On Saturday, April 13, four MIT triathlon club athletes competed in the USAT Collegiate National Championship in Tempe, Arizona. The event was like none other — there were over 1000 athletes from 108 schools from around the country who were excited, nervous, and exhilarated all at the same time. For the MIT club, most races occur during the summer and fall against other northeast collegiate teams, so an early-season April race was a great way to kick off the local season.
On Thursday, when it was 37 degrees and raining in Boston, Tempe reached 90 degrees and the sun never stopped shining. The weather stayed constant for Saturday, when the team had their competition. This was an Olympic distance race, which means it consisted of a 1.5 kilometer swim followed by a 40 kilometer bike and a 10 kilometer run. The swim was a rectangular course in Tempe Town Lake, the questionably clean watershed in downtown Tempe, and the run was a bridge loop around the same lake.
At 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, the transition area opened up, meaning athletes could set up their cycling and running shoes, socks, in-race fuel, and anything else they needed to switch from the swim to the bike and the bike to the run. After a quick warm-up in the lake, the first men’s wave, which included Mitchell David Hsing G and Sam Nicaise G, started at 7:30 a.m. Ten minutes later, Akansh N. Murthy ’13 started as part of the men’s second wave. It wasn’t too hot yet when the men started, but the 67 degree water still felt refreshing. Hsing was first out of the water for MIT, and had a quick transition before the bike leg. The bike course consisted of two identical laps around the lake and surrounding areas. It was a fast course, with gradual hills and lots of corners.
The running course was similar to a Charles bridge loop, but without any shade. The MIT men all braced the heat and injuries to finish the race intact and in good standing. Hsing led MIT with a time of 2:13.29, Nicaise was close behind in 2:14.06, and Murthy finished in 2:35.14.
The women’s race didn’t begin until 11 a.m. and included Sarah A. Weir ’14, a Tech sports editor, who started in the second women’s wave, and finished in 2:43.24.
Not surprisingly, teams from Colorado and California dominated the team titles. The fastest man, from hometown Arizona State University, finished in 1:46:36. The fastest woman, from Colorado, finished in 2:01:13.
Although it was hot and not everyone from MIT wore enough sunscreen, no one can deny how amazing the race was. The energy from having so many schools all in one place, cheering for each other, excited about triathlons probably won’t be replicated until the next Collegiate Nationals, which will occur next April, again in Tempe. This was the first Collegiate Nationals competition for Hsing, Murthy, and Weir, while Nicaise returned as a third-time competitor.
The next race for the MIT triathlon team is the New England Season Opener on May 12. Unlike Tempe, the temperature will be about 30 degrees lower, and the water promises to be barely warm enough to swim in.
Keep your eyes on triathlon.mit.edu for updates throughout the summer season.