You can view some of my pictures of the race at this link.
Wow, it was so much more than the adventure I thought it would be. I finished the race in 80 hours, and was never so grateful to get a shower. I can't remember the last time I went 4 days without a real shower. I was tempted to burn some of my gear it was so bad. It was a great feeling to finish and discover that I was stronger than I thought I was. Thank you to everyone who voiced their support for my crazy adventure. I am already thinking I will do it again next year. You can visit the race website here.
Here are some of the highlights I will always remember:
-Lost my keys the morning of the race and was about an hour behind schedule-made me wonder if I was really supposed to do this thing.
-So much excitement at the starting line during the national anthem. As soon as the applause ended, they counted down from 10 and the gun went off. I saw four boats capsize at the start, and three boats slammed broadside into the 40+ foot long dragon boat that was in the race. I swung way wide to avoid this mess, and it worked well.
-Mud. The checkpoints were all about crawling out of the kayak with unsteady legs and trying not to get stuck in mud. There were no "pretty" boats or racers in this race. I came really close to pulling my dad right into the river when he trying to help me get back in the kayak at Waverly.
-Fog. got delayed twice waiting for fog to clear. It cost me 8 hours on my time. The fog is beautiful, but when you are in it, you get very disoriented, and you just can't keep going.
-I saw the most amazing sunsets and full-moon rises. It's so cool to be paddling all by yourself at 2am with a full moon lighting up the trees and the water. It was very dreamlike and something I will always remember.
-Clif bars. I ate lots of them. They did the trick as far as fuel goes, but you won't see me eating one for awhile. I found that eating apples was especially enjoyable for some reason. I carried a bag of trail mix in one of my hatches that I never touched. Don't know why. As far as food goes, the absolute best moment of the race was at the Jeff City checkpoint where my father-in-law bought me a brisket sandwhich from this place called the Old Brick House. I have never tasted anything so delightful, and I almost drifted into a sand dredger because I so focused on eating it.
-Carp. I got pretty lucky here. A couple of small ones flopped on and off the deck of my kayak, but when a barge cruised by on thursday, I got t-boned by about a 30 pounder. Big thud, my eyes got bigger, and that was it. I was much more concerned about the churned up water from the barge. My sea kayak punched right through the chop, and I was grateful to have a change of pace from flat water. I think that if anyone was paddling near me, they heard me doing a lot of "Woo Hoo" at that point.
-Bats. At night, your navigation lights attract bugs, which in turn attract the bats. On the second night, they were really swarming. Every once in a while, I could feel the wind from their wings on my face. Creepy as this is, something in me knew that they weren't going to hit me or cling to my face. I admired their skill in snatching bugs.
-Ipod let me down. I was saving my ipod for the moment in the race where I knew I would hit a wall and need some rock n roll to keep churning. Well, the heat in my sea bag was so great that my batteries shut down. I was forced to go within myself to provide musical inspiration, and this was bad. My brain accessed the most annoying songs to repeat over and over again, and I couldn't make it stop. One of them was a Hannah Montana song. To fight this off, I remember singing "Don't Stop Believin'" at the top of my lungs 4 consecutive times. All the wildlife cleared out at that point.
-Hallucinations. I didn't know if this would happen to me or not, but it did. At the end of day two with very little sleep and lots of sun and wind in my face, I started seeing things that weren't there. I saw these incredible castles and mansions built along the sides of the river. The castles had turrets, flags, the whole nine yards. One of the houses was this huge Frank Lloyd Wright structure. Whenever I would take a second look at them, they were gone-replaced by a rock or group of trees. Even when you figure out they aren't real, your brain still sees them. This is a weird thing. I also clearly saw a huge island right in the middle of the river that disappeared just when I figured out which side I needed to go on. I also saw animals and faces in the trees and clouds that were stunningly detailed-lots of elephants and fish.
-People. Some of the coolest people I have ever met do this race and support this race. The volunteers were awesome. In Lisbon Bottoms-one of the more tricky parts of the course, I hear my name being called out from on top of a cliff with a megaphone. There was a guy up there sitting on his deck with a race roster and binoculars. He had looked up my boat number, and he called out, "Grant Wood #5287 you are in Lisbon Bottoms! Have a great day!" It was just what I needed to hear at that point.
Well, that might be TMI, but I wanted to write these things out anyway for my own memory's sake. I hope each of you have a chance to embrace a challenge like this for yourself. Attempt something that people might say is crazy or illogical. You might just find your soul again. -Grant