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2014 Official MR340 Dispatches (Read 66171 times)
03/19/14 at 22:35:31

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 MR340 Dispatch #1

The 9th Annual Missouri American Water MR340 is less than 4 months away.  Plenty of time to stare out the window at work and dream about those beautiful/horrible nights on the Missouri that you've scheduled a date with.

Whether you're a grizzled veteran of earlier campaigns or a "bring it on" first timer, these dispatches will have something for you.  They are here to reassure you that everything is going to be ok...and it WILL.  But they are also here to remind you that some preparation is in order for a 340 mile canoe trip.  Which also happens to be a race!

This will be the 9th running of the MR340... so there's lots of collective wisdom out there for the taking.  Unlikely you can think of a question that hasn't been asked.  Unlikely there's a mistake you can make that hasn't been made.  Understandably, many first timers are nervous about the race.  We're hoping this dispatch and the ones that follow will calm nerves and build confidence.  The race is not easy.  But it's also not rocket science.*

*rocket propulsion is not allowed

We will start nice and easy with the basics.


Mandatory Safety Meeting:  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KS  520 Minnesota Ave.  July 7th, 2014.
All racers must sign in between 2-6pm and pick up tshirts, etc.  Meeting starts at 7pm and is over by 8pm.  We call it the Mandatory Safety Meeting because attendance is MANDATORY.  It's part of our safety plan with the United States Coast Guard to conduct the training and to account for you being there.  So just be there.  It's actually quite fun to see all the paddlers and ground crews assembled in one place.  It's pretty impressive.

Typically, the hotel offers a pasta buffet prior to and during the meeting which is a great pre-race meal.  Also, the hotel is obviously the most convenient place to spend the night Monday.  They offer a special MR340 rate and the hotel always sells out to paddlers.  Might not be a bad idea to book a room there soon.

Race Start:  Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS.  There will be two starts.  The 7am start is for all solo boats.  This will be approximately 240 canoes and kayaks.  We will have 3-4 launch zones active, including the ramp.  You will have to start getting in the water well before 7am for all 240 boats to launch in time.  Plan accordingly.  There are usually sandbars on the opposite shore for you to paddle over and beach to wait.  There will most certainly be solos still waiting in line when the gun goes at 7am.  That's ok.  You'll get in and paddle out as quickly as you can.

The multi-person boats can start putting in at any time.  We may have a few launch zones dedicated solely to the 7am start up until the 7am gun, but there will be other zones that are first come, first serve.  If the water is down there will be more real estate for launching creatively. 

8am gun will also go off on time, regardless of how many boats are still trying to launch.

The most technical portion of this race is the first 3 miles.  It involves the transition from the slack water of the Kaw River into the fast water of the Missouri, followed by a series of closely placed bridges through downtown KC.  When I say this is the most technical portion of the race, that doesn't mean it's difficult.  It just means that the remaining 337 miles are very boring in comparison. 

The confluence of the Kaw and Missouri is tricky only because there will be so many boats crowding each other there.  As the boats hit the fast water, the current pushes them downstream and then there are collisions and paddles knocking together and folks lean into a stroke that misses the water and we have boats flipping, etc.  Please note that the mouth of the Kaw is quite spacious and there is plenty of room for boats to make this transition without a pileup.  We can't have 240 boats try for the same line.  If you want to avoid the cluster, choose a more upstream entrance where there will be less people.  Or, let the madness happen ahead of you and then proceed as the way opens.  It's not a difficult transition.  Just keep some speed up and don't be hesitant.  You want to minimize the time that half your boat is in the Missouri and the other half is still in the Kaw.  This is where you end up with a boat getting pointed the wrong way, etc.  But if you go at it with some moderate speed, your boat will behave and you'll be moving down the Missouri without a hitch.

Under the bridges we ask that boats steer clear of the bridge piers as they tend to hurt if you hit them.  Give each other room to maneuver.  The swift water rescue teams from Kansas City will be under these bridges to assist if there is a need. There never really has been. 

Checkpoints and Cutoff Times:

Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am (7am for solo) Tuesday, July 8th.   
Lexington, mile 317, (50 miles) 5pm Tuesday   Leg avg.  5.56mph  Total avg. 5.56   
Waverly, mile 294, (23 miles) 9pm Tuesday  Leg avg. 5.75mph  Total avg. 5.62   
Miami, mile 262, (32 miles)  11am Wed.   Leg avg. 2.29mph  Total avg. 3.89   
Glasgow, mile 226, (36 miles) 6pm Wed.  Leg avg. 5.14mph  Total avg. 4.15   
Katfish Katy's, mile 180, (46 miles) noon Thurs.  2.56mph  Total avg. 3.60   
Wilson's Serenity Point at Noren Access (Jeff City), mile 144, (36 miles) 7pm Thurs.  5.14mph  Total avg. 3.78    
Hermann, mile 98, (46 miles) 10am Friday  3.07mph  Total avg. 3.64   
Klondike, mile 56 (42 miles) 6pm Friday  5.25 mph  Total avg. 3.79   
St. Charles, mile 29, finish line, (27 miles)  Midnight   4.50mph  Total avg. 3.85 mph


The MR340 is a big, complex puzzle with a million solutions that shift and evolve as the race unfolds.  There is not a singular "correct" way to do the 340.  There are as many different approaches as there are racers and trying to exactly copy someone else's strategy would likely not work. 

Finding what will work for you is the best plan.  And then having plans B, C and D in your back pocket just in case.  Because everyone dips at least into plan C once or twice during the race.  If they deny it, they are lying to you.

The best philosophy in the fewest syllables is this...

Stay in the boat.

Sounds easy.  The river does a good portion of the work.  How hard can it be to stay in the boat and enjoy the scenery and the peace and the camaraderie of your fellow paddlers?

But it's tough.  It's tough mentally and physically to stay in the boat and keep it moving.  You are allowed 88 hours to complete this race.  The winners will do it in around 38.  The difference between first place and last place will literally be over TWO DAYS.  How is this possible?

The people who struggle to make the cutoff times demonstrate an aversion to staying in the boat at every checkpoint.  At Lexington, the very first checkpoint...just 50 miles into the race, the mistakes begin.  Let's examine 3 different paddlers at Lexington.  Let's say for the sake of argument that they all arrive at exactly the same time.

Paddler A: She paddles close to shore where she sees her ground crew standing.  She hollers out "I've got enough to make Waverly.  Can you get me a pizza and have it waiting there for me?  Oh, and some Coke.  I'm craving an ice cold coke."  Ground crew yells, "Ok!  See you there." and then texts them through the checkpoint.  They probably met earlier in the day at a non-checkpoint ramp to resupply.  Smart because Lexington is CROWDED and busy.  So they planned to just make visual and verbal contact here.  Time lost: 0:00

Paddler B: She did not meet ground crew anywhere and is planning to resupply at Lexington.  The ramp is full but there is room along the muddy beach.  Her ground crew is there waving her in.  They've got the cooler on wheels right there already and have the fresh jugs and food bag handy.  The canoe pulls up.  The crew reaches in and grabs the empties and the trash.  Efficiently places the fresh, cold jugs in place.  Gives a few words of encouragement.  Paddler B says, "I'm feeling good.  Probably 3.5 hours I'll be at Waverly.  It would be so great if you had a Quarter Pounder and fries there!"  and off she goes.  She eats the banana and the sandwich they handed her once she gets back out into the fast water.  Eating a bite or two, then paddling a few minutes before taking another bite.

Time lost: Only 3:14.  Paddler A is now a small dot up ahead but she hopes to catch her.

Paddler C: He pulls up to the ramp.  His ground crew is nowhere to be seen.  He extracts himself from the boat.  Wanders up the ramp.  He finds his ground crew sitting in the car reading a book.  Ground crew gets out.  Opens the back of the car.  Paddler says he needs his other sunglasses.  They unpack the trunk to look for them.  After awhile they find them but they aren't the ones he meant to bring.  Put them back.  Ground crew hands him the food.  He doesn't want it.  "Is there a McDonalds in town?"  Ground crew says yeah.  They drive into town and get food.  Come back to the ramp to sit and eat it while staring at the river.  Finally walk back down to the boat.  "I'm carrying too much weight."  They unpack the entire boat, go through all the gear.  Debate the usefulness of carrying two chapsticks vs. just one.  Repack the boat.  Decide to remount the nav lights real quick.  Paddler then wants to change his shirt.  Back to the trunk. Finally, the ramp is starting to thin out.  The paddler arrived an hour before the cutoff time but now the cutoff time has just ended.  He talks to a couple of folks who missed the cutoff time.  They compare aches and pains.  He finally decides to get in the boat because he barely has enough time to make Waverly.

Time lost: 1:03:55  He will never see Paddler A or B again.

This is not an exaggeration.  We see some version of this every year.  The true analysis of what's going on in Paddler C's mind is "I am hurting.  I do not want to get back in the boat."  But he DOES want to finish.  The illogical part is that you get no closer to finishing by wandering around the ramp.  Eventually, this pattern ends in either a time disqualification or with the paddler quitting... simply not having any fun being constantly pinned against the cutoff time. 

We are not saying that there are no appropriate times to get out of the boat and take a break.  There absolutely are!  But that time should be efficient and should be things you can't do in the boat.  But you can eat in the boat.  You can drink in the boat.  You can pee in the boat.  You can stretch in the boat.  You can rest in the boat.  And all those things can happen with the river moving you at 2-3 mph. 

That's what we mean by stay in the boat.  Do everything you can while in the current.  Shore is for sleeping.

This is most especially true on Day and Night 1.  The first 24 hours of the race is crucial.  More people drop out in the first 24 hours than during any other span of the race. 

Your mindset for the first 24 hours should be to go as far as possible (safely) so that cutoff times the rest of the race are not a factor for you.  We call this "banking time."  There are hours built in to the cutoff times to allow for sleep.  But if you can use a few of those hours for paddling, you've banked some time for sleeping later. 

Sleeping isn't easy day 1.  You'll hear many veterans say, "We tried to sleep an hour at the checkpoint but we just couldn't... we thought we were tired but we were too amped up and it was noisy with all the activity.  We wasted our time." 

Lots of folks make the mistake of trying to sleep at Waverly.  The cutoff time is 9pm.  It's just getting dark.  They've gone 73 miles.  The next checkpoint is Miami, 32 miles away.  They've got 14 hours to get there and by their math, they think it will take 7.  So why not sleep for 7 hours and leave at 4am.

Terrible idea.  Here's why. 

You'll get in your tent or van at 9pm and try to "sleep."  The train tracks run right through the checkpoint so there will be a train horn every 25 minutes or so.  There is also tons of noise from people talking, cars starting, doors slamming, etc.  It will be fitful sleep at best. 

Worst part, when you went to bed at 9pm, the ramp was full of boats and paddlers.  When you get up at 4am it will be empty.  EMPTY.  Not only will you be in absolute last place, you likely won't see another boat all day.  The race will have left you behind.  And that will really end your race right there.  It's mentally devastating to be that far behind.  There's an energy that comes from being in the pack.  Once that leaves you, it's nearly impossible to recover.

Because we've seen that happen to good folks, we set up a great system to help you avoid that pitfall.  It's known as...

Hills Island

A mere 12 miles downstream from Waverly is this little gem on the river.  It's a large wooded island with a big sandy beach on the channel side.  The last few years we've sent a safety boat there early in the day to gather wood and stage a nice respite for weary paddlers.  The benefits of pushing on to Hills Island are many.  Let's take if from the perspective of the paddlers who tried to sleep in Waverly.. how different would their world be had they pushed on?  It would probably have meant 2.5 more hours of paddling, in the dark.  But they would have been with a bunch of people, talking, passing the time, etc.  The time would have gone quickly.  They would have landed on the island at 11:30pm.  Now, they are only 20 miles from Miami.  A much easier distance to contemplate.  The island is quiet.  The fire is warm.  And they are now tired enough to sleep.  Sleep comes quickly and therefore so does the payoff.  They set their alarms for 4am and are in Miami eating pancakes by 8am. 

