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Better late than never: 2017 MR340 race report (Read 669 times)
09/06/17 at 16:44:31

DeniseD   Offline
3X MR340 Veteran
4X Ground Crew Veteran
St. Louis

Posts: 93
***
 
Another race is finished. My first time paddling solo and first time in a kayak. The misadventures started on the way to Kansas City when I managed to drop my phone in a toilet!  The phone was shorting out and cycling on and off repeatedly. You absolutely have to have a working phone to race so I cleaned it frantically and then literally held it out the window at 60 mph to try to dry it out. It miraculously came back to life and the crisis was averted.  James Van Herreweghe, my paddling partner from 2015 and 2016 had offered to be my ground crew and we were in what I'm sure was the smallest support vehicle in the race a Chevy Spark. Unless someone has done support from a motorcycle or a Smart car?

The race started at 7:00 on Tuesday August 8th for the solo boats. I was somewhat late getting on the water but made it for the starting gun. Was making good time for for the first hour or so—about 8 mph until the head winds started and didn't let up for more than a few minutes. Most of the time was averaging 6.3 to 6.7 mph. Occasionally the wind would die down and speed would jump up to 7.3 to 7.8 then the wind would laugh in my face and start to blow again.

Pulled up to Ft. Osage for a hand-off from James but didn't get out of the boat. Almost missed the ramp! Passed Lexington without stopping at 2:30 pm. I think I'm making good time-similar to previous  years when I realize that I started at 7 not 8!  About every 2 hours I would get ravenously hungry and have to eat something.  Didn't keep up with my sunscreen and got a bit burned on the upper legs when my shorts rode up. Hit Waverly and my first stop at 6:30 and left at 7:30 pm after eating, bathroom visits, and stretching to get the kinks out. This was a long time on land, and this would continue to be a pattern throughout the race. Scott always advises you to eat etc in the boat, but I always eat first thing when I hit the shore and hope to visit the “facilities” before leaving. Otherwise I'm going to have to find a place to pull off 30 min later which I don't want to have to do in the dark.

The moonrise was spectacular-huge and orange and right behind a tree. Took a me a minute to figure out what it was! I tried to get a picture but couldn't get it to come out. Paddling seemed a bit easier as the wind had died back a bit and I was following the string of “fairy lights” from the boats ahead. Hit Miami about 12:30 am. I was pretty thoroughly wet from sweat and the wind blowing my paddle drips back on me. I got some food--my 2 hours was up and I was starving. When I sat down to eat I started shivering. Ironic that all my planning had gone into staying cool, and now I was cold. James had the tent set up. I always think about paddling on from Miami but haven't done yet. 3 hrs sleep at Miami or 3 hrs at Dalton bottoms still gets me into Glasgow at the same time, at least in theory.  I worry about fog or other weather rolling in and leaving me trapped on some steep & muddy riverbank unable to get any sleep. Also didn't want to ask James to drive on that late at night. Changed out of my wet clothes, cleaned up a bit, and crawled under the sleeping bag. I went right to sleep but I kept waking up having to go to the bathroom. After 3 visits in 3 hours I gave up and starting getting ready to leave. Had a hot breakfast before I hit the river.

In retrospect a few things that might have made the night stops go faster would have been to have my gear organized a bit differently (and labeled!) My meds where with the first aid kit. My clothes in a second bag. The phone charger somewhere else. Although the organization made sense to me, James didn't know how I had grouped things and it meant I needed things from 3 different bags at bedtime and he didn't know where everything was. A single “night bag” would have sped things up a bit. (This probably isn't an issue when ground crew is the spouse.) Previous races have been so hot that I changed into shorts and tee shirt to sleep, this year was cool enough that it would have made sense to change into the next day's paddling clothes. Could not have slept in my wet clothes without freezing, not to mention the stink. I was happy to have my sleeping bag this year. Previously just brought an SOL Escape emergency bivy but don't think that would have been enough this time.

Longish break at Glasgow including a shower! Do it every year and always makes me feel like a new woman. Planned next stop was Franklin Island. Was struggling with sleepiness in the afternoon and considered trying to take a “cat nap” there but by the time I got the basics over there was really no time. Eating, restocking water and food, visiting the facilities, pretty soon an hour has slipped away.  I should have pre-packed food bags and bought some extra bladders to swap out rather than restocking/refilling while I was on shore. This would have made the stops go faster. Of course not stopping at all would probably be an even better idea. In previous years we had all our food and gear in the canoe for the entire race (no ground crew) and every thing was accessible without stopping. The only thing to resupply was water in our igloo jugs. If I race in a kayak again I will try to rig up an insulated jug. My home-made bladder insulators worked well enough for 4-6 hrs, but would not have kept water cold that long in the kind of heat we had in 2016.

