Breaking the Wall

Week starting Nov 16, 2008

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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:

Russian champion tries Crocs, commits to racing a marathon in them

Nikolay Chavkin in the video below did 3x1000, first two in Adidas carbon-fiber models, the last one in Crocs. Surprised by the result (2:52, 2:52, 2:50) with the fastest interval done in Crocs, he committed to racing a marathon in Crocs if the video gets 42K likes and 195 comments (for 42 km 195 m, the marathon distance). Nikolay's current marathon PR is 2:14:00. The video was created by a Russian sporting goods store chain. Their moto is "more sports - brighter life", which we think is wonderful, and also deserves a Like. If you want to see a fast marathon in Crocs, go to the video and click the Like button. And make sure to share it with your friends.

Miles:This week: 0.00 Month: 202.42 Year: 3453.86
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 640.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 450.37
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Brown Crocs 4 Lifetime Miles: 1334.06
Amoji 1 Lifetime Miles: 732.60
Amoji 2 Lifetime Miles: 231.94
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Vibram Five Fingers Miles: 20.10Brooks T4 Racing Flat Miles: 39.14
Night Sleep Time: 48.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 49.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

Day of rest. Went to church. The sacrament meeting talks were on living the gospel of Jesus Christ vs following the rules of the Church as part of the culture. 

Night Sleep Time: 9.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 10.00
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Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 10.1 with Derek and Dustin in 1:11:53. Discussed a number of subjects - mainly automaker bailout, and cross-country racing. My thoughts on the automaker bailout are that they have been making way too many cars and have been overpricing them on top of it. I think we would all benefit from a law that would force the insurance damage payouts limited to $20K or so on any car. If somebody wants to have a luxury car, and it gets totaled, let him absorb the cost. Also, tax anything above that really high, e.g. 100%. Basically, pass a set of laws that encourages meeting the needs while punishing excessive wants. Good luck with that in our culture of "I want the best, and I want it now", but I think that would help the automakers in the long run a lot more than the bailout. They WILL find ways to make most cars so that they sell for less than $20K. Of course, the market might force them to do that anyway if we just do nothing to bail them out.

Took Jacob for 200 meters - untimed.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 10:26, 2 with Benjamin in 16:56, Jenny ran the first 1.5 in 13:05. We played leap frog. 0.34 with Joseph in 3:44.

Vibram Five Fingers Miles: 10.10
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. Ran alone. Did the 2.5 tempo run. Ran a 4.12 mile warm-up.

Tempo run:

Course: As usual, from Utah Lake gate to Geneva. Slight net uphill, mostly in the last mile.

Total time: 13:46.5

Splits by 0.5: 2:43 - 2:44 - 2:44 - 2:48 - 2:47.

Subjective: At 1 mile felt the legs were moving quick, but not quick enough. Some components of quickness were present, but others were absent. Felt stuck in the 84 second per quarter gear on the last mile. Did not feel too bad, but just could not go any faster. In fact, the pace felt hard from the beginning, but I hoped it was just cold weather, that I would warm up eventually. The run went on, it did not get any harder, but it did not get any easier either.

On the cool down I saw a runner moving at a decent speed, and ran about 0.35 at a tempo pace to catch up. Got to meet him - his name is Drew Johnson. I remembered that I'd run with him once before, and I correctly remembered that he was a math major at BYU. I gave him my standard geek test. He set a record for correctly computing 2i while running - it took him about 100 meters. Then I also discovered that he had served a mission in Korea.

You meet all kinds of people while running in Provo - math geeks, Russian speakers, Italian speakers, Korean speakers. Spanish speakers - well it is almost a given. Most of my training partners over the years have spoken Spanish.

Afterwards, 200 with Jacob in 1:43, 0.34 with Joseph in 4:25 (slow today because his pants were falling down), and 1 with Julia in 10:35.

P.M. 2 with Benjamin in 16:52. Jenny joined us for 1.5 in 12:38.

Brooks T4 Racing Flat Miles: 11.34
Night Sleep Time: 8.50Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.50
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. 10 miles in 1:18:28, first 7 with Jeff. Ran a tempo mile in 5:29 just because - the legs felt a bit feisty and I decided to give them a shake.

Discussed a new economic concept I have thought of. Perhaps it is not new, just plain common sense, but I do not see it discussed very often. They talk about inflation, price index, GDP, (un)employment rate, etc, but I find those measurements rather removed from real life. Example - we say that creating new jobs is good, but removing jobs is bad. By that definition, if one could completely automate the production of life necessities and conveniences that would be bad because a lot of jobs would be lost. We are producing and buying from each other a lot of gimmicky junk, this raises our GDP. If increased GDP is what we are after, producing more junk is good. When we try to spend less time producing the gimmicky junk and more time with our families, GDP goes down, so that is bad.

