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: 304.65 Year: 3606.17
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: 806.96
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Ran with the kids in the morning. Then drove to the Provo River Trail by Geneva Road. Warmed up, then started the 5 mile tempo run - 2.5 out, and 2.5 back. Mostly flat, a slight net drop on the first mile, and the same net climb on the last.

The form felt different during the warm-up, so I knew it was possible that I would run faster than normal. The goal was to run aggressive marathon pace. I decided to try to hold 1:24 per quarter pace to see how it felt, and back off to 1:25 if it felt too aggressive.

Total time - 27:57.7. Splits - 5:36 - 11:11 (5:35) - turnaround 13:59 (2:48) - 3 miles 16:48 (2:49) - 22:23 (5:35), and last mile in 5:34. Again, cheated on the last mile pushing it enough to get a negative split.

Felt in control of the pace. When I was focused, I could relax and run 1:24 quarters. When I lost the focus a bit I would hit 1:25. Then I would wake up and hit a couple of 1:23s to compensate, but then it started to feel too aggressive, although still sustainable with proper focus.

The stride felt wider and more relaxed. I felt like I was getting more bang in the stride length for the buck of effort. At the same time, I felt like I had just gotten off a bike and was trying to run. It seemed like my muscles were trying to learn a new trick and were not catching on right away. But they will eventually, and even in this state I was running faster with the same effort as before. Finally some tangible fruit from the spinal correction work in the last couple of weeks. I have hopes that it will continue to grow.

Ran to Benjamin's soccer practice and back in the evening.

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Easy run with Ted in the morning. Chased 7:30 guy, and got him on the last mile, which we ran in 7:06. Total time for 8 miles 59:40. Heart rate afterwards was 108 counted over 10 seconds. That seems way too low - I felt I had worked harder than that. Maybe it is just dropping too faster as soon as I stop.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

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Taper for the Top of Utah marathon. Ran easy 5 miles by my house this morning with 1 tempo mile in 5:45. Then saw Raymond, and ran a bit more at the same pace to catch him. Ran with him for a little bit, then ran a tempo 600 in 2:07 to the end.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

Also did bench press, 3 sets of 3 with 105, narrow grip. Still doing the Pettibon excercises and taking the Adrenal Formula. Started the headweights and the Wobble Chair.

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Ran with the BYU ROTC Army cadets again this morning. They were doing a fartlek. This was perfect for me, as their pick-up pace was right around my marathon race pace. However, I ended up running at my marathon pace somewhat longer than expected due to a bathroom stop.

In the evening ran with Jenny and Julia, went to see Dr. Jex for another session of Pettibon treatment, and then took Benjamin to a cross-country meet. He did better than last Saturday - 4 K in 20:09, first in pre-Bantums. Jacob Blackburn was not there, but he was ahead of Sophie Thompson by a much bigger margin than in the 3 K. I think he is starting to get used to running on grass.

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Ran a mile in the morning. Warmed up the first 1000 in 4:22, then ran the last 600 in 2:11. Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

In the evening drove up to Logan, ran from the car to the expo, picked up the packet, helped Paul sell his cool map of the course with elevelation-profile adjusted pace charts, then ran back to the car. Staying at Paul's house.

