MR 340, Part III: Anecdotes and Miscellaneous Photos

See part I for how I got involved in the MR 340, and part II for a fairly (somewhat) brief account of the race itself. Now here in part III, I’ll include some miscellaneous photos and anecdotes from the race that I did not include in the race report.

Fish Hook
As was the case at most of the check points, I always tried to jump out of the boat and, with the pretense of “holding the boat steady” so it would not float away and that it would be easier for others to get in and out of the boat (while in reality relieving myself in the relative comfort and obscurity of the water), I did that about 24 hours into the race, which would have been Jefferson City. I really have no idea what check point it was — from the water and not being familiar with the river and the area, while they each looked a little different, I really had no clue what the names were. But based on timing, I’m pretty sure it was Jefferson City…

At this particular check point, while holding the boat, all of a sudden I felt like something was biting my foot — there was a piercing/stabbing shot of pain on the left ball of foot… I had my Vibram Five Finger KSO’s on, which while not the best shoe for this kind of race, is about the only shoe I have right now that was a decent choice. How could something be biting me through 4mm of vibram material??!! I pulled my foot out of the water and saw a treble fish hook sticking through the material. Luckily only one hook had penetrated, but it was in deep enough that I could not pull it out without taking the shoe off, but it was also in deep enough that I could not get the shoe off easily without hurting my foot more. With the help of one of the crew members, I finally got the shoe off and we were able to get the hook out of the shoe. But I’d feel the pain in my foot the rest of the race and for a couple of days after. Luckily it was a clean, non-rusted hook, and the wound healed up rather nicely.

At some point the 1st afternoon, when we had worked our way up to the top 5 or 6 boats, we got to know several of the boats around us. The top two boats were pretty far head, but boats 3-8 or so we traded places with until about 28 hours into the race (when we settled firmly into 3rd), so we did get to converse with them fairly often. I started hearing our crew call one of these paddlers “Ronnie,” though it turned out they were saying “Brawny.” I’m not sure where that came from, but my guess would be Redfern. They said he looked like the man on the Brawny paper towel packaging because of his beard. At one point, when we were told who was in front of us, I heard “Andy…” and there was no Brawny or Ronnie, so I finally figured out Brawny was Andy. (BTW, Brawny liked his nickname — he took it as a compliment!)

Brawny got pretty far ahead of us at one point, running comfortably in 3rd. We finally were able to catch him, and it was then that he told us the barge that had just gone by had caused waves which made him capsize. After “swimming for 20 minutes,” and getting all his gear together, he jumped off the river bank and got in behind us in order to draft. A few of us in the back were trying to devise a strategy in how to drop him so that it would not come down to a sprint finish for 3rd at the end, but he dropped off the back after about 15 minutes of drafting and we never had to implement our strategy. Which basically would have been to paddle faster. πŸ™‚

We were never to see him again, but after we had finished we heard he had dropped. But then about 20 hours after we had finished the race, and gone back to the finish line to get the dragon boat out of the water, we saw him come in! I was quite happy to see that, as typically the front runners of a race, if they have a bad day, will just drop. Not many persevere to the end. I walked over, shook his hand, and congratulated him on sticking it out, and he said that is why he was there. We later found that he had gotten pretty sick after he dropped off our tail, and had pulled over to rest. Eventually he made it to the next CP, where he refueled and tried to go out again, but capsized twice within a minute of going out. At that point he went back ashore, went to a hotel, showered, slept, etc., and, 19 hours later, went out to finish the race.

On Friday before the awards ceremony Brawny came to lunch with us and we got to chat for a while over a beer. (I had the Missouri Mud, which was appropriate, since the river is quite muddy.) He seemed like a good guy and I was glad to have been able to share some of the MR 340 experience with him. Plus, he’s raced the Texas Water Safari, which I hope to do some day as well. πŸ™‚

Here’s a photo of Brawny:

Breaking the World Record
The prior dragon boat distance world record was just 82 miles, so we beat that fairly early in the race. Dragon boats are normally raced in sprints — 500 meters or 1000 meters, and not typically raced in distance races — especially a race of 340 miles! In fact, there were some that thought we wouldn’t even finish, or if we did, we would slow considerably as the race progressed and we suffered attrition. But we never lost a paddler and, while we had one slow section the second day, I blame that a bit more on slow water. πŸ™‚

Here is a photo taken from the boat when we passed the 82 mile mark… Not a very exciting shot, but at least we got it on record!

