16 it was 41:51 (6:23). 42:28 at the turnaround. 43:01 back at the 16 mark. 48:27 back at the letter S (5:26 mile). 49:32 at the start of my 3 mile tempo course in Nunn's Park. The next 3 miles were 5:29, 5:31, 5:33 - 16:33 for the 3 mile tempo course, which gave me 1:06:05 split at the end of it and 56:08 at what looked like the official 10 mile mark, which is fairly accurate. 1:08:52 half a mile later on the triangles mark, 2:47 for the half mile. I forgot for a moment that I was running the Provo River Half, and not my 10 mile tempo back to the house, and did not cut the corner near the press building. That probably cost me 3 seconds, which unfortunately ended up putting me over the 1:13 barrier. 1:10:01 at the start of the Riverwoods trail right as you cross the bridge.

My overall take from that run is that I know how to hold 5:30s for a while on anything ranging from 0% to 2% downhill quite well, I can hold it fatigued, but I have a hard time sustaining sub-5:20 pace on any grade, even 4-5% downhill. The limiting factor seems to be this strange thing that I have observed before. Being aided by gravity allows you to, more like forces you to, increase your leg turnover. As your leg turnover increases, your brain starts thinking you should breathe more frequently, when in fact, you can do just fine without it. When you start to breathe more frequently that triggers the response "this pace is not sustainable because I am breathing too hard". I call this the "downhill respiratory panic". There is a cure for it - fast downhill tempo runs or long intervals, which I will do in the next couple of weeks.

 Ran a long cool-down to make the total 20, some of it with Benjamin. Benjamin did 7, Jenny 3, Julia and Joseph 2, Jacob 1.

P.M. William finally broke 2:15 in the 400 meters at Orem High track. No hand holding. His splits were 28, 33,  35, 37 - 2:12.8. He earned himself a watch, which I ordered the same night. Joseph tried to break his record in the 200, but in his first attempt he tripped. at around 150 meter mark. He tried again, but was too tired running 40.4. William's total for the run was 0.5. I ended up with about 0.7.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 20.70
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 4 Miles: 91.30
Night Sleep Time: 53.50Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 55.50
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