Christy Miller, 33, of Macon has been on the Missouri River approximately 63 hours. She is fueled with adrenaline as she inches closer and closer to the finish line of the Missouri American Water MR340, a 340-mile race across the state of Missouri. The full moon is hiding behind clouds making visibility limited. Just when she thinks she has third place in the bag, Miller almost slams her kayak into a sand dredge, a barge that moves sand from the bottom of the river, and turns quickly when she realizes she is heading right into a cable that anchors the barge to the river—her excitement quickly turning into fear.
Miller is a hair stylist at Reflections in Macon. She started kayaking five years ago and participated in the Missouri American Water MR340 in 2009 and 2010.
"My dad kayaks and said I should try it so I did," said Miller. "I was kinda good at it so fell in love with it."
The Missouri American Water MR340 is the longest non-stop river race and is on National Geographic's List of America's 100 Best Adventures. It starts in Kansas City and ends in St. Charles.
After competing her first two times as a team, she decided to go solo this year in her kayak.
"I don't get really competitive," said Miller. "But if you put a paddle in my hand you better get out of the way."
The race started at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23. There were approximately 300 boats participating.
"The beginning can be chaos," said Miller. "I just went to the outside and tried to stay out of everybody's way."
Everything seemed to go swimmingly the first 63 hours. She had gotten a 2-hour nap in Glasgow, 30 minutes in Herman and 30 minutes in Jefferson City. Her ground crew including her father, Mark Frankenbach; sons Colten, 13, and Dylen, 10, had kept her hydrated and fed at each checkpoint.
"They were a great support," said Miller. "When I would pass a bank with a crowd I would hear random people say, 'The river chick is here, the river chick is here!' Dylen had been going around talking me up."
But when Miller's mind turned to fear at the sight of that cable, her race began to go south and fast.
"I almost closelined myself with the cable and got really freaked so I started paddling as fast and I could," said Miller. "And after not sleeping for that long you start hallucinating a little bit."
The next thing Miller knew, she thought she was paddling through mulch.
"It wasn't even there but I was seeing it," recalls Miller. "Then I was seeing piles of trees that I was trying to dodge."
Page 2 of 2 - Miller then almost ran into a wing dike, which is a pile of rocks that redirects water to the middle of the channel.
"I couldn't see anything," said Miller. "I could just hear the rushing, churning water so I was really having to listen."
Then she ran onto a sandbar which is when her mind really began to play tricks on her.
"I saw a casino in the distance and swear I saw a barge coming right at me," said Miller.
She called her dad to check for barges and stopped paddling to see if she could hear the movement of the barge. There was none. She moved to the left side of the lake just to be safe and gets attacked by Asian carp.
"They just started pounding the boat," said Miller. "They were jumping over the front of my boat, so I was trying to hit them with my paddle. I just wanted to get closer to the casino because I was still freaking out about this barge."
At a closer look, Miller realized the barge was just a bunch of trees.
"I was really freaked out at this point so I just started paddling as fast and I could," said Miller. "Those last few hours were rough."
Miller completed in 64 hours and 53 minutes.
"When she made it to land, she told me 'never again,'" said Frankenbach. "This race is definitely a life changer."
Her time allotted her third place.
"I never imagined I would get third place," said Miller. "But before the race Dylen told me I had to get at least third, smacked my arm and walked away. It was so funny."
Miller doesn't know if she will ever do this race again, but plans on participating in other races besides the MR340 in the future.
"Looking back at the pictures, I am proud," said Miller. "But I don't know just yet if I can do it again."