Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Death in the Triathlon

We've talked about this a bit in the past, but ESPN just posted a pretty good article on the subject: Trouble Beneath the Surface by Bonnie Ford.

Yes, people occasionally, rarely, die during triathlons. And yes, it's almost always during the swim leg.

I'm of two minds about this topic. First thought, the numbers of people dying in the triathlon, percentage-wise, are extremely low. We all take risks in our lives every single day, in hundreds of different ways. Racing in a triathlon is a risk. Is it an acceptable risk to you? Only you can answer that. Just like only you can answer if smoking is an acceptable risk, or driving, or flying, or running in a marathon... Everything carries a risk. It's completely up to you whether to accept the risk, or not. Second thought, there has absolutely not been enough done in the sport of triathlon to minimize the risks during the swim leg. It's one thing to accept the risk, but if the organizers can make it safer, why wouldn't they?

And there has been some progress in rule changes in the past year for the swim leg. Wave starts instead of mass starts. Self-seeding at the start. Better course marking. Better rules on cold temperature swimming.

Here in the Northwest, I can't emphasize enough how easy it is to avoid most of this danger: if you're new to the sport or a poor swimmer, do a few indoor swim triathlons to get some experience! They're everywhere these days, and a tri swim in a pool is just a different animal. Calm, structured, warm, and never more than a few feet from life-saving help from the organizers. I've been swimming competitively, either on swim teams or in triathlons, pretty much my entire life and I love swimming in open water - LOVE it. That said, I've been in a couple mass starts at open water swim triathlons where I've wondered, "what am I doing here? These freaking people are insane - they're trying to drown me!"

You know what kind of swimmer you are. And you know what kind of risk-taker you are. Make the correct choices.

Play safe out there.

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