Dare You to Move
Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Mon Mar 04 2013
Iím angry. I understand ineptitude. I acknowledge laziness. I get that not everybody is going attach the same importance, and the attention to detail, to bike fitting, or bike design, or any of the pet subjects that I get particularly bitchy about. That irks me. It disappoints me. But it doesnít anger me.
What angers me is that a family awoke today to the crushing weight that their son, brother, husband, father was alive day before yesterday and is not alive now. I am angry not because there is anything specifically that could have been done to save the live of Ross Ehlinger, of Austin, Texas, who by accounts was in distress shortly after jumping from the ferry into the cold waters of San Francisco Bay yesterday morning.
There are things we can do. I wrote about some of these things. Many of you commented, ďYes, yes, good stuff all.Ē But did any of it change your behavior? Did it Dare You to Move? Has your trajectory been bent in any way? If not, then, thatís fine, if you are doing what you need to do to reasonably guard yourself and those in your care against a death in the water. And that probably describes 80 percent of you. But for the other 20 percent of you: any movement yet?
Yes, Iím talking to you the end user, the consumer of the experience. Iíll get to you later. First, Iím talking to you the governing bodies of triathlon, and Iím talking to you the race director who produces the event. To you the producers, and the husbanders of the experience, you have done what? I ask because here is the final paragraph of an installment here a few weeks back. This installment specifically focused on what race directors can do to make their races safer. Here is how I ended that article:
As many Slowtwitchers know, my heroes on the sport are the race directors. Without RDs there is no sport. Without RDs putting themselves on the line, we do not have a sport. Yet, after I wrote the above, and taking into consideration that 1200 race directors are on my mailing list, getting our weekly newsletter, and so have no particular excuse for not having received this, I received precisely one request for the series I reference in the paragraph above. It was from Jack Caress, producer of the Los Angeles Triathlon, other triathlons around the United States, including the Newport Beach triathlon, where a man died in the water last year.
So, to the race directors out there, I ask the following: If not the series we will write, then, what are you sending out to your athletes in the weeks prior to your event, to make sure they are safe and equipped prior to the race you produce? Pardon if this sound harsh, but a failure to form some sort of answer, at least to yourself, strikes of that laziness about which I wrote above. What Iím asking you do to is easy. It can only be a profound plodding indifference that causes an RD not to consider what his reasonable efforts are toward athlete safety.
To USA Triathlon: Your study has been concluded on sudden cardiac death in triathlon, and I have the following question: How has that study bent your trajectory, as a sanctioning organization? Yes, I saw your bullet points. Beyond that, what will you be doing differently going forward? Did you learn anything in that study you commissioned that will make its way into policy or action?
If you, as an end user, are worried that you will trigger a positive that will disqualify you from life insurance, hereís my solution. Go get your life insurance policy now. Which will require an EKG! (Some irony in this.) Nevertheless, look, at 52 years old I went out and applied for life insurance, $1 million face value, a level 15-year policy, after having a bout of atrial fibrillation 4 years prior, and I was accepted, and it costs me $2,150 a year. Iím covered through the age of 67 or to place this more in focus, itís my family that is covered if I die. If you are worried about a life insurance policyóespecially if you are over 40ógo get it now. Get it now. You need it anyway, so, get it now. Then, after youíre approved, your family is covered, and you are now free to go see a cardiologist.
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 ďnoĒ to the above, what are your concrete plans for this? Iím not asking for anything out of the ordinary. This is how you professionally approach your sport. These are the sorts of things I do. Nobody in my cohort, from my era, fails to do these things. This is mostly whyóin my viewówe didnít die for the sportís first 20 years.
Itís going to be embarrassing as hell if I die of a heart attack sometime this year, after all Iíve been writing. Especially in competition or training. However, it will be an embarrassment I donít have to suffer, because I wonít be here. I therefore can write all the above with some sense of impunity. Folks, during the first 20 years of triathlon we did not die. We did all the same races, and we did them both before and after the advent of wetsuits. We just did not die. Not because we were all fit, rather, because we were so unsure of what we were doing we covered all the bases. Heck, when I first did the Hawaiian Ironman we were weighed, 5 times, during the race, by the organization, because they didnít know, and we didnít know, what could happen to you during the race. I think the reason we lived is because we respected the risk. We swam in open water. We swam in our wetsuit. We made sure our wetsuits fit. No race director ever forbade us a warm up. We availed ourselves of that warm up.
Pardon my tantrum. But Iím your elder. Guys like Mark Montgomery (Monty on our reader forum) and I were racing triathlons when most of you were doing other things, if you were even born yet. And we didnít die. None of us died. So I submit our bona fides and ask that you pay attention to the collective wisdom of those who raced in an era that had a more enviable "loss ratio".
Philip Coulston ď...went out doing exactly what he wanted to do," said his daughter, Erin Williams. Williams' husband, Joel, saw that something was wrong just at the end, she said. "My dad had rolled over to rest, and had just stopped†breathing." Coulston - who swam in the Junior Olympics and in college - had again taken up swimming eight months ago. He had just won first place in a race in†Livermore. "He was trained, ready to go, he felt fabulous during the day," said Williams. "He was so happy to be there, he was so†excited." Coulston had no history of heart problems, she†said.
I would not be writing this had Bill Burke not opined to Bloomberg News. But, he did, so, I am. All of what Burke said is true. But one must square this with info competitors really get from race directors. 3.06.13
WTC announced new swim start and timing changes for several North American Ironmans as part of an initiative to make swims safer and less stressful for race contestants. 5.09.13
Considering all the available best medical evidence, some say if you die in the swim, you're an unfortunate but acceptably rare, and probably unavoidable, statistic. Can a race director move those odds? 2.08.13
If cardiac arrest is the proximate cause of our sport's drownings, what triggers cardiac arrest precisely when our athletes are in the swim leg of a triathlon? Are these behaviors over which you have control? 2.07.13