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Wed - July 30, 2008

The Pitch: Missouri River 340 Stories by Carolyn Szczepanski

Missouri River 340 Race - Cooper's Landing
2008 MR340 - Cooper's Landing checkpoint in the evening of the second race day. Photo by Connie Uliasz

Carolyn Szczepanski, a staff writer of the Pitch ("Kansas City's leading source of sophisticated information") covered the 2008 MR340 Race in two articles full of dramatic and colorful stories:

Following the Missouri River 340: A How To

At dawn on Tuesday, July 15, more than 200 people stared down a nearly 350-mile challenge. For the next four days, as they gritted their teeth and flexed their muscle, I played the role of river rat, scurrying after them as they paddled from Kansas City to St. Charles.

Up Show Me Creek: The Missouri 340 river race takes endurance — and a fair share of crazy

It takes a determined sense of adventure to pay for this kind of pain. During the MR340, racers paddle through the oppressive midday heat after staying up all night. They struggle to navigate the difficult currents of the Missouri River when darkness is compounded by mist and hallucinations cloud their sight. They vomit. They bleed. Their asses go numb.

She interviewed many racers including West Hansen:

Caroline did some really great grass roots reporting, which included a lengthy phone interview with me and a couple of face to face meetings. Other, more mainstream, media folks did little or no research, no follow up questions and had pre-set ideals that theystuck to despite my answers to their questions. Caroline has what is missing in many news stories these days.

It looks like my race this year was pretty uneventful, almost boring - just paddling, paddling, and photographing. No tipping over, no hallucinations, no heat stroke, no vomiting, no blisters, no pain which a couple pills of ibuprofen could cure. Well, at least, I got a pretty good heat rash ...

2007 Missouri River 340 Race My 2007 race was much more exciting due to my Thunderbolt kayak sinking without any apparent reasons. I really couldn't figure that out during the race. Even filling the kayak with water at the Noren checkpoint to find the suspected crack didn't help.

My hypothesis after the race was that the piece of tape covering the unused under stern rudder fitting was getting loose in some conditions and water was getting inside through that tubing. The kayak stern was somewhat overloaded during the race. I installed a simple plug and haven't had this problem any more.

I have a lot of troubles to explain how to pronounce the last sound "sz" in my Polish last name. To explain the Polish whispering sound "Szcz" at the beginning of your name could be a more serious challenge.

Other posts from the 2008 Missouri River 340 Race:

Posted at 12:16 PM     Read More  

Sat - July 26, 2008

Speed: My 2008 Missouri River 340 Race as Recovered from a GPS Track

In my three MIssouri River 340 races I paddled three different boats from my fleet: Spencer X-treme canoe, WSBS Thunderbolt-X kayak, and Kruger's Sea Wind canoe. My last year analysis How to Choose a Boat for an Ultra Marathon Race? The Case of Missouri River 340 remain valid with some updates - Thunderbolt would go somewhat up in my rating. Let's look closer at my race performance in Sea Wind this year.

For the last 1.5 year I paddled almost exclusively the Thunderbolt kayak. I started to train in Sea Wind after the Wyoming Outback Challenge in the beginning of June. My last big paddling in that boat was more than 2 years ago (2006 WaterTribe Florida Ultimate Challenge). So, I didn't have much of single blade training before the race, especially, that during last 10 days I didn't paddled at all due to problems with my right wrist.

My race was this time self supported. Connie traveled with me to Missouri, but met me only at Cooper's Landing, and then waited for me at St Charles.

In addition to a compact Pentax Optio W30 I took also my big camera, Canon EOS 40D with tripod. I wasn't sure how the wrist tendonitis would affect my paddling. I was prepared for a slow scenario: finishing the race within 100 hours and spend some time photographing. Fortunately (and unfortunately for photography), the wrist did not bother me too much during the race.

I used just one paddle: 49" ZRE light power surge. I had a little bit narrower and shorter paddle as a spare.

Below, I plotted the speed during 62:17 hours of my race. The thin black line is the speed derived directly from the Garmin Etrex Vista GPS track. Perhaps, more interesting is the smooth thick green line obtained as a running average. My Etrex Vista was running on a single load of lithium batteries during 53+ hours on water. That was quite surprising performance and I used backlight illumination of my GPS screen during nights.

MIssouri River 340 Race GPS track, Garmin Etrex Vista

Start. 8:04. Leaving Kaw Point after photographing the race start from the left bank of the Kansas River. Chasing the race tail was quite interesting. You don't see too many paddlers taking a smoke break in the front of the race.

