Hello Paddling Friends!
Welcome to the 14th Annual Missouri American Water MR340!
Time to start the dispatches! Again! We will send a couple of these in the weeks leading up to the big dance. These are designed to help get your minor details sorted and to help you game out some ideas to improve your chances at finishing.
This race is HARD. Getting mentally and physically prepared can never start too soon. These dispatches will help you feel more at ease and more on top of your prep. They will also answer questions you didn't know you had and will inspire other questions which you are welcome to ask us!
Flooding Update: Flood waters are slowly starting to recede. The lakes that have been releasing stored water on the Kansas and Osage Rivers have started to come down to safer storage levels. This is allowing the Corps of Engineers to taper flows on the Kansas River. This will allow for some clean up and repair of needed infrastructure for the race to go on, hopefully in September.
Currently, we have some checkpoints that remain unusable. But the powers that be are hoping to use the lower water levels to finally get crews access to these locations and begin putting things back together. Our job is to be ready for that come September 10! We certainly are not out of the woods yet and significant rainfall can easily trigger major flooding again with the water so abnormally high for this time of year. But things are at least finally heading in the right direction.
For Dispatch #1, let's focus on the basics.
DATES: September 10-13, 2019
Mandatory Check In and Safety Meeting:
Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas
Monday, September 9, 2019
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 anxious, excited people. We will go through some last minute instructions and review many safety bullet points. It's a good time to get some last minute questions clarified and to talk to the many veteran racers in attendance.
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Kaw Point Park
8am Start Time. All boats start together with smaller field of racers.
Parking the morning of the race is always crowded. Many will have to hunt for parking outside the flood wall in the industrial park. For this reason, it is best to stage your boat the night before. (Monday) 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.
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.
Check the Roster:
If you elected to race in September, your name should still be on this list. If you opted out of September your name should be gone. If you did not fill out the form, we are assuming you are racing and have left you on there. We've had to get shirts and medals ordered at this point for those that have not opted for 2020.
Please note, your name may have been moved in position on the roster as holes were filled from non racers. Use Ctrl-F on your browser to search for your name.
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
Your boat number must be a minimum of 3 inches high and be reflective. Mailbox numbers work great for this. Place these on your port and starboard bow.
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 August 25th.
Training and Preparation Resources
Written by a veteran and can be either ordered in hard copy or electronic version. This book will be a comfort and will help shorten your learning curve. Preview pages below.
Chris Luedke's Training Videos
Wow, what can I say. Chris is a multi year veteran with some great finishes under his belt. His video series is crazy good. Entertaining and very informative. This will literally shave hours off a first timers finish time. And also minimize a lot of anxiety.
Once you get started on these it will be hard to stop. There are dozens of them in easy to digest sizes. I will be highlighting several of these in upcoming dispatches. But feel free to start early. Here's a link to his channel. Start anywhere. Tons of great stuff. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjTAGGN9ArvdwcofYeM1ZWQ
We are all grateful to Chris for putting this together. Fantastic resource that has helped a bunch of folks.
Just in case you want to start planning your strategy, here are the cutoff times for 2019. (same as last year)
Checkpoints and Cutoff Times
Checkpoints and Cutoff Times:
Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am Tuesday, July 16.
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
Glasgow, mile 226, (68 miles) 6pm Wed. Leg avg. 5.14mph Total avg. 4.15
Wilson's Serenity Point at Noren Access (Jeff City), mile 144, (82 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
Average speeds are based on start time of 8am.
It sounds heartless to have cutoff times but it's really the only way to do a race like this. At our most stretched, we'll have a boat finishing in St. Charles while the last place boat is 195 miles back. That's a lot of water for our volunteers to cover. Without cutoff times that would probably be more like 250 miles between 1st and last place. This is not billed as a camping trip or a float trip. It is a very, very difficult race. 1/4 of entrants won't show up. Of those that do show up, 1/3 will not finish.
Not making a cutoff time is actually rare. These are pretty generous for a race. But they do force dropouts because folks will make a cutoff time with a few minutes to spare, but then linger at a checkpoint until making the next cutoff time is almost impossible. So they drop out.
It is psychologically tough to be at the back of the race with nobody in sight ahead of you. It's tough to arrive at a checkpoint and all the racers are gone except a few who are loading their boats onto their cars. The energy is high among the pods of racers who are together and motivate each other when times get difficult. So as you plan your strategy, best to think not in terms of barely sliding in to each checkpoint before the cutoff. Rather, plan a strategy that banks up some time so you're not against the clock constantly. We will talk about how to do this in a future dispatch.
Spoiler alert: There is no magic potion. It's all about staying in the boat and taking advantage of those first 24 hours of the race. A successful finish is born in those first 24 hours. Have a good 24 hours and you can deal with almost anything in the next 48. Come up short in the first 24 and you'll be dodging race ending sharks all the way to St. Charles.
