BOSTON (CBS) – Close to 300 people have already signed up for the first-ever Vineyard Warrior triathlon, to be held on Martha’s Vineyard in September.
Participating in such an event is a test of one’s physical and emotional endurance – no less so when the swimming segment of the triathlon is set to take place in waters where shark sightings are being made.
“It’s a big mental game and especially with the news going on lately, it’s really in my head now,” says first-time triathlete Tom Kennedy. “I’m just going to kind of go and shut my eyes, and hopefully I’ll finish. That’s my goal.”
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports
Kennedy’s wife Melissa will be joining him. She’s run marathons before, but acknowledges the preparation is quite different for this type of event – especially when she takes the native wildlife into consideration.
“My e-mail was going crazy with everybody sending me the links about sharks and Martha’s Vineyard and all that going on,” she said. “So I’m just trying not to worry about it as the day gets closer.”
Great white sharks made their annual reappearance in local waters this May, earlier than usual. State officials confirm another half dozen great white sightings off Chatham this weekend alone.
“We have friends who said, ‘you must try it here, it’ll be a great first triathlon for you’”, explained the Kennedys’ friend Mhairi Maclean, who agreed with the suggestion “until I got the news today that apparently I might be an object of desire for a shark.”
The sharks like it here because they feed on gray seals. They tend to stay in the area until September. That’s cutting it a little close for the Warrior event, scheduled for the eleventh.
The Vineyard Warrior will also be Lori Baronian’s inaugural triathlon. She jokes that there is no way a shark will mistake her for a seal.
“I think I will be swimming so slowly they will mistake me for a buoy, so I’ll be totally fine,” she says.
The would-be triathletes can have a little fun with the shark sightings, taking heart from that fact that it’s been 75 years since the last confirmed shark attack in Bay State waters. Besides, they say, it adds to the excitement of the event.
Said Baronian: “I get a thrill out of doing events like this, really challenging you physically and mentally.” Neither she nor any of her friends have plans to skip the event because of the shark sightings. Event organizers say they will do everything in their power to keep participants safe.