I noticed on day 2 that I was doing a better job staying dry. My hands were seldom wet and though sweaty I was not getting as much paddle drip on me. I have always tended toward a high angle paddle style when double blading, but all the miles of continuous paddling had eventually helped me develop a more efficient low angle stroke. Night 2 was very dark. Lots of bats out. Moon didn't rise for a long time and was obscured by clouds. Unlike night one when there was a string of boat lights leading the way. . . this night I was alone a good bit of the time. My Propaddler app was acting up. I usually use an old phone at night but it kept losing my position, or telling me I was sitting on top of a wing dyke. I didn't trust it and eventually swtiched to my primary phone. When I passed Katfish Katy's boat ramp I could see that it was completely overgrown with bushes and trees. How sad -why won't the property owner maintain it?  Previous years we stopped at Katfish Katy, skipped Cooper's and made Jeff City around 3:30 am. This year paddling into Cooper's Landing at midnight, I was barely coherent and having trouble keeping my eyes open.

The ramp volunteer guided me in so I didn't wind up on the rocks. My right knee wasn't bending well and I had to lay back on the deck to get my feet out of the cockpit. This time I literally could not raise myself up-my abs were toast. James and the ramp volunteer had to haul me up so I didn't fall into the water. Decided to call it a night. James had the tent set up and my air mattress waiting. I ate some Thai food  changed clothes and went to bed.  After about 4 hours of sleep a car alarm went off at about 5 am. Normally I'd be pissed but was actually grateful because I had forgotten to set the alarm! Lots of other paddlers crawled out of their tents too. Got a hot breakfast and got back on the river, but don't remember what time it was. There was a women's tandem team there that morning both dressed in Frogg Toggs. I called them the Frogg Togg gals and kept running into them for the rest of the race.

Stopped at Jeff City for some food and to pay my respects to Joe Wilson. As always, took about an hour and I left just after noon. Then launched right into the path of a huge barge coming upstream. Had to pull off behind some wing dykes almost immediately. The safety boat warned me of the barge but not until I was passing under the bridge. Wish they had said something sooner, I could have waited in relative comfort on the beach. The barge was a monster. It was pushing a sand dredge at the front, so we are on the water going: “Is that the barge? It looks like a dredge.” Eventually it became clear that it was moving. I managed to squeeze behind some wing dykes but scraped on the rocks getting in. Didn't sink so apparently no damage done. Took a long time for the barge to pass and from behind the dykes the water didn't look too bad. I pulled back out, but it was still a roller coaster out there so I didn't make much progress for a while: all I could do to keep it upright and pointed into the waves.

A couple hours later I was being chased by a storm. It was right behind me. I could see it, hear it, smell it, feel it. It was like a curtain hanging over the river. I spotted a nice sandy beach on river left and hauled ass to get there. Other folks were pulling off at Mokane just downstream.  As soon as I turned my phone on, a friend who was watching the weather texted that there was a storm heading my way. I pulled out my poncho and prepared to wait it out but it never seemed to get to me. Eventually realized that it had gone north and the sun was out again. The Frogg Togg gals passed me. I got back on the water. Between the barge and “storm stop” there was about 1.5 hours lost.

Passed a speed boat harassing Asian carp by plowing “doughnuts” in a small cove on river left. I hate those fish, but felt sorry for them as they leapt for their lives. Was worried about whether these yahoos would think it was fun to buzz a kayak like that. Kind of held my breath when they blew by but they left me alone. Paddled up to Chamois, and James was waiting but didn't get out of the boat-learning my lesson finally. He brought a sandwich down to the water for me.

The current had picked up after the Osage and the Gasconade. I noticed that a lot of the wing dykes e were “just under water” by a an inch or so. Was worried about what it would be like trying to navigate that night. I met up with with a couple who were planning to overnight in New Haven. I told them I was aiming for Washington, we discussed sticking together for safety and company but they eventually decided that I was pushing their pace a bit.  We paddled together from above the Gasconade into Herman at around 9 pm but someone else was launching for New Haven and they headed out with them. 

Had one of Hermann's famous bratwurst and a fantastic cold Diet Coke. The Frogg Togg ladies were there and learned a bit about them. They were team “NuckinFutz” from West Virginia. They had no ground crew. Someone from Cooper's had run them into Columbia to a hotel the night before to get some sleep. They planned to push on for the finish line. I planned to paddle with them as far as Washington. Remembering the troubles I had the night before, I took an Excedrine for the caffeine boost which turned out to be helpful. I usually avoid caffeine during the race and intentionally “decaf” myself prior to. May have to think about limited and strategic use of caffeine. We took off at about 10:00  pm. I was very grateful to have another boat to stick with, since there was a storm in the forecast. Night one didn't bother me but I found it unsettling paddling mostly alone on night 2 and there were even fewer boats around on night 3. Finding myself in the water at night with no one around is pretty much my nightmare scenario. Pretty sure I would not be able to get back into the boat without an assist, so I would be trying to swim it to shore in the dark. “NuckinFutz” were in a rec boat- a roto-molded tandem they called “The Barge.” They had done the race in a previous year and did the Kentucky 255 this year in this same boat which astounds me cause I think that river has a current of about ˝ mph! I was taking it easy on the pace but without much wind it was actually pretty pleasant.

