Dispatch 7 [2017]

08/01/17 AT 19:32:36

One Week...

Hey!  One WEEK.

We are excited to greet you at the mandatory safety meeting Monday night.  Please check in between 1pm and 6pm at the Reardon Center adjacent to the Hilton Garden Inn. 

The folks that usually have a dinner for sale downstairs are opting not to do that this year.  Instead, the hotel restaurant upstairs is going to try to keep up with dinner demand.  They have limited seating but they are offering bag dinners that you can carry downstairs to the ballrooms if that is of interest to you.  They will also have drinks and beer available upstairs.

Downstairs at registration there will be music and some sponsors set up.  Stop and say hi and thank them for helping put this race on!

Weather Report:

Now that we can say there's less than a week to the start, we get a glimpse into what the weather might hold for us.  Current forecasts as of this post (8/1) look like we might have some rain and cool-ish temperatures. 

The race will start on time, even in rain.  If there is lightning, start will be delayed until lightning is out of the area. 

What would rain mean for you race?  Well, it means less worry about sunscreen and more worry about other stuff. 


In the past, with rain events during the 340, our teams see more boats needing help at night due to shivering and cold.  Even with lows forecasts to be an otherwise comfortable 66 degrees, your body is very taxed and calorie depleted.  Understanding how your body regulates temperature will help you anticipate and avoid problems.

We are among the best in the mammal department at regulating our body temperature.  It's what allowed your ancestors to chase prey across the savannah for dozens of miles.  The much faster animal would eventually overheat and just be standing there, panting, when your distant cousin, cooled by sweat, strolled up and ended the hunt. 

We do a pretty good job of staying warm as well.  How we do it was illustrated to me in my 7th grad science class.  We had a flask of water and a thermometer and some greasy potato chips.  We lit a chip on fire and held it under the flask.  Sure enough, the temperature went up and we calculated the calories it took to raise that temperature.  I finally understood the connection of food as fuel.  Literal fuel that we literally burn to keep ourselves at 98 degrees. 

If our body is running low on calories and is really cold, it will kick things up a notch and force some shivering.  Shivering is your body forcing you to get some exercise that you are otherwise unwilling to do. 

So, if during the race you start to feel a shiver coming on, beat your body to the punch and paddle harder.  Better to paddle harder and generate some heat than to shiver and go nowhere and be miserable in your boat. 

And food intake is the bedrock of all this.  Without the food coming in and your body properly converting it to usable energy, you won't be able to increase your heart rate and regulate temperature. 

Clothing is also something to start thinking about.  In previous rain events, folks find that the wicking shirts and lightweight shorts that got them through the hot afternoon are now woefully bad at retaining heat when they need it. 

For the temperatures we'll be seeing, a lightweight windbreaker worn under your pfd is usually plenty to trap the heat you will be generating if paddling.  Rain pants are also a good idea to have aboard the boat. 

Just a reminder that a PFD is required to be worn at all times while on the water during this race.  No exceptions.  No excuses.  A good PFD will also help you stay warm.

You should also be prepared, in case of an actual thunderstorm, to pull over anywhere and pitch a simple camp until conditions improve.  This is a personal choice on what to bring.  Some folks bring a small tarp and just roll up in it, essentially wearing it like a tortilla.  Others bring a small tent to go along with the tarp.  This is easy enough if you have a ground crew present with all the options in the van for you to pick and choose for each stretch of river.  Tougher if you are unsupported.  Unsupported paddlers should, at minimum, carry along a small tarp if cool rain is expected. 

Please try, when making a temporary camp along shore, to have your boat be visible from the river to a safety boat moving downstream.  Pulling your boat into the treeline or stashing it behind a wing dike makes it tough on us to see you and check on your status. 

Making sure your cell phone is in a water proof case is also pretty important.  This is your main means of calling us or your ground crew if you need picked up.  Your secondary means would be to flag down another paddler and ask them to call for you. 

Of course, rain is not all negative.  It's easier to get warm when it's 66 degrees than it is to cool down when it's 99.  All endurance athletes will tell you that their best performances have come when the temperatures were what we would consider chilly.  Marathon runners love to run when it's 45 degrees.  It's an optimal temperature for sustained output.  So this cooler week ahead with some showers will energize many folks and will result in some fast finishes if delays are minimal. 

Volunteers and Storms:

We have the most amazing volunteers and they do their best to support you in every way.  Please note that if there is severe weather, they are under instructions to seek the best shelter for the situation.  That may mean their car.  They will be watching the checkpoint and monitoring activity but it may be from the safety of a vehicle during a severe weather event.  Safety boats will be hunkered down as well. Storm is defined for our purposes as high winds or lightning or both.  Simply raining is not a storm and safety boats are capable of operating in rain just fine. 

The expectation for you is that you would behave precisely as you would if this was just you on a training run and the weather turned bad.  Forget that it's a race, what would you do on a 50 mile paddle if a storm popped up?  MOST of us would get off the river and wait for conditions to improve.  We'd congratulate ourselves on having the gear we needed to wait it out.  We'd contact our family and let them know we are fine and we'd wait.  As a race staff, we refer to this as Sheltering In Place and that's exactly what we have our safety boats do.   

