Breaking the Wall

St. Jude Memphis Marathon

Previous WeekRecent EntriesHomeJoin Fast Running Blog Community!PredictorHealthy RecipesSasha Pachev's RacesFind BlogsMileage BoardTop Ten Excuses for Missing a RunTop Ten Training MistakesDiscussion ForumRace Reports Send A Private MessageMonth ViewYear View
Graph View
Next Week
15% off for Fast Running Blog members at St. George Running Center!


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: 107.61 Year: 107.61
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: 1276.97
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Taper week. There were a couple of posts on the blog earlier suggesting different types of tapering. In addition to my personal experiences I drew some ideas from the following. First, a quote from Tinman:

Your muscle fiber types also determines how long you must taper. People who are naturally endurance oriented and not speedy will need short tapering phases. I have observed that slow twitch runners tend to lose aerobic endurance quickly upon cessation of mileage and suffer greatly in races when they taper too soon and too much. At the other end of the continuum, runners who are speedy tend to retain aerobic endurance more easily, so they can afford to taper longer. Most runners are somewhere in between these two extremes. However, no matter what you do, remember, if you are not tired, sore, and beat up, you don,t need to taper much.

If he is right, I do have two things going for me to explain why I do better with a short taper. One, being naturally very much endurance oriented. My favorite distance at the age of 12 was a 10 K, I really like that you did not have to be 3000-anaerobic to race really well. I looked forward to 10 Ks and dreaded track races because they were so short. And two, I am definitely not tired, sore or beat up from my training. Quite the opposite - I can barely tell I've trained. And, looking at the effect and trying to discern the cause, I have suffered many times in the past from tapering too soon too much, and on the other hand have run PRs and near PRs completely untapered.

I also looked at the Hanson guys at Athleticore, and decided to follow more or less what Chad Johnson and Brian Sell did before the Trials. I generally loathe the idea of copying somebody's training just because they are faster - first, it may not be their training that makes them faster to begin with, their training could very well be sub-optimal, but they are still faster due to natural abilities, and also, even if it does make them faster, they may very well be different enough that the same thing will not work for you. But I did notice that they were training already almost exactly the same way I did, so I figured looking at their taper with a bit of a grain of salt would not be a bad idea.

The end result was to do pretty much what Ted suggested. This morning ran 10.1 easy with Ted in 1:13:48. Did 8x100 strides, first 5 in 18, the rest in 17.

P.M Run with the kids, total of 2.55. 1.5 with Benjamin and Jenny in 14:28. Then 1.05 with Julia in 11:08. Benjamin was coming down with some sickness. I've got a little bit of respiratory irritation as well, but it has not yet been showing in reduced energy levels or running performance. I hope it stays that way. It is a miracle I have not gotten sick with 125 mile weeks and 5 potentially sick little kids around. Sucking on garlic like crazy, this is my only chance. Better off than before St. George so far, knock on wood although I am not superstitious, but I still have a flight ahead of me with plenty of chance to catch something this time of year. But it is just as bad for the competition, so the secret to getting money in a December marathon is showing up healthy at the starting line.

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

Jacob woke us up at 1:00 AM. Sarah nursed him three times. He was still not happy. I took him downstairs and worked for a while, he fell asleep. But I did not get good sleep last night at all. However, was able to nap for an hour in the late morning right before my run.

Just one run today. Started with 1.05 with Julia in 11:08. Then 1.5 with Benjamin and Jenny in 13:15. Benjamin was getting anxious to chase down the 9:00 guy, so I let him, then made sure Jenny was OK, and caught up to Benjamin. Jenny finished in 13:47.

Then ran 8 easy miles on the Provo River Trail with 2x0.75 pick-ups. First pick-up was into unfriendly cross-winds, ran 3:57. On the second one, ran the same stretch backwards in 3:51.5 with what felt the exact same effort. Most of the cross winds were friendly this time. Total time was 50:55, 6:21.88 avg. The pace felt unusually easy. I did not try to force it at all. When I saw it was fast, I checked and double checked that I was not into the "impress the public" gear - when you think you are running easy, but you really are not. I was rather ru So I decided to just enjoy it while I could instead of artificially slowing it down.

