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Are Panic Attacks Cause Of Triathlon Deaths?

David Brown of The Washington Post explains why he believes athletes have been dying in the swim portion of races.

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David Brown of The Washington Post explains why he believes athletes have been dying in the swim portion of races.

In my first triathlon about 15 years ago, I was in a huddle of wet-suited men about to wade into a lake in Maryland when an acquaintance next to me offered a singularly useful piece of information.

He said it was common for people to have panic attacks in the swim leg of triathlons. He’d done a few. We knew each other from training three mornings a week in a bright, clear Olympic-size pool.

“You’ll see. Within the first hundred yards or so, a couple people will swim right to the shore. They’ll be freaked out. The race will be over for them.”

In a minute, we were standing in water so dark you couldn’t see anything a foot below the surface. The bottom was squishy underfoot. It was not yet 8 o’clock in the morning. The wet suit, which I’d put on only a few times before, was tight around my chest and cold as the water seeped in.

The starting horn screeched.

Fifty or 60 of us, all wearing identical swim caps whose color denoted the age and sex of our starting group, began to swim. We collided and had our faces bumped and kicked as we made our way into open water. Within a few minutes my heart was racing, I was breathing fast and I was scared to death, although I wasn’t exactly sure why.

I rolled onto my back to calm down and let the pack move on. As I sculled slowly, I looked to the shore. Two men were climbing out on all fours.

Read more: Washingtonpost.com