Hello, MR340 friends!
If you’ve recently registered for this year’s race, please check out the previous Dispatches to catch up on a variety of race topics we’ve mentioned so far. You can also find info in the MR340 Resources that have been compiled over time. Join the MR340 Facebook community for race conversation as well. And as always, feel free to reach out if you still have any questions we can help answer.
About half of our racers are returning race veterans. If this is your first year, know that you will have a fair amount of contact with other racers on the water, especially during your first couple days. You’re not alone out there. Pick the brains of those veteran racers along the way. Every one of these folks will have their own unique pieces of advice, and many are going to be just as happy to share their experiences with you as you will be to learn from them.
And there is no end to the stories from repeat racers. I once saw Dracula in a blue bath robe on the back of Scott Mansker’s safety boat, holding his robe like a cape disguising his face. Scott was just standing there steering the boat, somehow completely clueless to the threat behind him. Dracula approached Scott sneakily on tip toes. I screamed loudly, “Scott, watch out!!” And suddenly, when Scott yelled back, “What?!”, the scary bather was gone.
Plenty to discuss out there along 340 miles.
We’re working on this year’s online safety meeting video which is required for all racers to watch. You’ll be able to watch that at your leisure and in advance of the mandatory Check-In on Monday 7/11/22. A link for that video will be coming your way before long.
Monday, 7/11/22 Race Check-In
You’ll arrive at Kaw Point between noon and 8:00 p.m. the day before the race to turn in your waiver, pick up your t-shirt, and grab a required safety card with safety info you’ll keep in your boat (we’ll have some printed on waterproof paper for you). You’ll double-check all of your contact and race info with us and provide any last-minute edits. Chat with some of the race sponsors that will be available, load up on some MR340 and Missouri River Relief merch at our merch tent, and get your last minute RaceOwl questions answered. You’ll have your first official Checkpoint check-in at Kaw Point during this time.
You are welcome to drop off your empty boat during Check-In. We will have folks at Kaw Point Park all night keeping an eye on things. Leave at your own risk, but we’ve never had any issues either. Bring your paddles and other race gear and supplies the morning of race start. It’ll make your early morning arrival for the race a lot easier. We’ll have an important race day parking plan for you in an upcoming Dispatch that you’ll want to be sure to share with your crew.
What can you expect on the water Day 1? Hopefully not Dracula, but let’s run through it.
Butterflies in the stomach. You’ll want to arrive early, load up your boat, and quickly launch into water either from the ramp or along an open bank space of the Kansas River. Give yourself time to float around upstream of the ramp or park yourself along either side of the bank. The official starting line is anywhere upstream of the boat ramp. Take some time to sit, relax, and breathe.
The race begins promptly at 7:00 a.m. for all solos and at 8:00 a.m. for all other divisions, unless for some reason we have a storm or fog delay.
Once the race begins, be mindful of the transition of water from the Kansas “Kaw” River to the Missouri River. The Kaw is slow moving and the Missouri will be faster. If you crowd in close to other racers at the start take off, you increase your chances of colliding with other boats or flipping over at the confluence. Give yourself and everyone around you some room for that movement as you angle to the right entering the Missouri.
In the event you do flip at the start, Kansas City Fire Department will have rescue boats in the water, and we will have safety boats available as well. Stay with your boat and wait for help. Fellow racers – watch out for anyone in the water and lend a hand as you would anywhere else along the course until other help can assist.
The Kaw has plenty of room from bank to bank to spread out. And this race has plenty of hours for you to afford a little time to sort out your best starting path. Check out Chris Luedke’s video on the race start for some reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pkYod_xkR8
After you pass the start and clear the upcoming bridges, you’ll eventually get into the rhythm of your first day. You’ll get passed by some boats, and you will pass some boats. Find the pace that feels right for you. It’s a marathon, so you want that sweet spot where you can maintain a steady pace without overdoing it and needing long breaks. You’ll start to notice other boats traveling at your similar speed.
