In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Marianne and Vince Burkemper were paddling along the Missouri River toward Glasgow.
Then they saw the barge.
The couple had to paddle to the river’s edge and wait in the mud to avoid the treacherous waves the barge created before continuing downstream.
Barges are just one of many obstacles racers face in the Missouri American Water MR340, a multi-day race on the Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Charles. Wednesday was the second day of the 340-mile race, and kayakers from across the country paused at Cooper’s Landing to eat and cool off before pushing on.
The Burkempers took a break there during their fourth MR340 together. The two wore hats and long-sleeved rash guards and discussed with their ground crew where their next stop would be. They were ahead of schedule and hoped to finish the race in under 60 hours.
Other than the barges, the couple said the race also presented mental obstacles.
Vince said the second day of the race is the most challenging. On Day 1, he said, your adrenaline is going, and you’re excited for the race ahead.
“On Day 2,” he said, “you’re thinking, ‘What have I done?’”
George True of Phoenix, Arizona, also said the race was mentally tough. This was his fourth race, and in two of his past races he didn’t finish.
“The whole thing is psychological,” True said.
His strategy is to focus on a little bit of the race at a time and to avoid stopping at every single checkpoint. True added that just finishing the grueling race is a huge accomplishment.
“If you can stay in the boat and keep yourself pointed downstream, you’ll get there eventually,” he said.
Team Sterling Carter, made up of William Rabenau of New Mexico and Matthew Kirkpatrick of Lathrop, Missouri, reflected on the legacy of traveling the Missouri River during their break.
“It’s history,” Kirkpatrick said. “Lewis and Clark made their voyage here.”
Kirkpatrick and Rabenau were racing in honor of Rabinau’s father-in-law and were pushing to finish on one hour of sleep each.
The men said they were staying awake by eating, drinking and paddling. If one of them did fall asleep, they joked that they would wake up when they crashed into the rocks.
They had competed in shorter races before, such as the Freedom Race, and their method to finish this one was to not think about anything.
“Put it in the nothing box,” Rabenau said.
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