Dispatch 4 [2018]

06/22/18 AT 00:41:04

About this time of year the speculation begins about what kind of river we will have out there during the race.  Will it be high or low?  There is no crystal ball... but there are many data points already set that give us some answers.

First, I can tell you that we will NOT have a low water year.  As much as I always hope and pray for low water, it ain't happening this year.  How do we know?  Well, a large portion of our flow comes from the accumulated mountain snowpack in the Rockies.  And this was a big season for snow in our basin.  140% of normal snowfall.  So we've got a lot of water stored in the reservoirs up in the Dakotas that is eventually coming our way.  This is metered out over time to try to minimize high water, but with that much snow, they have to dump more water than normal.  A normal year might see them dumping 30,000cfs (cubic feet per second) but this year they are having to dump closer to 50,000.  That extra 20,000 pretty much guarantees a high water year.

In addition to this we have recently had some heavy rains in Iowa and Nebraska that have filled some lakes in those states and also a big one in Kansas.  Tuttle Creek in Kansas is a large lake that can hold a bunch of runoff.  It has been at pretty normal levels until this rain.  It will hold an extra 7 feet or so by the time it crests and all that water will then be let out.  That will add another foot to the river leading up to the race.

So if you're worried about low water, don't be.  But if you're hoping to rest on sandbars for your catnap you may be out of luck.

The other downside of a high water baseline is that it makes us more susceptible to a flood delay if we get a significant rainstorm in the days before the race.  We have less wiggle room to play with so be careful what you wish for.  You've got your high water race.  Now we need reasonably dry conditions between now and then to create some space for us to have the race.

Racers like high water because it of course will move them faster towards their goal.  Might mean an extra half mile an hour which can really add up!  But it also means you need to be more aware of your speed as you approach bridges, landings, etc.  And it may mean some of your landings require a little more work to get to that ramp as you approach from downstream.  But all in all, most veteran racers will be smiling about the water levels.  Unless we flood.

Here's a list of gauges with forecast levels that can be handy in monitoring river levels for planning training runs, etc. 

I've included most gauges starting at Yankton, SD to give you a sense of how a large influx of water can work it work its way down the river.  It takes 5 days for us to feel a change at Yankton.  3 days for us to feel a change from Tuttle Creek up the Kansas River. 

If you REALLY want to geek out, here's link to a map with a collection of dozens of gauges in the Missouri River Basin.  This will give you an understanding of how HUGE the basin is and how every drop of water that falls on that expanse tries to find its way to St. Charles just like you.  So when you watch the weather and you see it raining in Wyoming, you'll feel it.  Welcome to my nightmare.

ON to more cheerful stuff. 

We've covered much ground in the previous dispatches.  By now you've checked the roster and verified that your boat number is valid and that your partner(s) are all signed up.  You've grown accustomed to the soothing, dulcid tones of Chris Luedke and his great videos at ;

You've read the book

You've been working out, building endurance and core strength.  You've spent hours in your boat at the Hump Day 5k or the many other paddling opportunities state wide you can find here:

You've got a feel for what speed and stroke rate you are able to sustain comfortably.  (with all your gear)  You've got a good PFD that you will wear full time during the race. 

You've got a ground crew, either physically present during the race or virtual at home with whom you will check in on a regular basis.  You've had actual conversations with this person so they understand what you're doing and what is expected of them. 

You've got a kick-butt LED flashlight that you can keep in your cockpit at night for use as needed.

You've got navigation lights mounted to your boat.  Here's some if you're looking: ; You need a red, a green and white one.  These are simple to use.  Turn them on night one and forget them.  Last for 100 hours.  Place some black tape on any portion of the light that is shining at YOU in the cockpit.  Including the white light on back of the boat.  It will shine on your paddle and hurt your night vision.  You just need the portions of the light that shine away from you to be uncovered.

You've got two hats.

You've got two sunglasses.

You've downloaded to your phone one or two of the supercool phone apps.  Like the MR340 Checkpoint Texter (free) which makes checking in and out at a checkpoint super easy.  Or the free RaceOwl tracker for Android or Apple which will allow you to be tracked live at so that your friends can watch.  Or the MR340 Pro Paddler App (a few bucks) that does everything the raceowl app does but also has a fantastic map of the river so that you will see where the channel is. 

Make sure your physical ground crew has the texter app so they can easily text you in and out at the ramp.  You should have it to. 

If you've got facebook, you've requested membership in the MR340 group for great information and networking!

You by now surely know where and when the mandatory sign in (July 23, 1-6pm Hilton Garden Inn, 530 Minnesota Ave, Kansas City, KS) and the mandatory safety meeting (July 23, 7pm, same place) are being held.  Good for you!

You've found out there's something called "body lube" and you've tried it.

You've figured out how to pee in your boat.  For guys, this is a gatorade bottle.  For women, there are many approaches, including this which makes a gatorade bottle possible.

You've figured out what food works for you and you won't try something new during the race.

Same with drinks.

You've figured out how to use bicycle drink tube technology on a boat.  So you can keep paddling while taking sips.


You've been paddling enough that your hands are getting calloused in the proper places. 

You've got some light colored, wicking material, long sleeve shirts and tights to keep yourself protected head to toe from the sun and to help you stay cool.

