Dispatch 6 [2015]

07/21/15 AT 23:14:33


We've had a crazy, wet summer in KC.  By many measures this summer has been compared to the terrible summer of 1993 which was one of the worst floods recorded.  Yet somehow, we're still staged to complete the 10th Annual Missouri American Water MR340 on time.

So we'd better get to work.

Here's the latest on the river and weather situation as of Tuesday night.

The river is forecast by both the National Weather Service and the Corps of Engineers to be well below flood stage at all checkpoints by the time we arrive.  Important to note that this assumes very little rain added to the equation. 

Speaking of rain, we're going to have some in the watershed before the race.  We can handle a little.  We cannot handle the monsoon 3+ inches per hour storms we've been getting.  The current weather forecast calls for rain.  Here's the 10pm National Weather Service 7 day.

Wednesday:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 82. East wind 6 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Wednesday Night:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. East wind 5 to 7 mph becoming calm in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Thursday:  Partly sunny, with a high near 87. East southeast wind 3 to 8 mph.

Thursday Night:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. Southeast wind 6 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Friday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 94.

Friday Night:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 77. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Saturday:  A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 92. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Saturday Night:  Partly cloudy, with a low around 75.

Sunday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 91.

Sunday Night:  Partly cloudy, with a low around 73.

Monday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 90.

Monday Night:  Partly cloudy, with a low around 74.

Tuesday:  Mostly sunny, with a high near 92.

Not too bad.  Much better than what they had been saying earlier today. 

So with all the experts telling us we have a good chance, let's work through some final details.

Kaw Point Parking:  Due to construction near the park, we've lost all our overflow parking this year.  We went down and counted about 400 spaces inside the park.  These will fill up quickly Tuesday morning.  We've got the Kansas City, KS Rotary Club volunteering to direct parking starting at 5am.  Once the lot is full, we can't let anyone else in.  You'll have to park wherever you can and walk.  There are NOT many options down there.  There's some gravel areas north of Kaw Point behind some warehouses and then you could walk down the levee trail.  Not ideal. Ideally, you'll get there early and get a space.  Anything you can do to minimize cars is appreciated.  If you are staying at the hotel and can carpool with another team, that would help.  This is a one year issue and we'll be back to a huge parking lot next year. 

Many folks park the night before and sleep at the park.  I always sleep there too.  Well, none of us really sleep, but we close our eye now and then.  If you are there the night before please cooperate with the Rotary guys who are trying to set a parking pattern.  They may ask you to move here or there so that things are primed for morning.

With parking so crowded you may not be able to easily leave after the solo start at 7am.  Please be prepared to hunker down until after the 8am start.  Your soloist will take at least 5 hours to get to Lexington.  You'll have lots of time to get there or to any of the early options for resupply.  The lot will empty very quickly after the 8am gun.

It will be very difficult to unload your boat and gear Tuesday morning unless you arrive very early.  Most folks will stage their boats the night before.  That way it's unloaded and ready to go in the morning.  Please don't leave paddles or electronics.  Just the boat.  We'll have security at the park by noon to watch over safety boats and your boats.  They will have a roster.  They expect boats to be dropped off.  They do NOT expect boats to be loaded and taken away.  If they see someone loading a boat they will question them and ask for some ID that matches the roster and boat number.  We can't guarantee the safety of your boat.  Anything is possible.  But we've never had a problem in 9 previous years. 

If you opt not to stage your boat the night before, you should make a special point to arrive early.  You may have to carry your boat quite a ways to the river.

Parking Limited!
You may stage your boat Monday starting at noon.
Arrive early Tuesday.
Be patient entering and exiting the park.

Mandatory Safety Meeting:
Registration (sign in) between noon and 6pm.  Everyone must sign in.  This is your first checkpoint.  Takes place at the Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Ave, Kansas City, KS  Lower level of the adjacent convention center.

