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2016 Official MR340 Dispatches (Read 17230 times)
04/12/16 at 22:31:50
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
2016 Dispatch #1
Welcome to the 11th Annual MR340
These dispatches will keep you informed as the race approaches. Hopefully, they will answer questions for you. Some questions you might not even know you have yet.
Let's start with the most basic. When and where is this happening.
Mandatory Check In and Safety Meeting:
Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas
Monday, July 18th, 2016
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 a huge group of over 1000 anxious, excited people. You can smell the mixture of excitement and regret in the air.
The hotel offers food sales upstairs in the bar/restaurant and also downstairs in the ballroom where we hold the meeting. You can eat and watch the presentation at the same time.
If you're from out of town, the Hilton is the ideal spot for a room the night before the race. It sells out every year so it may be too late. Ask for the MR340 rate. You might also book your finish line accommodations if needed. We have arrangements with the Country Inn and Suites and the Ameristar St. Charles.
Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Kaw Point Park
Solo Start is 7am
Everything else, 8am
Construction last year made parking tough. That's all done this year. Lots of parking outside the flood wall. Inside the walls will be limited to first come, first served. As usual, we will have security at the park starting Monday at noon. You can leave your boat staged there anytime after noon and we will have folks there to watch over things. You are ultimately responsible for the boat. Our guys will have a roster and boat numbers and would question anyone they saw removing a boat from the premises. They cannot prevent your boat from being damaged by someone running over it, sitting on it, tripping over it, etc. Please don't leave paddles or any expensive items that can be walked away with. Veterans of the race will steal all the best spots starting Monday morning.
The meeting is at the hotel less than a mile away from the starting line. You will get lost 4 times trying to get back and forth. By the 5th time you'll have it figured out. Siri will give up on the 3rd try.
Check the Roster:
Make sure your entry is correct. Some of you need to choose a new boat number because the one you originally chose was taken. I know this is disappointing. Every year the classics like 8008 get snatched up early leaving only 9,999 other possible combinations to choose from. If you need a new boat number, email it directly to me, email@example.com
Also, many of the tandem and team boats still need to get their partners registered. Please get this taken care of asap. We are trying to get shirt sizes, etc. finalized. Also, it will help you assess the commitment level of your partner. We've found that the longer a partner is TBD, the more likely he or she is of NOT racing and leaving you high and literally dry come race day. Please get your partner registered by May 15th.
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. 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. But if you go at it with 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 the Kansas City Fire Department 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 10+ 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 19th.
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 10 races and have been consistent for the last 6 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...
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 2016 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.
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.
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: 06/29/16 at 11:18:38 by Scott Mansker
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Reply #1 -
04/13/16 at 08:57:14
Lees Summit, Mo
ALRIGHT!!!! Something about that first dispatch. Its almost like it makes it official. Thanks for all the hard work!
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Reply #2 -
04/13/16 at 20:10:03
5X MR340 Veteran
Good grief! This race is getting to be serious. I REMEMBER year two ...this initial dispatch was only six or seven short paragraphs and about five weeks prior to the gun!!!
Read and heed!
Waimanu / Bill
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Reply #3 -
04/14/16 at 10:38:54
3X MR340 Veteran
I neglected to book a room at Hilton Garden Inn. They are booked solid. Are there other hotels near Kaw Point offering MR340 disounts?
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Reply #4 -
04/14/16 at 10:43:27
3X MR340 Veteran
Gritty Fitty Veteran
I booked at the Country Inn in St Charles yesterday. They still have rooms. I have stayed there before. It is a really nice place.
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Reply #5 -
04/14/16 at 11:44:29
3X MR340 Veteran
I need two rooms for Monday night before the race.
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Reply #6 -
04/14/16 at 21:22:53
on 04/13/16 at 08:57:14:
ALRIGHT!!!! Something about that first dispatch. Its almost like it makes it official. Thanks for all the hard work!
Exactly my thoughts, the first Official word from the commander and you get that feeling all over again.
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Reply #7 -
05/11/16 at 16:49:24
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
Welcome to May.
It's paddling season. Or at least get off your butt season. Hopefully, you've got some fitness goals you're working on to get ready for the 340. Lots of early season racing going on if you check the Alpine Shop Race Calendar here:
If you've got your pre-340 fitness plan underway, good for you! You've probably already seen the positive effects of building your core strength through paddling, push ups, pull ups, weights, etc.
But it's tough to beat miles in the boat for toughening your hands and butt and brain for what's ahead. Try to schedule some races or extended training runs between now and the race. You don't have to go do 100 miles. But some good 40-50 mile runs will help you figure out what kind of boat rigging you'll want, what kind of food/fuel works, what kind of seat padding/clothing is agreeable, etc.
A great resource for this planning is book written by some paddlers a few years back. It's available on Amazon in either electronic or paperback form.
It's called MR340 First Time Paddler. This book is fun to read and will shorten your learning curve if this is your first 340. All proceeds go to support Missouri River Relief.
While you're waiting for your book to arrive...or download... let's talk about the folks you'll be sharing the river with come July.
Barges, Dredges and Motor Boats.
The Missouri River is a working river. There is commerce and recreation happening on the river 24 hours/day. And while there is plenty of room for everyone, it's important to understand how it all works...or is supposed to work.
Barge traffic on the Missouri is sparse but when you see a barge heading your way, it won't seem sparse at all. A barge can seem like it takes up the entire river. But once you've passed one, you'll understand there is plenty of river where he CANNOT go and almost no place you CANNOT go so that gives you lots of options.
First, let's define what is commonly referred to as a "barge." This is actually a towboat or "tow" pushing 1-4 barges in our neck of the woods. It's easier to just say barge but it could also be referred to as a tow.
These typically travel day and night but during the week of the race they usually lay over after dark for you. But you cannot rely on this being the case and must be prepared and wary that a barge you spot ahead at night may be active.
Obviously, you would want no part of a collision with these massive things. But even without a collision, a barge can be a disruption due to their sometimes enormous wakes they leave behind.
All that said, while a barge can seem intimidating the first time you transit one, after you understand how it all works a successful transit can be a nice respite from the monotony of paddling hours on end. A typical transit, from the time you spot the barge to the time the wake subsides behind you might take up to an hour. And that might be the most exciting, butt puckering hour you experience the entire day. So savor it.
First we must introduce the idea of the navigation channel. There is a maintained and fairly well marked navigation channel on the Missouri River. This is a deep and fast path designed for barges and other motorized boats to safely travel the sometimes shallow and shifting Missouri. This channel is marked with signage on shore. You'll see hundreds of these during the race. The have symbols and colors on both sides and also a mile marker showing exactly where you are along the course.
To be a smart paddler you obviously want to stay in the fastest water so that cumulatively, you're racking up maximum mph while following our advice to stay in the boat. To do this you would place yourself in the navigation channel (which is a huge portion of the width of the river) and do your best to follow the gradual arcs of this channel as you make your way through bend after bend.
