Finding Flow on the Mighty MO
crazy for 340 miles across Missouri from Kansas City to St. Charles in less than 88 hours. Nine checkpoints. Miss one and you’re disqualified.
The pack of boats soon stretches out over 5, then 10 miles of river. The front of the pack quickly disappears out of sight, at a paddling pace unfathomable even to many Olympic paddlers. The stifling July heat flexes its muscles early. The mercury rises to 108 degrees, with a heat index of 120, and stays there throughout the week of the race. The headwinds are relentless. Even for seasoned MR340 veterans, this is new territory. Due to the drought, we’re on a low, slow river, further stripping us of much-needed momentum.
Those looking for glory of breaking records or personal bests resign themselves to the new reality of simple rewards like staying hydrated and slowly making head-way on a race that alternates between agony and ecstasy.
My goal for Day 1 is to keep a 7-mile-per-hour pace, and to stay in the boat as much as possible. Dawdling around at checkpoints adds precious time to the clock. I remind myself that the hurt doesn’t get worse after Day 1. I may be lying to myself.
Soon we’ve paddled beyond Kansas City’s skyline and have entered the solitude of the countryside. An occasional town dots the otherwise forested banks. I make it to the Lexington boat ramp, 50 miles into the race at 2:15 p.m. Lexington is the first of nine checkpoints. In contrast to the solitude of the river, the checkpoint is another carnival of colors and commotion as ground crews lean in to assist their paddlers. I stay in the boat and check through as quickly as possible in an effort to bank some time that will help me further downriver. My mom quickly drops two bags of ice into my lap to help keep my core temperature down and I’m off again. I see many boats out of the water, already loaded up for the drive home. The heat is taking its toll.
Lewis and Clark Made Me Do It
Why am I here? Lewis and Clark made me do it. Being raised on stories of Lewis and Clark, John Colter, and Daniel Boone, paddling across the state has always been a childhood dream. The Missouri River is an ideal place to experience a wilderness adventure close to home thanks to dozens of