Sponsors will address you starting at 650.  Safety meeting will start promptly at 7pm.  The hotel is putting on their usual pasta buffet.  Price varies.  They are also serving beer this year.  Be careful.

At the safety meeting we'll go through many of the things you've heard before.  It will be a good review. 

REMEMBER:  Once you've signed in you have started the race.  A certain percentage of the 600 racers will NOT end up starting due to illness, emergency, etc.  You HAVE to inform us that you are not starting.  Otherwise we will assume you started and never made it to Lexington. 

Meeting should end by 8pm.  I will hang out a few minutes to answer pressing questions.  Then you are on your own until morning.  Our team will be working all night on safety boats, cleaning up the roster, etc.

Tuesday morning after you find a place to park you've got one job.  Get on the river.  This is 80 more boats than we've ever had before.  That means longer lines at the ramp.  Lucky for you there are more options than just the ramp.  Any and all shoreline in the park should be used for launching.  The point where the Kaw and Missouri meet is an especially easy spot to launch.  You will get muddy launching.  And wet.  Best to just surrender to it.  You'll be wet and muddy all week.  You won't recognize your boat or your clothes or even your partner at the finish line. 

Solo boats should start launching by 530am in order to be on the water by 7.  But many will wait and then won't be on the water.  7am is the solo gun.  If you're not on the water you will have to catch up. 

Tandem and larger boats can launch anytime.  Their gun is 8am.  Ready or not.

The starting line is anywhere UPSTREAM of the BOAT RAMP.

You're actually starting on the Kansas (Kaw) River.  It will likely have a little current.  You'll have to occasionally paddle upstream and drift back to position.  Stay upstream of the ramp.  We will have a sound system and music playing and announcements leading up to each start.  National Anthem also will be sung prior to the 7am start.  We'll count it for the 8am too.

About 250 boats will go at 7am.  About 150 at 8am.

Not every boat can take the same line out of the harbor.  We will need to spread out.  There are always collisions at the confluence because the transition from the slow Kaw to the fast Missouri pushes boats from left to right at the mouth.  Paddles start hitting each other and there is a small patch of chaos.  Avoid this by choosing a less obvious and thereby less crowded path to the Missouri.  Typically we see very few boats exit the upstream end of the confluence.  Everyone shoots for the middle or downstream end.  Another option is to just let every else paddle like mad for the first minute and you just cruise slowly and choose the path that's not thrashed. 

IF you dump your boat anywhere in the first 5 miles, you'll be assisted by the Kansas City Fire Department.  They will have 4-5 boats in the water to help you.  You are not out of the race.  Just let them get you to shore and put back together and on your way. 

There are several bridges to negotiate in the first 5 miles.  Same idea.  Not everyone can go through the same span simultaneously.  Usually by the first bridge, we've formed a conga line of sorts and everyone cooperates.  Just like on the highway, if someone needs to merge to avoid hitting something, everyone scoots over and lets them merge.  Easy Peasy.

We'll have safety boats that leave before the solos, then more that leave after the solos, then a few that leave just before the tandems, and then the sweep boat and the REAPER will leave after everyone else.

We've talked about the Reaper before but it bears a review.  The Reaper is the pace boat.  Her job is to set the minimum consistent pace that it takes to make each checkpoint.  It is a visual representation of your potential disqualification.  Click here to see a picture of the Reaper.

We have a different crew aboard this year so ignore those two mugs in the picture.  Instead, note the 10 foot tall flag.  When this flag is up, the Reaper is in pace position.  If the flag is down, the Reaper is on other business.  The flag will be up all of Day 1 and likely all of Day 2.  Usually at the end of Day 2 the Reapees have all been Reaped and most folks are well ahead of cutoff times.  That being the case, the Reaper becomes just another friendly safety boat out there to assist.

Just because the Reaper passes you doesn't mean you're out.  You have to beat the Reaper to each checkpoint.  So if you see the Reaper pass as you're paddling it just means you have to speed up and pass it.  It will be going as slow as a slowish canoe or kayak.  You'll be able to catch and pass the Reaper if you have any hope of finishing in 88 hours. 

