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
Night Sleep Time: 55.25Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 56.75
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. Sarah spoke in the Sacrament Meeting, played the flute for a musical number, and substituted in Primary, all while 8 months pregnant. She thought she had a break compared to playing the organ.

Night Sleep Time: 9.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 10.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Tyler. Did a control 1 mile in 5:19.2. Same stretch as Friday, last mile of the 5 mile tempo course. Felt good. Energetic breathing was not bothersome and felt sustainable. No sour legs. One concern - legs felt slightly weak at the end, would have needed to go longer to find out if this was a problem, but did not want to go over the edge. Plus to go further I would have had to hit some nasty segments - under the bridge, sharp turns, rough trail, and it would have skewed the measurements.

Dropped Tyler off after 6.25, and went for another 3.75. Shortly before the turnaround saw a runner being pulled by a dog. Decided I wanted to get to know him, and also decided I wanted to have enough time to get to know him, so I needed to run pretty quick. So I hit a quarter in 78 to catch up. His name turned out to be Erny Perry. We had a nice chat.

Five Fingers - 1350.07 miles

A.M -2. Julia set a mile record - 8:17. Splits: 2:07, 2:08, 2:05, 1:57. She was conversational up until the last quarter. So I figure if she had the ability to focus she would have run a sub-8:00.

P.M. 2 with Benjamin in 17:09, Jenny ran first 1.5 in 13:10.

Five Fingers - 1352.07 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 Tyler for the first 6 miles. Did my neural drive test/avoid taper cramp tempo. Decided a good distance would be 1.5. Derek ran it with me, Tyler went ahead while I visited a VPB and Derek stretched. We started at the start of the 5 mile tempo course.

We started out slow - first 200 in 41. Probably due to a short warmup, and still not much sunlight. Then we picked it up and hit half mile in 2:39, and the mile in 5:15 (2:36). The second half was definitely aided, not sure by how much, but not by a whole lot. Maybe 3 seconds. I know, however, that the whole mile going the other way is 7 seconds slower. Based on the 2:1 rule ( twice as much loss in the anti-aided direction than the gain in the aided direction, good rule of thumb to determine a flat equivalent) this would make it about 2 seconds of help and about 5 seconds of hindrance in the opposite direction.

After that we eased off a bit and hit the next quarter in 80. Then we were confused because we still could not see Tyler. I suggested we run another 200 still on pace in hopes of catching him before the 3 mile turnaround from my house. So we did that. However, having to talk caused a bit of a loss of focus, and we ran the next quarter in 81. And then 41 for the last 200. I think both of us were still confused by Tyler's mysterious disappearance. We finished 1.625 in 8:37 (5:18 average pace), and soon found Tyler. Turned out he had stopped for a VPB.

Ran back, then added 2 with Benjamin in 15:45, and 2 without him in 14:56. Pushed Jacob in the stroller during that part of the run.

T4 Racer - 581.53 miles

P.M. Went to Benjamin's soccer game. They won 3-1. Later, 1 with Julia in 11:47, 1.5 with Jenny in 12:52.

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

A.M. Ran with Jeff this morning. It was supposed to be an uneventful run, but it was not so. The pace was very uneventful due to the darkness and the early hour of the day. The slow pace reduced the clearance between my feet and the ground which is naturally low to begin with, the conversation distracted me from paying attention to the footing, and the darkness compounded the danger. So I clipped a bump in the road and went down.

Got up right away thinking no big deal, a couple of scrapes, and started running. However, a few steps down the road I noticed I started to feel dizzy and uncomfortable, like I could not get enough air, even though I was not hyperventilating. I told Jeff I needed to stop for a minute. He figured out right away what happened and asked me if I had hit the ground with my chest, which I did. He said this had happened to him before once when he was playing freeze tag. At the same time I remembered an incident a few years ago when a hockey player was hit in a chest with a puck and died on the spot due the heart stopping. This gave me a concern, but with Jeff's survival story, and the fact that I was still conscious and able to move and reason, I felt a measure of comfort and confidence that this would turn out to be no big deal. Things got a bit worse for a minute - I felt I needed to lay down, and I felt my heart doing one hard thump, and then an awkward pause. So obeyed my instinct and laid down. Then after about 20 seconds I felt an urge to walk, and I obeyed that instinct as well. After about 10 seconds of walking I felt ready to run. For about a quarter mile I still felt a bit nauseous but after that normal for the rest of the run.

We spent a good portion of the remainder of the run discussing how fast Jeff could have gotten the ambulance to get to that section of the trail. Decided 20 minutes would have been very good. Had this been more serious by that time I would have been having a good time with my relatives in the spirit world.

