Father of two, devoted husband, Clydesdale, hope to become just an age grouper someday. Former nationally ranked triathlete (sounds better than it really is, but I like the sound of it). Competing in the 50-54 bracket this year. Have done a 1/2 Ironman tri, a marathon and a bunch of sprint and oly distance races. Member of BT since 12-1-03
It may seem simple, but too many athletes get hurt during the season. We all need to stay safe while we share the roads. Here are some reminders to remain alert to our surroundings.
As the new season approaches, and many of us (particularly from the north) come back out of hibernation, we must get used to being outside again. I, for one, can get a false sense of security training indoors during the winter. These are a few tips I use to get used to being alert again for the spring.
Never swim alone
It should be a no-brainer, but one should never swim alone. I know this sounds silly, but I have a friend who regularly does open water swims without even a spotter on shore. I once questioned him on this practice, and he gave me an interesting answer: As far as he saw it, swimming by nature was safer than his training on land. All he had to worry about in the water was himself. On land there were cars, potholes, other people, etc. Early morning workouts in the water were done without anyone else around that was not swimming with him. My problem with this logic is, WHEN he has a problem, there is no help. Hitting the deck on a bike can hurt, but you will not drown if you break your arm in the accident. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of his philosophy.
Bike safety tips
As for the bike, there are a bunch of things that can be done to get you back home safe. First, keep the bike in good shape. A mechanical failure at speed could cause tons of trouble, if not a major inconvenience. Also, we need to wear helmets in races, so you might as well train in one. I have seen more than one person with a nice cracked helmet to display.
The last big thing we can do personally is to make sure we are as alert as possible, and this means riding defensively. We are greatly outweighed by cars, and their drivers frequently do not notice us on the roads. When they do, they often still cut us off, misjudging our speed.
For starters, I would never ride with music covering my ears. This is the first line of defense against drivers. I also personally use a mirror on my helmet so I can see what is behind me better before making sudden moves to avoid a situation.
To me, the best possible thing you can do for staying alert is to assume NO ONE EVER SEES ME! With this in mind, it is harder to get run over if you are making eye contact with every driver at an intersection. Yes, it still happens. Heck, I was in a race when a police officer directed cross traffic directly in front of me. I would have wrecked if I had not seen that he was talking to a race volunteer with his back to me. At a 1/4 mile away I prepared mentally for him to do the unexpected, and he did. So never fully trust anyone on the roads but yourself.
To me, running has the least amount of serious risk from others, but can still be hazardous. If we keep the same defensive ideas about drivers in our minds as we run, we keep the cars at bay.
All three of our sports have nature to contend with in some way, shape, or form. For starters, it is always wise to know the forecast before going out. Nothing ruins a good workout like a little frostbite on a cold morning ride, or dehydration when too little water is taken. Know how long you intend to be out and let someone else know when to expect you back. It is also a good idea to let them know your intended route so they can check on you if you are very late. Cell phones are a good fallback too. You do not need to have more than some sore muscles, a blister, or a flat tire to need a lift home. So consider taking it with you, especially on longer workouts.
Mother Nature can also catch us off guard with her animals. I have run over a squirrel during a ride! He ran off and I stayed up somehow. I have had friends who had to out-ride a momma bear who was protecting her cubs! When it comes to wildlife, I respect where I am and assume that they all can cause me a problem. I approach every stray dog like they plan to attack. So far (knock on wood), I have stayed away from too many major accidents. Other than cornering too quickly on a blind curve and hitting a parked car, or the occasional spill, I have kept my body intact. With a little forethought, we all can have a great season. By all means, this is not a definitive list, but keep it in mind as you take to the roads this season. As always, train hard and have fun!
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