I ain’t so good at grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A lot of people are “gooder” at this blogging stuff than I am but, I think you can read through all that and enjoy the stupid shit I write about, and if you don’t, you at least read it and thank you.
How I survived the MR340 Part 2
Once I registered for the race and paid the fee it was, go big or go home, do or die, there was no turning back now. It sank in pretty deep and was a little scary. It was not the river that scared me, I grew up on the Mississippi River. It was being 300lbs standing up and paddling 340 miles down the Missouri river with hundreds of athletes and very seasoned paddlers. It was a little bit scary hopping on a board that was finished 2 days prior to the race and tested the day before. As the weeks and months went on I started to get less scared and more excited. I was meeting veteran paddlers, getting write up’s in my hometown newspaper and even an article in SUP the MAG, which was pretty cool, to say the least. I started thinking about scenarios, what was going to happen, what could happen, was it going to be fun or be hell, would I make it or would I drop out. So many things went through my head but as time went on scary was slowly replaced with excitement. I was ready, I was ready to paddle down the river with two good friends and two people I never met and at the end of the race we would all end up as a family, a very dysfunctional family. What would happen between the start of the race and the finish line is the best part. This is more entertainment than advice on how I survived the MR340 but, you will get an idea of how fun something so grueling can be when you are with a group of people with the same personalities.
400+ boats, about 1000 people all cram into a small public access called KAW Point, on the Kansas river just before the confluence of the Missouri. It is a daunting scene until you start meeting paddlers and ground crew teams. I was a little nervous pulling into the parking lot, the fact we had an 18-foot long paddle board strapped to the roof of a bright yellow passenger van that added to that too. People stopped what they were doing to see what the hell this thing was. So, not only am I this big bearded guy in a sea of lean fit paddlers, I was the big bearded guy that was part of this team that was going to paddle this crazy paddleboard.
Fast forward to race day, it was go time, it was exciting, it was five o’clock in the damn morning and I maybe got 3 hours of sleep. At this time I woke to people walking around the trails, boats being prepped and people getting ready for the 7 am and 8 am starting times. Sleep is one of the biggest things you lose during the 340 and I was off to a good start with only 3 or so hours of it. I tossed and turned trying to get to sleep earlier in the evening because I knew sleep would be minimal in the coming days. But, I had a million things running through my head. Some people choose to get a hotel room right across the river and some people like me chose to camp out at the boat ramp. I mean, how many chances do you get to camp in an area where you can see the skyline of Kansas City, it actually is very pretty. I do know that if I would have slept in a hotel room Monday night, there is no way I would have woke up in time to get to the race.
- TIP – if you think you are not going to sleep well the night before the race, sleep as long as you can Sunday before you head to Kansas City “if you can”. I was able to get to bed early on Sunday and sleep for more than 8 hours before we left for KAW Point, plus I was able to snooze a little bit in the van on the way. I personally think this extra sleep helped me on race day even though I only got 3 or so hours the night before the race.
We got “Kitty” to the water and loaded up our gear, water, and safety gear, it was time to hop on the board and get this shit done. When the gun went off we started paddling, we quickly realized that the board that Shane had built was faster than we thought, this was pretty encouraging, we might actually make some good time. Kitty paddled so smooth through the water, handled choppy water like a champ. As we seemed to put some distance down I made the mistake of asking how many miles left to paddle?……. SHIT I have 339 miles to go, I had 325 miles to go. This thought wore on my right of the bat, it was like sitting in math class at 2:25 when school gets out at 2:30 and you look at the clock and the last 5 minutes took a fricken hour. I quickly learned that you have to break the race down into segments. You don’t look at it as entire miles to go, you look at it as “I have 21 miles to the next checkpoint, I have 30 Miles till I get to rest, etc…. If you break the race miles down into checkpoint segments it eases your mind on the distance you actually have left to paddle.
The Trick is to push hard to the first two checkpoints to get as far ahead of the reaper safety boat as you can. The faster you can get to the first two checkpoints, the more time you can spend at following checkpoints if your not racing to set records. Lexington Mo, and Waverly Mo are the first two checkpoints and if you can make Waverly at about 5-7pm you have an easier paddle to make it to Glasgow checkpoint. The main problem I had with pushing to these first two stops was I do not have the stamina as everyone else on the board so it wore into me as the day pushed on, I knew I was not pulling weight on paddling with the team but I knew I had to do my best. This was the most painful time of the race for me. I cramped a lot, my feet were starting to hurt. As we pulled into Waverly Just before dark we were greeted by Elissa and my inlaws and an entire spread of pasta and salad and goodness. It was a sight for sore eyes and a much need boost of morale and energy. Like I said in part 1, every person is different when it comes to what they do for a diet in a race like this. I followed the suggestions of my father in law and just ate what I normally would eat.
Paddling into my first night of the 340 was a little nerve racking. When I grew up on the Mississippi River I would go out on my Jon boat at night and never thought twice about anything really, I just went out but, the biggest difference was I didn’t lack sleep, I wasn’t hungry, I had my fishing pole and my boat had a motor. This time I was on a river I didn’t know, I was tired, I didn’t have my fishing pole and we didn’t have a motor. I knew about all the wing dams along the way but, the scariest part of paddling the Missouri River at night was the navigational buoys. On the Mississippi the boys are better maintained, always in the same damn spot the should be and they didn’t get sucked under water and shot back up like a rocket. The Missouri River was extremely different. The first night I was just tired, I had not experienced the hallucinations yet. I just wanted to get to Miami “unofficial checkpoint” and take my first nap. I want to say we reached Miami around 2:30am or 3, I am not one hundred percent sure but, I knew I was there and where my hammock was. About 2 hours later I woke to a tap tap on my hammock, it was Elissa telling me its time to get up and go. I really had negative thoughts about this devil woman waking me up. I felt like I had just got to sleep and then I had to get up and start paddling again. Elissa was not a devil woman even though that’s your first thought when you are told to get up and go. She was, in fact, the Angel of our team, I being the guiltiest one can admit, if it was not for her none of would have had our shit together. Larry and Martee were godsends to the team but they did not know this type of event, they were not used to an event where you don’t know exactly where your team is, what time they are going to get there or when they themselves would get to sleep. Elissa, on the other hand, lived this life because she has three children at home, a son, a daughter and an adult manchild named Shane. She had been part of 24-hour events and sleepless races that Shane has done so she was certainly the sanity and lifeblood of helping me and everyone else survive the 340.
