The 8th Annual Missouri River 340
The big question leading up to the Missouri River 340 was what boat I would use. Unlike most canoe and kayak
races, the MR340 has one tandem class. That means that if you are in a two-man racing canoe, your competition
could be paddling a two-man racing kayak – which is typically a faster watercraft. I was paddling with Paul Cox from
Atlanta, GA. Paul had attempted the 340 twice in prior years in a solo kayak, but had dropped out before the
Paul and I decided to paddle an OC-2 that we borrowed from a paddler from the Chicago area. The “OC” stands
for ocean canoe. The boat is like a long tube with an outrigger for stability. These boats had performed well in
previous 340s’. We were taking a risk. I have said many times, “Never jump into a major race in a boat that you
have limited time in.” Sometimes it pays to heed your own advice.
At 8 am on Tuesday morning (July 23rd) Paul and I were on the starting line for the start of the MR 340 with 65
other teams in our division plus many other multi-paddler boats. Including solo competitors, the 2013 MR 340
had more than 500 entries. The race starts on the Kansas River and quickly merges into the Missouri River.
Paul and I blasted off of the starting line and soon found ourselves among the leading boats. The Missouri River
typically has a 3-5 mph current. After one hour, Paul said his GPS device was at 9.3 miles. I was pleased with our
pace and at the first checkpoint (mile 51) we had a slight lead on the second boat in our division.
By the tenth hour of the race, I was starting to have muscle cramps in my chest. At first, I thought I needed more
electrolytes in my system. After taking about eight of these pills over two hours, it was clear the problem was getting
worse. I would be in my normal pace when suddenly a massive cramp in my diaphragm area would stop me. I was
forced to ease up on my paddling pace. Paul and I soon dropped to fourth place, and I was concerned that I would
not be able to finish the race.
I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what was going on with my body. It finally occurred to me that my
paddling posture was slightly different from my regular canoe position. I had exhausted my abdominal muscles in
this position. I needed a back brace to paddle efficiently. It was shortly after dawn when I figured this out and I
told Paul that we needed to pull over to the shallows for some alterations. I wound up wrapping my life preserver
around my water bottles and using some twine to hold them in place behind my back. This brought instant relief
and we resumed our strong pace.
Several hours later, we arrived at another checkpoint. My back support had slipped and there was nothing I
could do to strengthen it. If I had known about this problem, I would have installed a proper back brace before
the race. Paul and I maintained a steady pace for the remainder of the race and eventually finished in 6th place.
Paul was happy to have finally completed the MR 340.
I plan to return to Missouri in the next few years. I will bring my regular racing canoe and see how we do.