Looks like the respiratory irritation is still well contained - it did not seem to affect the running performance at all. I would be very satisfied if I can keep it this way until Saturday.

For everybody who missed the news - I am tapering for the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, TN this Saturday.

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

A.M. Easy run with Ted, 6 miles in 44:12.

P.M. 1.05 with Julia in 11:21, then 1.5 with Benjamin, Jenny, and Stu in 14:13, then 2.5 with Stu in 21:54. 

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

A.M. Easy 6 with Ted in 44:27.

Our 11th wedding anniversary today. The plan is to go up to Salt Lake, drop off the kids at Sarah's sister's house, then go on a date to the Jordan River Temple. Then a flight to Memphis, TN tomorrow. Sarah told our story in her blog entry for today. To add to that, the LDS missionary handbook says "When you are transferred to a new area, find your new companion without delay". I came to BYU in 1993, then went on a two year LDS mission. Usually somebody residing in Provo gets called to some far away place like Japan, Russia, or Latin America. I was called to serve in the Salt Lake City Mission, only 50 miles north. Missionaries get transferred every couple of months or so from one area to another. So when I was finished in 1996, and came to Provo, it felt like another transfer. Having prayed to know the will of the Lord first, I decided it was not good for man to be alone, and proceeded to find my new companion without delay. The good news was that this time the companion could be a woman, and I already knew which woman it was going to be. So I called Sarah's grandma, and eventually tracked her down.

We went for a walk by the Provo Temple. This was a good place to go for a walk. Latter-Day Saints get not only married but also sealed for time and eternity in our temples. Marriage to us is a matter of an eternal covenant. To us, just seeing a temple makes us think of marriage and invites a special spirit into our thoughts. So while we were there I felt a gentle nudge of the Spirit to lay out the matter straight and ask Sarah to marry me. I did not have a ring, nor did I have money to buy one, but I did not worry about it too much. The right woman would marry me without a ring, she'd be able to see past that, and if she cannot, she is not the right woman. Sarah said she had to think. Two weeks later she gave me a test - I had to change her niece's diaper. This was the first diaper I've ever changed, I was clumsy (still am), but I passed based on the sincerity of the effort. So she said yes, and we were married two months later.

P.M. Kids run. We are staying at the Sarah's sister's house for the night. Her kids wanted to run as well. To keep things simple, we just went to the Benion Jr. High track and ran around it. I ran 2 miles with Benjamin in 15:58. He kept speeding up gradually with every lap during the run. Was impressed with his last quarter in 1:41 even though this was a dirt track partially covered with snow.
Girls ran on their own and slacked off a bit on pace, but were disciplined in covering the distance with no direct supervision except for Julia stopping occasionally to pick up some snow. Julia ran a mile in 11:08, including those odd stops. Jenny ran 1.5 in 15:50.

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

A.M. Flight to Memphis, TN. It was full of adventure. Security told me I could not bring soy milk and water on the flight, so I had to check it in. But I forgot to check in the honey, or rather did not realize it was banned as well. So my bag ran the alarms, and they confiscated my honey. I did not have the time to mess with trying to check it in as well.

A race volunteer by the name of David picked me and Wilson Chepkwani, a 2:14 Kenyan marathoner, 3rd this year at Hartford, at the airport. Simon Sawe was going to run, but bailed out at the last minute. Saw a list of 26 - 2 bailed out elites, both men and women. Joseph Sitinei who I raced at TOU is running as well.

P.M. Around 4.1 easy miles meandering in the downtown Memphis with MickeyB. Irritated throat is giving me concerns. I know I could race a good half with it, but marathon is a long way to go. Trying to hold off problems using my favorite Zmei Gorynovich (legendary Russian-fairly tale tri-headed fire-breathing serpent) method - lots of garlic.