Last year a brief but intense storm popped up near Waverly in the late afternoon of the first day.  Most paddlers and all safety boats scooted to shore before the wind and lightning hit.  But many paddlers just tried to brave the whitecaps and wind.  This rarely is a good use of energy on behalf of the paddler and can end a race with a broken boat or missing gear or worse.  After the storm passed we got everyone put back together for the most part but a few people did not get back on the river after the storm due to damaged boats that got run into the rocks by the wind.

I had tied up about 10 miles upstream of Waverly before the rain and wind started.  Reaper was tied across the river from me.  We were remarking on the radio about several kayaks that were not pulling off and we hoped they would in time.  A few minutes later the rain was so heavy we could no longer see each other across the river.  And the wind was so strong that the entire river was whitecaps. 

Those that were there last year remember that this only lasted about 20 minutes and then reverted to a simple rain that lasted another 20.  Then it was sunshine and rainbows.   We ask that you play it safe and don't let the race adrenaline make you do stupid stuff you would never otherwise do if paddling when a storm emerges.  Pull over.  Assess the storm.  Wait for the worst to end.  Move on when safe.

This isn't rocket science.  Humans have been paddling this river in canoes for THOUSANDS of YEARS.  And sometimes it rained.

Some questions we've had this week:

Can I use glow sticks for nav lights?

No.  They don't do the job.  Real lights can be seen for a mile.  Glow sticks are barely good for 50 feet.  Get some real lights.   Here's a link to the most commonly used.

You need red and green on your bow and white on your stern. 

Do we have to stop at Franklin Island or Cooper's Landing?

Nope.  Actually, you don't have to stop anywhere.  You do have to check in via text when you pass these spots:

Jefferson City

Aside from these mandatory check ins, you're on your own itinerary.  There are some great boat ramps to stop and rest in between like Miami, Franklin Island, Cooper's Landing and Washington.  (and many more ramps) but these are not check ins or required stops.

When should I call a safety boat?

This is a complicated question.  Certainly if you want to get picked up between boat ramps for safety reasons and end your race, call the safety boat dispatch.  If you are safely capable of making it the next ramp, that's the best solution. 

Obviously if there is a medical problem of a severe nature you should call 911 first, then a safety boat.  Often we can coordinate with 911 and get to the person first and meet an ambulance at the nearest boat ramp.  But this is very rare. 

Most common reason for a call is that there is a minor injury (shoulder, elbow) that is not allowing the paddler to get to the next ramp.  Or, a paddler is sick with stomach issues and cramping.  Heat issues are also common. 

If you or your ground crew ever need to call a safety boat, it's important we have as many details as possible.  This is pretty easy if it's you calling about you.  Where are you, which side of the river, what color is your boat, are you ok, are there other paddlers with you, etc.  But sometimes, we get calls ABOUT another paddler from a paddler. 

"Hey, I saw this guy I just passed.  I said hi but he didn't respond.  He looked really tired.  It was between Glasgow and Franklin Island about 2 hours ago.  I didn't have a signal when I passed him so I'm calling now.  His boat was white, his boat number had a 4 in it I think."

A few comments.  First, we appreciate you looking after your fellow paddler.  Ideally, you would have remained nearby and made sure he was ok.  Do you have enough water?  Do you know where your next stop is?  Do you want to paddle together? 

If he responds and says I'm ok, got what I need, headed to Franklin Island, ground crew is waiting, etc.  Great!  Note his boat number and let the team know at Franklin Island when you arrive about where he was and when we should expect him. 

This race relies on all of us looking out for one another.  It also relies on a very efficient use of our safety boats.  Anything you can do to assess a situation is very helpful.  Exact location, boat number, boat color, etc.  And staying with a paddler in trouble is absolutely the best thing you can do.  Some of the best stories from this race are from grateful paddlers who were helped along mentally and emotionally and physically, just from another paddler hanging with them the last few miles to a ramp. 

My boat color/ground crew captain, etc. has changed.  Who do I contact?

Yes, please send these changes to  Having this info correct will speed up your registration.  We will be finalizing this data on Thursday.  Please have sent in by then.

What time is the awards ceremony/Do we have to wait for awards?

The ceremony starts at 7pm Friday at the finish line.  There will still be paddlers out on the water at this time.  You do not have to attend.  If you'd like to leave before the awards, talk to someone at the merchandise table about getting your medal or trophy early.

Welp, barring any major announcements or disasters, this will be the final official dispatch of 2017.  Any minor announcements will be made via the forum at or the facebook group page. 

We are all excited to meet you on Monday and put faces to the names.  We look forward to spending all next week on the beautiful Missouri River with everyone.  We will have many ups and downs that week with but the highs will far outpace the lows as we all make our way to the big reunion at St. Charles. 

Let us know what questions you have over the coming week. 

Prayers for good weather and a safe race for everyone!


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