So as you start planning your 2014 MR340, please, please, please... make Hills Island your minimum distance for Day 1.  Just 85 miles from the starting line.  It will be your shortest day.  Nobody finishes who sees the sun rise in Waverly.  You will be doomed. 

Night Paddling

I can hear some of you thinking that paddling at night on the Missouri River sounds crazy and dangerous.  Under most conditions, it is safe and enjoyable.  If there is a good moon, no fog, no storms and you are not alone, then the conditions are perfect. 

The Missouri River is not a technically difficult river.  It's wide and the bends are gradual.  You'll spend 13-14 hours on day 1 (in daylight) learning the river and her pattern of rock structures and bends.  As dusk begins you'll be a relative pro.  You'll have the required Coast Guard navigation lighting (red/green bow and white stern) and a good strong flashlight.  You'll also be surrounded by dozens of other boats doing the same thing.  Always a great idea in this race to paddle in or near a group of other boats.  This is a huge morale boost and a pack always manages to travel faster.  Night 1 is so much fun for this reason.  We are all close together and there are boats and navigation lights dotting the water everywhere.  Groups of people who have never met are telling each other their life stories under a big moon on the biggest adventure of their lives.  It's a blast.  We hear singing and laughing all night long.  We'll talk more in future dispatches about how to prepare for night paddling, but I add this section now just so you can start considering the possibility that you will try it.  I know you will.  Everyone does it and loves it.

Think about this.  The days are HOT.  Especially from about 1pm to 6pm.  That's the worst.  You'll have to paddle that on day 1 and you'll hate it.  But if you paddle deep into the night you'll have banked up a bunch of time.  Maybe you'll spend 3-4 of those hot hours on day 2 sleeping in an air conditioned van at Glasgow... while the poor guy that tried to sleep in Waverly is desperately paddling in the heat to make the Glasgow cutoff time.

Factor that in as you continue to plan strategy.  Not just where you want to sleep but when.  For some, it's a much better choice to sleep during the heat of the day than the cool of the night.  And you earn that privilege by paddling far in the first 24 hours. 

There is much to cover and we've got lots of times in the days ahead.  More dispatches will follow and we'll dive deeper into more specific strategies to help you finish.  But I wanted to get that initial thought in your brain of the importance of day 1 distance.  Move that goal past Waverly and on to Hills Island or Miami or even Glasgow!  Nobody ever says, "The mistake I made was going too far on Day 1."  Never heard that sentence out there.

To review...

Know your dates, times and locations for the MANDATORY safety meeting and the start of the race the next morning.

Stay in the boat.

Don't sleep at Waverly.

Bank some time and sleep during the hot hours.

More dispatches to follow.  Ask me anything.


« Last Edit: 03/30/14 at 06:43:32 by Scott Mansker »  
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Reply #1 - 03/20/14 at 10:07:17

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
Please note the race begins Tuesday, July 8th this year.  There was one mention in the dispatch of July 23rd which was last year's start.  I've corrected it.  Thanks to all the sharp eyes who caught that.

After awhile, all the years run together!

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Reply #2 - 03/20/14 at 10:52:38

Aquarock   Offline
5X MR340 Veteran
Kawlloween Veteran
2X Gritty Fitty Veteran
Lenexa, KS

Posts: 120
I found this copy someone put together from a previous race and have modified it some.  By all means don't take it as gospel but after doing some research and mapping it is hopefully accurate.  After reading all the comments on this forum about things people like, need, want, etc. I've added quite a few "little things" to the original.  Just thought I'd share this with everyone in hopes that it might help someone else build and map out their plans too.  I'd love for some Veterans feedback on it!  Smiley 

I listed just about every access point and distances where ground grews can reach you as well as some contact info for check-ins etc. (These were last years check-in phone number, safety hotline & safety boat locations so you might have to update those if Scott announces they've changed!!).  This is the easy quick-reference guide, along with a few maps my ground crew will have for keeping track of us and working out meeting points.

(I have condensed the two posts with attachments into the one posted last with best information-Scott)
« Last Edit: 03/21/14 at 10:08:39 by Scott Mansker »  
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Reply #3 - 03/21/14 at 12:55:10

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 Dispatch #2


Now is a good time to check the roster and make sure your information is correct.  Roster is found here: http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1386982916

You might note that several folks need to choose a new boat number.  There are 10,000 possible number combinations between 0000 and 9999.  But there are always duplicates, mostly due to choosing birth year or other quirky lucky numbers.  The numbers were granted on first come, first serve basis.  Use your browser's "find" feature to check if your new number choice is valid.  Then email it to me.

Also, there are many teams with members marked TBD who have not yet signed up.  Please also take care of this soon.  We are trying to place a tshirt order as soon as possible and also finalize the insurance.  We need this done by May 1st.  There are currently 50 TBDs on the roster.  And I'm just guessing on the number of folks on some of those boats.

Last time we ran through several topics including,

Dates and Times  (July 7th Mandatory Safety Meeting, July 8th Race Start, July 11 Awards Ceremony and numerous cutoff times)

Stay In The Boat

Don't Sleep in Waverly

Bank Some Time

In this Dispatch, we'll cover some nuts and bolts stuff and some more esoteric strategic concepts for those looking to finish in time for the Awards Ceremony (7pm Friday ~83 hours)

Staging Your Boat at Kaw Point

We will have security on site at Kaw Point by noon on Monday, July 7th.  If you'd like to leave your boat there overnight, you are doing so at your own risk, but we've never had a problem.  Our security guys will have a copy of the roster with boat numbers.  They are instructed to question anyone that is removing a boat from the park and to see some ID that would match the hull numbers.  They won't bother anyone who is dropping a boat off.  We advise that you NOT leave paddles and other gear.  Just the boat.  This option is to make your morning smoother, but is certainly not mandatory. 

However, on Tuesday morning the park will be extremely crowded and you'll likely have to carry your boat and gear from the upper parking area to the lower level where the boat ramp is.  Not a big deal if you have a ground crew.  Solos start first at 7am.  If you plan to arrive at 6:55 and drive down to the ramp for a quick put in, you're going to be in for a surprise.  There will be a long line at 6:55 with many solos not in the water when the gun goes off.  Not a big deal on a 340 mile race but some folks want to be there for all the splashing and crashing.  If you want to assure yourself of a wet boat at 7am, Plan on launching really early.  The first boats usually get in around 530am.  That doesn't mean you have to sit in your boat for 90 minutes.  Many folks paddle across the Kaw to a sandy area (water permitting) and hangout to watch the madness. 

It's really about whatever works for you.  And the good news is you don't have to decide right now. 

Please be courteous to those behind you trying to launch.  Have your boat packed and ready so that when it's your turn you can hop right in and paddle on out.  As mentioned in the previous dispatch, there will be many areas available for launching.  The ramp is great, but there's also a good spot out at the point itself where the Kaw and Missouri meet. 

One piece of advice... we see lots of folks being meticulous during launch about trying to keep any mud or sand or even drips of water out of the boat.  I get it.  The boat is your baby and you always keep her clean.  But I PROMISE you by the end of day 1 she will be muddy and wet.  And so will you.  Better to baptize yourself and your boat now.  Surrender to the filth.  You will not recognize the look or smell of your boat at the finish line.  The sooner you succumb to this reality, the better your overall experience.  Lower your cleanliness expectations right away.  Every boat should have a nice big car wash type sponge.  These are great for soaking up paddle splash and for rinsing the boat off.  Hop in your boat with with some muddy feet and spend the next hour sponging it out while you await the national anthem.

The official starting line is the boat ramp itself and an imaginary line across to the other side of the Kaw.  Stay behind this line please.  The Kaw has very little current here.  If you are a fast racer in a fast hull, it makes some sense to edge toward the front of the pack.  If you are not thinking you're a top 10% finisher, there's little reason to fight for that real estate.  Isn't it better psychologically to start in the middle or back and pass people all day rather than start at the front and get passed all day?  Starting at the front does buy you about 75 yards of real estate over the guy at the back... but not a big deal over the course of 3 days.  Tandems and larger boats that have launched prior to the 7am solo start should definitely be at the very back or parked on the sides.

While you hover and wait for the starting gun, there will be loud music playing to pump you up and the 4 local TV stations all have their camera trucks there to interview the lunatics about to race across the state.  There will be news helicopters too so smile big.


This will be the third year for our Text In system for tracking racers.  The purpose of checkpoints is to make sure all racers are accounted for.  As each checkpoint closes we look at what racers have NOT checked in and we work to find out their status. 

All racers and ground crews will be provided a phone number for texting in at the designated checkpoints.  Here is how it works:

Racers with Physically Present Ground Crew:
Boat arrives at a checkpoint, ground crews serve their team, boat departs, ground crew texts in the required information.
Boat Number
Time In
Time Out (or intended time out)

So a sample text might look like this:
Boat 2217, Lexington, In 217pm Out 225pm


Boat 2217 Lexington, 217pm in and out (for a paddler who doesn't stop for supplies)

This text is then converted by our system to an email which goes to our staff of 4 volunteers who enter that data into www.raceowl.com ;  Race Owl then processes all this and displays it in an easy to read format.  It's a fun way for family and friends back home to track progress. 

The system also allows us to text back to your ground crew if we have a question.  So if they forget to put the boat number, we'll text back and say "What boat number please?"  It's a much better system than the old paper and pencil check in.  Far more accurate and after the first checkpoint, your ground crews will be pros. 

Like last year we'll have some volunteers in yellow vests at Lexington to assist folks who have trouble.  I know we have many older folks on ground crews who have never texted before.  We are proud of the fact that in the last two years, we've trained lots of folks who otherwise would never have done it!  So you can thank us when grandma texts you on your next birthday.

If you do NOT plan on actually stopping at the checkpoint, make sure you paddle close enough to shore to make verbal and visual contact with your crew.  You do NOT want any confusion on their part if they've seen you or not.  Otherwise they will stand there for hours waiting when you've already passed.  It's a good chance to holler out what you'd like to have at the next checkpoint.  And for them to make sure you're ok.

For Paddlers with Virtual Ground Crews

Everyone is required to have a ground crew.  Either physically present or at home or a little bit of both.  Here's a short primer of how a virtual ground crew works.

Purpose of a virtual crew is to track racer's progress such that if the racer became injured, sick, etc. the ground crew would know it long before the checkpoint would close and our safety system would kick in. 

To that end, the racer and their crew should have a simple system in place to know if there's trouble.  Some folks use hi-tech satellite "SPOT trackers" or similar gear.  These are great and do the job.  But the system can be as simple as the required cell phone. 

Example system:

Virtual ground crew knows the racer will start at 7am.  He has indicated he believes he will be at Lexington by 2pm.  At 2:30pm he arrives in Lexington.  He texts himself in to the race system.  Then he texts his virtual ground crew: "Made it to Lexington.  Doing good.  Heading on now to Waverly.  Guessing I will arrive at 7pm."  Virtual ground crew then sets her alarm for 7pm so she knows to expect a text or call soon.  She has the phone number for the Rivermiles Safety Team in case she has concerns due to a late paddler. 

Repeat process for next checkpoints. 


If we have a concern from a ground crews about a tardy racer, we will deploy a safety boat to sweep the section of river that their progress would indicate they might be.  Usually they are just a few miles around the bend and running late due to equipment problems or a quick nap.  It's rare that there are any significant problems.  Especially with so many competitors on the water together.  There are lots of boats around to help a sick or injured paddler.  This is not always the case at the back of the race or at night. 

If you ever have trouble and need to pull over and wait for help, be sure to be visible to a safety boat or fellow paddler.  At night, be read to signal with a strong flashlight to get our attention.  In daytime, try to keep your boat out of the tree shadows and wave your arms to indicate need for assistance.

