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Post-traumatic stress is often associated with soldiers returning from battle, but Axel Jimenez can attest that cyclists returning to the roads after an accident face similar issues.

The happy spoiler alert is that Jimenez, a 40-year-old State Farm agent based in Normal, will be racing his bicycle in Saturday's 8 a.m. Dri-Shark Duathlon at Comlara Park, which also hosts the 25th annual Tri-Shark Triathlon Classic.

The early morning hours of Sept. 19, 2012 were anything but happy after Jimenez, cycling on Old Route 66 near Airport Road south of Towanda, was struck from behind by a car. His injuries required back surgery and six days in the hospital.

"I had my five-year anniversary last September and I just said, 'I need to get back out on the road,' " Jimenez said. "I used to cycle a lot, at least a couple times a week.

"(Now) I only cycle in my basement on my trainer where it's safe so I haven't really been outside much. This (duathlon) is supposed to be my launch pad back onto the roads. Once this race is over on Saturday, I'm going to be riding outside. So that's my own personal deal." 

Jimenez did participate in the Pedaling for Kicks Ride a few years ago.

"I was with two other gentlemen and we got off the route and, as we noticed that, a car screamed past us and I was just beside myself with fear," Jimenez remembers. "That's how I realized how much I truly wasn't over it even though (in 2012) I was knocked out on impact.

"Even though I was in La La Land, it still registers for me ... the fear of cars swinging past. I wouldn't think there would be anything for my body to remember to be scared of."

Jimenez hopes his return to outdoor cycling includes decreasing feelings of fear when cars pass.

On Saturday, he will be cycling 13 miles as part of a relay with two of his four children. The opening leg, a 2-mile run, will be done by his 12-year-old son, Gabe, and the final leg, a 5K run, will be handled by his 15-year-old daughter, Ella.

"They are soccer players," said Jimenez, who also plays and coaches soccer. "They've been running the last couple weeks. When I'm at work, they'll run on the treadmill (at home). They'll take a picture of how long they've run and how far they went and they'll send it to me. That's how I kind of keep them accountable." 

Jimenez's own training consists of cycling at 90 revolutions per minute and running up to 3 miles per workout. The main goal for his family on Saturday is to have fun although they are trying to calculate a time goal.

Jimenez estimates his son can cover 2 miles in under 14 minutes and his daughter can run 5K under 23.

"I'm just excited that they are going to be a part of it," he said. "I've done it long enough so I should know what it should take me. We'll try to come up with a cool combined time (goal)." 

Jimenez, in his seventh year as a State Farm agent, has helped sponsor the Tri-Shark Triathlon Classic — which features nearly 500 participants contesting a 600-yard swim, a 13-mile bike and a 5K run — for several years.

"I've never done the entire thing because as a sponsor I'm usually pretty busy," Jimenez said. "I'll do the cycling portion and I'll have runners. This is the first time I've had my kids join me."

Perhaps as Gabe and Ella near the end of their relay legs and confront their fear of fatigue they'll think of an inspiring relative facing fear head-on.

Former race directors remember: The Tri-Shark Triathlon Classic began 25 years ago with Bill Rhodes as race director. Now Central Catholic High School's cross country and swimming coach, he recalls more than 200 raced that first year at Moraine View State Park north of LeRoy. The event moved to Comlara Park in 2009.

"They have so much more competition (for entrants) now with all these other events ... obstacle course races and all that stuff ... it's really good they were able to keep this going," Rhodes said. "I'm proud of the way it's kept going."

Colleen Klein followed Rhodes as race director for 18 years until Kevin McCarthy and Meghan Gardner became co-directors in 2017. McCarthy "owns" the race through his company, Path Performance Events. Klein will be among 100 volunteers helping on Saturday.

"Kevin McCarthy and his crew are doing a great job," she said. "It's always like a big reunion (on race day) where you get to see all your triathlon friends."

Contact Randy Sharer at (309) 820-3405. Follow him on Twitter: @PG_sharer

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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