Markers will be green on your right and red on your left as you move downstream. Markers will be either solid red, solid green, checked red and white or checked green and white. Confused? Don't be. It's really pretty slick system and will be second nature by the afternoon of day 1.
The markers are always on the channel side of the river. You can see one at the very tip of Kaw Point where we start the race. That means the channel (fastest, deepest water) is on the Kaw Point side of the river at that spot. But there are hundreds of times where the channel switches to the other side. These signs will tell you when that is happening.
As you pass a sign, glance at the back side. That's where the crucial data is. If the back side is solid, it means stay on this side. If the back side is checkered, it means you are at a crossing. You can look at the angle the checkered sign is pointed and almost perfectly imagine a line crossing the river and pointing at another checkered sign (opposite color) downstream. This won't be anywhere near a 90 degree turn but instead a more gradual crossing that might be up to a mile! This doesn't mean you crank hard to the other side, it just means you start slowly meandering that way, pointing roughly in the direction of the downstream marker if you can see it.
If you can't see it, don't worry, you will soon enough. Just trust the crossing sign and start heading over.
This helps some people. Think of the river as a 5 lane highway. You'll only use lanes 1 and 5 when landing or launching. You'll spend most of your time in lanes 2, 3 and 4. So if you're in lane 4 and you see a green crossing sign on your right, you'll start angling toward the downstream (red) checkered sign on your left (and up to mile away!) and you'll end up in lane 2 by the time you get there.
Lanes 1 and 5 will often be impassable due to wing dikes (rock structures built into the river to channel flow and maintain the navigation channel) These structures are usually on the non-channel side. You'll see these by the ripples they create on the surface of the water. Wing dikes are handy as slack water areas. Because they are slack water, you don't want to paddle there routinely because the water is slow! So you will use the navigation aids on shore to avoid these.
Now, what does this have to do with barge traffic? Because the barges are huge and draft up to 9 feet of water (meaning some may need 9 feet of depth just to move) they HAVE to stay in this navigation channel. You, on the other hand, do NOT. You can paddle in 1 foot of water if you have to. So, if you see a barge coming upstream towards you or downstream behind you, you need to exit the navigation channel.
And more than that, you'll need to calculate where you and barge will intersect so that you are avoiding his path when you meet. So if you see him a half mile downstream, figure where he needs to be as you pass, then make sure you're not there.
If you really want to get simple... and believe me, simple is good out there... just get out of the navigation channel when you see a barge. And stay out until you've passed. You can still keep paddling downstream. You'll just have to yield that fast, deep water to him and you can make do with the shallow, slightly slower water.
A common mistake is to move out of channel and keep paddling in the off channel water... but you've ignored the fact that it's a crossing and so your off-channel side is slowly becoming the channel side. And so even though you may be on opposite sides of the river now, your side is slowly becoming the channel side and so he is steering right towards you.
The captains of these boats just like for you to be consistent and not make sudden, radical, last second decisions. It is very difficult for them to stop these boats or to make quick course changes.
I don't want this to be source of anxiety as you prepare. It's really not rocket science. It's just barge science. Which on the totem pole hierarchy of science difficulty, is well below rocket science. No offense to all you barge scientists.
So, once you've decided which side of the river to pass the barge, you'll next assess the size of the wake being produced. If it's a heavy load being pushed upstream, the wake can be substantial and may be more than you want to deal with. If it's a light load or a moderate load moving downstream, the wake might be easy and even fun. It's a personal decision based on your paddling skill and boat. But if the wake is crazy high, it might not be a bad idea to just pull behind a wing dam and wait for things to calm down.
Getting behind a wing dam or pulling to shore on the non channel side is not necessarily time wasted. You can do things while you wait that are valuable like stretch, apply sunscreen, fix rigging, etc. But flipping your boat over in a barge wake is NOT fun and will end up costing you far more time (and lost gear if you haven't secured your boat)
For your reference on an average year we probably pass 3 barges. That's one every 113 miles. It's not a common thing and is usually anticlimactic. For those who have paddled the Missouri or other commercial rivers, you understand the dynamic. For those who have not, you will get it figured out after 20 miles of using the navigation aids.
DREDGES and PARKED BARGES.
Dredges are usually parked midstream and are harvesting sand from the river bottom. They stay in place, night and day, and we'll probably pass 4 dredges during the race. Maybe 5.
Dredges in the daytime:
These can be busy hubs of activity. There's the dredge itself, which looks a bit like a towboat with some sort of giant rusty chainsaw mounted on front. Then there's the sand barge parked alongside that is slowly being filled with sand. THEN there is the small towboat that is carrying an empty sand barge to replace the full one so he can take the full one to shore for further processing. Whew!
Obviously, you want to miss the dredge itself. Easy enough in the daylight. Be aware that it usually has some cables that feed out the front and down into the water. Miss these too while you're at it.
But besides missing the dredge, you'll want to stay away from the towboat running back and forth every 40 minutes or so. Again, this is just an awareness thing. He'll be watching for you and expecting you to be consistent in your steering. Plenty of rooms for all parties to do their thing.
Dredges at night:
The good news is the dredges usually keep a 7am to 5pm kind of schedule. So after 5pm they're pretty easy to pass. But once it gets dark you'll want to be extra vigilant. Because they just leave them parked in the river all night. They are supposed to have a light on both ends but this can vary. A light can burn out or it can be so dim it's confused with moonlight on the water or another canoe stern. So keep your eyes open and pay attention with your ears as well. You'll hear water rushing around the bow of a dredge a good distance before you could see it in the dark.
This is the same as with a barge parked along shore at night. They are sometimes not lit very well or even at all. It would be dangerous to get pinned between the current and a parked dredge or barge. The danger is the current could force you and your boat under the object. This is a very unlikely scenario of paddling in good conditions (no fog) under a moon (not a rainstorm) during the 340. Usually, you can see everything pretty well.
You're required to carry a hand held, strong flashlight. This will allow you to occasionally sweep the river ahead for obstacles if visibility is poor. You do not need to keep it on for more than a few seconds. Just sweep the river ahead. Turn it off. Paddle another quarter mile and repeat. But with the moon up and no fog, you would rarely need it.
Only a fool paddles in fog and we will address that in another dispatch.
Other Motor Craft:
You will see many fishermen and other motorboats on the water. Never assume they can see you and be ready to get their attention if you don't think they have spotted you. There are fishermen who run lines at night and know the river in the dark. But they may not know you're out there. Make sure your nav lights are bright and functioning. Make sure you have your flashlight handy to signal your presence if needed. Do not paddle in fog as you will be invisible with low fog while they may be able to see just fine from their position 5 feet up... but you'll just be a log they thought they hit.