You and your ground crew will have some cash so that you can buy some food and drinks from the many non-profit groups that will be set up at checkpoints so that you can eat and drink and they can keep their operation going!  (Boy scout troops, civic groups, etc)


We couldn't do this race without our enormous safety boat presence!  We will have 19 safety boats on the water full time during the race.  You will see about 10 of these at the staring line.  The rest are staged downstream.  At the longest span of coverage, we have racers stretching from Lisbon Bottoms to the finish line.  About 190 miles for these boats to cover.  So you're always leaving a checkpoint with a safety boat stationed and heading towards another checkpoint with a safety boat stationed.  You'll also see them between checkpoints as they too are traveling checkpoint to checkpoint and making their way to St. Charles. 

Their role is to be a resource to you should you need to be picked up somewhere between boat ramps.

Example:  Your boat is damaged and can't safely make the next boat ramp.  You call the safety boat dispatch number on your waterproof safety card (issued at the safety meeting) and the dispatcher will arrange for the nearest upstream boat to come down to you.  That boat will then load you up and take you to the nearest downstream ramp where your ground crew should be waiting.

The safety boats can also be a resource at checkpoint if you need to borrow a phone or charge a phone.

As they pass you on the water they might give you a "thumbs up" to verify that you are OK.  They are looking for you to return the thumbs up.  If you need them you should wave your arms over your head and they will come over. 

Our safety boats cannot operate in dangerous conditions like storms or fog.  So all paddlers must be prepared to shelter in place for several hours if needed in the event of this situation.  If you need a safety boat during a storm or fog, one will be there as soon as possible after the weather has improved.  If it is a life threatening emergency, please indicate this and we can assist 911 dispatchers getting to you by water or land.  But if it's a non emergency, be prepared to wait for safe weather. 

Obviously, the safety boat dispatch number is for priority calls about paddlers.  It is not for general information about what place you are in or who won the Cardinals game.  This phone can get very busy sometimes and we need to keep the line open.  But if you need picked up or if you're worried about a tardy paddler, give us a call!

Safety boats are instructed to check on ANY BOAT that is pulled off to the side, beached, etc.  This is to verify that the paddler is ok.  99.9% of the time they are just up in the trees taking care of business.  But we have to confirm that there is not an abandoned boat or injured party.  Typically, this goes as follows.  Safety boat cruising downstream at 7-8 mph.  spots a boat pulled up onshore, slowly drifts towards this parked boat, hovers in the water nearby and before deciding to land and investigate, the paddler emerges from the trees and waves and we wave back and go on our way. 

Let's say nobody emerges from bushes.  We would then land our boat.  We'd look up your boat number and cross check on our roster to see your name.  We'd yell your name.  If no answer we would call your cell phone.  Still no answer we would call your ground crew phone.  We'd hopefully hear that you're fine but if they haven't heard from you, we'd start searching in the vicinity of your boat to see if you're there somewhere, asleep, etc. 

Only one time have events gone beyond this.  And in this instance a severely dehydrated paddler had walked away from his boat believing he had reached the finish line (he hadn't) and was walking to his hotel.  Luckily, our safety boat team found him laying down in a cornfield after an hour of searching.  This could have ended badly.  This is why we always check on every boat.

We also like to believe that every canoe or kayak out there is a safety boat as well.  And that we are all looking out for one another.  We get calls every year from paddlers saying

"Hey, I'm with a guy and he isn't doing very well.  We're about 8 miles above Glasgow and pulled over on river left.  Could maybe someone come and help him?  I think he wants to be picked up."

This is an example of the spirit that's out there.  A paddler stopping their race to look after someone until help arrives.  This is essential to our safety plan.  That a paddler would stay with a struggling person until help arrives.  This could include just paddling alongside and talking to them as you make your way to a checkpoint.  Sharing some water if they've run out, etc. 

Please, if possible, stay with the paddler.  If someone is wobbly enough that you would call us about them, then they are in a precarious enough situation that someone needs to stay with them.  It's hard on us to get a call that says,

"Hey, I passed a guy that was a real mess.  He was lethargic and could barely paddle.  He couldn't answer when I asked if he was ok.  You guys should really go check on him.  He's about 3 miles behind me somewhere."

That's not a responsible paddler.  And we rarely get a call like that.

Another thing that a responsible paddler does is to be constantly assessing her own health out there.  If you think you're starting to spiral, the time to act is 5 minutes ago.  Flag down another racer and ask if they'll stay with for a couple miles while you try to drink or eat.  If you think it's heat related, try to find some safe, shallow, still water where you can safely sit and let the water cool you down.  Determine if you can safely make it to the next checkpoint.  If not, call us to be picked up BEFORE it becomes a medical situation.  We just need your approximate mile marker, boat color and which side of the river you're on.  We will be there as quickly as possible!

Your Pertinent Info

In the next week or so you'll be receiving an email from us, customized with all the info you gave us at registration.  Boat number, phone numbers, ground crew name and number, etc.  We are sending this to verify that it is still accurate and to save you time at the sign in so you don't have to make the changes there.  We will post here on the forum and on facebook when this email has been sent.  Anything we can get done before Monday, July 23rd is good for everyone!

Keep your questions coming to

We will see you in about a month!


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