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2015 Official Dispatches (Read 56811 times)
04/12/15 at 09:27:40
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

2015 Dispatch #1

Welcome to the 10th Annual Missouri American Water MR340.

These dispatches are a resource for you as you continue your preparations for a successful race. 

Let's start with the basics...

CHECK THE ROSTER:  http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1417237819

The race is sold out.  Are you on there?  Does everything look good with your boat, boat number, partner, etc.?  If your partner has not signed up yet, get it done.  We are trying to finalize the rosters, insurance, t-shirts, etc.  Make sure the 4 digit number on the roster matches the 4 digit number on your boat.  These numbers should be at least 3 inches high and reflective.  Like mailbox numbers or marine numbers.  Contact scott@rivermiles.com with questions.


Mandatory Safety Meeting:  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KS  520 Minnesota Ave.  July 27th, 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.  Or one nearby.

Race Start:  July 28th, Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS.  There will be two starts.  The 7am start is for all solo boats.  This will be approximately 250 solo 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 250 solo 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 can seem less intense 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 spacious and there is plenty of room for boats to make this transition without a pileup.  We can't have 250 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. 

As the miles tick by, the pack will begin to thin out.  On Day 1, however, you will always see boats around you.  Unless you are in first place or last, you will have lots of company. 

Motorized safety boats will also be along the race course.  Some moving, some stationary.  If you need assistance, they will be happy to help.  We have an amazing team of safety boat folks, some of whom have supported the race for 8+ years.  There will always be at least one stationed at each checkpoint.

Checkpoints and Cutoff Times:

Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am (7am for solo) Tuesday, July 28th.   
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

These cutoff times are part of our safety plan filed with the United States Coast Guard and the Missouri Water Patrol.  Cutoff times are essential to adventure racing and ultra-marathon events to keep participants in a reasonable safety halo.  The times have been fine tuned over the previous 9 races and have been consistent for the last 5 years.  In your preparation for the race, we recommend planning to build a cushion of time over the course of your miles so that you are not tight up against the clock at each checkpoint.  The split times between checkpoints are generous and allow for this.  It's essential to bank up some time so that when things are imperfect like weather, fog or motivation, you'll have a buffer to play with.  Barely scooting into each checkpoint is not a sustainable strategy.  One hiccup can end your race.


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.  Trying to exactly copy someone else's strategy would likely not work for long. 

Finding what will work for you is the best plan.  And then have 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.  This is normal and actually part of the fun.  Don't chain yourself to a rigid itinerary and then feel you've failed if it doesn't work out.  The race experience is bigger than the digits of your finish time.  Finishing is the goal.  But the journey is what keeps folks coming back year after year. 

Talk to a multi-year veteran of the race and they'll tell you... their favorite race may not have been the fastest one.  It may be the one where they counted 50 shooting stars.  Or had a fish jump in their boat.  Or saw a sunrise that made them cry. 

Create space in your race (and your life for that matter) for cool moments.  Avoid letting the race be a constant math problem about making the next checkpoint or catching the next boat up ahead.  You will have moments of misery and pain but they will be counter-balanced by epiphanies unique to you and your journey.  These moments are the pay off.  A leisurely paddle won't yield moments like these.  It's the stretching and pushing that will shatter the rust that builds up on that inner-most you. 

So, knowing that this experience will be incredibly difficult, but worth it.  And that 1/3 of the racers will not finish... what can you do to improve your chances of success?

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 checks them in and out of the checkpoint.  They had 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 ready 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.  Puts 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.  You CAN and should 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 2015 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 watches the sun rise in Waverly.  You will doom yourself.   

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: 11/07/22 at 09:16:32 by N/A »  
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Reply #1 - 04/13/15 at 22:18:06
charles.nadia96   Ex Member

****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. ******

SO TRUE Scott!!!!! 
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Reply #2 - 05/03/15 at 23:03:24
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

2015 MR340 Dispatch #2

Please check the roster and make sure everything is still correct. 

If your entry shows that you need a new boat number, please let us know your new choice.  And if it shows you still lack a partner, please get them to complete sign up right away.

Reminder that the race is July 28-31 with a mandatory safety meeting on the evening of July 27th.  More details are in Dispatch #1 along with good info on the starting line, the double start, race strategy, checkpoint cutoff times, night paddling, etc.  Review it when you get a chance!

Navigating the Missouri:

You should make every effort to get on the Missouri prior to the race.  If you live too far away, you can hopefully get on a similar body of water like the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, etc. 

The Missouri is similar to these but has her own unique flavor.  The river has been engineered, for better or worse, from it's historically braided, wide nature to a channelized, deeper and faster flow.  This was done to facilitate barge traffic.  More on that later.

The river was channelized and narrowed through the use of wing dikes or wing dams.  These are rock structures that extend from shore and effectively create a swifter deeper channel.  There's a good picture on this website...


In a sense, these structures are your friend in that they create a swifter downstream channel.  But they are also something to avoid as you paddle so that you don't crush the front of your boat or damage a rudder. 

If it's a low water year, they will be quite visible and easy to avoid.  If we have a high water year they will be mostly underwater.  If it's an average year, they will be partially submerged and tapering deeper as they reach toward the middle of the river.  You'll detect them by spotting the rough water passing over them. 

If you accidentally go over a submerged dike, it's not a huge deal.. but you'll immediately notice the slowing of the water..if not the actual reversal of the current on the backside of the dike.  You'll know then to move toward the faster, deeper water on the channel side of the river.

The river, despite the best (or worst) efforts of man, still thankfully meanders a bit back and forth within the valley.  These bends means the channel is moving from side to side also.. usually following the outside of each turn.  The faster water is generally towards the outside of a bend with the slower, shallower water on the inside. 

It's a very good thing to stay in the faster water as much as possible.  There is a huge cumulative benefit to careful study of where the good water is.  If you are in slack water paddling as hard as you can, it's frustrating to watch someone in the good water sipping a coke and still going faster than you.  These are things you learn from being on the river... and you'll learn a lot day 1.  But thinking it through now should shorten your learning curve. 

Think of the river as a 5 lane highway.  |12345|   You should generally avoid hugging the shore tight as the water is slower within 15 feet or so regardless of channel side.  So for the most part, we avoid lanes 1 and 5.  Lanes 234 are the best.  If the river is bending towards the right, you'd most likely be in lane 2, the outside of the bend.  If the river is bending left, you'd gradually head to lane 4 as the river channel crosses over.  Lane 3 is great for straightaways.  And also a good safe choice at night regardless of bend if visibility is poor. 

To assist you in gauging the channel side, there are shore markers maintained by the Coast Guard that show the channel.  Green markers will be on the right bank and Red markers on the left.  These are meant for the barges to follow but you can use them as well.  They look something like this.