As you get settled into your day you might starting to notice details about your efficiency. Hopefully you have sorted out most of this ahead of time. Here are some things to consider while you can still plan now:
1. Weight! Less is more. Have your crew carry all the things you won’t need until the next stop where they meet you. Your crew can be your refill of everything ramp to ramp. No need to take multiple days of supplies.
2. Time off water! Every minute you aren’t on the water is time you’re not benefitting from free current moving toward the finish line. Live in the boat. Eat in the boat. Take any paddle breaks in the boat. Pee in the boat. We have porta-potties set up at a number of ramps along the way, but your body isn’t going to coincide with those exact locations. Plus, you will lose a considerable amount of time getting in and out of ramps just for a tiring walk up to a toilet. Save your time and energy and sort out a pee plan in your boat at your local lake, river, or in your garage ahead of time. The biggest waste of race time we see happens off water. You can easily get pulled into time sucks at ramps. Throw that cheeseburger in the boat and jump back in.
3. Fine-tuned ground crew! Your ground crew can be physical or virtual, and their primary role is to be aware of your location and health. This is easier for physical ground crews. For virtual crews, you need to have an arrangement between racer and crew for texts or voice contact at regular intervals. If your virtual crew doesn’t hear from you as planned, they are to call a safety boat to report no contact.
Your physical ground crew’s efficiency becomes your efficiency. Have them approach the race with an on-land plan that can include things like using a cart to haul your refill items to the ramp, being the extra hands to move your boat once you are off the water at a stop, the hands that remove your trash from your boat while you stretch, the extra set of eyes to monitor how much and what you are eating and drinking between stops. Text them ahead of time if you have a special need they can have ready for you.
At this point, you’re paddling along as planned, drinking liquids and eating periodically. If you are in a tandem or team boat, use the buddy system and consistently check on each other. Stay cool by dipping your hat in the river. Be aware of your present location as you travel along. And be on the lookout for barge traffic.
Barges and Dredges
Barge traffic on the Missouri is minimal but increasing. We will see 2 or 3 during race week but potentially more. Some are long haul and travel night and day. Some are short haul and just going a half mile back and forth from a sand dredge.
Sand dredges operate mostly during normal daylight work hours. These are large, noisy, and anchored night and day midstream. You will pass one the first morning. The dredge itself doesn't move, but the cables that anchor it to the bottom will rise and fall out of the water. Keep your distance. The dredges auger up sand from the river bottom for use in construction. The sand is then deposited in sand flats (barges) tied alongside the dredge. As the flat is filled, a small towboat will bring an empty to the other side of the dredge, tie it off, then grab the full one and haul it to shore for offloading. So, if you see a dredge pumping sand, look for the towboat and try to stay out of their path from shore to dredge and back.
At night, the dredges do not usually operate but they will still be there in the water. They are supposed to leave a light on both ends but you can't count on this as the lights can fail. You'll want to use your eyes and ears and be ready to grab that strong LED flashlight if needed to light up the river if you need to.
The other type of towboat will be pushing 2-3 barges for long distances, running night and day. These are bigger and tend to throw a larger wake if moving upstream with a heavy load. If you see a barge going upstream OR downstream, you need to exit the navigation channel and stay a safe distance away. This can be a good time to tuck behind a wing dike to have a snack and a short rest from the paddle.
Due to the nature of the Missouri River the towboat will be constrained to the navigation channel to assure it will have the depth to proceed. You, being a tiny little boat, are not constrained to this channel. If you move out of the channel you are almost assured of not being in the way. Typically, the off-channel side of the river will be the inside of bends. Here's a great explainer video from Chris Luedke's 340 Paddler channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xlvrs8ZdXv0&t=19s
After the barge let's imagine you're getting to a rendezvous with your ground crew. The Missouri River has many boat ramps and adjacent parks, but the MR340 does overwhelm the parking and ramp areas. We all have to work together to keep the ramps functional and keep things moving smoothly.