If the Reaper beats you to Lexington you are officially out of the race.  Same at each subsequent checkpoint. 


We've reviewed procedures for checkpoints in the previous dispatch.  All boats must text in at each checkpoint.  Instructions are in the dispatch above this one.  Instructions will also be on the safety card all racers will carry.  Volunteers will process these texts and will help us keep track of all racers.  It is crucial to the safety plan that you text in and out of each checkpoint.  If you opt to exit the race, you MUST TEXT that fact to us so we aren't looking for you on the river.  If your cell phone fails or is dead or wet or sunk to the bottom, talk to a safety boat crew or volunteer at the checkpoint.  They can either text for you or let you borrow their phone.  They will also help you charge a phone if needed. 

We've also talked about the crowds at the first 4 checkpoints.  Parking will be full.  Boat ramps must be kept clear enough to walk up and down.  Plan your exchanges with ground crew to be quick and efficient.  They should have whatever you might need ready to go when the meet you at the water.  Boom boom gone.  If you plan to stay longer than that it is perfectly acceptable.  You just have to carry your boat up the ramp and out of the way until read to launch again later.  Just like at Kaw Point, there are more places to launch than just the ramp.  You'll be a pro at this in no time. 

There will be food and drink for sale at all checkpoints.  These are individual boy scout troops and other organizations.  It is very handy to have stuff for sale at the ramps for the unsupported paddlers especially.  Our safety boats will have water for emergency use and will happily give it to any paddler that needs it.  Just flag us down and it's yours!  No penalty.  No questions asked. 

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.

We 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.


I would bet money that we get some rain this year.  It hasn't gone more than 3 days without rain all summer.  If it rains at night you will get very cold before it's all over.  Paddling in the rain is not a problem if you're properly dressed, paddling hard and consuming calories.  Take one of those legs off the stool and you fall over. 

You will have to pay attention to the forecast and plan ahead.  Grab rain gear from ground crew if rain is forecast.  If thunderstorms are forecast be ready for a tent or a tarp setup.  Everyone is required to have the foil blanket.  These are amazingly effective if used properly for warmth. 

If the storm advertises high winds it's crucial you get off the water before it hits.  Especially at night.  The river in a storm at night is not anything you're going to want to experience.  Pulled up on shore waiting for it to pass will be more than enough adventure, trust me. 

Lighting is scary out there.  There's really no place to hide.  You'll hear the mantra "stay away from the trees" but there's two ways to look at that.  The origin of that assumes you're in field or a park and standing under a tree for shelter from the rain.  In that case, yes, a tree is dangerous if it's the only tree in a field or open area.  But along the river bank there are THOUSANDS of trees every 100 yards.  If you are in the treeline off the river your odds are far safer than if you are out on a naked sandbar or paddling midriver.  If you're hunkered down in the trees and the tree you're next to gets hit out of all the trees.. well, it may have just been your time to go. 

But that's my opinion.  If you feel safer away from the trees by all means do what your gut tells you.  You're here because your ancestors had good gut instincts... you likely inherited them too.  But my gut in a storm on the river always yells loudly to get to the crowded tree lined shore... where I'm the shortest thing among thousands of better targets.

Safety Boat Protocol:

Our safety boats and crews are top notch.  Most have done this duty for 5 years or more.  It's a skilled position and we don't invite just anyone.  You're in good hands out there.  They are instructed to watch both shorelines for boats onshore.  If they see a boat parked they will glide that direction just to make sure you're ok.  Does this mean they might interrupt your private visit to the bushes for some relief?  Yeah, maybe.  But it's still part of the safety plan and there's really no way around it.  We've had people pulled over retching and cramping who were too weak to stand up.  We gotta check. 

