Breaking the Wall

Utah Valley 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: 103.30 Year: 1747.58
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
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 1 Miles: 66.30
Night Sleep Time: 52.50Nap Time: 4.50Total Sleep Time: 57.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. Had good lessons. In Sunday School we learned about the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then the Elder's Quorum lesson was on work. It was a Fast Sunday, so we had a testimony meeting after the Sacrament.

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. Did 2x100 strides, then 1000 in 3:02.6. The goal was to run anaerobically for a little bit as it supposedly stimulates glycogen production if followed up aggressive carbohydrate intake afterwards. I added a 30 minute nap later for good measure as I was feeling my body was capable of taking it. 

Total distance was 10.2. Added a test tempo at the end to feel the marathon pace - 0.75 in 4:23. The kids ran mostly on their own - I just joined Benjamin for about a mile. Benjamin did 4, Joseph 1, Jenny 3, and Julia 2.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 10.20
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.50Total Sleep Time: 8.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Did 2.4 with a 0.75 in 4:08, then did total of 6 with the kids. Benjamin did 4, Jenny 3, Julia 2, and Joseph 1.

P.M. Short nap.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 8.40
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. 6 miles before going to the temple, did 1 mile pickup in 5:42. Felt decent. The children ran on their own - Benjamin - 4, Jenny - 3, Julia 2, and Joseph - 1.

P.M. Nap.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 6.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Did 2.2 before running with the kids with 1000 in 3:00.3. The idea of this 1000 is to stimulate glycogen buildup. I also noticed, perhaps of more interest in my circumstances, that hard anaerobic running in the AM makes me want to take a nap in the afternoon, and I feel something different in my body when I wake up from that nap. I am suspecting that I am getting more than just glycogen buildup out of this if the nap is taken. There is some hormonal activity going on, possibly an increase in the levels of testosterone and friends.

 Then ran with the kids, total of 6 -  Benjamin did 4, Jenny 3, Julia 2, and Joseph 1.

P.M. Nap.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 8.20
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.50Total Sleep Time: 8.50
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 6 with the kids. Benjamin did 4, Jenny 3, Joseph 1, and Julia 2. I did a pickup for a mile in 5:29. Benjamin did the first quarter of it with me in 83. The mile felt very good, effortless, there was some zip in the legs. This was definitely an indicator that the naps did something. But the real proof will be seen in the race tomorrow.

P.M. Nap.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 6.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.50Nap Time: 0.50Total Sleep Time: 8.00
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Race: Utah Valley Marathon (26.22 Miles) 02:33:23, Place overall: 6
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Utah Valley Marathon - 2:33:23, 6th place.

My workouts were predicting 2:35 or so. I  have struggled to understand this long sequence of troubled workouts with seemingly no progress, and finally after some prayer a thought occurred to me. The problem is not biomechanical, or fuel, it is hormonal, and it is  in some (possibly more than one) hormone that controls the power of muscle contraction. I did not have the resources to figure out which one it was. So I decided to assume testosterone and hope that the natural treatments of that problem will help with whatever hormone X is involved. I would call this a tentative shot in the dark that was lighted up by inspiration, so the dark was not quite as dark. I solve difficult computer problems like this all the time, so I figured apply the method to physiology and see what happens.

I decided to apply some natural remedies for boosting testosterone. One of them is naps. I spent last week napping. I feel the performance today indicated that I am on the right track with the naps and other things.  I was able to start at a pace I would have considered suicidal, or beyond that, impossible, a week ago, and in spite of that was able close only 3:27 slower in the second half (1:14:58/1:18:25), with a 5:56 mile from 25 to 26. I treasure sub-6:00 miles after 20, they are precious and dear to me, and do not happen unless I am doing something right.

I expected Clyde and Dave to stick together and go through the first half in about 1:16:30. I figured the pace was survivable, and if my nap treatment was effective, I would have another good half after that as well. If not, I would, well..., hang in there and survive as I've done many times before. So I just followed them from the start.