Well, there you have it. A quick lesson on how not to get crushed, pinned, run over or chopped to shreds. Common sense is always the best choice. Paddling the Missouri is very safe and enjoyable. Interstate 70 is far more dangerous. You just have to remain alert and think ahead a few steps.
We will leave it there for this dispatch. Please check the roster and make sure your boat number and other information is correct. And if you're still missing a partner please get them to sign up by May 15th so we can move forward with planning.
More to come soon.
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Reply #8 -
05/26/16 at 14:41:16
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
Fog And Other Weather
Ah, the fog dispatch. Frequently ignored, with regret, by dozens of paddlers each year. But for those who are smart enough to read on, here you go.
We will have fog at some point of the race. It's a given. Some years it's light enough to pick your way through. Others it is so thick you can't see the nose of your boat and you should absolutely pull over.
But wait! you say... I have a gps with a map of the river. I can paddle by staring at my screen and keeping the little triangle in the middle of the lines, right.
Right. You can keep in the middle of the river. But what else is in the middle of the river with you? A buoy? Made of steel and cabled to a cement block on the river bed? How about a dredge moored midstream? What about a barge moving upstream? His pilothouse up so high he can see above the fog... not to mention his radar. A heavy fog settled on the river 20 feet deep isn't going to slow him down. And when he hits you he won't even feel it. Or know it.
Every year we post this and every year we say it in the safety meeting. And sure enough every year there will be fog building one night starting around 3am. I will be at a checkpoint having barely made it in before things got too nasty. And I'll sit and watch 6 or 7 boats take off into the fog. I'll give my little speech and they'll tell me not to worry. By 7am when the fog has lifted I'll pass them and they'll almost invariably say it was a bad decision. They got turned around or separated and struggled to make it back to some desolate shore where the muddy steep bank was inhospitable and they spent those hours hanging on to a tree root and wishing they never left.
Would you ever paddle the Missouri at night, blindfolded? Neither would I. But our faith in our phones or GPS units makes us feel invincible. But so much can go wrong.
I understand that it's a race and laying over for a few hours seems like bad strategy, but suffering out on the river paddling terrified figure 8s is not helping. Spending those few hours catching some good, healing sleep will pay dividends for the rest of the race. So when the fog gets thick, do everyone a favor and find a good place to pull over and rest. It won't be that long before you're back on the water.
If you really want to talk strategy, let's talk about making the most of when conditions are near perfect. When the moon is bright and the sky is clear and you're alert and efficient...KEEP GOING. Wait until one of your variables fails you. Too tired to focus? Pull over. Fog starts building? Pull over. Storm starts brewing? Pull over. But if all those boxes are unchecked and life is good... keep making miles. Because there absolutely will come a time when you will have a convincing reason to get off the river and rest. Lack of alertness or visibility are two very good ones.
Storms are another given for the 340. At minimum, we will typically see rain. Again, common sense is key. If you were on your own on a multi day expedition and the wind picked up and lightning became visible and audible, you'd of course pull off the river and hunker down until it passed. Same logic should be followed during the 340. There will not be some signal issued from us for you to take cover. We are too busy taking cover. And we are assuming you're doing the same. Our safety boats and shore side volunteers are all behaving in this common sense way and so will most paddlers and ground crews. Please pull off the river while conditions will allow for a safe, controlled landing at a site of your choosing.
Sounds impossible during a midwest summer, I know. But we see near cases every year. Especially after a rainstorm at night. Your body regulates temperature by burning calories if you're cold or sweating if you're hot. You will be burning massive amounts of calories this week. Some will even get into a caloric deficit where they are burning more than they are taking in. This won't last long as you will bonk and be unable to find the energy to keep going. But when this happens you will also start to shiver and you're at risk of hypothermia.
When we pull a paddler off the water with these symptoms we do a couple things right away. We make sure they are in dry clothes and we get them into a sleeping bag aboard a safety boat. We also feed them. Food is the fuel their body needs to warm back up. But it's hard to eat if you're shivering uncontrollably.
So there are some obvious things to prevent this situation. One is to be ready for the nighttime temperatures. It may only get down to 80 degrees overnight, but that's still cooler than your 98.6. Plus, you'll be wet. It's a good idea to bring a windbreaker aboard at night. These weigh next to nothing but can feel really good. Put it on and then put your required PFD over the jacket. This will trap the heat and keep you going. You are also required to have a foil "space" blanket for each paddler aboard your boat. These are super handy and can warm you right up if you pull over to sleep. I've also seen people wrap their torso in these and then put the PFD on over it to stay warm at night.
Another strategy that works if you feel the shivers coming on is to do some sprints. These can and probably should be short. 20-30 strokes just to get the blood flowing. This can warm you right up but ONLY if you've been eating.
Try to keep your food intake consistent. You should introduce a pretty steady stream of calories. Some of this can be via what you're drinking but you should also be eating to prevent stomach problems. There's a temptation to buy lots of gel packs and things to get your calories and these are fine to have along if you've trained with them but you shouldn't introduce a bunch of new stuff the week of the race.
This is a chance to eat lots of fatty junk food and burn it off by the time it hits your stomach. Think of your body as a bonfire quickly converting fuel into energy. You would want to feed that fire steadily to keep it at maximum burn. Let it die too low, you got problems. Overload it with too many logs, you can slow it down. You have to find that sweet spot where you're snacking steadily and keeping your energy up. This will help you regulate energy and temperature. Especially at night.
Peanuts and chips are great quick energy food to have on your boat. They both come in handy waterproof packaging and are easy to shove in your mouth and keep paddling. Everyone has their own secret formula for what to bring and when to eat it. You should be training with this in mind or doing some of the other races with this goal. Be aware that if you are your partner aren't drinking or eating very much, there is a problem brewing. If you don't "feel" hungry and you've been paddling all day, that's a bad sign. Try eating something and get your stomach kick started again.
You will get some crazy cravings out there. And maybe you're an ultra vegan while training but you're body might be demanding a juicy double cheeseburger with onions and peanut butter during the race. It's likely your body is smarter than you in these moments and you should follow your innermost caveman. There will be food served by volunteer scout groups and the like at most checkpoints. Your ground crew will also be eager to bring you food. Don't hesitate to request what sounds good and enjoy it.
Please don't skip this.
This will be a test of your body unlike anything most of you have ever done. It will call for a super human effort. Your body can do it, if you give your body what it needs to do it.
There is no perfect substitute for training to learn what your body needs for fluid intake. Because of this, there is a tendency to carry far too much liquid aboard your boat. This is better than not enough, but because there is an efficiency penalty for carrying extra weight, it's good to figure what you'll need.
Doing some 30-40 mile trips paddling at a moderate pace would be a good way to estimate. That's roughly the distance between checkpoints. A couple are longer but you'll have a good idea what you need. Like food, you want to keep sipping that liquid as you paddle so your body's cooling system works properly.
