Breaking the Wall

Rocket City 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
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 4 Miles: 69.92
Night Sleep Time: 40.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 42.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. 5 out of 7 kids were still in a non-public-place condition, so Sarah and I took turns going to church. When I got home after the first two hours, I taught the kids a short lesson on Moroni 7-8. Among many points it brought up the fact that Moroni wandered completely alone for 36 years.

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. Ran with the kids, each according to his health. Benjamin did 4, Jenny 2, Julia 0.5, Joseph 0.5, Jacob 0.5, William 0.25. Fighting an uphill battle trying not to get sick with the help of garlic, oranges, EmergenC, and sleep.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 12 miles total. Benjamin did 5, Jenny 3, Julia 2, Jacob and Joseph 1, William 0.5. I did a 1.5 tempo run in 8:26 on a net uphill and felt strong. Nevertheless I did feel a serious threat of catching a cold so, I tried to rest as much as possible during the day.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 12.00
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. 8.5 total. Benjamin did 5, Jenny 3, Julia 2, Joseph and Jacob 1, William 0.5. Trying to dodge the cold. Getting a bit of nose congestion and throat soreness, and a little bit of fatigue onset around 4-5 pm, but still holding on. The run felt good, and no fever was detected.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 8.50
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. Our friend Rob joined us for a run this morning. He ran 3.5 miles. Joseph and Jacob did 1, William 0.5, Benjamin 5, Jenny 3, Julia 2. It appears that the threat of a fever is over. I still have some congestion and rough voice, but no coughing and no fever. So I am going to the marathon.

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 8.00
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. Trip to the race. Flew the "private jet" from Provo to Denver, then on to Nashville. Too bad Frontier is ending Sasha's private jet service in January, but to compensate Allegiant will now be flying on Monday and Fridays to Mesa, and according to the TSA agent I talked to, there are negotiations with other airlines to have daily flights. 

From Nashville I rented a car (Kia Rio) for $22 a day total with tax which I really liked. It drove very smoothly and 90 mph happened when I was not paying attention. I am used to driving older cars that have to be pushed pretty hard to go 80, and you definitely know it. Drove to Decatur and stayed there with Jon and Kelly Elmore.

When I got to Decatur I went for a 2 mile run. The humid air helped my throat feel better. Legs felt good. So I assumed things would go well the next day, but it turned out I made a serious miscalculation. 

Green Crocs 4 Miles: 2.00
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Race: Rocket City Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:44:17, Place overall: 9
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Rocket City Marathon, 2:44:17, 9th place.

This race was an odd experience. Unlike last year I was feeling good at the start and ready to race. I did have a sore throat and some nose congestion, but it was not affecting my energy levels, and I thought I could run well at least for the first 10 miles or so. What I underestimated was the degree to which I was susceptible to humidity. The temperatures started at 60 F and climbed into 70 F towards the end of the race, but that alone did not bother me. I felt that I could have handled a warmer temperature just fine. But I just could not breathe. To make things worse, I could not quite figure out what was going on for a while and that gave me a good scare.

I do not have the time for mile by mile report, plus I think for this race mile by mile detail is not going to have a lot of value, so I'll be more general.

We went out as a large pack at a pace that felt slow, but I thought being at a lower elevation this should have given us around 5:50-5:55. It was 6:11. I wondered maybe if the mile marker was misplaced. Next mile was 6:00, it felt harder, a bit too aggressive in fact, and at that point I knew something was up. The pace increased in the next mile which had some downhill and the split was 5:36. It felt super aggressive, completely unsustainable, but I went with it anyway in hopes that maybe I am just not warmed up, and a little surge could wake me up and get me going. But I quickly realized I needed to slow down, which I did, losing contact with the lead pack forever.

I made it to 5 miles in 29:54. That was very much not a good sign. I could not understand this. This had never happened to me. I was not feeling weak. Nothing was really hurting out of the ordinary except 6:00 pace felt faster than what I could have run for a half-marathon try as I might. I've had nightmares like that, but never in real life. Just on Tuesday I ran quite comfortably for 1.5 miles on a net uphill at 5:38 average alone at 4700 feet elevation wearing tights and a jacket. How could it have felt more sustainable than 5:55 at essentially sea level elevation wearing shorts and running with a pack? Am I just getting old? Well, yes, but not that fast. Is there something wrong with my heart with this being the only symptom? If I am feeling this way this early, what is going to happen when I get to 20 miles? Am I going to live? Will I be buried in Alabama? Should I drop out before it is too late?

I reviewed my personal dropping out policy. If I take a comp from a race director I owe him to finish the race unless I feel that there is a serious threat to my health. I did have a case for my health. However, the only symptom was that perceived effort did not produce the expected pace. Otherwise I felt just fine. I decided to keep running until other symptoms appeared. They never did. The problem was not my health or lack of fitness. It was the lack of being used to high humidity. I had not raced when it was this warm and this humid for a very long time - probably over 20 years. This made me too scared to breathe like I ought to so I was not getting adequate amounts of oxygen. This shifted the pace spectrum by about 20 seconds per mile. But I did not quite understand this until the last 6 miles. So I ran most of my 57th or so marathon, in spite of all of the experience, completely perplexed, somewhat panicked, and rather discouraged.  It was a trial of faith.

