Goose poop plays havoc with triathlon

Event organizers have contingency plan, though no swim advisory lifted Friday morning

An advisory posted at Hamsterly Beach earlier this week warns swimmers to stay out of the water.

An advisory posted at Hamsterly Beach earlier this week warns swimmers to stay out of the water.

Bad weather has kept beach-goers from Elk Lake this summer but now that the sun is out it became the Vancouver Island Health Authority suggesting people stay away.

The Capital Regional District posted a no swim advisory at Hamsterly Beach on July 23 due to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria from excessive geese droppings.

Not only did the warning put a damper on the popular swim spot, it’s also forcing athletes in Sunday’s annual Self Transcendence Triathlon and Duathlon to rethink participating.

“Unless there’s a ban, even with the health advisory in effect, it’ll be the athlete’s choice (to swim),” said race director Sumitra McMurchy.

The race isn’t being re-routed, she said, but organizers have provided a contingency plan. “Those who choose not to swim can switch from the swim-bike-run triathlon to a modified bike-run-bike duathlon.”

It’s a tough call for the athletes, many of whom train for the event all year. Some, like race veteran Barney McKinnon, are willing to ignore the health warning.

“I wasn’t even aware of the advisory on Saturday when I swam the lake (to train for the triathlon),” said McKinnon, who’s competed in the triathlon 24 times. “Unless there’s a ban, I’ll be in the water. After all the years of doing it, I’m not interested in bike-run-bike.”

Fortunately, participants won’t have to worry about that – for now. On Friday morning the advisory was lifted, though it could possibly be reissued before Sunday, depending on the weather and the number of geese at Hamsterly.

“It’s ironic the weather has kept people away because they are the deterrent for the geese,” said VIHA’s medical health officer Dr. Murray Fyfe.

Swallowing the high-bacteria water can result in gastrointestinal inflammation. Even direct contact with the eyes, ears and nose can cause irritation.

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