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Two triathlon deaths: Could colder weather this year have played role?

(WISN) — Two men have died in the swim portion of a triathlon in just a week in Wisconsin.

A 61-year-old Cottage Grove man, Michael McCulloch, was pulled from Lake Monona on Sunday while swimming during the Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin in Madison, and a 59-year-old man died in Lakes Mills last weekend.

Another man was also pulled from Lake Monona on Sunday. He was in critical condition.

An experienced Ironman triathlete was asked if less open water training this year might have played a role.

“It’s been a really cold year. The lakes have been colder than they have in the past. Some events are even canceling their swim, and that’s really prevented a lot of people from getting the practice they needed for these events,” Endurance House Delafield triathlete Jason Jensen said.

It’s unclear if lack of training contributed to the recent triathlon deaths and injury, but doctors said open water swimming can be more taxing than swimming in a pool.

They said that anyone considering a triathlon, especially men older than 40, should get a physical before training or competing to detect unknown heart problems.

Also during a race, a surge of adrenaline as well as swimmers bumping can lead to increased heart rate, panic and the potential for a heart attack.

“What’s going through your mind, your body when you’re about to get in the water for the first part of an Ironman?” Sater asked.

“There’s a lot of nerves before the gun goes off. You’re certainly anticipating the beginning of the race and also, ‘How do I defend myself in the water? How do I protect myself and claim my own space?'” Jensen said.

During swim training, triathletes can use a swim buoy that will keep them afloat during an emergency. Some swim events are allow the use of swim buoys them during races.

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