Many different hydration systems can be rigged on your boat so that you don't even have to stop paddling to drink. Systems designed for bike racing are handy for canoe racing with drink tubes and bite valves sitting right under your chin and ready for sipping.
As for what to drink, that's also a function of personal preference and training. There are some rules of thumb.
1. AVOID High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
This is good advice for everyone, period. HFCS is a food industry shortcut to increase profits. It is not good for your body. Especially not in a high stress environment. It's used to sweeten food and drinks because it's cheaper than good old sugar. But your body knows what to do with sugar. It has a harder time with HFCS. It can cause stomach cramps and worse. Don't let it on your boat. Most soda like Coke has it now, sadly. But you can find some varieties that are going back to real sugar. Throwback Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper all exist and are easy to find. These are great things to have in your ground crew vehicle for a special boost on the river. And obviously make sure any type of sport hydration drink does not contain HFCS. Gatorade does not contain it anymore. But some do.
2. Water is great, but...
Nothing wrong with good old, ice cold water. But because you're going through literally gallons a day, you have to be sure you're replacing electrolytes. Lack of electrolytes has killed ultra marathon racers. Electrolytes are found in almost everything we eat, so if you're eating real food and drinking water, you are most likely fine. Some drinks, like gatorade, contain electrolytes.
Some folks will mix gatorade and water so they have a less sweet drink that they enjoy. Also fine. But under all circumstances, you should be eating salty, fatty foods on a routing basis for best results.
3. Keep it cool.
You will help your body regulate temperature during the hot days by drinking cool liquids. Having a ground crew makes this easy. When you pull up they take out your warm, nearly empty jugs and replace them with full, iced down drinks.
The number one physical ailment that has sent racers home early is heat exhaustion. It seems to be especially common on day one and most common among those in the middle to front of the pack. These folks are pushing hard to pass or not be passed and so they ride close to their limit for extended periods. Like any machine pushed hard, things can fail and fall apart. We have to be aware of our limits and watch for signs. Headache, nausea, lethargy, incoherence, cramping... all signs of impending, spiraling problems. Well before the cramping or incoherence, there are things that you and your ground crew should be doing.
1. Drink steadily the appropriate, cool liquids.
2. Slow down.
3. Stay wet. (you're surrounded by 80 degree water. Use it. Especially on your head)
4. Wear protective clothing to block sun. (hats, light colored wicking paddling shirts, sunscreen)
The above are things you do to maintain a healthy equilibrium so there are NOT problems. If problems do manifest either on the water or at a checkpoint. Stop and ask for help! Things can go bad very quickly. We've had ambulances at Lexington more times than I can count. If things are getting bad out on the water, flag down a safety boat or another paddler and ask for help.
What should you do as a ground crew or paddler if you are with someone who needs help?
If another paddler flags you down or you notice a paddler in a poor state, act fast. Recruit other paddlers if available. If it's heat distress, try to get them to shallow water immediately. A sandbar or gently sloping bank is ideal. Use your phone to contact our safety team and we'll send a safety boat right away. If the situation has reached the point of calling 911, absolutely do so, but also contact us because our boats can get there faster and can assist until help arrives.
If on a sandbar or shallow, slack water area, a responsive paddler can immerse themselves by sitting in the water. This will cool them quickly. Try to shade them as much as possible. If the paddler is NOT responsive or even close to borderline, keep them on firm ground and keep them wet and shaded until help arrives. PFD should remain on if near the water.
Best case scenario is nobody gets to the point where they can't manage their own cooling. If you are being proactive and honest with yourself you'll be smart and make adjustments well before things get bad. Slow down, stay wet, stay hydrated.
Apps and Gadgets.
Each year the paddler has more information at their fingertips while out on the water. Because a phone is required, many folks take their trusty smartphone and requisite waterproofing and charging gear along. Some apps you should consider...
Jon Marble (MarbleWare)
MR340 PRO Paddler
MR340 Checkpoint Texter
Both are great and will give you and your ground crew easy options for texting in at each checkpoint. PRO Paddler has some really nifty navigation and speed stuff too.
Shows radar and predictive path of storms up to one hour.
And a reminder that there is a great book about the 340 written by a paddler available on Amazon in paperback or electronically.
We are still waiting for a handful of TBD partners. Please get this handled asap so we can finalize our planning for July!
It's going to be a blast!
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Reply #9 -
06/02/16 at 23:18:45
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
RaceOwl, Ground Crew and Checking In
Back in the old days of the MR340, we used to have poor souls chained to boat ramps with pencils and clipboards signing racers in and out. Then, when the checkpoint closed we'd look to see who did or didn't sign in and we'd freak out and make dozens of phone calls and figure out everyone was fine and then we'd move on down the river and do it all over again.
And that was when we only allowed 150 boats.
Finally, thanks to some smart people and some smart phones we've made the leap into the 21st century. Jeff Ilseman, Hogan Haake and Jon Marble (all 340 veterans) have combined to invent RaceOwl.com and some associated tech that make tracking racers easy for our safety teams AND spectators watching online.
Here's the basics.
Every boat is required to carry a phone. Been the rule since 2006 when the race was born. Now, instead of checking in via pencil and clipboard, you check in with a text message to a designated phone number. Those texts, if formatted perfectly, get instantly posted to RaceOwl. And if they aren't formatted perfectly, then a nearly perfect human being will process the text. This is good because sometimes you'll say something like "This Sux" and we will laugh and post your time out of Miami at 3am.
The format in a perfect world would look like this:
Boat Number(space)Checkpoint(space)Day Of The Week(space)4 digit time am/pm(space) In or Out
Example 1: 1166 Lexington Tue 05:08pm In
Example 2: 0011 Katfish Katy Thur 04:45am Out
Again, it's not a huge deal if you mess up the format. Just be sure we have the basics like boat number, checkpoint, and date/time. Our crew can figure it out and can text you back if they have a question.
If you REALLY want to get slick you and your ground crew go to the apple or android app store and download the free MR340 Checkpoint Text app from MarbleWare This is sweet. You just select the checkpoint, and select IN or OUT and it does the rest for you. There is even a space for you to post a message. For example, if you were dropping out at Glasgow you'd choose "Glasgow" and then type "we are pulling out of the race" then hit send and you're done. Download this app and play with it. We will use it in a future dispatch to test everyone out on RaceOwl. That way we will know who is paying attention.
So now you have the basics of the check in system. There are 8 checkpoints where you or your ground crew will HAVE to do this. These are the same checkpoints where we have our cutoff times. You will be a pro by checkpoint 2. Don't sweat this. We will do practice texts in the future and get you dialed in. Though you may have to train some of the older generation.
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.
For clarification, you do not have to stop at a checkpoint. But you do have to check in. This can be done from your boat or by your ground crew on shore. You do need to paddle close enough to shore for them to confirm that it is you. You should be within voice distance so there is zero confusion if that was you or not.
