The increased number of deaths in the swim leg of triathlon since 2008 has led to much conversation among race directors, coaches, and various industry experts. Sitting at my desk yesterday reading the most recent post on the topic from Dan Empfield of Slowtwitch got me thinking back to a story shared by an athlete I coach.
He called me one evening last fall to tell me of an interesting night at the pool we normally met at for our lessons in a northern Minneapolis suburb. An elderly gentleman in the next lane over finished his laps in the pool then turned around in his lane to rest his head in his arms up on the pool deck. When he shut his eyes they were never to open again.
What followed, according to the athlete I coach, was a flurry of activity from the life guards in an attempt to clear the pool and resuscitate the gentleman. It was not to be.
For the loved ones of the swimmer, his passing was surely a sad one. Yet, I can help but thinking about how, in some way, his passing is to be envied. I have witnessed loved ones withering away their last days in hospital beds and heard the stories of others dying horrific deaths. Call me crazy, but there is something almost poetic about spending an evening doing what you love then passing on quietly, without pain, with your head resting in your own arms.
When my time comes I only hope I’m so lucky to have lasted long enough on this earth for someone to call me “elderly” and that my final moments are spent in motion with a healthy body.
Except, in the daydream version of my death the story won’t quite end there on the pool deck. You see, in my story, several months later a teenaged kid opens up a birthday present that his mother purchased at an estate sale. When he finally figures out how to turn on the Garmin 910xt he’ll see that the final data file is 5 x 500 meter swim completed on 7:15’s. Sitting back, the kid thinks how crazy it would be to finish that work set. Reaching for a moleskin wrapped Bucket List, he makes a new entry. And the cycle of inspiration continues.