My 10 mile split was 1:00:24. I got passed by Patrick Whitehead around 6 miles or so, tried to latch on, but for the life of me could not. At around 9.5 we got onto a road that was straight and open to the wind blowing in the wrong direction. Things were bad enough already, however, and the wind could not have made them much worse. I suppose it could, but it did not. Around mile 12 I got passed by a group of 3 runners, one of them was John Piggott, do not know who the others were. I again tried to latch on, but could not. My split at the half was 1:20:01, with that :01 to mock my pain. I did surge too to avoid it, but still could not. As far as I recall I have never opened a marathon that slow since 1992. Since coming to the United States up to this point as far as I can remember I started every one of my marathons under 1:19. The second half is a different story, but I have always been able to run a decent first half even in my worst ones. My inability to latch on to the people that passed me going not that fast suggested that I was working at my limit. I have had many races where I felt much more relaxed in the first half, and yet still crashed in the second. With that history, I was plain scared about the future. 2:50 maybe today? There are many things that are much worse than a 2:50 marathon, though. My family is still with me, I can still feed them, we are still all in good health, my children are succeeding in many things. Most important, I have a testimony of Jesus Christ, and so do my wife and children. We know about His plan for us. We have a vision and we are following it. That's what is important. If we have that we can deal with anything. So I can definitely handle a 2:50 marathon that happened for reasons not understood.

I did however notice some positives. My pace was slow, but it was not slowing progressively. Though my spirits were low my energy levels were fine. I just could not run a normal pace for some reason I did not understand at the time. But I could run for I which I decided to be thankful.

My 15 mile split was 1:32:06. No more headwind. Around 18 miles I passed Justin Leach. He was not having a good day, but for a different reason - stomach problems. Almost got lost at one point but did not lose more than 5 seconds on it. My 20 mile split was 2:04:08. I did the math and realized that if I did not lose steam between now and the finish at all it would be 2:44 low. But I thought it was a hypothetical if. Certainly I would lose something, so maybe 2:45 low would be a good optimistic (in these circumstances) goal.

Shortly after mile 20 there was a music station that played some country song performed by a female singer. Right when I was passing it I heard the word "whiskey". I thought - she sings well but she needs to learn about the Word of Wisdom. For the next mile I thought about the entertainment culture in general and realized that in high probability the singer might need to learn about the law of chastity as well. Somehow these thoughts distracted me from the usual matters in that stage of the race and I just ran without fretting about my level of fatigue.

Amazingly with each mile I was hitting splits in the 6:20-6:30 range, which is on track for 40:00 or so in the last 10 K. This cheered me up. Around mile 24 I passed John Piggott back, and shortly after passed Patrick Whitehead. I realized that what I thought was impossible at the half was going to happen - I was on pace for beating my time last year. Now, my last year's time of 2:44:58 is nothing to brag about, it was done after a fever. But it was something to beat, and when you struggle you need to have something to beat, even if it is a standing pole. Patrick to some extent represented me from the last year except I think he was a little slower at the half and he was a little faster at the finish with 2:44:47.

I ended up running the last mile in 6:20 with the last 10 K in 40:09. This is actually the fastest last 10 K I've ever run on this course. My splits by half were 1:20:01/1:24:16 - 4:15 positive split, which is actually strong for me. That is the type of split that, adjusted for the terrain difference, I have historically run in my best marathons. At the end I finally understood the reason for the slow pace. So in spite of a slow time unlike last years I finished the race in good spirits.

Immediately I headed to the car to drive to Nashville to catch my flight. Clocked 3:03:47 from the start of the race to being dressed and having the key in the ignition.

P.M. I certainly thought I was done running for the day, or at least I thought that I deserved to be done running, but I was wrong again. My flight from Nashville to Denver left late. When I got out of the gate in Denver I had only 3 minutes or so to make my connection to Provo, that is 3 minutes to the time the plane is supposed to leave, which is 10 minutes after they close the gate. My legs were sore when I finished the marathon, and they were still sore on the plane. But the thought of all the consequences that missing this connection would bring made me forget about the pain and the post-race fatigue, so praying for mercy because the law of justice had me hopelessly locked out already I dashed from gate A-34 to gate A-64 greedily inhaling the dry air of the airport terminal and wishing I could have breathed like that during the race. It was about 600 meters or so. When I got there they had already closed the gate, but the plane was waiting for me. They took me in through a special exit, and all was well.




Green Crocs 4 Miles: 27.42
Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 4 Miles: 69.92
Night Sleep Time: 40.00Nap Time: 2.00Total Sleep Time: 42.00
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