Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Scare Me Into Training

This story was one of the reasons I decided to start training more seriously for my upcoming marathons!
Triathlete died of a heart attack
He collapsed at Cohasset event
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff July 10, 2007

A 38-year-old triathlete who died during the inaugural Cohasset Triathlon on Sunday suffered a fatal heart attack while swimming, race organizers said yesterday.

Although race organizers and police declined to identify the victim at the request of his family, records from the race identified him as Joseph J. Lyons Jr., 38, of Newton Highlands.

"We're not interested in speaking to the press at all; we have no comment," said a woman who answered the phone yesterday at Lyons's address. Cars were parked in front of the family home for much of yesterday, and neighbors contacted by phone also declined to comment.

Lyons was listed as a certified public accountant who previously lived in San Francisco.

Organizers said they were well prepared for the event and that conditions on the water were good. They said three people, including Lyons, were plucked from the water after experiencing distress during the triathlon, including a 40-year-old woman who remained hospitalized yesterday after suffering cardiac distress and a 29-year-old man who was treated and released at South Shore Hospital.

More than 700 athletes participated in the event, known as a sprint triathlon because its three events cover shorter race distances than some other triathlons, including a quarter-mile swim, 12.5-mile bike race, and 3.2-mile road race. The event drew first-time triathletes as well as more experienced participants, organizers said.

The race began at 8 a.m. Sunday with clear skies, a light wind, the temperatures in the 70s, and a water temperature of 64 degrees. It raised more than $45,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The event was sanctioned by USA Triathlon, the sport's governing body based in Colorado. Bill Burnett, the race director, said in a statement yesterday that an emergency room physician, five paramedics, and two advanced life support ambulances were on hand at Sandy Beach for the swimming leg. Three Cohasset harbormaster boats, one volunteer personal boat, and eight kayakers were also on hand, Burnett said.

Lyons was taken ashore during the first of six heats in the swim leg of the competition. After being alerted by several racers that Lyons was in distress, a harbormaster boat picked him up and took him to the beach, where he was met by emergency medical personal.

"Upon arrival at the beach the victim went into cardiac arrest," Burnett said. CPR was performed, and the victim was taken to South Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The fatality in Cohasset has cast a spotlight on the grueling sport, which has been growing in popularity.

Lyons's death was the third in the nation this year at a sanctioned triathlon event, according to officials from USA Triathlon. The other deaths occurred at triathlons in Tampa in April and in Missouri three weeks ago, said Kathy Matejka, the group's events services director. As with Sunday's fatality, the other two occurred on the swim course. Two deaths occurred in 2006, also on the swim course. Matejka said.

Many newcomers are joining USA Triathlon's ranks, where the annual membership is expected to pass 100,000 this summer. In 2004, the group had 1,500 sanctioned events and last year surpassed 2,000 events for the first time.

Tragedies like the one in Cohasset are "something that's always on our mind," Matejka said.

Race organizers had to submit a safety plan to USA Triathlon for an event to be sanctioned. "We're extremely confident that all the preparations were done properly," she said.

With the growing popularity of triathlons , Matejka said USA Triathlon's officials have informally discussed creating a system that would require participants to have completed a number of smaller triathlons before being allowed to register for others.

Race officials said that they did not know Lyons's experience, but that the problem of novice triathletes joining the sport is a concern.

"You do need to do the right work, or you're going to put yourself at risk," said T.J. Murphy, editor in chief of Triathlete magazine. He said summer triathlons are more taxing, especially with extreme sodium loss.

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