I love the sport of triathlon. I love endurance sports in general – I love racing, I love the training, I love the competition with both myself and others. I love pushing my limits and proving to myself that I can push them further. I love the feeling of the wind blowing by and the road beneath me as I ride my bike. I love the sound the chain makes and the feeling of flying through a course. I love the sound of gravel underneath my shoes on the trail as I run and, although I “hate” swimming, I love the feeling of accomplishment after a tough set. As with most things I love – my family, my friends, my career – I hope that nothing ever takes this away.
It’s been a tough summer for endurance athletes, both competitive and non-competitive, in my mind. In the beginning summer, a friend of mine was hit by a car while training in Columbia. He flew off his bike and the driver left him in a field. Luckily for the rider, a Shock Trauma nurse was riding behind him and gave him the care he needed, called 911, and tracked down the hit-and-run driver. My friend survived the accident after being put in an induced coma for several days, although the traumatic brain injury he suffered will affect him for the rest of his life. Move onto June. Professional triathlete, Meredith Kessler, was leading the women’s race at the Eagleman Ironman in Cambridge, Maryland. When riding and coming head to head with another rider, Meredith was thrown off her bike and knocked unconscious. She was taken to a hospital and suffered only a concussion, and Meredith is back competing again. Three weeks later in July, in Havre de Grace, I myself was involved in an accident. I suffered minimal injuries and my bike took most of the damage. Even though there was no serious injury, it still took me a while to recover from the accident and I was pretty close to pulling out of Lake Placid afterwards. While racing at Rev3 Quassy in July, I saw a woman crash going down a descent at nearly 45 mph. She missed hitting a mailbox by about a foot and was taken to an ambulance on a stretcher as I was leaving. Even at Lake Placid a woman was hit by another biker, throwing her over a guard rail. Just a few weeks ago, a man was riding in Fallston on Mountain Road and was hit. Last I heard, he was taken to Shock Trauma via helicopter. And, finally, in August, a fellow triathlete was hit by a car while competing in a triathlon in Pennsylvania. I’m glad to say she is out of the hospital.
Triathlon, biking, riding, and swimming all have risks. You can drown during an open water swim and there have been stories of competitive triathletes suffering heart attacks during mass water starts and there are obvious risks when riding and even running. So why do I point all these deaths and injuries out? Is it to scare people? In a sense, yes. I want to scare people into realizing that, although you feel safe, experienced, and comfortable when training and racing, there is always a chance that something can go wrong. In todays world, there are so many distractions to drivers. Bluetooths, text messaging, radios – hell, the other day I saw a man shaving with an electric shaver riding down 95. Yes, it’s wrong to do these things, but people do them. And when they do, they most likely aren’t paying attention to a biker or runner. So, please take care of yourself and stay safe. And it never hurts to say a prayer every once in a while, being grateful for all you have been given and realizing it can all be taken away suddenly. I pray that every one of my training partners, and every athlete in general, makes it out and back safely during training and racing.
So here are a few tips for you all. Yeah, you’ve probably heard them a thousand times, but it never hurts to be reminded.
1. Always carry a cell phone and ID (preferably a Road ID, which has all your information right there)
2. Whenever possible, train with a partner
3. It goes without saying, but wear a helmet. You’d be surprised how many people don’t.
4. If you’re doing an open water swim, NEVER swim alone and always wear a swim cap.
5. Let people know when you’re leaving and how long you’re expected to be gone. If you go over, call them.
6. When biking and running, assume people can’t see you. Never take a chance.
7. Avoid roads without shoulders and those with blind spots. If you ride them, ride them with a group.
8. During a race, always follow the rules (i.e. don’t pass that yellow line – even though we all know we do anyways)
9. During a race, you’re not in any safer conditions – most roads remain open to traffic
10. Don’t forget to have fun. Stay safe, but have fun.
With all the stories for friends and fellow athletes that have been involved in accidents, and after hearing several stories of those that ended tragically, I can say that I am thankful everyday to be able to get up and train. Triathlon is a great sport and I love it. And I don’t want anything to ever take it away. That’s why I never take chances, and I alway say a prayer before every session.