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: 1.00Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 64.02
Night Sleep Time: 45.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 47.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. We had a Stake Conference. Good talks. Elder Holland talked about the grit, the spunk, and the moral courage of the pioneers, and how we should have it today. Sister Beck talked about faith. I liked her "You are doing better than you think you are but you can do a whole lot better".  Somehow it has become fashionable to beat yourself up about your shortcomings while vehemently insisting that you are doing your very best. Elder Packer talked about a number of things including agency and leadership. He also told stories, I particularly enjoyed the one about how he used a 20 mark bill borrowed from Elder Bednar (back then a young  missionary in Germany to bribe an East German train conductor so he would accept a valid passport as really valid in his eyes.

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. 10 with Mike Did a 1.5 pickup in 8:33.. 2 more with Julia in 17:52. 0.5 with Jacob in 4:29. Benjamin and Jenny were sick.

P.M. 0.5 with Joseph in 5:27. He was sick.  S w Dr. Brady, he had some ideas for me, will try them. Ran a mile on his treadmill.

Bare Feet Miles: 1.00Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 13.00
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. 6 with Mike, 0.5 with Jacob in 4:15. Julia ran 2. Joseph, Benjamin, and Jenny still sick.

P.M. Flight to Montreal - company meeting. Ran a good distance through the terminals to make the connections in Detroit and Cleveland. Ran 1.5 from the bus stop to the  hotel with luggage. Was still able to run about 9:00 uphill without too much effort.

Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 9.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 7 miles in Mont Royal park. It was hillier than I thought, but the climb was not bad at a lower elevation. I noticed that the runners were slower in Montreal than in Provo. In Provo I do not pass people like they are standing still unless I am doing a tempo run. Today maybe I picked a bad time, but people that looked fit were coming to me very fast even though I was running a true honest easy effort. Maybe I pushed it subconsciously because it was uphill and I had more oxygen to work with at a lower elevatiion.

Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 7.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 4.8 in Montreal.

P.M. 1.5 back from the company meeting in the rain. That was the fastest way to get to the hotel. Then another 2 miles doing pre-departure errands. If I lived in Montreal I would get a job as a courier. The ability to run comfortably at 6:30 pace allows you to get places downtown quicker than any other way, and the air quality is actually good enough that you will not suffocate while doing it. But I do not want to live in a big city. Every time you sneeze they charge you. It costs to park your bike of all things! To get to the airport, 7 Canadian dollars by bus, or 40 by taxi.

Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 8.30
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
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A day of adventures. It began with me sleeping in, if arising at 1:30 MST can be called sleeping in, and missing the bus I planned to get on to go to the airport. I ran downtown (1.5 miles) with my bag, but by the time I got there, I realized the next bus will not allow me to make my flight. So I took a taxi. I had to find an ATM to get the cash for the taxi.  Part of the bummer is that I had already bought the bus ticket the night before. That was the start of the travel marathon. Then customs at the airport, and a connection to Cleveland to find out that Delta had overbooked my connecting flight to Minneapolis. The agent offered me a plan to get to SLC by 7:00 PM instead of one. I pressed her to find a better option, and she found a plan that would get me there by 4:00 PM that would involve a connecting flight from Continental to Atlanta. I took that. On the positive side of things I got at $6 breakfast voucher and a $200 certificate for Delta for the inconvenience.

I checked the Continental schedule, and realized that the flight I was supposed to be on was going to be late, and that would jeopardize my connection in Atlanta. Fortunately, there was another flight right before it that was late as well, and I had enough time to make it. The Continental people were nice enough to book me on that flight. Thus I progressed to Atlanta, and on to Salt Lake from there. Delta pt me in first class on that flight. I still do not understand why people fly first class. It is still a plane.

The entire time I was very concerned about getting sick. I already had a bit of a snotty nose when I started the trip. So I took some vitamin C, ate some garlic, and was drinking lots of orange juice to contain the damage. Planes and airports are an incredible germ factory. I suppose the damage could be reduced if they let you go outside for a walk somewhere with clean air between flights, but that will not happen until the majority of travelers are runners with concerns about being healthy for the marathon they are going to run the day after their trip.

