In 2014, Bill Romines, Jr., a 14-year Sega employee, completed his first MR 340 race in 75 hours and 18 minutes. He enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to return again in 2015. Included with this blog post are his post-race notes from the 2015 journey.
July 2015 marked the tenth year of the Missouri American Water MR 340 Race. The event, which takes place along the Missouri River (www.rivermiles.com ) is the world’s longest non-stop river race. The race begins at Kaw Point Park in Kansas City, where the Kansas River enters the Missouri River, and ends in St. Charles, Missouri at Frontier Park, 340 river miles to the east across the State of Missouri. Paddlers have 88 hours to complete the course and must make 9 timed checkpoints in order to stay in the race. The fastest paddlers complete the entire 340 river miles in about 36 hours.
The race is growing in popularity. Ten years ago, the inaugural race included 15 people and two safety boats. This year, over 600 racers were assisted by 10 modern safety boats and over 150 volunteers. The goal of all sponsors, volunteers, and racers is to raise awareness of the quality of the Missouri River through participation. The river delivers drinking water to half of Missourians, provides cooling water to power generators across the State of Missouri, and offers several recreation opportunities.
Bill’s Trip Notes:
Tuesday July 28th: I wake up at 4:00am. No alarm is necessary. I eat, pack up, apply sunscreen, and walk down with gear to Kaw Point where everyone’s boat has been under guard for the night. The heat index is not in our favor as sweat is dripping off every nose. I’m on the Kansas River by 6AM for a 7AM start and the water is a cool 80 degrees. Last year, there were a number of boats that capsized entering the Big Muddy from the Kansas River. This year looked like no one had a problem…until they started paddling.
It is very hot on the river. Hourly dousing with river water is necessary to keep from overheating as well as reapplication of sunscreen to the back of the hands. Burning 300 to 400 calories an hour requires eating even if you don’t feel like eating. Of the 432 boats that started, 23 would drop out the first day.
My plan is to stop for water, sleep gear, Maglite, and food resupply in Waverly. Strength training works… so does cycling tape on the paddle…no blisters. In and out in about 30 minutes, thanks to an efficient wife and son Ground Crew, and back on the water to eat a Joe’s Kansas City smoked half chicken. I take a mouthful and paddle, another mouthful and paddle. I must make miles before fog.
Last year, I made it to Miami at midnight. This year, I am two hours ahead of schedule. I go further downstream and team up with three racers for a night paddle. In 2014, racers enjoyed the Perseid Meteor shower in darkness waiting for the full moon to rise. This year, the moon was up before the sun set. So were the mosquitos. They got in my kayak and ate up my feet.
Wednesday July 29th: My mom, sister, and niece take over Ground Crew responsibilities. A medium- sized fish or “river monster” attacks my paddle. By midnight, I notice a storm up north with lightning. The Ground Crew reports a storm in Iowa but nothing appears on the radar. All sandbars and other options for rest or shelter are under water due to heavy rains. As we re-establish cell service, the radar is showing the big storm. We move our boats to the only place where a tree might not fall on us and lay by our kayaks using our space blankets as tarp. The storm hits. Trying to sleep. Running water all around us and heavy rain drops pelt the tarp.
I sleep from 3:30 to 5:40. Back on water by 6:30 AM. The river is so big. Great weather this morning, bald eagles flying past the boat, and volunteers/breakfast burritos in Glasgow remove any doubt about whether this is worth it. Unlike last year, I paddle alone, slower than the 18’ boats. I have periodic episodes of dozing while paddling. I resupply at Franklin Island. Mom, sis, and niece made Team 228 T-shirts…and Pizza Power! In and out in 30 minutes. Dousing with river water is now used to stay awake. I get to see areas downstream of Columbia in the daylight this year and paddle into Jefferson City at night.
Missouri River luminary, Joe Wilson, uses flashlight wands to help me land on the ramp as a train drowns out every other sound or thought. In the dark, trying to keep up with faster boats, another big “river monster” hits the underside of my boat! Is my Maglite attracting them? Tired, I spend the evening paddling alone. It is almost midnight; should I be at Mokane soon?
Thursday July 30th: I need to sleep. I hope to see a sand island at the Osage River for a camp, but it is probably underwater. Then, a bright green submersible appears, bobbing up and down, struggling to go upstream!? Is it military?! Captain Nemo?! Luckily, another more experienced paddler passes between me and this unknown river object. It is a lit channel marker that must have a tree wrapped up in its tether line underwater. We laugh and get a big push from the Osage River. I need to make it to Mokane Ramp to sleep.
There is a lot of debris on the river. Another bend appears and fog rolls in…thick along the bank in some places. Where is this ramp? I think I see tents appear along the bank. A woman helps me get out of the boat and offers me cookies. Is this real? I want to find a place to sleep. Thankfully, she prevents me from sleeping in poison ivy, helps me scout a flat area where the locals won’t run me over. This race is amazing!
I wake up after a two hour nap, shivering. I have rarely been this cold so I put on a fleece sweatshirt and rain pants. At 4:30AM, a safety boat awakens me. Or was it the stand-up paddler? I eat breakfast and talk to Anthony, a safety boat captain, about a barge that is 5 minutes downstream. It will start up again and go upstream when the fog breaks. The stand-up paddler, wanting to break the record his buddy set a couple of years ago, prepares to leave. We take off 6AM and the fog is lifting. We could finish tonight.
A little after 9AM, I resupply in Hermann and I hand off sleep gear, flashlights, and extra food and water. Eating sausages wrapped in pancakes is a great addition to my paddling duties. Thankfully, I can go through Berger Bend in daylight this year. More heat and drowsiness. I may not finish before dark. In Washington there is a barge under the bridge and I just make it to where the ramp should be but, with the flood water, I end up docking in a parking lot.
Paddling into St. Charles, I see fawns along river edge. The flood waters have taken many navigation markers and they take me to the finish line at 60 hours 55 minutes. The stand-up paddler finishes next and breaks record. What a race!
More may be learned about the race at www.rivermiles.com or the forum http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl . The best place to learn about the Missouri River is to join Bill on Saturday October 3rd, 2015 for the next Kansas City Area Cleanup organized by Healthy Rivers Partnership or attend a Big Muddy Speaker Series event.