Sunday, March 03, 2013

A 45-year-old triathlete died Sunday morning during the swimming portion of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon!

The man died right during the early part of the swim. Very sad, The family must be completely distraught and it is terrible to think that he died doing something that was suppose to be fun. Details here: [Link]

Alcatraz is not an easy race; I almost almost died during my first race there and that near death experience inspired  me join a Masters club called SCAQ so I could learn how to swim like a pro.

See details of that near fateful drowning here: [Link]

Every time I do a crossing I feel high anxiety - it is not an easy race. I have cataloged several open water race deaths that have occurred during Alcatraz crossings and so far nothing has been figured out to prevent them. Open water races in New York start in a few months and I will probably be reporting on at least 2-or-3 fatalities before Fall since New York swims seem to have the most open water fatalities.

Swimming is an extreme sport, more so than skateboarding or "bicycle flipping." Swimming is more dangerous than UFC/MMA fighting and it's more dangerous than NFL football. Open water swimming has to be taken very seriously and it hasn't been.  Triathletes really need to consider Masters swimming if they want to ensure a safe result. You can be a mediocre rider or runner but in one of the most dangerous environments on earth, you really need to master swimming.

I recommend that anyone doing this race or an Alcatraz Sharfest race for the first time or the 10th, spend some time at Aquatic Park in San Francisco acclimatizing.

When I do these races my strategy is to either swim in the morning before the race or arrive a couple of days earlier and do at least two, 1,000-meter, swims so that on race day I can predict how long it will take for my face and hands to stop hurting and what the stress will feel like on my body.

Next, when you jump off the boat the blast of cold makes your heart race. It makes you breath faster or hyperventilate and you feel immediate pain. Stay calm and know that your heartbeat and breathing will slow down, and the pain will leave once you are use to the water temp.

When I jump off the boat I swim VERY slowly to the starting line so as to not make my heart-rate elevate further. (read that sentence twice and memorize it if you are "noob.") Once the shock has past and the race starts, only swim fast if you are warmed up, your pulse feels okay, and you face and hands don't hurt that much.

So what makes me so qualified? Nothing really but I have doneseven Alcatraz crossings and in 2012 I beat almost 81% of all the competitors - I beat Almost 77% of the male racers in the wetsuit division; (I wear a wetsuit), and I beat 84% of those in my age group. Click the below screenshot from EnviroSports to enlarge.


Amit said...

Why did they hold the race in March? Is the water warmer in June? USAT really needs to investigate what seems to be rising episodes like this.

Tony Austin said...

The water is warmest in September. The water temp was about 52 over the weekend.

No matter what anyone says, water temp is always a factor. It may not be the deciding factor but it is always, always, one of them.

Anonymous said...

I am an experienced competitive swimmer, with numerous open water swims, even a 10k ocean swim under my belt. I've swum Alcatraz three times, and each time was horrifying. It's not just the temperature, but the knowledge that if you swim adrift, you could be carried out to sea. Even jumping off that boat is traumatizing, and that's with a wetsuit. Swimming from Capitola to Santa Cruz without was much more pleasant!

Tony Austin said...

You described exactly how I feel when jump in. It's shock and then when you get to the middle of the bay you feel like pixel on wide screen arena TV at the super bowl.

I am doing it again this May. Please introduce yourself if you are there.