These will be about every 1-2 miles depending on the bend in the river.  As you approach one, you can start looking downstream for the next.  If you see one on the opposite shore and well downstream, you would make a gradual crossing towards it, roughly following an imaginary line between the one you just passed and the one downstream.

Another good hint.. As you pass a day mark, check the back side of it.  As shown in the picture, you can imagine the paddler just passed that navigation aid, right bank while moving downstream.  Photo is taken over their right shoulder.  The solid green color means that the next sign will be on the same side.  If the color was green and white in cross pattern, that would mean there is a crossing and that there should be a red crossing sign on the opposite shore but downstream.  So as you pass these you look at the back side and it will tell you whether to cross or stay where you are.

Confused?  Well, don't sweat that too much here in early May.  Hopefully, you'll get out on the river and see for yourself.  If not, we'll go over this again at the safety meeting.  You'll certainly understand the system by the first checkpoint. 

These signs are very handy when encountering a barge.  Let's talk about barges for a minute.

There is relatively little barge traffic on the Missouri.  We'll probably see 3-4 "through" boats pushing barges up or downstream during the race.  We'll see a few more servicing sand dredges as well. 

It's your job to stay out of their way. 

They are confined to the deep water of the channel.  You are not.  Sure, the deep water is faster and better 99% of the race but when encountering a barge, you will want to EXIT the channel and get to the off channel side of the river. 

This requires that you understand the crossings so that you know where the barges will be when your paths cross.  For example, you may be on the right side of the river and you see a barge downstream coming towards you on the left side...so you think, GREAT!  He's on the other side I've got nothing to worry about.  But if you're in a crossing where the river switches bends he'll be crossing with the channel and may be on your side of the river by the time you meet. 

The good news is that barges or generally slow as they creep along.  You will see one and usually have 10-15 minutes to set up for passing.  The last thing you want to do is try to cut suddenly across his path or make a radical move that he isn't expecting. 

Remember those wing dikes?  He absolutely can't go over those.  One surefire way to avoid a barge is to go to the wing dikes and pull in behind one for a break as he passes.  Sometimes a heavy, upbound towboat with barges will make a giant wake that churns up the river for 20 minutes after he passes.  It's a good idea to give him space and see what that wake is like from the safety of a wing dike harbor.  If it looks like something you can handle, reenter the current and continue down the river. 

The barges have been pulling over at night the last few years but we can't count on this.  If you see the light of a barge moving at night it's best to definitely move toward the safety of shore or a sandbar or behind a wing dike until you're sure it's safe.

Parked barges can also be dangerous and it's important to stay away from them.  The raked front ends will have a strong current passing beneath them and a boat pinned against them will be pulled under.  It's a wide river and there is plenty of room to avoid parked or moving barges.  You just have to be vigilant, especially if paddling at night.  IF the moon goes down or fog comes up you have to be honest with yourself about what your can see.  Sometimes visibility is amazing and you can see clear water shore to shore all night long.  Sometimes it deteriorates and you can no longer be sure.  That's a good time to pull to shore and catch some sleep.

Sand Dredges.

Sand is mined from the river bottom in about 5 locations on the race course.  Sand dredges look a bit like huge towboats parked midstream.  They are sucking sand off the bottom of the river and loading it onto barges tied alongside.  These barges get full and a towboat comes along to grab the and to leave a fresh empty in their place.  The biggest thing to be aware of with these dredging operations are the swapping of these barges.  Keep an eye out for the servicing towboats and stay out of their way.  Also, keep your distance from the dredges as they have cables anchoring them to the river bottom and these are hard to see.  Again, big wide river... plenty of room to go around these.


The buoys are placed for the barges to show them where there is shoal or shallow water near the channel.  They are marking places that are shallower than the 9ft required for barge traffic.  They would rarely hold any importance to a canoe drafting 4 inches.  But they are certainly obstacles to be avoided as they are heavy and made of steel and can move back and forth.  Keep your distance from these and watch for them at night.  They are reflective and a good flashlight will spot them from 200 yards easy.  At night, you tend to hear them (water rushing around them) before you see them.  Keep your flashlight handy so you can scan the water up ahead from time to time at night.

Wow, that's a lot of potentially scary information.  Makes it sound like the MR340 is one long scary race spent dodging buoys, barges, dikes and dredges all the way to St. Charles.  That's not really the case.  Most of the race your looking at sandbars, shady banks, eagles, deer, jumping fish, a beautiful moon, your neighbors in the Milky Way and a bunch of other crazy folks paddling down the river.  Don't let these paragraphs dampen your spirits.  We're just giving you the information you need to deal with these things so they AREN'T scary.  Because they really aren't.  It's likely your morning commute is far more dangerous and you negotiate that every weekday.  Every. Weekday.  Undecided

So digest that and post any questions you have or email me direct scott@rivermiles.com

Next time, among other things, we will talk about fog and storms.

Not THAT'S scary.  Shocked Wink


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Reply #3 - 05/08/15 at 06:30:18
kharmon   Ex Member

Just an added thought to this from my run in 2013. I have lived on the river my whole life and have been on it at night to many times to count, that is when I saw most people struggle keeping in the channel. I was slow but I passed most people at night because I stayed in the channel, it was quite humorous to watch and gave me some entertainment watching the lights of boats all over the place. A little spot light will do wonders for you and you barely have to use it. The channel markers on the side of the river are reflective so they stand out really good when hit with a spot light, find the marker then look at the trees to navigate to the channel side.
Once you get it figured out night running will be a piece of cake and you will make better time.

This is a great race and a great test of the human spirit, my 11 year old daughter crewed for me and learned a lot about what we are capable of, she found it amazing that she was helping grown men up the boat ramp, and they could barely walk, but they got back in the boat and moved down the river. Everyone hurts during this race, you just need to understand the difference in pain and discomfort. Don't quit! The feeling at the end is like nothing I can describe, you will be part of a select few that have completed something amazing.

Enjoy! and look for me near Wilton, just past Coopers my family will be cheering you on.

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Reply #4 - 05/25/15 at 07:46:01
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

2015 MR340 Dispatch #3

How's it going?  Getting excited yet?  We are just a little over two months from the start of the race!!!

Check the roster here and make sure you're info is correct...


Some of you owe me a new boat number... send that to scott@rivermiles.com as soon as possible.

Some more of you are missing your partners!  We really need to get that squared away so that we can get shirts, insurance, etc. figured out.  Every year this lingers into the night of the safety meeting and creates headaches. 

Let's get all partners registered by June 15th.  Tell them to get it done quickly!

We've covered a bunch of topics in the first two dispatches.  Be sure to go back and read them.  They can be found here:


Topics include:

-Let the river move you (stay in the boat)
-Make the first 24 hours count (don't sleep in Waverly)
-Respect the barges and dredges (stay out of their way)
-Learn the channel (fast water is faster than slow water)

For this dispatch, let's start with FOG.

