Breaking the Wall

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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
Green Crocs 2 Miles: 90.10
Night Sleep Time: 50.00Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 51.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. The lesson in Sunday school was on family responsibilities. I missed most of the deacons class due to a visit with the Stake Young Men councilor. Then we had a Fast and Testimony meeting. Sarah played the organ. William and Stephen decided to get fussy at the same time. This presented some challenges, but we dealt with them.

Night Sleep Time: 10.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 10.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Total of 12. 5 with Benjamin, 3 more alone, ran 0.75 in 4:01 feeling good, in fact, I was planning to run it in 4:12, but after seeing how easy the first quarter was, I decided to keep the pace. I was happy with it because it is has five 90 degree turns. 2 with Jenny. 1 with Joseph and Julia - Jacob ran 0.5 of that. 1 more alone.

I got curious about how much energy running burns and decided to research the subject. I started by looking up different calculators. Every single one of them uttered the absolutely ridiculous heresy. 5 miles at 6:00 pace takes the same or less energy as 5 miles at 12:00 pace. What a joke! The conclusion is obviously absurd. Take took guys of the same weight with 20 lb of fat they can lose, feed them the same diet, have one run 5 miles at 6:00 pace every day, have the other do the same at 12:00, do that for three months, then weigh them at the end. The 12:00 guy will lose 5 lb maybe, the 6:00 guy will have all of his extra weight gone!

So I decided to track down where this heresy comes from and found a paper that used a linear approximation of VO2 as a function of speed with positive values of a and b, so VO2 per minute per kg = a*V + b where V is velocity. Well, if we try to do it per unit of distance, since t = d/V, we get  VO2 * t = (a*V +b)*t =  (a*V+b)*(d/V) = d*(a + b/V). From this formula as V increases, the energy required to run a unit of distance (e.g one mile) decreases! That is what those calculators base it on. Now that I am remembering, this is actually an accepted fact that VO2 increase with speed is linear.

This may very well be true, but I think what the formula is missing is something like c*V^2 term, or possibly a higher power to account for the anaerobic energy use. It is wrong to assume that all "aerobic" exercise is 100% aerobic. And from what I remember about the Kerb cycle reactions, the anaerobic energy is very expensive - you have to burn a lot of carbs for that extra 10 seconds per mile of pace.

There may be another explanation as to where the energy goes, but the point is - running faster requires more energy per unit of distance, not just per unit of time.  If you have just written out a fancy proof with the end result being that 1 = 3 you may not know where your mistake is, but you can be 100% it does exist.

P.M. 2.2 miles.

Green Crocs 2 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Started with 5 with Benjamin which included hill sprints for me, but not for him as his foot felt tender. I did most of them in 9.9, but managed one in 9.3. Not sure how that happened. Then I did 0.5 in 2:27.4 hitting every single split exactly the same as last Tuesday.I have marks at 200, 300, 500, 600, and 700, and I checked all of them. I am quite a geek, I realize, as I remembered all of those splits from last week without recording them. Then did 2 with Jenny, 1 with Joseph and Julia, 0.5 with Jacob, and the rest myself to make the total 12 miles.

P.M. Benjamin and Joseph ran in a 1.5 K cross-country race in the Kiwanis Park. Benjamin finished 6th overall while winning the Midget division in 5:37. Joseph took second in the Pre-Bantam with 7:33. There were about 60 kids total in the race, quite a turnout. I was expecting fewer than that. Who knows what that was worth on the track, though.

I ran 2.1 miles later in the evening.

Green Crocs 2 Miles: 14.10
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. Total of 12. Started with 5 with Benjamin. We paced Sarah through 0.75 in 5:32. Then we went further on the trail and shortly before the turnaround saw a girl going about 8:00 that made a good chasing target that ended up about 2:00 ahead of us once we turned around. So I gave Benjamin a challenge to catch her. He did quarters of 86 followed by 83, and there was still no sign of her. Then we had to stop to cross the road as the tunnel was flooded. My watch did not stop. We lost about 20 seconds. We started going and Benjamin was anxious to catch somebody still. Then we saw another girl going about 9:30, and she was quite far away. However, Benjamin hit the gas pedal again, and we ran 600 in 2:04 and actually caught her before it was time to get off the trail. So we ended up with a 5:58 mile that included about a 20 second stop. This would be Benjamin's PR if you took out those 20 seconds, and it also shows about what his race on Tuesday was worth.Definitely quite a bit more than 5:37 1500 for sure. Jenny ran the first 0.75 with us, then turned around and ended up with 1.5.

I ran 1.5 with Joseph, and 0.5 with Julia and Jacob. Then I decided to do an experiment. I wanted to know how much weight is lost at sub-6:00 over 5 miles in 50 F if you are wearing shorts and a T-shirt. So I weighed myself before the start and it was 146.2. Then I ran 5 miles on my nasty course. I really do not like that course, but I do not have anything better that starts and finishes at the house. Total of 14 90 degree turns, one 180 turn, 2 road crossings (flooded tunnel) complemented by dodging a gate each time, 4 tunnels, and 2 wooden bridge crossings.  I did the tempo run with the following splits - 5:56, 5:55, 5:50 (14:50 at the turnaround), 5:38, 5:36 - total 28:55.7. Felt good. When I finished I weighed myself again and it was 145.0. So 1.2 lb went away somewhere. There were no bathroom visits in between the weight measurements. So where did it all go?