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Race: Top Of Utah Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:33:12, Place overall: 5, Place in age division: 1
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Quick report on TOU - will add more later. Top of Utah Marathon, 2:33:12, 5th place. It was the most competitive year in the history of the race - the top three finishers broke Hobbie Call's course record of 2:25:12, including Hobbie himself who got booted into third. I ended up first in the Utah LDR circuit, which also gives me the win for the whole thing. Now a full report. First, the results to a great extent speak for themeselves. Now the story. The morning started with me discovering that the toilet broke in the middle of the night. Since everybody was still asleep, I put the warning sign on it and jogged from Paul's house to the bus loading area. It was 26 degrees at the start, accoding to the announcement of a race official, and it did feel cold. I decided to start in a long-sleeved shirth and gloves, and then disrobe as it got warmer. It never got warm enough for me - I kept all of it until the finish. At the start I saw Leon Gallegos (expected), Hobbie Call (surprise appearance), and George Towett, a Kenyan 1:03 half-marathoner living in Georga - how about that - a Kenyan George from Georga. So I knew that in order to win, I would either need to super-perform, or organize a crash or a DNF without crashing myself. Super-performance was not likely, and there was no 7% downhill grade to organize a crash. I decided to focus on running my best. Because of the cold, everybody was taking it easy on the first mile. After about a half mile, I was done with the warm-up, and switched into a race pace. The competition was still warming up. First mile in 5:37, then 5:27. Leon caught up. Next mile in 5:22. George Towett again appropriately for his name came by towing another runner - Jason Delaney from Colorado, a 2:19 marathoner. That reminds me of drafting behind a guy named Matt Pulle in Huntsville, AL in 2003. George and Jason looked like big trouble - good form, running relaxed at sub-5:20 pace. Hobbie was duing his leisurely Hobbie-start, for which he did pay later. I think he could have hit the qualifier and second place, had he taken George and Jason seriously. 5:22 felt too aggressive, which was not a good sign. I decided to back off to what felt right, and ended up with a few 5:35 miles, which later became 5:40-5:45. 5 miles in 27:26, 10 miles in 55:50. I let Leon go, Hobbie came by looking like he was jogging around 6 miles. I could have fetched a ride to Leon, but decided to play it safe. 1:13:41 at the half, 1:24:29 at 15. Got passed by Carson Cambpell from Preston, Idaho at around 16.5. He recognized me, but I did not recongize him. I then knew he was having a break-through race. He looked relaxed, like he was jogging. I considered going with him, but decided it would not be wise. I started seeing Leon, which was a good sign. I could still win the circuit without beating him, but I wanted to prove Bill Cobler wrong. He told everyone before the race that Leon would beat me and win. So focused on playing it safe, and slowing reeling Leon in. Engery-wise I felt fine, but I could feel that my form was gradually deteriorating, which caused me to gradually slow down, although it appeared that I was putting in the same amount of cardiovascular effort. This has happened in every marathon I 've run, but I think in this one I was particularly noticing it because this became the primary cause of the slow-down. Ahead of me, and past Carson I saw Leon, and I thought I saw another runner with Leon. I started getting excited. Then as Leon turned the corner, I noticed that the other runner looked exactly like Leon. I was having a little bit of a double vision, not fatigue related, just an eye problem. Maybe the mind too - I really wanted that other runner to be there. Hit the uphill miles in 6:12 and 6:14. 20 miles in 1:54:29. Watched Carson passed Leon. Leon did not resist, which is a good sign. Next downhill mile in 5:59. Then a steady 6:15 pace. Passed Leon at 23 - he did not resist. Started closing on Carson a bit, but not enough to get him. He was still fairly strong. 6:25 on mile 26 which had a climb and then a drop. On that mile saw Paul's dad. Did not recognize him at first. He yelled: "We've fixed the toilet". I then knew who he was. For some odd reason this gave me some warmth of the soul, knowing that the toilet was fixed as I was working through my last half-mile of the race. 2:20:02 for George, 2:21:38 for Jason, 2:23:08 for Hobbie, 2:32:24 for Carson, 2:33:12 for me, 2:33:52 for Leon. Won the Utah LDR circuit - courtesy of Joe Wilson who chose to miss Alta Peruvian 8 K and this marathon to run well in St. George. But again, who says there is anything wrong with the strategy of showing up for every marathon and other leg-trashing races to make it not worth it for the competition. If you have a strength, use it. If you cannot win with speed, win with persistence. Also, turned out than me passing Leon at the end cost him fifth in the circuit ($100), and gave it to Steve Ashbaker, who did not have a good race, but toughed it out to the end and scored just barely enough points to be even with Bill Cobler but beat him because Bill had more races. Again, the lesson repeated - when things do not look good, hang in there, there might be some hidden reward. Afterwards, felt very good, more like I've run a tempo 15 with 5 miles of additional jogging than a marathon. Hardly any soreness in the leg muscles. Some stiffness and tenderness in the joints. Cooled down to Paul's house. Took a shower, then jogged to the awards ceremony. Got a moose an a consolation cash award ($50) for getting booted out of the top three (won 30-34 age division) to make me feel better. It is very nice of TOU to offer that - they understand how somebody feels when they are close to the money but for one reason or another get booted out. Ran with the kids in the evening, and lifted weights - regular workout with 105 pounds.

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