I believe we've had some fog every year.  Some years it's mild and little more than a nuisance, lasting just an hour or so with decent visibility remaining.  Other years, it's so thick you can not see shore 10 feet away. 

Let me start by saying that paddling in thick fog is a foolish and dangerous thing to do.  Many people attempt it with a gps.  I am not sure these folks understand what a gps actually does.  It does NOT magically know what is ahead of you.  It only knows where you are in relationship to a map on the screen.  It is not radar.

Things a gps won't show you.
Moving barge.
Parked barge.
Sand dredge.
Fishing boats.
Bridge piers. 
Piles of logs pinned to bridge piers.

Fog is a strange phenomenon in that it can be very localized.  You can be paddling in relatively clear conditions and then paddle right into a wall of fog.  Usually, there are some telltale signs that fog is building.  It generally starts with thin wisps rising up out of the water.  This can go on for miles and may never build into that wall... but if you see the wisps, you should start being alert for worsening conditions.  You won't even see the wisps until you use a flashlight.  Only then do you notice them.  But you'll quickly see that these wisps begin to make the flashlight less effective as the beam gets reflected back at you.  If the fog thickens, it doesn't take long before you're running blind.  So, once you start seeing the early stages of fog, you should be ready for a possible quick landing.  This doesn't mean you have to land as soon as you see that first dusting of low fog... it just means that you should constantly be spotting landing areas in case it worsens quickly.  It's really about awareness of the shoreline and a plan for getting there if things get bad. 

It's not about going fast in these conditions (thin wisps of low fog) but about transiting from good landing option to good landing option until you're through the patch.

Please understand that when I say thin wisps of fog I'm talking about good visibility where you can still see both shores in the moonlight and can see well ahead.  The thin fog is only visible when a flashlight is applied.  This type of condition is common and very manageable.  Again, you can see both shores and any obstacles ahead.  The wisps are just a sign to be ready for worse.

If the fog is blowing across the surface, (5-6 inches high) it's a good sign that the wind is too strong for it to pile up.  But problems can occur around a bend where the wind is calm and the fog stacks. 

So, we take it a couple hundred yards at a time... spotting landing zones to the left and right and ready for anything.  If you see the treeline on either shore vanish ahead, it's time to land and get some rest.

Storms are another part of the routine experience during the 340.  Most years we experience rain and a little thunder.  Some years we've had some intense storms.  We can't start the race in a thunderstorm so if there is one at the starting line we will delay until it passes. 

But once you're out in the wild those decisions lie with you.  Storms, like fog, can be very localized.  One portion of the course may be in bright sunshine while another is under a storm.  It's each paddlers responsibility to use common sense and make a good decision about severe weather.

No race is worth getting struck by lightning.  If there is lighting around you, please get off the river.  Even a near strike that renders you unconscious will kill you if you're on the water and upside down.  Get to shore and wait it out. 

High wind can also be a danger on the water.  I've seen the river thrashed into a white capped frenzy during a storm at night.  It would be impossible to keep a boat upright in those conditions.  So when you see a storm approaching (distant thunder or lightning, drop in temperature, change in wind) start to find a place to hunker down.

Awareness of weather conditions via weather radio or phone app is crucial.  If you know there is a chance for overnight thunderstorms, you will grab what you need from your ground crew like a change of clothes, rain gear, maybe a small tent, etc. 

A simple rule of thumb is to treat weather just like you would on a camping trip or a day of paddling.  Just because it's a race doesn't mean that you should keep paddling in a lightning storm.  If you react like you would during any other outdoor activity, you'll likely make the correct decision.

Paddling in the rain (no lightning) can be a great experience if you have the right equipment.  If you're wet and shivering it's not good and can actually get dangerous.  We routinely pick up folks between midnight and 4am who are nearly hypothermic.  Even on a dry night with no rain or fog!  This always comes as a shock to them because it's been brutally hot all day and even the nights are muggy and warm often never getting cooler than 80 degrees.  So how do they end up shivering?

Remember that you are burning a tremendous amount of calories and your energy reserves will get depleted.  Often folks will be in a severe calorie deficit.  The fire inside them is very low on fuel.  And their body has been working all day to stay cool in the hot sun and warm 90+ degree air.  Then night comes and the beastly sun goes down.  There is condensation and dampness that happens on the river so their lightweight t shirt and shorts get wet.  Soon they start shivering to the point where it's tough to even paddle.

For these reasons, a good windbreaker or rain jacket is good to have aboard at night, even if no rain is forecast.  Put the rain jacket on under your REQUIRED PFD.  This will trap a bunch of heat.  Also, remember to eat and keep eating so your body has fuel to burn.  And finally, keep paddling.  Do a few sprints from time to time to keep the blood flowing and heart rate up.  This will keep you alert and warm. 

Top reasons safety boats get called to pick up paddlers.
(in no particular order)

-joint or muscle injury
-equipment failure
-partner wants to quit

Speaking of quitting partners, it's a good idea to discuss how this will look before the race ever starts.  Each partner will go through highs and lows out there physically and mentally.  Understanding that these feelings will ebb and flow throughout the week is powerful knowledge.  You can feel terrible and a few hours later be laughing and paddling strong. 

But sometimes conditions conspire to make a race un-finishable for a team.  I've witnessed many of these negotiations to quit out on the water or at a checkpoint.  A common dynamic is that both partners want to quit... but neither partner wants to be the one to quit first.  This seems to be especially true with male paddlers.  They want the other one to quit so they can go back to work and say, "I wanted to keep going, but Billy didn't"  Well, Billy wants to say the same thing about Tommy.  This manifests itself out there with circular discussions about what the other guy wants to do or not do. 

Paddlers that have trained together a bunch don't usually have this problem because they've laid the groundwork for how to communicate and live in a boat.  If you and your partner haven't had this chance, you can at least work out ahead of time what a DNF (did not finish) should look like. 

If you've banked some time then you may only need a little sleep or a shower or a warm meal to get the energy to continue.  Sometimes just finding the right group to paddle with can lift your spirits and get you through a rough patch.  Setting small goals to break up a leg of the race can help... Like stopping on a sandbar for a swim or cracking open a cold drink at the halfway mark between checkpoints...  turning on the baseball game on a small radio... 

To some extent you have to be your partner's psychologist and she needs to be yours.  Coach each other through the worst moments.  Make sure they're eating and drinking... and that they understand that just because they've felt like crap for the last 20 miles, doesn't mean the next 200 are going to feel that way. 

But if the time comes to quit, let your partner do it in a way that saves face and dignity.  Use words like, "WE just aren't feeling it this year."  "WE have decided to pull out at the next checkpoint." 

