My 2015 MR340
I set out on 1 January 2015 to win the MR340. That was my plan anyway. I knew if I set my standards for the stars and only reached the moon I would be happy with my performance as long as I gave it all I had. With that in my mind I started training hard after being out the entire summer and the start of winter because I had a nasty shoulder surgery. I had a great idea of cross training with a mountain bike when I could not paddle. I knew I was going to race my Stellar SEI surf ski. I only paddled it like twice before the surgery and knew that with a boat that is 20 foot long and only 18.1 inches wide for 340 miles, my core needed to be strong. I picked the Advantage lay-up from Stellar because of its Great combination of weight, stiffness, durability and cost. Gelcoat finished heat cured infused epoxy Fiberglass and Soric core laminate is very tough and resists against punctures.
For the next seven months I put over a 1,000 miles on my bike and ski. I dropped nearly 20 pounds and felt great when the 340 mile race was ready to start. My meal plan was to be easy this year compared to what I had in 2013 when I DNF because I was bleeding more than peeing when I would try to relieve myself. I would eat real food and stay away from gels and supplements all together. I thought to myself. What would give me enough calories to sustain my high intensity paddling for 45 hours? I got it, MRE’s I was in the U.S. Army for 12 years. They worked great for 72 ops. Why not? They don’t taste that good but there is about 2,000 calories in each one and I can eat one after every check point and get 18,000 calories in during the course guaranteed. I got my MRE’s and field stripped them down to a smaller size getting rid of the heaters, toilet paper, hot sauce and so on. I knew this plan would work and was excited about it as my wife doubted it and had me a backup plan. Thank goodness she did. This would be the first thing she saved me on out of many during the race.
At this point I have been told my boat is to skinny and my food plan seems like a bad idea by a few of my fellow paddlers. I’m kind of a hard head, but knew I would be good in my boat and I have eaten plenty of MRE’s. I’m good to go. Now I can’t fit maps in my skinny boat so I start looking for a GPS and find the Garmin eTrex20. This little device turned out to be one of my best purchases ever for this race. I mounted it between my legs over the surf ski leash anchor with some carved mini-cell foam so I could tie it in in case I turned the SEI over. I get all my ducks in a row and its 28 July 2015 and 240 solo boats are setting on the Kaw River just up from where Lewis & Clark made camp when exploring for the Louisiana Purchase. I’m sure there sights of the mighty Missouri River and the Kansas Rivers were much different than mine but a great sight to see as the sun shines out of the east.
The cannon and muskets fire and we are off. Paddling my Stellar SEI hard enough to stay in front of the main pack of boats so I don’t get bumped all over the place as we hit the eddy line of the Missouri River current. I notice that there is a pack of 10 to 15 boats that are putting distance on the main pack fast. I know we were paddling fast but when I looked down at my GPS. I noticed that we were doing 11.5 MPH. I backed off and re-set my GPS because in the first 1.5 miles of the race it jumped to 641 miles already traveled. Once I zeroed it out it worked without flaw. I read that new GPS systems can be off at times until they get older. I don’t know why this is.
The front three boats are now pulling away slowly on the next 12 to 15 paddlers and we are paddling at a fast clip for such a long race. I notice about 20 miles in to the race that we all settle down and start running about the same speeds. We all talk some but we all are trying to save energy because it got hot fast. The first day I was told it was 97 degrees with a heat index of 110 and the humidity was off the charts. I figured about 2 hours in to the race I needed to eat. I reach down and get my first of what I thought was going to be many MRE’s. I pull out my grilled chicken and open it up. It looked a little off but did not smell bad. I took a bite and thought it tasted worse than I remember and the texture does not seem correct. Maybe they are a lot worse than I remember. I choke it down and keep paddling. I could not drink enough water to get the nasty taste out of my mouth. I opened some peanuts and they were like eating sawdust. I paddle on. At hour three I figure it’s time to eat the rest of the MRE. I pull out the minestrone soup and open it. I find my spoon and think that this is to dry. I take a bite and it’s spoiled. I dump it and call my wife and have her check the rest of the MRE’s. She told me they are all bad and I’ll have you real food Babe. Now everything I put in my mouth taste like sawdust and it’s hot and I have not hit the first check point. I notice that my left leg is cramping just below the knee and I don’t cramp up normally. Around hour four my upper abdomen is cramping and I have not even reached the first check point at Lexington.
I make it to Lexington by 12:49 and go to get out of the boat for my ground crew to put ice and water in my camelbak’s located in a hatch that Jim Brunton helped me cut into the back of my boat in order to drop the water 9″ lower to the bottom of the boat. This was crucial for stability. I lean over to stand up and forgot to unclip my camelbak straw. When I did this I got a bad cramp in my stomach again locking me in a bent over position. I’m not having fun at this point and I’ve only gone 50 miles but I was going to get out of this checkpoint as fast as I could. I was back on the water at 12:59p.m. Five hours and fifty nine minutes and I was back on the water with a goal of arriving at Lexington at 1:00p.m. I planned on the re-supply taking two minutes putting me out of there at 1:03p.m. I was just ahead of schedule for a 45 hour race. My gorgeous wife gave me my food and tried to get me to take some ranitidine for the acid reflex I was experiencing on the water but I was stubborn and did not take it. My Father and Mother reloaded my camelbaks with ice and water. From this point until I reached the next checkpoint at Waverly I got worse as the heat rose. I felt like I was going throw up with every stroke I took. I slowed down a lot. I kept telling myself if I keep going that I can get through this. I did not drag my wife (Amber), Mother (Sharma), and Father (Charlie) all the way across the state of Missouri to have my second DNF on my third time doing this race. I completed the October 2011 race in 66 hours and 10 min.
