Dispatch 1 [2013]

2013 Missouri American Water MR340  **Dispatch #1**

Welcome to the 2013 Dispatches. 

This thread is a tool for you to begin planning your race effort.  Feel free to ask questions and add comments.

For many, the 8th Annual MR340 will be a second, third or even eighth(!) attempt at crossing the state of Missouri by boat.  For those veterans, the experience of previous attempts is hard earned and priceless.  They know what's out there and surprises will be few.  But the rookie faces a tough task.  Because the challenge is so great, there are a thousand details to account for.  And while most are competent to meet those thousand details, they first have to know what they are!  When you don't know what you don't know, it's tough to ask the right questions.

So here in this thread, we'll try to address many of the likely questions and offer various different strategic approaches to solving the puzzle of the race.  And it's important to remember... there is no single best way to take on the race.  What makes it fun, over and over, is that you can approach it many different ways...with different goals... and enjoy all the varied outcomes.

To start, let's make sure you're registered and all your information is correct.  Here's the roster:

Make sure your name is on there and that we have you in the correct division.  Also, if on a tandem or larger boat, make sure all your partners are accounted for.  If there is a TBD listed, that means your partner has not registered yet.  Please take care of this as soon as possible.  Also, make sure you have a boat number listed.  If it says "need to choose new number" it means your number was already taken when you registered.  You'll need to email me,, to let me know your new choice.


Mandatory Safety Meeting:  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KS  520 Minnesota Ave.  July 22nd.
All racers must sign in between 2-6pm and pick up tshirts, etc.  Meeting starts at 7pm and is over by 8pm.  Typically, the hotel offers a pasta buffet prior to and during the meeting which is a great pre-race meal.  Also, the hotel is obviously the most convenient place to spend the night Monday.  They offer a special MR340 rate and the hotel always sells out to paddlers.  Might not be a bad idea to book a room there soon.

Race Start:  Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS.  There will be two starts.  The 7am start is for all solo boats.  This will be approximately 200 canoes and kayaks.  We will have 3-4 launch zones active.  You will have to start getting in the water well before 7am for all 200 boats to launch in time.  Plan accordingly.  There are usually sandbars on the opposite shore for you to paddle over and beach to wait.  There will most certainly be solos still waiting in line when the gun goes at 7am.  That's ok.  You'll get in and paddle out as quickly as you can.

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

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

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

The confluence of the Kaw and Missouri is tricky only because there will be so many boats crowding each other there.  As the boats hit the fast water, the current pushes them downstream and then there are collisions and paddles knocking together and folks lean into a stroke that misses the water and we have boats flipping, etc.  Please note that the mouth of the Kaw is quite spacious and there is plenty of room for boats to make this transition without a pileup.  We can't have 200 boats try for the same line.  If you want to avoid the cluster, choose a more upstream entrance where there will be less people.  Or, let the madness happen ahead of you and then proceed as the way opens.  It's not a difficult transition.  Just keep some speed up and don't be hesitant.  You want to minimize the time that half your boat is in the Missouri and the other half is still in the Kaw.  This is where you end up with a boat getting pointed the wrong way, etc.  But if you go at it with some moderate speed, your boat will behave and you'll be moving down the Missouri without a hitch.

Under the bridges we ask that boats steer clear of the bridge piers as they tend to hurt if you hit them.  Give each other room to maneuver.  The swift water rescue teams from Kansas City will be under these bridges to assist if there is a need.

I don't believe we had any trouble last year.  Paddlers who were out there can chime in.  But I believe because we had lower water and a split start, things were pretty tame.

Checkpoints and Cutoff Times:

Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am (7am for solo) Tuesday, July 23rd.   

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 are the same cutoff times we've used for the past 4 years, I believe.  They are gauged for the 8am start, so if you're a solo boat you actually have more of a buffer to make these cutoff times.  These times make for a good pace, but definitely not world class.  In other words, someone with moderate good health and decent equipment has an excellent chance to make these.  Poor preparation or strategy would make it less probable. 