Sometimes a partner wants to continue on to race after losing a paddler.  This is allowed but also requires some thought ahead of time.  It's easy enough for a 5 person boat to lose a paddler or two and keep going... but a 2 person boat dropping to one is difficult.  It happens every year and there are successful finishes, but this again should be talked about with the partner who will likely have to ride along in the support vehicle for the remainder of the race. 

Please note: Whatever division you start in is the division you finish in... regardless of paddlers lost.  A tandem division boat that finishes with just one paddler is still considered a tandem division boat.

Another question:  Can a partner leave the boat for one leg of the race and then get back in later?  Answer: NO.  Once a partner has missed a portion of the race course, they are no longer allowed to get back in.


Things you should be working on now...

Core strength (back, abs, chest)  Pushups, pullups, yoga, PADDLING, weights.

Losing excess weight (every ounce of weight costs energy to move it 340 miles.  Losing 10 pounds makes a big difference)

Build endurance (this is as mental as it is physical.  Develop a good relationship with discomfort.  Paddling is the best experience but biking or running are good substitutes.  It's about understanding your pain and knowing you can push through and survive it. 

Get your boat and gear ready.  (minimize weight, plan where you want stuff and what you really need.)

Planning with ground crew.  (Huddle over maps, discuss alternate meeting places, teach them to boss you and push you.)

Practice a wet entry into your boat.  (what happens if you flip over mid river?  You should be able to figure out how to get back in.  Practice this in shallow calm water at a lake.  How will you be able to collect your gear and keep it all together?  Figure out how to secure gear in the boat, how to pump or bail it out and climb back in.  Hint:  Sometimes it's better to leave some water in for stability until you're back in the boat, then bail it out... understanding the dynamics of your boat and how this all works is good to do BEFORE it happens on the river.)

Enough for now... more to come soon!


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Reply #5 - 07/02/15 at 15:53:41
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

Dispatch #4

Race is almost here! 

Important dates:

July 27th, MANDATORY SAFETY MEETING.  All must attend and sign in beforehand.  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KANSAS.  520 Minnesota Ave.  Sign in between 2-6pm.  Meeting starts at 7pm.  There will be music!  Miner's Bluff Band will be back by popular demand in the Grand Ballroom playing river music to pump you up.

We will have security at Kaw Point starting at noon for you to stage your boat so you'll have one less thing to do the next morning.  Just leave the boat.  No fancy paddles or electronics.

July 28th, RACE STARTS, Kaw Point Park, 7am solo start, 8am everything else.
Folks will start launching at 5am.  Get there early for parking and to be on the water by the cannon!

The River

Getting lots of questions about the status of the river and things have been very crazy this season with rain.  We've definitely had enough rain to wreak havoc in the area but so far, the location of the rain has been favorable.  Last year it was the stretch of river upstream of KC from Sioux City to Omaha that was getting pounded daily.  That led to a swollen river here that was on the razor's edge of postponement for several weeks leading up the the eventual deluge that ended it. 

This year the rain is mostly downstream of KC so while things are pretty solemn in central and eastern Missouri, things are improving in KC.  KC will be falling pretty steadily over the next two weeks thanks to the Kaw finally calming down.  That will soon help central and eastern Missouri as well.

Our threshold for going on July 28th is that the race course from KC to St. Charles is out of the flood zone.  Current river forecasts have that happening in the next 6 days.  More rain is forecast, however, so we will keep a close eye on that.  But I feel we have a very good chance at July 28th. 

The highest the water has ever been during an MR340 was in 2010 when it was 95,000 cfs at Kansas City.  Many people fondly remember that race as being fast and fun.  Current forecasts have the river closer to 70,000 cfs by race day.  Still a very fast river.  Let's hope the forecast is correct!


I've been slow to get this dispatch out because we're finalizing the new and greatly improved www.Raceowl.com ; This will be a much more robust product that has lots of cool new features.  It's still in final testing so I don't have all the details for you yet, but it will be a great way for your friends and family to monitor your progress down the river from home. 

All they will need to know is your boat number and division and they will be able to track your progress.

Raceowl allows us to track racers at each checkpoint and to predict their progress to the next.  Pretty cool.

At each checkpoint, racers or their ground crew send a text message to a designated phone number which we will let you know soon.  There is a specific format required to include your boat number, the checkpoint and your time in/out.  We have used this system the last few years and it has worked very well.  Raceowl is designed to take the perfectly formatted text and enter it directly into Raceowl for instant updating.  Any text that strays from the format is queued to be read by a volunteer and entered manually.  So if you were pulling out of the race at Jefferson City, you could indicate that in the text and it would be manually handled by a human.  But a standard format text would be logged instantly and automatically.

Also cool this year is an improved smartphone app from Jon Marble that will handle a lot of the text in chore for you.  It's available for Android and Apple and is FREE.  Search MR340 in your app store.  Pretty handy and very cool.  But any text message will work so any phone that can send texts is sufficient.

Checking in is VERY important and is the crucial backbone of our safety plan we've filed with the United States Coast Guard.  They are impressed with how we track racers and account for everyone. 

When a checkpoint closes...like Lexington at 5pm on Day 1, we look through Raceowl to determine what paddlers have not checked in.  Ideally, all would be accounted for.  Any that are not have to be hunted down by safety boats and shore volunteers.  We will call your cell, your ground crew's cell, you emergency contact, etc.  Almost without fail, a missing paddler is discovered to have quit the race, loaded his boat and is on the way home when we call.  YOU HAVE TO text and let us know you are withdrawing.  Sometimes the paddler tried to send a text but their phone failed, etc.  Make sure the text goes through.  If your phone doesn't have a signal or battery is dead, don't leave the checkpoint until you've borrowed a phone from race staff and gotten yours charged back up.

Don't be overwhelmed by this.  It's a very easy procedure and once you've practiced sending a text at the safety meeting, the process will already be in your phone and you'll simply copy the format with each subsequent text.  If your ground crew doesn't know how to text you've got a few weeks to get them trained!

Unsupported Racers and Virtual Ground Crews

Everyone is required to have a ground crew.  Most will have a physically present ground crew to help them at checkpoints and to monitor their progress.  Ground crews serve an important role in that they are the first to realize if a paddler is late and possibly having problems.  Your ground crew becomes very good at predicting when you will arrive at a checkpoint.  If your are an hour or more late they will typically inform the safety boat team on site and we can begin to see if there is an issue. 

But for unsupported paddlers, it's different.  There is no ground crew on site to monitor them.  They are therefore the most vulnerable to long delays in getting assistance.  We wouldn't know that unsupported paddler was "late" until the checkpoint closed.  Therefore we require all racers to have a ground crew, even if they aren't on site.  This means that if your ground crew is home, you still need to have a plan to contact them on a regular basis.  An unsupported boat MUST maintain regular contact with their virtual ground crew.