It soon  became apparent that Clyde and Dave wanted to run like Steve Jones and Sammy Wanjiru today at least in the early miles. What was worse is that I did not recognize Ben Van Beekum at the start, and did not realize he was in the race. So in my mind my choices were to run aggressively with Dave and Clyde or to run alone. I did not want to run alone at all, so the choice was obvious.

Mile 1 - 5:47. Bryant Jenson, Hillary Kibet Cheruiyot, and another Kenyan pulled ahead, while Paul Petersen, Jake Krong, Clyde and Dave, and I were together. It was uphill, and at 5800 or so feet it felt hard. But I figured I'd hang in there while I can. 

Mile 2 - 5:29 (11:16). Downhill starts. I am happy with a sub-5:30 more relaxed but still too fast for a marathon effort. Still the same company. I am sure hoping that Clyde and Dave will wisen up soon because I do not want to run alone and I do not want to run that fast either. But it is a race, you cannot just say "Can you guys please be nice to me?"

Mile 3 - 5:05 (16:21) This was an odd mile. It did not seem like the downhill or the effort increased dramatically. Maybe there was a bit more downhill, and a bit more effort. Possibly a mistake was made in the calculations when the course was certified and the mile ended up being short. Which would mean another mile would be long to make up for it because you cannot certify a course without extensive documentation, etc, for the entire length, but you are not required to provide as much documentation for each individual mile. During this mile we had a spread - Paul and Jake started pulling away, and Dave made an effort to go with them while Clyde and I stayed back. I breathed a sigh of relief, as it gave me some hope for more reasonable pace.

Mile 4 - 5:31 (21:52). Dave pulling a way, Paul and Jake pulling away, but still visible, I am sitting on Clyde's tail hoping for survival. That is the only way I can survive this pace. This had a mild downhill, but we are still at around 5600 feet or so. The effort eased up, though, and I was finally able to talk. I told Clyde we were headed for 2:24, and it accounted for the hills later on if we maintained the effort. Of course, neither one of us had done anything lately that would suggest we would be able to maintain such a pace to the finish on this course, but it is nice to think with faith. It gives you boost to know that you can at least start the marathon like this. That is 70% of the battle.

Mile 5 - 5:30 (27:22). Essentially a repeat of mile 4. We got caught and passed by a Kenyan runner that looked like Jon Ndambuki, but I could not tell for sure.  He must have not been having a very good day as we passed him back a few miles later and he dropped out.

Mile 6 - 5:37 (32:59). Less downhill, reduced effort as well. I am starting to consider helping Clyde with the pace, but I do not want it to be faster, and he is doing a fine job.

Mile 7 - 5:54 (38:53). The downhill ended,  I think, and we eased off even more to prepare for the climb.

Mile 8 - 6:00 (44:53). Start of uphill. I am noticing that the effort is getting reduced on the uphill. So either  Clyde is struggling with the uphill, or maybe he is backing off on purpose which a smart thing to do. Either way, fine with me. I am all for taking a little break to recover from the aggressive start. This mile was just an appetizer, though, the main course was served in the next mile. Clyde asked me what we would hit in the half. I said anywhere from 1:14:30 to a low 1:15:00. We passed the Kenyan back.

Mile 9 - 6:14 (51:07). Now the main course of the uphill meal. Survived with a reasonable measure of dignity. Clyde asked me for an effort estimate. I thought this was worth 5:50 on a flat mile.

Mile 10 - 5:34 (56:41). Downhill. With Clyde's help got going after the uphill quite well. Was very pleased with this mile.

Mile 11 - 5:32 (1:02:13). Downhill. Clyde's support crew lead my Mik'l showed up and cheered him on, so the effort increased a bit into the red zone again. I told him it was not time to push yet. At this point I knew enough about his condition to offer advice. Earlier I did not say anything about the aggressive pace because it may not have been aggressive for him. At the same time Dave, who has been in front of us since mile 4 by about 20 seconds started to  come back.

