Recently, I was a little struck by the fact that an athlete who was a Hong Kong police office had died during the swim of the first edition of the New York City Triathlon. What surprised me even more was that it was an Olympic distance. The swim was 1.5 km (or 0.9 miles). According to reports, he was “distressed” towards the end of the swim.
Investigating a little deeper into the phenomena, I discovered that in recent years there have been several deaths. A Seattle man in the Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June 2012. A New York man in the Louisville Ironman in August of 2011. A man from Montana in the Florida Ironman in 2006. They all died of heart related causes.
So now, I’ve got a couple of tips for all you newbie triathletes.
1. Get yourself to a cardiologist. I am 37, going on 38, and I only found out at 35, after my first 70.3, that I had a congenital heart defect that is not common but not impossible to live with, with proper care. Most of those athletes in the above were in their 40s (the man from Montana was 35).
2. Get in ocean swim practices. Absolutely vital. You need to get used to the taste of the water, which can throw a person off if they are not used to it. If you are swimming long enough or if your skin is sensitive enough, your nasal passages will probably burn. You will have to get used to the waves and probably have to alternate which side you breathe on, depending on the way the waves are coming.
3. SWIM DRILL: Get your swim group together and in the pool get at LEAST 10 people in ONE lane. Start at the deep end of the pool and grab on to the edge with one hand on the wall. On the whistle, make a fast break to the other side of the pool. This will simulate the swim start. You need to practice getting swum over, kicked, elbowed and bruised.
DON’T BE STUPID! AN OPEN WATER SWIM IS NOT AN EASY RUN IN THE PARK! JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN 3000 METERS IN A POOL DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN SWIM EASILY IN THE OCEAN!