Dropped Jeff off at 7.25, and went for 3 more. Did a tempo pickup for a mile in 5:37. Could not get going until the last quarter - had the fear of hitting another bump on the trail and that made me too cautious to break 5:40 pace for a while. Finally I overcame that fear and hit a 1:20 quarter.

 Five Fingers - 1362.32 miles

P.M. 1.08 with Julia in 10:29, 1.5 with Benjamin and Jenny in 15:04. We took it easy because Benjamin got hurt playing soccer and his shin was hurting.

Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.50Total Sleep Time: 7.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran with Tyler and Derek. Tyler asked me about the conflict between Russia and Georgia. That got me thinking about my repertoire of Georgian/Russian interaction jokes, and they heard a couple. Then I went on to Brezhnev jokes. Then it was time for the fast mile.

We ran it from mile 3Derek ran it with me. We did 81, 78, 78, 79 - 5:16.5. I felt strong, did not have to focus so hard on maintaining the pace, felt like I could probably hit the first half of TOU in 1:10-1:11 with favorable winds in the canyon.

Dropped them off a 7 and ran another 3.

Five Fingers - 1372.32 miles

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:38, 1.5 with Jenny in 13:10. 

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

A.M. Ran 8 miles alone. Did my taper cramp prevention/neural drive test mile in 5:19.8. Ran it from 3 to 4 of the 5 mile tempo course. Splits were 79, 81, 79, 80. Felt OK, but not great. However, was holding 5:20 pace without too much struggle, and no sour legs. Just did not have the zap and neighing horses. Decided to do a quarter at marathon pace effort. Ran it from 200 to go to 200 past finish on the tempo course. This involves a sharp uphill curve coming from under the bridge under Geneva road. Thought from the zap feedback in the legs that I was headed for about 87-88, but was pleasantly surprised to see 84.6.

Jogged home, and ran a mile with Julia in 10:46.

P.M.  1.5 with Benjamin and Jenny in 13:15.

T4 Racer - 590.53 miles

Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Race: Top of Utah Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:33:47, Place overall: 3
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Quick report. Top of Utah Marathon 2:33:47, 3rd place behind Ezekiel Ruto (2:22:57), and Nick McCombs (2:28:42), who incidentally ran the exact same time I did last year, except last year we had good tail wind, but this year we did not. $250, back in the top 3 and real money (as opposed to $50 age division consolation cash). Nothing special I did this time except come to the race fit to run reasonably fast. Last year I put on a better performance, but it was not good enough. So in a way I cashed out on it this year.

The run put me in the 10 year TOU club which consists of only 16 people. In those 10 years I won twice, took one second place, four thirds, one fourth, and two fifths. My average time has been 2:34:02 with 2:27:46 being the fastest, and 2:39:12 the slowest. My average place has been third, exactly 3.0. So I suppose today was as close to average as I could get. An interesting way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of running the race.

Drove up alone in my Fast Running Van (Dogde Ram CNG). It was cheaper to drive than Zhu (Ford Escort Wagon). The whole trip from Provo to Logan and back cost me around $14. Stayed at Hotel de Petersen, my usual lodging place in Logan, thanks Paul and Stacey.

Ran a short warm-up to the bus, and some more to shake up the bowels at the start, total of about 1.5. For stretching climbed the fence several times. This was going to be a multiple star race, according to Paul's recent definition.

The temperature was great, maybe only too humid. The wind in the canyon was a mild head/cross. So I knew from experience we were headed for non-spectacular times, maybe 2:31 for me if I was on top of the game, 2:32-2:33 otherwise.

Ezekiel Ruto took off and was gone. His first mile must have been around 5:00. I figured he was going after the sub-2:20 bonus and the course record. He would have needed a break though to pull it off today. So I figured maybe it is good that he is gone so fast, maybe he'd come back. But the hopes were slim. At least slimmer for me than for Nick. I had to worry about not coming back myself to a possible dark horse to keep my money.

First mile was 5:31, then 5:40, then 5:30, 5:34, and 5:36 - 27:51 at 5 miles. The effort was the same. I was running with Nick, Eric Held, and our blogger Steve Cuttitta. Steve dropped back after about the first mile. Eric stayed with us until around mile 7. We chatted some. Nick and I showed Eric the backs of our shirt for the FRB commercial. Let's hope the effort was not wasted.

Mile 6 was 5:39, 34:42 at 10 K. The pace feels just right, although the splits are quite slow. That's OK, who cares.

The subsequent mile markers, at least some of them were in the wrong place. The pace was very steady, but the splits were very odd. Nevertheless we hit mile 10 in 55:36, 13 in 1:12:58, and made it to the half in 1:13:34. Next two miles were good - 5:29, and 5:35, 1:24:04 at 15. However, I started losing steam and lost contact with Nick at the aid stations at 15. This did not bother me too much since I was doing my best. I decided there is no such thing as a slow or a bad split in a race if that was your true honest best that day. Maybe slower than you expected, but you need to learn to be sufficiently humble to take what your body gives you and not get depressed.

