340 Miles to Immortality (Part V)
So if you count our total time at Cooper’s Landing, then we slept for another 4 hours, bringing my total sleep clock to 6.5 hours for the race. Which we would finish in an elapsed time of 81 hours. And I’m not even sure that does it justice, because it’s not like we were simply awake but resting any of that time. We were physically paddling those other 74.5 hours!
The next day after Cooper’s Landing, the morning sun burnt off the fog and we pushed on. We paddled and paddled until night came again, this time we were nearing Hermann and we were planning to meet our ground crew there. Tony’s buddy DJ was there with beers and so was our good friend John Pollihan, who had to work the next morning at 6am, but still met us out at the landing in Hermann at midnight to resupply us with food, water, and good cheer. He even dragged us over to the local bar and bought us a round of shots! Awesome idea, John.
After the shots, I stupidly tried to sleep on the ground, not 15 feet from the train tracks… which were used about every 15 minutes as huge freight trains rumbled by. Needless to say that didn’t work at all. So we got back on the river and paddled. And paddled.
The last day was great because we finally made it to Washington, MO, which is where we’d started all our training runs. We’d finally made it to our home turf and we plowed through the last 40 miles in record time for us. And a couple minutes past 5pm on Friday, 340 miles and 81 hours after we started way back Kaw Point in Kansas, we reached the finish line and all three of our boats nosed up at the same time! We did it. We made it out of the pain box! And with that, we became part of a sacred brotherhood, members of the indomitable tribe of people who have finished the MR 340, the worlds longest continuous paddling race! Eat it, Will Smith, WE are Legend.
It’s humbling to know that a full third of the people who started the race back in Kansas on Tuesday morning dropped out for one reason or another. But us, in our stupid, tiny little kayaks, paddling 3x as many strokes as most, managed to finish the race. At times, it hurt; my back, my neck, my hands, my legs were aching, stiff, and sore; I was exhausted, hallucinating and falling asleep paddling; but with sheer willpower and determination we pushed through. To me, that is what it means to be indomitable. No matter the odds, never give up.
I’ve told how we met Tony Rocca. Over the next 250+ miles and 70 straight hours, we got to know him. Out of a race full of amazing, incredible, and interesting people, Tony was in a different country. Monikers abound and fall short. Entrepreneur. Alaskan raft guide. Artisan. Globe trotter. Video producer. Craftsman. Movie/Commercial worker. Expedition leader. Busch lover. All around great dude.
Josh Colbeck, the Clark to my Lewis, the magnificent savage who stood up and said that he would tackle this challenge with me, I am so thankful that he was there to plan with me, train with me, and push me. Like Tony, Josh is a man of many talents, snow-boarder, Roganite, power lifter, mechanic, and he can build anything. He’s an awesome guy whom I’m proud to call my friend. Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.
Between Josh and Tony, I felt like I kept laughing for miles and nippin’ off that whiskey. Our conversations and inside jokes got deeper and deeper. We really enjoyed trying to talk other paddlers into having “a nip” any chance we could. (I’ve since learned that we were called the “rye whiskey crew”… which is obviously awesome!) I think we probably mentioned every single awesome movie I’ve ever seen or heard of.
I’m so proud of myself. Seriously. This is a huge accomplishment that very few people ever can or will accomplish. I wasn’t sure if I was up to the challenge. Especially when I saw everyone else’s bigger, better boats. I wasn’t sure my back could handle it (I had back surgery twelve years ago). I’d been talking boldly about the race beforehand and I was terrified of failing. But having succeeded, I feel incredibly emboldened, more proof to my belief that I can accomplish anything in this life that I set my mind to. This is going on my life’s resume.
I am damn proud of myself. And I feel the exact same way about these guys who finished with me. We stood upon the mountain top together because we got there together. And we got there because of each other.
Django, here’s a free man.
You can call me: “Mr. 340.”