OCT 13, 2017 Devotional: “Thinking about the Unthinkable….10 years later”

My good friend, Bruce McCarthy, sent me a text message on Tuesday with a picture taken exactly 10 years ago this  week.  The image was of a lean guy, wearing an Ironman visor, race volunteer tee-shirt, slightly tanned, and military cropped “tight” haircut.

“Who is that guy”….I asked myself!

Then I realized it was me.  A lot can happen in 10 years, right?

This week, we are marking the 10-year anniversary of my good friend, Scott Rigsby’s, triumph finish of the Ironman World Championship.  That was on October 13, 2007.  It was an unthinkable accomplish made by the most unthinkable person.

Many of you know of Scott’s story.  I wrote about him in an earlier devotional.  In that story, I talked at a high level about God not always giving us what we want; but always giving us what we need.

And so this week, I was especially remembering that long day….at Kona, Hawaii….where Scott did the unthinkable.  There are many stories from that night.  Many are captured in his book, titled “Unthinkable“.   One of the stories shared is where Scott and I were in the hotel room trying to get everything organized for the race that would happen a couple days away.  We had piles of equipment and gear on one side of the room for the 2.4 mile swim portion.  On another side of the room, we had a similar pile for the 112 mile bike portion.  And then there was the third pile for the 26.2 mile run portion.   Lastly there was a pile for “everything else”!  This last pile was a hodge-podge of extra items.  This was the “just in case” stuff.  You know, all the items in case something was to not go according to plan.

Scott was also fortunate to have several companies and individuals who had generously agreed to provide some level of sponsorship for his race in Hawaii.  For some, like Delta Airlines, they provided airfare for Scott’s support team from Atlanta to the race.  For others, it was simple cash.  And for one company, they had provided a pair of LED headlamps for Scott to wear during the run portion of the race, where we expected it to be dark outside.  Well, we actually had something already to cover that “need”, so we found ourselves scratching our heads about what to do with these headlamps.

I recall, somewhat jokingly, telling Scott we could tape a headlamp to the front of the carbon sockets of each of his running prosthesis.  Then, if the run course got dark, he could reach down, turn on the lights, and it would be just like have automobile headlights.  We chuckled, but then thought….”why not”….and with some duct tape and careful placement, we affixed both legs with headlamps!

All kidding aside, I was worried about one area on the run course where it was known to be pitch black.  For most runners, we can feel the road through the soles of our shoes.  But for someone running on carbon blades, it’s not quite that simple.  And if Scott couldn’t feel the road or know where the divots might be, he was more susceptible to falling down.  And if he were to fall down, the probability of puncturing a hole in the polyurethane liners of his running legs could result in a loss of vacuum that ultimately provided the “suction” to suspend the legs to Scott’s stumps.  Simply stated, no vacuum meant non-functioning running legs…..end of race!

Honestly, we were probably more focused on providing a limited amount of coverage to a generous sponsor (of the headlamps) than we were about the risks of a punctured liner.  We had done our own internal risk analysis, and I recall that we mostly concluded that the probability of Scott stumbling on the run course was pretty low with the exception of one stretch of about 3 miles in an area call the Natural Energy Lab.  Some unimproved road areas here with limited visibility.  We concluded that perhaps Scott should just walk this portion of the race, assuming he was on track with his timeline to complete the race within 17 hours.

Easy plan.  Stay on track with your timelines.  Walk the Energy Lab portion to reduce the risk of stumbling.  Then pick back up to a running mode upon exiting the Energy Lab.

Guess what.  Scott got behind on the run course, early on.  And some small delays became dangerously bigger delays as fatigue and daylight began taking their toll.  Scott was now forced to have to run through the Energy Lab course.

Danger, danger!!

Scott stumbled.  Fell nearly flat down on his face in the darkness of that portion of the course.  Luckily he had turned on the lights, but his “luck” was not for illumination…rather, the separation between his liners and the ground was buffered by the tiny headlamp on his right leg….by approximately 1/2 of an inch!

Small distance…but large enough to break his fall and prevent gravel from puncturing the liner.

Now to put everything into a nice package with a silk bow on top, here’s your spoiler alert….Scott finished the race.  Made it just in the nick of time.  And when you see images of him crossing one of the world’s most famous finish lines, take note of the “pop-eye” headlamps on his running legs; one is on and one is smashed out!

Is there a Biblical message in this or is this just another great feel-good story? You be the judge.  Scott and I and his support team prayed about a lot of things….and we did it on a regularly basis.  I always felt like God was in the trenches with us all along this 15-month journey leading up to Kona.  But with all the things we were trying to plan for, we just couldn’t account for everything.

God was planning for everything, however.

This week, as I reflect on Scott’s accomplishment 10 years ago today….I am thankful for the times in my life, not just 10 years ago, where God was guiding me when I didn’t realize it.  He’s has always given me the provisions I’ve needed, especially when I felt like I had nothing.

My prayer today is that we can continue to be thankful.  Thankful for what we have.  And, maybe, thankful for what we don’t realize we have.

And….Scott…..blessings to you, my friend, on this special anniversary!