It's possible you might pull over because you're not feeling well.  Maybe your cell phone is dead and your waiting and hoping a safety boat will come by.  Do everything you can to make sure they see you.  Boats are best seen if they are on the sunny portion of the bank.  Don't put them in the tree shade if you can help it.  If it's night time, keep the nav lights on and use a flashlight to signal.  Everyone is supposed to have a whistle on their pfd.  Blow it! If you're on the downstream side of a wing dam they might not see you as they pass.  Try to be visible from upstream. 

We use a thumbs up "Ok" symbol and wave both arms "need help" symbol.  Help doesn't mean you're quitting.  Maybe you're out of water.  Maybe you want to tell us you're not feeling well and would like company for the last few miles to the checkpoint.  Don't hesitate to flag them down.  They volunteered because they love the river and the race and they want to help!

During storms or fog our boats are tied off on shore.  If you phone us for help in those conditions we have to wait until the storm subsides or the fog lifts.  That's why it's so essential that you have what you need to survive for a few hours of storm time or fog time.  Warm clothing and minimal shelter like a tarp or space blanket can make all the difference.  Also important is a relative knowledge of where you are.  Most people know where they are within a mile or two because you're constantly counting miles.  Any information you can give us on your location will help us get there faster. 

Remember too that there are roads paralleling both sides of the river.  You're rarely more than mile from a road and then rarely more than 2-3 miles from a house on that road.  If catastrophe strikes and your boat got away and cell phone is gone you can either flag down another paddler (best option) or hike out and call us as soon as you find a phone.

With all scenarios, there is an obvious, simple solution.  This race is one big problem solving experience.  A simple moment to take stock of a situation and figure the best answer will always be time well spent.  We aren't in the upper Amazon.  We're in Missouri.  Help is never far away.

Food and Drink

Nobody can tell you what to eat and drink out there.  They can only tell you what works for them.  But there are some basic guidelines to know.  Most folks understand what dehydration is and that you need to keep your fluid intake up so that your muscles and brain can perform optimally.  But many people do not know that too much water, without supplementing your electrolytes, can be as dangerous, if not more so, than dehydration. 

When you tax your body and sweat to cool yourself you are losing water and electrolytes.  Replacing just the water will eventually end your race.  You'll either bonk out or have severe cramping or possibly much worse.  Be sure that you are getting enough fluids AND electrolytes.  There are electrolyte supplement drinks like Gatorade and a thousand others.  Those are generally all fine.  But you can also get all the electrolytes you will need just from eating. 

You should think of your body as a machine.  You have to keep it fueled or it will stop working.  Bad cycles of eating can lead to having to quit the race.  It often can look something like this.

The paddler starts out, excited and pumped.  Races hard day 1, drinking gatorade and water...but not eating much.  By mid day his energy is low and he feels nauseous.  Now he REALLY doesn't want to eat.  He keeps sipping his water and gatorade but it makes him feel sick.  His energy flags.  He is barely paddling anymore.  He makes it to Waverly and needs help walking up the ramp.  He quits.

Understand that you are burning a tremendous amount of calories moving you and your boat down the river.  If you get behind on replenishing those calories your body will start to weaken.  You'll feel sick and feel tired and will eventually have to end your race.

You should eat consistently throughout the race.  It should not resemble a "breakfast, lunch and dinner" scenario.  Instead, you will want to nibble all day long.  Think of your food intake like keeping a campfire going.  You wouldn't wait until the fire was almost out and then dump a truckload of wood on the embers.  Instead you'd throw smaller logs on at regular intervals to keep it burning at its hottest.

There's a temptation to go to a sports store and buy lots of high tech food and syrups and powders.  And those have their place.  But the bulk of your diet should just be normal food.  Real food.  It's not a time to eat celery and kale.  It's a time to eat salt and fats and carbs.  This is the week you can eat a double cheeseburger and not feel guilty.  Or half a pizza.  Or an entire bag of potato chips.  That fat will burn up nicely and be converted to your next 5000 paddle strokes.  My favorite is salty, oily peanuts.  You can take a mouthful and paddle for miles. 