So bust out the maps and plan out some different goals. You can probably add about 2.5 mph to your flat water paddling speed to get a good idea of your river mph. I'm talking about your sustainable flat water speed over hours. Not your sprint to the ramp because it's raining speed. So if you're able to paddle at the lake all day at 4mph, you can probably count on that being about 6.5 mph on the river (depending on wind) That's a 52 hour finish if you never stopped paddling. But that leaves you 36 hours of cushion for all sorts of contingencies.
For the gal or guy that wants to finish, it's really not about a fast speed. It's about hours and hours at a sustainable cruising speed. Time makes up for a lot. If you're willing to earn that iron butt award and stay in the boat you'll find yourself passing lots of "fast" paddlers in "fast" boats that are parked at checkpoints recovering.
Let's breakdown the first 105 miles from Kaw Point to Miami on Day 1.
Race Start at Kaw Point
Kaw Point will be crowded and parking has to be organized. There are lines painted in the park and there will be parking marshals directing traffic. The park will fill up quickly and overflow parking will be outside the floodwall. This too has to be done in an organized way. Please follow the guidance of the parking marshals.
Race starts at 8am for everyone. The gun will fire whether everyone is in the water or not. You can launch at the ramp (longest line) or out at the confluence. Or anywhere that looks safe to do so. When the gun goes off, you must be upstream of the boat ramp or you will be penalized minutes. If you're still in line to launch, there is no penalty except the natural consequence of still being in line to launch.
The KC fire department will be on the water just downstream of Kaw Point to assist you if there are any capsizes. There are always 4 or 5 capsizes. There is no disqualification for receiving assistance like this from a safety boat. They will help get you back in your boat and on your way.
Avoiding a Capsize.
These incidents seem to happen right at the confluence where the slower Kansas River meets the faster Missouri. It's easy to get panicked and miss a stroke and lose balance in what can sometimes be choppy water with some whirlpool action. This is compounded by boats running into each other as they corkscrew in the currents. So, a couple things....
Don't be in a huge rush to paddle into a crowd. It's a long race, take your time and stay spread out. Also, it's a wide entry into the Missouri. Usually, the roughest water is right in the middle of this. Smoother water is generally found at the extreme upstream end and the downstream end. At the Shoot Out race a couple months ago, with water levels about what we can hope for in September, the downstream third of the Kaw mouth was very smooth. The middle third was quite rough and we had a couple capsizes. The upper third was ok. Every water level presents a different scenario and we'll have a good idea of what it's going to be at the safety meeting the night before. But there is ALWAYS a smooth sailing option. But not everyone takes it.
After the adrenaline of the start wears off you'll be going under the 5 bridges of KC in rapid succession. Again, we remind you that with the high water, everything will come at you a little faster so get lined up between the spans and stay in the middle of each span. Currents around the piers can be squirrely so give yourself room and allow the paddlers around you to have space to maneuver. What usually forms fairly quickly is a conga line about 4 boats wide through the bridges. This slowly morphs to a line about 3 boats wide... then 2... and then into a series of clumps of boats as the day wears on.
The first checkpoint is 50 miles into the race at Lexington, MO. It will be crowded and chaotic here. There will be a food vendor and bathrooms available. You are required to check in here but you are NOT required to stop. Check ins take place via text message and can be sent with your phone as you float by. OR, your ground crew can text you through. IF you do not have a cell signal for some reason, you should stop and make sure one of our volunteers or another ground crew or paddler will send the text for you. Failure to check in properly causes a search to be started and this pulls resources from the safety of other paddlers. Please take the time to make this simple effort to keep the race safe and efficient for everyone.
Because Lexington will be so crowded, many veterans do not stop there. There are other options where you can stop for resupply. Here's a few for you to google between Kaw Point and Lexington.
Ft. Osage (Sibley)
Stopping at one of these will usually get you to Waverly or beyond, especially if the water is fast.
Cutoff time for Lexington is 5pm. That's a minimum average speed of 5.56 mph for the 8am start. I promise you, if you can't make Lexington by 5pm with the fast water this summer, you are unlikely to make the subsequent cutoff times. There are usually a few boats that don't make it. Even in a high water year like last year we had some. Here are the common denominators.
No ground crew (boat overloaded with gear)
Got a late start at Kaw Point
Stopped for extended period before Lexington
First time in the boat
Sick, injured or otherwise unhappy partner.
If you make it to Lexington before the cutoff time, congratulations! You've completed a big chunk of the race and you've built a cushion of time that will pay off later. But now the mistakes we see is that entire cushion squandered as you sit at Lexington and rest while you eat, drink, etc. You are sore and tired and the thought of getting back in the boat is dreadful. But you're just making that next haul to Waverly so much harder. If you want to get to Waverly, get in the boat. You can eat, drink and rest while you move at 3mph. Paddle enough to steer the boat and you'll be going 4 mph. Paddle a bit more between bite of your sandwich and you'll easily be cruising the 5.75 mph you need to make the Waverly cutoff at 9pm.
