Breaking the Wall

Top of Utah 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: 188.26 Year: 188.26
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: 1359.62
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Bare Feet Miles: 26.65Walmart Crocs (No Boundaries) Miles: 12.75Saucony Type A Miles: 32.92Water Clogs Miles: 0.50
Night Sleep Time: 46.00Nap Time: 2.50Total Sleep Time: 48.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church.

Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 9.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 21 laps around Grandview barefoot with Jeff in 57:11. The distance is 8.11. Last 5 laps (1.93) at a tempo pace in 11:13 (5:48.55 average). HR was a little high (156, last lap 164 at 5:31 pace). Felt sluggish. But it was warm, and it is Monday, and I am usually a bit sluggish on Mondays.

Then drove Zhu to Computune to fix the breaks. Zhu is a 93 Ford Escort Wagon. Today I realized that it was old enough to drive and go out on dates. In two years it will be old enough to vote. I also realized that all of our cars are now teenagers.

Ran back with Benjamin from Computune.Timed 2.25 miles in 17:52, but we did make a detour of about 0.25 to buy Benjamin a watch at Big Lots.

P.M. Ran with Jenny and Julia to fetch Zhu from Computune. 2.25 in 20:43. It was raining. Then later 0.5 with  Joseph in 5:08. It was still raining and it was dark. He did not seem to mind. Our kids actually think it is fun to run in bad weather.

Bare Feet Miles: 8.11Walmart Crocs (No Boundaries) Miles: 5.25
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran at Grandview barefoot with Jeff and Benjamin. Benjamin ran the first lap with us, then we sped up. He ended up with 17:21 for 2 miles. I ran 21 laps (8.11) in 57:59. Last 5 (1.93 miles) at a tempo pace - 11:11 (5.47.5 average).

P.M. 2 with Jenny in 18:49. Julia ran the first 1.5 in 13:58. 0.5 with Joseph and Benjamin in 4:55.

Bare Feet Miles: 8.11Walmart Crocs (No Boundaries) Miles: 2.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Jeff at Grandview barefoot. 6.18 in 45:54. Last 0.5 quicker. Timed the last lap in 2:13 (5:44 pace). Felt energetic in the last 0.5.

Then drove the Fast Running Van to Computune to get it ready to pass the safety test and ran back with Benjamin in 18:38 (2.25 miles).

P.M. 2.25 to Computune to get the Fast Running Van with Jenny and Julia in 19:53. Had an interesting conversation there. Jenny said that 9:00 pace was an easy pace for her. I explained that she had raced a 5 K at 7:40 pace, so a little over 2 miles at a slighly sub-9:00 is not hard. The manager said that was amazing. Jenny corrected him - no that's normal! Our kids have been thoroughly brainwashed!

0.5 with Joseph in 5:14.

Ordered new Crocs online (well, Water Clogs technically, official Crocs are too expensive) for myself, Benjamin, and Jenny from Target. Walmart did not have them.

Bare Feet Miles: 6.18Walmart Crocs (No Boundaries) Miles: 5.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 9.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Jeff. Wore racing flats. We did a short warm-up (1.37) and then ran a tempo. I only went 1.5 because I am tapering. He did 5. It was dark, early, and our warmup was short, so we started out sluggish with a 92 second quarter. It felt harder than it should have. I was concerned some. But then the next one was 85 and it felt easier than I thought 85 would. And then I thought the next one would be maybe 84, 83 at the fastest from the effort, but it was 81. Then 81, 81 again, and 80 to finish 1.5 in 8:20.

The right foot had no issues. The left heel hurt a bit, enough that I had to alter the form some. But not too bad, I can run a marathon on it and live.

Turned around 3 miles away from the house, then jogged back to where we started the tempo and decided that since Jeff would get there in 4 minutes I could wait for him. He finished the 5 mile tempo in 26:57. Still struggling with his cold, but hopefully there is enough time between now and St. George for him to be fully over it.

Then ran home with Jeff, total of 6 miles in 46:36.

P.M. Got my Water Clogs in the mail for $10 including shipping. Took them for a spin.  0.5 with Joseph in 5:19. Then to avoid putting too much stress on the left foot rode the bike for the other kids runs. Benjamin ran 2 in 16:33, Jenny in 18:53. Julia had cut her foot in a small accident so she biked.

