The race start was very exciting. I was interviewed by a local television station and radio station, and there was a DJ with a huge sound system playing great tunes. One of the racers, Dan Grubbs, who also maintains the blog Midwest Paddle Adventures, daughter who attends Julliard sang the National Anthem, and we then had the countdown.
The start with 73 boats (2 no shows) was not as bad as I had thought. Many of us gave way to those who we knew were in it for the race. And I'm not sure all were even in the water at the races start. Photo at left racers waiting for the start across the Kaw River.
The absolute best part of the race, was meeting other paddlers along the way, ones you were passing or those who were passing you. Often you would paddle together for awhile, visit, and get to know each other. The participants varied from serious racers, to cruisers, to first-timers, to those that just loved the river and wanted to experience it. Boats varied from racing shells and racing kayaks, to plastic kayaks and all manner of canoes.
The first day of the race was our shortest, 105 miles to the 3rd checkpoint in Miami. I don't remember much about that first day, there were a couple of boat ramps in addition to the checkpoints where family and friends of the paddlers would cheer them on. I recall picking up some cold water bottles from Stan at one of the boat ramps and Stan helped fill our water bladders at Lexington when we arrived at 3:38 pm, at this checkpoint I believe we got out of the boats to stretch for a minute. We also checked in at Waverly at 7:16PM.
My GPS data shows us stopped at these checkpoints for 14 and 8 minutes, not too bad. Up until 10PM we were moving pretty well, then Alan's stomach started feeling poorly, he then became very nauseous and emptied all stomach contents a couple times. We pretty much floated at about 3mph the next 2 hours till we arrived at Miami.
We hadn't really planned to be paddling together (in fact we'd teased for weeks that we were racing each other), but neither of us would allow the other to move ahead, and when Alan started feeling bad, I went into Mom mode.
Once in Miami I found some pepto bismol in my 1st aid kit, and told him he needed to eat and drink before sleeping, and prove he can keep it down if he was to continue in the race. We downed some endurox drink and heated up some chemical heat meals. Pretty exhausted by this point, and just too tired to set up a tent, we laid our thermarests and sleeping bags on the grass about 1:00 AM and slept under some mosquito netting to keep from being eaten.
I set my alarm clock for 5am, thinking we needed at least 4 hours to see if Alan was going to feel well enough to keep going. However, the Boy Scouts in their enthusiasm to make pancakes for the racers and their crew that morning, actually tried to start their generator at 3:30, and tried and tried for a 1/2 hour. I managed a total of 2 1/2 hours sleep. I recall hearing someone yelling out about cutting the grass, and I worried they wouldn't see us on the ground in the dark. Alan seemed to sleep though it till I woke him up about 4, but we were slow moving and we didn't get back on the water till 5am.
Alan woke up saying he felt much better, and he figured if he had problems, he'd just call one of the safety boats to help him out. Throughout the race we would see a safety boat pass by a few times each day.
My goal going into the race was for a 75 hour finish. I had determined this as a good goal based on last years finishing times. Leaving Miami, I knew this was still very doable, and with time to spare if weather conditions turned bad. I'd paddled a very comfortable pace and was really quite pleased with our time, even though I had gotten off the water 2 hours earlier than originally planned.
Paddling a Kruger Canoe means a very comfortable ride, which allows for the required longer ride, if your in it to race. The Kruger is an expedition canoe, and not a racing canoe. It does well in a long distance race when the Kruger paddler can keep on going and stay in the boat. I can easily maintain regular paddling speeds with my kayaking friends, but I do get left when everyone cranks. And yes, there was the occasional frustration of having some of the sea kayaks and faster canoes passing you by, knowing they often got more time resting on land. I usually just think they would probably pass me if they were paddling my Kruger too. That said, we were doing great, and we did leave Miami well ahead of many of the other racers who had still not come in to this checkpoint yet.