Do you have a race day emergency plan?

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This horrible incident during the Boston Marathon this week, added to something I’ve been thinking about lately after I had an accident during a race. We do so much training and reading to get every aspect of our fitness, equipment, nutrition, even logistics, right during a race… but sometimes there are accidents/unexpected incidents.

Have you planned for that? Of course, explosions at the sidelines of any race aren’t something you can plan for, and not much you can do if your accident knocks you out cold… but meeting up with family or emergency contact if something goes wrong is vital to review.

In March I had a bike accident during a triathlon, in a city 3-hours away.  My husband, my emergency contact, was also racing at the same time.  It was rather minor but I was cold, bleeding and in shock.  There were no volunteers near me, thankfully a fellow athlete saw me crash and came to console me/secure my bike until emergency responders (firemen, and a 3rd party ambulance) came over to warm me up, and take me to the hospital.  My minor wound was cleaned, I got one stitch and then sent on my way.  If I had known how close I was to the emergency tent at the event, and if I had realized how ridiculous ambulance/hospital care costs are — I could’ve avoided a $1,500 bill.  I was ignorant, and careless to not have prepared myself in advance for the worst.  [NOTE: In running races it’s common for athletes to carry their cellphones, so communication tends to be effortless. In triathlon, the athlete carries nothing into the water/bike/run except maybe a performance tracker watch; communication after an incident can drag out for hours; volunteers are priceless.]

Before your next race, here’s a few guidelines based on some event website tips and just experience that will help you in an emergency:

  1. First Aid station: Identify before the race starts where this emergency tent is, most races have capable paramedic staff on hand throughout the event.
  2. Course Map & Aid Stations: Know the event course map well including street names of major intersections and aid station locations. The sooner you can find a volunteer to help you, the sooner you will be in contact with your loved ones.
  3. Establish a meeting point & estimated finish time: If you’ve been training appropriately, you should be able to determine what time frame you’ll be arriving at the finish line. Also, finish lines are the WORST place to meet up with loved ones since they are insanely crowded. Find a distinct spot/intersection nearby to meet up.  This way your loved ones will be able to know right away if something is wrong, without waiting for the event to close down and then search.                                      Roger and I like to race together, so I usually meet him afterwards at the Muscle Milk/Coconut Water tent since that’s his first stop after the finish line, second stop is race results posting.
  4. Visible Bib Number: Tell your family, loved ones, and emergency contact your race Bib Number since it will be the easy way to communicate with race personnel as far as where you are. In triathlon, the chip timer can tell which part of the race you have completed based on your Bib Number.
  5. Be Your Own Mom: DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING before your race starts, it doesn’t matter if you did it the night before. Your life is hanging on the balance of your morning preparations so treat that like your Mom would treat it if she were preparing it for you. (i.e. Is your bike seat tightened, are your quick-release wheels firmly tightened & pumped to 100+, etc.)
  6. Who’s Who at the race: If you are racing out of town, and perhaps alone, it’s so important to make the effort to know the Race Director’s name/number. If someone, not race related finds you they will have an easier time helping if they can talk to a specific person regarding you in the race. I’d even write the Race Director’s name and number/Emergency Contact name and number on the back of your bib. Now in the cellphone age, it’s rare for us to even remember our close friends’ phone numbers by heart.
  7. Fitness requirement: Are you fit/Dr approved to compete? One aspect about being safe during a race course is discovered when people have heart attacks or exhaustion in the swim portion of the race.  Knowing your risk factors, and adjusting your participation based on health condition is the best way to pre-empt a disaster on race day.

Hopefully you never have to use these emergency event services but being prepared for the worst during the swim, bike or run will help you relax and think clearly to utilize the on-site services. Triathlon is a pretty expensive sport, but with the thought out emergency plan it doesn’t have to kill your yearly budget because of an accident. Feel free to add more tips, and experiences you’ve had.

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