So I wanted to have a different set of metrics and came up with this rough idea:

Each individual at any point in his life contributes and withdraws economic value. E.g when he eats he withdraws. When he produces food he contributes. When he helps somebody in some way he contributes. He may get paid for his contribution, he may not. He might have to pay to withdraw or he might not. We create a withdrawal-contribution model by assigning a value to every action. Granted, you can debate the values, but I believe you tried hard enough you could create a reasonable model. We already do it with money, and it works more or less OK, at least enough to keep us doing things for each other even when we do not feel like it. But we could do much better if all we are doing is a mathematical analysis - e.g we can assign a teacher much higher contribution value than a tobacco sales exec, and we do not have to pass any laws in the Congress, raise taxes, or mess with the free market otherwise.

Throughout an individual's life, the deposits and withdrawals add up to a net total. The key to our survival and progress is to have the net total of the whole population as high as possible. Definitely a non-negative, ideally highly positive. To make that happen, we need to maximize the net total of each individual. Some will have to be negative. E.g someone is born with a handicap. Others will be highly positive - e.g a scientist that invents a process for feeding millions off a small portion of land. We want to help each individual arrive at the end of his life with a positive balance.

We are born with a negative balance already - our parents had to sacrifice just for the pregnancy alone. As children we continue to accrue the negative. Then hopefully we eventually get to the point where we are starting to deposit more than we withdraw, and begin to eat away the negative balance. At some point it hopefully becomes positive, hopefully positive enough to where when we get old and need care, we have enough positive to still stay positive all the way through.

The cause of the current economic crisis could be explained in traditional economic terms and complex discussion of cash flow, assets, borrowing, etc, but I believe it is much simpler. As a society we have been withdrawing more than we have been contributing. Again, referencing the thoughts above, not necessarily just the money, but rather in terms of true value which correlates with money maybe 50-70%. For a while we were OK because the previous generation has build a positive balance of value. But now that we've squandered some of it things are starting to get a bit tougher. The solution is to start contribution more and withdrawing less.

So with that vision in mind our education should be reformed. Right now we have a system when a lot of people do not reach the level of a positive economic existence until they are 30, and I would guess net zero is often not reached until 45. While education is very important, we need to do something to help people become productive contributors while they are being educated. Less pure academic learning and more learning on the job in other words. In my area (computer programming), for example, most jobs require a BS degree. Yet every good programmer I've ever known acquired most of his skill either on the job or hacking on his own. If he went to school at all he did so to prove that he was good more than to become good. Classroom instruction would not hurt, but political issues aside, if somebody asked me to train a good programmer, I would spend 10% of the time instructing him, and 90% of the time throwing him in the water to see if he would learn to swim. While learning how to swim he could produce something useful and end his education with a positive net value balance.

P.M. 2 with Benjamin in 16:41, Jenny ran the first 1.5 in 13:08. Julia was sick, so no run for her.

Vibram Five Fingers Miles: 10.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Ran alone. I got a feel of what it's like to not have the trail. A portion of the trail was blocked due to construction, so I had to take a detour for about 1.2 miles and deal with cars on 820 N and Geneva Road. This reminded me that I should be thankful for where I live.

Did 4x400 on the trail - 70.9, 70.7, 69.8, 70.0 - 200 recovery between the first three, then 400. Was originally planning the 5th 400 but because I was hitting them so slow and could not go any faster decided to break the last one into 2x200. Did them in 33.1 and 33.4. Fast speed was not happening today, but it was not as bad as a few weeks ago when I could not break 72.

Felt like the stride was not explosive enough and did not feel good control over the legs in general. Like if I had to write with my feet it would have produced the doctor's level of illegibility even if adjusted for the expected hand-foot legibility gap.

200 with Jacob in 1:41 (new record), and 0.34 with Joseph in 4:09.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 11:05. 2 with Benjamin in 17:32, Jenny ran the first 1.5 in 13:18.

Brooks T4 Racing Flat Miles: 10.00
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. 10 miles in 1:12:33, first 8 with Dustin and Derek. 

P.M. 1 with Julia in 11:05, 2 with Benjamin in 16:49, Jenny ran 1.5 with us in 12:45. 

Night Sleep Time: 0.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 0.00
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A.M. Tempo run with Jeff. Did some bushwhacking on the warm-up trying to find a alternative route to having to run on 820 N and Geneva road. Found a one-way solution of sorts, but it was not viable - too much hole crawling and fence climbing. Total of 2.75 for the warm-up.

