Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Rest of the Story

"The Rest of the Story" were short segments at the end of radio news programs I used to hear when I was growing up. The segments were hosted by Paul Harvey. These couple of minute features consists of factual stories on a variety of subjects with a surprise or "twist" saved until the end. The bits always concluded with the tag line "And now you know… the rest of the story." Sometimes the stories were a little corny, but often they were stories of human struggle and perseverance.

I was reminded of these vignettes while watching the Ironman World Championship broadcast this Saturday. Narrator Al Trautwig always provides extraordinary commentary of the leaders and the editing always gives a good feel for how the race lead unfolds. Always an inspirational show.

Other than focusing in on the leaders of the race, the show always covers several age groupers, military participants, handicapped athletes, and athletes coming back from injury. Al and the editors usually do a good job at this, but this year I think they fell a bit short. They kind of left us hanging regarding Rudy Garcia Tolson, the double leg amputee that was seeking to complete his first ironman. As you may know from watching the broadcast, Rudy failed to make the bike cutoff. The show focuses on the incredible effort these athletes give before realizing they are not going to finish. The athletes either are stopped from starting the next phase of the race or are simply unable to continue mid-course. The camera shows these athletes dismounting their bikes on the side of the road or stopping on the run and sitting or lying down mid-run. They are done for the day. Its always sad to watch.

The lingering focus on the reluctant acceptance of failure feels somewhat emotionally manipulative. I guess its done in part to show how difficult the event is and how badly these athletes want to finish. Its also used to contrast failure with the thrill of the people who do finish in spite of hardships. A good example was the woman who was coming back from a stroke. As she crosses the finish line, I'm sure no one had a dry eye. I know I didn't.

But back to Rudy. When he is told he didn't make the bike cut off, the camera lingers on Rudy. Its almost like the cameraman was waiting for Rudy to breakdown and cry. Many do; Rudy did not. In fact, when John & I were in Tempe to do the Ironman, Rudy was there. Rudy was brought up at the pre-race dinner and introduced to the crowd. We heard Rudy's story of growing up with deformed legs, his amputation operation and his subsequent efforts to compete in athletics. We heard about his attempt at Kona in October and his failure to make the bike cut off. Rudy spoke to us and let us know that he wasn't giving up. In fact, he was racing with us on Sunday. Less than two months after not finishing at Kona, Rudy was going to give the Ironman another go.

That Sunday, I didn't see Rudy in the midst of the 2800 swimmers, but I did see him on the bike. Its was inspiring to see him ride. John ran by him on the run portion of the race and said, "You're incredible man." "No," Rudy replied, "You're incredible." Rudy wasn't looking for sympathy out on the course; he was simply another athlete trying to get through the Ironman. Rudy finished in the 16th hour of Iroman Arizona. The next day at the awards ceremony, Rudy was again brought up to the stage. We gave him a standing ovation.

While the program editors may have considered it slightly off topic to mention that Rudy came back and finished his ironman in Tempe, it would have shown the undying spirit which makes an ironman. Rudy would not let one failure stop him from trying again and succeeding. An inspiring message that would have been a good post script to the various scenes of failure shown in the Kona broadcast.

So, as Paul Harvey used to say: "And now you know… the rest of the story."


Missy said...

Thanks for the update. I hated that for him in Kona. What a guy. Imagine cycling WITH NO FREAKIN LEGS??? He uses glute muscles b/c that's all he's got. What a bad ass, literally!

mjohnson said...

Bill Thanks for the rest of the story. I cried when watching him miss the bike cutoff after all that training. What an inspiration for him to become an Ironman 2 months later. Thanks so much for sharing his story. Merry Christmas to you and the family from Bob and Melissa