For Bryan Hopkins, 42, of Columbia, the Missouri 340 race is a personal matter.
“It’s called a race, but it’s very personal,” he said. “You’re not really racing anyone. It’s a personal challenge, and it’s going to be a journey.”
“My son had a tumor in his arm and we just recently found out it was benign,” he said. “I plan on making a real effort this year. I’m really doing it for my son.”
Hopkins, who works for the Department of Natural Resources, entered last year on a whim and without a ground crew. He finished second in his division and third overall. He will be paddling solo this year.
He said it has been an intense time getting ready for the race and his family will play a big role. His wife, daughter, 4, and son, 8, will be giving him a boost at the checkpoints.
“They made shirts for the race,” he said. “They’re going to be my NASCAR team.”
Hopkins also is paddling for his sponsor, Living Lands and Water.
For Hopkins, the river has been somewhat of a second home. He has been on the river three to four times a week, paddling constantly, in a high performance QCC 700 kayak up river, preparing for what he will face in the Missouri 340.
“I would call it a racing boat, but it’s still OK for paddling,” he said “You have to have a compromise between a boat that is fast and a boat you can stay in.”
Hopkins’ strategies for the race come down to safety.
“I’m going to try and not have being tired and sore be reasons to get off the river,” he said.
He said if he feels in any way unsafe, because of lack of sleep or just dangerous conditions, he will pull off the river for a break.
Hopkins said he also wants to make sure he doesn’t go out too hard the first day.
“It’s the classic rabbit and tortoise story,” he said. “I don’t know if rabbits will make it to the end of this race.”