A. 15:02-15:11. Lexington checkpoint. Buying a couple of cold water bottles.

B. 18:35-18:40. Waverly checkpoint. Cold water from boy scouts again.

C. 20:29-20:56. Photographing sunset.

D. 23:40-23:50. Miami checkpoint. Buying cold water and a hot dog.

E. 2:27-4:40. Night break. When my speed started to drop below 6 mph I decided to make a break. I took a nap on the shore inside my canoe.

F. 8:45-8:52. Glasgow. Buying some water. It was a long and hot paddling day till Cooper's Landing without any major breaks. I stopped once at a shore to redistribute my food. I drifted and paddled in circles under Boonville railroad bridge photographing. Each year I am taking some pictures of this bridge. Will I see it again next year?

G. 18:41-20:08. Coopers Landing. Connie ordered me a pad thai. I was trying to take a nap, but it didn't work.

H. 0:11-5:42. Noren. Night break in my tent. Trains didn't disturb me.

I. 12:36-12:48. Herman. A bottle of cold water from checkpoint people.

J. 19:26-19:40. Weldon Spring. Water from Brian Weber.

Finish. 22:17. St Charles. 33rd place overall, 19th place in Men's Solo Division (64 finishers from 83 entries), 3rd Kruger Sea Wind. Race results,

Some observations:

  • I was trying to spend as much time as possible on water. However, it seems that my performance was increasing for a while after each even a short stop.
  • Three days of my race look quite different on the graph. After the fast start and chasing the race tail for the first few hours my speed started to drop down until I decided to make a night stop.
  • The second day was the toughest for me due to heat. I didn't have any cold water between Glasgow and Cooper's Landing.
  • The third day was my best one: the river current accelerated, it was cooler, two checkpoints with cold water were just enough for me, I was feeling pretty good.
  • I devoted about 1 hour of the race time to photography. It would translate to about 5 positions in the men solo class. Was it worth it?
  • I spent too much time at Cooper's Landing. However, I stopped in any other checkpoints only as long as it was necessary to buy or get water (with exception of sleeping at Noren). With a land support (and a strict discipline implemented!) I could save up to half hour here.
  • From my three years perspective this year on the Missouri River was relatively easy (maybe, it has something to do with my comfortable Sea Wind): high and fast water still covering many wing dikes, good weather without storms or too much of headwind, full moon nights (I didn't used my light), no fog (or I missed it). However, it seems that many paddlers suffered from heat (the 2006 race was much hotter with some excessive heat warnings in Kansas City).

Other posts from the 2008 Missouri River 340 Race:

Posted at 10:18 AM     Read More  

Wed - July 23, 2008

150 Boats Starting the 2008 Missouri River 340 Race - Pictures from the Kaw Point

Before the race start.

Morning of July 15. 2008. Kaw Point (Kansas City) at the confluence of Missouri and Kansas Rivers. Kayaks and canoes are launching and lining up at the boat ramp.

Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point

The Missouri 340 is an endurance race across the state of Missouri. Competitors will start in Kansas City and finish, some of them anyway, in St. Charles. With numerous towns and hamlets, the course offers plenty of opportunity for resupply while enroute. The Missouri River is also incredibly scenic and isolated in some stretches, with wildlife and beautiful vistas to rival any river in North America. But if you're trying to win this race, you won't have time to enjoy any of it.
The third Missouri River 340 Race (July 15-18, 2008) gathered 150 boats from recreational kayaks and canoes to surfskis and racing boats to 4- and 6-person safari canoes. High water, good weather and beautiful full moon nights. And, each paddler has a great story.

You could see very different styles of paddling and racing: fast racing boats with a land crew, but also self supported expedition Kruger canoes. What about kayakers finishing the race below 60 hours with bikes strapped on their kayak decks, and then, towing kayaks behind the bikes along Katy trail back to the race start?

Here are the race results. You can also find a lot of pictures from the race - just follow this thread on Rivermiles.com forum. Those include photos and commentary by Carter Johnson who paddled a borrowed surfski to finish the race in a record solo time of 37:46 hours.

The tentative date of the 4th MR340 Race is August 4-8, 2009.


8:00. Boats are leaving the Kaw River and entering the Missouri River.
Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point Missouri River 340 Race - Kaw Point
All the above pictures were shot with Canon EOS 40d camera mounted on tripod from the left bank of the Kansas River. More pictures, reports, GPS track from the race will follow.

Coverage of Missouri River 340 Races

Posted at 10:14 AM     Read More  

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