Bob and Cara had practiced paddling / not killing each other over the last couple of weeks in preparation for the Race to the Dome, but Casey and I hadn’t paddled together since The Lightning Strikes Adventure Race back in March. Back then Casey felt a little left out since Bob and I were rockin’ some sweet Fu Manchu mustaches, and he didn’t get the memo. So, he overcompensated just a little bit for this race…
What makes his hair even funnier is the fact that The Last Airbender opened in theaters this weekend, so everyone just assumed he was a huge fan of the cartoon and movie. If he was 30 years younger, 200 pounds lighter, and Asian then he might have actually been mistaken for Aang (which was Casey’s nickname for the rest of the weekend):
Anyway, he arrived at my house from NY around 5:30, and we wanted to get in a short paddle with his new tandem kayak, a Necky Manitou II. So we met up with Bob and headed to the Capitol View Access. We wanted to paddle a half mile down Cedar Creek to the Missouri River and then paddle to the Noren Access near the Hwy 54/63 bridge to take out.
Casey and I left Bob with the kayaks, and we headed out to drop off a vehicle at Noren Access. When we got back, Bob was chatting with local paddling legend Laura Egerdal. She and a friend of hers had the same idea for a pre-paddle, only they were going to paddle in two whitewater canoes. After chatting with them, we snapped a quick photo of the three of us before we got in the water:
We pushed off and were on our way down Cedar Creek. Not far from the parking lot was this cool old bridge what we paddled under. If you look closely, you’ll see Laura in her whitewater canoe next to Bob:
After a short, easy paddle we came to Big Muddy, the Missouri River. None of us had ever paddled on the Missouri River. In fact, the last time we paddled on a huge river ended in disaster, so we were all a little apprehensive about paddling on the Missouri.
After a few minutes, we realized that we were worried over nothing. Paddling on the Missouri River was kind of like paddling on a really long lake. The only time things got slightly uncomfortable was when we got too close to the banks and got caught in some whirlpools and back-currents. Other than that, it was a nice float.
We paddled the rest of the way to Noren Access with no problems. The total distance was roughly 4.75 miles or so, and we made it to the take-out in about 45 minutes. As Casey and I were hauling our kayak out of the water, we saw Bob making out with a dog named Bandit (which was Bob’s nickname for the rest of the weekend). It never fails… All dogs and kids seem to love Bob.
So we all went back to my house for a feast of Chinese food. After stuffing our faces and lighting a sparkler bomb or two, Bob left, and we put the kiddos to bed. We went to bed shortly thereafter since we needed to be up fairly early the next day.
The next morning, we once again met Bob. This time, however, he was accompanied by his better half, Miss Cara Willoughby (but you can call her Mrs. Jenkins). We headed to the start of the race at Hartsburg Access.
Bob and Cara were competing in the K2 Mixed (K = Kayak, 2 = 2 people, Mixed = coed) category, while Casey and I were competing in the K2 Men (K = Kayak, 2 = 2 people, Men = Men) category. Our friend, Barry, of Team Red Wheel fame, was competing in the K1 Men division. I’m not sure what category the boat below was competing in, but it was pretty damn cool:
The race was started in heats with C1 (C = Canoe, 1 = 1 Person) Men and Women, and C2 Mixed going first. 20 minutes later, the C2 Men racers started. Another 20 minutes after that, K1 Men and Women, K2 Mixed, and K2 Women, and K2 Men all left, followed by the last heat consisting of only the K1 Men category. So, Bob, Cara, Casey and I were all in the 3rd heat.
When it was our turn, we all got in our boats and kind of pulled off to the side. As we looked around to scope out the competition, we noticed two strange looking kayaks. They were super long and narrow with spoiler/outriggers on the back. These were clearly racing kayaks with serious paddlers in them. One of the racing kayaks had two men in them, so they were in our division (just great). The other racing kayak had two women in it, so they were not in our division (phew!).
The race director said go, and we all started paddling. It was kind of a cluster-eff as we bounced off a couple of boats, and I just prayed that Casey wasn’t going to knock someone out with his paddle. There were a few boats from our heat in front of us, including the two racing kayaks.
A few minutes after the start, as I was messing with the rudder, I saw another kayak out of the corner of my eye. It was Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, and they were flying! We said hello, and almost rammed into them. Then Casey and I decided to pick up the pace a little. We couldn’t lose to the Jenkinses. They would never let us live it down.
We found a pretty good cadence and got into a rhythm. We passed a kayak or two, and we could see a solo female kayak up ahead of us. We decided to try to reel her in. We stayed in the channel and soon passed her. Shortly thereafter, though, we seemed to get too close to the bank while we were saying hello to several canoes that we were passing. We got caught in swirl after swirl, and our momentum was destroyed. We were actually paddling against the current while we were paddling downriver! As we worked our way out of this mess, we saw the solo female fly by us as she stayed in the faster moving water. Damn!! This mistake probably cost us 3 or 4 minutes. Not a huge deal, but it was still frustrating.
Back in the channel, we got back in the groove and started picking up the pace a little. We were feeling great, but we had never done a race like this before. We weren’t sure when to kick it into high gear, and we didn’t want to completely blow up too soon. We passed the solo female again along with some more canoes.
As we got closer to the finish, we could see the Dome:
With only a few miles left, we realized that we still had a lot of gas left in the tank. We picked up the pace again as we saw a white dot in the distance. We were pretty sure it was the racing kayak with the 2 women in it. We made it our goal to catch that kayak with only 2 miles or so left. We got pretty close, but we just didn’t have enough time to catch them. They ended up finishing 1 minute ahead of us.
We passed many canoes and several kayaks throughout the race, and we were only passed by one solo kayak. It was another racing kayak that was hauling ass. We finished sooner than we thought we would, so our families were not there yet. We told them to be there around 11:00, and we finished around 10:40 or so. So I had to take our own finishing photo:
Bob and Cara came into the finish right behind us. They did a great job, and, believe it or not, they didn’t want to kill each other… too much.
Our families arrived soon after we all finished, so we could all celebrate together. Here we see the four of us reunited after finishing the race:
After finishing the Race to the Dome, we were treated with delicious brats topped with awesome relish, potato salad, chips, and soda provided by The Old Brick House Deli. We had a little picnic as the rest of the racers came in and the results were tallied. Here are a few pics of the post-race party/picnic:
After filling our bellies and sharing stories from the race, the race organizers were ready to announce the top three in each division. Our official time was 1 hour and 41 minutes, and we took 2nd place in the K2 Men division (out of 4 teams) and 10th out of 66 boats overall. Bob and Cara took 1st place in their division (out of two teams) and tied for 16th place overall out of 66 boats with a finishing time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Barry represented Team Red Wheel by tying for 10th place in the deepest division with 23 competitors. His finishing time of 1 hour and 48 minutes placed him in a tie for 14th place overall.
After all of the teams received their medals, the top three teams in each division were also awarded a bottle of wine from St. James Winery which made the day even better.
All in all, it was a great day for Team Virtus. None of us had ever done a race like this before, and we didn’t really know what we were doing. We feel like we could’ve pushed the pace a lot harder, but you never know. There’s a fine line between not going hard enough and completely bonking.
The race was great, and it went off without a hitch – a rare thing for a first race. It was very well organized, the post-race food and party were terrific, and we had a great time with good friends and our families. And to top it all off, the proceeds went to Missouri River Relief. I’ll definitely be doing this one next year. Will you?