 The travel marathon continued with a drive to Logan, bib pickup, and finally I arrived at my destination at Jason's house by 7:00 PM. So 3.5 hours of sleep + 17.5 hours of traveling from 200 feet above see level to race at 5000 feet. Great preparation for the marathon!

I considered just skipping it altogether, but just could not do it. I had to at least try. I have run Top of Utah every single year they've had it. I love the race directors. They are some of the few that really understand what it takes to be fast, and put a lot of effort into making this a great race. I felt that I needed to at least make it to the starting line if I could, and then do my very best to get to the finish in a decent time without risking my health.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:36:06, Place overall: 5
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Top of Utah Marathon, 2:36:06, 5th place, $250. I feel like I have just piloted a plane with a missing propeller blade, or perhaps a couple. It could not go as fast as it normally does, but I landed it safely without being too much off schedule. Not that I had ever flown a plane or ever would (my uncorrectable 20/800 vision in the right eye will not permit it), but I image that is how something like this would feel.

I woke up in the AM. Relatively minor congestion in the throat and nose. HR was 52, a bit high for that time, but no fever. I do know from experience that even a minor cold can prove disastrous in the marathon. You can fake it in the 5 K, or even 10 K, but the marathon is a different animal. The health needs to be perfect at the starting line or else...

Decided to give it my best shot anyway, then jog to the finish if I had to. Ran the first 2 miles with Sammy Nyamongo and Peter Omae (5:32, 5:22), then about half way through the third mile the pace increased, and I realized that I did not have the health to keep it. So I backed off and cruised with the goal of keeping my head above water, being thankful for everything under 6:00, more thankful for under 5:50, and exceptionally thankful for a few miles under 5:40.

Hit 5 Miles in 27:58. Steve Shepherd and and Ben VanBeekum caught up to me around 7. I ran with them for a couple of miles. Ben was just doing a tempo run - 13 miles. Steve was racing. Steve's pace was too fast for me, I backed off. Ben stopped to go the bathroom, then caught up and was nice enough to pull me to 13. That helped a lot. 10 mile split was 56:52 (28:54), 1:14:24 at the half. Not a complete disaster yet, but the body is weak and there is another half to go.

1:25:32 at 15 (28:40). Encouraging. Now I have only 11 miles to crash over. And I am still in 4th. Meaning I can get passed once and still be in the money. And even if I get passed twice, I am not going home completely empty handed, it is $50 for age division win. But the way I am feeling I can get passed multiple times once the eggs of trouble hatch. Slightly sub-6:00 average for the next 3 miles, 1:43:29 at 18. Only 8 miles to crash over, that is encouraging. Also, the fact that I could keep sub-6:00 that late in the race means the crash will not be exceptionally bad, that is encouraging as well. Maybe I might even hold on to 4th!

The two uphill miles in 6:15 and 6:24. Second one shows a sign of weakness, but I am still moving my legs. 1:56:08 at 20. Brandon Reiff from Reno came up on me during the 21st mile. I tried to hang with him, but could only do it for a minute. This however pulled me through the next mile in 6:00. This was the last respectable mile, then I started laying goose eggs with nothing approaching 6:00 anywhere close, but at least I kept my head above water with nothing slower than 6:40. During that time I started praying for the Lord's mercy so that I would not get passed, and the Lord heard and answered my prayer. I ended up with a time that did not deserve 5th in this race, but at the same time I ended up with a place that I believe my true fitness without that trip would have earned had the race been more normally competitive. The trip was not my fault. I did not go to Montreal for pleasure. I did not have a choice, it was a mandatory company trip, and I need to feed my family, I could not say no. But the Lord was merciful to me, and made up what I lost after all that I could do.

The top finishers were Sammy  Nyamongo (2:24:06), Peter Omae ( 2:25:02), Steve Shepherd (2:25:30),  Brandon Reiff (2:33:31), then right behind me Joe Furse 2:38:15.


Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 26.72
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Bare Feet Miles: 1.00Gold Crocs 1 Miles: 64.02
Night Sleep Time: 45.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 47.00
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