This is easily done with text messaging.  Let's say John is an unsupported soloist doing the 340.  His ground crew is Sara at home with their kids.  John tells Sara he will text here at each checkpoint and let her know his plan to the next checkpoint.  So John arrives in Lexington.  He texts in to Raceowl that he has arrived.  He then text Sara:

Made Lexington.  On to Waverly.  Should arrive there by 7pm.  Love, John.

Now Sara knows to expect another text from John at 7pm.  She also knows that if John is 15 minutes late, it's no big deal.  This is John, after all.  But she also knows that if John were going to be much later than that, he would stop paddling and text that to her.  If John was really late and Sara wasn't getting a response, she would let race officials know and we would be watching for John via safety boat. 

So Sara is doing a job that our safety team could never do.  She is tracking an individual paddler to the minute on his planned arrival to a checkpoint.  She is watching closely over him among the 399 other boats in that field.  A physically present ground crew does this as a matter of course, standing on shore watching the boats come in.  Sara is doing that as well, via her phone.


Also, regarding unsupported racers, every year we see wonderful ground crews "adopt" the unsupported that are paddling in the same crowd as their team.  These unsupported boats would be thrilled if they could get a crew to pick them up a few items and have them at the next checkpoint.  It saves them a bunch of time and helps them keep up with your team and keep them company out there in the lonely miles.  Thanks ahead of time for helping where you can.

Crowded Checkpoints:
This year we will have about 70 more boats than we've ever had before.  That may not sound like a lot, but it will impact the ramps, especially at the first 3 checkpoints.  As the first racers come through you'll see very efficient ground crews grab their empty jugs and trash and quickly replace with full jugs and food.  Then the boat is GONE, barely having stopped for 30 seconds or less.  Many experienced ground crews will skip crowded checkpoints in lieu of other ramps between checkpoints.  (The ground crews, however, will still be at the regular checkpoints to check their teams in.) 

As the fastest racers go by we start see the boats that will stay longer at the checkpoints and so crowds develop at the ramp.  The ramp needs to stay as clear as possible for boats to get what they need and move out.  At Lexington, there is lots of muddy shoreline where boats can pull up and so crowding is not as big an issue.  But at Waverly and Miami it's almost exclusively the ramp and then things can get very busy.  In Waverly or Miami, if you plan to stay more than 2 minutes, you'll need to have your boat carried up and off the ramp then relaunch after you've got what you need.  The ramp will need to stay clear for boats making quick stops and for boat trying to launch after extended stops. 

Waverly and Miami have teams of ramp volunteers to assist this process.  Robin Kalthoff's Missouri Stream Team will be managing Waverly and the City of Miami volunteers will be covering Miami. Both sites will have a boat corral cordoned off near the ramp where boats for those staying more than a few minutes can be stored.  Please work with these volunteers to keep the ramp clear and functional. 

Creative ground crews will be willing to meet their boat in muddy, rocky spots up and down from the immediate area of the ramp.  Your boat will arrive and be looking for a familiar face.  Flag them down and point to where you want them to land. 

Remember too that it't not required that you stop at a checkpoint.  If you have enough food and water to make your next rendezvous, you can just make verbal contact with your ground crew and keep going.  All teams must make verbal contact at minimum.

Things will spread out a bit by Glasgow but throughout the race, the ramp etiquette must be maintained.  The ramp cannot be clogged with boats lingering more than a couple minutes.  If you get out of your boat for any reason, you should haul it up the ramp and out of the way.

Above Normal Water

With water anticipated in the 70,000 range we can expect good flow and good finish times.  Staying in the boat will have an even bigger payoff... and a bigger penalty for those that stand on shore.  As you wander around the checkpoint, your competitors on the water will get further and further ahead. 

Normal flow for this time of year is about 50,000.  So 70,000 is going to scoot you right along.  Again, we've done the race at 95,000, but 70,000 is nothing to sneer at.  This means that you have to be especially vigilant when going under bridges or negotiating other obstacles.  Things will happen faster than you think.  When going under a bridge it's important to give the piers a wide berth.  There is no good reason to get near a bridge pier.  Often, there will be debris pinned to these piers and strange currents near the debris.  Stay as far as possible from these. 

This is especially the case during the first 3 miles of the race.  You will go under several bridges, one after another.  This is a big reason why we now do two starts.  It's much easier for 250 boats to negotiate this space than for 400.  While it is a race, it's not necessary or even prudent to sprint out of Kaw Point like a madman and try to pass everyone in the first 3 miles.  Ideally, you're paddling a stroke rate that you can maintain for 340 miles.  So cross into the Missouri and find the channel, which is more or less the right side of the river as you enter the Missouri.  Usually, the boats sort of form a conga line and are no more than 4-5 boats abreast as they go under the bridges.  Give each other the space to maneuver under these structures and soon enough the river opens up and becomes more vanilla.  In fact, bridges become something to look forward to after a few hours.  There's that whole 2 seconds of shade under there that you'll really enjoy. 

The race start is always lots of fun.  Lots of adrenalin and excitement.  We are looking forward to seeing everyone there at 530am as the DJ starts the music and the news trucks start filming.  We are in the home stretch now!  Keep preparing as best you can and keep your fingers crossed that the rain goes away and we have another great MR340.  Best ultra marathon in the country if you ask me!  The towns along the way are PUMPED to see you all and to cheer you down the river. 

More to come, soon!


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Reply #6 - 07/15/15 at 21:37:14
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

Dispatch #5

River Update:
Things have gone about as we've been told by those in control of the water flow.  They had said that the river would be falling to near normal summer flows by the end of July and things are looking to be that way.  The caveat is always "barring heavy rains" and we understand that.  But every inch the river falls gives us the capacity to absorb a rain event and not be postponed. 

There are scattered storms in Nebraska as I type this and they are expecting 1 to 2 inches in Omaha overnight.  Luckily they haven't had nearly as bad a summer of rain as we've had and so the ground is able to soak much of that up and ponds and lakes have some room.  We'll see what the night brings.  But regardless, we've got work to do!  Because I'd say there's a 92% chance we're a go for July 28th.

As usual, I will recite some important dates and times...

Important dates:

July 27th, MANDATORY SAFETY MEETING.  All must attend and sign in beforehand.  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KANSAS.  520 Minnesota Ave.  Sign in between 2-6pm.  Meeting starts at 7pm.  We will be setting up registration at NOON so if you're in the area feel free to come down and knock it out early.  We need to process 600 racers so we can't all show up at 530. 

There will be music!  Miner's Bluff Band will be back by popular demand in the Grand Ballroom playing river music to pump you up.

We will have security at Kaw Point starting at noon for you to stage your boat so you'll have one less thing to do the next morning.  Just leave the boat.  No fancy paddles or electronics.