Waverly will be also be crazy. The advantage we have there is that Waverly is blessed with two boat ramps. Both on river right. One is just upstream of the bridge, the other just downstream. Both will have bathrooms and both will have food. You can't beat that. So decide with your ground crew which one you will choose or have them send you a text with the one they've decided is best once they're parked and have scouted it out. It's a short paddle down to the second ramp by boat but it's a bigger hassle to drive up the hill and around the bridge by car.
Please note that there is a train track that runs right through both river parks in Waverly. These are not protected by crossing arms. If you have kids be especially careful to keep them away from the tracks. The trains are very loud and you can certainly hear them coming. But kids are fascinated by the trains and can't judge distance or speed quite as well as adults.
Special thanks as always to Robin Kalthoff and his Missouri Stream Team for the hard work they do at the Waverly checkpoint. We will certainly need volunteers at ALL the checkpoints to assist the local volunteers in making this possible. If you're interested in volunteering for the 340, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org We need folks at every checkpoint plus the finish line.
We always encourage all paddlers to vacate Waverly before midnight and press on. Because of the train it's nearly impossible to sleep there and most paddlers are too amped up to sleep anyway. AND, because the water will be fast we anticipate most folks getting there before 845pm. If you're exhausted and need some sleep, obviously do it. But the downside of this is when you wake up, the race will have mostly passed you by. It's been 4 or 5 years now since someone camped at Waverly. And if I remember correctly, they ended up quitting at sunrise. They were the only boat there and the nearest boat was at Miami. It was a psychological discouragement on top of their physical soreness that they could not overcome. Had they paddled on to Miami, they would still be waking up sore... but they'd be surrounded by smiling paddlers getting back on the water and that would have pulled them along.
Usually, we encourage folks to go at least to Hills Island, which is about 12 miles downstream of Waverly and has been a respite for paddlers after a long day who just can't quite make the next checkpoint without a break. Our hosts there, Daryl and Kay Webery, usually have a fire going on the sand and 10 or 15 paddlers snoozing around it.
Sadly, I can pretty much guarantee that our patch of sand at Hills Island will be underwater. Last year Daryl and Kay were there but with no sand they stayed in the boat and floated, tied to a tree at the downstream tip of Hills Island watching over you guys as you went by. Everyone was so fast last year that nobody needed a break there anyway. So once you leave Waverly, count on Miami as your next boat ramp. But we will have a safety boat at Hills Island available if needed. You can paddle right up to it and let them know what you need.
Miami is mile 263 and is about 31 miles from Waverly. It is not an official checkpoint but is the first of what we call Paddle Stops which are little spots on the river where you can count on volunteers, food, bathrooms, etc. Miami is among the best of these. The town really goes all out to host us and there is food cooked to order all night of night 1 and into breakfast in the morning. The town uses this as fundraiser for civic projects and have done things like fix sidewalks and pave the city hall parking lot with the funds.
Because of the fast water, we learned last year that Miami gets very crowded starting about 8pm and stays crowded all night. With few options besides pressing on to Glasgow, Miami is a logical choice if you need to get off the water and try to sleep. Like all crowded checkpoints, sleep is tough. Every patch of grass and gravel in the parking lot is taken up with cars and canoes. It's noisy. But if you're tired enough, you can sleep anywhere... and you should. But if you're not head nodding tired and paddling safely with a group of other canoes, it's often expedient to keep going, saving your sleep time for the heat of the day rather than the cool of the night. Weather conditions, fog, alertness and stamina all play into this equation and everyone makes their own choice. If you've made it to Miami on Tuesday, you're about 105 miles into the race. About a third of the way there! You're well ahead of the cutoff time at Glasgow of 6pm Wednesday evening. Paddlers face a choice at Miami of either resting there or pushing for Glasgow and resting a couple hours in the afternoon there. Both choices are valid and it's good to plan for both with your ground crew.
Between Miami and Glasgow is an isolated boat ramp called Dalton Bottoms. It's about mile marker 239 on river left. We try to have a safety boat stationed here all night unless they are on a call. Dalton is a good quiet spot. Of course, you can get off the river anywhere in the wild sections but it will be thickly treed and most of the sandbars will be underwater. But in the event of extreme fatigue or fog or storms, That patch of mud in the trees will look really good.
Well, we've marched you to Miami at least. Still lots to talk about next time including sand dredges, barges, buoys, carp, etc. For now check out more of Chris Luedke's great training videos here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjTAGGN9ArvdwcofYeM1ZWQ and keep praying for a drought.
All the volunteers, partners and staff are pumped for this race! We know you are too. For many of us, it's what we think about before we fall asleep every night. Or what we think about in a boring meeting at work. It's an amazing adventure for one week of the year and our favorite daydream for the other 51 weeks. We're glad you're going to be out there with us for the suffering and the misery and the beauty.
More to come soon. In the interim...
Note the dates and times for the meeting and start.
Read the book and watch the videos.
Check the roster and get your boat numbers and partners squared away.
If you just can't wait until next time you can check out the 2018 dispatches and get a preview of what's coming.
Let me know if you have any questions.