Dispatch 3 [2012]

****NOTE**** Rules and conditions of the race change year to year.  These were the dispatches from 2012.  2013 will have different rules regarding the tracking of unsupported racers.

Missouri American Water MR340 Dispatch #3 

The date approaches.

Let's talk nuts and bolts first.

Are you on the roster?  Look here:

Find your name.  Make sure everything looks good.  If you're a tandem or team... do you still have a TBD on your boat?  Time to get things sewed up.

Also, if you've elected to go unsupported and use a SPOT Tracker, you need to either rent or buy one and get it registered here:

If you're looking to rent one, we've got a deal with Trackleaders where they will ship them to us to hand out at the safety meeting and we'll collect it back from you at the finish line.  The rentals are available here:

More nuts and bolts...

Mandatory registration and safety meeting:

The race starts Tuesday, the morning of July 31st, BUT every paddler must attend the meeting the evening before at the Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Avenue  Kansas City, KS 66101.  Every paddler must attend the meeting from 7-8pm.  Also, you must sign in and pick up your packet and tshirt prior to that between 2pm and 6pm.  The lines will likely be long so get there early to grab your stuff, save yourself a seat in the ballroom, go down to Kaw Point and stage your boat, grab dinner back at the hotel and make an afternoon of it.  The safety meeting is a fun part of the event.  There's lots of energy there and it's a great time to get some last minute questions answered.

Safety Meeting is Monday, July 30th.  Everyone must attend.

Again, we are going to have security the night before the race at Kaw Point.  In the past, racers have staged their boats along the trail at Kaw Point to make the morning easier.  Do NOT leave expensive paddles or electronics in the boat.   This is at your own risk.  We will have people there to watch over stuff but it's a public park. 

Race Morning: 

This is about 140 more boats than we've ever had so we anticipate it being very crowded on Tuesday morning at Kaw Point.  There will be two starts.  The 7am start is for all solo boats.  This will be approximately 200 canoes and kayaks.  We will have 3-4 launch zones active.  You will have to start getting in the water well before 7am for all 200 boats to launch in time.  Plan accordingly.  There are usually sandbars on the opposite shore for you to paddle over and beach to wait.  There will most certainly be solos still waiting in line when the gun goes at 7am.  That's ok.  You'll get in and paddle out as quickly as you can.

The multi-person boats can start putting in at any time.  We may have a few launch zones dedicated solely to the 7am start up until the 7am gun, but there will be other zones that are first come, first serve.  With the water down (so far) this year there will be more real estate for launching creatively. 

8am gun will also go off on time, regardless of how many boats are still trying to launch.

The most technical portion of this race is the first 3 miles.  It involves the transition from the slack water of the Kaw River into the fast water of the Missouri, followed by a series of closely placed bridges through downtown KC.  When I say this is the most technical portion of the race, that doesn't mean it's difficult.  It just means that the remaining 337 miles are very boring in comparison. 

The confluence of the Kaw and Missouri is tricky only because there will be so many boats crowding each other there.  As the boats hit the fast water, the current pushes them downstream and then there are collisions and paddles knocking together and folks lean into a stroke that misses the water and we have boats flipping, etc.  Please note that the mouth of the Kaw is quite spacious and there is plenty of room for boats to make this transition without a pileup.  We can't have 200 boats try for the same line.  If you want to avoid the cluster, choose a more upstream entrance where there will be less people.  Or, let the madness happen ahead of you and then proceed as the way opens.  It's not a difficult transition.  Just keep some speed up and don't be hesitant.  You want to minimize the time that half your boat is in the Missouri and the other half is still in the Kaw.  This is where you end up with a boat getting pointed the wrong way, etc.  But if you go at it with some moderate speed, your boat will behave and you'll be moving down the Missouri without a hitch.

Under the bridges we ask that boats steer clear of the bridge piers as they tend to hurt if you hit them.  Give each other room to maneuver.  The swift water rescue teams from Kansas City will be under these bridge to assist if there is a need. 

Checking in at checkpoints will be handled two ways.  If you are unsupported with a Spot Tracker, the check in should automatically be recorded in our system.  You don't have to do anything except make sure your spot tracker is on and is set up appropriately.  All unsupported boats MUST check in manually with volunteers at Lexington and Jeff City.  This is to verify that your Spot is working.  They will have a list of malfunctioning Spots and if you're boat is not on that list, you're good to go.  If it is, you have to stay and trouble shoot. 

If you are supported, your ground crew must text you in at each checkpoint.  The phone number will be given at the safety meeting.  The system is really slick and allows for easy two-way communication between your ground crew and race staff.  Your crew simply texts your boat number, the checkpoint, the time and the planned departure.  Like this:

#1234, Miami, 230am, plans to sleep an hour and leave.


