Monday, October 04, 2010

LA Triathlon had almost 6% of field rescued during the swim and the conditions were NOT treacherous!

3,000 athletes attended the event and a whopping 169 of the field had to be rescued during the swim portion.

That is not an acceptable failure rate for two triathletes nearly died. These statistics come form the "authorities;" (Read as L.A. County Lifeguards), who summarily expressed surprised by saying: it was "...unclear why so many swimmers needed assistance."

Race organizers backpedaled stating these stats were overstated which is definitely a bold statement since a lifeguard has to file a report on each rescue.

From KTLA 5:

Paramedics say one person nearly drowned and another was treated for saltwater in her lungs.

And, a female lifeguard was hospitalized after suffering a back injury during a water rescue.


The USAT solution for making the swim portion of the triathlon safer has been to simply make shorter swims and push wetsuits. Not a bad idea since most triathletes who are determined to swim on their own can't break 2-minutes-per-100-yards.

The swim portion of an Olympic distance race back when I was handsome and I occasionally made girls swoon rather than cover their eyes and shout ZOMBIE, was 2-kilometer swim; now it is 1.5-kilometers.

Eventually a lawsuit will make its way to the USAT when swimmers; plural, who have no business racing in the ocean drown because the USAT has no swim certification process in pace.

When you enter the Alcatraz Sharkfest they make it clear that you must be able to swim 1-mile in a pool in under 40-minutes or don't enter. Perhaps that is the benchmark that should be used. Look! if someone is going to swim a mile in a lake or an ocean, they should prove it in a pool first at a USMS swim meet. The infrastructure is in place, all they have to do is finish a 1500-meter free in set time.

The USAT would be doing these people favors to insist on that. Even the Ironman makes you fill out a de facto resume before you can enter as a way of certifying your qualifications.

Now for a change of subject:

I want to do an info-graphic on triathletes. Doing research I found that by age 40, athlete participation falls significantly. By ages 50-and-up the field is extraordinarily soft. With that said, what really shocked me is that young adults participate less than those 40-and-above. Could that be our crashed economy, since the entry-cost for a triathlete is quite significant or is obesity & sedentary culture more "fun" for this demographic?

That is a worrisome demographic trend for the USAT.

Triathletes expenses are high, why they can't afford $50 - $70 for a coached swim workout per month where they can actually master the toughest event which happens to be way cheaper than a week doing yoga baffles me.

Goggles: $15
Swimsuit $40
Swim cap: $8.00 (silicone)
Wetsuit: $200 - $650

Low-end costs: $263
High-end costs: $713

Trisuit: $100
Gloves: $25.00
Socks: $15.00
Shoes: $50
Helmet: $50
Water bottle: $0.00
Bicycle: $1200 - $5,000
Cycle tune-ups and tires: $300

Low-end costs $1,840
High-end costs $5,640
Running shoes: $115
Socks: $15.00
shorts-tee: $20.00

Guesstimate cost: $150

The photo to the right was taken in 1986 in a triathlon that featured Mark Allen, Scott Molina and Scott Tinley. They beat me.


Sheila said...

I don't think certifying that someone can swim in a pool is going to help with ocean swims. I swim with newbie ocean swimmers all the time at L.A. Tri Club group swims, and people really get panicked in the ocean swims if they have not practiced them enough. Last month I did the Malibu Triathlon and one of the ladies in my age group told me shortly before start that it was going to be her first ocean swim ever. There's just something very different about the ocean environment vs. the pool that often panics those who are unfamiliar with it. And speed has nothing to do with it. Being someone myself who until recently could not do 100 yd faster than 2 min in the pool but has been comfortably ocean swimming long before that. I just think these people at the L.A. Triathlon had not sufficiently prepared themselves for ocean swimming. They should join a tri club and go to some group ocean swims, something they probably didn't do.

jennifer said...

I agree with Sheila. It's not "being a swimmer" but being an open water swimmer. I can swim 4 miles in the pool and swim with a masters group yet put a wetsuit on me (which psychologically makes me think I can't breathe fully) and put me in open water where I can't see the bottom and there are others thrashing all around me... very likely panic situation.

Regarding the "triathlon field getting soft" as it gets older, well not so much around here, I'm over 50 and just got back into it. I completely quit doing tri in my 40's just due to being too busy with other stuff aka "Life." I have more discretionary time now.