The main issue at ramps tends to be at the bottom where racers are landing, repacking, and launching in what is often a tight space. We have to leave the bottom of the ramp open so racers can land. Once you land, grab your boat (or have your crew do this) and carry it up the ramp to a spot out of the way. Only the fastest racers will get there early enough to have the ramp to themselves for the ground crew to service their boat at the waterline. Everyone else will often find a crowded ramp and will need to come up the ramp to a clear spot. Please help this happen not just for fellow racers, but for any potential emergency assistance that may need to get quickly out onto the water from a ramp.
Waverly is the first official Checkpoint this year, river mile 293.5 (74 miles). And this town has two boat ramps. The first is upstream of the bridge, and the second is just downstream. You can choose either one. Both will have food available for sale from the local boy scout troop. Please support them! Both ramps will have restrooms available. If you choose to stop at Waverly, be sure it’s clear with your crew as to which ramp you plan to utilize.
Protocol at a Checkpoint is no different than any other ramp you use in the MR340. Help keep the ramp clear and be efficient. The difference is that at a Checkpoint, you are required to check in electronically using text messaging or the RaceOwl app. Check out all of the detailed RaceOwl info in Dispatch #2.
Checking in is a crucial part of the MR340 safety plan. Remember that your first check in will have happened on Monday, the day before race start at Kaw Point. Waverly will then be the second time you officially check in. We will have a couple RaceOwl volunteers at Waverly if you or your ground crew need an extra bit of help to get the hang of it.
The Waverly Checkpoint cutoff time is 8:00 p.m. Soloists have 13 hours to get there, and everyone has 12 hours. If you don’t arrive by 8:00 p.m., you are out of the race. Remember – stay efficient, especially for Day 1. The Reaper is the pace boat at the rear of the race which will arrive at the speed needed to meet the 8:00 p.m. cutoff at Waverly (and every other Checkpoint close time along the way). More info on the Reaper in Dispatch #1. Beat the Reaper.
The odds are actually in your favor to beat the Reaper to Waverly. Planning can take you far in this race. So now is the time to sort out all the details you can. You still have time!
Some of you will feel a need to hang out or even spend the night at Waverly. Resist that feeling. The park at Waverly has train tracks running through it (and loud, fast trains), and it might well be muggy and buggy. You still have at least another hour of daylight. Have your crew refill what you need, make sure you have your navigation lights working on your boat, and grab your nighttime gear you prepared. Maybe you even have a new paddle buddy you have made on the water. Buddy up and take off.
A good spot downstream to get rest is Hill’s Island, about 12 miles from Waverly at river mile 281. The Reaper will overnight here. Racers who stop at Hill’s Island will leave at various times. Watch for others heading out and join their little packs or their spread-out lines of lights down the water. Gain distance from the Reaper. Hill’s Island can be the last time you even see the Reaper. You’re then headed toward your next Checkpoint, Glasgow, river mile 226.
And there you go. You are through Day 1. You have figured out your pace, you have stayed hydrated, you have eaten and peed in your boat, you have made buds, you have encountered a barge, and you have seen the moon rise over the beautiful Missouri River. You didn’t have many surprises along the way. And you didn’t see Dracula. So far, so good.
Stay tuned for the next Dispatch with more race details.
Do we still have your correct info? Are you in the correct division? Did your partner get registered?
Check the roster: http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1637597723
Use CTRL-F to find your name or just hunt for it. Does everything look right? Is your boat number valid? Make sure your partner is registered. And Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you have made any changes to your ground crew, emergency contact, or even boat color. We’ll get you up to date.
Thank you to all of you still actively fundraising for Missouri River Relief! We appreciate you all sharing your fundraiser links and moving up on the Leaderboard. We still have merch ready to send to you all as you hit your next levels on the board.
Keep planning! Get out on some water!