Lauren Bussian, 24, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, is set to compete at her fifth and final USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships in Clemson, South Carolina, on April 22-23. But the physical therapy student’s road to the race hasn’t been easy. Between her clinical rotation, school work and necessary daily tasks, Bussian struggles to find time to train on a consistent basis. We managed to find time during her lead-up to race day to talk about life as a busy student-athlete.
USA Triathlon: You’ve done over 50 multisport races. How did you first get started with the sport?
Lauren Bussian: I got started when I was 13. As a cross-country runner and year-round swimmer, I encountered a lot of overuse injuries during the swim and run seasons. My dad introduced me to triathlons for cross-training initially, but I immediately fell in love with racing triathlons. My dad always describes the huge grin I had on my face after running out of my first open water swim at a triathlon in Delaware.
USAT: What is your favorite discipline and which one do you hope to improve on?
LB: I love running. There’s something to be said about that feeling you get when you push past your threshold and really grit down on a good run. Biking has never come really easily to me. There’s a lot of preparation to finally getting onto the bike, whereas with running you can just put your shoes on and go. But once I’m on the bike, I find that I really enjoy it.
USAT: Why do you tri?
LB: I do it because I love having goals in my life. Having competitive goals in triathlons translates to working toward goals in my professional life too, which has been great for me in pursuing PT.
USAT: You have a busy life. How do you find time to train?
LB: Honestly, I didn’t find the time at first. I needed a break after racing for basically eight years and having no idea what to expect from my doctoral program. I took two years off of triathlons in order to focus on the PT program, and during those two years, I missed triathlons fiercely. So this past year I decided to make triathlons work with my PT schedule — especially since it was my last year of collegiate eligibility.
USAT: This is your fifth Collegiate Club Nationals. How has your experience at the race changed since your first time?
LB: My first CCNC race was in Lubbock, Texas, the year it rained buckets and many people caught the norovirus from the lake swim. That was definitely a learning experience for me. I tried to wear a windbreaker on the bike to keep warm, but that ended up being so much drag for 25 miles. My most recent experience was my senior year of undergraduate, which was the first year of the draft-legal race. I competed in both the draft-legal and the Olympic-distance event the next day, which was so much fun. I’ll be doing both again this year, so it will be interesting to compare.
USAT: How do you share your experiences with younger members of VCU’s team?
LB: It’s been difficult to be there physically with the team since I’m out of town on clinical rotations for my PT program now. But I’ve been able to talk at team meetings about my experience with CCNC and how involvement in a USAT collegiate club is different from racing individually at triathlon events. VCU is growing: I just helped us get set up as a USAT collegiate club and with the Mid-Atlantic Conference this past year. I’m hoping that my passion for the uniqueness of this experience will drive more VCU students to participate at the national competition.
For more on of the Collegiate Club National Championships, such as a live blog, social story and other features and news, visit the 2016 coverage page.