Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Triathlete who died in the "Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon" died within the first minute!

For an athlete to die during minute-one of a triathlon almost seems incomprehensible unless the athlete somehow fell into unconsciousness from a blow or what is known as "cold shock response." (An autopsy is being preformed.) I linked to an article about this yesterday and I see that Wikipedia has an article on the subject as well. You can read it here: [Link]

From SF Gate:
"...Ross Ehlinger, 46, an attorney from Austin, died just one minute after jumping into the 51-degree water of San Francisco Bay at the start of the race. Race officials say he suffered a heart attack, but the medical examiner's office has not issued a finding on Ehlinger's cause of death. ..." 
There is a gallery of the race there as well.

I am doing the same crossing in May but I suspect the water will be a degree-or-two warmer. Hence my strategy is to swim "doubles" or swim twice each day at Aquatic Park, three-days-in-a-row so as to acclimatize myself to San Francisco bay water. Screw tapering.


Mark Rauterkus said...

It might be a good race practice, especially with a mass start into colder water, to allow or even to require swimmers to begin the race with a floating utility of some sort. Jump into the water with a kick board or pull bouy. Some are cut/built to do double duty. Then if you must use it -- all is well. Or, if you must aid another, fine. Then after the first 500 yards/meters -- there could be a row boat or string of them that are designated for swimmers to deposit the swim equipment.

I know that I've felt better with a confidence edge doing some open water swims with a pull buoy between my legs. "Pulling" first in the warm-up -- or kicking even -- might save a life or two.

Reactions welcome.

Tony Austin said...

Yes... I agree but here is the problem with the Escape from Alcatraz tri. You time is clocked as soon as you cross a timing pad. Hence, the race starts as soon as you are ib the air heading towards the water. I can't do that or rather I can't jump in and swim at race pace. I would drown if I tried and I am a well above average swimmer.

The Alcatraz Sharkfest differs in that once you jump in the water. You can wait as long as 15-minutes or more till the race starts. By then the shock is over and you're ready to tear into it.

This race will have to be revised and I suspect a lawsuit will make it so. The start is just not safe. 50-degree water is dangerous especially for somebody that has been training in an 80-degree pool.

Glenn Mills said...

I think some of the culture also needs to be changed. When I did a crossing I wore a wetsuit. I was (in a suble way) harassed by the regulars that I was being wimpy for wearing it. I don't typically swim in 50° water, so certainly wasn't acclimatized to it, and don't succumb to peer pressure... but the pressure was still there.

People need to stop judging other people based on what they can do. It would be like Jason Lezak looking at pretty much everyone in the world, and harassing them for being... well... slow.

If you can swim in cold water... cool, and congrats for living in an area that affords you the opportunity to practice it regularly. But understand that there are many very tough people who simply aren't ready for it, and equipment and tools should be used... no matter how great a swimmer you are.

Tony Austin said...

You're right, real swimmers don't wear wetsuits, they wear techsuits!


Glenn Mills said...

Thank you Bruckner.

And you've made my point.

Tony Austin said...

I am going to speak for Glenn. Pardon me if I over stepped Glen.

Glenn has nothing to prove. He made the Olympic team in 1980, his contributions to swimming via GoSwim, his coaching work, and most of all and his philanthropy within the sport have more than justified YOUR definition of "male citizenship."

Swimming is a recreational sport it's not a "superstitious rite" of male or female passage. I am astonished at your "moral outrage" or your condescending view towards Glenn. "Me thinks the lady doth protest too much" -- William Shakepeare

Perhaps you should examine your over-zealous objections.

If you really want to narrow down the male gender with Darwinian definitions: "it's the legacy, stupid" or the contributions and/or the kids men and women have left behind. Glenn has left both and still continues on.

Glenn Mills said...

I appreciate your defense Tony, but I certainly shouldn't be the focus on this. My intent was to share a personal observation of a situation that occurred in the same waters that Mr. Ehlinger died in.

There is a culture of macho and name calling associated with many events, which is further borne out in that 80% of all drownings are by males. I refuse to be a part of that.

It's a shame that the conversation has turned to my fondness for wearing wetsuits for recreational events. It has no place here.

Sid Cassidy said...

Without defending anyone or anything, the tragedy here is that a life indeed was lost and there is a family mourning that loss. This event and string of comments has affected me emootionally as someone deeply involved with the past, present and future of open water swimming ....Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned ...
As one who believes that the magnificent joy of racing in open water is certainly a thrill millions have known and in my vision of the future billions and billions should come to know. However, if we do not exercise a common sense approach to safety our own zealous desire fo establish this great sport as "pure" could become our own undoing.
I have long been an advocate of elite challenges and have in my many years of involvement with the art and sport of open water been a champion on the "pure" approach. The English Chanel rules - aka the no wetsuit/ no flotation aid rules - served as the basis for the very rules that have evolved into the FINA rule book that governs our top echelon of competitors at Olympic and World Championship competitions. I like the idea of a swimmer with goggles and a Speedo going up against the many challenges Mother Nature provides in so many different aquatic venues this world has to offer. However, I sit here greatly saddened that yet another life is lost in what arguably could be considered a preventable premature demise.
None of us have the answers and we all have our opinions, so thank you Tony for providing this vehicle to express them. My personal opinion is that jumping into water that cold is a dangerous way to begin any competition - elite, recreational or anywhere in between - I agree with Mark that acclimatization is critical, even vital, to ensure not only the best chance to succeed, but the best chance to survive. I am proud to have learned from the great Penny Dean acclimatization techniques that we used in our 1991 English Chanel crossing and those same techniques are still taught at our USA Swiming National Team Camp every year.
Bottom line for me is simple - LOVE racing, training and recreating (is that a word?) in the open water folks ... And do it with safety in mind. There is a possibility that Mr. Ehlinger would be with his family today if athletes in that race were required to be tethered to a device like the "Safer Swimmer" that Bruce Wigo from the International Swimming Hall of Fame is promoting. Of course we will never know, but maybe he would have had a chance.
Thanks Glenn for your perspective and experiences ... And Bruckner.....I might suggest that a little more "Peace, Love and Understanding" (yes that is an Elvis Costello reference) would go a long way ... We all swim in the same waters ... Peace to the Ehlinger family, Love to all who love the joy of the open water experience and may we all gain a greater Understanding of the big picture.

Tony Austin said...

WOW! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

THE Bruckner Chase said...

I am Bruckner Chase, and while researching some cold water triathlon information for a clinic I am doing tomorrow I ran across this blog and comments that someone made claiming to be me. Disgusted by the negative and derogatory comments made by this identity thief that somehow also linked to my site. All I can say is that I look forward to seeing you in the water.

Tony Austin said...

We figured out it wasn't you 1-hour after the last comment. Turns out you were out of town. I will be deleting the offending comments tomorrow morning but keep yours for the internet archive to maintain.