I peeled off at Washington since there was a storm in the forecast and a barge moving upstream that night, but they kept going. Thank god for the volunteers guiding me in, otherwise I would probably have been swept into the dyke.  I had never stopped there before and its a pretty tough landing in the dark when you're tired and sleepy. I saw a guy on the ramp and a girl way to the right, on the rocks. Confused  I asked “Where should I head for?” and the girl says “head for me.” It didn't make sense but I aimed for her and the current swept me into the proper position on the ramp. Thanks guys! Running water in the bathroom for the first time since Glasgow!  I made it into the tent just as the rain started and within minutes it was pouring. I worried about the Frogg Togg gals but couldn't stay awake long. 3 hours of solid sleep and back on the water at 8 am. I've been so lucky with storms during this race. Was in our tent for the night 1 storm of 2015. Made Waverly just as the Tuesday evening storm of 2016 hit although we did have to pull off and wait out the Friday morning storm last year.

Paddled near enough to the Klondike ramp to talk to James at 10:10 am but didn't get out of the boat. Still very sleepy all day, hard to stay focused and keep my pace up. Winds continued to be bad but I was in the home stretch. Passed one more barge, but a slow mover and not much wake. Nothing like the Jeff City monster. Enjoyed this segment knowing that I was nearing the end though the headwinds seemed to get worse.  Hit the finish line at 2:25 pm and James was there to welcome me.

The Frogg Togg gals were there, having gotten in at 11:35 am. I asked how they did during the night and they said the storm was bad enough that they had to pull off, then when they got back on the water  the barge caught up to them and they had to pull off again. They were waiting for Enterprise to come pick them up so they could rent a car and drive back to Kaw point for their vehicle.

Wasn't thrilled with my time of 79 hours but was very happy to have finished. When I pulled into Cooper's on Wednesday night I was about 2 hours behind our 64 hour pace from the fast water of 2015. By the time I pulled into Hermann on Thursday evening I was 5 hours off that pace which made me reluctant to try to push on that final night. I can push through to 2-3 am, maybe 4 but after that I start to nod off and catch myself trying to fall out of the boat. Especially without someone to talk to.  I really failed to account for the wind when estimating my speed. I train at a lake where it's windy, but as you circle the lake you alternate head winds and tail winds and it evens out. Due to borderline carpal tunnel syndrome I'm not able to feather my paddle at all and this exacerbates the headwinds and really slowed me down. I remember thinking multiple times “If you could harness this wind you could power the whole state.” I should probably adjust my sleep schedule to increase night time paddling when winds are lower. I also need to work on self rescue skills so I will be more comfortable paddling solo at night.

Some random thoughts on gear:  I carried three 2 L bladders on the first day but only used 2. Probably not enough water for what turned out to be an 11.5 hr paddle. After that only carried 4L and never ran out. If I didn't have ground support or if there had been 100 deg days, then I would have probably carried 6L the whole way.  I have eaten many a PB&J during the race but this year the bread I used got stale quickly and the sandwiches seemed dry--may have been how I had them packaged. I had little appetite for protein bars and instead favored energy bars-usually it's the other way around. Hardly touched the trail mix although that was also partly a packaging issue. I loved the chicken salad sandwiches and never got tired of them. They were quick and not dry, but did have to be kept cold Whole milk yogurt also went down well. (Both options require a crew to keep ice supplied.) I had better luck than usual with finding food at stops: two meals at Coopers, and one at Jeff City both stretched the food supply. Miami, Glasgow, and Hermann were reliable as always.

I used 2 battery banks for the entire race. One had solar panels, and the other was just a really big one. I conserved battery power as much as possible during the day, leaving my phone off most of the time, but my phone still needed charging by evening. I would put the phone on the charger while running the Propaddler app and after a couple hours the phone would be charged. Then I would top it off again while I was sleeping. Solar charger would charge up enough the next day to be ready to go again in the evening. I thought I had worked out the “peeing in the boat” issue that women have to deal with by practice before hand. Although I practiced on the water in the same clothes I would wear during the race, I didn't practice in WET clothes and that was a big mistake. It was a struggle and probably increased shore time a bit. Will have to work on this or change my wardrobe (or both) next time.
 
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Reply #1 - 09/07/17 at 14:18:37

Meanhorse   Offline
5X MR340 Veteran
Kawlloween Veteran
Ground Crew Veteran

Posts: 88
*****
 
Nice report. Wow, that ground crew you had sure must have been great.
 
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Reply #2 - 09/07/17 at 21:17:14

DeniseD   Offline
3X MR340 Veteran
4X Ground Crew Veteran
St. Louis

Posts: 93
***
 
He did great although I sure didn't make his job any easier.  I was very grateful but didn't show it due to being exhausted, sleepy deprived and generally crabby.
 
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Reply #3 - 09/08/17 at 21:19:41

Fubar Dave   Offline
MR340 Veteran

Posts: 3
*
 
Nice report. I met the frog togg ladies monday. We staged our boat right by them. Nice ladies.
 
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Reply #4 - 09/21/17 at 04:47:59

SalliOD   Offline
MR340 Veteran

Posts: 10
*
 
Great read!  Thanks for taking the time for putting together your race report.  Always so nice to hear of others' experiences, especially the "lessons learned" that are often so helpful!
 
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