Saucony Type A Miles: 6.00Water Clogs Miles: 0.50
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran 11 laps around Grandview field barefoot. First 5 with Benjamin. He turned around at the tree and finished 2 miles in around 16:20. Jenny was not feeling awake so she ran slow. 2 miles in about 20:30. Julia's foot is still recovering from the cut. 4 more laps at an easy pace, and then the last 2 fast - 2:18 and 2:16 (5:54 pace).

During the run on the 9th lap I stepped on a wasp and it stung me.At first I thought it was a thorn, stopped to check, saw no thorn and no blood. Odd, I thought - why did it feel like a thorn. Was able to run at 5:54 pace almost unaffected. First lap felt a bit odd, on the second I got used to it. Then I stopped and noticed the ring toe (for lack of a better name, the one right next to the pinky) was slightly swollen. Then all of a sudden it swelled a lot. I got concerned for a second. What if I had stepped on something deadly? But I was feeling fine, so I figured I'd just drive home and be prepared to pull over if all of a sudden I started feeling bad. Just in case gave Benjamin the cell phone and told him to call 911 if I was acting weird.

But those turned out to be overprecautions as this was just a wasp sting, and I probably got only a portion of the poison. The sting lap was done in 2:46 (7:10 pace), so I figure about 0.2 seconds for the ground contact time. A wasp probably needs at least 0.5 seconds to do its job (does anybody know exactly?). So with those assumptions, and also assuming that the venom release happens at a uniform rate, I would have gotten only about 40% of the doze. So by now the swelling is very minimal, almost non-existent.

This reminds me that Deena Kastor was once stung by a bee. Except not in the toe, but in the back of her throat. This happened during the Worlds Cross Country Championship in 2000 in Porgtugal in the first 100 meters of the race. She spat out the bee and kept on running. As the race progressed her throat began to close. She passed out, then got up and finished the race in 12th place.

P.M. Made the magic drink for Top of Utah. Recipe: 1.5 liters of water, 2 table spoons of gotu kola powder (gotu kola is a native Sri-Lankan herb and has nothing to do with colas), 2 table spoons of hawthorn berry powder. Bring it to a boil and let it cool off. Then mix with 12 table spoons of honey and 1 tea spoon of sea salt. Poor in three 0.5 liter bottles. Serve the first at mile 10, the second at 15, and the third at 20.

Bare Feet Miles: 4.25
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:35:19
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Top of Utah Marathon, 2:35:19, 8th place. One phrase summary of the performance is "better than embarrassing" or "it could have been worse without being the worst I've run in the last few years".

Going into the race I had a few issues. Undertrained due to foot and recent sickness, and inflamed attachement of plantar to the heel in the left foot (Josse helped me figure that out tonight, and scraped/massaged it as well). Two weeks ago I experienced fuel issues in the last 5 miles of a 20 mile run which should not have happened and were probably the result of being slightly out of shape.   On the positive side I felt my form has smoothed out from running on grass, and the leg power felt decent.

I debated between two options for the race. Keep HR at 152 or try to go out a bit quicker and survive. I do have a tendency to crash at the end some even if I go out slow. At the same time I was curious to see if maybe I'd be able to overcome that tendency. 20 minutes away from the house I realized I had forgotten my HRM. This made the decision easier, so it was go out quicker and hang on.

The field was loaded. 4 Kenyans at the start. Paul, Nick, no Seth, Steve, Jon, Vance Twitched, Joe Wilson (out of shape, but you never know), Bryant Jensen from Weber State, and Eric Held who has improved dramatically in the last year.

I followed Paul and the Kenyans. The pace was quick but not insane. I considered backing off after 3 miles when Paul pushed it and we hit a 5:21, but then he got some water and dropped back behind the Kenyans who did not want to go faster. For a good reason - they were out of their own (2:14) or even Paul's shape! So I stuck with the pack a bit longer. We went through 5 miles in 27:11. Then in the sixth mile Paul hit the gas again and I said now is the time to back off and run my own pace.

In about a mile or two Nick caught up to me, and I followed him until 10. Then it was time for me to get refueled. Aaron, Nan Kennard's husband, brought the bottles to me. I backed off and let Nick go. 10 mile marker was wrong. I remember it being wrong last year as well. My time was 54:50, but it was probably closer to 55:40.

