Gator Chomp Won't Stop Fla. Triathlete
"It felt like I was hit by a car," Doug McCard said.
A car with jaws and teeth and a spiny tail. McCard's Sunday morning swim was rudely interrupted by an alligator, which went after him like Kirstie Alley goes after an éclair.
(Click here for WKMG's video and story on McCard.)
McCard will be OK, though he'll never be able to take off his shirt again without causing people to wonder if he was a spy caught and tortured by the North Koreans. All of which got me wondering whether we give the triathlon enough respect.
The casual observer sees a bunch of spindly people doing three mundane activities, none of which include swimming or biking or running to the nearest psychiatrist.
Don't you have to be at least slightly deranged to voluntarily swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a 26.2-mile marathon? Most of us won't do that in a lifetime. Ironman participants do it in a day.
From a sheer toughness standpoint, the training tops anything on those Gatorade commercials where fluorescent sweat spews from exhausted football, basketball and tennis players.
Then you throw in the fact that even if Serena Williams is infuriated at a linesman, no one is going to leave practice with gash marks.
"The worst one is on my chest," McCard said. "The muscle is actually coming out."
He'd gone to Moss Park for a not-so-quick dip at about 8 a.m. It's on the shore of Lake Mary Jane, a large lake about 15 miles southeast of downtown Orlando. McCard had been swimming about 20 minutes and planned to go at least another hour.
Then came that runaway gator.
"Is this really happening," was McCard's first thought. It was quickly followed by "How do I get out of this?"
The gator, estimated at eight-to-10 feet long, had clamped down on his chest. Luckily McCard was in waist-deep water so he could stand up and fight.
He slammed his elbow down onto the gator's head. The reptile let go and McCard kept punching and yelling. He did not remember exactly what he yelled, but it probably wasn't "Go Magic!"
McCard, a 35-year-old salesman, had the presence of mind to back away and keep his defenses up. And you want tough?
He was going to just drive himself to the hospital. If Manny Ramirez had five puncture wounds to his chest, one on his hipbone and a few more on his back, he'd need a fleet of trauma surgeons just to help him dial 911.
But even Manny wouldn't be stupid enough to swim in alligator-infested water, right?
McCard wasn't stupid. It's just that most bodies of water in Florida are infested with gators. There are about seven alligator attacks a year in the state. With about 1.5 million reptiles and 19 million humans, it's surprising there aren't more Jaws encounters.
"I swim in other lakes where gators are a bigger problem," McCard said. "But at that lake there are jet skis and boats, and kids are swimming."
He'd been going back and forth along the rope separating the swimming area from the open lake. The water is copper-tinged from the Cypress trees, so McCard never saw the gator coming.
The gator could have mistaken McCard for a fish or been overly territorial due to mating season. Whatever its motivation, state wildlife officials will now try to trap it and turn it into a nice pair of alligator shoes.
McCard was released from the hospital Monday. As soon as his wounds heal he plans to continue training for an Ironman-length triathlon this fall. And no, he's not worried about getting back in the water.
"I can say anything now," McCard said. "But when I step in the water, it might be different."
He's a triathlete. My guess is he'll dive right back in.
As for all those other Gatorade-dripping jocks, they should try to join him. Then we'd really see them sweat.