Missouri River 340 Race – 3 Year Perspective by Bryan Hopkins
Only three years have gone by and the changes on the MR 340 are well – “extreme”. The race began as only a concept in Scotts Mansker’s mind and his effort to establish a race had to deal with the stigma surrounding the Missouri River.
“That river will kill you”, “the whirl pools will suck your canoe completely under”, “a small motor boat should not be on that river, let alone a canoe, are you crazy”, “The water is so polluted, you will become sick”, and on and on …
I have paddled the river for years and know that all of this is nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, she is a large river and hardly a place to learn to canoe, but with a little experience and preparation the river is magic. I knew that the river was a fully under appreciated jewel.
Scott called me out of the blue that first year and told me about the race a month or two before it was to occur. I have been a long time fitness and recreation paddler, but 340 miles non stop, not even sure I could even do that. 2 weeks before the race I could not stand it. I could not let this race occur without me regardless of not really training and hardly being a racer.
So, there I was in a home built wooden kayak with only a hand full of other paddlers at the start of MR 340 one. That first race was spiritual, the race was a challenge testing my endurance both mental and physical, but it was an amazing experience and I was hooked. My family ran support for me and had a great race to and, although we did not realize it at the time, we were in process of beginning a family tradition.
I started looking for a faster boat and training more seriously for MR 340 number two. Still choosing to use a sea kayak, but one of the faster on the market. I took over 20 hours off my first year race time and the racer bug took full control of my brain. I started reading up on anything I could regarding kayak and canoe racing, buying lots of carbon fiber this and that and training in all the spare time I could find between demands of a career and family.
MR 340 number three, found me in a carbon fiber narrow surfski. I had started doing other shorter marathon races, but always my mind was on the “big one”. The race had by now become a phenoma, with 200+ paddlers entered and a rapidly developing race scene in the area on our large river systems. It was like someone had opened a door to pent up interest. Several other locals were training hard for racing and more and more interest developing.
Eyes forward to MR 340, 2009. Almost 300 paddlers will race and registration has almost filled up before the ice has even left the local water – racers from all over the country, but lots of locals who have honed their chops and invested in full on racing equipment.
There is no doubt I will continue to do this race and some day, I hope, that I will race it with my son. I have long been a paddler, but as a result of the 340 I am now a racer. I am hooked and all because some guy I did not even know called me up and said “Hey man..you wanna do a 340 mile non-stop race down the Missouri River in August?’
It is still hard to explain to some folks why anyone would do that, but now I cant imagine not doing it. And my family looks forward to being my “NASCAR” pit crew each year. The Race has become a part of our lives.
paddle, paddle, paddle
Bryan in MR340:
2006 Men’s Solo 2nd, 78:29
2007 Men’s Solo 5th, 57:14
2008 Men’s Solo 5th, 51:25