So, as you can see from the above examples, you are not required to stop at the mandatory checkpoints.  You are only required to check in.  This is done by text message.  It can be done by your ground crew on shore or by yourself if your ground crew is not present.  Paddling past a crowded checkpoint can be a good strategy if you've arranged alternate spots to meet ground crew.  You can meet them anywhere as long as it's a place where a car can drive (no resupply by boat) and it's not trespassing.  There are many boat ramps between checkpoints. 

Hopefully you're cogitating with your ground crews about a strategy for day 1.  It can be as simple as meeting them at Lexington, Waverly and so on... but there are many more layers of ground crew strategy to explore.  I'd say you definitely want to have some maps.  These are the best in my opinion:


They show the boat ramps and roads and towns along the course.  Perfect and simple for ground crews.  Print them off and make a few copies.  You can even shrink down and laminate some for you aboard the boat.  It can be handy in an emergency when you need to improvise a meeting place.  You'll be able to see where you are in relationship to roads your ground crew can drive on.

There is a temptation to get very detailed maps that show every wing dike on the river.  These are truly not needed and will just distract you from the task at hand... which is paddling...What we suggest instead is to take the maps I've linked to above and make notes on them of places that you think you might need.  Islands and sandbars, etc, where you might camp on a dark stretch of river.  Or possible places you could meet ground crew.

No reason to carry all the pages.  Just have your ground crew give you the one you need for that stretch. 

In your planning sessions for Day 1, look at options for meeting your ground crew at alternate places.  A good ground crew will surprise you at multiple spots for moral support and in case you have any needs.  Ground crews get very good at knowing where you will be and when.  The crews for different racers get to know each other and start to pal up and travel together.  It's really a party on shore and it can be a lot of fun.


The reason the ultra detailed maps are not needed is that it's really tough to get lost on a river...at least a navigable river like the Missouri.  There are mile markers almost every mile.  And you have very little else to do while paddling than to look at mile markers and count down to the next checkpoint.  Many paddlers do not carry maps at all and instead just carry a list of checkpoints, boat ramps and islands with respective mile markers.  Then they can just glance at this list and know how far to the next spot. 

Staying in the "fast" water is important.  If you are in water just .25 mph slower than your competitor it will result in finishing hours after them.  The Missouri, for better or worse, has been engineered to have a fast, deep channel for barge traffic.  This is usually on the outside of bends.  The barge traffic follows this marked channel.  It is marked with large diamond shaped signage at each bend and crossing.  The barge essentially play a game of dot-to-dot with these signs to stay in the deeper water.  You can play the same game.  The faster water is easy to find.  But if you're unsure, just stay in the middle. 

The barge channel is great for paddling but it's a big river and you are by no means limited to the barge channel.  In fact, there are times when you absolutely do NOT want to be in the barge channel.  Like, when a barge is coming.

Barge traffic on the Missouri is rare but you will see 3-4 barges for sure during your race.  Some will come from downstream of you and some from behind.  You need to be aware of both!  For this reason we do not recommend you use earbuds out there.  You need to be able to hear.  There are lots of waterproof speakers if you want music.  But make sure you can hear the ambient noises of motorboats and barges.  And your fellow paddlers!

If you detect a barge, be sure to get out of its path.  Not where it is the second you see it but where it WILL be when your paths intersect.  If you understand that the barge must stay in the designated channel to have enough depth, then you know that you can simply paddle outside the channel and be relatively safe.  So remove yourself from the channel side of the river and paddle in the shallower water where he can't go.  If crossing the river to do so, make sure you have time to make the maneuver. 

But simply avoiding hitting a barge is only one part of barge safety.  Some heavily laden barges pushed by powerful towboats will have enormous wakes behind them that can capsize a canoe.  As the barge approaches, and you are out of his way, begin to assess his wake.  If it seems large and sharp, start finding way to avoid it.  Best approach is to tuck behind a wing dike.

Wing dikes are rock structures built to channelize or speed up the water flow.  So wing dikes are good for paddlers in that regard.  Behind and between the dikes will be very slow water and that is obviously to be avoided.  However, these slack water places are handy for getting out of stormy water or out of the way of barge traffic.  Tucking behind a rock dike can protect you from a nasty barge wake.  And that time need not be wasted.  Pull up on the beach and make use of it.  Reapply sunscreen or some body lubricant for those chafing spots.  Stretch your back.  It's better than flipping over in a barge wake.  Once the water settles down hop back in and be on your way.

Most of the time the barges pull over at night during the race.  We expect they will do the same this year.  But be ready for anything.  It's tougher to judge distance at night so be extra cautious.. Also, please note that a parked barge is also dangerous.  The raked front end is not a place you want to be pinned by the current.  You will likely get pulled under in such a situation.  So alertness for barges is a 24 hour/day job out there. 

Similarly, we watch out for sand dredges.  These are physically similar to a barge but are anchored in stream and are mining sand from the river bottom.  The dredges operate during daylight hours but remain in the river at night.  They are usually lit up but not always as brightly as you'd prefer. 

During the day while operating, they are serviced by small towboats that haul away the full sand barges and replace them with empties.  You can usually see the sand "plant" on shore where the sand is processed.  Watch for these empties and fulls to be moved back and forth from the dredge to the plant.  Avoid this path.  Also note that the dredges often have cables that reach ahead of them into the depths.  Skip these as well.  Again, plenty of room for everyone on this big river.  We're just giving you some knowledge to work with... eliminating as many surprises and questions as possible.

Storms and Fog

Weather makes the race exciting.  We often have storms that become the kernel of many stories heard around the finish line.  "Where were you during the storm?" is a common question at the end of the race.  Be prepared and smart about weather and fog and don't let it end your race.

You and your ground crew should pay attention to the weather.  If there is a chance of storms one night, plan ahead.  Have the right clothing along with you.  You will get colder than you think.  Rain gear is very important and some dry clothes too.  You may have to hunker down for a couple hours on shore if the storm is bad.  How are you going to handle that?  We require you have aboard your boat at least one "space or foil blanket" for each paddler.  These are amazingly effective if used properly.  A small tent is not a bad idea if storms are forecast.

When we get rain at night we invariably get calls for our safety boats to go get folks who are shivering in the dark.  Even on a dry night, folks can get cold out there.  You are burning so many calories so quickly that your body gets cold if you stop eating and slow down.  Dress for the night and keep eating and paddling.  If you start to shiver, EAT and paddle harder until you warm up.  We will talk at length in the next dispatch about eating and drinking.  There are many things about your own body that you will learn on this race... and one is how it uses food as fuel.  And how that affects you when it can't get enough or the right kind.

If you see signs of a storm coming, get off the river.  Storms around here can come on strong with high winds.  You do not want to be out in the middle of the river in the dark dealing with white caps and wind.  It will not end well.  Start finding a likely place to weather that first punch.  It usually only lasts a half hour or so, then settles into a steadier rain. 

Again, behind wing dikes or on a sandbar can be good places.  Even the steep shoreline is better than out in the water.  You do not want to be on a river with wind at night.  Our safety boats will be pulled over and unable to assist until the storm abates. 

Regarding Fog.

We've had fog every year.  Some years mild, others bad.  Fog usually starts in the very wee hours.  You'll see little wisps dancing on the water at night.  Time to prepare for a break off the river.  Don't wait until you can't see your hand in front of your face.  You will be disoriented and you won't even know which way the current is flowing.  If you think I'm exaggerating, ask a veteran of the race.  It's a very uncomfortable feeling.  And dangerous.  Remember those parked barges?  Bridge piers?  Wing dikes?  Buoys?  Dredges?  They were easy to avoid when you could see them.  Now, you see nothing. 

Before the fog builds, plan an exit strategy.  Start scanning the shore for good spots to land.  You can keep paddling, but keep your eyes open for good shoreline.  If the fog increases, cut over to the shore and hunker down.  Again, time need not be wasted.  Set your alarm and catch some sleep.  That sleep will be sleep you won't need later and so net loss of time.  Be safe and smart. 

Enough for this dispatch but we will keep them coming.  Many details to discuss.  Please forward these to your partners and ground crews. 


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Reply #4 - 03/30/14 at 21:56:10

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 MR340 Dispatch #3

Small Efficiencies Add Up

I'm not telling you anything you don't know when I say that 340 miles is a long way.  It's a long way in a car!  Your going in a boat.  With no motor.  If you're among the best of the best with top notch equipment and training, it will take you over a day and half of constant work to get there.  For most mortals it will take closer to 3.5 days. 

You are racing other paddlers.  But more importantly, you're racing the clock.  Maybe you are trying to improve on last year's time.  Maybe you are trying to set a record.  Maybe you're trying to join the "50 Hour Club" or make the Awards Ceremony (7pm Friday night) or just beat the 88 hour deadline.

The clock shows no mercy.  You can beg, plead and pray, but it keeps on ticking.

Also without mercy are the laws of physics.  You can try to fight them or marginalize their significance but it's a sucker play. 

FACT: There is a cost to you for every ounce of weight you transport from Kansas City to St. Charles. 

Someone smarter than me could work the math and tell you how much energy is required to move an ounce 340 miles on the Missouri River in 50 hours... or 70...or 88.  What about 100 pounds?  What about 300 pounds?  The costs get high. 

Think about this.  If you had to jog 5 miles right now, would you strap a cinder block to your back?  Of course not.  But for some reason, people think that a boat is different.  Something about it floating, maybe?  I don't know.  But every extra ounce you carry on your boat will cost you.  Time and pain. 

There is a temptation for rookies to carry way too much in this race.  You stare at all your gear in the garage and think, yeah, I might need that... and that... and that...

But if you realize that everything you add to your boat means a delay to your finish, you might think differently.

If you have a physically present ground crew you have a huge advantage.  You can treat the race like several short races.  What do you need to get 23 miles from Lexington to Waverly?  Surely not as much as you needed to go the 50 miles from Kaw Point to Lexington. 

Knowing what you need and when comes from doing some long training runs and learning what it takes.  After some training, you'll know how much water and food you'd need to go 23 miles. 

Some ground crews prepare this way.  They have a bag ready for their team to grab at each checkpoint that has exactly what they need to make the next rendezvous.  And they take everything out of the boat that they no longer need.  Do you need to carry your flashlights from Kaw Point to Lexington?  Do you need your sunscreen paddling at night from Miami to Glasgow?  Maybe it sounds silly but getting those pounds out of the boat makes the boat ride higher in the water, displacing less water, making each of your precious paddle strokes move you a tiny bit farther down the river.   

Want an easy way to get 10 pounds out of your boat and make it significantly lighter?  Lose 10 pounds.  Most of us could afford to lose 10 pounds.  I know I am still trying to lose about 10 right now that I added this winter.  And the double benefit of losing the weight is you'll be in better condition AND have a lighter boat.

One of the few things I remember from high school physics is that sound=energy.  In other words, energy is required to produce sound.  In the case of a motor, sound is wasted energy.  The louder something is as it converts energy into work, the less efficient.  What does this have to do with paddling?

Every boat has that sweet speed where the hull operates best.  Usually, exceeding that speed results in significantly more noise.  Next time you're in your boat, test it out.  Paddle really hard and you'll start to see white water breaking around your bow.  Your paddle will also create noisy water with each aggressive stroke.  If you could chart the energy you're spending vs. the return in increased speed you'd be very disappointed.  After your boat hits that sweet speed where you're fast and quiet, there is very little return on investment in trying to go faster. 

Learning a proper paddle stroke will also aid efficiency.  There are myriad videos and threads about single and double bladed paddle stroke technique.  Take a look.  But also take a listen.  The difference between a good stroke and a bad one can often be determined with the eyes closed.  A poor technique is usually loud which means wasted energy. 

No stroke is 100% quiet.  Of course you will hear your paddle move water.  But learn proper technique and you'll go farther with less effort than the guy that doesn't do the research.

