31 May 2012

Race Report Writing: The Story of the Race

After the Build Up (part 1), you now have your audience just where you want them, willing to accept almost anything you write as fact and sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to learn how you overcame harsh weather, wild animal attacks, and fierce competition comprised of probably the best athletes in the world.  Or, they're just reading further in the hopes that you fell off a cliff and are now flying piecemeal in the bellies of several vultures.  Either way, you have to give the performance of your life over the next few paragraphs that make up the bulk of your race report:  The Race itself - part 2 of How to Write An Amazing Race Report.

And they're off!  "I woke up for this?"
I try to get the start of the race over with right away.  Not many people want to bother reading boring shit about standing around in the dark, freezing your ass off while feeling like you could have nervous explosive diarrhea at any second.  So I usually just say something like, "The RD got us started."  Pretty intense, I know, but let's be honest, unless it's a highly competitive 5k that starts ten feet away from a narrow single track that forces everyone to claw their neighbor's eyeballs out to get to the trail first, starts are fairly boring.  And 100 milers?  Yeah, watch those electrifying starts if you run out of sleeping pills.  A bunch of white, hairy legs (unless Anton happens to ever race again) shuffling along at shopping mall speed-walking pace.

In fact, for 100 mile reports, unless something cool happens like your shoe falls apart or you fall in a lake, there really isn't much action.  I typically just say, I eased into a good pace (plodding) and focused on hydration and fuel (drank and ate).  Using words like "focused", "hydration", "fuel" make it sound more race-like when all you're really doing is trying not to be a newbie-looking moron running 7 min pace in the first 2% of a 100 mile event.

"Goddamn, my feet hurt.  And I haven't seen another runner in 14 hours."
By mile 35 (or about 1/3 into your race), things pick up a bit because pain begins to emerge.  And, of course, we all love to see suffering.  This is where you can break out your thesaurus and flower up the descriptions of your maladies (I looked up maladies).  Your feet are going to be hurting by now.  You just spent 6-7 or more hours on them, so, big surprise there.  Saying, "my feet hurt" sounds like a whiny little girl.  Saying, "Suddenly, it felt as though Thor himself was thundering away with his hammer on the bones of my tumescent (thesaurus) feet!"  Anyone reading that would say, "Hell yeah, the dude had a God beating him to death."  Also, I used an exclamation point there.  You might assume that exclamation points are the way to go in race reports, you know! to express how awesome you and the race are!!!  No.  It just ends up sounding like an old man yelling at your readers after about 3,000 "!"s, so just play it cool and throw one in once in a while just to keep people awake.

Competition is always a great topic.  Unfortunately, I run a lot of races with like 13 people running and spread out like three national park rangers at Yosemite.  Justification for talking about competition is easy to find, though.  For instance, in the entrants list on Ultrasignup, if there are any people within 10% of your performance score, then he/she qualifies as "stiff competition".  For instance, my current score is 88.6%.  If I see the lady below me on the list has a score of 85%, I can deem her "near-elite", even if she only ran two 8 mile trail races in Owasso Michigan to get that score.

If you're lucky enough to actually see another runner during the race, then you have the makings of a tight race.  "I glanced over my shoulder at mile 82 and saw Mildred breathing down my neck.  She looked strong."  Never mind that you saw her two canyons and about 3 miles away from you and that she was lying next to the trail apparently not moving.  You had to put the hammer down to put distance on her late charge.  Whatever.  Making shit up is ok, too.  Look at Amy Sproston, World Champion 100k this year.  People made it sound like she had her legs chopped off and sewn back on the night before the race.  She had a blood clot that got fixed like 90 years before the race and was training like 220 miles a week, lapping Hal Koerner on mountains up in the Northwest somewhere.  The point is that she got street cred that was a 10x cooler than the truth.  She also obviously read part 1 (The Build Up) of my report because she got other people to say the cool stuff about her.

The finish, especially of a 100 miler, is about as dramatic as a pair of socks.  If you're lucky enough to even be walking, then you can find ways to make it sound heroic.  Getting lost is good for a couple purposes.  One, suddenly there's a chance you may die of dehydration or starve.  Two, you just added 10 miles (always double whatever distance you actually covered while lost) to your already inhumane race, making you seem almost like a robot that doesn't bend (or cry) like a real human.