 I was probably using up about 4.3 liters of oxygen per minute, and thus emitting about the same volume of carbon dioxide. So that is about 124 liters of CO2 that came out. Enough to fill up a small tank. Now we have to consider that O2 came in to produce CO2 that came out. CO2 density at 32 F and normal atmospheric pressure is 1.977 grams per liter. That should be good enough for this estimate. O2 density under the same conditions is 1.429 grams per liter. So 124 * (1.977 - 1.429) gives us about 68 grams of carbon lost via breathing. That is about 12% of the total weight loss! Through an intricate chemical process you could in theory collect all of this CO2 and make diamonds out of it. The process, of course, would cost more than the value of the diamonds produced. The rest was sweat I suppose.

P.M. 2 miles.

Green Crocs 2 Miles: 14.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Total of 12. 5 with Benjamin. Jenny did the first mile with us, and then turned around - total of 2. 1.5 with Julia. Joseph did 1, Jacob 0.5. Added the rest alone.

P.M. 2 miles.

Green Crocs 2 Miles: 14.00
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. Usual 12. 5 with Benjamin. Jenny did 2. Julia did 1.5. Jacob 0.5. Joseph 1. I did a pickup for 0.75 in 3:58. It felt good.

P.M. 2 miles.

Green Crocs 2 Miles: 14.00
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. 20 mile run to Bridal Veil Falls and back. On the way out ran 7:00 pace up until I got to the Provo Canyon. Then slowed down to 7:30 for a while as the wind did not want me to enter the canyon, and then sped back up to around 7:15 after that. The time at the turnaround was 1:11:11. On the way back ran a tempo. I knew it was going to be good, but I was not looking forward to it. It was not the tempo that I minded, I suppose, I just did not like to run all 20 alone. But I did not have anybody with me today, so I did not have a choice. I suppose I did have a choice to run less or not at all but those were not reasonable choices and had the consequences attached to them that I did not want. 

So it was actually nice to run the last 10 fast - less time, a feeling of accomplishment, and the time is spent in a trance of sorts. There is some pain from the effort, but definitely no boredom. So I turned on the jet engine and went. Learning from the experience in the last two weeks, and, come to think of it, my entire racing experience, I decided to be a bit more aggressive in the early miles to get a good split and feel like I have some vested stake in the run. I've seen the jet engine work for years, but it never ceases to amaze me how one moment you are going 7:00 and you feel like you are working, and then the next moment you are going 5:30 and not only are you still alive, but you can keep it for 10 miles.

I hit my 3 mile downhill tempo course in 16:30, which starts around 0.5 into the tempo, and then was maintaining something in the 5:40 range for the next 2 miles or so (small downhill). My split at 6 miles  was 33:13, and then 39:04 at 7 miles (5:51 - uphill). Then I did 5:48 (downhill, but with turns, a bridge and a tunnel), followed by a nice warm goose egg of 5:54. The turns, tunnels, bumpy road, and bridges were too much for me by that point and I was losing concentration. On the positive side, this mile consisted of a half in 3:00, followed by kicking into gear and speeding up to 5:48. In the last mile I said enough goose eggs and ran it in 5:40. It took some effort, but I did feel that if I had somebody challenging me, I would go faster. My time for the last 10 miles was 56:26. I was happy that I was able to show the 5:40 guy who is the boss by 14 seconds. This was my fastest time this year for the course. It is not too far away from my best time ever, which is 55:38.

I weighed myself at 145.0 before the run, and was down to 141.4 after. So 3.6 lb loss over 20 miles. By the evening I got it all back up with a plus - 147 something, which is good - pack some nutrition and liquid. I have been wondering lately, however, if it is possible for me to weigh 138 lb at the start of a race with the same muscle strength and bone health. I do have to specify "at the start of a race" because of the fluctuation of as much as 10 lb depending on when the weight is measured. So somewhat on a whim I decided to try an experiment - do push-ups and situps twice a day to cause some muscle activity where it normally does not happen in hopes of packing my strength more compactly.The idea is that a slow-twitch fiber muscle mass gain will be small, but the activity will reduce the fat mass with a small net positive, and every little bit counts.

I've also been eating fiber to try to clean out the gut better. It may not be a lot, but there is no reason to carry that stuff around. 5 lb of dead weight for somebody in the 150 lb/16:00 5 K range is worth about 8 seconds a mile based off the VO2 Max model - assuming that VO2 max for a given runner on a given day determines performance 100%, and then going to the charts to see how much faster you would run with the current_weight/(current_weight-dead_weight) increase in VO2 max. Flawed model, but good enough for a quick and dirty estimate.  When the weight fluctuates as much as it does it is hard to measure the progress, but I think in the last two weeks I managed to get rid of at least 3 useless pounds.

P.M. 2 miles

Green Crocs 2 Miles: 22.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 9.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 2 Miles: 90.10
Night Sleep Time: 50.00Nap Time: 1.50Total Sleep Time: 51.50
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