You will learn when your boat is in that groove where it's at the most efficient speed that is sustainable for you and your partner.  The best paddlers are paddling the same stroke rate at the start that they are at the finish.  Their overall speed is consistent throughout the 340 miles.  You should shoot for the same goal.  Don't try to go 9mph day 1 just to be struggling to go 5mph day 2.  Find that speed that works for you.  Dial it in and ride it to St. Charles.

We talked previously about staying in the boat.  Efficiency at each resupply stop you make is of huge importance.  A common refrain of paddlers after the race is to enumerate all the time they lost at each checkpoint.

"Our finish time was 63 hours.  But we did the math and we know we wasted at least 8 hours on shore.  We easily could have been done in 55.  We are going to try for the 50 hour club next year."

Why have the regrets?  You should treat shore like it's hot lava.  Move quickly and do what you need to do and then back on the conveyor belt.  The exception would be exhaustion where you need some sleep to clear your head. 

Food and Drink

Nobody can tell you what to eat and drink out there.  They can only tell you what works for them.  But there are some basic guidelines to know.  Most folks understand what dehydration is and that you need to keep your fluid intake up so that your muscles and brain can perform optimally.  But many people do not know that too much water, without supplementing your electrolytes, can be as dangerous, if not more so, than dehydration. 

When you tax your body and sweat to cool yourself you are losing water and electrolytes.  Replacing just the water will eventually end your race.  You'll either bonk out or have severe cramping or possibly much worse.  Be sure that you are getting enough fluids AND electrolytes.  There are electrolyte supplement drinks like Gatorade and a thousand others.  Those are generally all fine.  But you can also get all the electrolytes you will need just from eating. 

You should think of your body as a machine.  You have to keep it fueled or it will stop working.  Bad cycles of eating can lead to having to quit the race.  It often can look something like this.

The paddler starts out, excited and pumped.  Races hard day 1, drinking gatorade and water...but not eating much.  By mid day his energy is low and he feels nauseous.  Now he REALLY doesn't want to eat.  He keeps sipping his water and gatorade but it makes him feel sick.  His energy flags.  He is barely paddling anymore.  He makes it to Waverly and needs help walking up the ramp.  He quits.

Understand that you are burning a tremendous amount of calories moving you and your boat down the river.  If you get behind on replenishing those calories your body will start to weaken.  You'll feel sick and feel tired and will eventually have to end your race.

You should eat consistently throughout the race.  It should not resemble a "breakfast, lunch and dinner" scenario.  Instead, you will want to nibble all day long.  Think of your food intake like keeping a campfire going.  You wouldn't wait until the fire was almost out and then dump a truckload of wood on the embers.  Instead you'd throw smaller logs on at regular intervals to keep it burning at its hottest.

There's a temptation to go to a sports store and buy lots of high tech food and syrups and powders.  And those have their place.  But the bulk of your diet should just be normal food.  Real food.  It's not a time to eat celery and kale.  It's a time to eat salt and fats and carbs.  This is the week you can eat a double cheeseburger and not feel guilty.  Or half a pizza.  Or an entire bag of potato chips.  That fat will burn up nicely and be converted to your next 5000 paddle strokes.  My favorite is salty, oily peanuts.  You can take a mouthful and paddle for miles. 

But don't take someone else's food advice.  Try stuff out on your training runs.  You should have an idea of how your body will react to food.  But NOT eating is NOT an option.  That's an early trip home.

Definitely you should try to avoid any drinks or food that use high fructose corn syrup.  I don't let that stuff in my house anymore.  It's great if you're in the food business and want to increase your profit margin, but if you're an endurance athlete, it's your enemy.  It's difficult to digest and we see folks with stomach problems out there that we can trace right to HFC.  The market is catching on and you see many products now that no longer contain it.  Many of the "Throwback" sodas now have real sugar and make for great energy boosters out there.  Check it out at the grocery store.  They make real sugar pepsi, mountain dew, Dr. Pepper, Sierra Mist and more.  Try one and you'll remember what pop used to taste like back in the 70s.  Before HFC. 

Another thing to consider while we've got 3 months is your paddle.  Upgrading to a lightweight, bent shaft single blade or a lightweight carbon or hybrid double blade can be an instant finish time slasher.  If you've never seen or held one, make a point to go to one of the early races on the calendar.  There's one in April and then a whole parade of them start after that.  Enter a few and look at the paddles folks are using.  After the race ask someone to borrow theirs and take it for a few figure eights on the water.  You'll be amazed at the difference it can make.  Short of a boat upgrade, a paddle upgrade can be one of the biggest difference makers.  The paddle is your interaction with the water.  It's the tool you'll use most during those days out there.  You wouldn't run a marathon in cowboy boots.  Choose the right paddle for the job.  This is an ultra marathon canoe race.  It requires a different paddle than what you'd use for those college weekend rent a canoe float trips... where nobody paddles anyway.

We've covered a bunch but there is much, much more.  We're about 98 days away.  Lots of time to get things dialed in but definitely time to start. 

Be sure to check the roster and get your boat number squared away if you haven't yet.  (thanks to all who did)  And also forward this email to your partner and remind him or her to sign up asap so we can get the roster finalized. 

Please also remember our benefit for Missouri River Relief.  All money from the merchandise on the website goes to benefit them.  100% every dime.  Shipping is free as well.  http://store.rivermiles.com 

I should also recommend again the book by Stephen Jackson about how to finish the 340.  All proceeds from the book go to River Relief as well.  And the book is a fantastic resource that goes in depth on every facet of the race.  You'll devour it.  You can find it at www.amazon.com  Just type MR340 in the search box.  Paperback and E-reader versions available.

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Reply #5 - 04/06/14 at 22:23:39

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 MR340 Dispatch #4

Required Gear:

Missouri River map OR list of mile markers and river accesses
Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device) for each paddler worn full time.
Cell phone with extra battery or means for charging.
Line or rope suitable for towing. (10' minimum)
First aid kit
Matches or lighter
Emergency blanket (reflective Mylar)
Sufficient water to make next checkpoint.
For night travel: Full red/green/white navigation lights as required by Coast Guard.
Strong flashlight or spotlight.
Clothing suitable for predicted weather conditions.
Reflective numbers on both sides of the boat.  Additional reflective material suggested.
Tools adequate for repairs specific to your boat.

This year we have removed the requirement for an extra paddle aboard each boat.  Paddles break every year, but in a tandem or larger, this is not a disaster.  On a solo, it could be a problem.  But improvisations can be made.  Most solos tend to carry a spare and enjoy the ability to switch from a double to a single so as to mix things up.  But at this time, this is not required.  But recommended.

There are many styles of Coast Guard approved PFD.  This is a personal choice.  For many, the belt style inflatables are chosen.  Others use the vest style.  Some use the belt style during the day and switch to the vest at night.  Again, choose what's right for you and your family.  But they must be worn full time.

Additional equipment will be needed for a successful finish.  The above is a bare minimum we require.  If you have a ground crew present, it's smart to have them carry all the odds and ends you can imagine might be useful, but only grab what you need for each leg of the journey.  If the weather looks bad overnight, you might grab rain gear and a small tent.  If the weather looks good, that stays in the car, etc. 

Those without ground crew physically present have to plan differently... and heavier. 


Folks email questions and that's great because it helps us know what gaps there are in this year's knowledge base and we can fill those in for everyone. 

1. What if my phone doesn't have a signal at a checkpoint when we try to text in?

If you have a ground crew there, no problem.  Just have them take care of you, get you back on the water and then pack up and leave.  They can send the text anytime after you've left.  It doesn't have to be exactly when you arrive or leave.  Just record the times and then send the text once they have a signal.  Usually, that's as soon as they drive up the hill from the boat ramp and back to the main roads.

If you do not have a ground crew present, you can walk to higher ground and see if that works.  Or look for our safety boat (we will typically have a safety boat parked at each checkpoint full time) and ask them if you can use their phone.  OR ask a ground crew if you can borrow theirs. 

This is the 3rd time we've used this system and it has worked well.  There is always a signal at the boat ramps, it just depends on if your carrier has one. 

Be sure to verify that the text has sent successfully.  Your phone should show a time stamp next to a text that has sent successfully.

2. My father is my ground crew and he doesn't know how to text.  What should we do?

He can learn.  You can help him.  You can start teaching him now.  You guys can be LOLing and OMGing for the next 3 months and he'll be a pro by race day.  Also, we'll have folks at every checkpoint who can help.   As a reminder, here's the format we need.

Boat #, Checkpoint, Time in/out


4433, Lexington, 230pm/240pm

OR, if staying an extended time...

4433, Miami, in at 130am, sleeping a few hours

then later...

4433, Miami, departing at 4am

There is no exact formula.  They will all be read by a human being at our end, so there is room for variety.  The essential information is WHO, WHERE, WHEN. 

3.  Should we use military time or am/pm when checking in?

Our volunteers prefer am/pm.  There is no need to put a date. 

4. Can our ground crew have an RV or trailer?

Yes, but they will have a rough time day 1 with parking.  As will everyone.  We are a very close pack on day 1 and so we see huge crowds at Lexington, Waverly and Miami.  Make sure they are prepared to walk their coolers to the ramp from some distance.  The Pro ground crews have wagons or dollies for hauling what they need down to the ramp.  Also good to have camp chairs for sitting and staring up the river.  Binoculars are treasured and the object of envy. 

By day 2 things have spread out and are less crowded.  Glasgow checkpoint is actually in a park with RV camping spots.  (first come first serve) Katfish Katy's is a private campground that will rent you space. 

5. What is the most common reason for dropping out?

Day 1 I would say it's discomfort.  That sounds like a poor reason for dropping out but then you're reading this from your comfortable, climate controlled lair.  People who drop out day 1 (not time disqualified) are doing so mostly because they hurt.  Many first timers who finish say that Day 1 hurts the most.  I think this is true.  There is a psychological leap to be made in understanding that discomfort is normal and must be compartmentalized in the mind.  It's not that Day 1 hurts the most, it's that you are least adapted to do it. 

Many drop out Day 1 due to time issues.  They miss a cutoff or, more commonly, they barely make a cutoff then linger at the checkpoint until making the next one becomes improbable.

After Day 1 there are many reasons.  We see sickness, which is often because of lack of eating or eating food they are not used to.  We see minor injuries like a sore shoulder or elbow.  Or a back that tightens up.  Very few people drop out after Glasgow.  Assuming they leave Glasgow with the sun still up on Day 2, they have banked several hours and have the flexibility to take breaks and make adjustments to pain and sickness if so afflicted.  If they spend Wednesday night in Glasgow, they are in trouble and generally don't finish.  I can't remember the last year someone slept Wednesday night in Glasgow.  I don't think it has happened since we moved to the 88 hour format.  Since the cutoff is 6pm, there is time to shower, eat, sleep a bit and then paddle out before dark.  Which brings us to...

6. I've never paddled at night and I'm pretty nervous about it.  Any advice?

You're not required to paddle at night but you'll really have to make big strides during daylight.  But everyone ends up paddling at night which should reassure you that it's not as scary as it sounds.  If you live near the river you should try and practice with some other folks sometime if you get a chance.  There are meetups for paddling on the forum and these are fun and informal.  Be smart and make sure there is good weather and a decent moon and have a float plan so folks are aware of your intentions.

Regarding the actual race, you'll be among many boats (unless you're in the top 10 or so) and you'll be able to catch on fairly quickly to the technique.  And you are always welcome to paddle along with a safety boat if there's one moving in your area at night.  Night 1 there will be a boat leaving Waverly with the last paddlers and making for Hills Island.  You can follow right alongside that boat the whole way.  Also, there will be a boat leaving Hills Island once that Waverly boat arrives.  Hop on with them if you'd like. 

Meanwhile, for the slightly faster folks there is usually a boat that leaves Miami around midnight or 1am... (varies depending on where we need them) and they go all the way to Glasgow. 

