HUNTSDALE — Two men stepped out of a black canoe, their tan pants and white shirts stuck to their bodies. They both stumbled as they adjusted to standing after sitting for seven hours.
Brad Krog and J.D. Goulet steadied themselves in the water as they regained control of their legs. The two had traveled 23 hours from Maine before beginning the five day river race on Tuesday in Kansas City.
Krog, Goulet and other racers in this year's Missouri River 340 made their stops at the fifth checkpoint at Katfish Katy's in Huntsdale on Wednesday. The river race continues 340 miles along the Missouri River with racers finishing in St. Charles. Participants have 88 hours to finish the race.
Last year, Dawn Krog was in the boat with her husband. The couple had traveled from Bowdoin, Maine to compete in the mixed tandem division after Krog's husband had discovered the race online. Brad Krog wanted the challenge of racing in what he had heard to be one of the toughest races in the country.
"It was grueling," Dawn Krog recalls. "Paddling at night was difficult. You start seeing things and hearing things. You would get to checkpoints and just want to quit."
Knowing how difficult staying in the water can be has helped in her role as ground crew for this year's race. Ground crew members are responsible for driving from checkpoint to checkpoint in order to make sure the racers stay hydrated and supplied with food. She also offers words of encouragement and support.
"I try to keep them motivated," she said. "Keep them positive and upbeat at checkpoints and make sure they focus on the next checkpoint."
At the Katfish Katy's stop, she made sure the two ate some watermelon and restocked the canoe with full bottles of liquid. While paddling down the river is exhausting, ground crew members also work hard to keep their racers going. Many sleep in their cars, if they get the chance to sleep.
"It's very tiring. I've only had an hour of sleep so far," Dawn Krog said. "I worry a lot. You want to make sure you give them what they need."
This year, 59-year-old Brad Krog was joined by 17-year-old J.D. Goulet, from Bradford, Maine. The two know each other from a canoe and kayak racing organization in Maine.
"I thought he was crazy at first, but now here I am," Goulet said.
Brad Krog originally registered for the race solo after his wife elected not to participate this year.
"I asked him why he was so set on doing this race again," Dawn Krog said. "He's worried he only has a few years left (to race). He wants to do it while he can still compete."
When Krog asked Goulet if he would like to join him, Goulet declined due to conflicts with school. But his schedule opened up and after talking it over with his family, he decided to race.
"I didn't think it'd be like this," Goulet said. "It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done."
Racers had to deal with temperatures in the high-90s even early in the morning. Conditions for this year's race were much different than when Krog raced in 2011. The Missouri River 340 was postponed until October because of high water levels in the summer. With the race being in the fall, the water was cooler.
"I never would've imagined it would be this hot," he said. "We're trying to soak ourselves down to keep our core temperatures down."
They were trying to finish the race in less than 50 hours, paddling through the night instead of sleeping.
"Since we didn't sleep last night and won't sleep tonight, the second half might not be pretty," Brad Krog said.
By the time they arrived at Katfish Katy's, they were about fifteen minutes off their pace. Even if they don't make the 50-hour mark, the tandem will be happy to finish.
"Hopefully we'll make it through the night, be done in the morning," Goulet said.