Black cloud over New Orleans triathlons?

16 May

As the water continues to flow down The Mighty Mississippi, I am concerned for the overall effect it will have on the triathlon season in New Orleans. Don’t get me wrong, I know good and well that the quality of Lake Pontchartrain wasn’t that of a bottle of Dasani, but the dirty Mississippi River water flowing in through the Bonnet Carre Spillway can’t be helping, can it?

The 5150 Olympic Distance Triathlon yesterday in New Orleans was turned into a 2mi run/40k bike/10k run duathlon after swimming conditions in Lake Pontchartrain were deemed unsafe. This comes right on the heels of the cancellation of the swim portion of the Ochsner IronMan New Orleans (technically making it a 69.1 event). From what I understand, a cool front that caused extensive wind and wave action coming in perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico caused unsafe swimming conditions for both events.

And now we have the wide-open Bonnet Carre Spillway to be worried about. Will the influx of water bring more pollution or alter the water quality? Even worse, will it bring more critters to the lake? Swimming with snakes? No, thank you.

The IronGirl New Orleans is set to take place this coming Sunday and I really hope it is able to go ahead as scheduled. If for some reason (wind, whitecaps, lake zombies, etc.), it doesn’t, I fear that New Orleans will unjustly have a black cloud over it and the triathlon season will be finished. Competitors who travel from far away will be gun-shy for events this year and maybe even next year. This saddens me…especially for the two inaugural events…the 5150 and the IronGirl New Orleans. New Orleans is really making a name for itself on the competitive racing circuit and I hope that momentum continues to build. However, I can understand hesitation on behalf of the participants…why train and spend all the money on traveling when Lake Pontchartrain is so unpredictable? After all, they have trained for a triathlon, not a biathlon and not a duathlon.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Athleta IronGirl New Orleans.

What do you think the fate of this weekend’s triathlon is? How do you think it will affect future triathlons in New Orleans? Would YOU swim in Lake Pontchartrain right now??

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3 Responses to “Black cloud over New Orleans triathlons?”

  1. Katherine May 16, 2011 at 3:50 PM #

    Katie, I couldn’t agree more, and I feel for the athletes who have trained to complete a full triathlon and have to deal with the disappointment of their event being scaled down. I thought it was interesting that the only tweet I saw from 5150 had to do with the waves, not water quality, but I think we all know the water quality is an issue. I heard from a friend at 70.3 that they used wind as an excuse to cancel the swim, while it was really a water quality issue that had been present for several days prior to the event. Makes you think. I understand the importance of open-water swimming in triathlons, but the unpredictability and quality of the water in the lake make me think that race organizers should have backup plans to keep triathlons triathlons for the sake of the athletes involved.

    • katieRUNSthis May 16, 2011 at 3:56 PM #

      I agree. I would (maybe selfishly?) like to see IronGirl NOLA move to a pool swim. There is a pool that is readily available and the swim portion is only 400m. Plus, if it is changed to a pool swim, I would be able to participate. Even I can do that distance. I’d love to see them make this decision proactively, but I fear it will be a gametime call.

      Water quality is absolutely an issue…an issue that isn’t being discussed enough. I would really love to see the results of some testing done on that water.

      • Katherine May 16, 2011 at 11:52 PM #

        The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation posts results of water quality tests, but I’m not sure if race directors also demand their own tests. I’d like to think they do! Here’s the website for the most current water quality results for the lake: http://saveourlake.org/weekly-report.php

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