Tempo run. Usual course - the 2.5 mile stretch between Geneva Road and the Utah Lake, out and back twice/(three times for Jeff). The plan was 10 for me, 15 for Jeff. After I am done with my 10, join Jeff at his 13.5 and try to run as far as I could at his pace. The workout had different purposes for each of us. For Jeff - develop fuel storage capabilities. For me - learn to fight neural fatigue.

Total time: 55:59 - new course PR by 39 seconds.


by mile: 5:43 - 5:36 - 5:38 - 5:34 - 5:38 - 5:28 - 5:41 - 5:33 - 5:31 - 5:37

by 2.5: 14:08 - 14:01 - 13:54 - 13:56

by 5: 28:09 - 27:50


This was a breakthrough run. I was not expecting it. I have difficulty understanding where this strength came from. I cannot think of any regular physiological reasons. This whole week has not been that great. The only thing I can think of is my conversation with Hobie Call the day before. As we talked about training and other things something happened. I got off the phone, and felt different. I did not think much of it although I did wonder with a measure of hope in the back of my mind if it was a real physical change, not just a feeling. Once I heard that the Japanese believe in learning by osmosis, or in other words, assimilating a skill or a capability by virtue of merely being around a person who has that capability. The person telling me about it was mocking the notion, but as he did I thought to myself, and ever wondered since, if there was some merit to this concept. I think today I observed the strongest material witness that learning by osmosis has something validity.

Hobie and I have opposite strengths and weaknesses. His neural drive is superb. He can run a 5 K so hard that his muscles will hurt for a week. I cannot run a marathon that hard. But at the same time, I can put my body through all kinds of abuse and never get injured, while he has to watch every step. I have wished I could borrow a portion of his neural drive for a long time. Well, it appears like I was able to do it, and all I had to do was talk and listen. I did not do any mental games, or visualization before or after, except briefly thinking 2 miles into the run about how the leaders ran a suicidal pace in the Olympic marathon. If anything, I doubted the entire time that I could keep the pace. But something got reprogrammed on the subconscious level and I just kept doing fast quarters one after another.

The entire run after 0.5 miles felt like a long long quarter. I noticed my legs wanted to do a quarter, and I just let them. For some reason I had no fear. The odd thing is that I've tried this many times in the past, but it was the top-down decision. I would say to myself, go this pace until you cannot, or push yourself into pain and see how much pain you can take. And it never really worked. The conscious will was there, but the subconscious will was lacking. Today the conscious will was lacking, but the subconscious will was there. So after the first mile I started pushing the pace and breathing hard not quite sure of where I was headed with that. 2 miles into it I gave myself a reassurance that if this worked for Wanjiru, it could work for me. But I was still skeptical thinking build a gap, the longer you go, the less you will lose when you crash because there will be less left.

At 2.5 I thought - it would be nice if I could keep this, but I know I can't. Nevertheless, I tucked behind Jeff and just kept telling myself, one more quarter at this pace. It hurt, but surprisingly never got worse. By 5 miles I began to believe that I could finish ahead of the 5:40 guy given a decent star alignment. Then Jeff at 5.75 got confused by his watch and thought we had slowed down to 5:50 pace. So he "corrected" it and our next quarter was 79. That hurt, but the fact that I could do it at all was very encouraging. Taking the next mile easy in 5:41 allowed me to recover, and I began to believe that 56:30 was a possibility. At 7.5 we were 3 seconds behind the 5:36 guy and I thought it would be good to get beat by 10-15 seconds, so 56:10-56:15. But Jeff kept pressing the pace, and I managed to stay with him, and to my utter amazement with a mile to go we got 2 seconds ahead of the impossible-to-beat-for-10-miles-on- that-course-56:00-5:36 guy.

When I finished 1 second ahead of my virtual elusive nemesis and started jogging I realized how mentally drained I was from the effort and was not looking forward to any more running, much less fast running. But I needed miles, and I wanted to do what I could to support Jeff. I said to myself, just 0.5 miles, that's better than just leaving Jeff in the hole to run alone. I was able to make it to the mile, in a great degree thanks to the fact that Jeff was hurting. But it was still a decent mile - 5:29.

Jeff had a great run - 1:23:02 for 15 miles, in my estimate worth 2:25 in Ogden if he does not blow up. Right now he probably will, but with those tempos done consistently he likely won't when it is time to race.

We cooled down, this gave me 17.8 for the whole run.

P.M. 1 with Julia in 11:18, 2 with Benjamin in 17:38, Jenny ran the first 1.5 in 13:23.

Brooks T4 Racing Flat Miles: 17.80
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance
Vibram Five Fingers Miles: 20.10Brooks T4 Racing Flat Miles: 39.14
Night Sleep Time: 48.50Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 49.50
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