Thursday, November 16, 2006


I just did a search hoping for news on the cause of the death of Barney Rice, whose hopes for everything ended during the swim at IMFL. All I'm finding is "cause of death was not immediately evident, but an autopsy will be performed."

He had 3 young sons. The youngest is 6 months. And a young wife, who went through his year of IM training like every other Iron Spouse. He had, the same as all of us this whole past year and that cold race morning, anticipation, excitement, a sense of adventure, and high hopes for a grand achievement. He had his bike shoes and helmet in his transition bag, his water bottles and GU packs on his bike. His ready bike waited in the transition area and.....stayed there all day.

I felt glad to make it out of the swim alive. When I reached the finish line 14 or so hours later, I found out that one man hadn't.

I'm still having dreams.

Last night it was being on the bike leg of the Ironman and finding, not hills, I don't know what you'd call them.... rock dunes, or something. They undulated up out of the ground like mountains, as high as a 3-story house. I was thinking, this is no place for a road bike; I need a mountain bike. They rose one after another. I saw a dip between two "dunes" coming and thought, oh, no, here it comes..... got my speed up and almost, but not quite, made the jump between them. My bike was bashed between the two rocky swells, all bent up. The wheel rims were creased into mere slits. I was unhurt, but finishing the race was out of the question. Even if I could get a mountain bike, there wouldn't be time afterwards to make the cutoff.

I've dreamed about being in 20-foot seas in a tiny boat; about crying as I tried to resuscitate a drowned cat; about being rejected from a music program and offered violin bows made of glow-necklaces instead of carbon fiber; and now about rocky swells coming like ocean waves destroying my bike.

I need closure. I hope they make it public when they find out why he died. And if it was simple drowning.... why??? A 35-year-old triathlete shouldn't have just gone and drowned out there, 2/3 of the way through his swim. It doesn't make sense.


jbmmommy said...

That is incredibly sad. My heart goes out to his family, I hope if they do find answers it will help everyone wondering why.

Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for some more information on this as well. Even emailed Ironman corp. I can tell you this - the physician who assisted with his resuscitation on the beach and who intubated Barney did not think it was a drowning. She said that there really was no water in his stomach or lungs. Autopsy will tell.

Ellie said...

Well, now.... why did you have to be Anonymous? That's information that helps me feel a little better. Where did you get it? Did you speak to the physician?

Cliff said...

I do want answer too. Things like these need to be address to give us assurance and the public that this is a safe sport.

C.J. said...

No mystery, just didn't want to sign up for a password. Yes, I spoke with the physician. Her husband was a participant and is my coworker. She was on the beach as a spectator and stepped in to help. I did IMFL 2005.

21st Century Mom said...

Ellie I just did a little search and read that the autopsy reports won't be available for 10 to 12 weeks.

Try to rest easy. Time will tell what happened.

There are too many deaths of young, seemingly heathly people in endurance events. It is often due to hidden, undiagnosed heart problems. It just happens and we have to console ourselves with the thought that the athlete died doing something he was passionate about.

My heart goes out to his whole family. There is probably very little to console them right now.

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

I feel for his family as well. They must have been proud that he entered and that this would be his end was probably the last thing they expected.

However, fear that the same could happen to any of us is not a good thing. With all that happens in the world, letting fear stop you from what you enjoy would mean never doing anything again. But heh, there are those that die doing nothing so we might as well do what we enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Name is Kelly and going with anonymous for set-up reasons. I did IMFL this year as well and could not believe the direction and the magnitude of the swells this year. I just did Gulf Coast in May and it was much calmer. What I found frustrating was the lack of boats and jet skis on the course. I could not see anyone and the ones I could see were so far away if something did happen they did not get there in time. IMNA was supposed to comment the week after the race.. but still no press release. I too would like to find out what happened to him to put my mind at ease about racing again. My thoughts and prayers are with his young family. If this was his passion, then at least he died doing something he loved.

Anonymous said...

I feel so sad for his whole family and my heart goes out to them. I too am waiting to see what the autopsy says.

That was an ugly, ugly swim. I have been doing triathlons for 20 years and only seen one other race with a swim that bad, and that one had a lot fewer people. It was like a mosh pit out there between the swells and the other triathletes. I got hit by another swimmer and tore the tendon between my toe and foot (and wasn't that fun for the rest of the race!). I wouldn't be surprised if somehow he got injured out there.

Just thinking of his little kids makes me so sad though. I sometimes worry about that with this sport and my own kids (had a friend killed on her bicycle this summer too).


Anonymous said...

I am Barney's wife Michelle's cousin, the whole situation is horrific. The autopsy ruled drowning was the cause of death although the defense attorney from the race is claiming cardiac issues which is not the case. I don't want to go into detail as the trial is under way and the family wishes for privacy.

Ellie Hamilton said...

Thank you, Michelle, for posting this. I wish I had a way to contact you personally, but I don't, so I hope you'll read this. I am still haunted by this disaster. I'm glad Ironman is being called to answer for it but sorry your family is going through the torment of a trial. I think all of Barney's peers from that day have gone through (or are still going through) their own kind of personal trial about it. I am just so sorry.