The New York City Triathlon reached a sort of milestone this past Sunday. Two people died during the swim portion of the race, putting a scare into the organization that runs it, and into all the athletes who participate in it.
First a 64-year old Freehold, New Jersey man died Sunday right after the swim part of the race. On Monday, a 40-year old woman from Elmhurst, Ilinois who was pulled from the Hudson River and rushed to the hospital, died Monday from an apparent heart attack she suffered during during the race.
The New York Times reports that the man identified as Michael Kudryk, and the woman, Amy Martich, were participating in the first phase of the three-part race, which was the 1,500-meter swim in the Hudson River. Kudryk and Martich were among 28 people who had to be pulled from the water Sunday. There were 3,000 competitors in the Triathlon, though some competed as part of relay teams and did not swim.
John Korff, the owner and organizer of the New York City Triathlon said that he and other race officials will be reviewing procedures for this arduous race, especially for the swim leg of it, which comes before the cycling and running phases.
Doctors report that most of the deaths that occur in triathlons happen during the swimming contest. Dr. Stuart Weiss, the Triathlon's medical director says
“So many things can go wrong in an open-water swim — it can add up to a perfect storm. There’s some combination of water, adrenaline, pushing yourself hard, and all these things somehow work together to put people into an abnormal heart rhythm.”
In its 11-year history, the New York City Triathlon, has experienced only one other death. Thirty-two year old Esteban Neira of Argentina collapsed in 2008 during the swim from a condition linked to high blood pressure.
Triathlon medical experts note that because there has been an increased level of participation in the tough race, this had led to more inexperienced athletes’ subjecting themselves to the rigors of the race, with potentially deadly consequences in the swim part of it.. Neal Henderson, director of sport science at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado explains why
“A triathlon that starts in open water is not the same thing as practicing in a pool, even if you’re an accomplished swimmer in a pool. You have the anxiety of a mass start, you’re wearing a wetsuit, you have people kicking you in the face, maybe then you swallow some water or start to hyperventilate and you could get into a panic situation. If you’ve never done it before, it’s even worse.”
Dr. Kevin Harris of the Minneapolis Heart Institute published a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association recommending that Triathlons screen participants much more carefully to require certification in open-water swims.
Manhattan politicians like Borough President Scott Stringer are concerned as well. On Monday, Stringer issued a statement calling for a review of the Triathlon's safety rules.
“New Yorkers signed up for a Triathlon — not a game of Russian roulette."Crain's New York Business reports that Michael Kudryk left this note on his Freehold, New Jersey's health club website attesting to his health before he undertook the Triathlon.
“Besides losing weight and going down one belt size, I feel I look better, I feel physically stronger and every morning I feel energized.”
Kudryk noted the fact that he had lost 20 of his 223 pounds in four months of going to the gym and working with a trainer. Kudryk wrote he was training for the next New York Marathon, and that his two sons and a nephew, all in their 30s, had started running and were all trying to keep up with him.