P.M - 2. Legs felt a bit flabby, and I felt I would have a hard time falling asleep, so I decided to go for a brief shakeout. Ran around the hotel block 8 times. Course Tool showed it was 0.28, but being so short of a loop I think I ran into some small geo-coding error and mapped it out wrong. So I am going to call the distance 2.05, ran it in 13:14 with a pickup on the last 0.5 to a mild marathon pace. Felt better and more confident afterwards knowing that the systems were ready for a decent race even though perhaps not the very best.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Race: St. Jude Memphis Marathon (26.2 Miles) 02:30:32, Place overall: 10
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Quick report - got to hurry to get on the plane. 2:30:32, 10th place, $250 (elite athlete coordinator told me at first I was 9th, but I checked the results and they say 10th). Head wind made it slower between 14 and 19. I got left alone there. There was headwind earlier, but I was working with two guys (US), so it was much better. First half in 1:12:43, then they dropped me, one came back on the last mile. Field loaded with Kenyans and Ethiopians, but they kept dropping out like flies. I was in 16th place at the half. The highlight of the day was running an FRB commercial on the last mile passing two guys, one of them Joseph Sitinei (they could see the back of my shirt with the FRB logo), moved into the money.

More detailed version. Writing this at the airport waiting to board, so this will be incremental. Warmed up a mile from Comfort Inn on Front Street (will put a plug for it, they provided free elite runner lodging, and I was pleased that the room did not smell like smoke at all even though this was one of the most smoking states in the US). Did the ritual, saw MickeyB, handed him my stuff, it was now time to race.

The elite area was full of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, and all in the marathon, since the half was offering no prize money. A few US guys as well. They did a wave start with the elites starting 1 minute ahead of the first wave, which would have contained the half-marathoners I could have possibly used to draft off. This is a bad idea, I will write the race director discouraging that practice. Wave start is a good idea, but declared elites should not be separated from the guys who think they can or actually can run the elite pace.

The throat irritation was still an issue. I felt I could run a half losing no more than 30 seconds, but I was not sure about the full marathon. Even minor respiratory infections can cause serious dehydration in the second half, as well as fuel issues with the body redirecting the energy you would normally use for running into fighting the infection. I did my best to sedate it with garlic, and it did keep it from developing into a full-blown cold, but it was still not good enough for a top marathon performance.

I tried to run as close to the back of the pack as possible. First mile was 5:39, followed by a 5:18 slight downhill mile. I hooked up with Dewayne Miner from Birmingham, AL and Brendon Moody from Van Wert, OH. We were going around 5:30 pace. It felt a tiny bit fast, but with the headwind from mile 5 to mile 8 I did not want to run alone. I did not bring Garmin on purpose. I realized that I spend a lot of mental energy guessing if they splits I get from Garmin are accurate. So we traded leads once a minute.

5 miles in 27:05, 34:16 at 10 K, 51:34 at 15 K (17:18 5 K), 55:21 at 10 miles. Still working together, picking up a fallen Kenyan here and there. Got passed by a half-marathoner, and another guy that I think was a half-marathoner as well. Around 11 miles I knew that I needed to back off and run my own pace, even if that means battling the headwind between 14 and 19 miles alone. The pain signal was coming from vastus medialis - the inner quad muscle - on both legs. That muscle was fatiguing fast. The rest of the quad was fine. Probably from the rollers. The course has no monster hills, but there were hardly any stretches that were flat. Most of the time you were running either up or down about 1% grade. My legs were not trained for that, next time need to make sure to train on rollers if I come back.

20 K in 1:08:57 (17:23 5 K). Brendon and Dewayne are gradually pulling away. Half in 1:12:43. Around 14 MickeyB reported I was in 16th place. Only one struggling Kenyan in view, Brendon and Dewayne are almost out of sight. Well, a hungry lion will eat a small sick antelope for lunch when that is all he can get his paws on. Reeled him in, as soon as I got close enough for him to hear me, he dropped out. 15th place now, 5 more to go to the money.

