Dispatch 7 [2014]

06/10/14 AT 08:45:24

4 weeks out.

4 weeks from today you'll be getting in your boat at sunrise and amassing at the starting line of the MR340 with 650 of your soon to be closest friends. 

Let's review what needs to happen in the next 4 weeks for you to be ready.

Never hurts to go over this stuff again.

July 7th: Mandatory Safety Meeting and Sign In for ALL competitors.  Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, KS  520 Minnesota Ave.  Sign in anytime between 2-6 pm.  Highly recommend earlier rather than later.  Lines tend to get long around 5pm.  If your schedule permits it, show up early, sign in, get your bag and shirt and all that stuff, then you can relax until the meeting at 7pm or go stage your boat at Kaw Point or go get some last minute stuff done. 

Safety Meeting begins promptly at 7pm.  Over by 8pm.

You can stage your canoe at Kaw Point as early as noon.  We will have folks there to watch over boats.  Please do not leave gear.  Just the hull.  It is not required that you stage your boat the day before the race.  Just an option.

Some folks schedule a little paddle up the Kaw and back to make sure everything looks and feels good.  There will be lots of folks there all day working on boats and gear and doing some paddling. 


There is activity at Kaw Point all night, but things really start percolating around 430am.  That's when the TV trucks show up and racers start emerging from hotel rooms and the parking lot gets full.  Kaw Point has an upper level and a lower level where the ramp is.  The lower level will be impassable for vehicles by 5am.  Be sure you have help to carry your boat and gear from the upper lot.  Even the upper lot will be maxed out by 6am.  If arriving after 6, you'll likely have to park in the lot outside the floodwall.  Not a huge deal.  Just another 50 yards of carrying. 

Long line will form at the ramp itself.  If you want to launch from the ramp, plan accordingly.  There are other areas from which to launch.  Lines will form there as well.  Solo start is at 7am.  Everything else at 8am.

Official starting line is an imaginary line from the ramp to the far shore.  Once you've launched, move behind the line.  There is plenty of room upstream of the ramp.  170 miles of Kaw River.  Paddle around and calm those nerves. 

There will be a DJ there with a loud sound system to make announcements and countdown the start.  The national anthem will be sung.  This is the real deal. 

Solo race will start at 7am.  If you are not yet in the water, it's ok.  You'll catch up. 

Tandems and larger may start launching anytime.  You do not have to wait for the solos to leave.  One hour is not enough time to launch all the 8am boats. 

Some of the larger 6-9 person boats will be launched the day before and tied off.  IF you have one of these large boats, please arrange to have it in the water the day before.  You can tie it off to our safety boats if needed. 

8am start WILL be on time.  We tend to err on the side of early, if anything. 

(or hopefully already have done)

Rig your boat.
Red/green/white navigation lights.
Comfortable PFD for full time usage.
Reliable cell phone in a waterproof bag or case.
Reflective boat numbers on both sides of bow.  3 inch minimum.  Mailbox numbers are fine.
Comfortable clothes for paddling.  Wet cotton will eat you up.  Look for some wicking or hybrid style shirts that are soft. 
Sun protection.  Don't forget legs and feet.
Means for removing water from your boat.
Practice at a shallow lake a "wet entry" into a boat that has overturned. 
Study maps of the river.  Develop a knowledge of where checkpoints are and where alternate spots are for getting off the river.  The Lewis and Clark maps found on the forum are very handy.  Print them off and put your own notes on them for likely islands, sandbars and boat ramps.  This will be handy out there as you move dot to dot down the river.
Read this book:
Book rooms at the finish line or starting line or both. 
Spend time in your boat.  Learn what hurts.  Make it hurt less.
Plan things out with your ground crew.  Where do you want them to meet you each day.  What kind of food do you want them to have.  How should the vehicle be organized.  What do you need to bring from home and what can you find on the way.  There are many good ground crew guidebooks made by previous crews on the forum.  Print some off and go through them!  They are awesome!  Here's one:

Here's another:

NOTE:  These guides are from a previous year.  Dates and road conditions and some rules are slightly different.  But the bulk of the information is solid.

Train your ground crew on text in procedures.  (See below)


The purpose of the text in system is to track racers along the course so that when a checkpoint closes we KNOW that every racer is accounted for.  This is crucial to the safety of the race. 

