Breaking the Wall

Week starting Jan 21, 2007

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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: 154.81 Year: 1799.09
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Brown Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 2191.97
Brown Crocs 4 Lifetime Miles: 595.71
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Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Sleep in day today. Ran at 7:30 AM with Ted. Met him on the trail. He started from BYU. Then Ted headed back to BYU, and I stayed on the trail. Found a runner named Cameron. He was going pretty fast - about 6:40 pace through the snow. Ran with him a bit. His marathon PR is 3:07. Suggested to him he needed to increase his mileage - based on how well he was handling 6:40 he should be able to hold it for the marathon with proper training. Invited him to join the blog crowd.

Afterwards, running alone and focusing on the form (nothing else to think about), noticed it was better than normal. The push off felt more effective. The hamstrings were working. The pace also showed - according to The Toy I was going 6:20-6:30 pace, and it did not feel that fast in spite of the 2.5 layers of clothes. The questions are: Is this for real? Will it continue? If yes, is it from Synflex?  Carrying the medicine ball above my head with headweights? Stretching the the muscles in the upper back? Cross-country skiing? Or possibly all of the above. Or maybe none, just another fluke, I've had many days when I felt great at 6:20 pace, but terrible at 5:40 immediately afterwards,  

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. After dinner they wanted carob cookies. Each sufficiently mature child had to earn it by solving a math problem.  Julia had to do 6+1, solved with no hints. Jennifer had to do 6x7, needed a hint (6x5+6x2).  Benjamin had to calculate the cosine of 60 degrees. Solved after he had drawn the picture of a circle on a coordinate plane.

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Tempo 2.5 in the middle of a 10 mile run with Ted at 4:45 in the morning. Still cold. It snowed some more, the trail is almost entirely covered with snow. Still cold. Felt sleepy, missed my bed. 15:01 was all I could do. The form did not feel good - the spring in my stride I felt yesterday was gone. But yesterday it did not come through until later on in the run either.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Did a quarter with Julia on my shoulders in 2:05. It felt like 6:20 pace. Julia is 4, and weighs about 30+ pounds.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Easy run with Ted early in the morning. The form was not good. The quads were being overutilized. I wonder if it has to do with the degree of wakefulness, perhaps some critical point at which my nervous system kicks it, adjusts something a little bit which puts it past the critical point.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. 

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Ran with Ted this morning. It was our sleep-in day - we started at 5:30 am. With the extra sleep I felt livelier in the tempo run, and so did Ted. We ran our standard 2.5 tempo. Most of the trail was covered with snow, but there were a bit more dry spots than on Tuesday. First mile in 5:59, trying to wake up. Next time I had a chance for a reliable split was at 1.5 + 1/16, which was 9:14, 8 seconds ahead of the 6:00 mile guy. Then around the 2 mile mark I really needed to take a bio-break. This gave Ted a chance to pass me. However, I was quick enough to put Ted within reach. I knew I had to work, because I could tell that he was having a good day, and he usually runs much better the further he goes this time of day. At first I had a hard time getting going (The Toy reported 1:26 quarter), but then my tiger chasing a pray instinct turned on. The Toy reported a quarter in 1:18, and I managed to catch Ted. My total time was 14:24, which gives me 5:10 for the last 15/16 of a mile, this is 5:31 pace average. However, I did not start going fast until the last 0.5, so that 1:18 quarter was probably really 1:18. Ted ended up with 14:48, a record for him for the comparable conditions.

This goes to show that perhaps the biggest factor that makes me struggle to break 6:00 pace on those tempo runs is not the extra clothes, the cold, and the snow, but rather the lack of excitement at this early hour. Once I had a reason to run sub-5:20 pace, it came without a superhuman effort that I would expect from the difficulty of running 5:50 on those runs.

The economy felt average. Quads worked more than I wanted them too, but not terribly out of the ordinary. The spring from the back felt average, maybe even slightly better than average.

