Staci Brode is one of the unsung heroines of the Swim Across America Dallas event, a charity swim in Texas that raised US$345,000 this year.
The donations were used to fund the Innovative Clinical Trials Center at the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.
Brode’s confidence on shore and in the water is easy to see. “I grew up swimming on a team in Houston and went to Galveston almost every summer weekend with my family since I was 6. I quit swimming at 16 and after college decided I needed to get back in shape and got started with Team In Training in 2000. I was going to originally sign up for a marathon and thought that sounded way too far to run. I knew how to swim so I decided to sign up for the triathlon. I fell in love with it and started doing triathlons and coaching for Team in Training.”
And swimming and triathlons were literally a marriage made in heaven for the personable race director.
“In 2004, I quit my job and started coaching and started an event company with the man that would I would marry in 2006, Ahmed Zaher. We have gone from the two of us coaching and running 4-5 events to Playtri, a large triathlon company that puts on about 25 events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with about 20 coaches, 2 soon-to-be 4 triathlon retail stores, triathlon camps, a club with open water swim clinics, are a USA Triathlon-certified Performance Center and more. I have loved the beach, open water and swimming all my life. I am lucky enough to share my passion for health through these things with thousands every year. I am a very lucky lady.”
On race day, Brode is more than lucky. She works hard on pre-race planning and precise execution of those plans. “On race day, my safety team is in place and ready to go. I have been working with the same group for years so if they are in place and ready, then I know we are offering great support and will have a safe race. Randy Greenlea of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Mike Swope of Kayak Power and Monica Palmer for the lifeguards are a top notch team and a huge key to the success and safety at all of our open water events.”
In her head and develop over years, Brode has a textbook plan on how to plan for a safe event. “First I start with the swim experience: the venue and back drop. How are they going to enter the water? How are they going to exit? If I think we have a workable venue, then safety becomes the key to whether or not the venue is feasible. What will the course look like and what interference or issues could arise on the course (boaters, spectators, swim wave breakout, etc.)? How can they be controlled? How will the safety team manage the course and where will be our emergency exit and where will EMT be stationed? After that, I start from the very beginning of the experience: Where are they going to stay if they come overnight? Where are they going to park event morning? How are they going to get to the race site from the parking? What will be the registration set up and flow? How will we stage them? Who starts when and how far apart are the waves as well as where are the chip entrance and exit mats so we can get accurate counts? How will the exit be set up for post event (water, towels, etc.)? And then I take a look at the awards and post-event area and layout to give them the best post event experience.”
If there is an emergency on the water, Brode knows her planning will result in quick action. “I know I have a good safety team and if someone is in trouble or scared, I know my team can take care of them and get them the care or encouragement they need. At Swim Across America Dallas, we will have 15-20 kayaks, 10-15 lifeguards, 3-4 United States Coast Guard Auxiliary boats and PWCs and at least one city fire boat. The problem is the emergency you can’t account for that happens so fast – something like a heart attack.”
Based on the success of the Swim Across America Dallas event, smiles were the common currency rather than worries and frowns. “When everyone is out of the water and accounted for and when I see people exit that I feel this huge sense of accomplishment. I grew up swimming and around the ocean so I don’t have the fear that some people do. To see them overcome that and see their proud, excited faces sometimes still brings tears to my eyes – and I am not a crier. Especially when their efforts are tied to something like Swim Across America. Some of these swimmers are purely out there because of someone.”
Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association