But don't take someone else's food advice.  Try stuff out on your training runs.  You should have an idea of how your body will react to food.  But NOT eating is NOT an option.  That's an early trip home.

Definitely you should try to avoid any drinks or food that use high fructose corn syrup.  I don't let that stuff in my house anymore.  It's great if you're in the food business and want to increase your profit margin, but if you're an endurance athlete, it's your enemy.  It's difficult to digest and we see folks with stomach problems out there that we can trace right to HFC.  The market is catching on and you see many products now that no longer contain it.  Many of the "Throwback" sodas now have real sugar and make for great energy boosters out there.  Check it out at the grocery store.  They make real sugar pepsi, mountain dew, Dr. Pepper, Sierra Mist and more.  Try one and you'll remember what pop used to taste like back in the 70s.  Before HFC. 

Death By 1000 Cuts

DNF=Did Not Finish

Many reasons for the 100+ DNFs we will see this year.  Too many to possibly predict or enumerate here.  Many times it's a crushing avalanche of tiny things that lead someone to load their boat on the car and head home before reaching St. Charles.  We call this Death By 1000 Cuts.  DB1KC.

Here are some tiny cuts that can add up.


Go find the silkiest shirt or tie or lingerie in your collection.  Now, pick a spot on your skin and rub it gently there for, let's say 60 hours.  I promise you, while it may feel pleasant enough for the first 8 or 10, the next 50 hours are going to be miserable... and you'll have a nice welt there to show for it. 

Chafing will surprise the rookie who hasn't experienced days upon days of doing something like this.  You'll find hotspots every where.  Armpits, toes, crotch, thighs and one that surprises the heck out of most guys...nipples.  Yes, male nipples are often mercilessly chafed out there by the end of day 1.  I am not joking.  Females seem to have this all figured out.  We do not.

Cotton is a plant.  A fibrous plant.  So that cotton shirt you're wearing is a dead plant.  Feels great sitting around watching a baseball game for a few hours.  But get it damp with salty sweat and do a repetitive motion like paddling for hours on end and those useless little man-nipples you've managed to ignore your whole life will suddenly have your full attention.

Solution?  There are many.  Non-cotton shirts do better.  Another solution is bandaids or some other protection over the tender area BEFORE it gets bad.  You will see guys at Kaw Point with bandaids showing through their shirts.  Now you'll know why and you won't make fun of them. 

Hydropel and similar products offer protection for all kinds of places on your soon to be tested skin.  It's like a body lube that repels water and keeps you all squishy and slippery where you'll want to be squishy and slippery.  Maybe this has never been an issue for you on your 5-6 hour training runs... but going all day and night, then day and night, then day and night... will expose your weaknesses.  Trust the veterans and lube everything up "down there" and everywhere else where you might chafe.  Body glide is another product.  Like all the stuff we talk about, there is no magic bullet.  You've gotta find out what works for you.  Reapply often!


Another contributor to the Death by 1000 Cuts is a nasty sunburn.  Please don't wait to apply sunscreen.  It should be on at 5am day 1.  Sun protection in the form of long sleeve paddling shirts, tights, hats with flaps, sunglasses, covered feet, etc. are commonly seen worn by veterans.  Because they know what's coming.  Don't forget to protect your hands.  They're kind of important out there.  And your eyes!  Your eyes can get sun burned.  Not sure if that's the technical term for what happens, but if you stare all day at the sun bouncing off the water, often times by sunset your eyes hurt too much to even keep open.  This has knocked people out of the race.  Bring sunglasses.  And have an extra pair stashed either with ground crew or somewhere aboard.  A strap is not a bad idea either.


Most folks will get some blisters on hands and fingers.  You can prevent or minimize this by doing lots of training and building up calluses.  Besides paddling to build up calluses, those other exercises you're doing to build your core muscles, like pull ups, can also build calluses.  Toughen up your hands while you can.