Day 1 cutoffs of Lexington and Waverly are arguably the most difficult for an unprepared paddler.  This is because it's Day 1 and all your planning mistakes are exposed.  Typical errors we see as someone struggles to make Lexington are:

1. Overloaded Boat
Physics says there's a cost for every gram of weight aboard your boat.  Just because your boat floats, doesn't mean you get a free ride on weight.  A boat weighing 400 pounds when loaded with paddler and gear requires 33% more energy to get to St. Charles than a 300 pound outfit.  And the elite solo racers will probably be closer to 225 pounds of paddler, boat and gear.  Some skinny paddlers even below 200!  Travel as light as possible, checkpoint to checkpoint.  Try to carry just enough liquids to go that leg of the race.  Of course, this is predicated on having a good ground crew to meet you at each checkpoint and resupply you.  Unsupported racers have to carry more.  But even an unsupported racer learns they don't need as much as they thought they would.  When we close the checkpoint at Lexington, we typically see gallons of water jugs that have been jettisoned from boats as paddlers realize they are carrying too much. 

Now I don't want to have the opposite problem, where paddlers are carrying too little.  And there is no magic formula I can give you for the proper amount.  Your knowledge will come from the training you do this season.  Going out in a variety of conditions and paddling at different speeds.  You'll learn how much water you need an hour at what temperatures and paces.  Then you'll know what to put in your boat to get to Lexington that first day.

2. Unsuitable Boat
Any boat can make it to St. Charles.  Eventually.  But an inefficient hull will slow a paddler down AND, maybe more importantly, wear them out.

Boats come in all kind of shapes and are built for different applications.  Some are super sleek and lightweight and built for flat water racing like the 340.  Others are recreational takes on the same designs, but are a bit more stable (and affordable) and will do a fine job of getting you there.  But some boats are built for fishing or for whitewater and are not the best choices.  Yes, you might finish, but it will be much harder and so the odds you'll fail will be greater. 

In looking for a boat, longer and sleek is better than shorter and wide.   There are many good boats out there at affordable prices that aren't going to win the 340, but will definitely get you there with a very respectable time. 

3. Not Physically or Mentally Prepared
You do NOT have to be some kind of Olympian with 2% body fat to finish this race.  That's been proven time and time again.  People of all shapes and ages finish this race every year.  But there's a difference between being a physical god or goddess and being physically prepared.  Being physically prepared means you've spent significant time in a boat, paddling, so that your body (butt, back, shoulders, hands, and even feet) is up to the task.  You should be in reasonably good shape.  Every pound you lose will help.  (See item #1)  Any long term health problems have been discussed and cleared with your doctor.  Mental preparation is big.  I would say the race is 80% mental and I think many paddlers would agree with this.  Your body can get you there.  But your mind will be telling you to quit.  How do you build mental toughness?  Start pushing your body now.  You don't have to be in a boat.  Start jogging.  Enter a 5k and train for it.  When the weather gets better, enter some of the smaller canoe races that start as early as March in mid-Missouri.  Anything that puts you in a position of pushing your body into discomfort and fighting the urge to quit.  Discomfort is a HUGE part of this race.  You will want out of the boat.  You will linger too long at checkpoints.  You will think of reasons not to get back in.  You will convince yourself to quit. 

Finishing this race really comes down to staying in the boat and moving downstream.  And we beat that drum a lot on this forum.  Your discomfort only ends when you get to St. Charles.  So get there as fast as you can.  There are many strategies for minimizing discomfort and maximizing speed.  We'll talk about those in subsequent posts. 

Feel free to post comments and questions.  This forum has a ton if information about the race.  More than you could ever read before July 23rd.  It also has very experienced folks who have done this race before.  They have good insights into what works for them and what may work for you.  And they are very willing to help.

More soon.


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