She swears that every year is her last year, but she has been saying that for the past six years now.
There is something about paddling across Missouri that can't keep Rolla native Carol Heddinghaus away from the MR340.
"MR" stands for Missouri River. 340 represents the number of miles it takes to cross the fabled waterway starting in Kansas City, Mo., and ending in St. Charles.
"It's hard to communicate to others want the 340 is like," said Heddinghaus who is the director of budget planning at Missouri University of Science and Technology. "If you finish it once it's an accomplishment, but when you do it more than once, it means more to you than just something on your bucket list."
This year marked the eighth year that the race has been held. According to the MR340 website, there were more than 500 paddlers for the July 23-26 event.
While the majority of the paddlers are in kayaks or canoes alone, there are divisions for tandem men and women, boats with three or four paddlers and even a division for dragon boats which can have 10 or more paddlers.
Heddinghaus competed in the solo division for her first race and has since raced with her partner Abby Tuttle from St. Louis.
Their team name is River Debris and they have won the female tandem division the past two years. Their first place time this year was 59 hours and 27 minutes.
"The really serious types can finish it at around 40 hours," Heddinghaus said. "But that is really paddling for almost two days straight without a break."
At age 60, she said she can't do that.
"At night, after a full day of paddling under the sun, I start to see things almost hallucinating at times," Heddinghaus told the Daily News.
This year, she and Tuttle slept for a few hours the first night in Glasgow and did the same in Chamois.
Her husband, James Russell, served as the team's support crew meeting them at various checkpoints along the way with food, supplies and a lot of encouragement.
Will Heddinghaus be back next year?
"Probably not as a tandem with Abby. We have had three second-place finishes and two first-place over the years. So we defended it once already," she said. "I think we both are thinking about a different confirguation next year. Maybe an all women's boat in the voyager or dragon boat class. That would be seven or more paddlers and a much bigger boat."