Did you know that, according to a USA Triathlon Study, there were 45 triathlon-related deaths from 2003 to 2011, and 31 happened in the water? Swimming is easily the most dangerous part of a triathlon, and it is also the part that athletes neglect the most. In fact, some athletes even view it as a warm up, instead of a true leg of the three-part race.
How Do Triathlon Deaths Happen?
Studies are unclear, and experts are still debating about the exact causes of triathlon-related deaths. What they do know is that these deaths all resulted from cardiac failure. Anything from frigid water temperatures, constricting wet suits, or genetic heart abnormalities may be to blame. All of these things put a lot of pressure on the heart and arteries, ultimately leading to heart failure. Triathlete Dr. Rudy Dressendorfer takes another stance altogether, and blames lack of warming up.
What Can You Do Differently?
In order to stay safe, athletes should completely rethink views on triathlon swim training. The standard Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometers of biking, and 10-kilometer run, in that order. Iron Man triathlon distances can be over twice as long. The three-part races are designed to present a challenge, and athletes should approach triathlon training very carefully, especially in light of recent swimming deaths.
Triathlon training programs, including swim training for triathlons, should always entail a certain amount of warming up. According to Auburn Triathlon director Brad Kearns, “The body doesn’t like to go from zero to 60 in six seconds.” Athletes in training also need to keep in mind that they are preparing specifically for a triathlon, not simply learning to swim. In other words, swimmers should keep in mind that there is still a bike ride and run to come. How? USA Triathlon recommends breathing much more frequently. Typical swimmers may breathe once per four strokes. During triathlon swim training, athletes should practice breathing as often as every two strokes to help store up oxygen for the remaining components of the race.
What Are Officials Doing Differently
Athletes are not the only ones hyper-aware of the recent triathlon deaths. Officials are also looking for ways to cut down on the number of fatalities during triathlon events. In fact, even the World Triathlon Corporation spoke up. In an official statement, the corporation revealed that it will be mandating a warm up at all North American events. The corporation will also be placing more lifeguards and rest buoys along the path of the swim.
Done correctly, triathlon swim training can save your life. Make sure to warm up, breathe frequently, and take advantage of additional rest buoys placed in the water for your swim.