"Hey, look at me you two people, I just ran 100 miles."
If the Race Director is even awake (if it's Leland Barker at the Bear 100, chances are that he isn't), throw him your camera and tell him to just keep taking photos until you tell him to stop.  This is your chance to muster all seven calories you have left in your body and break into a 14 minute per mile sprint, gel wrappers flying out of your pockets, tears streaming, dried poop on the inside of your legs, while you cross the finish line.  Make sure you delete the photos of you crumpled to the ground with a pool of your own vomit around your head like some homeless angel halo.

Next:  The Conclusion (thanking every person in your life you've ever met or seen on TV).

13 comments:

  1. Awesome continuation. Could you set up a Mad-libs type framework so we can save time writing race reports?

    Another trick to tighten the conclusion, besides arbitrary competition, is arbitrary time and place goals. Top 3 or 5 is too hard for me, so it's nice to find a justification for larger numbers:
    "I could barely manage to stumble and see straight, but by God, now that I was in the top 13, there was no way I was going to give it up and lose my streak of finishing in a prime number finishing position, which I've held for the *last 13 races*! (yup, exclamation point)"

    Then there are always time goals, which goes hand-in-hand with the sandbagging setup, so that when we don't actually reach our secret "A" goal, we pretend the "B" goal was the one we were aiming for all along, and it becomes an epic achievement.

    Anyway, I like what you're doing here -- pretty fun. Carry on, and see you in California in a few weeks I guess! OOOhhh -- how about a *pacer* report???

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  2. I hope you have already started to draft your Hardrock 2012 race report. It's gonna be hard to top 2011's report. And for the "story of the race" don't forget to include the obligatory references to:

    -getting lost and losing at least XX minutes trying to find the route again

    -the epic conditions this year (choose one or more): snowstorm, heat, cold, high stream crossings, etc.

    -some completely unexpected event: wild animal encounter, lost your shoe or water bottle over a cliff

    But please, please don't report how many times you had to go poo in the woods!!

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  3. Horrifying!! (hey, it was in the Thesaurus under awesome). Best one yet, loved it. You are on a roll. I second Mike's mad-libs idea.

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  4. Great read indeed! I will certainly use a quote or two from here in my next report. I've also noticed people like to read about the thin air at high altitude and definitely wild animals. I'm from Africa so people always expect me to encounter some huge cats and elephants.

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  5. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

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  6. Thanks for the laugh this morning! (Exclamation mark indicating sincere appreciation.)

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  7. That's some funny stuff Tim.

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  8. Love it!

    I use to always have a few paragraphs of excuses of why I sucked and ran so terrible (bad hips, head cold, got lost, gut problems, my vagina hurt). Come to think of it...my race reports were only a few paragraphs long so pretty much the entire report was an excuse! ha!

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  9. The problem now is how are you going to top this? You're actually gonna have to either get gored by a mountain goat or shit out an intestine to give your HR RR cred. Good luck with either!

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  10. Priceless!
    I'm so inspired by your advice and wisdom that I'm writing a race report in my head as I drive to the Pocatello 50, even though the race doesn't happen until tomorrow. The fact that my race report will have been written before the race doesn't make it fictional, does it??

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  11. Beautifully crafted piece. The foreshadowing of nervous diarrhea in the opening kept this reader on the edge of his seat. Is it going to happen...is it...is it? Sure enough it's on his inner thighs...the horror. He clearly ate too much maltodextrin- the stuff is flying out of his pockets. Brilliant in not over indulging the audience in describing our hero's eruption. Every other blog in the blogosphere would have tactlessly gone on and on about the details of corn and peanuts, poison oak to wipe, getting a hip flexor cramp while squatting and falling in the mess, etc. We've all read it a million times. You take the higher ground. Like Hitchcock's Psycho in the shower murder scene, where the camera famously pans to the drain. Leaves something to the imagination. Artfully done!
    Stay Vertical, Race Report Critic

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  12. I just deleted my blog, can't live up to this. From now on I'll just cut-and-paste yours, change the event name, add about 10.5 hours to the finish time, and wait for the two comments that predictably get posted.

    You've yet to shamelessly plug your many sponsors; you can't simply think "hydration" and "fuel" suggest competition, you need brand-names and logos... can't just save that for the gear list and thank yous.

    Great work, enjoying it...

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  13. quite comical and fun to read... Glad you had fun at Pbville with the rest of us, hope to see ya coming down Hope on my way up.

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