>Training for triathlon, by its very virture, is dangerous.
Now, I don’t mean running with the bulls dangerous. Or B.A.S.E. jumping dangerous. Or Russian Roulette dangerous. But let’s face it, we hear all too often of something happening to triathletes that involves some level of risk. A quick look a random headlines makes this all too clear:
- Two Cyclists Stabbed After Holiday Ride; One in Critical Condition
- Maryland Green Party Candidate Dies After Hit & Run Accident
- Professional Triathlete Jordan Rapp injured in Hit & Run Accident
- Triathletes Killed While Training Near Montreal
Even if we haven’t been victims of a hit and run or road rage accident anywhere near the severity of those mentioned above, it’s likely that the vast majority of us have had run-ins with folks in vehicles that left us shaken, scared or angry. I’ve had close encounters with truck mirrors. I had a truck full of kids pace me and yell at me to get off the road. My friend Martin had a drink thrown at him – and while the drink did hit him, he wasn’t injured.
The dangers and risks associated with our sport aren’t tied only to the road. Earlier this year, a scientific paper authored by John Gever, the Senior Editor of MedPage Today, cited research that showed that during the 2006-2008 triathlon season, there were 14 sudden deaths of triathletes during races. All but one of those deaths occurred during the swim segment of the race. Earlier this summer, Derek Valentino drown during the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon. While we may never know what caused each of these triathletes to drown, Gever’s research did indicate that one potential root cause in seven of the cases could have been preexisting heart conditions.
So how do we mitigate risk in our sport? Do we call upon RD’s to provide more lifeguards during races? Do we ask county commissioners or the Federal Government to fund more bike-only roads? Do we give up the sport?
Perhaps some of those efforts are appropriate.
Perhaps broader public education of laws that pertain to cycling. Perhaps we should endeavor to convince our training partners to avoid riding in large peletons, which seem to be at the root of much consternation from drivers.
I don’t think there’s a silver bullet solution. I do think there are some really simple things that each of us can do to make certain that our sport is safer:
- Be courteous as a rider. Don’t block traffic.
- When/if you run into a situation where a road rage incident is brewing, take the high road. Back out of the situation.
- Report blatent offenses to local law enforcement
- Train within our limits
- Don’t bite off more than we can chew (unless we prepare for it)
- If you counsel or coach others who are just getting into the sport, encourage them to have a physical first to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
- Wear a helmet at all times
- Wear reflective material &/or lights when training in early mornings, late afternoons, or when it’s dark.
- Always be aware of your surroundings, actions others are taking, and anticipate your next move.
Maybe it is a pipe dream to think that there’s a silver bullet that can make us safe from others or unknown perils. That said, I really think if we’re careful, cautious, and aware, we can limit the risk we face.
Be safe, and train hard!