Race Report: Music City Distance Carnival 5000m

The gods be fickle dicks with teeny pricks...and malice. Lots of malice. --J. Scovill

The running gods can only take so much. Since I wrote last week about how my training had been going well and played the expert before my goal race, I should have known the running gods would not be pleased. I even threw out the ambitious time goal of 15:30, as if it were a foregone conclusion. Well, it didn't turn out that way. I never felt great (or really even good) and ended up running 16:00 even though it was a perfect day for racing.

I was disappointed and moped around pretty good after the race.

On the positive side, there were a few things that came together that prevented me from running my best, some of which were mistakes I made in racing, others were things that just happen.

The most fundamental mistake that I made was that my race plan was both too rigid and too centered around pacing. I had imagined myself coming through 1600m in 4:56 feeling good, and I was convinced that would be the case. A couple things conspired against this. The first was that this pace put me in no-man's land. The front group went out a hair faster than that pace--they probably came through in 4:52. The second group was running 75s. So, I ended up sort of leading the second pack and having to set the pace. The mentality was one of time-trialing, and I felt more like I was running a workout and trying to hit splits than flowing and racing. I think that really I should have gone out with the first group, even if the pace was a bit hot and let them pull me. Maybe that would have gotten me more in a race mode.

So, instead of flowing at 4:56, I felt like I was pushing it to run 5:00. I kept hitting 76s, which was just strange, given how easy that pace had felt earlier in the week. I had some stomach issues during the day and before the race, so I think my body was not quite at its best. Instead of responding to this and settling back and taking what the day gave me, I continued to force my original plan on the race. This was a recipe for frustration, so by halfway through the race, I was pretty much mentally done.

At a little more than a mile to go, a fellow Nashville runner Jacob Carrigan--who had been smartly just sitting in and letting me do the work (he was focused on racing, not pacing)--made a strong move around me. I was too firmly entrenched in my mid-race pity party to go with him, so I just let him go. The last few laps, I really wanted to drop out, but even though I had mentally cashed out, I clicked them off and was able to finish. I'm glad I didn't take the DNF.

The low point of the night was during the race. Afterwards, it was really fun to hang out with Van and all the Nashville trackies who had come out to the meet. The highlights of the meet were watching Stephanie Garcia win the steeple and seeing Anthony Whiteman become the first 40 year old to break 4:00 for the mile outdoors. Van and I spoke with Whiteman just after the race, and he was pretty pumped up. He said the key to his success was not thinking about pace at all, but getting in fast races and going for the win. This from a guy who had just broken a major time threshold--not just for himself, but for the world.

Stephanie Garcia, yep.
So, even though the running gods--the fickle dicks--smote me pretty good in the race, they were not totally unkind. They reminded me that the key to running well is not chasing times, but getting in the hunt and competing.

I'm looking forward now to rebooting a bit, doing less track training and more easy running on the roads. I had a great easy 6 miles last night that reminded me that racing is only part of why I love this sport. It's awesome to run fast, but it's also nice to simply run, it's nice to geek out over training, and it's even fun to hammer intervals on the track with your friends. Do we do these things for the race? Or do we race in order to do these things? Good thing we don't have to decide.

Oh--and one last new milestone: it's pretty cool to feel like I have to right to be disappointed with a 16:00 clocking.



  1. Sounds as though you learned a valuable lesson about racing. Congrats on a fine performance, even if it wasn't as great as you had hoped! Good luck preparing for the next one! - One random thought: I was taken aback when I read how you had so easily nailed the proper pace earlier in the week. Is it possible you trained too hard in the week leading up to the race, and showed up a bit tired? Just something to consider.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Marius. I actually backed off quite a bit for this race, and my legs felt good during it. I think the stomach issues bothered me a bit. That workout was a light workout--and one I had done before other races with pretty good results.

      There is a chance that I've tried to extend this "season" a bit too long, since I've been racing since December...

      Cheers--and thanks as always for reading.

  2. Great report. I enjoyed the MCDC as well, but I was sorry your race didn't go the way you'd hoped.

    I thought this statement was profound: "the key to running well is not chasing times, but getting in the hunt and competing."

  3. I (sort of) had the opposite experience last weekend - I planned on meeting an ambitious time goal by sticking with a pace, but got lured into racing. The running gods rewarded me... this time.

    Congrats on an excellent disappointing 5000m! Your next victory will be that much sweeter.

  4. "Oh--and one last new milestone: it's pretty cool to feel like I have to right to be disappointed with a 16:00 clocking."

    Jeff - this was my immediate reaction after I asked you how the race went. Congrats on a great season, and I'm pulling for you to build on it this summer/fall! I like hearing what you took away from the race, even if it didn't live up to expectation.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Jeff, I only recently found your blog. I've been enjoying reading some of the older posts. As you say, 16-flat is fine for a disappointing race. Enjoyed the video of Whiteman - beautiful experience shown there - loved how he hung off the early pace. Great run!


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