Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Triathlete Down.

I'm not sure about posting this. I'm not sure I have a right, really. I didn't know this guy, wasn't part of the race (though many of my teammates were), but it still makes me so sad.

Last weekend, while I was busy bemoaning my silly calf cramp and getting beaten by a guy in cotton, while many of the Tri Blog Alliance were out there kicking butt in their own races, a 28 year old man named Kevin Hunt drowned just 50 feet from the beach at the finish of a 500m open water swim in his first triathlon. His father was watching from the beach and heard him shout "Help!" and then go down. He came up once more and then went down for good. Neither his father, the kayaks, nor the 100 athlete human chain that formed to rescue him were able to get to him in time. He was an avid cyclist from High Ridge, the town I cycle to when I'm looking for some hill torture - he may have even been one of the many cyclists I've seen when out on that route. I just can't stop thinking about him, his race, his family and what it all means - if it really means anything.

We all owe a death. He paid his debt doing something he wanted to do, something he'd trained months for. I suppose there are worse ways to go. And the one hundred triathletes who were on shore waiting for their wave to start and launched a rescue attempt of their own say much for the people who make this sport their lifestyle. Still, this is haunting me - as I'm sure it is haunting many local triathletes, particularly us newbs. It seems selfish to make it about me but I can't help but admit that it strikes terror into my heart to think that this happened. My great consolation in the open water has been that I'm not going to drown. But it CAN happen, it DID happen. I'm sure it doesn't happen very often, and I know that people drown in pools and rivers and all kinds of places that I'm not afraid to go. So why does this scare me so much?

I suppose that those of us who crave challenges (triathletes, adventure seekers, etc.) are defying death, in a way. We shake our fists at that which we know will catch us eventually. It may be sooner, it may be later (we hope its later!) but we will not cower from it. Still, when its shadow passes over us, we cannot help but shudder. I fear for myself - but I also fear for the ones I would leave behind. Reading about Kevin's father standing helplessly on the shore, I thought of my own father, husband and son. What would they do if it were me that sunk into the abyss? I know they would be devastated but I think they would be angry with me as well - for putting myself in the position of being taken from them. Maybe that's what I'm ultimately afraid of - that stain on their memory of me, to be to blame for my own absence. But, really, life is dangerous. Driving in a car, flying in a plane, walking down the street - many people die everyday doing these things. So why the guilt for doing something the general public feels is inherently dangerous - which proves to be inherently dangerous occasionally?

In the meantime, Kevin Hunt's family mourns and second guesses and wishes for answers where there are none. Say a prayer or two or a hundred for them.

Post Script - Kevin's family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the LiveStrong Foundation in his name.


Eric said...

If you hear anything more about why he drowned please let us know. I agree that it doesn't make sense.

We can't live in fear each and every day. Live it to the fullest.

jeanne said...

oh wow, that is horrible. it seems so senseless. especially with so many people around trying to help!

Please do let us know if you hear more about what happened. I wonder if he had a heart attack or something. Who knows.

a very thoughtful post.

21stCenturyMom said...

That is a terribly sad story. I would assume he aspirated a lot of water very quickly or had a very fast, fatal heart attack. With all of those people around to pull him out it had to have happened very, very quickly. So sad. So young. And yes - we have to carry on in spite of these scary incidences. They happen and they are always tragic but mostly they don't.

Rob said...

I was there when it happened. Part of the human chain warming up to begin the Quartermax race. You're blog comes very close to expressing how I feel. I'll never forget my first sight of him 10 feet from me when he was first pulled out. RIP Kevin Hunt.

Phoenix said...

Rob, I can't tell you how amazed, impressed and touched I was when I heard of your and the other athlete's efforts to save Kevin. Thank you for being the light in this dark, sad event.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

that is so sad. I'm so sorry to hear about him - and I hope his death is not wasted. I'm sorry for his family's loss.

Bolder said...

we had a death in The Boulder Peak two years ago in the swim.

it's a tragedy.

my condolences to his family, and my sadness for his father having to witness his death.

it stays with you forever.

Vickie said...

