Breaking the Wall

Ogden Striders Half-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: 152.01 Year: 1148.62
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: 92.01
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Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Driving back to Provo. Threw in some random miles during breaks. Could not feel the effects of the relay, but I hardly ever feel anything. I know I am tired when I am not able to run fast.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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Time to start training for real. I've been in the maintenance mode since St. George. Today was the start. Well, the relay was the start, to a certain extent, but today was the official start of training for real. Got good sleep. Went to the Provo Canyon. Warmed up, then 5x400 alternating down and up. 72.7 down - 78.8 up - 71.3 down - 75.2 up - 72.7 down. Still not used to the pain of a good 400, but that's OK, it takes about 3 weeks for it to come. Jogged up to Nunn's Park, and ran the standard 3 mile tempo in 16:01. Mile splits - 5:19 - 5:21 - 5:21. For some reason the pace started feeling a lot harder and I started losing it after 1.5. But I pushed through it. There was a quarter in 1:22, afterwards, no slower than 1:21. There was a slight head/side wind, maybe it got stronger at that point. The heart rate did what it was supposed to - stay at 163. So that means the nervous system was working fine, I was able to push the heart. However, I was not quite happy with the pace, especially with slowing down, but I am just starting the misery drill, so it is OK for the start. I am possibly underestimating the effects of the head wind. And coming back from a lower elevation is probably also a factor. So probably nothing to worry about.

The tempo run felt miserable enough to where I thought perhaps the additional 400s would be counterproductive for a moment. Then I decided to just go ahead and do my best. I did another set of 5x400. 74.0 down - 77.2 up - 73.0 down - 76.2 up - 69.3 down. Pushed it on the last one, and got a taste of a real 400. The consistent difference of only 3 seconds between up and down shows there was a head wind when running down on that stretch. In still air the difference is 5 seconds. It was also on that stretch where the pace started feeling harder in the tempo run earlier.

Got 12.7 in the workout. Then ran with the kids in the afternoon.


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I am now on "the day does not end until I've run 13" diet. Ran easy 10 miles in the morning mostly alone. Ted ran a bit with me, but he cut his run short - his legs are overtrained, and he felt he could use some rest before the race on Saturday. I was exceptionally sleepy, some from yesterday's workout, and some probably from Ragnar Del Sol. So I essentially slept through my run. Did not catch 8:00 mile guy until mile 6 or so. Averaged 7:50 pace and 112 heart rate. I think this is a record low for the heart rate in my recovery run since I started using Garmin 305. I am sure I've had it lower before as I've done recovery runs with slower training partners at 9:00 pace.

Ran with the kids in the afternoon, plus some more to bring the total to the minimum quota. The glut muscles are sore. I am very excited about that. It is very difficult for me to be sore there, and it always coincides with running well. 

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Ran early in the morning with Ted. For a tune-up ran a 2 mile tempo on the Provo River Trail coming back from the lake. The first mile was 5:29 and it felt easy. However, the second mile was 5:40 and it felt hard. The second mile is a slight uphill, but the same effort should have given me about 5:35, not 5:40. A harder effort should have given me 5:30. The heart rate maxed at 162, but then dropped to 159. I interpret this as the nervous system being tired and not being willing to work. It is a very strange feeling. It is very easy to confuse it with just starting out too fast and/or being out of shape. Here is my take on what happens:

When you are starting out, the acidity of the muscle is low. So your regular threshold pace feels easy. Then the acidity of the muscle goes up as you keep going. About a mile or a mile and a half it reaches a critical level. When the nervous system is in top shape, it is able to fire the muscles in spite of the negative feedback it is receiving from the increased muscle acidity. But if the nervous system is tired for some reason, it cannot override the negative feedback. So the cardiovascular system could potentially deliver more oxygen and maintain the acidity in check at a steady, although higher level, but the nervous system says, no that is too much for me to deal with. So the heart is cruising along at a lower rate, the pace is slow, but it feels hard. I've had this happen to me so many times, but I think am just beginning to get a clue at what is actually going on. There are two things that I have found effective in the past - get more sleep, and do brutal quarters.

Ran with the kids in the evening, and added some more to make it 13 for the day.

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Mini-taper before the Ogden Half-Marathon tomorrow. Ran 3.11 miles with Stuart. Then went for some more. Decided to do a 1.25 tempo for a tune-up/nervous system check. Ran it from the DI bridge to the Union Pacific bridge. Union Pacific, and the fact that it is going to Utah, has a special significance in my life. Back in 1991 I was learning English. My goal was to learn it so well that I could score very high on the verbal section of the SAT test. America for me was a land of opportunity and I wanted to make a statement that I belonged there. I read every book in English that I could get my hands on, which at that time was quite easy - there were not many English books around within my reach. It happened that I got my hands on a book that detailed the history of the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. I read it start to finish. It was a very tedious reading. But the text contained many uncommon words which were likely to appear on the SAT test. I looked up every one of them along with their synonyms and antonyms, and thoroughly studied usage examples to make sure I knew those words as well as regular common speech English words as if it were my native tongue. 

