On Race Report Weirdness
I miss race reports. I miss racing, too, of course, but I also miss reading race reports. The impressions gathered from the race course as well as the odd reflections that bubble up while racing are fascinating. I've been rereading old ones from clients and colleagues lately as a substitute for having honest-to-goodness real races on the calendar. They're all great and they all make me miss racing.
Many triathletes miss the opportunity for deeper reflection in these reports. They (we) tend to skip over (or edit out) details of internal monologues in favor of delineating mechanics, technique, nutrition, hydration, gearing, and even pacing in hyper-ultra-high-def-resolution. Thing is, all those technical details, while important, are unique to every athlete based on their individual ability and training and experience. Therefore, all those technical details are arguably the least usable information to others!
The good stuff? The good stuff shows up in the honest internal monologues, the mind-body negotiations, and the mysterious details that linger, sometimes forming unforgettable impressions that last well beyond the finish chute. Yet how do most race reports read?
The giant choir belting out Beethoven's 9th while starting the run..."Came out of T2. Felt good."
Evil little nags whispering you are too old, too young, too fat, too lean... "Negative chatter around mile eight."
Special little details (the rooster tail hissing off a bike in the rain, for example)... "Dealt with other bikes in the light rain."
Power through. Toughen up. Bear down. Better to be vague and safe. Why share details? What makes THAT the good stuff? Well, it's because regardless of experience or athleticism or pace we ALL have those ups and downs during a race. The truth is that most of us fear exposing our vulnerabilities. Feels overly dramatic and random, like those reality show cutaways.
Maybe it's hard to explain why or how some random image from the race got stuck in your head. Don't explain. Just be honest. Sure it's scary to share honestly. Because that honest impression--no matter how "weird" or irrational or just plain odd it may seem--is precisely the most real, the most connective thing we share as triathletes, as humans.
That honesty--YOUR honesty--is much more interestingly human and compelling and just more IMPORTANT than the most accurately measured and precisely captured data.
Most of us will never lay down the watts Lionel Sanders lays down on the bike, for example.
But knowing we all play similar internal mind games with ourselves and soak up similar details while racing? Priceless. Inspiring. Communal.
I'm not saying draft a race report while racing. That's just losing focus. I'm saying there's room for the panoramic view. Yes we want to race well. Yes we want to stay in the moment. Yes we want to avoid tunnel vision. (Actually, that's a potentially dangerous problem to avoid at all costs anyway.)
Yes to all of that. Then. Also...
Accept the wider view. Let the details form their impressions. Take in what the race is giving you. Make room for the "weird" stuff.
When some other racer or a volunteer or road section or tree or cloud forms an impression that pops up later, DO leave it in the report. When one of those "random" impressions generates some "inexplicable" emotion, leave the random inexplicable in. Races give us more than just a course to complete. Take EVERYTHING the race gives.
When it really comes down to it, we can talk about holding a certain pace for a certain distance anytime. The random inexplicable moments of connection that happen during a race is really what's missing.