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Road to Clemson: Unforgettable Experience

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

Being back at school is bittersweet. Returning back to classes last week was rough. I had three tests, a huge research paper due and playing catch up for my classes. Not long ago, I was having so much fun.

If you would have asked me before college where I would see myself in three years, I wouldn't have ever dreamed that I would be going to the 2015 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships. All in all, I had the time of my life.

texas tech team roster

We left for Clemson with seven teammates, eight bikes, a minivan, a truck and enough snacks to go around. Before we left, a teammate who wasn’t going with us brought us little goodie bags for the way up. We left Wednesday afternoon from Lubbock and drove to Dallas, which is around 400 miles. We stayed at a team member’s house and got some sleep before we woke up at 5 a.m. to get on the road for the remaining 13-hour, 900-mile drive. Of course the car ride up was filled with bonding, jokes, naps, stories and fun. When we arrived in Clemson on Thursday it was getting late. One of our team members was going to compete in the draft-legal race the next morning, so we headed to bed. Morning got there quick, and we enjoyed cheering on our teammate through the swim leg. We ran to watch him in transition, and when we got there, we were surprised to see him standing there alone. Just him, his bike and a very flat tire. If you have a flat in a draft-legal race, you are finished. So a little bit of a disappointment, but just a small setback!

texas tech triathlonThe rest of the day was picking up our race packets, getting our gear and checking out the expo. The area set aside for transition and the expo was a lot bigger than I was expecting. It was cool to see each college have their own little canopy set up along the finish line to cheer on the athletes.

We got to have some swim practice time, and being from Texas, the water was pretty chilly for us.  Friday couldn’t have been a more gorgeous day in Clemson. The sun was out and we just got to chill and relax on the Clemson University beach area.

Later that evening we went to a team pasta dinner with other teams. It was good and our bellies were full.

We went back to the hotel and got our race numbers on things like our bike, bibs and ourselves and then headed to sleep. The alarm clock went off at 4 a.m., which Texas time was 3 a.m. Yikes. We were greeted outside by precipitation. We loaded up our bikes and gear and headed to transition. We arrived and unloaded and set up transition. It was misting and sprinkling, covering everything in a nice coat of rain.

The national anthem was sung. Race time was about to begin.

The first men’s wave went, followed by the next wave, until all five waves had begun. After the mile swim, we headed to transition to take off our wetsuit as fast as possible to put on wet socks and wet shoes. The rain picked up and speeding downhill on the bike it hit and stung the skin. It felt like a Lubbock dirt storm. We then hopped off the bike and threw our wet running shoes on to complete the last section — the run.

The women went about three hours after the men and all of us racing got to now watch others in their elements. We got to be the supporters and spectators.

texas techNothing is unusual about the race itself; it is standard distances for an Olympic triathlon, standard equipment and gear, and somewhat standard conditions to race in.

But the atmosphere is really different. An announcer giving play-by-play of the top athletes. Cheering. Yelling. It is crazy.

Crossing the finish line will be a memory that I will not soon forget.

Overall, we got to enjoy beautiful Clemson, South Carolina. We drove over 2,500 miles. Saturday night after the race, we went to explore Clemson University and enjoyed a concert there that just happened to be going on. We all had a strange feeling, like we were freshman again. I guess at that moment I realized home wasn't a geographical place anymore — home is when you are with people you enjoy and care about. This past weekend, I was home. My incredible teammates aren't super athletes who are going professional. We are just some kids who have an itch for racing. But I think that made it even more fun. We got to cheer on other teams and make friends with other triathletes from all over the nation. We are so blessed to have a great team with such a strong sense of community. That even includes all of the support we received from our teammates who stayed in Lubbock, friends, families, sponsors and professors. We also can’t forget about another university. This past year we have made so many friends with the University of Texas at Austin’s Tri team. They are some of the coolest people we have met. We had a great time having them be a part of our USAT Collegiate Nationals experience.

Two of their members told me things that I just have to share.
“It is so cool to be able to go across the country and still meet people I’m proud to call new friends.”
“I love how supportive everyone is in this sport, no matter what school we are from.”

brad shineThose two sentences completely describe what I feel.

I can’t help but to thank God for all that he has done in my life, including this community of racers. As I post my race number up on my wall with all of the others, I can’t help but think, "Crap — this is one of the best moments of my life."

Now that nationals are over, our racing season is officially over.

So when does training for next year begin? Hahahaha, practice started the day we got back, at the normal time.

See you in Clemson next year, but hopefully faster.

Stay Areo and Tri Hard,
Brad Shine
Texas Tech University
Triathlon Team

Learn more about Brad’s Road to Clemson in his first and second posts for the USA Triathlon Championships Blog.