Posted by: First Mate | June 20, 2011

What are the odds?

Yesterday, Father’s Day, friends and I did the Kailua Masters Popo’ia Swim around Flat Island (Popo’ia).  This race is a fundraiser for Special Olympics and is a fun and challenging 1.6 mile course off Kailua Beach. You can find the 2011 Popo\’ia Race results here.

It was rough, visibility was poor and the current was strong. We trained in the pool, around the island in various conditions – rough weather, hypoxic drills and speed training.  Our goal was to have fun and finish. We were lucky, we all did.  The members of our group who trained by swimming around the island on various days finished strongest.

Here is the “healthy respect for the ocean” comment – many swimmers, surfers, sailors, fisherman and boaters develop a level of confidence or exhaustion that borders on reckless.  We know we can do this: we trained for it, studied the currents, weather, maps, provisioned well and we are going to do this!  Yes, I need more sleep, better nutrition, I should have trained harder but I am here and have to do this because I have planned and am mentally ready.  At last year’s race my Captain and brother in law saw what they considered to be 30% of the swimmers turning around and heading back to shore.  This year there were 129 finishers.  There were 146 entrants, to the best of my knowledge, there were several rescues and one death.

Do I think the race should be canceled? NO!  I do recognize the power of one: 1 wrong decision, 1 rogue wave, 1 lightening strike, 1 motivated person can change our lives forever.  Let me clarify that statement:  I deal in numbers all day long, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2005 statistics say that 19,000 people a year die of complications from MRSA.  I would be overwhelmed reading their names, thus despite changing my career to decrease the number of MRSA deaths, I am somewhat sensitized to the 53 or 54 people that could die daily from this awful pathogen. The CDC also says ten people die daily from unintentional drowning.  Of these ten, two will be children 14 years old and younger.   Do you have kids under 14?

The  gentleman that drowned during the race was a 47 year old man named Dave Mackenzie.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.  You can not live on an island like this one and not love our beautiful ocean and the environment where we live.  I am sure Mr Mackenzie was probably a strong swimmer, other factors may have played a role in why he ran into trouble.   What is clear to me is that if 3,520 people die from drowning annually, we are eventually going to know someone.  As a child, our neighbor’s son fell in the pool and drowned.  One of our group of swimmers, who is also an ER doctor and former life guard, assisted a swimmer onto a board to be towed safely to shore.

I certainly don’t preach “living in fear” but as mother, I would rather err on the side of caution than bravado.  We probably need to practice a man overboard drill soon.  Yes, I will be the victim, anything to get in the water.  Have you practiced a man overboard drill lately?  Watch the posted trailer from from Morning Light to get a reminder of how quickly things happen.

Morning Light Clip: Simulating Man Overboard – Trailer Addict.

Do you know CPR?  Are you calm in a crisis?  What is a crisis – jelly fish, rogue wave, being hit by another boater, anchor dragging, flipping, getting checked out by a tiger shark or nudged by a bull shark?

What was interesting to me, as I struggled to get more news on the suspected drowning, was that later that afternoon, there were two more rescues in the same area (Father Saves Child and Nearly Drowns); and this morning the search for a 54 year old snorkeler lost off Kaanapali, Maui was suspended.  Black Rock, Kaanapali is where there Maui Channel Swim (Au Au Channel) finishes and has challenging currents.

Open water is exactly that – open, as humans we are visitors in the ocean.

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