Breaking the Wall

Ragnar Relay Del Sol

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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


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Miles:This week: 0.00 Month: 0.00 Year: 948.94
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Black Crocs 2023 Lifetime Miles: 1312.70
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Ran with Ted in the dark today at 4:50 AM. He told me about his adventure race. On the way back I ran a 2 mile tempo in 11:15.7. Splits by 0.5 - 2:49 - 2:46 - 2:49 - 2:50. Heart rate averaged 155 for the last 0.5, and maxed out somewhere at 158. I went to bed late last night, so I was sleepy. I felt that I was reaching threshold way too early, again using the threshold definition to be the quads feel like I am eating a lemon. I think this is a neurological limit. When I have had enough sleep, my heart rate can get up to 163 and sometimes even higher before I start feeling that the quad lemon is holding me back, and I am running faster too.

Took VanGoGo (our GMC Safari van) to Computune to get checked out. We do not want any car problems during the relay. On the way back ran with the kids. 

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Ran with Ted in the morning. He ran easy and did my warm-up/cool-down. I did 4x400 with 200 rest, then a tempo run 2.5 miles coming back to Geneva road (slight up), and then 4x400 to follow up. Did not look at the watch during the interval session, only after. In the first session, did 75s in the first 3, then 74 on the last one. Got sprayed by a skunk for the first time in my life. However did not notice the problem for a while.

Then the tempo run in 14:04. Interestingly enough, I started at 5:30 pace, but then kept slowing down doing the last mile in   5:43. It was not that bad, though, as that one mile is a rolling uphill, and probably about 7 seconds slower than flat. The heart rate peaked at 162, but was steady at 160 at the end of the run.

Then on the 400s after the tempo I was quite a bit slower than  on the first - 77 - 75 - 78 -78. It probably had to do with having only 400 meter jog to recover from the tempo. And I had only 400 meters to recover from the 400s before the tempo. So the fatigue built up, but I think it was more of a neurological nature (not surprising, I did the fast running between 5 and 6 AM), and not having a watch to look at allowed me to get as lazy as I wanted.

Ran to Computune to get Vangogo with the kids. Then in the evening took Sarah out for her tempo run. Determined her max heart rate, or I should probably say the lower bound for her max heart rate - 190. She ran 2 miles in 16:15 on the first mile of my standard 2.5 tempo run stretch, out and back.

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Ran with Ted early in the morning. It was snowing and unpleasantly cold. A little bit of wind. But we've had it worse. I was planning to do a 2 mile tempo. I want to experiment with 4 fast workouts a week with on of them being a 2 mile tempo instead of my usual three. This morning I was sleepy, Ted was dragging me along. The first 4 miles my legs refused to go faster than 7:20, and my heart refused to above 120. Finally I woke up, the cold wind helped. Got the pace to sub-7:00 and the heart rate to 126. Finally, after 6.5 miles of this weather I made it to the tempo run spot. 2 miles coming back, so slight uphill. Did it without looking at the watch. Felt very good, the legs were responding well, felt like I got into a good rhythm. I was sure it was going to be at least 11:09. I was shocked to see 11:31 on the watch. However, the mile splits were good - 5:45 - 5:46, with the last mile being a slight up, 7 seconds slower than flat. The heart rate stabilized at 155 on the last mile. I suppose when your feet get thoroughly wet, your perception of fatigue changes. I was guessing the heart rate to be 162, as hard as I was working. I think I am going to do some of the tempos the old way - splits every quarter, and others the splitless way to see how it changes things.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Now packing for the trip to the Ragnar Del Sol relay. 


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Drive to Mesa, AZ for the Ragnar Del Sol Relay. Got in as many miles on the road as I could jogging in between stops. I probably could have done more, but I figured about 6 would be enough - a bit of a taper for the relay.

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Race: Ragnar Relay Del Sol (187.2 Miles) 19:10:57, Place overall: 2
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Ragnar Relay Del Sol. First Day. Went for an easy jog in the morning. Decided to try a tempo mile. Ran it in 5:13, lower elevation and good sleep made quite a bit of a difference. Took Benjamin to a track. He ran a mile in 7:02, new PR. Took Jenny and Julia for their runs.

