A sad day in the sport of triathlon

Posted admin Articles

The tri season started on a sad note this past weekend at Escapen from Alcatraz. Shortly after diving into the frigid 50 degree waters of the San Francisco Bay, a 47 year old man from Texas, suffered a severe heart attack and passed away despite immediate
action taken by the EMT crew.

Unfortunately, Ehilnger was not the first to die of heart problems in the swim portion of the triathlon. Deaths have been on the increase in triathlons and the vast majority of them occurring during the swim leg. This is newsletter is not intended to scare you into never swimming in open water again or competing in triathlons. Rather I want to remind you of the precautions that you can take to prevent accidents from occurring.

1. Check yourself: If you know that you have health and/or heart problems or have a genetic predisposition to cardia irregularities, make sure you get cleared by a doctor before you start training and then again before your race. An EKG will show if there is something out of the ordinary.

2. Warm up: Try and get into the water before you start so that your body can adjust to the temperature. If the water is cold, splash your face with water before getting in. This will get your body ready so it’s not as much of a shock before you get in. If you cannot get in, do jumping jacks, pushups or jump squats to get your blood pumping.

3. Try out your wetsuit: If you have not swam in a wetsuit before, make sure you get some experience swimming in it so that you can get to its somewhat constricting feel. Even a few laps in the pool helps.

4. Practice in open water: Open water swimming is completely different from swimming in a pool and can be a lot scarier. It is therefore important to get some experience in open water; it will help you soothe your uneasiness and nerves. Make sure you swim with others and there is a lifeguard near by.

5. Work on your mental game before your next open water triathlon. There are a lot of things people tend to stress about- but with a little mental prep, you can be ready for most things that come your way.

Please be safe out there everyone and keep the family of Ross in your thoughts.

3 thoughts on “A sad day in the sport of triathlon

  • Francis schmitz says:

    No triathlon is worth dying. It may be a fun sport & a challenge to the human,but most have families to consider. Yes,most also didn’t know it would happen today,but race officials must always,always have safety “First”. It doesn’t matter if you have to make the race shorter if safety is a concern. You read more & more, even the Pro’s have fear issues. No race organization should ever think that all triathlete’s are experienced enough for a dangerous race. IM was not started as a life or death race, but a race of fit athletes that even then had boats in the water just in case. Throwing people into cold h2o that most have never experienced was not smart at all & now a family has to suffer. Yes,he could have not jumped in to start, but ego,money spent & other factors weighted on his decision to race. The 1 in New York last yr was a 2:30 marathoner,so fit-yes,but the conditions for the swim were not ideal again.

  • As a triathlete, I am saddened by this tragedy. However, we all know our sport, like any demanding sport, has it’s risks. Risks we are all willing to assume in order to pursue a demanding yet rewarding activity such as Triathlon which, for many of us, has grown beyond a mere sport to become a lifestyle. Usually a very healthy lifestyle. This article does a great job in pointing out a couple of risks and how to minimize them. As a practicing ER physician, I would like to point out, however, that not all underlying cardiac disease will be detected by a simple EKG. In many cases, an EKG will be normal, or at least non-concerning, until actual injury to the heart occurs. I have treated many actual heart attacks in the ER that still had a normal appearing EKG. Therefore, I would agree with triswimcoach that we all need routine screening before participating in demanding sports such as Triathlon, but, due to age, family history, or other risk factors, many of us need more provocative cardiac testing than a simple EKG. To this I would add, if you begin experiencing chest pain, dizziness, or abnormal shortness of breath during or after training/competing, please seek medical attention ASAP.

    Having said all that, I am happy to report that it remains a very rare day that I ever see anybody who lives a healthy lifestyle as a patient in the ER for ANY problems including mental health issues. Especially triathletes!

  • Alison Bubbles Darley says:

    Very wise words indeed.

Comments are closed.