Then, while out there during the race, be aware and alter your grip from time to time to protect tender spots.  You can also use many of the blister treatments like mole skin and good old duct tape to protect spots that are getting "hot" before they become hamburger.  You'll see lots of folks in St. Charles with duct taped hands and fingers.  Gloves are another option.  Some folks swear by them, others despise them.  Not anyone's call but yours.  Whatever works for you when you train. 

Eating the Elephant

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. 

How do you conquer 340 miles of river?

You really just have to break it down into several small trips.  340 miles is an overwhelming number.  Especially if your experience is only 30-40 mile training runs.  But that's ok.  If you know what it takes to do a 35 mile training run at a sustainable speed, keeping hydrated and fed and using efficient technique, that's great!  You just have to do that 10 times and you'll be there. 

Most folks approach it checkpoint to checkpoint.  Some break it down by day.  Others take it in 3 or 5 hour chunks.  Breaking it down into manageable bites will help your mental game.  And this is mostly a mental challenge. 

Reward yourself at regular intervals.  Your ground crew can help with this.  Rewards should be simple things.  An ice cold drink (remember, no high fructose corn syrup) is a great idea.  If you know there's something you crave waiting at that next rendezvous, it makes a difference.

Music is a big motivator that can get you through a rough patch.  We do not recommend ear buds as you need to hear what's going on around you... but waterproof speakers are great!  Use that playlist to your advantage.  Tell yourself you're going to paddle hard for that entire Boston album and then you're going to drift for two Jimmy Buffet songs while you eat a banana and a frozen snickers.  Find what works for you.

Some folks get into the math of it all.  They can tell you exactly what percent of the race is behind them.  I've come up to folks and asked how they're doing.  "Great!  We are 52% of the way there!"  And they proceed to update me every 3.4 miles.

Above all, remember to have fun.  You're in your boat!  You're on the river!  You're NOT at work.  I remember one guy telling me he wasn't having any fun the first day because all he did was stare at his gps and watch his average speed the whole time.  Only when it got dark and he couldn't see the darn thing anymore did he start having fun and just relax and enjoy the experience.  The next morning he just turned the gps off and never touched it again.  He stopped worrying about the clock (he was well ahead of cutoff times) and started enjoying the moments and chapters of his race.

Find some fun people to paddle alongside for awhile and get to know them.  You might be with them for 10 minutes or an hour or an entire night and day.  Yes, it's a race and you'll be passing a bunch of people day 1 and that's exciting.  But by day 2 and 3, it seems to become less about passing each other and more about helping each other survive.  There's some crazy bonding that happens, especially towards the middle and back of the race.  You'll see groups finish together... and by together I mean they will precisely finish together with noses touching the beach simultaneously.  Blood brothers and sisters now.  But only just meeting a few dozen hours before. 

So relax and let go of some of that nervousness.  Yes, it's a LONG way to St. Charles.  But it's not that far to Lexington.  And from Lexington, it's not bad to Waverly.  And from Waverly, it's just 12 miles to Hills Island!  And just 10 miles from there is Grand Pass Sandbar... and then 10 more miles to Miami and pancakes!  Well, you get the idea. 

Proceed as the way opens...

These are words to live by.  I first read them in the book River Horse by William Least-Heat Moon.  He was on an extended boat journey and this was his mantra.  He understood that planning is wonderful and an excellent exercise... but that once out there, circumstances present themselves that will conflict with the best plans.  And one can either resist, or go with the flow.  There is wisdom in deciding which is best.

I can imagine that many of us have penciled out some plans for the race... where we hope to be and when... what places we'll meet ground crew and what places we will skip to avoid crowds... and even written down a finish time... gently, softly, barely visible...but soon darkened and impossible to erase...a goal that must be met at all costs.

Nothing at all wrong with the planning.  It's a very healthy process for figuring out how to tackle the race.  It shows you how tough it's going to be and that it certainly will require a diligent and consistent effort.  But to imagine that your formula sketched on those papers is the only way to make it happen... well, that's what they call hubris and it can get you in trouble.