Understand that these boats sometimes have to move faster if needed somewhere to help a paddler.  But they would help you get landed if you were uncomfortable paddling without them.  The exception would be the last safety boat out of Waverly Tuesday night which is the sweep boat and will always stay with the last paddlers or group of paddlers.

7. We can't stay for the awards ceremony.  Can we still get our medals?

Yes.  Visit the t-shirt table and ask.  They will arrange to get you your medals or trophies early.

8. If the Reaper passes me, am I out?

Not necessarily.  The Reaper is a pace boat that will move at the minimum speed needed to make the cutoff times.  If the Reaper passes you 10 miles into the race, it means you need to speed it up.  You have to beat the Reaper to each checkpoint.  It's a visual representation of the cutoff time.  As long as you make each checkpoint before the Reaper, you're fine.

However... usually the folks battling cutoff times only have issues up until Glasgow.  After Glasgow, the Reaper pace is sometimes miles behind the last paddler.  Rather than waste a perfectly good safety boat 10 miles behind the action, we then move the Reaper up to the sweep or 10 or so canoes ahead of the sweep.  To avoid confusion, the Reaper always flies a flag about 10 feet in the air when "Reaping" and takes it down when assuming other duties.  If the Reaper passes you and has no tall flag flying, it's just another safety boat. 

Attached at the end of this forum post is a photo of the Reaper with flag flying for your reference.

Keep the questions coming.  We'll answer more in the next dispatch. 



Reaper_Flag_001.jpg (583 KB | 971 )
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Reply #6 - 04/07/14 at 06:27:53

eloos   Offline
Future Participant

Posts: 13
I know it has been talked about before. Can you go over the reflective number size for the boat. Is it 4"?
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Reply #7 - 04/07/14 at 06:37:27

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
Minimum of 3'.
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Reply #8 - 04/14/14 at 22:52:18

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 MR340 Dispatch #5

Proceed as the way opens...

These are words to live by.  I first read them in the book River Horse by William Least-Heat Moon.  He was on an extended boat journey and this was his mantra.  He understood that planning is wonderful and an excellent exercise... but that once out there, circumstances present themselves that will conflict with the best plans.  And one can either resist, or go with the flow.  There is wisdom in deciding which is best.

I can imagine that many of us have penciled out some plans for the race... where we hope to be and when... what places we'll meet ground crew and what places we will skip to avoid crowds... and even written down a finish time... gently, softly, barely visible...but soon darkened and impossible to erase...a goal that must be met at all costs.

Nothing at all wrong with the planning.  It's a very healthy process for figuring out how to tackle the race.  It shows you how tough it's going to be and that it certainly will require a diligent and consistent effort.  But to imagine that your formula sketched on those papers is the only way to make it happen... well, that's what they call hubris and it can get you in trouble.

Instead, proceed as the way opens.  Keep your plan A.  But be ready to execute plan F.  F can stand for lots of things.  Including Finish.

And you may be pleasantly surprised to find that adjusting your plans on the fly can be exhilarating.  Liberating.  And even accelerating. 

Let's take a few examples. 

#1 Your plans indicate you will stop at Hill's Island on night 1 and sleep for 2 hours.  As you approach Hill's Island, you realize you aren't really that tired.  In fact, you're feeling better than you've felt all day.  The sun is down, the moon is up.  You're paddling with some great people.  You want to go on but it will alter the arranged plans with your ground crew. 

Proceed as the way opens...

Text your ground crew and tell them you're pushing on to Miami.  Instead of getting there at 9am, you now think it will be more like 6am. 

#2 It's day 3 and you're exhausted.  Your plans were to get to Hermann before dark and get some sleep.  But the day is hot and you're fighting for every inch of river.  You're 30 miles from Hermann and the thought of cooking that long in the hot afternoon seems impossible. 

Proceed as the way opens.

Up ahead you see a little beach of sand behind a wing dike.  There's a shady spot up the bank under some cottonwoods.  You pull in behind the dike and beach your boat (where a safety boat can see it) and find a flat spot in the shade.  You text your ground crew and tell them you plan to rest during the heat of the day instead of the evening hours at Hermann.  You set your alarm and wake up with the sun much lower and cooler.  Back in the boat and energized you are paddling faster than before and now feel like you can push through the last 100 miles.

#3  Night 1 finds you arriving in Miami at 2am.  You are excited about your pace but your'e tired and need some rest.  You tell your ground crew to wake you at sunrise so you can get back out there.  At sunrise they rouse you but the river is buried in thick fog.  Your schedule tells you to go, go, go but the fog is too dangerous. 

Proceed as the way opens...

You realize that sleeping another hour now will set you behind the schedule you kept taped to your office wall back home... but you also realize that getting an extra hour now means you may be able to go further tonight than planned.  You curl back up into the sleeping back and say "One more hour"  Your ground crew gets your boat all prepped and wakes you as the fog burns off.  You catch up soon with some folks that tried to press into the fog.  They tell you it was a nightmare and they wasted 90 minutes being terrified and paddling in circles.  You, however, are disgustingly cheerful and rested.  They secretly despise you as you paddle away humming Jimmy Buffett songs. 

In short, I believe strongly in planning out your strategy for a successful finish.  Just be ready to adapt to what the river presents you.  Some will be great opportunities to leap forward.  Others will be great opportunities to regroup and rest.  An efficient racer will make the judgement of what makes the most sense... what is the risk vs. the reward.  There's no way to know until you're in the moment.  But being stuck on a schedule that ceases to make sense for the circumstances is a bad thing. 

Of course, all this assumes you are ahead of the cutoff times.  By banking some time in the first 24 hours, you've got the ability to flex a few hours here and there.  If your back is to the wall, your choices are limited.  A good first 24 hours sets you up for adapting to what comes your way.

I feel like we've drilled into your heads how important Day One is.  How you cannot call it a day at Waverly, just 73 miles into the race, and expect to finish.  At minimum, you need to reach Hills Island, (85 miles) AND be off the island as the sky starts to turn gray come morning.  Few things are more depressing that waking up, looking around and realizing yours is the last boat on the beach... the very last boat in the race... with nobody in sight ahead or behind.  This is true at every checkpoint that follows.  It's very hard to keep going if you're last.  Lucky for you, this is entirely in your control. 

Which leads us to our first question this week...

The weather has kept us out of the boat so far this spring.  What should we do if we can't paddle?

This race requires both physical and mental preparation.  Anything you can do to physically improve your core strength is good.  Pushups.  Pull ups.  These are easy things that anyone can work on without a gym membership.  And it's easy to see progress.  With 3 months before the race, you could see those pushups go from 5 in a row to 25 in a row.  How much stronger would that make you during the race?  It's a big difference.  Physically AND mentally. 

Because when you push yourself past your perceived limits... whether that's pushups, jogging or paddling... you learn that you CAN go farther.  Yeah, it hurts and sometimes it just plain sucks... but you can make it.  Good to start learning that now. 

Sign up for a 5k.  Go run that.  It will hurt.  But you will finish.  And you'll learn something about how to deal with that feeling of wanting to quit... wanting to walk...because it's normal.  But learning to fight past that feeling is what will separate you from those who do not finish the 340. 

How's the river looking this year?

It's low right now.  But that doesn't mean anything.  Snowfall in the mountains was far above normal this winter.  But the lakes built to hold that snowmelt were far below normal.  The lakes are now filling back up to "normal" pool... and they have large capacity beyond that to store flood water.  The smart people are telling me that this year should not be any higher flood risk than most.  But I feel like we're looking at high water in July.  I think the lakes will keep rising until late May and then they'll start having to let more out.  June is almost always high these days... even in dry years we get spikes that will exceed flood stage.  June is just a rainy month. 

High-ish water is not a 100% bad thing.  Paddlers love it.  Race directors do not.  We like the river low and boring.  With nice sandbars for sleepy paddlers.  We like lots of open shore line under the trees for you to pull over in a storm or fog. 

We will get whatever we get.  But if you like the water fast, I think it will be higher than we've had the last couple years.

I can no longer make the race.  I see that the roster is full.  Do I need to do anything so that someone else can sign up?

Not really.  We took 400 boats because we know that 15% (60 boats) will not show up.  We really don't want more than 340 boats to start out from Kaw Point.  You'll see why when you get to Lexington Day 1.  So if you fall into that 15% that won't be there, you're helping fulfill the prophecy.  If we take you off the roster and let someone else register who will show up, then we are going to end up with 400 boats...which is terrifying. 

We will know you aren't coming when you don't show up to the mandatory safety meeting the night before the race.  If you don't show up to that and sign in, we mark you as DNS (Did Not Start) in our system and we don't look for you at Lexington. 

Do you know anyone who rents boats for the race?

There are lots of folks in the race community that have good boats for rent.  Some of them post these on the forum at www.rivermiles.com/forum ; Others wait until they see someone post a request for a canoe or kayak. 

Is there a shuttle offered at the end of the race or some way to get my car/boat/person moved from St. Charles to KC before or after?

Most racers have a ground crew following them by car all the way, start to finish.  A few go unsupported and have to try and figure out the logistics of having a car at the end.  The best advice is to post your needs on the forum and see who can help.  Everyone who asks ends up getting some offers of help.  There are many paddlers at the finish line side of the state who have room in their vehicle for an extra person and boat.  There have also been local canoe outfitters who have set up rides from the finish to the starting line the day of the safety meeting for a fee. 

How would you rig your boat for night paddling?

Good nav lights.  Good meaning they are real...not just glow sticks.  Find some LED lights.  They sell these on Amazon.  They are about the diameter of a quarter and they are commonly used by bikers or joggers to be visible at night.  They burn 100 hours and are very bright.  They come in red and green and white (nav colors) as well as many others.  I'd put these on my boat well ahead of the race and then test them in the dark.  I'd put black gorilla tape over the portions of the lights that are shining in my face or on my back.  You need to be visible from the front, sides and rear.  This can be accomplished without having light spill onto you.  If the rear light is hitting your paddle you'll be blinded with each stroke.  Tape off the forward portion of that light so it doesn't shine on that 90 degrees that is you.  Same with the forward lights.

I'd have a good, strong LED flashlight that I kept handy.  This means it's velcroed or secured somewhere (out of the bilge water) that I can easily grab at night.  I would have a smaller red light for finding stuff in my boat at night.  This can be a headlamp or a hat light or clipped to my pfd.  I'd have reflective tape on my paddle so that if I somehow dropped it in the river I'd be able to see it by shining a light on it.  I'd have my spare paddle within reach.  I'd have everything important secured in my boat so that if I tipped in the dark I would be able to keep it all together.  My cell phone would be wrapped in a small dry back and somewhere I could get to it if I needed to at night.  I'd have enough food and liquids to get to me to the next checkpoint.  I'd have it handy so that I could keep eating all night because I know I'd get cold around 2am if I did not keep eating.  I'd have a rain jacket or windbreaker handy, not because it was going to rain but because I might get cold in the wee hours.  (Will seem impossible to you but does happen sometimes) 

I would have some familiarity, at least on paper, with the stretch of river I planned to run that night.  I'd know what mile marker was the next checkpoint but I'd also know where the other boat ramps or good landing spots were.  I'd know the weather forecast for that night.  I'd watch the skies.  I'd watch for fog.  I'd stick with some other paddlers so that the miles would go faster and I'd have someone to talk to.  I'd listen for the sound of rushing water and shine my light out there to see if it was a buoy, a log or a wing dam.  I'd stay in the middle, more or less.  I'd love the moon.  If I started getting a little cold or a little drowsy I'd sprint for 50 yards then grab a mouthful of food.  I'd sing badly.  I'd tell bad jokes.  I'd try not to look at the clock too much.  I'd try to catch the next set of nav lights up ahead.  I'd anticipate the sunrise.  I'd gush about its beauty when it actually came up.

How fast will the first boats get there?

