The Adventures of Super Boo and Hannah Too
by Brian Weber
It started with a phone call, June 30th, 2007 Therese's Birthday.
" Bri, I have to tell you something, I have cancer. Stage lll breast cancer and the prognosis doesn't look good. We need to tell the girls, ....together."
After surgery, chemo and continued treatment and unwavering support from family and friends, Therese is a survivor. When this terrible disease touched our family it started a chain of events that some call magical, others heroic; I call it the Adventures of Super Boo and Hannah Too.
Marissa 11 years old looking for answers, approached me with the idea of participating in some sort a fundraiser, finding a way to raise awareness and money to find a cure for breast cancer. Our first event was tackling The 305 mile 2008 Everglades Challenge.
We accomplished our goal of bring awareness and raising money for her mom by our participation. Marissa (Watertribe tribal name Super Boo) 11 at the time and I had completed the journey 7 days 6 hours and 20 minutes. Epic in it's own right had instilled core values and determination found in very few 11 year olds. One could say she was on a mission.
Boo's mission included contacting Hannah Grow, a young aspiring athlete, an adventurer and the best of friends for her next under-taking. Their mission; to compete in the tandem women's division of the 2009 running of the MR340 while raising awareness for a cure for breast cancer.
After the father's caught wind of their reckless texting and late night covert phone calls we quickly came on board to address some of the barriers for such an under-taking. Liability and safety were of the up-most concern... Then to establish goals and objectives.
Over the course of a week we put together a safety protocol which would include a "shadow" of the girls as they make their way down the Missouri River. The Dad's would follow along in an tandem boat offering assistance in case of emergency. To be redundant in our safety protocol we included a third boat by enlisting Mark Przedwojewski from Kruger Canoes to shadow us as well.
This proved to be one of our best moves as we would learn over the months and months of training Mark would able to share his knowledge and expertise with the girls in a way that would only seem as badgering if coming from the fathers.
Our goal: Raise $10,000.00 for Susan G.Komen for the cure by successfully completing the MR340.
We knew the MR340 in a few short years had global appeal and our intent epic, but would it be enough for Scott Mansker event director allow 12 and 14 year old girls to paddle the Mighty Mo.? Would sponsors see the value in such an under-taking?
As luck would have it, Scott reviewed our safety protocol and agreed to allow the girls to participate. It was time to push forward with some serious planning.
We gathered frequently and with an abundance of emails we created numerous to-do lists. During this process we knew we needed more people directly involved with our campaign to make it successful. Rounding out the team, we enlisted Jenny Grow as Team Manager and Emily Weber Team Photographer.
A banner move for us as Jenny took on, fund-raising, press releases, land crew logistics - webmaster - blogger - The web was our conduit to others with similar missions. Emily, Marissa's big sister would also be there for moral and bank support.
Our campaign - "Race to Heal" gained global appeal. We had groups and individuals jumping on board and helping anyway they could. It was magical. Sponsors, and donations began to pour in.
We trained the girls vigorously. From high wind open water up-hill paddles to ghosting through the stillness of the night. Group training paddles were always 5 hours long or more.
We held non paddling gatherings as well, attending Canoeacopia paddling expo, sleep-overs, campfires and just hanging out. Our objective was to get the girls comfortable in all social situations and build confidence in their support for one another.
On one night paddle... we rafted up to grab a bite to eat and have a motivational discussion with the girls who where feeling the strains and monotony of training. In the darkness the ding of the Blackberry. It was 11:00pm. We had mail. The message; We just got world that we had a $2000.00 donation to find a cure and team vehicle donated by ELM Consulting LLC. This was highly motivating for the girls as we pushed into the night for another 3 hours.
We received lots of support from other competitors. It was evident that so many had a stake in the girls success. So many touched by cancer. So much good information and support came our way.
Not your typical teenage girls, both Marissa and Hannah have done 100 mile paddles before and had followed their fathers into the wilderness on many occasion. No strangers to adventure, they both have extensive back-country experience. We knew this would benefit us during the MR340. But would it be enough? The MR340 can be very humbling. It has a way of choosing who finishes and who returns to try again.
