Between Hermann and Washington, I was the weak link, I had to lay down and take a rest. Although I trained for a year and lost all this weight, I was nowhere near that shape everyone else was. My body was shutting down and I was too weak to stand up. Thanks to Bailey, she brought her sleeping pad so we could all take cat naps. What everyone found out when I passed out as I seem to make an orchestra of Snores and toots. I am not afraid to share this because I know it’s not true. I seriously have never heard myself snore or fart when I sleep.
As we beat the storm to Washington, we approached the Park boat ramp. As we came into the dock we could no longer see Ladon, who has stayed with us for over half the race. Then in a mute voice, we heard ” I need help”, Ladon had passed the boat ramp and the current took him into the rock wall just down from the ramp. As some of us secured Kitty the rest of us went over to help LaDon. He was too exhausted to pull himself up the rock wall. Once we secured Ladon we all pitched our hammocks and tents …….. and van and waited to hear the storm and get some rest.
Waking up at 5:30 am I felt great “tired as hell” but great. The passing storm gave us an extra hour to sleep “3 in total” and it was just what we needed. I woke up swinging from to trusses in the riverfront park. As I looked around I saw at least ten more hammocks hanging, it was the perfect shelter. Down below me was LaDon in his tent and Bailey and Madison in the other. They all got used to the softness of concrete pretty quick, and my snoring. Well, they probably never got used to my snoring. We packed up camps and refilled our waters and snacks and headed for Klondike. It was only 28 or so miles to Klondike and the first few miles from Washington to Klondike was a little bit rainy, but cozy believe it or not. Some may disagree, but tucked in a poncho, warm and moving down the calm river gave me a cozy feeling. As we approached Klondike we were greeted by Larry, Martee and Elissa, shortly after we got up the ramp Madison’s wife and kids graced us with a warm breakfast. She came out to see Madison and It gave him a pretty good morale boost.
The big breakfast and brief rest gave us the energy we needed to make the final push to St Charles. I was still in awe that I made it this far and knowing the last 20 some miles were going to be a breeze. We packed light, getting rid of extra water, food, and stuff that weighed a lot. We wanted to make the board as light and fast as possible. I took a gallon of water thinking it would be enough to get me to the finish, I was wrong. The strong headwinds will zap the moisture out of you quicker than shit. I finished my water about 3 miles from the finish. The last few miles seem to be the longest distance because all you could think about was the finish line. Passing the bridge of false hope you could see how it got its name. You think the finish line is just beyond that bridge only to find out that you had a couple more miles to go. Once we saw the final bridge we started to party, I broke out the red party wig and we all flew the colors “upside down pirate flag” Why it was upside down, well we were tired and rushed “I was tired and rushed” but it was pretty fitting considering the crew we had.
Just past the bridge and the casino was the riverfront park and the finish line. We came in around 11:00 am or so, hundreds of people cheering us on as we passed the main finish line. Kitty was so big we had to go down to the boat ramp to pull out. Once we stepped feet on the ground we were greeted by friends and family and friends with beer. My wife and our Family friend Kelly surprised me by bringing my father out to see me finish. This hit me hard because he was in the hospital during the first part of the 340. I could not believe he came out, and the best part is I found him in the beer tent. I would not have wanted it any other way.
The feeling that was going through me was something I could not describe. I had never done and sporting event in my life and I had just finished the worlds longest non-stop paddle race. I guess it was, go big or go home. Amidst all these feelings, the best feeling I had was finishing the race with my best friend, who had pushed me all year and never gave up on knowing I would finish the race. Then to make two lifelong friends on the way, it was a pretty cool bonus. Madison and Bailey have become family to me. More so in some ways than real family, I mean we did spend the week pissing and sleeping together. Then there was Daren, Daren is also a good friend of mine but up until the 340 I had only spent a little bit of time with him when I was out in St Louis visiting Shane. A week with Daren gave me a chance to learn just how funny he was, how encouraging he was and how his ankles can swell to the size of his calves. Everyone on the board was amazing, none of us argued, we just paddled, told stories, got to know each other and made fun of Bailey for a week. Bailey has an affinity for puppies and every single puppy or dog along the way was “THE CUTEST PUPPY EVER”. If I could say one thing about Bailey, Madison, Daren and Shane it would be THANK YOU. Thank you for the memories, thank you for believing in me, thank you for pushing me and thank you for putting up with all the farting and snoring. You all are truly amazing people and I think the future is going to hold some pretty amazing adventures.
There is 3 more people to thank and they are without a doubt the most important people in the 340. That is our ground crew. Larry and Martee Halverson “My Inlaws” provided amazing support and spoiled us with a few fine dinners that kept us from eating gels and protein bars. They traveled across the state making it a little mini-adventure vacation and even took their golden retriever Dannee. Dannee was a pleasant treat when we would go to checkpoints, he greeted us and pretty much every paddler in the race, sometimes covered in mud but still wagging his tail. Larry and Martee provided Doctor and Massage support in which Daren took full advantage of. After Martee massaged his feet after the first checkpoint, that was all he could talk about. And they are amazing massages. I truly am the luckiest man in the world to have Larry and Martee for inlaws.
Last, but certainly not least is Elissa or “Lis” or Ground Crew momma. She was the blood, sweat, and tears of the whole damn race. Her tiny ass drove shorty ” Shane’s Short Bus” across the state with less sleep than we got. She refilled 5 people’s water’s with the help of Larry and Martee, she set up tents, she hung stinky clothes and put up with our delirious asses the entire race. Elissa is what you would call a “Super Mom”, She is a teacher and she stays at home while Shane runs Sup St Louis. Though Shane is Superman to his two children, Lis keeps all three kids in line, 3 meaning Shane to. Between grading papers, making dinner, taking the kids to the amusement park, it’s no wonder she was able to be such an awesome ground crew member.
The MR340 is something special. It is an event that not only brings professional paddlers to the Missouri River. It brings every kind of person to the Missouri river. We all have two goals for this race, 1, is to enter the race and show your support for Missouri waters and 2, Finish the damn race without dying. Most importantly is the community AND communities. Every paddler in the race seems to be family, everyone helps each other, the laugh with each other and the support each other. Then there is the communities, the MR340 gives communities all up and down the Missouri river the little extra boost in their economy they need, some more than others. For example, the town of Miami looks forward to the 340 to make enough money to fix sidewalks and make small improvements to their tiny community. Every checkpoint we stopped at you could see the locals right at the boat ramps helping people in and out. They were flipping burgers and making some of the best fair food you can eat. All this money goes to these little communities. The race is truly a world class event and personally I can not wait to the future years of paddling in this race.