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Man dies in swim portion of Alcatraz triathlon in frigid S.F. Bay

March 4, 2013 |  9:28 am

Photo: Swimmers emerge from San Francisco Bay during the 30th Anniversary Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco on May 2, 2010. Credit: D. Ross Cameron/Contra Costa Times/MCT
An entrant in the annual Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon died during its swimming portion in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay.

The event Sunday was held three months earlier than usual and under much colder conditions, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The 46-year-old Austin, Texas, man, whose name was not released, died less than a minute after he jumped into the bay, which was about 10 degrees cooler than last year's water temperature when the race was held in June, said race director Bill Burke, according to the newspaper.

"Was it colder than normal? Yes. But in my opinion, the water temperature was not a factor at all in this tragedy," he said. "This gentleman obviously had a heart condition he was unaware of."

It was the first death in the triathlon's 33-year history, Burke said. About 150 competitors were pulled from the swimming portion of the race, more than three times the normal number, he said.

The water temperature was about 51 degrees. Normally, when the race is held in June, the temperature is anywhere from 54 to 60 degrees.

The triathlon was rescheduled this year because of conflicts with the America's Cup. Next year the event will return to June.

"What happened today was very, very sad. It underscores that athletes need to be checked carefully by a cardiologist before pushing themselves," Burke said.

The race drew 2,000 professional and amateur athletes from throughout the world for a 1.5-mile swim, 18-mile bike ride and 8-mile run along San Francisco's waterfront and through Golden Gate Park.

Athletes are not required to pass any medical tests before entering, although most are seasoned athletes. On Sunday, they ranged in age from 13 to 79 and included everyone from Olympians to those with physical disabilities.


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-- From a Times staff writer

Photo: File photo shows swimmers emerging from San Francisco Bay during the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in 2010. Credit: D. Ross Cameron / Contra Costa Times