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Road to Clemson

By Brad Shine | April 06, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

Brad Shine
First-year triathlete Brad Shine prepares for the 2015 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club Nationals. Photo by Stuart Davison.

USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships are less than one month away. This past October, I ran my first race and now I’m headed to compete with the best collegiate triathletes in the nation. A lot can happen in a short amount of time. I am so excited to see what’s in store at Clemson. These past months have been filled with races, practices and training. Hours upon hours of physical endurance trying to be the best we can be. Some people ask, “Is it worth it?”  and others, “What is your best part in a triathlon?” Many will answer with swim or bike or run. For me though, I would say none of those. Not because I’m not good at any part, but that’s not my BEST part. My best part of a triathlon is others.

So is it worth it? Are we crazy? What are we racing for?

I race to compete. I race to have fun. I race for my faith. I race to enjoy others.  I race because I like doing what I think I can’t do. I like knowing what it feels like to be weak, so I know how to get strong. But most importantly, I like racing and sharing the experience with people that I care about. After all, what’s the point of doing something you love, if you aren’t with people you love?

When headed to Clemson, triathletes and myself HAVE to remember, we didn’t get here by ourselves. Not even close.

This year alone, our team is thankful for each other, friends, families, race officials, tow truck drivers, Boy Scouts, random fans on the sidelines and countless others. Who knows where we would be without them.

collegiate triathlon
Brad looks forward to experiencing Collegiate Club Nationals alongside his teammates. Photo by Bob DeFazio.

As an athlete, you find out something really quickly. The thing is, not everyone can be a winner. In “Talladega Nights,” Will Ferrell’s character Ricky Bobby says, “If you aren’t first, you are last.”

Yes, Nationals is a time of competition, but also a time to make friends and build relationships with others. We are heading to Clemson, coming from different places, with different backgrounds, but we all share one thing in common.  When we get there, we are all triathletes and we are all teammates.

The thing Ricky Bobby didn’t get is, no one comes in last.

We are not just athletes, we are TRI-athletes. That extra “try” means we are held to another standard. Yes we are competing in three different sports, but there is something else:

Great athletes INSPIRE others. Great athletes ENCOURAGE others. Great athletes BUILD each other up.

But not everything we do makes sense.

“Talladega Nights” quotes. GroupMe conversations. Dodgeball. All-you-can eat pasta nights at Olive Garden.  Making friends with people because the only thing you have in common is that you both have sweet bikes.

These are things that people will never understand.

But I think everyone can relate to times where you laughed so hard, you can’t help but to think, WOW, these are the good times I will never forget.

So as we prepare for the final stretch before Clemson, let’s think about what we are racing for. Let’s build each other up to be the best we can be, whether that be as triathletes, friends or just strangers waiting to be known.

Let’s tell each other we have sweet bikes and cool running shoes, and “OMG I love that flavor of GU, too” and ask each other about our schools and majors and other stereotypical college introductions.

This is college. Let’s be friends and have fun.