Depends a bunch on how high the water is, but 38 hours is a fair guess.  So, doing the math, if 340 boats start and about 100 pull out and don't finish, we'll have 240 boats finishing between 38 and 88 hours.  That's a 50 hour window which is 3000 minutes.  3000/240 = 12.5.  Which means in theory we'll have a boat landing in St. Charles every 12 minutes or so starting Wednesday night.  But there's a bit of a bell curve as you might imagine.  Slightly skewed towards 65-75 hours.

Can I have a new ground crew take over part way through the race?

Sure.  Just make sure that the contact number we have for your ground crew is someone who can take calls from us the entire time.  For example if Uncle Jerry is your ground crew day 1 and 2, then hands it off to Cousin Larry, make sure that if we call Uncle Jerry on day 3 trying to find you, he will know how to get a hold of Cousin Larry and get us the information we need.

Will my son/daughter/wife/husband be near a safety boat at all times out there?

Depends on what you mean by near.  Will they see one at all times?  No.  Not all the time.  But we've learned pretty well where to position our boats over the previous 8 years.  Day 1, they will see a bunch of safety boats as we'll all be pretty clumped together.  But as the paddlers spread out, so do our safety boats.  There will be a safety boat at each checkpoint, day and night.  If there is not one there, it means that one just left to help someone or a new one is almost there from an upstream location.  We also sprinkle them at strategic spots between checkpoints where we've learned they can do the most good.  The boats are rarely called on for a dramatic rescue of any kind.  Usually, someone is sick (puking) or injured (shoulder, wrist, elbow) and is having trouble making the next checkpoint.  Sometimes after a storm we find and aid the hypothermic, shivering so badly they can't paddle.  All paddlers should be prepared to spend a night out there, wherever they are, waiting for a safety boat.  Sometimes conditions do not allow for immediate aid.  If there is heavy fog or bad weather, we don't send our boats into danger.  If the paddler has landed and is otherwise ok, he or she needs to be prepared to hunker down and wait.  But overall, our response time averages minutes, not hours, from the time we get the call.  It's rare that a paddler is ever more than 10 miles from a safety boat in either direction.  Which translates to less than 30 minutes from help in most cases.  Also note, all the other canoes and kayaks are available to help if there is a need.  We have many great stories of fellow paddlers seeing one of their own in trouble and offering on the spot aid until a safety boat can arrive.  This is every paddler's responsibility and privilege. 

Enough fun for tonight.  Keep reading the forum and asking questions.  All previous 2014 dispatches can be found there if you're just joining the fun.  Here's the link: 
http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1395290131 ;


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Reply #9 - 04/20/14 at 22:46:14

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 MR340 Dispatch #6

All prrevious dispatches may be found starting here: http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1395290131

Death By 1000 Cuts

DNF=Did Not Finish

Many reasons for the 100+ DNFs we will see this year.  Too many to possibly predict or enumerate here.  Many times it's a crushing avalanche of tiny things that lead someone to load their boat on the car and head home before reaching St. Charles.  We call this Death By 1000 Cuts.  DB1KC.

Here are some tiny cuts that can add up.


Go find the silkiest shirt or tie or lingerie in your collection.  Now, pick a spot on your skin and rub it gently there for, let's say 60 hours.  I promise you, while it may feel pleasant enough for the first 8 or 10, the next 50 hours are going to be miserable... and you'll have a nice welt there to show for it. 

Chafing will surprise the rookie who hasn't experienced days upon days of doing something like this.  You'll find hotspots every where.  Armpits, toes, crotch, thighs and one that surprises the heck out of most guys...nipples.  Yes, male nipples are often mercilessly chafed out there by the end of day 1.  I am not joking.  Females seem to have this all figured out.  We do not.

Cotton is a plant.  A fibrous plant.  So that cotton shirt you're wearing is a dead plant.  Feels great sitting around watching a baseball game for a few hours.  But get it damp with salty sweat and do a repetitive motion like paddling for hours on end and those useless little man-nipples you've managed to ignore your whole life will suddenly have your full attention.

Solution?  There are many.  Non-cotton shirts do better.  Another solution is bandaids or some other protection over the tender area BEFORE it gets bad.  You will see guys at Kaw Point with bandaids showing through their shirts.  Now you'll know why and you won't make fun of them. 

Hydropel and similar products offer protection for all kinds of places on your soon to be tested skin.  It's like a body lube that repels water and keeps you all squishy and slippery where you'll want to be squishy and slippery.  Maybe this has never been an issue for you on your 5-6 hour training runs... but going all day and night, then day and night, then day and night... will expose your weaknesses.  Trust the veterans and lube everything up "down there" and everywhere else where you might chafe.  Body glide is another product.  Like all the stuff we talk about, there is no magic bullet.  You've gotta find out what works for you.  Reapply often!


Another contributor to the Death by 1000 Cuts is a nasty sunburn.  Please don't wait to apply sunscreen.  It should be on at 5am day 1.  Sun protection in the form of long sleeve paddling shirts, tights, hats with flaps, sunglasses, covered feet, etc. are commonly seen worn by veterans.  Because they know what's coming.  Don't forget to protect your hands.  They're kind of important out there.  And your eyes!  Your eyes can get sun burned.  Not sure if that's the technical term for what happens, but if you stare all day at the sun bouncing off the water, often times by sunset your eyes hurt too much to even keep open.  This has knocked people out of the race.  Bring sunglasses.  And have an extra pair stashed either with ground crew or somewhere aboard.  A strap is not a bad idea either.


Most folks will get some blisters on hands and fingers.  You can prevent or minimize this by doing lots of training and building up calluses.  Besides paddling to build up calluses, those other exercises you're doing to build your core muscles, like pull ups, can also build calluses.  Toughen up your hands while you can.

Then, while out there during the race, be aware and alter your grip from time to time to protect tender spots.  You can also use many of the blister treatments like mole skin and good old duct tape to protect spots that are getting "hot" before they become hamburger.  You'll see lots of folks in St. Charles with duct taped hands and fingers.  Gloves are another option.  Some folks swear by them, others despise them.  Not anyone's call but yours.  Whatever works for you when you train. 

Eating the Elephant

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. 

How do you conquer 340 miles of river?

You really just have to break it down into several small trips.  340 miles is an overwhelming number.  Especially if your experience is only 30-40 mile training runs.  But that's ok.  If you know what it takes to do a 35 mile training run at a sustainable speed, keeping hydrated and fed and using efficient technique, that's great!  You just have to do that 10 times and you'll be there. 

Most folks approach it checkpoint to checkpoint.  Some break it down by day.  Others take it in 3 or 5 hour chunks.  Breaking it down into manageable bites will help your mental game.  And this is mostly a mental challenge. 

Reward yourself at regular intervals.  Your ground crew can help with this.  Rewards should be simple things.  An ice cold drink (remember, no high fructose corn syrup) is a great idea.  If you know there's something you crave waiting at that next rendezvous, it makes a difference.

Music is a big motivator that can get you through a rough patch.  We do not recommend ear buds as you need to hear what's going on around you... but waterproof speakers are great!  Use that playlist to your advantage.  Tell yourself you're going to paddle hard for that entire Boston album and then you're going to drift for two Jimmy Buffet songs while you eat a banana and a frozen snickers.  Find what works for you.

Some folks get into the math of it all.  They can tell you exactly what percent of the race is behind them.  I've come up to folks and asked how they're doing.  "Great!  We are 52% of the way there!"  And they proceed to update me every 3.4 miles.

Above all, remember to have fun.  You're in your boat!  You're on the river!  You're NOT at work.  I remember one guy telling me he wasn't having any fun the first day because all he did was stare at his gps and watch his average speed the whole time.  Only when it got dark and he couldn't see the darn thing anymore did he start having fun and just relax and enjoy the experience.  The next morning he just turned the gps off and never touched it again.  He stopped worrying about the clock (he was well ahead of cutoff times) and started enjoying the moments and chapters of his race.

Find some fun people to paddle alongside for awhile and get to know them.  You might be with them for 10 minutes or an hour or an entire night and day.  Yes, it's a race and you'll be passing a bunch of people day 1 and that's exciting.  But by day 2 and 3, it seems to become less about passing each other and more about helping each other survive.  There's some crazy bonding that happens, especially towards the middle and back of the race.  You'll see groups finish together... and by together I mean they will precisely finish together with noses touching the beach simultaneously.  Blood brothers and sisters now.  But only just meeting a few dozen hours before. 

So relax and let go of some of that nervousness.  Yes, it's a LONG way to St. Charles.  But it's not that far to Lexington.  And from Lexington, it's not bad to Waverly.  And from Waverly, it's just 12 miles to Hills Island!  And just 10 miles from there is Grand Pass Sandbar... and then 10 more miles to Miami and pancakes!  Well, you get the idea. 


There are still TBDs on the roster!  Please get your partner signed up.  We've got 600 paddlers to manage and those TBDs are gumming everything up.  Some people only respond to deadlines.  I get it.  How about we set a deadline of May 1st.  On May 1st, we'll bump the price up $20/seat for those TBDs to $195.  The extra $20 will go to our friends at Missouri River Relief.

Speaking of Missouri River Relief!  Remember that everything in our store at http://store.rivermiles.com is for our River Relief friends.  100% of everything sold there goes straight to their coffers and shipping is FREE.  So get yourself something nice and we'll mail it right out. 

Also, please check the roster and make sure your boat number is valid.  If it says, "Please contact scott@rivermiles.com to select a new number" that means you need a new number!

Roster is here: http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1386982916

Let me know if you have any questions.


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Reply #10 - 05/28/14 at 14:23:07

kharmon   Offline
MR340 Veteran

Posts: 19
Push through the soreness, the quote on the tshirt my wife made for me after finishing was in my mind most of the way. Hopefully the attachment works. I wish I was going but I chose running the grand canyon this year, it was just as amazing as the MR340.

MR340_001.JPG (61 KB | 1110 )
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Reply #11 - 06/10/14 at 08:45:24

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 Dispatch #7

4 weeks out.

4 weeks from today you'll be getting in your boat at sunrise and amassing at the starting line of the MR340 with 650 of your soon to be closest friends. 

Let's review what needs to happen in the next 4 weeks for you to be ready.

Never hurts to go over this stuff again.

July 7th: Mandatory Safety Meeting and Sign In for ALL competitors.  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KS  520 Minnesota Ave.  Sign in anytime between 2-6 pm.  Highly recommend earlier rather than later.  Lines tend to get long around 5pm.  If your schedule permits it, show up early, sign in, get your bag and shirt and all that stuff, then you can relax until the meeting at 7pm or go stage your boat at Kaw Point or go get some last minute stuff done. 

Safety Meeting begins promptly at 7pm.  Over by 8pm.

You can stage your canoe at Kaw Point as early as noon.  We will have folks there to watch over boats.  Please do not leave gear.  Just the hull.  It is not required that you stage your boat the day before the race.  Just an option.

Some folks schedule a little paddle up the Kaw and back to make sure everything looks and feels good.  There will be lots of folks there all day working on boats and gear and doing some paddling. 


There is activity at Kaw Point all night, but things really start percolating around 430am.  That's when the TV trucks show up and racers start emerging from hotel rooms and the parking lot gets full.  Kaw Point has an upper level and a lower level where the ramp is.  The lower level will be impassable for vehicles by 5am.  Be sure you have help to carry your boat and gear from the upper lot.  Even the upper lot will be maxed out by 6am.  If arriving after 6, you'll likely have to park in the lot outside the floodwall.  Not a huge deal.  Just another 50 yards of carrying. 

Long line will form at the ramp itself.  If you want to launch from the ramp, plan accordingly.  There are other areas from which to launch.  Lines will form there as well.  Solo start is at 7am.  Everything else at 8am.

Official starting line is an imaginary line from the ramp to the far shore.  Once you've launched, move behind the line.  There is plenty of room upstream of the ramp.  170 miles of Kaw River.  Paddle around and calm those nerves. 

There will be a DJ there with a loud sound system to make announcements and countdown the start.  The national anthem will be sung.  This is the real deal. 