Yes, very sad, and unexplainable, of course. Believe me, I have had those same thoughts many times, particularly after my accident, about feeling selfish for continuing to do things that put me at risk--because of others I am responsible for. But there are things we cannot control, and this was one of them. I'm sure that had he still known something would happen, he would have taken his chances with fate. None of us knows when our time will come, but we would like it to be in a happy situation like this. Leaving others behind makes it hard, because they will be the ones to suffer the loss. Take solace in the fact that it was an isolated incident, but naturally one which touched you personally, and isn't likely to happen to you. I am a firm believer that there is always a reason why things happen, and we just need to have faith in that. Hope you feel better soon.

Comm's said...

When I first got into open water swimming practices I almost drown 60 meters from safety. I posted a blog on it back in Sept 05 if you care to read it. I scarred me and scared me until I finished ironman florida in terrible open ocean swim conditions.

During that race (IMFL) a man died. He had a heart attack or similiar in the water. I watched the rescue boat and people shouting into the water thinking someone had cut the buoy and not the unthinkable. As I swam feet away from this tragedy and the enormity reached me there was more than enough hands to bring the man out.

Each breath I watched the helicopter come and go from the scene. The spectators including my waiting wife felt something wrong. My wife wasa near a walkie and the description was the same as me. It was dificult for her to be happy and sad at the same time.

Seek quite time and meditation to put this through you. Pray to whomever or whatever you like and seek solice.

Fe-lady said...

Thanks for letting us know about this...it's just so horribly sad-especially the fact that no one could get to him in time. I don't get that part...but it happened and I guess we just have to keep moving forward.
Thanks for the link too.

Rob said...

Honestly, this all happened very quickly, with lots of confusion about what was going on. Since we were diving under, we weren't all hearing the instructions being yelled and didn't know anything we know now except that there was an urgency. We were swimmiing into each other under the water, so it was kind of crazy. There wasn't any time to think about anything, just that we needed to get as many people as possible to that spot quickly. It certainly didn't take any courage to swim over there from my warm up. I'm even embarrassed to admit that the area was so close to shore (though probably 10 feet deep) that I thought in the back of my mind while we were searching that it was probably a mistake; someone just thought they had seen someone go under. Of course, that thought disentegrated when I saw Kevin surface. Then I was just shocked and very sad. There was a definite sallow mood afterwards and I heard several guys contemplating whether they would race. Most guys went back behind the beach fence to tell their loved ones they loved them and that they were okay. Everyone present was shook up pretty badly.

Anyway, I personally came out of this with the reinforcement that "Life is not a dress rehearsal." Now is all the time we have and it could be gone without notice.

A little known fact from this that you might find interesting: Daniel Bretscher, from Illinois, was the guy who found Kevin and pulled him to the surface before several other guys grabbed him and helped swim him back to shore. The press credited someone else with finding him, but that is excusable since there were so many guys helping to find and swim him to shore. I know it was Daniel because I watched him pull Kevin up, and I had just met Daniel 30 minutes earlier on the beach when we discussed a mutual friend. Daniel is very personable and friendly young guy. After Kevin was pulled out, and we were waiting for the helicopter to arrive, several other guys and I talked to Daniel about his experience finding Kevin on the bottom of the lake. Anyway, the interesting thing is that Daniel is an elite triathlete who just won the amateur division of the Hy-Vee Triathlon last week in Des Moines, an extremely competitive race. He also won the overall at the Quartermax race after pulling Kevin up that morning. We will probably be hearing young Daniel Bretscher's name in the future alongside the ITU and long course pros.

"At least we don't live no hum drum lives."

Rural Girl said...

That is devastating. It makes each triathlete stop and take a look at their life. It happens. How do you want to live?

Anonymous said...

I was at the race cheering two of my friends on as they did their first race. I did not see them pull Kevin up but I did see them doing CPR on him for what seemed like forever. I remember him looking lifeless and blue and I knew at that moment he was not going to make it. Thankfully my friends had already gone so they did not have to see it and I did not have to worry about them.
I have not been able to get his image out of my mind. Or his friends and family who were hysterical watching the rescue efforts. I have been googling him often to see if there has been any more news. I think it would make us all feel better to know that he died from something else besides just drowning. It would make more sense and make us all feel like it couldn't happen to us after all, even though we know it could. I had my 20 month old son with me and I held him that much closer the rest of the day.
Thanks for your post and giving us a place to vent about this. It is something I will never forget. I will continue to say daily prayers for his family so they may find some peace.