William Maguire said...

Hilarious ! Thanks ! Re: You said:
"The swim portion of an Olympic distance race back when I was handsome and I occasionally made girls swoon rather than cover their eyes and shout ZOMBIE, was 2-kilometer swim; now it is 1.5-kilometers."

Sheila's comment and your remarks are accurate. Swimming in the ocean is something that requires practice and coaching and acclimation. The cold water temps also have a part in the number of rescues and assists back to the shore by lifeguards.

Tony Austin said...

WOW! I think they should join L.A. Tri too!

I do have a recommendation for L.A. Tri when they do their ocean swims: Have at least one swimmer in charge, perhaps two on bigger swims to bring a "lifeguard can" and drag it behind themselves for emergencies.

( )

Clay Evans once told me that if you have never swam in the ocean before; EVER, and the first time you are going to be swimming in the ocean is race day, then you must be able to sprint a 100-free in a pool in under a minute. (I personally am thinking 1:10 but Clay countered that I have tons of ocean experience)

I think SCAQ will only do ocean clinics for swimmers that can swim 1:45 per 100 or better.

Tony Austin said...

Jennifer, I found the demographic, 12% of triathletes are your age. I was surprised that the major age groups are 30-to-49 and then the bell curve collapses. I am going to post links to to the Tri demographic.

I am concerned about your wetsuit... Newer wetsuits are really strecthy and don't constrict. Is your wetsuit old?

Anonymous said...

This is one of few events that is held in the Ocean where swell activity is active, Malibu would be the other, however I have no comment on the Malibu swim since I've never swam there.The L.A. Tri is held in a natural surf spot that produces more than normal wave and swell activity. My opinion is that most of the participants rescued have no prior ocean swimming experience. Most of these individuals would qualify any swim distance prerequisites. However, that would not qulify them to venture out to open ocean, specially in this part of the Santa Monica Bay. most of the newbie participants don't have experience dealing with ocean swells and tide breaks. That is where the problem lies, the last 25 meters of this event is very tiring. fatigued arms trying to swim out of a swell regard less of its size will require experience. 2 to 3'+ tides on tired arms is no joke to an inexperienced ocean swimmer. It is a high risk game, and if there were no life guards to pull or push these swimmers out, it would be tragic. I swim here all summer under calm conditions and know when to stay out. Last years swim event was treacherous, everyone there would agree. This year was mild compared to that, but that does not diminish the risk to non experienced ocean swimmers.

Tony Austin said...

William, we have had an insanely cold year - product of el nino.

The water was actually warmer in the San Francisco Bay last June then it was down here over the weekend.

The photo of was taken in 1986 - it was the best triathlon I ever did. The officials couldn't prevent us from drafting because the course was two narrow and I averaged 21-mph on a 27 pound bicycle. We felt like we were in the tour de France, it was glorious.

Tony Austin said...

My grammar and spelling in the last comment is frightful. ooops...

Anon, I learned how to surf in Santa Monica and the only place that is possibly safe for an L.A. Tri start would be in Long Beach, Belmont shores.

Sheila said...

Anyone can come to the ocean swims at L.A. Tri Club. But you are asked to have some ocean experience for many of them. They offer a clinic "Ocean 101" lead by Tim Bomba. This once-a-week clinic on Wed. mornings in Santa Monica Bay runs from about June through Sept. It is free, but you must be a member of the L.A. Tri Club. I highly recommend this clinic. I took it myself in July 2009. Once you have completed that you can join any of the numerous group ocean swims that run from about May through Sept. The more you swim in the ocean, the more comfortable you become. Nothing beats experience.

Tony Austin said...

I like that policy. :-)

Merritt Johnson said...

I would be thrilled to have that many people enter an open water race, much less have that many people rescued. Although, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get a city permit for the next year if that many people had to get rescued during an open water swimming specific event.

It is my understanding that USMS is developing new ideas to approach open water swimming. SPMA is changing to SPMS, there is a new open water chair, a new leaf is being turned! Lets work to get more triathlon/open water swimmer wanna bes into Masters training.

phonon56 said...

The problem is that when you start triathlon, swimming is NOT the stressed portion. People say you can float or scathe through this portion. Therefore, newbies do not understand the 'healthy respect' needed for the ocean. People need to understand that there is danger involved and preparation is necessary. It is unfortunate, but I think it will take a little more before that message has been made clear.