Next two miles were all right - 5:51 and 5:50. Nick gapped me by 22 seconds. Then mile 18 in 5:54, and now Nick is 40 seconds ahead. How did he do that?

Now the hills. Next mile in 6:13. Not great but acceptable. Followed by 6:19. Now that was very non-spectacular, but that's what the body gave me.

1:54:10 at 20. Nick was around 1:52:50. Not surprising, as slow as I was running he should be gapping me fast.

Hoped to run 5:55 on the next downhill (1%) mile. 6:06 instead. 2:00:16 at 21. OK, here comes Kot Bayun, a cat from Russian fairy tales that disables its would-be attackers by putting them to sleep with magic. I'll be fighting him for the next 5 miles. Next 5 miles are rolling, no net elevation drop, lots of turns. Bad place to have Kot Bayun around.

Let's see if I can get Bayun off my back with a surge. Try running hard for one minute. No, does not work. He has a death grip on me. I am feeling OK, but the legs just do not want to move. I try to move them quicker only to be lulled by the soothing songs of my enemy Bayun. It feels like a dream when you try to run away from danger, you are not tired, but for the life of you you cannot move your legs.

Saw Paul, Cody, and Jon on their way to pickup and escort Andy. Next two miles in 6:30 each. 2:13:16 at 23. This is embarrassing. At least not as bad as in 2005 when I was slower than 7:00 on the downhill mile. Got a short outburst of rain. I liked it for 10 seconds, then I did not like it any more. However it seemed to shake Bayun up a little bit. Maybe in St. George I should ask somebody to stand at the top of the Winchester hill with a twig, or better, some freshly picked nettles, and whip me.

Did not feel power loss on the uphill at the end of mile 25. That is a good sign. Missed my splits at 24 and 25, 26 miles in 2:32:30, 6:24.7 average. OK, now press hard, break 2:34, beat the 40:00 guy for the last 10 K, in general minimize the bummer. As I was coming in through the chute they announced, and I remembered that I had this race 10 times by now, and I also remembered that my worst performance both in terms of time and place had been 2:39:12 for 5th (2005). That put things in perspective, and cheered me up a bit.

1:17 for the kick, 5:52 pace, not bad for the uphill with Bayun on the back.

Life after death:

Walked around a bit, chatted with Nick, drank some Gatorade, ate a banana, then started walking towards Paul's house. Realized it would be a long walk, so I started jogging. Cheered Steve Cuttitta, Albert Wint, and Eric Held as they were finishing. Great race for Albert - 2:42:25, a new PR. Albert has a challenge. He is missing a flap in his aortic valve. Shows that a respectable marathon is possible even with a bad heart. Eric PR'ed as well, and was the first finisher from Logan, hopefully a treadmill for him if NordicTrack did not back out.

Then cheered Ben VanBeekum and Bill Cobler. Jason Shoenfield was right behind Bill, so I used that to scare Bill into a good kick. Jogging started to feel better, the back was a bit stiff at first, but then I warmed it up. Saw Andy being escorted by the crew, considered joining them, but felt too lazy, too wet, and too anxious to get changed.

My watch was still going. Got to Paul's house about 2:56 into the race, and a devious plan entered my mind. I wanted to qualify for Boston! I will be clocked by the time I get out of the shower. I've qualified before (Rocket City 2003) by the time I was driving, but I did not shower then. And I did not have to run very far to get changed - my clothes were at the finish, and I changed in the bathroom of a nearby hotel. And I did not shower. My time then was 3:02 (2:37:25 in the actual race), did not get the seconds. The reason for the hurry was that I needed to get to the airport. So this one would be a lot more challenging, I like long showers, especially after a marathon.

So I hurried as fast as I could, and made it out of the shower by 3:05:37. I even beat my first marathon time (3:05:51). Another challenge. Can I BQ by the time I am driving? Hurried again, gathered my stuff as quick as I could, and ran out to the van. 3:09:33.

I was up for another challenge. I remembered than now that I am 35 they give me extra 5 minutes to qualify. Well, if they give that, I am not going to waste it. Decided to try to BQ by the time I pull up to the pump at LW's gas station. A small traffic jam and a couple of red lights made it a real challenge, but I made it by 3:15:53.

T4 Racer - 619.05 miles

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:45, 2 with Benjamin in 17:44, Jenny ran the last 1.5 in 13:16.

Night Sleep Time: 6.75Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.75
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Night Sleep Time: 55.25Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 56.75
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