Sharks and Triathlon
A month ago, I was horrified and saddened to read about the death of 66-year old triathlete Dave Martin of San Diego, CA after being attacked by a Great White shark off the California coast in Solana Beach.
Although I did not know Dave, he was a member of the same tri club as me- TCSD- and out on a training swim with some fellow club members in a very familiar area.
As I am getting ready to do my first ocean swim of the season tomorrow evening, this attack is fresh in my mind.
You may never have the opportunity to swim in the ocean, but many of us who do are struggling to overcome our fear of sharks without having to sacrifice an extremely enjoyable and rewarding activity.
I’ve read a lot of quotes about this incident that proclaim “You have a far better chance of getting killed driving to the ocean than by a shark in the water”. Very true, but somehow, this fact does not fill me with instant comfort about the ocean predators.
I have had to think hard about this and really break it down. I’ve come up with a few things that have helped put it all into perspective. I can’t say I’m “over” my shark fears, but this seemed to help me:
1. Shark attacks are extremely rare worldwide. And if you live in Southern California, they are even more rare (the Great Whites actually feed on seals in Northern California and breed down here in the warmer waters in the south).
2. We ARE taking a risk by swimming in their territory. However, there are other, greater risks involved in triathlon that we rarely think about:
-Your chances of getting hurt or killed on a bike ride are much greater than any risks you are taking in the ocean
-Your odds of pulling a hamstring or getting a serious injury from running are thousands of times greater than even spotting a shark when you are swimming in the ocean!
Are we going to let these fears stop us from enjoying our sport and accomplishing our goals?
3. It may be helpful to study the history of shark attacks in places you typically swim. My favorite place is La Jolla Cove. There has only been one recorded shark attack in the history of this area, and it was on a diver in 1959. Think about 50 years and thousands of swimmers, divers, surfers, kayakers, etc. that get into the ocean here all year round. I have better odds of winning the lottery than getting hurt in La Jolla Cove by a shark! Odds are likely similar in other ocean training spots around the world.
If your open water training consists of pools, lakes, and rivers, and you have no intention of racing in the ocean, you can absolutely guarantee you will never be attacked by a shark (however look out for those pesky land sharks!)
Dave Martin’s premature death is a great loss to the swimming and triathlon communities, and an unbelievably unfortunate occurrence.
Let’s not let this event result in another tragedy- keeping us from doing the sport we love.
RIP Dave Martin
To getting back in the ocean,
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.”
Tip of the Month- Keeping the Feel
I just got back from a 2.5 month trip to Australia and New Zealand where I didn’t exactly keep in great swimming shape. This was partly due to not having a car to get around, and partly due to sight seeing as much as humanly possible.
However, I did not just let my swimming go. I made sure to get in at least once per week- doing between 1000-1500 meters. I also kept up on a short strength training routine which included core and multi-muscle exercises not involving any weights.
This routine did two things for me:
1. I was able to keep my feel for the water and not lose my stroke technique
2. I was able to keep the proper muscles strong enough to keep moving through the water with relative ease.
When I did my first swimming workout in almost 3 months yesterday, I had to move down a slower interval, but I felt far better than if I simply avoided the water during this time.
If you are struggling to get to the pool, or you have a vacation planned in the middle of your training, keep in mind how much better off you will be by just doing the minimum, as opposed to going missing in action altogether!