Dispatch 4 [2014]

04/06/14 AT 22:23:39

Required Gear:

Missouri River map OR list of mile markers and river accesses
Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device) for each paddler worn full time.
Cell phone with extra battery or means for charging.
Line or rope suitable for towing. (10' minimum)
First aid kit
Matches or lighter
Emergency blanket (reflective Mylar)
Sufficient water to make next checkpoint.
For night travel: Full red/green/white navigation lights as required by Coast Guard.
Strong flashlight or spotlight.
Clothing suitable for predicted weather conditions.
Reflective numbers on both sides of the boat.  Additional reflective material suggested.
Tools adequate for repairs specific to your boat.

This year we have removed the requirement for an extra paddle aboard each boat.  Paddles break every year, but in a tandem or larger, this is not a disaster.  On a solo, it could be a problem.  But improvisations can be made.  Most solos tend to carry a spare and enjoy the ability to switch from a double to a single so as to mix things up.  But at this time, this is not required.  But recommended.

There are many styles of Coast Guard approved PFD.  This is a personal choice.  For many, the belt style inflatables are chosen.  Others use the vest style.  Some use the belt style during the day and switch to the vest at night.  Again, choose what's right for you and your family.  But they must be worn full time.

Additional equipment will be needed for a successful finish.  The above is a bare minimum we require.  If you have a ground crew present, it's smart to have them carry all the odds and ends you can imagine might be useful, but only grab what you need for each leg of the journey.  If the weather looks bad overnight, you might grab rain gear and a small tent.  If the weather looks good, that stays in the car, etc. 

Those without ground crew physically present have to plan differently... and heavier. 


Folks email questions and that's great because it helps us know what gaps there are in this year's knowledge base and we can fill those in for everyone. 

1. What if my phone doesn't have a signal at a checkpoint when we try to text in?

If you have a ground crew there, no problem.  Just have them take care of you, get you back on the water and then pack up and leave.  They can send the text anytime after you've left.  It doesn't have to be exactly when you arrive or leave.  Just record the times and then send the text once they have a signal.  Usually, that's as soon as they drive up the hill from the boat ramp and back to the main roads.

If you do not have a ground crew present, you can walk to higher ground and see if that works.  Or look for our safety boat (we will typically have a safety boat parked at each checkpoint full time) and ask them if you can use their phone.  OR ask a ground crew if you can borrow theirs. 

This is the 3rd time we've used this system and it has worked well.  There is always a signal at the boat ramps, it just depends on if your carrier has one. 

Be sure to verify that the text has sent successfully.  Your phone should show a time stamp next to a text that has sent successfully.

2. My father is my ground crew and he doesn't know how to text.  What should we do?

He can learn.  You can help him.  You can start teaching him now.  You guys can be LOLing and OMGing for the next 3 months and he'll be a pro by race day.  Also, we'll have folks at every checkpoint who can help.   As a reminder, here's the format we need.

Boat #, Checkpoint, Time in/out


4433, Lexington, 230pm/240pm

OR, if staying an extended time...

4433, Miami, in at 130am, sleeping a few hours

then later...

4433, Miami, departing at 4am

There is no exact formula.  They will all be read by a human being at our end, so there is room for variety.  The essential information is WHO, WHERE, WHEN. 

3.  Should we use military time or am/pm when checking in?

Our volunteers prefer am/pm.  There is no need to put a date. 

4. Can our ground crew have an RV or trailer?

Yes, but they will have a rough time day 1 with parking.  As will everyone.  We are a very close pack on day 1 and so we see huge crowds at Lexington, Waverly and Miami.  Make sure they are prepared to walk their coolers to the ramp from some distance.  The Pro ground crews have wagons or dollies for hauling what they need down to the ramp.  Also good to have camp chairs for sitting and staring up the river.  Binoculars are treasured and the object of envy. 

By day 2 things have spread out and are less crowded.  Glasgow checkpoint is actually in a park with RV camping spots.  (first come first serve) Katfish Katy's is a private campground that will rent you space. 

