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Archive for Friday, July 25, 2008

Canoeist conquers grueling river race

July 25, 2008

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Missouri River 340

¢ The Missouri River 340 bills itself as the longest nonstop boat race in the world. It runs 340 miles, from Kansas City to St. Charles, Mo.

¢ Contestants must complete the course in 100 hours. There are nine checkpoints along the way. Failure to meet time deadlines at two consecutive checkpoints results in disqualification.

¢ This year's overall winner, a five-person team, finished in 36 hours, 19 minutes. The fastest solo entrant took 37:46

A couple of co-workers competed in last year's Missouri River 340, and Chris Jump strolled the couple of blocks from her workplace to see them off at the start.

This year, when the 340-mile river race from Kansas City to St. Charles, Mo., began, Jump was there again - as a competitor.

"My friends joked with me that it was my middle-age crisis," said Jump, 44, who last weekend competed in what is billed as the world's longest non-stop river race. "It was a challenge, a personal challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it."

Jump and teammate Tabatha Adkins did it, all right. They completed the event in 78 hours, well under the 100-hour limit and just under their 80-hour goal.

And they won the women's tandem division to boat, er, boot.

"But that's only because we were the only ones in the division," Jump is quick to point out. "But I was satisfied."

Of the 150 boats that started the MR 340 on July 15, 114 officially finished. Jump-Adkins placed 84th overall.

"I wasn't sure what to expect," Jump said. "I wasn't sure we'd be able to finish. So I was pleased to finish it, and I was pleased with our time."

An avid canoeist through college, Jump hung up her paddles for years before purchasing a kayak last summer.

When she heard about the MR 340 from co-workers, she decided to give it a go, in a canoe and with a partner.

"I think I wanted to reconnect with things that meant something to me in the past," she said. "Canoeing, outdoor activities : it was a chance to live in the moment, in the here and now, instead of looking down the road at that meeting next week, or whatever. You respond to what the river is giving you at that moment."

In that regard, the Missouri River is notoriously fickle.

River racers had to contend with barge traffic, buoys, bridge pilings, bugs, the elements and lack of sleep.

Jump said she and her teammate headed ashore to sleep two or three hours for each of the first two nights and four hours on the third night.

The rest of the time they were on the water.

"It was just a neat experience," Jump said. "I'd never done anything like it before, so I had no expectations. I was definitely sore. My shoulders and neck caught the brunt of it. And paddling in the dark was a new and interesting experience. The sunrise in the mornings, with a little fog on the river : that kind of struck me. Every morning was just beautiful."

The two trained for the event, but the spring's heavy rains hindered their preparations in their borrowed canoe.

"With the water being up so much, our training was off and on," Jump aid. "We tried to paddle upstream on the Kaw from Kansas City. We tried to paddle twice a week, but it didn't always work out."

Jump said she never felt in any danger, though she was glad she brought a friend along for her first MR 340 experience.

"That's why I decided to do a tandem, mostly because of the night paddling," Jump said, "but after that first night, I found it to be peaceful. We had a full moon, so we had some light. The river is really beautiful at night. It all went really smoothly. I never felt endangered.

Jump's first MR 340 experience went so smoothly, she's considering returning next year - in a solo kayak.

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