Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to write a race report that people will read

I started writing race reports when I first started at Texas A&M years ago so that I could let my parents know how my races went.  Eventually, I began sending them to the team listserve for everybody to read.  Race reports are a great way to share your racing experience with others...when done properly.

The first thing to realize is that most people who will read your report do so as a means of procrastination--either from work, school, or what have you, and they want to be entertained.  When's the last time you read an entertaining report?  "Race report" is a bit of a misnomer, really, as what you should be doing is telling a story.

Telling an attention-grabbing story is not too complicated.  If you've ever written a lab report for school, just do the opposite: use 10 words when 5 will do; write in first person; complex sentence structures are okay; literary devices are fun!  And please, for heaven's sake, use at least passable grammar and spelling!

Without further ado, I shall give a quick--and hopefully entertaining--synopsis of my race season thus far.

Copperas Cove

My first race of the new year is always a nervous affair.  Have I done enough in the off season?  Too much?  How will I handle the intensity?  It's been a long time since I rode in a pack, will I be the guy that sketches everyone out?

The answers came quickly: Yes; No; Well; No.

Most of the course was inconsequential, save for Harmon road.  This potholed, narrow, ragged road was fully exposed to the stiff crosswinds from the south, and I knew it would become the decisive point in the race.  On the first of two laps through, the field chaotically fought through the winds with the group breaking up at points, but quickly regrouped after the turn into the headwind.  From then onward, nothing much happened.  Everyone was biding time for the next time through.  That's when the pain would really come.

Just as expected, Elbowz Racing (the largest team in the field) organized at the front when we hit the crosswinds and put the field into the gutter.  It wasn't long before the field started splintering, as riders exposed to the wind could find no shelter.  I had worked hard for my position, but still found myself a few riders back from where I should have been.  My heart thundered in my chest, screaming from the first maximum intensity effort in months and my legs became heavier with the leaden, burning, sensation I hadn't felt for some time.  I was blown.

But I wasn't the only one. I quickly slipped back into a rapidly growing chase group, and we feverishly pursued the leaders just seconds ahead.  We finally made contact ten miles from the finish, right as the winning breakaway slipped off.  I continued the chase to no avail and finished 10th.

Tour of New Braunfels

Shane and I spent the weekend in San Marcos with an old school friend Danny and his wife Callie.  I arrived Friday afternoon, and Danny took me on a short ride to remind me just how desolate and flat College Station was.

The next morning, the circuiterium was barely long enough to get warmed up, much less wear people out. That meant my efforts to get away from the field were short lived, and it didn't help that nobody recognized me in my new kit and gear.  Unsurprisingly, it came down to a field sprint.  With everyone fresh, it proved to be sketchy as all get-out.  But no matter, I was in the wrong position to contend the sprint anyways.

The road race would be a different story.  Intense winds were buffeting us on the start line, and the fight for position commenced immediately.  Just a few miles into the race, I slipped off the front with 2 riders from 787 racing, aided by my newfound anonymity.  I had hoped to stay ahead of the splintering field and have the race-winning break come up to us later on. Several miles later, another group did make it up to us but the field was soon to catch. Recovering from my efforts, I slipped back in the pack thinking that a break would not get away for another lap or two.

I was wrong.

From my vantage point near the back of the field, I saw it get away.  Blackgrove, Wenger, Wheeler, Rothe, Dahlheim, Kremke, and more comprised the break.  That's the race, I thought.  I fought my way to the front, where many riders were looking at each other to see who would bring it back.  There are times in a race to be tactical, and times to go all in; this was the latter.  I wasted no time in launching off the front, and a minute and a half later was in a chase group pursuing the leaders.  Our chase was so intense that our group quickly fell to just 5 riders, and we clawed to within spitting distance of the others but could not close it down.

And just like that, my race ended only 30 miles in.  Unwilling to drop out, I pedaled the second half unhappily.  To make a bad day worse, the field's blatant disregard for the centerline earned us all a DQ anyways--a bad taste that would remain for a week until Walburg.

Those ended up longer than expected (should have seen it coming, really...), so I'll get Walburg and Pace Bend Reports  stories up later this week.