05/30/17 AT 15:40:24
Hopefully you've had the opportunity to do some paddling and racing during this early season. The combination of fast water and moderate temperatures makes for some of the best paddling all year. There are many races on the calendar to help you get your boat and technique dialed in before the MR340 meat grinder starts August 8th. Check the calendar below and sign up.
Hopefully you've also had a chance to watch some of the Chris Luedke videos. In dispatch 1 we mentioned his video on the start of the race and leaving Kaw Point. This is always a highlight experience. All your preparation and anticipation culminates in that countdown from the crowd and then the gun goes off.
Because of the size of the field and the high number of bridges in the first 5 miles of the race we have two starts. 7am for solos and 8am for everything else. The Kansas City Fire Department has boats in the water just in case there are some capsizes around the bridges. As Chris points out in the video, there are often capsizes in the mixing zone of the Kaw and Missouri Rivers. The fire department sorts these out as well.
Once you're through the enjoyable chaos of the start and you've ticked a few bridges off your list the pack sort of settles into a long conga line of boats. Folks are getting their rhythm and are passing boats or getting passed. Your goal during this opening hour or two should be to find that stroke rate and speed that is sustainable for DAYS. You've hopefully already done this through training and racing in the months prior. If so, you know there is a sweet spot for you and your boat where the miles come easy without a lot of wasted energy.
A quiet ride is an efficient ride.
Every hull is different but a good way to tell your boat is in the efficient zone is if it is quietly gliding over and through the water. If you hear a bunch of water rushing around the bow of your boat, it's possible you are trying to push that boat faster than it's natural efficient cruising speed. And that's fine if you're racing a 5k at Shawnee Mission Lake on Wednesday night but it may be an unsustainable speed when you're doing 100 5ks in a row during the 340.
I'm not giving advice here to the podium finishers who will do this race under 40 hours. This is for the folks who want to finish the race and have a good experience while doing so. It's to your benefit to find that speed and stroke rate that you can work for hours on end and put miles behind you without burning out.
This will be a different speed for everyone and for every boat. So in this sorting process from Kaw Point to Lexington, don't stress about other boats muscling past you. You're really just trying to find that zen state of efficiency that gives you the best shot at finishing.
There will be guys in shiny new boats that blow out of Kaw Point with whitewater at their bow and spray flying off their paddles. And you will pass them 15 miles later... their paddles resting in their laps. They'll be messing with their gps, already miserable and hurting and disillusioned... and you'll glide past doing the same mph you were doing two hours ago when they flew by. It really is the tortoise and the hare for days and days.
So find your sustainable groove early. And if you've been training and racing, you already may know it.
Other considerations for efficiency.
WEIGHT: There is some magical thinking that because you're on water, there is no penalty for weight. But I promise you that there is a stroke penalty for every ounce you carry from Kansas City to St. Charles. If you were walking from KC to St. Charles, or riding a bike, this would be obvious and you'd pack light. But for some reason we think that if there's room in the canoe we might as well take it along because what difference does it make?
Because the race is soooo long. Small efficiencies will add up over time to make a big difference. So think carefully about what you bring and how much. When sitting there with all your gear, trying to decide what to bring along, imagine there's a time stamped on everything. Think you need binoculars? Gonna cost 8 minutes of extra paddling to drag those to St. Charles. Lucky rabbit's foot? 1 minute. Celebratory bottle of champagne for the finish line? 9 minutes.
And what about you? Same rules of physics apply to that 10 pounds you've been meaning to lose before the race. How much will that cost you in extra time and strokes out there? I don't know the exact math, but I know that the 190 pound version of you has a huge advantage over the 200 pound version. Physics doesn't care. Physics shows no mercy.
What you really need are the essentials, and that list will depend on whether you have a physical ground crew vs a virtual ground crew. (All boats must have one or the other) A virtual ground crew monitors your progress from home and alerts us if they haven't heard from you in a timely manner. A physical ground crew is there on site and checks with you in person on a regular basis. We highly recommend a physically present ground crew to resupply you at checkpoints along the way. This will allow you to carry less gear and nourishment between checkpoints and will make you faster.
Another way to create efficiency is to draft off other boats. This is especially easy during day 1 where you will be within talking distance of boats all day and all night. Chris Luedke made a great video about drafting and I'll let you watch that here:
And the final and most important secret to maintaining efficiency over a 340 mile race course? It's so plainly obvious but many folks miss this one and it is the common demise of many racers. STAY IN THE BOAT.
Let's say you've done everything right and you have made great time from KC to your first scheduled meeting with ground crew. You were efficient and kept a good stroke rate and carried no extra weight and passed by lots of boats that were overpacked and all over the river weaving back and forth out of the fast water. But then, you get to that first checkpoint and you give it all back. Your ground crew wasn't ready for you so all the gear is still in their car. The ramp is crowded so it's a quarter mile walk to get it. Then you get in line at the BBQ trailer. Then you find a shady spot to eat. Then you decide to clean the mud off your boat, etc, etc.
Every minute you spend on land is a minute you could have been in the boat, letting the river move you to your goal.
Everything you can do in the boat, you should do in the boat. Can you eat in the boat? Yep. And the river will move you about 3mph while you do it. Can you pee in the boat? Heck yes. Figure it out. You will have to pee countless times out there. Do you really imagine that you'll pull over each time? Good luck with that. You'll be so worn out from that process you will never make it to Glasgow, forget St. Charles. Can you sleep in the boat? If you're a tandem or team boat, sure you can take turns catching some sleep, if you've prepared for it ahead of time and got your boat set up for it.
That doesn't mean you need to short change yourself of the experience of visiting a checkpoint and talking to racers and thanking your ground crew and posing for pictures. That's all part of the race and fun stuff and hopefully you've banked lots of time and can relax and enjoy it. But if you're up against the cutoff times and worried about the Reaper (our pace boat) catching and eliminating you, minimize your shore time and let the river work for you.
More about the Reaper and how the pace boat works can be viewed here:
In our next Dispatch we'll drill down on navigating the Missouri River both day and night.
Until then, let me know what questions you have.