Toxic algae prompts talk of canceling Ironman swim portion

Toxic algae prompts talk of canceling Ironman swim portion

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In less than a week, 3,000 athletes will attempt to finish the 140.6 mile Ironman competition, but the first leg of the triathlon remains up in the air.

The Ironman in Louisville is no stranger to drama. Last year, extreme heat led to talks of shortening the race. This year, toxic algae in the Ohio River have put the 2.4-mile swim in limbo.

"People are freaking out without the swim and you know what, it's going to be ok," VO2 Multisport Assistant Manager Peter Reid said.

[RELATED: Recreational advisory issued due to algae in Ohio River]

He says since the Kentucky Division of Water put the advisory in place warning of swimming in Ohio River, athletes have added an additional layer of anxiety.

The advisory remains in place for any recreational use because of the health risks. If water is swallowed, swimmers may experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Skin, eye and throat irritation along with breathing troubles could also occur after contact.

Reid feels confident the swim will go on, even if that means tweaking the course.

"There's a bunch of different plan B's and plan C's to get around the algae," Reid said.

It all comes down to additional testing. The state will continue to collect samples on Tuesday and Thursday. Samples collected on Oct. 1 by the Kentucky Division of Water show improvement in microcystin toxin levels.

Despite all the questions, canceling the swim is not being talked about on the Ironman Louisville Facebook page and Reid says he understands that.

"What they are doing now is just waiting it out, waiting it out, because they can make the game day decision seriously like two hours before the race," Reid said.

[RELATED: Ironman Louisville: Why do triathletes do it?]

Barry Stokes has trained athletes for the Ironman for the last decade. He tells his team not to worry about things they can't control.

"Part of what we do as coaches is try and prepare them equally and physically for the race," Stokes said.

He trusts Ironman officials will make the right decision.

"They have been doing this a long time and this is not their first rodeo and dealing with a water situation, they are going to make it safe for the athletes," Stokes said.

"Everyone out there is doing the same race regardless of if you swim 2.4 beforehand, you are still going to be called an Ironman once you cross that finish line," Reid said.

Ironman officials have not returned a request for comment.

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