This is not something to skip or ignore. You are responsible for doing this. If you don't check in, we assume the worst and have to pull resources to go find you. It is frustrating to learn later that you just couldn't be bothered with such a detail and paddled on by. This is also grounds for disqualification... pretty standard penalty for an ultra marathon adventure race of any kind. And if you decide to pull out of the race, you definitely have to text that in and let us know. Otherwise we look for you.
This brings us to ground crew. 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 her 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 texts 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.
Repeat: UNSUPPORTED PADDLERS MUST HAVE A GROUND CREW IN REGULAR CONTACT WITH THEM DURING THE RACE.
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.
Last year was the biggest field of racers we'd ever had. We have similar numbers this year. That means the early checkpoints like Lexington, Waverly and Miami are going to be very crowded. 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.
There are also many other ramps where you can meet your paddler besides the checkpoints. This is where your strategy and planning comes into play. Stop at Ft. Osage for resupply? Then you can probably skip a stop at Lexington. Or maybe stop at Lexington and get enough to make Miami so you can skip Waverly. All options exist if you know the river and the non checkpoint ramps. To help with your planning, here are links to some good map pages of the river. These will be good to have in your ground crew vehicle OR with your virtual ground crew back home.
Please note that it is impractical to meet at any ramp that is upstream on a tributary. Please also note that it is not legal to have your ground crew trespass on private property or to resupply by boat. Let me know if you have questions on this.
Being a ground crew can be a ton of fun on this race. There are all kinds of tricks and strategies that emerge and your ground crew may surprise you at several spots you aren't expecting them. And they'll make friends along the way with perfect strangers, just like you will. And the cool thing is, the paddlers you hang with will be related to the ground crews they are hanging with... So lots of opportunity for cooperation and helping each other.
Well, that's a bunch to digest. I'm happy to answer questions. Here's a list of some things to keep you busy before the next dispatch.
1. Put numbers on your boat. Minimum 3inch high and reflective. Both sides of your bow.
2. Put nav lights on your boat. Red/Green on bow. White stern.
3. Practice and train.
4. Figure out where the safety meeting is held.
5. Figure out where Kaw Point is.
6. Download the MR340 Checkpoint Text app from MarbleWare. Play around with it.
7. Train your ground crew on the checkpoint app.
8. Review maps with ground crew and make a plan.
9. If you don't have a physical ground crew, find one. If you can't find one, get your plan squared with your virtual ground crew so they are accountable for hearing from you on a regular basis.
10. Get a comfortable PFD that you can wear from gun to finish line.
Talk to you soon.
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Reply #10 -
06/07/16 at 09:41:28
I have been paddling our river many years and didn't know that the day markers were angled in the general direction of a channel crossing. I just thought they would be repaired when the work boat came thru next. Thanks
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Reply #11 -
06/21/16 at 12:08:19
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
4 weeks from this message we will be at Kaw Point launching hundreds of human powered craft for the world's longest non-stop river race. Things are moving along well at our end. We hope your planning and preparation is going great.
Please, please re-read the previous dispatches and make sure you're clear on when and where you sign in on Monday, July 18th for the MANDATORY safety meeting.
Also, we hope you've taken the opportunity to download the MR340 Checkpoint Text In app made by Jon Marble of Marbleware. This will be a very valuable tool to help you and your ground crew keep you checked in at each checkpoint. The app is FREE. Download it and test it to make sure you know how to use it. Super simple. Type in a boat number, choose a checkpoint from the drop down menu, hit IN or OUT. Done.
Please check the roster at
and make sure you see your name and everything is correct. IF it says you need a new boat number please contact me immediately. If it says your partner is TBD please get your partner registered. If you've written us to say you can't make it, your name will likely still be up there. That's ok. We will account for you at the sign in and determine no shows at that point.
A few questions I've received recently should probably be listed here because it's likely some of you have the same questions.
Does my boat need nav lights?
Yes, all boats are required to have nav lights. Red and green on front, white at the back. These are the best we've seen out there.
These will burn 100+ hours no problem. Glow sticks ARE NOT good enough to meet Coast Guard requirements as nav lights. These led lights above can be seen from over a mile away. Glow sticks are nowhere near that good and are hard to distinguish from starlight or moonlight on the water.
Does Rivermiles supply our boat numbers?
No. You will need to get reflective numbers minimum of 3 inches high placed on both sides of your bow. These are basically mailbox numbers and can be found at any hardware store.
Is Katfish Katy's still a checkpoint?
Yes. Katfish Katy's was sold over the winter and is being converted into river side venue for food and music. They are renting the grounds to Rivermiles for the two days that we use it for a checkpoint. It is locked up otherwise and can't be used for training runs.
Do we have to stop at each checkpoint?
No. You can float on by as long as you check in (or have your ground crew check you in) as you pass the checkpoint.
What if we don't have a cell signal at a checkpoint.
You can ask one of our volunteers aboard the safety boat stationed there to text for you. Or, you can text later after you get a signal. Very often, your ground crew will have a signal as soon as they drive up the hill from the riverbank. It's no big deal to wait and text us a bit later as long as we get the message.
How much water should we carry between checkpoints?
That's a very personal decision that is hopefully made based on training runs. You don't want to carry too much and weigh yourselves down, but you sure don't want to run out. The good thing is, if you know after a few miles that you're carrying far too much, you can dump some out. IF you find you're carrying too little and think you're going to get in trouble, flag down a safety boat and they will give you some water in an emergency.
That first 50 mile stretch to Lexington will teach you a lot. If you have a ground crew, have them shadow you at a ramp in between KC and Lexington (there are a few) and you can holler at them if you need to stop and get more water.
You will use more water during the day than you do at night.
Can my ground crew meet me at Hills Island?
Hills Island is only accessible by water.
Can my ground crew meet me at places besides boat ramps?
Only public places reachable by car are allowed for handoffs. We do not allow handoffs by boat out on the water. We do not allow trespassing on private land. There are plenty of places for legal handoffs.
Can we leave our boat at a checkpoint and sleep in a hotel for a few hours?
Yes, if you've banked enough time for this luxury, AND if you inform the safety boat there, AND if you are back well before the checkpoint closes. We can't leave the checkpoint until all boats have left. Nothing irritates a safety boat like sitting in the hot sun waiting on one canoe to leave while the paddlers are snoring in an air conditioned hotel room somewhere.
Do I have to leave my smart phone on the entire time I'm paddling?
No, but check it from time to time. Your ground crew, virtual or physical, should have theirs on non-stop.
Is there food and water available at the checkpoints?
Yes. Most are non-profit operations like boy scout troops and the like. They cook and sell basic burgers and hotdog fare and sell water and gatorade most places. Some are higher end food like a bbq truck at Katfish Katy's and Thai food at Cooper's Landing.