Solo race will start at 7am.  If you are not yet in the water, it's ok.  You'll catch up. 

Tandems and larger may start launching anytime.  You do not have to wait for the solos to leave.  One hour is not enough time to launch all the 8am boats. 

Some of the larger 6-9 person boats will be launched the day before and tied off.  IF you have one of these large boats, please arrange to have it in the water the day before.  You can tie it off to our safety boats if needed. 

8am start WILL be on time.  We tend to err on the side of early, if anything. 

(or hopefully already have done)

Rig your boat.
Red/green/white navigation lights.
Comfortable PFD for full time usage.
Reliable cell phone in a waterproof bag or case.
Reflective boat numbers on both sides of bow.  3 inch minimum.  Mailbox numbers are fine.
Comfortable clothes for paddling.  Wet cotton will eat you up.  Look for some wicking or hybrid style shirts that are soft. 
Sun protection.  Don't forget legs and feet.
Means for removing water from your boat.
Practice at a shallow lake a "wet entry" into a boat that has overturned. 
Study maps of the river.  Develop a knowledge of where checkpoints are and where alternate spots are for getting off the river.  The Lewis and Clark maps found on the forum are very handy.  Print them off and put your own notes on them for likely islands, sandbars and boat ramps.  This will be handy out there as you move dot to dot down the river.
Read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Missouri-River-First-Time-Finisher-ebook/dp/B00DKALJXO/ref...
Book rooms at the finish line or starting line or both. 
Spend time in your boat.  Learn what hurts.  Make it hurt less.
Plan things out with your ground crew.  Where do you want them to meet you each day.  What kind of food do you want them to have.  How should the vehicle be organized.  What do you need to bring from home and what can you find on the way.  There are many good ground crew guidebooks made by previous crews on the forum.  Print some off and go through them!  They are awesome!  Here's one:

Here's another:

NOTE:  These guides are from a previous year.  Dates and road conditions and some rules are slightly different.  But the bulk of the information is solid.

Train your ground crew on text in procedures.  (See below)


The purpose of the text in system is to track racers along the course so that when a checkpoint closes we KNOW that every racer is accounted for.  This is crucial to the safety of the race. 

Having a ground crew present at the checkpoints is also important.  They know if a paddler is late.  They can identify if a paddler is in poor shape or not in condition to go on.  A physically present ground crew is the ideal.

Some racers do not have a physically present ground crew.  They are then required to have a virtual ground crew.  The responsibilities are the same.  They must monitor a paddlers progress down the river and talk to the paddler to make sure they are doing well.  They can contact race officials at any time with any concerns.

If you have a physically present ground crew, things are pretty straightforward.  They meet you at spots you've planned.  They feed and water you and encourage you on.  They text you in and out of the checkpoints and they are there to greet you at the finish and pretend you don't smell that badly.

With a virtual ground crew there are some different things to plan.  No, they won't be there to feed you so you'll have to buy food and drink from the vendors along the way.  But they still have to track you down the river. 

This CAN be done with a spot tracker which is a satellite system.  They can watch your progress from home on a computer. 

It can also be done with a simple cell phone.  Design a system that works for you and your ground crew and creates a safety net for you. 

Solo start is at 7am.  I hope to be at Lexington by 3pm.  I will text you when I get to Lexington. 
(you arrive at 230pm, text in to race officials, then text your ground crew "doing good, heading to Waverly, should hear from me by 630pm)
You get to Waverly at 645pm.   Text in to race officials, then text ground crew "feeling good.  going to try for Miami.  Should be there by 1am."
Maybe you get tired on the way and decide to stop at Hills Island and sleep.  So you inform your ground crew at 11pm. "tired.  stopping at hills island for a couple hours of sleep.  planning to leave here at 1am."
At 1am your phone alarm goes off and you text your ground crew "leaving Hills island. should be in miami by 4am."

And so on...

What this does for us is prevents you from being missing for an extended time.  Miami doesn't close until 11am.  Let's say you had a medical problem and were parked behind a wing dike somewhere, phone got wet.  Your virtual ground crew would know there was a problem by 5am.  We wouldn't know until 11am when we close Miami and you weren't checked through.  And the problem gets much worse at the checkpoints further downstream that are open 36-48 hours.  A paddler could be laid up somewhere for a full day or more before we realized they hadn't made the checkpoint.  But with a virtual ground crew tracking you, we know within an hour or two that there may be a problem.


The text in number this year is

Same as last year.

Upon arriving at a checkpoint your ground crew (or you) should text in to this number.  Your text should look like this:

boat #, checkpoint, time in/out


2233, Lexington, in out 2:30pm 

4345, Lexington, in 230 out 245pm

2199, Waverly, in 8pm, Dropping out
(you absolutely must notify us if dropping out)

8855, Miami, in 3am, sleeping until 5am

(then later)

8855, Miami, out 5am

7712, Glasgow, in 11am, leaving by noon
(this is fine.  If you leave significantly later than noon, let us know)

At some locations and with some carriers, it's difficult to get a signal for the text to send.  If you are unsupported with a virtual crew, this means you have to find a signal at the checkpoint by either walking up the hill or asking our safety boat or a ground crew if they have a signal and can text you in.  This is your responsibility before leaving!  Also, don't forget to send a message to your at home ground crew.

If you have a ground crew, it's much easier.  They do not have to send the text right that moment.  They can see you off, then start driving to the next checkpoint.  When they have a signal, they can pull over and send the text with the information.

Every racer and ground crew will have a safety card, distributed at the safety meeting.  These will have the important safety team phone numbers, text in number and cutoff times listed.  If you or your ground crew have any safety concerns about a paddler, they can call those numbers and a safety boat will be deployed to assist. 

You can practice texting in any time in the next 4 weeks.  It's a good idea to get the number saved in your phone.  Go ahead and give it a try.  We are monitoring and testing the system right now to make sure everything is working smoothly.  Give our data team something to do!  Send a practice text or send a bunch!  They will likely reply eventually with a thumbs up that it was received.  Plus, you can start training your spell check to recognize Katfish Katy's.

Remember to check the roster at http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1386982916 to verify all your information. 

For those that still have paddler's TBD,  or numbers that need changing, please take care of this right away.

That's enough for today.  Look for a dispatch here every Tuesday between now and the big day.

Let me know if you have any questions.


« Last Edit: 06/10/14 at 10:47:05 by Scott Mansker »  
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Reply #12 - 06/10/14 at 10:52:55

MurKee Water   Offline
5X MR340 Veteran
MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 869
Sorry is Katfish Katie's a checkpoint or Coopers Landing?
Thanks, love the ramp at KK's but Chims Tai food nice at Coopers!
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Reply #13 - 06/10/14 at 11:01:33

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
Katfish Katy's  Here's the list with cutoff times...


Cooper's will be open though and serving all night I believe.
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Reply #14 - 06/10/14 at 13:14:02

MurKee Water   Offline
5X MR340 Veteran
MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 869
Thanks Scott.
Probably still stop at chim's at Coopers.
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Reply #15 - 06/16/14 at 23:36:20

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
2014 Dispatch #8

3 weeks out.

Kudos to those of you who have done some long training runs in some tough conditions.  It's been a rough pre-season with lots of wind and rain.   

Another training opportunity is this coming Saturday with the Freedom Race put on by Midwest Paddle Racing.  More info here:


It's June 21 from Boonville (Lamine River Access) to Jefferson City.  A stretch of river you'll see during the 340.  And two MR340 checkpoints..Katfish Katy's and Jeff City.  Great chance to network with 50 other boats entered and lots of paddlers.  And a great way to get dialed in for the 340 a couple weeks later.

River should be high and fast from some recent heavy rains in northeast Nebraska heading this way. 

As of today, the river looks good locally but the water from up north will raise us about 5 feet in KC to a crest on Thursday morning of about 20.5 feet.  Then a sharp decline back down to around 17 by this time next week.  If the race were held today, we'd be going. Same with next Tuesday. 

Before you get too excited about a high water year, the longer range forecasts have the river closer to 14 by race day.  Which is on the high side of average, but nothing to brag to your grandchildren about. 

But everything can change with a heavy rain or two.  So stay tuned.

I've mentioned before, the "highest" 340 was 2010 at 18.25 on the KC gauge.  That year went well with lots of records set and fewer than normal DNFs. (Did not finish)

We did have two instances that year of paddlers getting too close to obstacles and having problems.  I will review them so that your own personal learning curves might be shortened.

One person was coming into Glasgow late at night.  Must have been the pre-dawn hours of day 2.  Also knows as night 1.  Due to the recent high water there was a huge nest of logs pinned to one of the bridge piers just before the checkpoint.  The paddler got too close to this and the boat got pinned to the pile.  The paddler swam out and was picked up by a River Relief safety boat just downstream.  River Relief got the paddler's boat when the sun came up.  Paddler finished a couple days later.

Second instance happened later that day just 10 miles down in Lisbon Bottoms.  With the water high, the chute at Lisbon was pulling lots of water out of the main channel and into the back channel behind the island.  There was also lot of logs and debris pinned at the head of this chute.  Two paddlers in a tandem canoe got too close to this chute and their boat got pinned to the rack of logs stuck there.  They stepped out of the boat and onto the rack.  Their boat was eventually crushed by the pressure of the water and never recovered.  They were rescued off the log pile by the Glasgow Fire Department with some pretty fancy boat work.

Lesson to be learned from this is that during higher than normal water, you have to be extra careful about staying away from fixed objects.  The river is faster and that's great.  But that means everything happens faster and when things go bad, they can go bad quickly.

The good news is that hundreds of other paddlers paddled right by those two spots with zero incident.  This is not like floating an Ozark stream and rounding a bend to see a giant strainer across the whole river.  On the Missouri there are always a hundred paths around a problem.  The first paddler went too close to a pier.  Always take the middle of a span between piers.  The second boat got too close to the chute at Lisbon (a spot on the river we talk about at length during the safety meeting)  This is a spot we emphasize staying away from.   If you're freaking out right now, don't.  It's nothing to lose sleep over.  If you're curious, check it out.


If that link works like it does on my computer, you should see the spot where the tandem got stuck.  There are a bunch of logs stuck there in the satellite view with water flowing through them.  Heck, their boat might still be in there.  But if you zoom out you'll see there's lots of room to be away from that chute.  Hundreds of yards in fact. 

The lesson of Lisbon is always stay in the middle.  And use your ears!  I was there when the Glasgow Fire Department parked their boat on that rack and the paddlers stepped on.  The river was LOUD going through that chute.  You can hear Lisbon way before you get there. 

Most of you will go through Lisbon in the daylight between 5am and 9pm Wednesday   Only the very fastest go through in the dark of night one.  And only the very slowest go through after dark Wednesday.  Reaper will be leaving no later than 7pm Wednesday.

Enough about Lisbon.  If you are faaaaasst and find yourself going through at night, use your ears, stay in the middle, all good.  If you go through like 80% of you will, in broad daylight, stay in the middle, snap a blurry picture of the chute, all good.  And if you're in the back 10% that might go through at dusk, night two, just stay with the Reaper and the sweep boat and do what they do. 

And so we've covered Lisbon Bottoms for the 9th time since 2006. Usually anticlimactic.  The way we like it.


Some of you have written and asked about the possibility of a flood delay.  As stated, the river is higher than normal right now.  We are NOT at flood stage.  Later this week when the Nebraska water gets here, a few of the downstream gauges will just touch minor flood stage for a day or so before falling back below.  Again, long range Army Corps of Engineers data shows the river falling hard after that crest and settling into what is close to a normal summer flow for early July.  However, a series of large storms could always screw that up.  We will keep you informed here on the forum. 

When you registered, it listed the make up date as August 12-15.  We hope we're all home that week still telling stories from the greatest 340 ever, July 8-11, 2014.  We have every reason to expect to go on time, 3 weeks from today.


Still 8 TBDs sitting there on the roster.  Get your partner signed up.  We have to start printing lists for volunteers. 

