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40 Stories – The NBC Show Open – 2004

This Top 40 Moment At IRONMAN is one that likely very few know the whole story of. It’s about an athlete who met disaster less than 5-miles to go in the bike: #1390.

His disaster ended up being the thread that explained the heart and the drive of IRONMAN. It became the theme of The NBC Show in 2004. It was a bike crash that I’ll explain in a moment. But it exemplified the extremely delicate balance all athletes are walking in the race. They are an inch away from the greatest moment they will ever experience through sports. They are also an inch away from facing one of the toughest moments of their life. It’s a moment where they will be asked, “Do I continue or do I quit?”

At IRONMAN, it is rare that quitting is the choice.

Let me set the stage for you. My task on race day since retiring from competition has been to work with the person producing the NBC show. We stay near the front of the race all day. I ramble on about what I am seeing. I take notes. That eventually gets placed in the hands of the great sports announcer Al Trautwig who uses all of that to write what he says about the day.

The talented crew filming the race are the ones who capture the intensity of the moment at the greatest one day sporting event in the world: the IRONMAN World Championship.

Together we make sure the cameras are hopefully in position to capture a race that inevitably gets spread out over miles. That becomes a supreme challenge because  surprises can happen. More than once someone has worked their way through the field and  no one sees them coming.

On this particular day, we were racing back to the bike-to-run transition. The men were about to come in and we needed to be in position before they arrived. Then we saw it, just a few miles from town…

An athlete in the race and a motorcycle on the course had collided. Everything that should have been on the ground was flying through the air. It was a slow motion moment. But then it all sped back up when everything did succumb to gravity. Equipment and human bodies hit black asphalt and skidded to a halt. And then we also came to an unexpected stop. People’s lives are more important that capturing the leader of a race taking off their helmet.

The NBC show for IRONMAN is about moments that matter. This moment mattered.

An athlete who was dreaming of becoming an IRONMAN finisher just had his day look to be ended. In no way was his bike in a geometry that could carry him to the transition for the marathon. He was out of the race.

But #1390 was NOT done. This amazing athlete didn’t care if his bike couldn’t get him to the transition area. He sat down, took off his cycling shoes and started walking. He’d finish carrying his bike on his shoulders and holding his cycling shoes in his hands.

The NBC show film crew has a plan on how they would cover the IRONMAN. They also knew they were under the influence of Hawaii and would need to adapt.

Someone was pulled off the lead racer and onto this amazing IRONMAN moment. It was captured. It became the theme for that year’s broadcast. Are you just a number? Here is a video of racer #1390 and how that impacted the entire theme of the NBC show that year.

This is a Top 40 Greatest Moment at IRONMAN because it shows everything the race is.

It’s challenging. The race can be devastating. It takes place in Hawaii and if you choose to be there you will be interacting with the power and intensity of that land. But it also provides an incredible chance to rise above each and every challenge. Maybe you didn’t even know you could do that before. But on race day in Kona, you will see that you can!

The NBC show won an Emmy for this particular segment. Yes, it’s raw. It shows disaster. But it also shows the character and spirit that gets drawn out of everyone competing. We will never see these sides of our character sitting on the couch!

For the full DVD of this epic IRONMAN and for all IRONMAN races, click HERE.

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