If you are far at the back of the pack, pickings can get scarce at these places as they tend to pack up and leave if there are just a handful of boats hours behind. Our safety boats won't let you starve. But staying up with the pack is the best strategy.
Will my spouse, grandparents, etc, be able to find the checkpoints?
Yes, and they will be part of a traveling circus of ground crews. Tough to get lost in that conga line. Get them some maps (in a previous dispatch) and type them up some instructions if need be. But they will have hours of time to kill between checkpoints. Even if they get lost, they'll have time to get lost again and one more time.
What time is the awards ceremony?
7pm Friday night. Not every boat will be in. Finish deadline is midnight.
Do we have to attend awards?
No. If you plan to leave early, visit our finish line headquarters (motor home at finish line) and ask for your trophy or medal early.
What's the toughest checkpoint cutoff time to make?
Lexington. Followed by Waverly. If you can make those two... and drift gently through the night to Miami, you've set yourself up nice for the rest of the race. I'd say Glasgow can be tough for those who linger too long at Miami. But if you can make Glasgow, take a little two hour nap and get out of there before sunset...you got this.
If you're feeling like you'll likely be near the back of the pack but you are determined to finish, here's your daily schedule.
Day 1: Kaw Point to Hills Island
Day 2: Hills Island to Katfish Katy's. (or Franklin Island Access, minimum)
Day 3: Katfish Katy's to Hermann
Day 4: Hermann to St. Charles.
We know this works because this is the formula the last dozen boats end up using every year. But it's all predicated on making Lexington and Waverly day 1. Not a lot of margin for error on day 1. You have to stay in the boat and keep a rhythm. You can put the paddle down to eat, or pee, or do a quick stretch while drifting.. But that's about it.
And to help you keep a good pace, may we introduce...
The Reaper is one of our safety boats. But it also plays the role of pace boat, traveling exactly the minimum speed required to
make the checkpoint cutoff times. This offers you a very visual representation of where the moving cutoff time is on any given mile of the course.
The Reaper will leave Kaw Point at approximately 8:05am after the tandem boats have all started. The Reaper crew has an itinerary minute by minute of each mile marker and when to pass there. If you see the Reaper approaching, or passing, it's time to pick up the pace. If the Reaper arrives at a checkpoint before you do... you are out of the race.
The Reaper is identified by a yellow safety boat flag. All our safety boats fly this yellow flag. In addition, the Reaper flies a large black flag with the race logo. This is flown about 10 feet above the water. No other safety boat does this. The Reaper is also singled out by a pair of demonic eyes on her front windshield. Safe to say, you will know it's the Reaper. Tall, black flag... red, evil eyes.
There are times where the Reaper is not acting as a pace boat. This is likely on Day 2. More likely on Day 3. Very likely on Day 4. That's because those still in the race on those days are usually well ahead of cutoff times and so the Reaper would be all alone, miles behind the pack. That's a waste of a good safety boat so we lower her flag to signal that she's not in "Reaper Mode" and she is stationed to fill gaps along the course.
I'd guess the Reaper "reaps" 5-6 boats at Lexington on a normal water year. Probably another 5-6 at Waverly. But very few, if ever at Miami. And I don't think it has ever caught anyone at Glasgow or below.
Reaper spends night one at Hills Island. But she is up at dawn and on the hunt again at first light.
The dispatches will be more frequent now that we're in the home stretch. Visit this thread often and feel free to post questions here or send them to me.
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Reply #12 -
06/27/16 at 14:20:31
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
3 weeks to go...
Yes, in 3 short weeks, we will all be gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KANSAS for sign in and the MANDATORY safety meeting. Sign in starts as early as 1pm and goes until 6pm. Safety Meeting starts promptly at 7pm. It is typically standing room only and there are about 1200 folks who attend.
The Hilton has a nice place to eat upstairs from the ballrooms and they also offer a pasta/salad meal down in the ballrooms. There is table seating on the left side of the room and row seating on the right.
After the safety meeting folks disperse pretty quickly to try and sleep (hard to do) or make last minute supply runs, adjustments to boats, etc. If you have last minute questions after the meeting we will have some veterans (ground crew and paddlers) available at the front of the room to field some questions and ease some jitters.
On a related note, if you are a veteran of the race and are willing to come up after the meeting and field a few questions, that helps folks a bunch. We tried this last year with great success. Rather than a line of folks waiting for me, we had 5 or 6 veterans and we answered everyone in about 3 minutes.
Speaking of questions! Many ground crews are trying to piece together their maps and plans for the upcoming ordeal. Here's a great link from the forum that will do 90% of the work for you.
These ground crew guidebooks have been produced over the years by lots of great teams. They are up for you to download and print. Be aware that some of the information may have changed as road construction, etc. has evolved. But it's a great starting point and you can just amend these with a pencil as you make your real life plans for the week of the race.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
PFDs are REQUIRED by the COAST GUARD to be worn at all times during the MR340. It's part of our permit with them and part of our insurance. This is the seat belt of paddling. Can you still have a bad outcome with a PFD? Yes. But the odds are so greatly reduced that only a fool would not wear one.
I am sure you are an excellent swimmer, but please understand that we often find ourselves swimming when our bodies are not at their best. This race will grind your body up. So imagine trying to swim to your boat with leg cramps from dehydration. Or back spasms from being in the boat all day. Or a blown out shoulder from a carp smacking you. Or you've passed out from heat exhaustion. I can keep going. Just wear your PFD.
Yes, these can be hot, yes they can be uncomfortable, yes they can chafe. Do you want your headstone to read, "At Least He Wasn't Chafing?" Didn't think so.
Besides, there are many good PFDs out there built for paddling. AND there are many built for fishing that are similar. Both have mesh top halves for easy arm movement. Sweet little pockets in front for chapstick or a small flashlight.
There are also the CO2 inflating PFDs. These do meet our minimum Coast Guard requirements. These often require action on the part of the paddler to inflate. Pull a tab, etc. Some paddlers will wear these during the day and switch to a traditional PFD at night when it's cooler.
KAW POINT STUFF
Kaw Point Park, our starting line, was not built with the idea that 1200 people would descend upon it all at once. Parking is pretty limited. We can probably fit about half of the likely 500 cars in there. The rest will be parking outside the flood walls at the new Kaw Point Industrial Park that was under construction last year. It is done. They are allowing us to park there on the back (Missouri River) side of the building from 5am to 8am on race day.
If you have a trailer or motor home, you will need to park there regardless. Otherwise, it's first come first serve at Kaw Point Park.
For this reason, it is highly recommended that you stage your boat at the park on MONDAY, the day before the race. We will have security there to watch over the safety boats and the canoes. This will start no later than noon.