July 28th, RACE STARTS, Kaw Point Park, 7am solo start, 8am everything else.
Folks will start launching at 5am.  Get there early for parking and to be on the water by the cannon!  Because of heavy construction at Kaw Point, parking is severely limited.  We will have volunteers directing parking.  Be prepared to hike if you show up much later than 630.  I'd strongly suggest either staging your boat the night before or arriving very early that morning.  When the construction is complete, we'll have more parking than ever before... but that's NEXT year.  This year, we suffer.


The RaceOwl team has made mega improvements over the off season.  It's been tested and tested and we feel it's ready for the big time.  There are some slight changes to the text in process.  This will be spelled out on your safety card and again in the safety meeting.  But it's useful to practice now.  So grab your cell phone.

If you are using the Marbleware app you can set it up to text the proper format automatically.  If you are texting manually, here's the proper format.


1661 Lexington Tue 04:33PM in

1661 Lexington Tue 05:05PM out

0032 Katfish Katy Wed 10:05AM in

0032 Katfish Katy Wed 12:22PM out

Note that the order is boat number, checkpoint name, 3 letter date, 4 digit time followed by am or pm and then in or out. 

If you practice it properly and get it in your phone correctly, it will be easy to just follow the pattern on subsequent texts.

So what happens if you mess up and spell Glasgow wrong?  No big deal.  Rather than getting automatically absorbed into raceowl, a human being will have to do it instead.  Again, not a big deal.  So if you're ground crew is exhausted and types Glasscow instead, we'll figure it out.

The text line number for this year is 816-340-6395  This is NOT a voice number.  Text only. 

So go ahead and practice.  And train your ground crew.  And consider getting the marbleware app on your smartphone as it will simplify things for you and has lots of other cool features to get you down the river.  About 200 paddlers have downloaded it so far!

Waverly Railroad Crossing:

I've been reminded to remind you that the railroad crossing in Waverly is very dangerous.  The tracks run right through the park and trains come through quickly.  Keep an eye on kids and watch when driving or walking over the tracks.  Luckily, most of our time in Waverly is in daylight.  But there will be an hour or so of darkness there.  And it will be quite crowded at times so be ready to walk from up the hill down to the ramp.  A ground crew with a wagon or other wheeled device will have a much easier time. 

Care should be had at ALL checkpoints.  Watch where you lay down to sleep.  Make sure you're not in the path of a vehicle.  Check around your vehicle before driving away to make sure some paddler didn't imagine it was a Motel 6. 

The Lonely River:

If you're doing this race to experience the solitude of you and the river, forget it.  400 boats, if evenly spaced from start to the finish, could play a heck of a game of telephone out there. 

If you figure a 50 hour span of finishes from 38 to 88 hours, and figure that about 100 boats won't finish, that's 300 boats landing in St. Charles in 3000 minutes.  If I did that math right then a boat will finish every 10 minutes all night and day starting Wednesday night. 

Of course, we'll all be a lot closer than that day 1. 

The point is that you and your fellow paddlers are going to be in close proximity.  So if you have a problem and need help, help is right behind you.  Our safety boats are positioned at checkpoints and are also transiting between checkpoints.  But your fellow paddlers are EVERYWHERE.  Same with ground crews.  If you're worried your husband is going to get lost trying to find a checkpoint, forget it.  There will be a conga line of cars leaving a checkpoint and heading for the next.  So while the checkpoints will be crowded and a bit stressful day 1 and 2, there is safety in numbers as well.

As we've discussed before, ramp etiquette will be important.  The ramps have to remain as open as possible.  Get creative with using the other shoreline at a checkpoint for resupply where possible.  Volunteers at the checkpoint will direct you to places to store your boat for an extended stay.

I would encourage you and your team to read and re-read the previous dispatches.  Important things are covered there.  Like that PFDs must be worn at all times.  That a whistle must be attached to your PFD.  (people forget that)  Your boat MUST have red/green navigation lights affixed to the bow and a white light on the rear half.  All paddlers must carry a cell phone in a waterproof case or bag.  Boat numbers (reflective) must be affixed to both sides of the bow and be visible above the waterline. 

The list goes on.  Time to get your boat and gear in order, for sure.

Don't forget to HAVE FUN!

Remember, this is an adventure that few people ever get a chance at.  Even after 9 previous races, there's not that many people that can claim to have done what you're about to do.  The things you remember from this race won't be who you beat or who beat you... it will be the un-tellable and indescribable things you learn and see.  You'll bore your loved ones for months with stories of things that happened out there and they'll nod and smile.  But only you'll know what it meant in that context.  Corny as it sounds, it's true.  So come at this with the attitude that finishing is the goal but the trip is the real prize.  You'll hurt.  You'll have moments of hating it.  But I bet you have moments you'll savor and revisit in your mind again and again forever. 

We will likely have just one more dispatch early next week.  Then it's the final countdown.  If you're half as excited as we are, you're already a nut case.  We'll get through it together!  We always do.

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Reply #7 - 07/16/15 at 05:47:19
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

If you are using a spot tracker and would like Raceowl to show your position you can send your Spot ID and boat number to snorkie@snorkie.com

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Reply #8 - 07/17/15 at 00:29:58
Ozark paddler   Ex Member

I have been told that race owl will show a boats position even if the paddler app is not running by using average speed and time through last check point. Is this accurate or would I need to keep the app running all of the time to be visible on race owl???

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Reply #9 - 07/17/15 at 11:41:39
HoganHaake   Ex Member

John, thanks for the question.

RaceOwl tracks all participants in the race via the checkpoint texts. Those provide the official place in the standing. This is visible through the Roster. http://raceowl.com/MR3402015/RaceResults

An additional optional tracking is available if you want your boat displayed on the map.

Use the MR340 Pro Paddler app or a Spot Tracker. If you have one of those devices on and registered, you will have near real time tracking on the map. http://raceowl.com/MR3402015/RaceMap2

Let me know if you need more clarification.


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Reply #10 - 07/20/15 at 15:40:52
charles.nadia96   Ex Member

Can we get a rain/flood update and percentage of go/no go race percentage?
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Reply #11 - 07/20/15 at 16:54:55
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

There are lengthy updates on the facebook page and the "Historic River Levels" page on this forum.  I will send a dispatch tomorrow with the latest.  We're hanging on and hoping for the best.  Current river forecasts point to a start on July 28th.  But more rain chances this week. 

Bottom line is there's not much to report except the river is favorably forecast to fall but the rain is also a wild card.

IP Logged
Reply #12 - 07/20/15 at 18:37:43
charles.nadia96   Ex Member

Thank you. I saw it after I posted this.
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Reply #13 - 07/21/15 at 23:14:33
Scott Mansker   Ex Member

Dispatch #6


We've had a crazy, wet summer in KC.  By many measures this summer has been compared to the terrible summer of 1993 which was one of the worst floods recorded.  Yet somehow, we're still staged to complete the 10th Annual Missouri American Water MR340 on time.