The railroad construction progressed through the United States, and eventually  Utah was mentioned. Along with that, the book mentioned a religious group that lived in Utah - the Mormons. I felt a desire to learn more about that group. That interested eventually led to my conversion and joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of which I have now been a faithful member for almost 15 years.

And along with that, reading the railroad book along with my other efforts of similar nature to acquire proficiency in English also paid off. I scored 720 out of 800 on the verbal section of the SAT, which put me in the 99th percentile among mostly native speakers. This was a miracle of hard word magnified by the inspiration and the light of God. Three years earlier I had  no knowledge of English and started by looking up the word "WE" in a dictionary.

So I ran the tempo to the historic bridge, historic for me in 6:47 at a steady pace. The course rolled downward. I wanted to know exactly how much the downhill helped. So shortly after I finished I turned around and ran a quarter backwards putting in the same effort. Got 1:25. Going out it was 1:22. Applying the 2:1 rule for uphill downhill, we take the 3 second difference and split it at the ratio of 2:1. This gives us a 2 second slowdown for the uphill, and a 1 second speedup for the downhill. Thus the flat equivalent of this tempo run is 1:23 quarter, or 5:32 pace on that stretch.

Did some more easy running. Ran with the kids in the afternoon. Total of 10 miles.

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
Race: Ogden Striders Half-Marathon (13.1 Miles) 01:14:29, Place overall: 6
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Ogden Striders Half-Marathon. 1:14:29, 6th place. Knowing from the tempo runs earlier in the week that the nervous system was not functioning well, I made a plan to hang on with the leaders while it was still working, and then do my best after that. I thought I'd be able to make it to mile 5. The first mile felt comfortable (5:23). I'll give my splits from Garmin 305 - race mile markers were not reliable.

Towards the end of the second mile I had a frivolous feeling that I did not want to run with the pace. I tried to dismiss it, but I think I am beginning to understand what it means - neural fatigue. I have experienced it before - the breathing is OK, legs feel fine, then at first you feel you do not want to run with the pack, you fight it, and then you cannot - it is almost like you are under a spell that you can do nothing about. Second mile had more downhill, and we did it in 5:10. When we reached 2.5 I began to experience the spell. Breathing is fine. Heart rate is hovering around 163-165, a little high, but nothing I could not normally hold for at least 5 miles. But for some reason I just cannot go. I backed off, but still hit the mile in 5:19. Paul, Bob, Steve Ashbaker, Joe Wilson, and Neal Gassmann went ahead. 15:51 at 3 miles.

Ken Richardson passed me shortly, and he was gone moving away from me quickly. I considering latching on, and trying to hang in there, but I do not think I could have done it even if they told me the race ended at 4 miles. Next mile in 5:40. Heart rate goes down to 158-160.  Next mile in 5:37, HR at 158, followed by a 5:38 (HR 157). 27:08 at 5 miles.

Sarah and the kids sang me the  BINGO song to get me going, it helped  bit. Now the downhill is over, next mile in 5:44, HR 158, followed by 5:48, HR dropping to 156.  More BINGO singing, and now I am able to push it a bit,  5:49 mile with some rolling  hills, HR going up to 160, and I am starting to close on Ken.  Another mile in 5:49, HR at 160.  Next mile in 5:56, with a bathroom stop, number two. I figured I lost about 5 seconds on it. 56:03 at 10 miles. HR dropped to 157. Now a new excitement develops. Ken is coming to me. He beat me in all other races by a few seconds, and I am determined to not let it happen again. Heart rate goes up to 160, next mile in 5:54, and it did have some uphill. I passed Ken, now need to make him not want to follow me because he has a better kick.  Another mile in 5:56, uphill, HR dropping to 157.  And one more in 5:56 with HR going up to 159. Kick, a slight downhill, Garmin says I did 5:35 pace, HR going down to 158. Not much of a kick, but I just could not shift gears. 1:14:29  at the finish.

Paul, Bob, and Steve ran incredibly well beating Joe and Neal who also ran well but with no breakthroughs.

Cooled down with Ted. Ran with the kids in the afternoon.

Post-race analysis - the problem appears to be of neurological nature. I need to get more sleep. It will take some time to bring it back to order. Also, tempo runs and 400 meter repeats will train it to respond properly at fast pace so it will not quit.

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