Folks will stage boats (stage is a fancy term for "lay it on the ground") along the shady trail that leads to the point. Once that's full they will start staging them along the steep slope above the lower road or the grass on the upper level, etc. DON'T leave your paddles or other expensive gear in the boat. All that can be carried down on Tuesday. Our security guys will have a roster printed with your name and boat number. They won't question anyone carrying a boat in but they would find it highly suspicious if someone was carrying a boat OUT and would ask for name and ID. We've never had a problem before and we can't be liable for damage or loss, but it's definitely to your advantage to get the boat off your car before Tuesday morning.
If this doesn't work for you, just plan to get to Kaw Point early on Tuesday morning. Early like 5am if you want to get close and unload that morning.
The lower ramp area will be closed to vehicle traffic starting about 5am. This is per the Fire Department.
Safety Boat Stuff
Our talented and veteran crews aboard safety boats are there for you. Many of them start from Kaw Point and spread along the course for the entire trip to St. Charles. Others are staged at specific spots along the way.
At the start of the race, all the paddlers are bunched together and so our many of our safety boats. As Day 1 turns into Day 2, you guys will be more spread out and we try to spread our boats accordingly.
If you find yourself in need of assistance, you will need to get a safety boat's attention. It's a big river and so shouting is not always effective. We look for arms waving. Not a wave like "hi" which is fine and we will wave back... but a more demonstrative wave like "Hey, over here!" And we'll be happy to drift your way and assist.
You can also call our safety dispatch on your phone and we will send the nearest boat. It helps if you have your approximate mile marker. This is why we collect "boat color" information from during registration. It's much easier to find the boat that called if we narrow it down to a color.
If you are on shore and need help it's especially tough to miss you. Keep your beached boat in plain sight even if you are up in the shade of the treeline. Our safety boats are instructed to investigate any boat pulled up on shore. This can be annoying if you're just taking a nap or answering nature's call up in the trees... but it's essential to making sure you're ok and not in distress of any kind.
Often, especially day 2 and beyond, our boats will pass you and offer a "thumbs up." We typically do this to a paddler that is isolated without company in sight behind them. We want to make sure you're doing well. If you see us give the thumbs up, we are asking you to return a thumbs up so we know all is well.
If you're surrounded by other folks, we typically don't do this. That's because the best safety net out there are your fellow paddlers. One of the great advantages of 400 boats is that you are rarely alone. There is always someone watching you. Someone you just passed or someone about to pass you. Every paddler is eager to help a fellow voyageur out on the river. If you aren't feeling well, ask for help. Also, if you see a paddler who doesn't seem to be doing well, call us or wave us down.
As mentioned before, safety boats will happily share water with you if you've run out between checkpoints. But getting our attention is the key. Especially after day 1, you can't count on a safety boat being right there when you need it. It would more likely require a phone call. You can also ask a fellow paddler if you're desperate for fluids. Toughing it out and having medical distress is a bad decision. Always ask for help if you need it.
One more thing about our safety boats. Yes, they produce a wake. For those who have driven motorboats, you know there are two ways to minimize your wake. Go extremely slow, which is what we do most of the time... or go extremely fast. Going fast lifts the boat up and out of the water and so displaces less water and produces a smaller wake. So, you will mostly see our boats going very slow... or going very fast. We only go very fast if something has come up and we need to be somewhere quickly. It is not likely you'd see us going medium speed because this produces the largest wake of all. Rest assured, we do not seek to rock your boat. But at times we have to create some waves to get somewhere fast.
Kids and Safety
Kids love the MR340 and seem to thrive as ground crew, catching frogs and lightning bugs, getting muddy, staying up late, etc. Be sure to watch your kids and everyone else's when driving around checkpoints. Also, a couple checkpoints have train tracks that run through them. Waverly especially is dangerous. It's easy for a kid to get distracted and be in the wrong place.
Finally, we've had a couple close calls with kids swimming at checkpoints. It's fun to cool off and splash on the boat ramps but know that the boat ramps continue to slope down deeper into the water and are usually very slippery the further down you go. Kids lose their footing and suddenly their floating, not standing. And then the river starts to move them away from you. Shoes are also essential along the river bank as there are sometimes fish hooks or bits of glass.
Random Tips and Tricks
Use sunscreen. You should start the race slathered in it.
Use sunglasses. Have extra.
Use SPF lip balm. Keep it with you.
Wear wicking, light colored clothing. Long sleeves are good.
Wear a hat. Bring an extra.
Pay attention to your hands. Deal with hotspots early before they become problems. Adjust your grip to protect trouble spots. Have duct tape or other means to protect hands as they slowly get destroyed.
Use hydropel or other similar lube to coat all your nether regions. This will save you from chafing and sores. Reapply frequently.
Do everything possible in the boat. Eat, drink, pee, rest. Far better to rest while the river pushes you 3mph than to sit on shore for an hour and go nowhere. Shore is for sleeping only. Though I've seen some tandem teams figure out how to sleep one paddler at a time while underway. This is not
allowed for solos.
Don't pull over to sleep until you KNOW you are tired enough to sleep. There's a difference between "tired" and "TIRED." TIRED means you are starting to nod off while paddling and any patch of sand or mud will have you snoring. As opposed to "tired" which means it's past your normal bedtime and you yawned. If you try to sleep somewhere when you're just "tired" you will toss and turn and be uncomfortable. But TIRED brings the most glorious sleep you've ever known. Instant dreams as soon as your head hits the mud. This is tough to achieve until Day 2. But you know your body. Sleep when your body tells you it's time.
Treat your partner nicely. Only call them the names you'd want to be called. Only tell them they smell like things you'd want to be told you smell like.
Love your volunteers. Shower them with praise. They are there because they love the race and like to watch crazy people have fun.
AND...remember to have fun. Don't turn the race into a death march of self imposed deadlines or goals. Enjoy the camaraderie, the sunsets, the sunrises, rain showers, shooting stars and the gorgeous moon. Even though you'll have some of the most miserable moments of your life out there, they are always balanced by some real epiphanies about who you are or who you will be.
And nothing beats a good hallucination from time to time.
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Reply #13 -
06/27/16 at 20:39:24
Lees Summit, Mo
And if you find yourself around the bluffs North of I-70 (near Rocheport I believe) at dusk; slow down, let the darkness get a little deeper and check out the multitude of bats that descend upon the water from the caves. It's a really cool experience
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Reply #14 -
07/04/16 at 22:55:47
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
The rainstorm that swamped the entire lower Missouri valley raised some gauges as much as 9 feet. But thanks to a very dry June we were well positioned to absorb this heavy rain and no gauges went to flood stage along our race course. As of this post, the gauges from KC to Jeff City have crested and the rest should crest by Wednesday...
if there is no more rain.
There is rain in the forecast most of this week but here's hoping it's not significant. The ground absorbed much of the 3-5 inches we got over the weekend... but it's now saturated and the runoff from here on out will be more substantial. But all in all, we came out pretty good with two weeks to go.
