Now, the NYTimes has published an article examining triathlon swim deaths -- not only the NY Triathlon death, but two more than came this past weekend (making 8 this year so far) and all of them have happened during the swim leg.
I've always joked with my friends that I like the swim leg the least of all the sports in triathlon because "it's the only leg in which I could die trying to finish it."
Any medical problem in the water is more likely to turn fatal than one that arises during a bike ride or a run. “Water is not a forgiving environment,” Dr. [Pamela] Douglas said. “It’s really hard when you’re swimming to sit down and say ‘I’m going to take a breather.’ ”And it seems I'm not alone in my "respect" for the swim leg:
I do know that since my first triathlon earlier this year, I've concentrated on becoming a stronger swimmer, and that's taken the edge off my concerns about the swim. But I think no matter how hard I train, I'll always look forward to T1 more than any other part of the race.
Many triathletes point to the swim as a triathlon’s most stressful segment. Most swims take place in open, often cold, water with hundreds or even thousands of other swimmers vying for position. “Nothing can prepare a newbie for the start,” said Russ Evenhuis, a triathlete in Olympia, Wash. “It can be like jumping into a washing machine. You will get swum over, kicked, hit and banged into.”
A triathlon’s open-water swim hardly resembles the pools where most triathletes train, said Neil Cook, a New York City based triathlete and coach. “There is no wall 25 yards away, you can’t see the bottom and the 50 to 150 people around you are more than you’ve probably swam with in total during your training,” he said. “Oh, and you are wearing this wetsuit that’s tighter than a girdle and you can’t breathe.” Raise your heart rate and blood pressure under these conditions, he said, and “any weakness you have will become apparent.”