Loss of events changes focus for local athletes

Seal Beach woman goes from triathlons to #trainforlife

Sherry Rennard, center, is pictured with some of her teammates at the La Quinta 70.3 Ironman team race in December 2019, last Ironman race before COVID shutdown. Courtesy photo

When COVID restrictions began, nearly a year ago, gyms and exercise studios were among the most restricted facilities. For some, it may have been a welcomed respite from the workout routine. I may have felt like a nice break.

But for those who push themselves to bigger challenges, the restrictions put a big part of their lives on hold. For people like Sherry Boston Rennard, a Seal Beach resident and triathlete and marathon runner those restrictions and loss of events took away her lifestyle.

Rennard, 59, has been doing triathlons and running marathons for more than 20 years. She is triathlon coach, who trains others with her training business, Team Elite. For Rennard and her colleagues, training is a lifestyle, but the events are the focus. When the events shut down (and have yet to return) Rennard, and people like her, lost the carrot. And there is only so long they can hit themselves with the stick.

“If you’re wired this way you just need to have some sort of direction,” Rennard said.

At the start of 2020, Rennard and her team of 60 athletes started the year by running the Surf City Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday. Rennard herself had completed the Avalon 50k run in January, a yearly tradition for some of her team. She was the top female finisher in her age bracket. In the first week of March, she competed in the Bayshore 70.3 mile triathlon in San Diego. About a week later, she was in Solvang for the Century Bike Race, a 100-mile race. That event was cancelled the day before the race.

“That’s when the reality hit,” Rennard said.

Gone in a flash were gyms, group training sessions, pools and the events that helped motivate the athletes. Rennard and her team were on their own. They “hunkered down” and began training on their own at home. But for the triathlete community there is more than just working out. It’s a social gathering as much as a workout group and the group soon began to feel the loss.

“People were going crazy,” Rennard said.

So like so many others, the group began to adjust. They organized virtual group bike rides, which use an app that allows cyclers in their homes to ride the same courses on stationary bikes, at their own pace. They began to organize small group runs, using masks and keeping safe social distance. Soon they began setting up small self-supported race events, which they refer to as DIY events. Rennard has set up her own personal swim challenges, as she is lucky enough to have access to a personal pool. The swim challenges are a way for her to motivate herself. And she also incorporates a medal and a t-shirt.

Slowly, the group has found ways to get back to a semblance of their routine. Those who are comfortable with getting out are back to having group rides, making sure to keep their distance.

“When the lockdown first started, we stopped doing our Saturday group rides, but by late summer we were back out on the roads, wearing our buffs and keeping our distance,” Rennard said.

With the new year has come new hope. Rennard and her group are hopeful that events will return this year. Some of their cancelled 2020 events were deferred to 2021 and they are holding out hope that they will find a way to make those happen. Until then, they will continue to train as though they will, she said.

Rennard has completed more than 20 marathons, including Boston (three times), New York and Chicago. She has completed dozens of triathlons, including first place finishes in her age group at the Kona Ironman World Championship. In addition to coaching for Team Elite, she teaches indoor cycling classes. She said she loves teaching those classes. Of course, they have not happened in nearly a year.

Sherry Rennard is pictured at the Ironman Arizona 2016 when she won her age group and earned an entry at the Kona Ironman World Championship. Courtesy Photo

“I don’t think I will ever return to teaching indoor cycling classes. We live in a different world now,” Rennard said.

But until the events return, Rennard said the group has adopted a new motto – #trainforlife. So far, gatherings at restaurants and each others’ home to celebrate events have not returned. But the group has mixed in some Zoom Happy Hours, which she said seemed to help. As much as the training, she said the social aspect has become a big part of the lifestyle.

She said the Team Elite name does not refer to the athletes, as much as the training focus. She said the group ranges from serious competitors to weekend warriors. For Rennard, she had been scaling back on triathlons, but after her father passed away last year, she signed up for two this year in his honor. She is hopeful they will be able to go off as planned. It’s a hope shared by her community. And they’ll keep training for it.

“We’re trying and we’re excited about 2021,” Rennard said.