Long days challenge tired racers

Brothers continue to paddle despite broken seat, little sleep
Friday, July 27, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:03 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Participants in the second annual Missouri River 340, the country’s longest nonstop river race, paddle their canoes to Checkpoint 5 at Cooper’s Landing.

Columbia- Digital camera out and walkie talkie in hand, Janet Anderson radioed to her two sons from a group of picnic tables overlooking the Missouri River.

“How much longer you guys got?” she asked.

“We’ll be there in 10 minutes,” a tired-sounding voice replied over the receiver.

“All right, what do you guys need?” she asked. “I have apples, Gatorade, sandwiches.”

“Anything is fine,” the voice said. “We want to make it a quick jump. We’ll see you in a bit.”

A few minutes later, a blue and white canoe appeared from behind a bend in the tree-lined shore of the Missouri River, making it to the half-way point in The Missouri River 340 Race.

Anderson and her husband Jim made their way down to the check-in area located along the shore of the river and climbed out to the rocky wing dike to better access the boat when their racers arrived. It also happened to be a great photo spot.

Awake and on the water in time to view Thursday morning’s sunrise, the two brothers from Kansas City, Ryan Anderson, 24, and Eric Anderson, 20, arrived at 9:46 a.m. to the race’s fifth checkpoint, Cooper’s Landing, sweaty and ready for a bathroom break. They had paddled their 15-foot canoe through the steamy morning air for nearly five hours straight. Besides sacks of food and drinks ready to guzzle, it was a relief being able to stand up and stretch at the checkpoint, especially now that sleep is a commodity.

“We get to stand up, ahh!” Ryan Anderson said with a laugh. “We took off around 5 this morning at Frank Island. I got five hours of sleep last night and three the night before, to make a grand total of eight. I’ll probably get three more before we finish.”

But, the lack of sleep hasn’t been the most challenging part of the intense five-day race. On Day 1, Anderson’s chair broke just 50 miles outside of Kaw Point Park in Kansas City, Kan., the start of the race. His new seat became a red and white mini-cooler, already aboard the canoe.

“Now, I have to either sit on the floor or the cooler,” he said chuckling. “It kinda makes my back hurt, my knees hurt, but they hurt before, so it’s fine. I end up changing positions a lot though. And now I have to listen to Eric complaining to me because I move so much.”

His parents added that they are in the process of getting a replacement seat, but are waiting to find one that screwed into the side of the boat.

Taking just 15 minutes to undo the cramps in their legs, chew on some apples and get rid of trash, the brothers were back on the water by 10 a.m., heading for Checkpoint 6 in Jefferson City.

“We’ll see you at the capital,” Eric Anderson shouted as they waved and paddled away.

“Be safe,” his mother shouted back, hands cupped around her mouth. “We’ll see you in a few hours.”

The night before, Wednesday evening, the racers took a break from the water and spent the night in a Boonville hotel.

“They said they really missed fast food,” Janet Anderson said. “So, we got them pizza and they had it eaten before we got to the hotel.”

The pizza calmed the brothers’ fix for a bit of greasy food, and the hotel gave them the most hours of consecutive sleep they will get throughout the race. But, for these first-time racers, the goal is just to finish.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Ryan Anderson said. “One day we went out and practiced for 15 miles. That’s it. So every mile now is one mile farther than we’ve ever done. I’m not sure why (we’re so ambitious).”

The Andersons are one of 18 men’s tandem teams competing in the country’s largest nonstop river race, The Missouri River 340. The race began at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Kansas City, Kan. and paddlers must reach the race’s finish by noon Saturday.

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