5. What is the most common reason for dropping out?

Day 1 I would say it's discomfort.  That sounds like a poor reason for dropping out but then you're reading this from your comfortable, climate controlled lair.  People who drop out day 1 (not time disqualified) are doing so mostly because they hurt.  Many first timers who finish say that Day 1 hurts the most.  I think this is true.  There is a psychological leap to be made in understanding that discomfort is normal and must be compartmentalized in the mind.  It's not that Day 1 hurts the most, it's that you are least adapted to do it. 

Many drop out Day 1 due to time issues.  They miss a cutoff or, more commonly, they barely make a cutoff then linger at the checkpoint until making the next one becomes improbable.

After Day 1 there are many reasons.  We see sickness, which is often because of lack of eating or eating food they are not used to.  We see minor injuries like a sore shoulder or elbow.  Or a back that tightens up.  Very few people drop out after Glasgow.  Assuming they leave Glasgow with the sun still up on Day 2, they have banked several hours and have the flexibility to take breaks and make adjustments to pain and sickness if so afflicted.  If they spend Wednesday night in Glasgow, they are in trouble and generally don't finish.  I can't remember the last year someone slept Wednesday night in Glasgow.  I don't think it has happened since we moved to the 88 hour format.  Since the cutoff is 6pm, there is time to shower, eat, sleep a bit and then paddle out before dark.  Which brings us to...

6. I've never paddled at night and I'm pretty nervous about it.  Any advice?

You're not required to paddle at night but you'll really have to make big strides during daylight.  But everyone ends up paddling at night which should reassure you that it's not as scary as it sounds.  If you live near the river you should try and practice with some other folks sometime if you get a chance.  There are meetups for paddling on the forum and these are fun and informal.  Be smart and make sure there is good weather and a decent moon and have a float plan so folks are aware of your intentions.

Regarding the actual race, you'll be among many boats (unless you're in the top 10 or so) and you'll be able to catch on fairly quickly to the technique.  And you are always welcome to paddle along with a safety boat if there's one moving in your area at night.  Night 1 there will be a boat leaving Waverly with the last paddlers and making for Hills Island.  You can follow right alongside that boat the whole way.  Also, there will be a boat leaving Hills Island once that Waverly boat arrives.  Hop on with them if you'd like. 

Meanwhile, for the slightly faster folks there is usually a boat that leaves Miami around midnight or 1am... (varies depending on where we need them) and they go all the way to Glasgow. 

Understand that these boats sometimes have to move faster if needed somewhere to help a paddler.  But they would help you get landed if you were uncomfortable paddling without them.  The exception would be the last safety boat out of Waverly Tuesday night which is the sweep boat and will always stay with the last paddlers or group of paddlers.

7. We can't stay for the awards ceremony.  Can we still get our medals?

Yes.  Visit the t-shirt table and ask.  They will arrange to get you your medals or trophies early.

8. If the Reaper passes me, am I out?

Not necessarily.  The Reaper is a pace boat that will move at the minimum speed needed to make the cutoff times.  If the Reaper passes you 10 miles into the race, it means you need to speed it up.  You have to beat the Reaper to each checkpoint.  It's a visual representation of the cutoff time.  As long as you make each checkpoint before the Reaper, you're fine.

However... usually the folks battling cutoff times only have issues up until Glasgow.  After Glasgow, the Reaper pace is sometimes miles behind the last paddler.  Rather than waste a perfectly good safety boat 10 miles behind the action, we then move the Reaper up to the sweep or 10 or so canoes ahead of the sweep.  To avoid confusion, the Reaper always flies a flag about 10 feet in the air when "Reaping" and takes it down when assuming other duties.  If the Reaper passes you and has no tall flag flying, it's just another safety boat. 

Attached at the end of this forum post is a photo of the Reaper with flag flying for your reference.

Keep the questions coming.  We'll answer more in the next dispatch. 


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