340 Miles to Immortality (Part III)
The mayor was present, as were several re-enactors of the early 19th century life. They fired cannons and muskets to start the race. I paddled my ass off to the front, for a brief moment, I was leading the race. Almost immediately I was way behind.
Our plan was simple: paddle like savages the first day. Bank enough time ahead of the Reaper (the boat that travels at the exact cut off speed, fall behind, you're DQ'd) so that we could rest later. So we did. From 8am Tuesday (we'd gotten up at 5am), we paddled for 26 straight hours. Twenty-six. Hours. We ticked off 142 miles before we stopped for our first nap. Now, I've stayed up late before. Gone whole nights without sleeping. But most of the time I was taking it easy watching movies or playing games or partying.
Never before had I done physical exercise for twenty-six straight hours.
A couple hours into the race, we passed a guy our age who said he was already "deep in the pain box." Not a great start to an 88 hour grueling endurance race. Every year, for all sorts of reasons, roughly 30% of paddlers Do Not Finish (DNF). However, most people we passed or more accurately, who passed us, that first day were in high spirits. It was finally go time. We were all out here, lunatics trying to paddle across an entire state. And hot damn, the weather was fantastic and we were ahead of the Reaper! There was an extra special feeling as we passed the large office buildings of downtown KC, knowing that thousands of poor saps were hopelessly toiling away inside.
Later, during the second stretch, we passed 'mr. pain box' again. This time, he was up on the shore, arms around his knees, looking miserable. We called to him, he assured us he was okay, so we continued on, feeling guilty we didn't offer more encouragement to someone clearly about to quit.
We left Kaw Point and passed Lexington, the first check point, 50 miles in. Then passed Waverly, 23 miles later. We stopped briefly at Miami, 105 miles down river, before forcing ourselves back in the boat and heading for Glasgow. We arrived at 10am, 8 hours ahead of the Reaper. Tired, triumphant, and hungry, we clamored ashore. After some breakfast burritos, we stumbled over beneath a big shade tree, laid down on the grass, pulled our hats over our faces and shut down.
I gotta take a second and say a special thank you to the boy scout troops and other organizations that had food tents going at all hours of the night to fill us paddlers up with burgers, brats, and pulled pork. And to all the volunteers who manned the safety boats and helped put on the race, we truly appreciate you!
(Continued in: PART IV)