Dax Bakken, a military veteran and father of three, passed away on September 10, 2023, while competing in the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. He was 51 years old. Bakken, who served in Operation Desert Storm, had trained and dreamed of completing the Ironman, a grueling 140.6-mile race that consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.
He had successfully finished the swim and was well into the bike portion of the course when he collapsed in the town of Cross Plains. He received immediate medical attention from a race staff member and an off-duty police officer but was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Bakken is survived by his partner Kristin Keir, their 8-year-old daughter Maeve, and his two sons Finn and Liam. He had recently obtained his master’s degree and was working as a development manager and senior developer at Whitsell Innovations in Madison. He was described by his family and friends as a loving, generous, and adventurous person who enjoyed travelling, hiking, skiing, and biking.
A GoFundMe campaign has been created to raise money for Keir and the children, to help them with expenses and education. The campaign has already raised over $48,000 from more than 550 donations. The organizers of the campaign wrote: “Dax’s tragic death has left his family devastated. The family greatly appreciates any monetary gifts to help defray expenses incurred for Kristin and Maeve, including Maeve’s education…and any love and prayers.”
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The Ironman Wisconsin organizers also expressed their condolences to Bakken’s family and friends in a statement on Facebook: “It is with profound sadness to confirm the death of a race participant during Sunday’s IRONMAN Wisconsin triathlon.” The complete caption is below:
“It is with profound sadness to confirm the death of a race participant during Sunday’s IRONMAN Wisconsin triathlon. A race staff member and an off-duty police officer providing race assistance identified the athlete in need of support while on the bike portion of the course. They provided immediate medical attention before EMS transported the athlete to a local hospital where the athlete sadly passed. We share our deepest condolences with the family and friends of the athlete and will continue to offer them our support as they go through what is a very difficult time. We thank event personnel and first responders who worked to provide the athlete with medical support.”
Bakken’s death is not the first tragedy to strike the Ironman Wisconsin event. In 2019, two people died during the swimming portion of the race in Lake Monona. The cause of Bakken’s death has not been disclosed yet, but it is likely that he suffered from a cardiac arrest or a heat stroke, which are common causes of death among endurance athletes.
Bakken will be remembered as a brave and passionate man who pursued his dreams and inspired others with his spirit. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and the triathlon community.