I noticed that the Powerade at the aid stations was very diluted, and they were filling up the cups only about a quarter full. So after about 10 I was doing Powerade religiously, and making sure I've got it all in me. I knew that I was under high risk of dehydration, electrolyte loss, and glycogen depletion already from the throat infection and travelling.

Hit the 15th mile in 6:03. It was a slight uphill and into a head wind, about 6 mph. The wind would not have been a big factor in a pack, but being alone made a difference. Probably 10 seconds a mile. 1:23:54 at 15 miles, last 5 in 28:33. Not bad, but that 6:03 mile gave me some serious concerns. Nevertheless, I was able to regroup and keep it slightly under 6:00 from then on. 1:27:07 at 25K, last 5 K in 18:10. No victims for the next 5 miles, keeping a steady sub-6:00. Not great, but with the wind it could be good enough to make my way into top 10, and with the throat infection it could be a lot worse, so I should be thankful I am still going.

1:45:38 at 30 K, last 5 K in 18:31. That ended up being my slowest 5 K in the race. 1:53:34 at 20 miles, last 5 in 29:40. Still gapping the 6:00 guy, that's good. Saw a victim at 20 miles - a white guy, DNF, on the side of the road talking to the volunteers. That puts me in 14th place. 4 more to go.

Still sub-6:00 consistently. Now a slight down, and a tailwind. Saw a jogging Ethiopian - Titus Mitunda. Passed him, now 13th. Another jogging/walking Kenyan at around 23. Now 12th. 2 more to go.

Nobody for a while. Trial of faith. Around 24 saw two victims, one black and one white. At first they looked too far away, like they were unreachable. But I have run enough marathons to know that the looks at that point are very deceptive. If you did not see somebody, and now you see them all of a sudden, that is a very bad sign for them, and a very good sign for you. As they approached, I saw it was Dewayne Miner and Joseph Sitinei.

2:22:29 at 40 K, last 10 K in 36:51, 2:23:23 at 25 miles, last 5 miles in 29:49. Pulling out Abraham's knife getting ready to sacrifice the rams in caught the thicket of the marathon wall. Some history behind this metaphor. Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament went to the land of Moriah. Abraham thought he was going to sacrifice Isaac, his faith being tested, when in fact they were only going to sacrifice a ram. At one point, Isaac said: "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?", to which Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering". Abraham passed the test of faith, and indeed a sacrificial animal was provided - a ram caught in the thicket. For some odd reason I find a parallel between that experience, and what happens when you are in the last 10 K of a marathon, you are out of money position, and for a long time there is nobody ahead of you in sight. Then all of a sudden you see somebody to pass and move into the money. The poor fellow is like that ram in the thicket. There is nothing he can do to stay in the money. And just like with Abraham, your faith has been rewarded, you kept going, you did not give up the chase even though you could not see who you were chasing, and now you are going to get some cash for it. I call it "the ram in the thicket experience".

In the history of the bloggers I can recall several "ram in the thicket" experiences. TOU 2001 - me chasing Joe Wilson, 2002 TOU - me chasing Paul Petersen, 2004 - Steve Ashbaker chasing Demetrio Cabanillas Jr (money upgrade), 2005 Ogden - Paul Petersen chasing me, 2007 SLC  - Steve Ashbaker chasing Dave Danley, and now one more in this  race for me, this  time a double , moving from 12th to 10th in a mile. I've never sacrificed two rams before.

Sprinted to the finish to discourage the rams from thoughts of resurrection. 2:30:32,  5:54 pace on the last mile. This completed a year of 5 marathons all under 2:33. I've never done this before, my previous record was last year with all 5 under 2:36, but one of those (Moab) was non-competitive, I did it as a training run in 2:35:20 (the highlight of the day on that one was getting lost on the last quarter and then crawling under a barbed wire to get to the finish line, very fitting for April Fool's Day).

After the finish there was a lot of soreness in vastus medialis, to the point where I could not squat. I stretched, and it was gone. I was able to run back to the hotel, about 0.75.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Debt Reduction Calculator

Featured Announcements
Lone Faithfuls
(need a comment):