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Bears, Badgers, and Bikes

(Athletics, Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2025) Permanent link   All Posts
Mack Bucki

Phew! My last post of the semester- it has all gone by so fast! I decided to end with a bang by writing about my experience at US Collegiate Club Triathlon Nationals. After months of training for the event, myself and twelve others on the USCGA Tri Team made the trip down to Lake Lanier, GA. I was glad I had my teammates. I would have gotten lost in the Atlanta Airport’s corn-mazed terminals without their navigation skills!

After landing in ATL, we drove an hour north to our rental house in Dawsonville. The cottage, with four floors, a lakeside view, and exercise room, was a triathlete’s paradise. It was all made possible by our coach, LT Lukasik. She planned our itinerary with such intricacy that we hardly had to do any scheduling of our own. LT might be leaving the academy at the end of this semester, but she will always be one of my biggest role models. The ”road to nationals” was largely attributed to her hard work- none of this would have been possible without her.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to race in the mixed team relay (MTR) with three of my teammates. This unique event, which typically isn’t offered at races, involves four legs- a 300m swim, 5k bike, and 800m run. Each member of the team (two males, two females) completes the distance, competing against other squads for the quickest time. We placed 26th in a stacked field- beating 12 DI/II club teams. It was quite a success, but the real challenge was Saturday- the individual race.

Compared to sprint, the long-distance triathlon is its own beast. This event, dubbed the “Olympic”, exists because someone thought that it was a good idea to put a 1500m swim, 24.8mi bike, and 10k run together. If this wasn’t enough, the sheer number of universities competing in this event was insane. The whole Big 10 Conference, ACC, and several other big-name schools were represented. With over 50 racers, it seemed like the Wisconsin Badgers had brought at least half of their state’s population!

In fact, there were so many in the race that they had to split us into ten heats (five men, five women). I entered the water in heat one and felt like ______. Despite being kicked, punched, pulled, and everything between, I survived the 44.5 (degree)F dash. The bike and run that followed was killer, but the beautiful scenery of the resort made up for it. Well, sorta. My shins weren’t that impressed.

Nonetheless, my sore joints did not detract from the fun I had this weekend. Having the opportunity to compete at such a large-scale race this semester was hands down my favorite part of 4/c year. Despite being the only DIII squad at the race, we certainly held our own. No USCGA bears finished last- some of us set personal best times! And, most importantly, everybody finished (no broken bikes)! We celebrated with a team cookout, plenty of ping pong, and a little bit of (necessary) calculus II homework.

The race slate for the triathlon team this upcoming semester is as ambitious as ever. We have several conference events on the schedule along with a regional competition. If all goes to planned, we should be making our way back to nationals in exactly 365 days. It was great to experience the race once, but these bears are still hungry!

Until next year, Lake Lanier!