Getting ready for the MR340 I enjoyed reading what they called their dispatches. These were reports from an imaginary racer going down the Missouri. They gave all of us who had never done it some idea of what we were in for. In that vein I’ll put up three dispatches from TdT – as I imagine it will be. Keep in mind that this is only based on my experience in the MR340 and the little I’ve been able to predict for this race. The times may be way off. I can’t wait until October to find out if my predictions are on target. Enjoy.
It’s 6:45 am and you’re in your boat and waiting for the start. You’ve been getting ready for this moment since the weather started warming up and allowed you to get out for some exercise. You’ve been thinking about it since spring when Ned finally talked you into this scheme, this adventure. You’ve never tried anything like this and, now that it’s crunch time, you’re wondering if you’ve made a big mistake. Too late to pull out now, though. Best to try your hardest and hope to finish. But, you sure wish you’d put in a little more time getting your body in shape.
You’ve been up since 4:00. Didn’t sleep well, a combination of nerves and excitement. You got up early enough to get dressed and grab the gear that you left by the hotel door. Over to the boat and spend some time rigging everything up. Water? Check. Food? Check. Extra paddle? Check. Sunblock, sunglasses, hat, PFD, and camera? Check, Check, Check, Check, Check. The list goes on and on. And although you’ve been thinking about it for months you’re still worried that you might forget something. But the boat’s fully equipped and you ate well at the paddler’s breakfast.
You got into town yesterday a little after noon. Just enough time to go through the mandatory check and leave the boat near the water in Port Barre. You looked around at some of the boats that were already there. You’ve never seen canoes like those Texas boats. Long and skinny and made out of exotic stuff. Beat up, too, like they’ve seen a lot of action. They say Texans like their girls pretty and their boats ugly and that seems true. And you wondered how they stay afloat with so little of the side of the boat above the water line. You never saw anything like these floating down the Missouri streams and weren’t sure how you’d compete against them. And you saw your first surf ski and couldn’t imagine how anyone could even stay upright on something like that. But then you saw some of the other boats that had been entered and thought about how those guys thought they’d even make it to the finish. The people you met at the paddler’s dinner were just as varied as the boats. Young guys who’s arms were as big as your legs and old guys who didn’t look like they’d been in a canoe in forty years and hadn’t prepared for this thing at all. You hoped you were at least somewhere in the middle of all of it. Great bunch of people, though. All having a good time at the party and enjoying each other’s company.
But the tension is building and you’re ready to get started. You realize the announcer has been speaking in what sounds like French. It must be French, down here in Cajun Country. Then they start the count down. FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE! And everyone’s off. You swore you’d run your own race but the temptation is just too much and you give it everything you’ve got trying to stay up with the pack leaders. Pretty soon, though, the elite racers in their carbon fiber boats leave everyone and it’s you with the rest of the pack.
(Here’s a video of the 2010 TdT start. If you’re viewing this post in an email, click on over to the blog to see it. And remember that there will probably be twice as many boats in 2011 as the 60 or so here.)
It’s 8:30 and you’re coming up to the media staging area and see cameras. The film crews from several local news stations are out covering the event and you try to pick up the pace a little to give them a show. You’re still bunched up with boats and everyone else does the same. You’ve been moving a little faster than you thought you would. It helps to be in the pack with other racers; gives you the encouragement to stay at the top of your speed range.
It’s 10:45 and you’re coming up to Arnaudville. Myran’s Maison de Manger is the first official checkpoint and rest stop. It’s been almost four hours. Your body is telling you it’s time for a break. The bank ahead has boats coming and going and a few pulled up on the grass. There’s a group of volunteers cheering you in and that feels really good. Amazing, though, that you see boats loaded on cars and trucks – pulling out. Some of the people who really didn’t know what they were getting in to have decided 19 miles is the limit for them.
It’s 1:00 pm and Poche Bridge is coming up at the 29.5 mile mark. You pull over drag the boat out of the water. The plan is to stretch the legs by walking up to the road and across to Poche’s Market for a little boudin snack! Boy that tastes good. A beer would be better but that’s off the menu until Sunday afternoon. A quick bathroom break and it’s back on the water.
It’s 2:15 and Breaux Bridge is around the bend to the left. This is the second checkpoint and you know you’ve covered 34 miles. As you pull up toward the checkpoint you see a big crowd cheering and remember that this is the finish line for the “Crawfish Race” so a lot of their friends are there. Breaux Bridge is really putting on a show for the racers and you decide to linger for a while. Your ground crew is here and telling you about the amazing etoufee they had for lunch. It was so good they ran back to get more for you when you checked in on the cell phone a while ago. Man that’s good. You heard someone say that “you might be a Cajun if you think Breaux Bridge is the capital of Louisiana” and you understand why. Good food for sure. You’ve been snacking every half hour, trying to eat enough. But 5,000 calories a day is a lot of snacking and you’re ready for some real food. It’s spicy and you try to remember if Tums are part of your first aid kit and decide they’re in there. If not there will be someplace up ahead with a quick shop. You take the risk and keep eating.
It’s interesting that just about everyone has the same two questions when they paddle next to each other. “Have you ever done anything like this before?” Uh, no. “Are you coming back next year?” We’ll see! You’re enjoying the experience of meeting these like minded people out to test themselves in ways they never have before. Maybe you’re not so crazy after all.
By 6:00 you pull into St. Martinville. Just enough time to clean up, eat, and enjoy the party for a bit. You’d like to stay longer but you know the big day is tomorrow. You covered 48 miles today but tomorrow is a 60 miler. Besides, you’ve booked a room at a bed and breakfast and that bed sounds very, very appealing.
Time to hit the shower and a soft bed.