Having a ground crew present at the checkpoints is also important.  They know if a paddler is late.  They can identify if a paddler is in poor shape or not in condition to go on.  A physically present ground crew is the ideal.

Some racers do not have a physically present ground crew.  They are then required to have a virtual ground crew.  The responsibilities are the same.  They must monitor a paddlers progress down the river and talk to the paddler to make sure they are doing well.  They can contact race officials at any time with any concerns.

If you have a physically present ground crew, things are pretty straightforward.  They meet you at spots you've planned.  They feed and water you and encourage you on.  They text you in and out of the checkpoints and they are there to greet you at the finish and pretend you don't smell that badly.

With a virtual ground crew there are some different things to plan.  No, they won't be there to feed you so you'll have to buy food and drink from the vendors along the way.  But they still have to track you down the river. 

This CAN be done with a spot tracker which is a satellite system.  They can watch your progress from home on a computer. 

It can also be done with a simple cell phone.  Design a system that works for you and your ground crew and creates a safety net for you. 

Solo start is at 7am.  I hope to be at Lexington by 3pm.  I will text you when I get to Lexington. 
(you arrive at 230pm, text in to race officials, then text your ground crew "doing good, heading to Waverly, should hear from me by 630pm)
You get to Waverly at 645pm.   Text in to race officials, then text ground crew "feeling good.  going to try for Miami.  Should be there by 1am."
Maybe you get tired on the way and decide to stop at Hills Island and sleep.  So you inform your ground crew at 11pm. "tired.  stopping at hills island for a couple hours of sleep.  planning to leave here at 1am."
At 1am your phone alarm goes off and you text your ground crew "leaving Hills island. should be in miami by 4am."

And so on...

What this does for us is prevents you from being missing for an extended time.  Miami doesn't close until 11am.  Let's say you had a medical problem and were parked behind a wing dike somewhere, phone got wet.  Your virtual ground crew would know there was a problem by 5am.  We wouldn't know until 11am when we close Miami and you weren't checked through.  And the problem gets much worse at the checkpoints further downstream that are open 36-48 hours.  A paddler could be laid up somewhere for a full day or more before we realized they hadn't made the checkpoint.  But with a virtual ground crew tracking you, we know within an hour or two that there may be a problem.


The text in number this year is 


Same as last year.

Upon arriving at a checkpoint your ground crew (or you) should text in to this number.  Your text should look like this:

boat #, checkpoint, time in/out


2233, Lexington, in out 2:30pm 

4345, Lexington, in 230 out 245pm

2199, Waverly, in 8pm, Dropping out
(you absolutely must notify us if dropping out)

8855, Miami, in 3am, sleeping until 5am

(then later)

8855, Miami, out 5am

7712, Glasgow, in 11am, leaving by noon
(this is fine.  If you leave significantly later than noon, let us know)

At some locations and with some carriers, it's difficult to get a signal for the text to send.  If you are unsupported with a virtual crew, this means you have to find a signal at the checkpoint by either walking up the hill or asking our safety boat or a ground crew if they have a signal and can text you in.  This is your responsibility before leaving!  Also, don't forget to send a message to your at home ground crew.

If you have a ground crew, it's much easier.  They do not have to send the text right that moment.  They can see you off, then start driving to the next checkpoint.  When they have a signal, they can pull over and send the text with the information.

Every racer and ground crew will have a safety card, distributed at the safety meeting.  These will have the important safety team phone numbers, text in number and cutoff times listed.  If you or your ground crew have any safety concerns about a paddler, they can call those numbers and a safety boat will be deployed to assist. 

You can practice texting in any time in the next 4 weeks.  It's a good idea to get the number saved in your phone.  Go ahead and give it a try.  We are monitoring and testing the system right now to make sure everything is working smoothly.  Give our data team something to do!  Send a practice text or send a bunch!  They will likely reply eventually with a thumbs up that it was received.  Plus, you can start training your spell check to recognize Katfish Katy's.

Remember to check the roster at to verify all your information. 

For those that still have paddler's TBD,  or numbers that need changing, please take care of this right away.

That's enough for today.  Look for a dispatch here every Tuesday between now and the big day.

Let me know if you have any questions.


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