Dispatch 4 [2019]

Flood Update: Osage Basin nearing normality as I type this.  Flows from Bagnell Dam (Lake of the Ozarks) reducing from 50,000 to 32,000 over next couple of days.  This affects the river below Jeff City. 
Kansas Basin still has a ways to go.  The Corps of Engineers are walking a tightrope there trying to get the water out while holding the river at a proscribed level.  Eventually, they'll be granted some sort of deviation there and will release more water.  The amount they plan to release "should" keep us at a level where we could race.  But rain would affect that.  So we need overall dry weather and hopefully, a little love from the Corps. 

Checkpoints and "Paddle Stops"
A checkpoint is a place where you are required to text in to our safety team your time IN and OUT.  The checkpoints and cutoff times are as follows:

Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am Tuesday, September 10.   

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

In addition to these mandatory check ins, there are hosted Paddle Stops that are great places to stop for a break or meet ground crew.  So here's a list of the Checkpoints in BOLD with the Paddle Stops placed in order between them along with distances.

Kaw Point, mile 367

50 miles

Lexington, mile 317

23 miles

Waverly, mile 294 

31 miles

Miami, mile 263

37 miles

Glasgow, mile 226

31 miles

Franklin Island, mile 195

25 miles

Cooper's Landing  mile 170

26 miles

Noren Access (Jeff City), mile 144 

46 miles  (we need one here in Chamois, mile 118.  If you are with a non-profit and interested, let us know)

Hermann, mile 98

17 miles

New Haven, mile 81 (New this year!)

25 miles

Klondike, mile 56

27 miles

St. Charles, mile 29, finish line

There are many more ramps than these.  And part of your strategy should be to know all of them and make sure your ground crew knows all of them as well.  But these we've indicated above will be staffed with volunteers and safety boats.  So you can see, the race is really a serious of smallish chunks to take on one after the other.  Carry what you need to make the next station, keeping your boat as light and fast as possible.  The Paddle Stops are staffed to reflect the cutoff times of the ramps above and below them.  If you're on a finisher's pace and more or less with the pack, you'll catch these still open. 

Checking In:
So you know you're required to check in but how do you do it? 

It's all done by text message and there will be a phone number for this given to you at the safety meeting.  You'll want to enter it into your phone and into your ground crew phone. 

The text message should be formatted properly so that we get what we need fed directly into our tracking software, RaceOwl.  If the message is not formatted, it will still get there but a human will have to massage it a little to get it to go in the system. 

Luckily, there is an app for that!  Go to where you get apps and look for MR340 Checkpoint Texter.  I believe this exists for free for Android and Apple.  With some simple clicks, it will format the text perfectly for you with your boat number, checkpoint and time.  Then you just send the text and you're done!  Super simple.  Download and play with it.  And train your ground crew on it. 

There are more advanced products from Jon Marble and Hogan Haake (the geniuses behind RaceOwl and all these apps) some of these will text for you automatically as you paddle by the checkpoint and will track you on a map for friends to watch.  Look for RaceOwl apps where you find your apps and you can have some fun!  But everyone should, at minimum, have the MR340 Text apps on their personal phone as well as ground crew.  Practice sending some texts now!

Physical Ground Crew vs. Virtual Ground Crew:
Let me start by saying as clearly as possible... Every boat HAS TO HAVE A GROUND CREW.  That said, not all ground crews are created equal.  Some are physically present helping their boat with food, gear, etc.  Meeting them at all kinds of ramps in all kinds of weather all the way to the promised land. 

Some, on the other hand, never leave the comfort of home.  But there job is super important! 

We count on ground crews to alert us if a paddler is late to a designated meeting.  Yes, we have cutoff times at checkpoints and we verify that all paddlers are accounted for when the cutoff time expires.  BUT, if a paddler were injured and needed help somewhere, waiting hours and hours for cutoff time is not effective.  So we depend on ground crews to monitor the progress. 

With a Physical Ground Crew that's easy.  They are waiting for you at the next ramp.  They know you should be there in a certain time frame.  You are a half hour late.  Then an hour late.  They call you.  You don't answer.  So they tell the safety boat parked at the ramp that they are worried... and we can go find you.

With a Virtual Ground Crew there is an extra step involved.  If you're paddling with a virtual ground crew you must essentially file a float plan with them every leg of the race.  So Aunt Margie is your ground crew back home.  Her number is on file with our safety team.  You check in with us at Lexington when you arrive (using the Text App please) then you text Aunt Margie and say, "We made it to Lexington. Next stop Waverly.  We should be there by 7pm and will contact you."  Margie, because she is awesome, makes a note of this on the legal pad you stole from work for her to use.  She writes down that you made it to Lexington at 3pm and you anticipate texting her at Waverly at 7pm. 

If she doesn't hear from you by 8pm or so, Margie contacts our safety boat hotline and let's us know she's concerned.  Thus, we know there may be a problem and can start keeping our eyes open on the stretch between Lexington and Waverly a yellow boat with that boat number. 

So it's on you to be religious about texting Margie and it's on Margie to be religious about making sure you're punctual.  And you can always text Margie if you're running late or change your plans or pull over for fog or whatever.  She's your backstop.  She's your parachute.  If all else fails, Margie is looking after you and can call in reinforcements. 

So for those of you that are planning to run unsupported, you better have your ground crew lined out.  And sit with them and explain all this.  And buy them some energy drinks because they too will be keeping odd hours during the race so they can monitor you remotely. 


Check the roster and make sure you're not missing a boat number or a partner.

Watch the Chris Luedke videos. 

Read the First Time Finisher book available on Amazon for download.

Coach up your ground crew.

Download the Texter apps and consider the more advanced apps for auto tracking and navigation features.

Pray for dry weather.

Figure out where the Safety Meeting and Check In are happening.  (520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, KS  September 9, Check starts 1pm to 6pm.  Safety meeting 7-8pm same place)

Put your numbers on your boat.

Put your navigation lights on your boat.

Start the gear pile.  Spouses prefer this be in the middle of the living room.

Get the ground crew vehicle tuned up and test battery and check tires.

Make sure there's a way to keep your cell phone dry and charged on your boat. 

Make sure you can survive a wet night in the middle of nowhere with heavy rain and cool temperatures.  What would you need and do you have it?

Practice self rescue in SAFE, shallow water at a lake near you.  Your boat is flipped over.  You should be able to get back in. 

Figure out what you need to have attached to YOU should you be separated from the boat. What do you have in your PFD?

Figure out how to pee in your boat.  You can't pull over every time you need to pee.  You'll never finish the race.  There are solutions for all geometries.  Practice.  There are clothing considerations, especially for women that can make this easier. 

Toughen up your hands.  Pullups and free weights are great for this if you can't do it through paddling hours alone. 

Stay positive!  You can do this!  WE can do this.  We just need a cooperative river and a little luck and we'll be out there making it happen together.  Once the race starts, it will all coalesce.  Just you and your boat and hundreds of supportive paddlers and volunteers working together!

And Aunt Margie, too!

More soon.


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