Afterwards, my adrenal glands did not want to work, I think. We ran 8:00 pace the rest of the way, and it felt fast. If 7:00 felt fast, I could have blamed it on lactic acid buildup, maybe. But in this case, I think it was just running out of mental energy to push.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Easy run with Ted at 4:45 AM. Met him on the trail. He started from BYU. After my lips got used to the cold, I could finally carry a conversation. That made the run less tedious for me. Ted told me about the red necks in Alabama that drive as if they were trying to hit you, see how close they can get, and then swerve at the last moment.

Saw another runner on the trail later, I believe it is the second one I've seen on those runs. This was after my turnaround, so Ted missed her, but he had a good chance of spotting the rare creatures near BYU.

Weighed myself with clothes I've been running in - 155lb. Then changed to summer running clothes - 151lb. So 4lb difference. According to the Daniels Running Formula Vdot tables, this should translate to about 5-7 seconds per mile loss just from the weight. There is probably also a movement restriction factor involved. With the cold temperatures, and the snow on the ground you lose some more. Plus being asleep at the early hour. So struggling with 6:00 pace over 2.5 miles perhaps is not that bad in those conditions.

Curt Catmul came by and brought me a pulley contraption to simulate the cross-country skiing movement of the back, and do other stretching and strengthening exercises. I tried it and liked it so far. I am still doing Pettibon exercises and treatment, but I am starting to suspect I've reached the limit of the method for my problem. The last X-ray showed no improvement compared to the previous test - 20 degree angle (decrease from 23, ideal 45), and the unchanged head forward tilt of 8mm (ideal 0). So I improved very fast from the start, but have now plateaued. This is not to say that eventually it could not work, but something needs to be done differently.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. They are starting to get used to the inversion.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Major sleep-in day. Tempo run with Ted at 7:15 AM.  10 miles on the standard course between Geneva Road and the Utah Lake. Ted was not feeling well in the morning, so to make things interesting we decided to give him a head start of one minute. The conditions of the trail for the first 2.5 miles were better than Thursday but worse than last Saturday. Later on, they became significantly worse as the snow became wet and lost its crispiness. As it was warmer (14F), I decided to wear 1.5 layers on my legs (shorts over tights).

First mile in 5:56 on snow, felt good. The snow was still crisp, decent traction. Stopped for bio break at 1.75.  First 2.5 in 14:45. Ted was about 1:40 ahead already. Turned out he actually opened up 10 seconds on me on top of the head start and the bio break. 23:37 at 4 miles, still decent pace. Then I hit a solid mile of wet snow - 6:10, 15:03 for the 2.5, 29:48 for 5. Ted is a minute ahead, and the 6:00 mile guy is gaining on me, not good. I thought with me wearing only one pair of pants  he would never be gaining on me.

Next mile in 6:09 on wet snow, hanging on trying to hold off the charging 6:00 mile guy. He runs like a moose on wet snow, he does not care. Next 1.5 miles have frequent dry ground patches, time for revenge. However, the patches of snow are killing the pace. 44:50 at 7.5, 15:02 for 2.5, Ted is now only 30 seconds ahead.

On the way back working hard to build a nice cushion before the last mile. Who knows, it might get even worse than 6:10 for that mile. Passed Ted with 1.5 to go. 1:03:44 at 9 miles. Let's hope 16 second lead is enough. Figured out a trick from desperation - surge hard on every smallest dry patch, then coast on the snow - it does not pay to push there. Exponential increase in effort results only in marginal increase in speed. Finished in 59:50, 10 seconds ahead of the 6:00 mile snow-plowing hard charging moose. Last mile in 6:06, last 2.5 in 15:00.

Jogged with Ted back to my house, put on ankle weights, jogged some more to make it 14. Worked out on Curt's contraption, liked the feeling afterwards. Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

As got back home and we knelt down for a family prayer, I saw a flock of moose trophies on the shelf that I've collected from 8 Top of Utah "in the moose" finishes to remind me of today's run.  


Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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