We left Miami in the we hours of the morning to paddle to our next checkpoint Glasgow Missouri. This is where I learned something pretty cool. Shane told me that when the sun comes up and starts to shine you get a huge boost of energy. He was right, when the sun popped up over the hills and shined down on me I felt an enormous burst of energy. This also included the views, if there was a list of reasons someone should do the MR340 it should be the sunrises and early mornings on the Missouri River. It put’s a smile on your face, at least it did on mine. I can probably speak for most of the veteran paddlers when I say you always look forward to the next sunrise. No matter if you’re in pain, sleep-deprived, hungry or just pissed off, a good old fashion Missouri River sunrise will breathe new life back into you. I used this to help my mind as well, I told myself, if I can get through the next night I would be rewarded with an amazing sunrise.
The second night is when it started to get trippy. A two-hour sleep in Miami, a 60-minute rest at Glasgow and maybe a nap on the board really took its toll on me. I felt myself slacking a little on paddling which totally made me think I was letting my team down. Not only was a paddling slower the team was having to paddle my extra weight on the board. I tried and tried to keep up but I just did not have the energy. Right about that time, I noticed everyone else start to paddle slower and we all decided to sit down and just dip our paddles in the water and enjoy what would be an evening of gut hurting laughter and hallucinations. We were near Columbia Missouri about this time and all of a sudden we, or at least Daren and I started seeing shit. I looked over to river left and noticed the trees looked like broccoli but not your average or ordinary broccoli, no, this was 60ft tall broccoli. As I was tripping on giant broccoli I heard Daren say “LOOK”, we all looked at him and were like “What”, he said look at that tree, it looks like a dog holding a gun. I don’t think anyone else noticed it besides Daren and me, it took me a second to see it then when I did I was like “WHOA”. After laughing about it and poking some fun at each other we came up on Coopers Landing. Now, I could write an entire blog post on Coopers Landing its self but let’s just say for being my first time seeing Coopers it was a trip in its self. Where else could you get Tai food and a Cuban sandwich on a river in the Midwest, or any river for that matter? Sadly when we got to Coopers it was late so everything was pretty much closed up for the night. We took another small nap at Coopers before we headed to Jefferson City. Once back on the water I felt a little better rested, maybe it was that or the fact that we found ourselves starting to have a little fun. Either way it was a smooth paddle to Jefferson City.
Jefferson City is probably the most anticipated stop for most paddlers because it is your first signs of a little “METRO” life, our phones worked again, we knew we were past the halfway point and all the next stops were bigger towns. Jefferson City is also a good morale booster because you stop at Joe Wilson’s Serenity Point which is famous among veteran paddlers because everyone knew who created this paddlers paradise, Joe Wilson. This is where I realized, holy shit, I made it halfway, now I just have to finish. We took a short rest and Martee gave foot rubs to a couple of us including Daren and I am pretty sure it is a foot massage he will never forget in his lifetime. I even got one and let me tell you, I hope whoever is reading this post and is wanting to try to SUP the 340, you have a person on your crew that will touch your feet because it’s life changing. My feet wanted to go paddle and my mind was still in the shade. For a heavy person like me, it helped my energy level, standing with your feet wet on a constantly shifting board will do a number on your feet. This is probably one of the things that aided in my surviving the 340, so find yourself a ground crew that will touch your feet, trust me, its worth it.
Dealing with hallucinations is one thing, you can make it fun if you are lucky enough to be on a team or at least be with another paddleboarder, kayaker or a canoe. You have someone with you to at least remind you that yes you are seeing shit and no it’s not real. Some people in the race do not have hallucinations and some people do, it’s what your mind wants to do when you’re running on little to no sleep for 3 days straight. At that time I did see 60ft broccoli tree’s but, when I paddled from Coopers to Jefferson City that following November I looked to river left and son of a bitch, in the daylight the trees I saw did, in fact, look like broccoli. I don’t know if it was years of flooding killing all the lower branches or if it was just the type of tree but, when you look at them there is now branches on the lower or middle section of the tree, only a top which would explain everything to me. Now, the whole dog with a gun thing on river right, I have no idea what the hell that was but at least two of us seen it. Maybe a tree the had that type of shape, like when you look at the clouds and see shapes I don’t know but, there was a damn dog holding a pistol on river right.
In writing this post I would say this wasn’t really a post on how I survived hallucinations. It was more like, what I went through and how it made me feel. Wondering if I was letting the team down, how much sleep you get, or how I would enjoy the company of 4 new family members. Part 1, really sums up how you will “Actually” survive the race from my point of view. Part 2 and more sort of explaining what I went through and the emotions I had, and the snore-farts I apparently have.
Jefferson City and on I really start to hit a wall a few times but I never wanted to quit, I just bitched a lot. I will explain that and the snore-farts in part three.