Cute but mean

There’s a pond about 15 minutes’ drive from our house where I practice my open water swimming about once a week. Last weekend, I was swimming with some other athletes, and I had my wetsuit on first, so I took a few strokes by myself to get acclimated. As I was doing this, I saw something like a stick protruding from the surface of the water directly in my path. I didn’t think anything of it until I was 3 or 4 yards away, and it vanished.

I realized it wasn’t a stick at all, but the head of some kind of creature, probably a turtle. And it reminded me that in open water swimming, I’m usually sharing the water with creatures who are more at home in it than I am. It usually isn’t as bad as sharing a lane with another swimmer at the pool, but it’s a little disquieting sometimes.

I’m glad I don’t live in Florida, where I imagine you often have to share the water with alligators. And now, I’m glad I don’t live in Duluth. According to an article in the Star Tribune on Monday, a triathlete named Leah Prudhomme, swimming in Island Lake near Duluth, Minnesota, was attacked by an otter.

Photo “Otter” by William Warby from Flickr. Creative Commons license.

The otter in the photo is not the one that attacked her. I found the photo on Flickr and put it up there as decoration and to show you what an otter looks like, on the slim chance you don’t know.

At 33, Prudhomme is not geriatric, but what happened to her doesn’t seem to be age related. The little beast bit her 25 times, shredding her wetsuit and leaving dozens of bites, some as deep as 2 inches. I wish I could draw something practical from this incident, like how to avoid otter attacks. But the truth is, if you can swim well enough to evade an attacking otter, you don’t need advice.

Prudhomme was given tetanus and rabies shots, and has had to continue with the rabies shots. Her wetsuit is ruined.

Prudhomme plans to race the Duluth Triathlon on August 18. It’s a half iron, with a swim in the same lake. It will be interesting to see whether the otter has the guts to face 750 (the registration limit set by the organizers) triathletes.

Thanks to Rick Christ for finding and pointing out the story.

Today’s weight: 155.4
Waking pulse: 55

A Brush with Celebrity

Most of the country knows Scott Brown as the man who changed the balance of power in the U.S. Senate in 2010. But Massachusetts triathletes know him as a competitor. If you race triathlons in Massachusetts, you will probably encounter him eventually.

He and I were in the same swim wave at Buzzard’s Bay in 2009. He showed me how to loop the extension of my zipper pull under the closure tabs of my wetsuit, in order to keep somebody from inadvertently pulling the zipper open in the chaos of a swim start. And then he placed 14th overall and I placed 115th. He likely didn’t notice he left me 101 places back. But then, he was second in his age group, and I was first in mine.

The photo is from the Sharon’s Back triathlon in 2010. My support crew was sick during the Buzzard’s Bay race in 2009, and I have no photos of it.

Scott Brown is in the 50-55 age group, so he has a way to go before he becomes an an apt subject for a post in a blog called Geriatric Triathlete. For all I know, he would be embarrassed by it. But just consider this an early writeup, for he shows no sign of slowing down, and we’ll probably see him competing long after he becomes one of us.

In fact, he turned up at the Mill City Triathlon in Lowell, Mass. on Sunday. That race features an international length tri, a sprint, and an aquabike. He entered the sprint and placed 17th overall, and got on the podium with a 3rd place in his age group.

He was competing in friendly territory. According to the writeup in the Lowell Sun, “Brown captured the vote in Lowell by almost 1,000 ballots against state Attorney General Martha Coakley during the special election to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy in January 2010.”

I still start every race by looping my zipper pull under the tabs on my wetsuit. Thanks, Senator.

Today’s weight: 155.8

Waking pulse: 56