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Swim, bike, run, oh my! // Part II: The Bike

"Are you nervous for the race?"

The question came from the cyclist next to me during a training ride Sunday.

The buzz among these competitive riders is this weekend's St. Anthony's Triathlon. Many of these athletes will participate in the swim, bike and run that make up the event or in the cycling portion as part of a relay team.

The St. Anthony's bike course is technical and challenging. Racing against time, the cyclist must maneuver through many sharp turns and corners and over occasional bricked and potholed roads. The course can be congested with riders of varying skill levels. The unpredictability of the route makes for great competitive racing and quite an Adrenalin surge.

A week before the race, cyclists voiced their anxieties and hopes.

"I'm going to put my head down and not look back."

"I'm such a wreck when I get out of the water, my body feels like Gumby."

"I just hope I find my bike in the transition area. Last year I ran around forever looking."

"It's a rush to pass all the people who crushed me on the swim."

Focus is important at this point. Athletes leaving the water must accommodate the exhaustion from the .9-mile swim and adjust to running upright into the transition area.

Many competitors memorize the location of their bikes. Some athletes landmark their bikes with a helium balloon.

The most direct route to the bike is always advised. The shortest distance between two points is not a zigzag.

Helmets must be secured before the rider mounts the bike and after the goggles and swim cap are removed. The transition entrance tends to be an active intersection, with many athletes dodging each other while going for their bikes.

Once aboard, a cyclist recovering from the swim may take awhile to find a comfortable pace. Plus, there are physical and mental distractions.

In the course of 25 miles, competitors may experience saddle soreness, quadriceps burn, lower backache and, if a rider grits her teeth, maybe pain in the jaw or a headache.

Athletes often find themselves in the middle of daydreams. To stay on track, many use mental tricks to build confidence.

The riders ahead are his prey. Catch them, then move on to the next victims.

The scent of strawberry is said to enhance performance; some spray their handlebars with the aroma.

A token, such as a Wonder Woman Pez dispenser, could be kept within plain view as a reminder of the goal.

It helps to remember that it will end eventually . . . well, 25 miles down the road. Shifting body positions on the bike helps. So do aerobars, which put the body in a more comfortable and more aerodynamic position.

This course is a challenge for any level of cyclist. At the end of the ride, the body must be prepared to hammer out 6 miles on the run. On the approach back to the transition area, experienced triathletes might shift into an easier gear to spin out some of the lactic acid buildup they are feeling in their legs.

The longest portion of the race is over. Lace up and hit the road.

_ Tanis Dick, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a clinical art therapist at St. Anthony's Hospital. She is competing in her second St. Anthony's Triathlon and sixth "tri" overall.