Monday, August 06, 2007

MR340 - Day 3, The finish

We left Jefferson City a bit before 7:30 Am on Thursday, only about 4 hours after arriving. Marek was still there trying to assess whether he had a crack in his hull, as he said he was taking on water the day before (in the end he never could find a lean, and finished the race without repairs). I took this photo (right) of Marek and Connie the day after the race, I just love it. Marek has posted some great photos of the race on his fit2paddle blog.

It was as we were leaving that we first heard about Ann and Wayne and their barge accident. I only quickly heard that they were thankfully OK, I left wanting to know more. We had seen barges, and on this day would see many more, including a double barge being pushed up river, we did not see any at night. However, at night we came upon a number of silent sand dredges and other large pieces of equipment anchored in the middle of the river, with minimal lighting, often just 1 small white light, nothing to let you know their size until you are right on them. From a distance it is very hard to tell if these are moving or not, at night, depth perception is seriously hampered, and everything appears to be moving at you, rather than you moving towards them.

We had 120 miles to go to the finish, and we thought that after the 115 miles the day before, we could probably do this without another few hours of sleep. Alan had really developed a nice rhythm and strength to his stroke. Neither of my kids (Tana 19, and Alan 21) took to paddling with the obsessive passion that I have, though we have as a family enjoyed many weekend paddling camping trips over their lifetime. But other than a one time long 12 mile paddle, and a few 6 milers over the summer, Alan did not train for this race at all; though he's certainly fit in great good shape, and of course 21. I wasn't at first really sure why he was interested in doing this, except, like me, he loves a challenge, and has competed in the endurance catamaran race the Tybee 500, and did very well in the 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. We had joked for months about it being a race between us, his youth and energy against my age, training, and experience.

We had never planned to stay together, and on this day I wondered when Alan might try and make his move, I've been paddling for so many years that I still felt I was the faster paddler and could beat him, but he was now paddling so well, that it would be a hard race to the finish. In the end, we decided we were having lots of fun, we both were going to place extremely well as races go, and so we decided to stay and finish together. I was loving his company and experiencing this challenge with him, and no one in the race was giving him a hard time about being with his Mom :) Since the race, I've been back on the water paddling, Alan left 5 days later for Orlando for a long weekend of ocean sailing, his real passion.

It wasn't long before we paddled past the mouth of the Osage River, this is what enabled us to finish this leg so well, as the current in the Osage allowed us to paddle 1/2 mph faster right up to the finish.

Our stops were short at both checkpoints. In Hermann I needed a little first-aid; I'd never lost those extra 20 lbs, and I was chafing badly at the waist band of my shorts. We didn't even get out of the boat in Washington, though we did see Ann and Wayne there smiling and cheering on the racers. Stan told us he thought we could make the finish around midnight, though I was pretty sure it was going to more like 2AM.

And the river was beautiful, much more hilly, and occasionally lined with beautiful steep white cliffs.

The last 20 miles was hard, we were definitely tired, and very hungry as we'd had trouble eating since noon. It was very dark and higher water levels from the Osage had wind dikes partially submerged and making lots of noise. Occasionally we'd find ourselves going over a submerged wind dyke as we tried to stay in the channel, it would swing our sterns around and wake us up a bit. The river was also much straighter and we paddling past some large sand dredges. Shadows made it a very eerie paddle. And we could see the small lights of other seakayak racers a couple miles behind us, as they slowly and methodically worked their way past us.

Soon we were under the 'Bridge of False Hope' and a few miles later could see the lights of the large casino. We hit the finish line at 1:01 AM, our finish was 65 hours and 1 minutes (the race has a 100 hour cutoff). I placed 3rd among 8 solo women, and Alan 13th of 45 solo men. Overall we came in 23rd and 24th of 73 boats. Not a bad effort for a cruiser.

There were a couple of racers getting ready to camp, most who had already arrived had opted for hotels. Stan and Dana were there, and the race volunteer gave us our finish medals in a short ceremony.

Possibly the hardest thing that day was packing the car and lifting my arms up to put the boats on top of Stan's large SUV. We were pretty "stupid" by that time, just really wanting food and sleep. Stan and Dana lived an hour away, they too had spent the last few days with little sleep, so the plan was to pack up quickly and go to their house for a good night sleep in a bed. We slept till noon.

Once up we quickly packed our car, put my Kruger Dreamcatcher on top, and Alan and I drove back to the race finish. We spent that day (camped at night) and Saturday morning, hearing race stories, enjoying friends, partying, and cheering in the remaining racers.

Our only disappointment came during the drive home. We decided to play tourist and stop in St Louis to go up the top of the arch, only to find a 4 1/2 hour wait to go up. This was our only view.

During our long drive home, each of us expressed interest in doing the race again next year (a sentiment expressed by many of the finishers), even during the race, I always felt that there was little else I'd rather be doing. Keep on paddling!

1 comment:

Noel said...

Let me say congrats! Good job on the race and I really enjoyed reading your write up.