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Q & A

Linda Musante has been cited as an expert on topics as wide-ranging as Sigmund Freud and Mike Tyson.

But if you want to hear what she has to say, you've got to catch her first.

Musante is the chairwoman of the psychology department at the University of Tampa, where she teaches classes on everything from social psychology to human sexuality.

She also is a world-class triathlete, having competed in more than a hundred triathlons and Ironman competitions around the globe.

Last week she returned from the ITU Triathlon World Championships in Cancun, Mexico, where she swam 1.5 kilometers, biked 40 kilometers and ran 10 kilometers for the U.S. triathlon team.

The 48-year-old University of North Carolina graduate groans about her finish _ 15th in her age class, 261st among all women. But, she says, "If you race enough, you're going to have some bad days."

She recently sat down with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Jay Cridlin to discuss running, sex and what's inside Anna Kournikova's head.

Here are excerpts:

Seriously, if you had to throw down, you could take any professor at UT, right? If you had to rumble?

If I had too rumble? I wouldn't want to mess with some of them. Most of them, probably, but some of my colleagues are pretty strong.

What's your daily workout regimen like?

It depends on what day it is. Usually I do something in the morning before I come to school, either swim or run. On the weekends, I usually bike long, because that takes a big part of the day. And I swim on a master swim team three times a week.

I run, depending on the season, about 30-50 miles a week. I bike, right in the middle of the season, 150 miles a week. And I swim as far as I can go, which isn't very far, because I don't swim very well.

Do you ever have to limit yourself and say, "That's it, I'm only going 5 miles today?"

Oh yeah. I think triathletes and runners go through stages. When you first get into the sport, and you're getting better, and you're seeing improvement, it's very easy to get into the mentality of "more is better" _ that if I just train more, then I'll get better. But at my age, you can't do that, because you're more likely to get injured or get burned out.

How tough was it to move from running to doing all three triathlon events?

Not hard at all. In fact, lots of washed-up runners go into triathlon.

Do you consider yourself a washed-up runner?

No, I was never that good to ever be washed up. (Laughs) I thought it sounded like fun. I like to swim, and I like to bike. And the sport was just starting to get popular then. It was the early days of triathlons. I got in on the ground.

How many triathlons have you raced in?

Oh, golly gee. Probably a hundred.

How many Ironman-distance triathlons have you run?

Just two.

How much more difficult are those?

I don't think they're any more difficult. It's very difficult, don't get me wrong, but it's just long. I go into it with the attitude that it's just going to be a long day. Honestly, I don't think that an Ironman is as hard as running a marathon, if you try to run a marathon for time. At the level that I do it, I'm not going to win, so I'm not out there racing the whole thing. You just have to be very patient and know that the day's going to have a lot of ups and downs.

With your academic background, do you ever try to psyche out your opponents?

I try to focus on myself and not worry about anybody else, because I always find when I start worrying about everybody else, I start running their race and not my own.

How competitive are you?

Very. I like to do my best, and I like to win. I've always been competitive in just about everything I do. That doesn't mean that I'm good at it, but I'm very competitive about it. Triathlon is a very individual sport, as is running, so you're really competing against yourself. Obviously, you want to beat other people, too, but that's not the primary motivation. It's to better your previous time or to see some improvement in your training.

Triathletes as a group tend to be highly competitive, disciplined. They have to be selfish, because the sport's so demanding that it can be difficult to maintain a social life. Many triathletes are really obsessive-compulsive about things because it's so hard to do all three sports and to have a life outside of that. It's always a balancing act. I think that some triathletes are not particularly healthy about it, where it becomes their entire life. It's really just a game. Most people are not going to make a living off of it.

Have you ever raced against a student?

Well, I'm not really racing against them. It's like, I may be in the same race with an Olympic runner, but I ain't racing with him. I actually have a student in my general psychology class right now who's a member of the German national triathlon team. He's one of the best in the world. We might be in the same race, but we're not racing each other. But it's fun to talk about it with him.

Who's your favorite athlete?

I like Bill Rodgers. He's a great runner and a nice person.

Ever met him?

Yeah! I got his autograph. He's very accessible and was a great runner, one of the greatest, and could do all distances of running.

Say you could get inside the head of any professional athlete. Who would it be and what would you find?

I would like to get in Michael Jordan's head, because he's so good at his sport but also very creative in the way he goes about his sport, and he stays really focused on it for a long period of time. And he went to North Carolina.

There's so many athletes I like. I'm sure that as soon as I leave here I'll think of somebody better than Michael Jordan.

Anna Kournikova. (Laughs) Just kidding. Nothing in that head.

Was Freud an athlete?

Not as far as I know. He smoked too much. He did like walking. He loved to hike. He had a place in the Alps and was very into hiking. He was an active man, but I don't think he played basketball or anything.

You teach a course in human sexuality. Is there any relationship between sex and sport?

Well, I think that being an athlete could probably help you sexually. They used to say if you have a big competition, don't have sex the night before. But I don't think they say that anymore. I think it's probably a good way to reduce stress.

And finally and most importantly: Are the Bucs mentally tough enough to win the Super Bowl?

I think so. If they ever get their offense together.

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