Renee Black - Hammer Olympic

Hammer Time!

I once again decided to open my triathlon race season with the hammer olympic distance triathlon in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Typically the first race of the season is a time to clear away the cobwebs and get back into the flow of racing. But this race had an asterisk. I had ended my 2017 season at Age Group Nationals. I finished mid pack in my age group. That left me with a strong desire to work hard in the out-season and get back there in 2018. But there was a problem, I hadn’t qualified for 2018. Hello asterisk*

Race morning. I woke up before my alarm went off ready to tackle the day. I sat up, looked at my phone, and quickly realized it was 1:05 AM. Oops. Probably should try and go back to sleep for a bit longer. Three hours later then alarm went off and I was ready to go.

I was the first one to arrive at the race site. I’ve never done that before. Can we say anxious much? I got a prime transition spot, checked in, and went through the usual pre-race warm ups without a hitch. I made my way to water’s edge to listen to pre-race announcements while simultaneously preforming the ever so seductive wet suit struggle dance. By this time the hubs was there ready to clap, cheer, snap all the photos and hold all the things. I gave him a big neoprene scented hug and slowly made my way into the 67 degree water. 

I’m a cold water weenie so when I first got in I was not a happy camper. Everyone around me was hanging out in the water, having casual conversations and I’m over here trying to blow bubbles and control my shivering. After a couple of deep breaths I dove in and made my way to the first buoy for a swim warm up. After that, no more shivering! Yay! 

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The race fields for the sprint and the Olympic were small. So, instead of the typical separation of men and women we all went together in one big mass start. The sprinters went off first and I made my way to the yellow boom. Surprisingly, the start was pretty uneventful. I took a few seconds to let the fast dudes go and started my race. The swim to the first buoy felt great. I felt strong and very much in control. No real contact of any kind. Then I started having trouble sighting. I found myself swimming off course. I was losing my rhythm and my focus. By the time I got close to shore I really couldn’t see anyone in front of me. Here I was in very familiar territory. One of the last ones out of the water with a lot of ground to make up.

T1 was smooth and I was more than happy to be on my bike. I am very familiar with this course. Lots of rollers and unpredictable wind. Seven miles into a solid ride I did something I haven’t done since the first time I clipped into a road bike 7 years ago… I dropped my chain. I quickly pulled over, calmly put my chain back on and got going again. On the way back to T2 the wind began to pick up. I backed off my gear a bit and settled into a higher cadence. I pulled into T2 having made up some ground and ready to run. I wouldn’t realize until after the race I had just PR’d that bike by over three and a half minutes.

Hammer2018.jpg

T2 was quick and I was off on the run. It was a cool and overcast day. Excellent running conditions. Right as I started my run I was greeted with footsteps. A gentlemen pulled up next to me. He had just finished the bike as well and was headed out for the 2 loop course. We seemed to be keeping similar pace and for the next 3 miles we ran together step for step. As we were going out for lap two he picked up his pace. Looking back I should have as well. I didn’t meet my goal of negative splitting the 2 loops, but I still managed to improve my run time from last year! My 2 goals going into this race were to do well enough to requalify and improve my overall time. I am proud to say I was successful on both accounts! 

This is my sixth season of triathlon. I continue to enjoy the process of improving. Even more I enjoy watching others around me improve and gain confidence. I am learning to not get too bogged down by the lows and not too over-inflated with the highs. This out-season has made friendships sweeter and bonds have been strengthened. If you will allow it, triathlon and its awesome community will change you for the better. 

A big thank you to my husband, family, friends, team, coach and sponsors for all their support and encouragement!