Mile 12 - 6:07 (1:08:20). A rich dessert served in the uphill meal. I forgot about this dessert, but I remembered when I saw it. Two years ago it was the first mile, and I ran it in 6:07. So 6:07 on mile 12 was quite acceptable. 6:00 AM is too early of a start for me in terms of emptying the stomach completely before the race. So I started to feel it and to make plans for a quick stop.

Mile 13 - 6:05 (1:14:25). This mile was quite eventful. It was still rolling, so it was not very fast. Dave really started to fall apart and we passed him. My need for a bathroom stop intensified, and I was faced with a problem. This race has gotten too big, too many spectators. No virtual privacy for a VPB. So I had to jump into a port-a-potty. Set a port-a-potty PR of 16 seconds, at least Clyde's official half split is 16 seconds faster than mine. I may have been inside for a bit more as I surged a bit right before the stop, and maybe a bit more right after, but it could not have been more than 20. I got out right when Dave had caught up, and he commented on my efficiency.

Half - 1:14:58. Technically sub-2:30 is still possible, but not quite. I am creating different plans dreaming of 2:33, optimistically hoping for 2:35, and disaster control of 2:38-2:40. Which one will it be? The first half depends on you. But the second half is a gift of God.  Some people think you can improve your second half dramatically by taking it easy in the first half. You can to a point, but not really. You can help it with training, but even then you can get a surprise.

This is when the real suspense begins. Now is the moment of truth. Have I been a good boy? What is in my Christmas stocking? A toy I was hoping for, a toy beyond my dreams,  a toy I would not be unhappy with, a really crummy toy, or just coals?

Mile 14 - 5:55 (1:19:20). Clyde is not coming back to me, and no wonder. If I am going this slow, he is not coming back unless he blows up royally. This split concerned me. I know things get worse for me around 18. So I am starting to mentally prepare for damage control.

Mile 15 - 5:53 (1:26:13). I have not crashed yet. How many more sub-6:00 do I have, and how bad is it going to get after that? It does not look like I will have any sub-6:00 after 20, but can I hit a couple of 6:10s? If so, let's say 1:56 with respectable change at 20, and then last 10 K in 39:00, so 2:35. I will not be unhappy with that given all the troubles I had before this race. But maybe it will get worse? Can I really do 39:00 for the last 10 K today? It has been worse. Then be humble, be thankful you can run at all, and take the best you can get.

Mile 16 -  6:15 (1:32:28) . Second serving of the uphill dessert. The pace is a cause for serious concern. Mentally preparing to deal with the upcoming crash. Said a prayer that I will not lose the strength in my muscles at 18 miles more or less with the idea - "Please let me make it to 20 before I blow up, and maybe, if I have been a good boy, to 21".

Mile 17 - 5:58 (1:38:26). Still sub-6:00. One more mile to see if my prayer will be answered.

Mile 18 - 5:42 (1:44:08). The downhill helped, but  I am still encouraged. When you are seriously blowing up, you stop being able to use the downhill to go faster. At least I am responding to the downhill some. So maybe I can live another 3 miles. Started passing half-marathon runners that started at the same time as the marathon.

Mile 19 - 5:54 (1:50:02). My prayer was answered - I am thankful for the strength that I was able to maintain for one more mile.

Mile 20 - 5:46 (1:55:48). Now that is quite a bounty of blessings. I would have been thankful for 6:05. Very thankful to still feel strong. The density of the half marathon crowd has increased, now passing more people per minute. That is both a plus and a minus. Plus because you can focus on visible targets that can be reached within a minute but are not as trivial as landmarks. When you are starting to struggle it becomes very important to break the big task into multiple easy-to-reach goals. The importance of having a target to focus on can be appreciated by the fact that we tend to slow down by 5-10 seconds a mile in the dark at the same perceived effort when such targets are not available.  The minus comes because you have to swerve.

