"For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it." ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cinco de Paddle-O: Preparing for the MR340

One in the morning there I was somewhere along the Missouri river between Jefferson City and St Charles, at some random boat ramp with my nephew Michael trying to get a little rest before continuing on our way.  Sleeping on concrete is always a bad idea because even though it seems warm at first, soon enough it will suck all of the warmth from your body along with your will to go on.  I swore I would never do it again after Berryman yet there I was.  As I lay there trying to get some rest going through the seemingly endless cycle of sleep, chill, wake I pondered the events that led me to this random boat ramp.

It all started with a Riverfront Times article in 2008 that ran with the title: Up Show-Me Creek: Blisters, hellish heat, a boatload of vomit and lots of painkillers. It's all part of the Missouri River 340 race.”  It seems like so long ago that I read that article that painted such a horrible picture of the race that runs 340miles from Kansas City to St Charles, Mo. At the time I happened upon the article I may have been in a kayak once or twice.  Beth had once suggested when I was in a fit of boredom that we go paddling in Grafton, IL.  I was down on the idea but since it was a better alternative than wallowing in the Sunday doldrums before returning  to work on Monday I reluctantly agreed.  We convinced Michael and his wife to join us and we all drove up to Grafton.

Once we got to the drop off point and out on the water though everything changed.  I was in heaven and as we paddled back down the river I had already made up my mind that owning a kayak would be way cheaper than renting one.  I had no real idea what the cost of a kayak was but I knew I loved being out on the water and if I didn’t buy one I would be wasting my money on rental fees every chance I could. Things didn’t quite work out that way though.  We rented kayaks a total of one more time, and that was it.  Kayaks were more expensive than I originally guessed, and finding the money was difficult.  It seemed like it would never happen.

When I saw the article about the MR340 I knew I had to do it, regardless of how awful it sounded.  It was a grand adventure one that I wanted to be a part of.  I showed my nephew the article and said we had to do it.  He agreed, and there it sat.  2009 passed and no MR340, 2010 was the same.  Now I had been busy doing other things in the time between, and the MR340 was constantly being put on hold.  In the interim however the word “adventure” was becoming a greater part of my life.  I competed in some adventure races and met some people who like me had outgrown the weekend 5k circuit and were looking for a real challenge, something with which they could test their mettle.  I even met some MR340 finishers.  I decided that 2011 was going to be the year!  If participation in the race was put off any longer it was certain to never happen for us.  I called my nephew and told him that we were really going to do it this time.  To my surprise he said that he had arrived at the same conclusion.  It seemed like nothing could stop us!  

I found a kayak on Craigslist, then a week later Michael bought a super crappy one from Costco.  We paddled together for a while and he eventually realized that he needed to upgrade to a better boat. My adventure racing friend Chuck decided that he was in too and arranged quite a few training runs for us.  Everything was on track.  We all had boats, and were training as much as we could. Then the flood came.  The message from Race Director Scott Mansker was like a punch to the gut.  The 2011 MR340 was cancelled because of unsafe river conditions caused by flooding.  Scott handled the cancellation like a true  professional, going above and beyond everyone’s expectations.  We were given vouchers for guaranteed  entry into the 2012 race.  So now it looks like 2012 will be the year, and it looks like nothing can stop us.  The flood did claim one casualty though.  Chuck will not be with us in 2012 since he has decided to train for an iron man triathlon instead.  Despite losing Chuck, a great training partner, Michael and I have carried on, continuing to train and move forward toward the goal of finishing the MR340.

That is what led me to this random boat ramp at one in the morning.  The concrete is so cold, I can’t sleep, and for a brief second I consider sleeping in my kayak but my behind is pretty sore from 16hours of paddling and I don’t think sitting in the boat would be a much better alternative than the concrete as far as sleep aids go.  

We have come a long way, not just today but in the years that led up to this, however the one thing we learned from our Cinco de Paddle-O adventure is that we still have a long way to go.

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