Sunset and Crab Moon
The 1st day was overcast all day, which was great, as it kept the heat down and the sun off. Right before it got dark, it started to clear, and we were treated to a fantastic sunset:

Just after this, it clouded up a bit more, and then we saw some bright white glowing clouds glowing in the shape of an erie, evil crab. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that. It was just the moon shining through some of the thinner cloud layers, brightening up the sky.

Boat Position Changes
While all the paddlers got to change sides every 30 – 40 minutes, only a few of us got to change positions (rows). The 1st half of the race I was in row 9, and the 3 steer-ers would rotate through that row. It was good that we had row 10 with only one paddler — we had one person drop from the team the week before the race — but it would have been extremely tight if row 10 had two paddlers in it when we needed to switch steer-ers. The 2nd half of the race, I moved up to row two, which allowed me to meet some of the other paddlers. Even tough we were all in the same boat, at 41 feet we were spread out front to back pretty far, and there really is a sub-culture built around those you can easily talk with (the row immediately in front of you and behind you) and those you can somewhat talk with (two rows up and two rows back). Beyond that, not a lot of chatting occurs.

I have my long race nutrition pretty dialed in these days, and had no problems whatsoever. While one of my teammates had two 1 gallon igloo jugs for water for me for the race, they seemed excessively large and I was able to borrow someone else’s half gallon jugs. We used two, so that one was in the boat, and one could be filled by our ground crew. If it had been really hot, I could see a half gallon being a touch small on the really long legs during the day, but we did not have that problem.

Beyond water, I used my normal Perpetuem (Hammer Nutrition), and has been my recent want, mixed in a TB or two of chia seeds. I typically shoot for 500-600 calories of Perp/chia mix per sports bottle, and use that as anywhere from 60-90% of my fuel, depending on the intensity of the event. Then I mix in some gels, energy bars, and cliff shot blocks. For real food, almond/peanut butter and honey, salt and vinegar chips, famous amos cookies, etc. It all worked out fine in this race, where I was definitely closer to the 60% range on the perp/chia, and maybe even as low as 50%, since the intensity was lower than something like an ultra-run.

Boat that got sucked into a strainer
After we finished, we heard rumors of various problems people had along the course… One person supposedly lost their boat in the fog and had to sit on the rocks, nearly hypothermic, for hours until they could be rescued. Another boat had gotten crushed on a bridge pylon, etc. I’m not sure which ones are true and which stories had grown in the short time since they had first been told, but at least one boater did have a scare, and they posted about it on the RiverMiles forum, so I’ll just post a link here. It is worth a read — it shows how dangerous the river can be! (But there is a happy ending — and an MR340 finish! Woohoo on the perseverance!)

After we had finished the race, and recovered with sleep, it was fun to head over to the RiverMiles forum and read what had happened along the river while we were on the water, and to read about what had occurred since we got off the water. One funny thing was that Val, who was supposed to be on the team but could not make it once the race was postponed, was posting about us, and hoping to catch us on one of the river netcams. Well, she caught us, and the photo is below. Supposedly the netcam takes a shot every 12 seconds, but we only showed up in this one… Maybe were were going too fast! πŸ™‚

Miscellaneous Photos
I did not carry a camera, but I have a bunch of photo’s from teammates, a bunch have been passed around on Facebook and email, etc. There are a couple pro photo sites out there, and I’m either in the process of talking to the photographers about permission to use the photos and/or purchase some. But if any of the photos that have been passed around via email and Facebook are copyrighted, I apologize! Just let me know and I’ll fix it.

The two pro photo sites are:

John Niebling also has a site here:

And here are a bunch of shots:

I bet this was a familiar sight:

Everyone is pretty content, and there Redfern is yelling his head off. πŸ™‚

1 thought on “MR 340, Part III: Anecdotes and Miscellaneous Photos

  1. Pingback: MR 340 World Record is Official! « 2sparrows

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