So we'd better get to work.

Here's the latest on the river and weather situation as of Tuesday night.

The river is forecast by both the National Weather Service and the Corps of Engineers to be well below flood stage at all checkpoints by the time we arrive.  Important to note that this assumes very little rain added to the equation. 

Speaking of rain, we're going to have some in the watershed before the race.  We can handle a little.  We cannot handle the monsoon 3+ inches per hour storms we've been getting.  The current weather forecast calls for rain.  Here's the 10pm National Weather Service 7 day.

Wednesday:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 82. East wind 6 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Wednesday Night:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. East wind 5 to 7 mph becoming calm in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Thursday:  Partly sunny, with a high near 87. East southeast wind 3 to 8 mph.

Thursday Night:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. Southeast wind 6 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Friday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 94.

Friday Night:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 77. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Saturday:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 92. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Saturday Night:  Partly cloudy, with a low around 75.

Sunday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 91.

Sunday Night:  Partly cloudy, with a low around 73.

Monday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 90.

Monday Night:  Partly cloudy, with a low around 74.

Tuesday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 92.

Not too bad.  Much better than what they had been saying earlier today. 

So with all the experts telling us we have a good chance, let's work through some final details.

Kaw Point Parking:  Due to construction near the park, we've lost all our overflow parking this year.  We went down and counted about 400 spaces inside the park.  These will fill up quickly Tuesday morning.  We've got the Kansas City, KS Rotary Club volunteering to direct parking starting at 5am.  Once the lot is full, we can't let anyone else in.  You'll have to park wherever you can and walk.  There are NOT many options down there.  There's some gravel areas north of Kaw Point behind some warehouses and then you could walk down the levee trail.  Not ideal. Ideally, you'll get there early and get a space.  Anything you can do to minimize cars is appreciated.  If you are staying at the hotel and can carpool with another team, that would help.  This is a one year issue and we'll be back to a huge parking lot next year. 

Many folks park the night before and sleep at the park.  I always sleep there too.  Well, none of us really sleep, but we close our eye now and then.  If you are there the night before please cooperate with the Rotary guys who are trying to set a parking pattern.  They may ask you to move here or there so that things are primed for morning.

With parking so crowded you may not be able to easily leave after the solo start at 7am.  Please be prepared to hunker down until after the 8am start.  Your soloist will take at least 5 hours to get to Lexington.  You'll have lots of time to get there or to any of the early options for resupply.  The lot will empty very quickly after the 8am gun.

It will be very difficult to unload your boat and gear Tuesday morning unless you arrive very early.  Most folks will stage their boats the night before.  That way it's unloaded and ready to go in the morning.  Please don't leave paddles or electronics.  Just the boat.  We'll have security at the park by noon to watch over safety boats and your boats.  They will have a roster.  They expect boats to be dropped off.  They do NOT expect boats to be loaded and taken away.  If they see someone loading a boat they will question them and ask for some ID that matches the roster and boat number.  We can't guarantee the safety of your boat.  Anything is possible.  But we've never had a problem in 9 previous years. 

If you opt not to stage your boat the night before, you should make a special point to arrive early.  You may have to carry your boat quite a ways to the river.

Parking Limited!
You may stage your boat Monday starting at noon.
Arrive early Tuesday.
Be patient entering and exiting the park.

Mandatory Safety Meeting:
Registration (sign in) between noon and 6pm.  Everyone must sign in.  This is your first checkpoint.  Takes place at the Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Ave, Kansas City, KS  Lower level of the adjacent convention center.

Sponsors will address you starting at 650.  Safety meeting will start promptly at 7pm.  The hotel is putting on their usual pasta buffet.  Price varies.  They are also serving beer this year.  Be careful.

At the safety meeting we'll go through many of the things you've heard before.  It will be a good review. 

REMEMBER:  Once you've signed in you have started the race.  A certain percentage of the 600 racers will NOT end up starting due to illness, emergency, etc.  You HAVE to inform us that you are not starting.  Otherwise we will assume you started and never made it to Lexington. 

Meeting should end by 8pm.  I will hang out a few minutes to answer pressing questions.  Then you are on your own until morning.  Our team will be working all night on safety boats, cleaning up the roster, etc.

Tuesday morning after you find a place to park you've got one job.  Get on the river.  This is 80 more boats than we've ever had before.  That means longer lines at the ramp.  Lucky for you there are more options than just the ramp.  Any and all shoreline in the park should be used for launching.  The point where the Kaw and Missouri meet is an especially easy spot to launch.  You will get muddy launching.  And wet.  Best to just surrender to it.  You'll be wet and muddy all week.  You won't recognize your boat or your clothes or even your partner at the finish line. 

Solo boats should start launching by 530am in order to be on the water by 7.  But many will wait and then won't be on the water.  7am is the solo gun.  If you're not on the water you will have to catch up. 

Tandem and larger boats can launch anytime.  Their gun is 8am.  Ready or not.

The starting line is anywhere UPSTREAM of the BOAT RAMP.

You're actually starting on the Kansas (Kaw) River.  It will likely have a little current.  You'll have to occasionally paddle upstream and drift back to position.  Stay upstream of the ramp.  We will have a sound system and music playing and announcements leading up to each start.  National Anthem also will be sung prior to the 7am start.  We'll count it for the 8am too.

About 250 boats will go at 7am.  About 150 at 8am.

Not every boat can take the same line out of the harbor.  We will need to spread out.  There are always collisions at the confluence because the transition from the slow Kaw to the fast Missouri pushes boats from left to right at the mouth.  Paddles start hitting each other and there is a small patch of chaos.  Avoid this by choosing a less obvious and thereby less crowded path to the Missouri.  Typically we see very few boats exit the upstream end of the confluence.  Everyone shoots for the middle or downstream end.  Another option is to just let every else paddle like mad for the first minute and you just cruise slowly and choose the path that's not thrashed. 

IF you dump your boat anywhere in the first 5 miles, you'll be assisted by the Kansas City Fire Department.  They will have 4-5 boats in the water to help you.  You are not out of the race.  Just let them get you to shore and put back together and on your way. 

There are several bridges to negotiate in the first 5 miles.  Same idea.  Not everyone can go through the same span simultaneously.  Usually by the first bridge, we've formed a conga line of sorts and everyone cooperates.  Just like on the highway, if someone needs to merge to avoid hitting something, everyone scoots over and lets them merge.  Easy Peasy.

We'll have safety boats that leave before the solos, then more that leave after the solos, then a few that leave just before the tandems, and then the sweep boat and the REAPER will leave after everyone else.