Here are the things you must have aboard your person or boat the entire race.
1. PFD, worn full time.
(recommended for solos, no longer required)
3. space blanket aka foil blanket
4. matches or lighter
5. whistle attached to PFD
6. enough water to reach next checkpoint
7. cell phone in a waterproof setup (a means of charging the phone is recommended)
8. 10 feet of rope for towing or lashing boat to trees or rocks in weather
9. navigation lights
10. strong flashlight for signaling or spotting obstacles
11. reflective numbers on both sides of your bow
12. safety card (provided at registration table printed on waterproof paper)
The safety card will show you samples of how to text in at a checkpoint. It will also have the safety dispatch number if you need a safety boat to come pick you up or render some sort of assistance.
This is a minimum list. Your boat may require more.
Checking In At Checkpoints
There have been a lot of questions about this sent my way so I wanted to do my best to clear things up.
You must check in at each checkpoint. This is done via text message to a system that then enters the data into RaceOwl.com. RaceOwl allows your friends and family to watch your progress. But its main purpose is to let us know who has checked in and who has not.
So, in the simplest form, at each checkpoint, either on shore or while moving past, you or your ground crew must send a text to 816-340-6395
The text should be in this format.
boat number checkpoint day of the week time in or time out
9223 Lexington Tuesday 430pm in
4344 Waverly Tuesday 730pm in and out
5653 Miami Wednesday 310am in
followed later by...
5653 Miami Wednesday 400am out
So, you can do an individual text for in or out. OR you can do both in and out in the same text.
There are apps that will make this much simpler like the Jon Marble app "MR340 Checkpoint Texter" which you just enter your boat number and choose a checkpoint and hit send. Also, the new RaceOwl app will do this as well. Either one works. So does your regular phone texting.
You can test this now on your phone and it's not a bad idea to send a few practice texts to the phone number above. That way, you've started the text thread on your phone and so the format will be there for you to copy when the real thing comes along.
If you have a ground crew there to check you in and out, make sure they understand how to do it. Practice with them once or twice.
Here's what you send if you're pulling out of the race.
5445 Miami Wednesday 5am DNF
(Did Not Finish)
It helps us if you use DNF. Just typing OUT can be confusing.
Here's another we see often.
5445 Miami Wednesday 5am we are pulling out of the race
That works too.
Raceowl automatically processes a typical, properly formatted text with no human help. But anything outside that format is read by a human volunteer. And they can also reply. So if you sent a text like this...
5445 Wednesday 4pm in and out
You'll eventually get the reply,
What checkpoint please?
Because they are swamped with processing texts, especially early in the race, it might be a couple hours before they send that. Just amend your answer as soon as you can.
So there is a human at the other end of the line and it's really as simple as you letting another person know that you are ok and what time you got there and what time you left. Kinda like your mom.
Virtual Ground Crew
Have received a few questions about this so wanted to clarify. EVERYONE must have a ground crew. Most will have a physically present ground crew. If you lack this, please arrange a virtual ground crew who is back home in the air conditioning but is willing to keep their phone on full time and pay attention that you are where you are supposed to be.
Just like if you were going on a long paddle, you'd smartly let someone know your plan and when you intend to be home... same thing here... you're filing a "float plan" with your virtual ground crew and telling them "We will text you from Lexington by 3pm." " We will be in Jeff City by midnight and will text" etc, etc, etc. All they have to do is make sure they hear from you when you say. And they should have our safety boat dispatch number in case you are significantly late making contact with them.
That number is 913-709-0759.
It will be monitored for the entire 88 hours of the race, around the clock. It will be printed on your safety card you receive at registration.
We use a bunch of resources to track precip, weather and river levels. Steve Schnarr of Missouri River Relief compiled the key gauges at this link for you.
Now you can follow along as we get the next two weeks worth of (hopefully small) rainfall amounts as they gauges go up and down. We need the checkpoint gauges to be below flood stage for the race to go as scheduled.
So far we are looking ok to go.
If there is lightning the morning of the start, the race is delayed until the lightning threat is abated. This has happened one time in the previous 10 races. We were delayed 90 minutes. Checkpoint times were adjusted 90 minutes for day 1. 60 minutes for day 2, 30 minutes for day 3 and back on schedule for day 4. A similar formula will be used to get the race back on track from a delay. 30 minutes will be taken back each day (after day 1) until we are back on schedule or as close as possible.
This was mentioned in a previous Dispatch but I want to be sure and revisit this. Katfish Katy's was sold over the winter and the new owners are changing it in a big way. It is no longer a campground and is currently under major construction. We are renting the grounds for the period of time that the checkpoint is open. Tim Murray is back as your checkpoint host and will assist. There will be portable toilets brought in but the showers and other bathrooms are NOT in service anymore. There is one spigot functioning on the property but it is far from the ramp. Tim will keep some 5 gallon jugs filled near the ramp but may need help with this from any ground crews willing to pitch in.
We will have a food truck there serving BBQ. He will also have some drinks for sale.
For the 2017 340, Katfish Katy's will have much more to offer. But this year it's going to be sparse. Cooper's Landing is another few miles downstream and will also be open. Cooper's used to be the checkpoint and was fantastic until we outgrew his parking. We are also working on figuring out parking at Cooper's for future race years. But Cooper's is open for business and happy to serve racers and ground crews.
I think that sums things up for this Dispatch. We will send another on Monday with just ONE week to go.
Last Edit: 07/05/16 at 12:31:21 by Scott Mansker
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Reply #15 -
07/05/16 at 08:01:14
2X MR340 Veteran
I see that a spare paddle is back on the required list. I know that was an optional item last year. Can you confirm yes or no for having to take a spare on board?
Boat # 3489
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Reply #16 -
07/06/16 at 13:02:03
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
We have returned it to the optional category.
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Reply #17 -
07/06/16 at 14:24:46
Boozn Cruzn BBQN
Hi paddlers and support crews. We will be back a Katfish Katy's his year with our GREAT barbecue and drinks. We will take cash and creddit cards thiss year.
I am adding our menu. For those who arrive late at night or in the wee hours we will have a special deal for you.
Nachos $4.50 Add pulled pork for $6.50
Pigsickle (Jalapeno and cheddar brat, wrapped with bacon and smoked) $5.50
Barbecue Sundae (smoked beans, pulled pork, and slaw in a Sundae cup) $7.00
Smoked Turkey Leg $8.00
Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich Basket (Pork Loin Sandwich and 1 side) $7.00
Rib Basket ( four baby back ribs and 1 side) $8.00
Smoked Peaches $3.50
Smoked Beans $1.50
Cole Slaw $1.50
Pasta Salad $1.50
Soda Pop $1.50
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Reply #18 -
07/06/16 at 19:56:58
11X MR340 Safety Boat Pilot
Thanks! Looking forward to chowing at Katfish Katy's.
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