Tragedy hit the sport of triathlon again over the weekend. One of the most well-known and challenging tris, the Escape from Alcatraz claimed the life of a 46 year old man from Texas during the swim leg of the race. According to the race director, this was the first death in the race’s 33 year history.
Yet again, everyone is asking why? Why has there been such a rise in deaths in our sport?
Triathlon veteran Dan Emphield posted an article on slowtwitch.com, which shares its title with the popular Switchfoot song, Dare You To Move. In the article, Emphield yet again challenges Race Directors, USAT and triathletes to take action, to DO something so that the statistics of deaths in triathlons do not keep rising. Emphield says, “There are things we can do. I wrote about some of these things. Many of you commented, “Yes, yes, good stuff all.” But did any of it change your behavior? Did it Dare You to Move? Has your trajectory been bent in any way?” (You can read one of Dan Emphield’s previous article here) I would highly recommend checking out both articles.
I’ve participated in races where individuals who start the race never have the chance to finish. And believe me, it shakes you up. I hate to admit this, but after a few weeks, I’ve forgotten about it and registered for my next triathlon. On top of that, my pride kicks in. “I’m a swimmer. I grew up doing ocean swims. I got this.” This is such inaccurate thinking, and Emphield’s “Dare You to Move,” really hit home.
One of the things he talks about is the importance of a warm up. I am ever so guilty of thinking “the swim is my warm up…” WRONG. Warming up is essential, and my heart needs this time to adjust for what is coming next. And how often do I wear my wetsuit? Um, it’s Florida! Again, wrong thinking!
I played the French Horn in high school. I would never, ever think of just showing up for the concert with a new horn and mouth piece, and just start playing with the band. So why would I skip trying out the wetsuit before the race, and practicing with it in race-like conditions?
Emphield asks, “Are you warming up before your races? Are you getting to the race in time for your warm up? Do you have your wetsuit? Have you put it on this year? Is it overtight? Have you been swimming in open water, in the wetsuit? If the answer is “no” to the above, what are your concrete plans for this? I’m not asking for anything out of the ordinary. This is how you professionally approach your sport. ” (emphasis is my own)
I love triathlons and I want to do what I can to raise the status of the sport. So why am I not doing these SIMPLE things that he suggests? Why not advocate for warm ups before races? Why not suck it up and take my wetsuit to the beach and do a few short swims with it prior to a race where I plan on wearing it? Before today, I was stuck in the same old mindset. However, this season, I’m going to take strides to better my sport and improve not only my safety, but the safety of my fellow athletes. Who’s with me?