#1234, Glasgow, 1022am, in and out.


#1234, Katfish Katy's, 530pm, dropping out.

It is not essential we have the exact "out" time from a checkpoint.  The purpose of "out" time is to know when we should expect a paddler at the next checkpoint.  This was useful for unsupported paddlers in past years.  It is not an issue with supported paddlers because their team knows, better than anyone, when they should be expected.  And their team can alert us if they feel the boat is inordinately late. 

When we close out a checkpoint, we check to see that each paddler is accounted for.  If there are gaps, (missing boat) we have the following protocol.

Supported Paddler:
1. Call ground crew at the number where texts have originated.

This solves almost all issues.  Because unless the ground crew is standing there with us at the closing checkpoint, wondering where the paddler is, we can assume that they've either dropped out or forgot to text them through.  If they are standing there wondering where you are, we begin a search upstream.

It's possible that the boat is actually downstream and THOUGHT their ground crew saw them and THOUGHT they were texted through.  This has happened in previous years with fly-by check through.  It is essential that you make visual and verbal contact with your ground crew so that they know you are clearing a checkpoint.  It is not enough to wave from across the river and assume they see you.  This is your most important job out there.

Unsupported Paddler:
1. Review last known Spot location.
2. Call their cell phone.
3. Alert safety boats in vicinity with boat color and number.

In most instances, this will be a boat with a spot tracker that has stopped working.  We request that each unsupported boat check that their device is working at each checkpoint.  If it has stopped working, fire up your cell phone and text in.

In an ideal scenario, every boat would have a ground crew.  Most ultra marathons now require a ground crew AND a spot tracker.  We are requiring one or the other.  But of the two, we prefer a ground crew.  Nobody else out there will have a better idea of your approximate location, your ETA and your condition.  A good ground crew will keep an eye on your well-being.  Are you eating, are you drinking, are you making good decisions.  There is still time to find yourself a ground crew.  It's a tough job, but immensely enjoyable.  They will have at least as much fun as you will.  Try your best to get a ground crew for the race.

Keeping a good pace:

There are cutoff times for each checkpoint.  They are as follows:

Kaw Point, mile 367, Race Begins, 8am (7am for solo) Tuesday, July 31st.   

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   

Miami, mile 262, (32 miles)  11am Wed.   Leg avg. 2.29mph  Total avg. 3.89   

Glasgow, mile 226, (36 miles) 6pm Wed.  Leg avg. 5.14mph  Total avg. 4.15   

Katfish Katy's, mile 180, (46 miles) noon Thurs.  2.56mph  Total avg. 3.60   

Wilson's Serenity Point at Noren Access (Jeff City), mile 144, (36 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 

These have been in place for a couple of years and have served us well.  There are always boats that don't make cutoff times.  We have no choice but to disqualify a boat that has failed to meet a cutoff time.  We are obligated to keep as tight a halo of safety around the boats as we can.  The purpose of the cutoff times is to prevent straggling boats from stretching that halo to a point of ineffectiveness.  The cutoff times are manageable if you are staying in your boat and being efficient with your time.  A good thread on the forum talks about some strategies here:

The majority of boats will have no trouble with the cutoff times.  Others will flirt with the cutoff at each checkpoint.  This is part of the race and part of your training and planning process.  The clock is on you and it will not be your friend.  You can and should "bank" up some time early in the race so that you can weather a storm, fog, sleep, etc and still have time to make a checkpoint.  If you are constantly living on the edge of disqualification, a simple stiff headwind can end your race by slowing you down for 5-6 miles.  It's a terrible way to go out, but it happens.

Personal Flotation Devices:

Every paddler in this event must have on at all times a personal flotation device.  This is required by the United States Coast Guard and the Missouri Water Patrol.  Failure to do so is a disqualification.  Fanny pack or belt style PFDs are allowed.

Navigation Lighting:

You gotta have nav lights.  Red and green bow lights and a white stern.  KC Paddler has some sweet LED lights that have been used for years in this race and they work great.  Turn them on night one and forget them.  They burn 100 hours.  Other lights can be improvised.  Make sure they are water proof and durable.  It is not ok to paddle at night without lights.  This is against the rules of the race.  This is sometimes a strategy in other ultra canoe races.  But it is ILLEGAL in the MR340 due to the fact the this is a navigable waterway from start to finish and all boats navigating at night MUST be lit up.  No excuses. 

Your dispatches will be coming pretty frequently now.  Let me know what questions you have and I'll get them answered here so that others can learn as well.  The forum is a GREAT way to learn from the experiences of others.  Please spend some time there reading and asking.

More to come soon.


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