Mile 21 - 5:58 (2:01:46). Sub-6:00 after 20! A sigh of relief. Now I know that the worst statistically likely is 6:30, and it is not coming until after 24. Ben Van Beekum passed me on this mile and he was moving fast. I considered latching on, but decided not to disrupt the rhythm as it did not appear likely that I would be able to hang on for more than half a mile. I did not recognize him, though, but my thoughts were - this is a collegiate runner doing his first marathon, his PRs are around 2:00 in the 800, 4:25 in the 1600, and 15:00 in the 5 K. He was too scared to start faster, and now he is full of energy.

Mile 22 - 6:00 (2:07:46). Another 6:00. Only 4 miles to crash over. The last one can be saved some with the "smell the barn" effect. I am still feeling strong to run one more mile respectably. So only two miles to really lose time on. Encouraging.

Mile 23 - 6:05 (2:13:51). Expected, but thankful that I am still following a reasonable slow-down curve. Particularly thankful that there are only 3 miles left. Ran through a portable shower. It was very nice.

Mile 24 - 6:23 (2:20:14). Uphill mile, but not enough to justify 18 second drop. So there was some slippage. Still thankful to be moving.

Mile 25 - 6:05 (2:26:19). Recovered from the slippage. Two factors helped. Knowing I had only 2 miles left, and Clyde appearing as a reachable target. I was still not sure if I'd be able to deal with him once I caught up because if it took me too long by then I might crash myself, and he might start benefiting from the "smell the barn" effect. But now I was mentally racing a competitor rather than just the clock. I could have tried this earlier, but I think I made a wise decision earlier to not worry about catching Clyde and just let it happen naturally if it was meant to happen.

Mile 26 - 5:56 (2:32:15). Caught up to Clyde, He picked it up. I ran with him. Then we approached another portable shower. I did not want to lose contact, but I knew I needed to cool off. So I went for the shower. Two girls of considerable size who were in the half marathon were going through it at the same time. I warned them and managed to go through it without collisions. When I got out, Clyde was not with me, or ahead of me. So the only other possibility was that he was behind. I stepped on the gas and started running scared. The fear was irrational, if you closed 20 seconds in a mile on somebody that late in the marathon, there is a mathematical expectation that you will gap him by 40 in the next mile, which is essentially what happened. But I threw math out the window, and used this irrational fear to get a faster time. With the finish approaching, and with the knowledge that Clyde has run a 4:15 mile at one point, the fear of being caught and outkicked was greater than the fear of blowing up.

Kick - 1:08 (2:33:23).  I wonder if it was a bit short as this comes out to 5:11 pace. I was kicking as hard as I could, but it was 5:30 pace at the fastest. As I was approaching the finish I was happy to be done with the race, I was happy that I avoided the expected slump at 18 in spite of the early signs of trouble, and I was happy to have finally demonstrated a semblance of form that gives me hope for the future.

After I finished, Benjamin raced in the 5 K and finished 10th overall with 19:36. That is his new record. Now we have two people in the family that can break 20:00 in the 5 K.

Hillary Kibet Cheriuyot won with 2:19:18, then Paul 2:19:29, Bryant 2:21:24, Jake 2:21:47, Ben 2:31:59, then me, Clyde 2:34:16, Dave 2:42:06, and Jeff Shadley won the masters with 2:42:15.

Jenny and Julia did 2 in the AM, then Jenny did not want to run more because it was getting too hot. I ran a mile in the evening with Joseph and Jenny. The legs felt a bit sore, but I could run without a limp, so I was happy with that.

Green Crocs 1 Miles: 27.50
Night Sleep Time: 6.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 6.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Green Crocs 1 Miles: 66.30
Night Sleep Time: 52.50Nap Time: 4.50Total Sleep Time: 57.00
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