340 miles. 88 hours or less. 400 boats. One iconic river.
July 19 marks the beginning of the 11th installment of the Missouri American Water MR340, an event that’s billed as the world’s longest nonstop river race. Contestants must complete the challenge in no longer than 88 hours. That means constant paddling, very little stopping, and even less sleeping to finish the race in the allotted time.
There are a fair share of elite athletes that train year-round and outfit themselves with slender, speedy, rapier-like boats who are hell-bent on posting impressive finish times in this crazy ultra-endurance race.
But that’s not us.
My son and I entered the MR340 on something of a whim. Me, the middle-aged desk jockey looking for a challenge. My son, the invincible 16-year-old who wanted a wilderness adventure. So we signed up one cold January morning, and thus began our journey.
Since that time, we’ve become acutely aware of the challenges we may face. Scorching temperatures and high humidity that can bring on heat exhaustion if we’re not properly hydrated. Lack of sleep that can fog judgment. Actual fog. Powerboats, barges, and swarms upon swarms of bugs. Even flying carp that can pummel us.
But we’re ready – as ready as we’re going to be, anyhow. A Hobie Mirage Oasis kayak is our vessel of choice. Compared to some of the racing kayaks we’ll be up against, it’s not be the fastest thing on the water – but it more than makes up for that in efficiency, stability, and comfort.
Naturally, we’re equipped with Garmin all the way. Easy-to-read, lightweight and energy-efficient Montana handhelds will be our primary form of navigation, and they’ll be loaded with BlueChart Inland Rivers cartography. I’ll have a fenix 3 HR strapped to my wrist, providing heart rate, timing data, and other information at a glance. We’ll document this grand adventure with the help of a couple of high definition VIRB XE action cameras. And we’ll pack along an inReach Explorer so that people can follow us on our journey.
We’ll also tote a Rino GPS-enabled two-way radio to keep in touch with our ground crew (AKA wife and daughter) where cell coverage is spotty. They’ll use a DriveSmart 50LMTHD to get them from checkpoint to checkpoint, resupplying us and lending some much-needed moral support.
Whatever happens, we know our journey will take a combination of mental and physical endurance, river savvy, and good old-fashioned luck. We’re banking on the theory that luck favors the prepared.
Stay tuned for on-the-river updates next week and don’t forget to share your exciting adventures with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and use #HaveNoLimits.