We had one lead up event, the Hugh Heward in Michigan. A 55 miler with multiple portages. It was only a day event, but it would allow us to test out our pre and post racing planning, work out any kinks with support, assess and document what food the girls would eat. Their comfort was key.
Fingers crossed for harsh weather.
As luck would have it; cold miserable pelting rain and high winds were on the menu. To our amazement this only fueled their desire. At one point we let the girls get a head of us to let them work on team dynamics. What they did was punish us by picking up the pace, they pushed hard. It took us the better part of an hour to catch them. Mark Tom and myself just smiled and with a "holly crap" we began to realize their true potential.
Another notable training run was a 5 hour high wind and wave paddle on the Illinois River. Our goal was to get the girls awareness up around barges. We got more then we bargained for. This was the defining moment, a brutal paddle in the worst of conditions. It was clear to us that there was nothing the MR340 could dish out that we couldn't over come. The girls began to believe.
It was all happening. The hours of training all the planning meant nothing now, we were in the moment.
There is so much positive energy around the MR340. You could see it in the competitors eyes, the excitement of it all. It's a feeling that must be experienced at least once, being a part of something bigger and greater then yourself. A brotherhood of sorts.
Our on water experience was magical. We worked our way down river. The girls in sync taking direction from Mark who was keen on keeping their paddle stroke clean and efficient. Hydration and fueling of the muscles that would take us to our destination was paramount. We had it dialed in.
We had a couple dances with buoys on the river. I must say I enjoyed the panic look on Tom's face as we skirted danger in the moonlight. The Checkpoints fell one after another as we gained momentum and realized our dream.
Our Checkpoints buffets and support by our land-crew was nothing less then spectacular. We felt like royalty as they greeted us and took care of our every need.
Our event was not without it's lows. We had the 5 hour energy drink fiasco, where Marissa drank too many too close together. We had a unhappy camper with an upset stomach for a few hours. Hannah held it together and paddled as Marissa recovered.
Sleep deprivation caught up with us at one point. With 3 nights on the river We were on a 6 hour, 4 hour, 2 hour schedule. But the sleep monster caught us. It took the better part of an hour to get Hannah back in the canoe to push into the night. The girls worked it out. Hannah slept in the bow, Marissa paddled the next few hours on her own.
Both lows demonstrated an unbelievable feats of determination and commitment to the task at hand. A golden moment for fathers as they saw their daughters work together and rise to the occasion.
There were many. The laughs the tears of joy. The opportunity to share this experience with your daughter's, so full filling. Not to mention the reaching of our pledge goal of raising over $11,000,00 for Susan G. Komen for a cure.
During the last push from Klondike with 27 or so miles to go, we realized that if we could keep the pace up, we could finish in under 80 hours. This was never an objective of ours, but with a news reporter saying it was inconceivable, we posed the challenge to the girls. - "let go for it."
The girls fueled and rested at Klondike hammered for the next 27 miles. They were on fire, passing canoes and kayaks one after another. The cheers and support from the competitors fueled their resolve.
The finish surreal. Hundreds of on lookers cheering the girls in. Grown men brought to tears, two girls now veterans of the MR340. We had done it, 78 hours and 48 minutes.
It didn't end there, at the awards ceremony the girls were greeted with a 5 minute standing ovation and a third place women's tandem finish. A dream realized.
The girls hold 5th spot in the MR340 record books.
1 Di McHenry & Natalie Courson (2007) 61:09
2 Cami Ronchetto and Linda LaFontaine (2009) 61:50
3 Carol Heddinghaus and Abigail Tuttle (2009) 65:02
4 TJ Adkins & Chris Jump (2008) 78:00
5 Hannah Grow and Marissa Weber (2009) 78:48
6 Edie Jackson & Christina Glauner (2007) 100:32
When you look to the future, look to the world's children and let them guide you. The have the answers in their hopes and dreams.