We've talked about the Reaper before but it bears a review.  The Reaper is the pace boat.  Her job is to set the minimum consistent pace that it takes to make each checkpoint.  It is a visual representation of your potential disqualification.  Click here to see a picture of the Reaper.  http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/Attachments/Reaper_Flag_001.jpg

We have a different crew aboard this year so ignore those two mugs in the picture.  Instead, note the 10 foot tall flag.  When this flag is up, the Reaper is in pace position.  If the flag is down, the Reaper is on other business.  The flag will be up all of Day 1 and likely all of Day 2.  Usually at the end of Day 2 the Reapees have all been Reaped and most folks are well ahead of cutoff times.  That being the case, the Reaper becomes just another friendly safety boat out there to assist.

Just because the Reaper passes you doesn't mean you're out.  You have to beat the Reaper to each checkpoint.  So if you see the Reaper pass as you're paddling it just means you have to speed up and pass it.  It will be going as slow as a slowish canoe or kayak.  You'll be able to catch and pass the Reaper if you have any hope of finishing in 88 hours. 

If the Reaper beats you to Lexington you are officially out of the race.  Same at each subsequent checkpoint. 


We've reviewed procedures for checkpoints in the previous dispatch.  All boats must text in at each checkpoint.  Instructions are in the dispatch above this one.  Instructions will also be on the safety card all racers will carry.  Volunteers will process these texts and will help us keep track of all racers.  It is crucial to the safety plan that you text in and out of each checkpoint.  If you opt to exit the race, you MUST TEXT that fact to us so we aren't looking for you on the river.  If your cell phone fails or is dead or wet or sunk to the bottom, talk to a safety boat crew or volunteer at the checkpoint.  They can either text for you or let you borrow their phone.  They will also help you charge a phone if needed. 

We've also talked about the crowds at the first 4 checkpoints.  Parking will be full.  Boat ramps must be kept clear enough to walk up and down.  Plan your exchanges with ground crew to be quick and efficient.  They should have whatever you might need ready to go when the meet you at the water.  Boom boom gone.  If you plan to stay longer than that it is perfectly acceptable.  You just have to carry your boat up the ramp and out of the way until read to launch again later.  Just like at Kaw Point, there are more places to launch than just the ramp.  You'll be a pro at this in no time. 

There will be food and drink for sale at all checkpoints.  These are individual boy scout troops and other organizations.  It is very handy to have stuff for sale at the ramps for the unsupported paddlers especially.  Our safety boats will have water for emergency use and will happily give it to any paddler that needs it.  Just flag us down and it's yours!  No penalty.  No questions asked. 

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.

We 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.


I would bet money that we get some rain this year.  It hasn't gone more than 3 days without rain all summer.  If it rains at night you will get very cold before it's all over.  Paddling in the rain is not a problem if you're properly dressed, paddling hard and consuming calories.  Take one of those legs off the stool and you fall over. 

You will have to pay attention to the forecast and plan ahead.  Grab rain gear from ground crew if rain is forecast.  If thunderstorms are forecast be ready for a tent or a tarp setup.  Everyone is required to have the foil blanket.  These are amazingly effective if used properly for warmth. 

If the storm advertises high winds it's crucial you get off the water before it hits.  Especially at night.  The river in a storm at night is not anything you're going to want to experience.  Pulled up on shore waiting for it to pass will be more than enough adventure, trust me. 

Lighting is scary out there.  There's really no place to hide.  You'll hear the mantra "stay away from the trees" but there's two ways to look at that.  The origin of that assumes you're in field or a park and standing under a tree for shelter from the rain.  In that case, yes, a tree is dangerous if it's the only tree in a field or open area.  But along the river bank there are THOUSANDS of trees every 100 yards.  If you are in the treeline off the river your odds are far safer than if you are out on a naked sandbar or paddling midriver.  If you're hunkered down in the trees and the tree you're next to gets hit out of all the trees.. well, it may have just been your time to go. 

But that's my opinion.  If you feel safer away from the trees by all means do what your gut tells you.  You're here because your ancestors had good gut instincts... you likely inherited them too.  But my gut in a storm on the river always yells loudly to get to the crowded tree lined shore... where I'm the shortest thing among thousands of better targets.

Safety Boat Protocol:

Our safety boats and crews are top notch.  Most have done this duty for 5 years or more.  It's a skilled position and we don't invite just anyone.  You're in good hands out there.  They are instructed to watch both shorelines for boats onshore.  If they see a boat parked they will glide that direction just to make sure you're ok.  Does this mean they might interrupt your private visit to the bushes for some relief?  Yeah, maybe.  But it's still part of the safety plan and there's really no way around it.  We've had people pulled over retching and cramping who were too weak to stand up.  We gotta check. 

It's possible you might pull over because you're not feeling well.  Maybe your cell phone is dead and your waiting and hoping a safety boat will come by.  Do everything you can to make sure they see you.  Boats are best seen if they are on the sunny portion of the bank.  Don't put them in the tree shade if you can help it.  If it's night time, keep the nav lights on and use a flashlight to signal.  Everyone is supposed to have a whistle on their pfd.  Blow it! If you're on the downstream side of a wing dam they might not see you as they pass.  Try to be visible from upstream. 

We use a thumbs up "Ok" symbol and wave both arms "need help" symbol.  Help doesn't mean you're quitting.  Maybe you're out of water.  Maybe you want to tell us you're not feeling well and would like company for the last few miles to the checkpoint.  Don't hesitate to flag them down.  They volunteered because they love the river and the race and they want to help!

During storms or fog our boats are tied off on shore.  If you phone us for help in those conditions we have to wait until the storm subsides or the fog lifts.  That's why it's so essential that you have what you need to survive for a few hours of storm time or fog time.  Warm clothing and minimal shelter like a tarp or space blanket can make all the difference.  Also important is a relative knowledge of where you are.  Most people know where they are within a mile or two because you're constantly counting miles.  Any information you can give us on your location will help us get there faster. 

Remember too that there are roads paralleling both sides of the river.  You're rarely more than mile from a road and then rarely more than 2-3 miles from a house on that road.  If catastrophe strikes and your boat got away and cell phone is gone you can either flag down another paddler (best option) or hike out and call us as soon as you find a phone.

With all scenarios, there is an obvious, simple solution.  This race is one big problem solving experience.  A simple moment to take stock of a situation and figure the best answer will always be time well spent.  We aren't in the upper Amazon.  We're in Missouri.  Help is never far away.

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. 

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. 

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. 

That's plenty for you to digest for today.  I've got to go stare at river gauges and weather forecasts.  More information will trickle out over the next few days via this forum and the facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/188849561244166/

And I'm always available via email or phone.  913-244-4666

I will see you in less than a week!  God willing and the creek don't rise.

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