Then picked up the team and we went to Wickenburg. From the very start, the contention for first place was between our team (MarathonGIS) and Google One. I ran legs 3, 15, and 27. The first one was a gradual roll uphill. I got the baton about a minute behind Google. The length of the leg according to Garmin 305 was 5.99 miles. I ran it in 33:22, 5:34 pace at a steady pace. It started at the junction of Highway 60 and Highway 74 and went towards New River on Highway 74. I was running against Chris Estwanik. He is a 3:39 1500 meter runner, has been running for Nike, but stopped running professionally 8 months ago cutting down the mileage from 80-90 a week to only 20. He ended up opening over 3 minutes on me on that leg in spite of not being in top shape. I maintained a steady heart rate in the 162-165 range. Felt strong. Overall pleased with the effort in spite of being beat badly.

The race continues...

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Race: Ragnar Relay Del Sol (187.2 Miles) 19:10:57, Place overall: 2
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Ragnar Relay Del Sol continues. Midnight leg 15. 6.93 miles according to Garmin 305 down a fairly steady 1.5% grade. My specialty. Not so much because I am a great downhill runner, but more due to the form challenges I have that are mostly apparent when running uphill. A downhill reduces them and evens me out with the competition a bit. I ran it in 36:49, 5:19 pace, steady. The nervous system began to shut down, and for me this is bad. I have combination of a weak nervous system and a strong cardiovascular system. When the nervous system cooperates, I can run at 93% of my max heart (163/175) for over an hour and maintain flat 5:30 pace at 4500 feet elevation. When it does not, I can get stuck at 88 % (155/175) running 5:40-5:45 miles, which is slower than my good marathon pace. I came up with a creative way to deal with the problem. I had my team mates stop at 2 miles, get out of the van, and sing "There was a farmer, had a dog, and Bingo was his name" fast, loud, and clapping. Now imagine that, somewhere in the middle of nowhere near Scottsdale 5 guys get out of the van under a full moon, and start singing and clapping while another is running past them as fast as he can. That did help though. I had that tune in my head for the entire leg, and was able to hold my heart rate at 159. Chris opened up 2:45 on me, a little better than on the first leg. We are now 7:45 behind Google. Still pleased with the effort in spite of being beat.

Afterwards, Dan held his ground, and Paul made up 5 minutes on an uphill leg. When the other van was done, the gap was down to 20 seconds, and the Dave cut it down to 12. Clyde was running against a tough competitor, and lost a little bit on his leg. I got the baton about 30 seconds behind Chris. Now this would be an interesting test. With only 20 miles a week, I was expecting him to hit the wall on this leg at least to an extent, and hoped to be competitive. Apparently, a smooth runner with good form can go a long way on 20 miles a week for a while. I felt I was running strong, but he gradually slipped away from me outside of visibility and ended up beating me by 2:10 on this leg. Lesser gap, but still quite impressive. The leg was 5.39 miles (according to Garmin 305) on a dirt road, and featured a steady climb for the first
3.4 miles at a gradually increasing grade culminating in a stretch at 10% grade. My teammates sang me the Bingo song again to get me going. The first mile was  5:48, second in 6:17, third in  6:44, then there was a quarter in 2:15 on the steep grade.  The heart rate dropped to 154 as I was climbing. I was not hitting the wall, though, just could not find the right form and the right rhythm to push the heart. Then a steep drop. I was able to shift gears and start driving the heart at 158-160. Next two quarters in 1:18 and 1:14. Those felt fast on a dirt road.  Next mile in 6:10. Then the decent gradually flattened out, and it was uphill again. Next mile in 5:44. Last quarter in 1:35 giving it all I've got after that. 33:17 for 5.39, 6:11 pace.

Google ended up pulling away and beating us by 11 minutes in the whole race.

Interestingly enough, before the race we were talking about the importance of biomechanics in running. I made a point that pure endurance without good biomechanics does not get you very far, it is like riding a broken bike. And I did get to experience the truth of this personally on my legs running against somebody with inferior endurance but superior biomechanics. 3x6 miles in a 12 hour period was a win hands down for better biomechanics. I am reminded of Ether 12:27 in the Book Of Mormon:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

I have a biomechanical weakness, but I am determined to turn it into strength. Already it has pushed me to develop a strong cardiovascular system, and strong leg muscles. Now the challenge is to fix the actual weakness. I have succeed at what originally appeared impossible in the past. I will keep trying at this problem until it is fixed. With the Lord's help, nothing is impossible.

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