Instead, proceed as the way opens.  Keep your plan A.  But be ready to execute plan F.  F can stand for lots of things.  Including Finish.

And you may be pleasantly surprised to find that adjusting your plans on the fly can be exhilarating.  Liberating.  And even accelerating.

Let's take a few examples. 

#1 Your plans indicate you will stop at Hill's Island on night 1 and sleep for 2 hours.  As you approach Hill's Island, you realize you aren't really that tired.  In fact, you're feeling better than you've felt all day.  The sun is down, the moon is up.  You're paddling with some great people.  You want to go on but it will alter the arranged plans with your ground crew. 

Proceed as the way opens...

Text your ground crew and tell them you're pushing on to Miami.  Instead of getting there at 9am, you now think it will be more like 6am. 

#2 It's day 3 and you're exhausted.  Your plans were to get to Hermann before dark and get some sleep.  But the day is hot and you're fighting for every inch of river.  You're 30 miles from Hermann and the thought of cooking that long in the hot afternoon seems impossible. 

Proceed as the way opens.

Up ahead you see a little beach of sand behind a wing dike.  There's a shady spot up the bank under some cottonwoods.  You pull in behind the dike and beach your boat (where a safety boat can see it) and find a flat spot in the shade.  You text your ground crew and tell them you plan to rest during the heat of the day instead of the evening hours at Hermann.  You set your alarm and wake up with the sun much lower and cooler.  Back in the boat and energized you are paddling faster than before and now feel like you can push through the last 100 miles.

#3  Night 1 finds you arriving in Miami at 2am.  You are excited about your pace but your'e tired and need some rest.  You tell your ground crew to wake you at sunrise so you can get back out there.  At sunrise they rouse you but the river is buried in thick fog.  Your schedule tells you to go, go, go but the fog is too dangerous. 

Proceed as the way opens...

You realize that sleeping another hour now will set you behind the schedule you kept taped to your office wall back home... but you also realize that getting an extra hour now means you may be able to go further tonight than planned.  You curl back up into the sleeping back and say "One more hour"  Your ground crew gets your boat all prepped and wakes you as the fog burns off.  You catch up soon with some folks that tried to press into the fog.  They tell you it was a nightmare and they wasted 90 minutes being terrified and paddling in circles.  You, however, are disgustingly cheerful and rested.  They secretly despise you as you paddle away humming Jimmy Buffett songs. 

In short, I believe strongly in planning out your strategy for a successful finish.  Just be ready to adapt to what the river presents you.  Some will be great opportunities to leap forward.  Others will be great opportunities to regroup and rest.  An efficient racer will make the judgement of what makes the most sense... what is the risk vs. the reward.  There's no way to know until you're in the moment.  But being stuck on a schedule that ceases to make sense for the circumstances is a bad thing. 

Of course, all this assumes you are ahead of the cutoff times.  By banking some time in the first 24 hours, you've got the ability to flex a few hours here and there.  If your back is to the wall, your choices are limited.  A good first 24 hours sets you up for adapting to what comes your way.

I feel like we've drilled into your heads how important Day One is.  How you cannot call it a day at Waverly, just 73 miles into the race, and expect to finish.  At minimum, you need to reach Hills Island, (85 miles) AND be off the island as the sky starts to turn gray come morning.  Few things are more depressing that waking up, looking around and realizing yours is the last boat on the beach... the very last boat in the race... with nobody in sight ahead or behind.  This is true at every checkpoint that follows.  It's very hard to keep going if you're last.  Lucky for you, this is entirely in your control. 

That's plenty for you to digest for today.  I've got to go stare at river gauges and weather forecasts.  More information will trickle out over the next few days via this forum and the facebook group at

And I'm always available via email or phone.  913-244-4666

I will see you in less than a week!  God willing and the creek don't rise.


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