Missouri American Water MR340 Dispatch #5
If you've missed previous dispatches, you can find the important ones archived here on the forum:
Some race stats!
406 boats currently signed up.
269 with ground crew.
About 575 racers. Estimated 350 ground crew participants. A whole slew of volunteers on land and on water. Figure on over 1000 people all with one goal.
Find Kaw Point.
AND another goal. Make it to St. Charles.
To that end, we'd like to dedicate tonight's dispatch to helping you make it to St. Charles. To not only finish but to finish well.
Remember, there is no magical formula for finishing the MR340. It has been finished by every imaginable definition of "athlete." But there are many, many little mistakes that can conspire to have you home early. Here are a few.
1. Manage Your Temperature.
Summer is hot in Missouri. Lately, it's been hotter than ever. If you aren't used to working or exercising in the heat, Day 1 is going to shock you. And then wither you. Here are some strategies.
Stay properly hydrated. Drinking can cool you from the inside out. And it's essential to keeping your body's cooling system functioning properly. Choose drinks that you've trained with before. Remember, OVER hydration can kill you. You must balance liquid intake with electrolytes like salty foods or Gatorade in order to maintain a balance. Watch for warning signs like lethargy, headache, difficulty performing simple tasks, etc.
Stay wet. You will be surrounded by water that is likely 15-20 degrees cooler than the air. Keep your head wet. Keep your shirt wet. Let evaporative cooling work for you. You can stop in a safe, shallow spot with no current and sit in the water. Your body will cool quickly and you'll be amazed at the change.
Stay protected. Use sunscreen. A nasty sunburn on day 1 can doom your whole race.
You have to eat a lot of food to finish the 340. More calories than you need sitting at work reading emails from me. Understanding how your body uses food as fuel will help you finish the race. Your body is not unlike a campfire. It needs fuel. If it runs low, it will go out. But if you pile too much on at once, it might also go out. The key is to have a steady flow of fuel into the fire. One mistake we often see is someone show up to the race with lots of power bar type food that they would normally never eat. Then they start eating it and it's great for a few hours... and then it starts to taste bad to them. They start to feel sick because they've eaten too many and their body doesn't know what to do with it. Then they stop eating all together. Then they run low on energy and electrolytes. Almost impossible to bounce back from that.
A better strategy is to pack food that you are used to eating while training. And to eat well at the checkpoints either via your ground crew or the different food tents that the locals put up. A burger slathered in mustard and pickles might be just what your body needs in Lexington. Or a milkshake. Or a salad. Or a cantaloupe. Whatever your craving, have your ground crew get it and hand it to you. Your body is telling you what it wants. Rare is the person who craves that 6th power bar.
3. Keep Good Company
We've preached the "don't paddle alone" sermon a few times. It's a very good strategy. You will naturally go faster in a group. First of all, you can take turns drafting off each other. If you don't know what this means, visit youtube and watch videos on canoe or kayak drafting. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, there's a psychological boost from paddling with a group. This is especially useful at night when you might otherwise be tired. A good group can keep you motivated and alert. Many great stories of the 340 have to do with someone wanting to give up and then a group coming along and changing everything. "...and the last 150 miles just flew by and I had an amazing time..." A common refrain.
4. Don't Over Pack.
You will anyway, but maybe reading this will cut it by 10% or so. You gotta remember, the laws of physics are not suspended just because you're in a boat on the water. There is still an energy premium to be paid for every OUNCE you pick up and carry to St. Charles. If you have a ground crew, there is really no excuse for over packing. Travel as light as possible, checkpoint to checkpoint. Minimal gear, food and fluids. Just enough to get you there. How much is just enough? I have no idea. Everyone is different. But hopefully in your training you are learning what you need.
5. Don't sit on the ramp.
Stay in the boat. Don't eat or drink sitting on the boat ramp. Do whatever you can do IN THE BOAT. This is one of the most common regrets from finishers who review their race and discuss it on the forum later. "I spent way too much time on land." They add it all up and realize they could have easily cut 5-6 hours of shore time out.
Treat terra firma as if it's hot lava. Get in and get out as quickly as possible. It's an incredible waste of time to sit in a chair and eat a sandwich when you could be sitting in your boat and eating while moving downstream. There's no rule that says you have to paddle the whole time you're in the boat. You can sit and rest. Sit and eat. Talk on the phone. I've heard of tandem canoes where one guy is making coffee while the other guy keeps the boat headed in the right direction. Some tandems rig their boat so one guy can catch a nap while the other paddles. Everyone should be making sure their boat and clothing are as comfortable as possible so that staying in the boat is not torturous. Have a sense of urgency at a boat ramp with clear goals to accomplish quickly and efficiently before getting back on the conveyor belt to St. Charles.
6. Force A Smile.
Be positive as much as possible. If your self talk consists mainly of "My butt hurts it's hot out here I want to go home this sucks" then you can bet money, you will not finish. Instead, find the things that are going well and put them in your soundtrack.
"I'm 20 minutes ahead of schedule."
"My boat is doing everything I ask of it"
"That cold Mountain Dew behind my seat is going to taste great when I drink it"
"I just passed 20 boats that were sitting at that last checkpoint"
"My ground crew rocks"
"That moon is beautiful"
"I smell bad, but not as bad as THAT guy."
"My flashlight is way better than hers."
"I'm lucky to be healthy enough to do stuff like this"
It may sound trite, but it makes a difference. Remind yourself why you signed up and what it will feel like to paddle those last 10 strokes to the finish line.
More to come soon. Keep preparing and keep sending me questions. Also, the forum is really lighting up with good information and advice. Don't miss out. www.rivermiles.com/forum