Also, still some of you on there who need to send us a boat number.  Find your name on the roster and fix your TBDs or your boat numbers asap.

Roster is here:

As always, I am available for all your questions and concerns.  Hundreds upon hundreds have paddled this race from KC to St. Charles and fallen in love with the Missouri River.  Get excited!  It's almost go time.


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Reply #16 - 06/17/14 at 10:50:16

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
High water headed from northwest Iowa and northeast Nebraska.  But the Corps is shutting off most of the flow out of Gavins Point to compensate.  Big bubble of a crest headed our way but then a very fast fall. 

MKCF  75.9    89.6  96.0 110.9 126.9 136.7 136.9 136.0 
                   123.2  99.6  81.8  68.2  59.7  56.2  56.3

The first number is today's flow.  Then the next two weeks follows.  The last number, 56.3 is July 1.  One week before the race.

We've run the race at 90 kcfs before at Kansas City.  Hoping for lower than that.  Looking like it could be great if this forecast holds together. 

This forecast doesn't take into account heavy, sustained precipitation that kicked Iowa and Nebraska in the gut.  But normal rain events would not alter this much.

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Reply #17 - 06/29/14 at 00:17:18

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
Dispatch #9

The Final Countdown

If you're reading this Sunday we have 8 days until we gather at the safety meeting. 

There's not much left to say!  Most of it has been said before.  Re-read your dispatches and hit me with questions, scott@rivermiles.com

As always, a reminder to check the roster and verify your information is correct.  Make sure your boat number is listed.  If not, it means you have a bad boat number and we need you to choose a new one.  You do NOT want to have to deal with this at check in Monday night.  Much better to have all this sorted ahead of time.

Also, take the time to find your boat at www.raceowl.com and make sure we've got it all correct there as well.

Speaking of Monday night, let's drill down to what that will look like. 

Our team will be at Kaw Point early.  Probably around 8am or before, launching safety boats and securing them.  Our security guys will be helping with that and will remain on site continuously the next 24 hours.  You are welcome to leave your boat there as well.  Place it along the trail from the ramp to the confluence.  They've asked we not put them on the trail but anywhere else if fine.

Vehicle traffic to the lower level of Kaw Point Park will be prohibited starting at 5am Tuesday (race morning)  This is by order of the fire department.  They want foot traffic only after 5am.  So you'll need to carry your boat down from the parking lot Tuesday morning if arriving after 5am.  If you stage your boat Monday, it's already down there.  Either way, no big deal.  But if you don't have a ground crew to help you carry your boat, you may want to be sure and stage it the day before.

Be aware of the weather when making the decision to stage your boat.  If you have a delicate 28 pound surfski and there are thunderstorms and high winds predicted Monday night, best not to leave it there.  If you have an aluminum tank, it will probably be fine.

After our team launches boats we move on up to the hotel.  Likely by noon.  We will then organize the check in which formally starts at 2pm but informally starts as soon as we get the tables set up.  If you're staying in the hotel, mosey on down early and take care of business.  It will get crowded.  Check in is supposed to all happen 2-6pm prior to the 7pm safety meeting. 

At check in you will sign your name a few times and you'll verify that we've got your ground crew information correct, boat color correct, boat number correct, etc.  If you have changes required that night you have to move to a separate line and get those made.  Best to take care of all your changes now.  Email scott@rivermiles.com with these asap.  It will speed up check in.

Scott Lane and Rob Foster of the Miner's Bluff Band will be performing in the ballroom like last year.  And the hotel will offer a buffet there if you're interested.  Safety meeting will start at 7pm.  We are usually done by 8pm.  I linger to answer last minute questions afterwards.  But the place is pretty empty by 9pm.  If you're full of nervous energy, feel free to help us carry everything out to the parking lot.  Everything there has to get to St. Charles by boat or car.

After that a few of us end up at Kaw Point.  It's usually a pretty night with the lights of the city on the water and the moon out. 

Many folks have been asking about the river conditions and it's meant a lot of sleepless nights (including tonight) watching radars and gauges and forecasts.  Very frustrating with storm after storm hitting upstream of us and causing high water here.  Right now, all signs point to a go for July 8th.  The water is high right now but they are still calling for a fast fall the week prior to the race.  Projections right now are for about 60,000-70,000 cfs.  That is a pretty user friendly range.  It would be considered a high water year, but far from the highest we've had.  We ran at 90,000 cfs back in 2010.  And we ran at about 70,000 in 2011.  Both years were easy on paddlers.  We warned folks that they were getting spoiled by the high water and sure enough, 2012 and 2013 were much lower.  But you're hopping onto a high water year. 

The plus side is obvious.  A river about 6 feet higher than last year means better speed and shorter split times between checkpoints.  It means the Reaper is less likely to be breathing down your neck.  It means you can probably carry less water between checkpoints which makes you even faster. 

The downsides are not to be ignored.  There are fewer places between checkpoints to get rest or pull off the river.  Many of the wing dikes will be under water... which means folks will struggle with staying in the channel.  When the water is low, it's easy.  When the water is high it's tougher to know where the channel is.  Invariably we see folks during high water years paddling right over the submerged dikes.  They are then placing themselves in the slowest of slow water... sometimes water that is actually eddying back UPSTREAM.  So a high river requires a bit more skill at reading.

And because you're moving faster, you have to be that much more vigilant for things to avoid.  Bridge piers, sand dredges, rogue buoys, partially submerged dikes, parked barges, moving barges, etc.  It will be more important than ever to use good judgement on whether or not conditions are safe for paddling.  Things that impact your visibility, like fog or rain, should be weighed appropriately when deciding to press on at night. 

Also during high water we see more of the boils and whirlpools on the face of the water and these tend to freak people out who haven't been on the river much.  They are rarely an issue and the worst they can do is shove the nose or stern of your boat around a little as you glide over.  If there is a problem it's usually because the paddler get nervous seeing a boil or whirlpool ahead and they over correct or whiff a stroke of the paddle and get tipsy.  But honestly, you'll be bored of the whirlpools and boils by 2pm of day 1.  You'll wish there were more of them.  Until dark.  Then they will freak you out all over again. 

With high water it becomes easier than ever to find a group and stick together.  The groupings tend to be bigger during high water years.  People tend to get ahead and bank some time against the cutoffs.  So they slow down and enjoy the river and each other. 

Because many of our sandbars where we station safety boats will now be submerged, we will adapt and our team will find likely spots to tie off and be there for you.  This is especially true night 1 when we know many of you are having your first night paddling experience.  We still plan to have a boat at Hills Island, most likely on the upstream end (head).  At the head, there is usually a steep patch of sand with room for many boats and a fire.  As you know, this will be the home of last place night 1.  But with high water there will likely be fewer boats there and more folks pressing for Miami.

Which means Miami will be crazy crowded night 1.  I mean, it's always crazy crowded at Miami...but it evens out.  Because a bunch of you who would have stopped at Miami will press on to Glasgow.  Everyone moves up a notch in a high water year.

Hard to imagine we won't get some rain or a storm.  Everyone should have what they need to weather a storm out there if it comes.  Being aware of the forecast is important.  If your crew or team doesn't have a weather radio, ask a safety boat for the forecast.  Most of our boats have weather radios and we are hyper aware of what's coming. 

Invariably after some rain at night we get calls from people freezing cold and shivering too much to paddle.  A $3 poncho the size of a poptart could have saved their race.  We'll come get you as fast as we can.  But depending on conditions and your location, it could be a couple hours at night.  Buy the poncho or a rain jacket and stash it on your boat if rain is forecast.  You will not regret it.

And remember, storms don't last forever and the sun comes up eventually.  The last year we had a river like this was 2011, the October race.  We had a bad storm night two that knocked a bunch of people out of the race by morning.  Cold and discouraged.  But day 3 and 4 were absolutely beautiful.  Sunny and mild.  You'll hit some low lows out there, for sure.  But the good times are never far behind.  Just grind it out until you find them. 

I'm going to go now and look at radars and gauges and shake a fist at the sky.  Meantime I'll keep packing boats and getting ready.  Gotta proceed as the way opens. 

We are gonna have so much fun.  Cheesy


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Reply #18 - 06/30/14 at 06:14:41

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
River stage data projections for Kansas City through Sunday, July 6th. (National Weather Service)

Forecast Data:
|Date(CDT)|      |Stage|      |--Flow-|
06/30 13:00      20.70ft      111kcfs
06/30 19:00      20.50ft      109kcfs
07/01 01:00      20.20ft      106kcfs
07/01 07:00      19.90ft      104kcfs
07/01 13:00      19.60ft      101kcfs
07/01 19:00      19.30ft      99kcfs
07/02 01:00      19.10ft      97.4kcfs
07/02 07:00      19.10ft      97.4kcfs
07/02 13:00      19.10ft      97.4kcfs
07/02 19:00      19.20ft      98.2kcfs
07/03 01:00      19.10ft      97.4kcfs
07/03 07:00      19.00ft      96.6kcfs
07/03 13:00      18.90ft      95.8kcfs
07/03 19:00      18.90ft      95.8kcfs
07/04 01:00      18.80ft      95kcfs
07/04 07:00      18.70ft      94.1kcfs
07/04 13:00      18.50ft      92.5kcfs
07/04 19:00      18.20ft      90.1kcfs
07/05 01:00      17.90ft      87.7kcfs
07/05 07:00      17.50ft      84.7kcfs
07/05 13:00      17.20ft      82.4kcfs
07/05 19:00      16.80ft      79.5kcfs
07/06 01:00      16.40ft      76.6kcfs
07/06 07:00      16.10ft      74.4kcfs
07/06 13:00      15.70ft      71.7kcfs
07/06 19:00      15.40ft      69.6kcfs

Looking very much like the October 2011 race for now.  Keeping fingers crossed that this holds up.

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Reply #19 - 06/30/14 at 21:14:29

Scott Mansker   Offline
Race Staff
15X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot

Posts: 8079
Updated forecast, revised this evening.

Forecast Data:
|Date(CDT)|      |Stage|      |--Flow-|
07/01 01:00      20.60ft      110kcfs
07/01 07:00      20.30ft      107kcfs
07/01 13:00      19.90ft      104kcfs
07/01 19:00      19.60ft      101kcfs
07/02 01:00      19.40ft      99.8kcfs
07/02 07:00      19.30ft      99kcfs
07/02 13:00      19.10ft      97.4kcfs
07/02 19:00      19.00ft      96.6kcfs
07/03 01:00      18.80ft      95kcfs
07/03 07:00      18.90ft      95.8kcfs
07/03 13:00      19.20ft      98.2kcfs
07/03 19:00      19.80ft      103kcfs
07/04 01:00      20.30ft      107kcfs
07/04 07:00      20.60ft      110kcfs
07/04 13:00      20.60ft      110kcfs
07/04 19:00      20.30ft      107kcfs
07/05 01:00      19.80ft      103kcfs
07/05 07:00      19.20ft      98.2kcfs
07/05 13:00      18.70ft      94.1kcfs
07/05 19:00      18.10ft      89.2kcfs
07/06 01:00      17.60ft      85.4kcfs
07/06 07:00      17.10ft      81.7kcfs
07/06 13:00      16.70ft      78.7kcfs
07/06 19:00      16.30ft      75.9kcfs
07/07 01:00      15.90ft      73kcfs
07/07 07:00      15.50ft      70.3kcfs
07/07 13:00      15.20ft      68.3kcfs
07/07 19:00      14.90ft      66.3kcfs

Another frustrating mini-crest to wait through...  that's thanks to heavy rain AGAIN up in the Sioux City area.  They have had significant rain every single day for a week I think.  But as you can see, by the time we're starting the safety meeting (last data on the list) the river is at 14.9 and 66,300 and falling.  Not bad.

Best part is that once this rain goes through KC tonight, we are in for a long dry spell.   Hopefully no nasty surprises. 

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