When I backed off from the lead pack one of the Kenyans had already lost his wheels and was behind. I caught up to one more and we were running together, but I knew he was done. Then when Nick caught up that helped me separate myself from that Kenyan. But there were two more ahead, plus Paul, plus Bryant. Not good for a sore footed undertrained man, but that's life.

1:13:03 at the half. Then a tailwind picked up and carried me for a couple of quick miles. 5:29, and 5:39. 1:23:39 at 15. Eric Held caught up to me, but then fell back.

Got my bottle at 16 from Aaron, enjoyed it.

I was feeling decent and maintained a slightly sub-6:00 on the Hollow Road and all the way to mile 18. Felt good on the uphill. Ran the next two miles in 6:15 and 6:20. 20 miles in 1:54:05. Got another bottle at 20 from Aaron, enjoyed it as well. Aaron gave me an update on Nan - 1:20 at the half. Perfect. On pace for a course record, and she would need to close in 1:15 to chick me if things do not go so well. So I am relatively safe.

Figured I was headed for a 2:33 maybe a little under. However, then there was a surprise.

Next downhill mile in 6:11 instead of 5:55. Legs do not want to move, no motivation. And then a complete disaster - 6:51. No, not quite complete. Next mile in 7:00 or so! Odd. The foot started complaining. Not good. I considered dropping out. There were several reasons I did not. I believe if you get a comp and can finish without damaging your health you should, and I felt that in all honesty I could finish without serious health damage. I also thought that there was a remote possibility of somebody from the lead pack dropping out or royally blowing up, which then would put me in the money. It was my 11th time running the race, and I wanted to keep my streak of sub-2:40 finishes.  And, not the least important - in my state of mind I could have gotten lost trying to find a short cut to the finish and end up running close to 26 miles anyway.

Of course this was enough for Eric to start closing. I regrouped and picked it up to 6:40. Probably the sugar from the honey kicked in. Then Eric caught up to me around 24, and then Jon passed both of us as if we were standing still shortly before 25. Well, we were standing still, so no as if. Eric used the commotion to pull away from me, and I had nothing to respond with.

I believe I saw 2:27:21 at 25 and 2:34:01 at 26, so another 6:40 mile. Could be worse. Tried to reel Eric in, but did not have the strength. Set a goal to beat my Five Finger time at Utah Valley (2:35:46), got to have some kind of goal even when the race is falling apart. Pushed as hard as I could in the last 385 yards. Got 1:18, that is actually 5:56 pace, not too bad.

At the finish we had Paul in 2:23:07, Josephat Chemjor 2:25:08, Sammy Nyamongo 2:28:12,  Nick 2:28:46, Bryant 2:31:10, Jon 2:34:16, Eric 2:35:00. In 9th place Vance Twitchell 2:39:05 and Tylor Monson 2:39:22. The entire top 10 under 2:40. Interesting result from prize money increase in the current economy. Paul's winning time was very solid, but it was slowest win since after 2005. But if I remember right, first time 10th place was under 2:40. I suppose the conclusion is that what the winner will run is sufficiently unpredictable and correlates less with the prize money, but the depth of the field correlates a lot stronger.

Paul's win was very impressive. I suspect somehow he managed to become  2:13 guy currently wearing a 2:23 guy's clothing. Or I should say this. He's always been a sub-2:13 guy, but the clothing was so thick that he appeared to be slower. It is nice that he is willing to serve as a guinea-pig for the rest of us to learn from documenting his trials and how he overcomes them.

Nan ran great. 2:44:10, new course record. Her last 10 K was faster than mine by about a minute. It is one thing to have the math tell you you can run a good time, but actually running it takes you to a new level.

After the race once the endorophins wore off my foot started to fuss a lot. I had a hard time keeping up with Cody and Adam walking to the car. Even though both of them fell apart a whole lot worse than I did in the race I could not keep up with them walking and had to ask them slow down.

P.M. Kids ran their usual distances on their own with Sarah's supervision. The times got messed up except for Benjamin's which was 17:27.

Saucony Type A Miles: 26.92
Night Sleep Time: 6.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Bare Feet Miles: 26.65Walmart Crocs (No Boundaries) Miles: 12.75Saucony Type A Miles: 32.92Water Clogs Miles: 0.50
Night Sleep Time: 46.00Nap Time: 2.50Total Sleep Time: 48.50
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