I pushed and made it to Waverly at 4:05p.m. I gave my wife a heads up at 10 miles out and 2 miles out that I was coming in so all my supplies was waiting and I was in and out very fast. This time I listened to my wife and let her shove two Ranitidine in me with two Aleve. I’m off and paddling again leaving at 4:05p.m. I have been paddling 9 hours and 5 minutes. In that time I have covered 73 miles mostly sick and remember there are 400 plus boats putting up with this near triple digit heat. I’m on schedule with my goals even being sick and with the heat, I feel that I can safely keep pushing but I need to watch myself in order to keep racing. The one nice thing about having two 100 oz. camalbaks shoved under the bucket of my ski was. I had cooled a cooled seat. The bladders of ice water were touching the bucket.
On to Miami 32 miles downstream and I’m starting to feel better. I can now eat and drink without it tasting like saw dust mixed with chalk. I know I should have listened to my wife. My goal is to make the next 32 miles before the sun sets. My pace picks up faster as I feel better. I want to see Miami in the daylight. The first two times I raced this race it has been dark when I got to Miami. I paddle hard and make it to Miami by 7:58p.m. I’m two minutes ahead of schedule. I decide that it’s a good time to try and go number two. That did not work out but my wife rubbed me down with some sports ointment and it felt great. I tried to go number two with no success and spent 32 minutes on the bank. This is the first stop that I wasted too much time but knew I could make it up with the sun going down I would speed up. I just paddled 105 miles in 13 hours and 31 minutes and was back on the water and headed to Glasgow. My days of training in 105 degree heat of Georgia paid off on day one but I did not want that heat again on day two.
Now if I can reach Glasgow by 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday. I’ll be where I want to be time wise. I start paddling as the sun goes down I start seeing lightning in the distance and think to myself that I do not want to get stuck in another storm like I did in 2011 on the banks of the mighty river. I pushed on and caught up to the first place female solo winner (Sheila Reiter, 47 hours and 53 minutes) that passed me when I spent 32 minutes on the bank in Miami. I helped her adjust her light and we paddled together for a short time when I got sick again for a short time. I told her to go on and that I can’t hold that pace. After paddling a while I started to feel better so I picked it back up and paddled with women’s tandem team. (Gurls Without Buoys, JoJo Newbold and Di McHenry, 46 hours and 34 minutes) I pulled in to Glasgow at 1:14a.m., 46 minutes ahead of my 2:00a.m. set arrival time. I was feeling great and decided to get some shut eye because the storm was coming in fast and my boat is only 18″ wide. I did not want to risk Lisbon bottoms in a storm knowing that the river was up and knowing there was nowhere for me to seek shelter if I got in trouble. Neither my life nor my gear was worth me making a 45 hour race this year, even if that’s what I trained for. I lay down to go to sleep and as the mosquitos have a buffet on me, they got Amber more than I. I guess she was sweeter. I was almost a sleep when my leg cramped up on me again. That makes life hard on you when you’re trying to sleep. I find out later that Gurls Without Buoys pressed on with only a three minute stop in Glasgow. I get back on the water at 6:03a.m., 23 hours and 3 minutes. The storm is past and they only project for an 88 degree day. That’s a lot better than day one for sure. I shove off the bank with 141 miles down and only 199 to go.
This is normally the hardest section of the race for me mentally. The push to Katfish Katy’s was not bad this time. I felt good and was ready to see the I-70 Bridge and knew that the checkpoint was about five miles past the bridge on the left. I rounded the right bend in the river for the bridge to come into view and I saw a little white hummingbird that sounded like a remote control helicopter. I then realized that it was Paul Jackson with his Drone. I must tell the truth here. I was already at a good pace, but when he started to fly that thing around me. My pace picked up more and I started to watch my technique and leg drives more. I don’t know if that made a difference after about 182 miles of paddling but it felt great. There is always a point in this race that one or two little things make the race special. This was one of them and little did I know the second one was coming up at 187 miles.
I pull up to Katfish Katy’s at 11:37a.m. and I’m behind schedule 3 hours and 37 minutes. I believe that I’m still good for a 47 hour race and my SEI is going to make up the difference from my 3 hour break and nap at Glasgow. No big deal, I will still make the sub 50 hour club in my mind. My ground crew re-supplies my boat and Amber hands me a small thing of pasta salad. The very best thing that my body has accepted up to this point. THANK YOU BABE! I gobble it down and jump back in my boat and I’m back on the water. 28 hours and 54 minutes since the start of the race. The first 187 miles was rough. Maybe the last 143 will be better. I paddle out of sight, around the corner and try to eat my pork BBQ sandwich. What was my best pulled pork and slaw sandwich in 2013 is now the worst and driest pork I have ever eaten. I found out later it was a different vender this year. How did I miss the moist pulled pork from two years ago? I took one more bite and fed the fishes the rest. I did a lot of fish feeding this year. I thought I was getting sick again but I didn’t.
Next stop is Jefferson City, Missouri. I know once there I have been 223 miles and I only have to paddle 115 more miles. I’m getting excited about being faster than my last race in a Stellar S18 kayak. Just as I’m coming down the last straight away I notice the river slowed down and a barge was coming upstream. I paddled to the right crossing in front of a sand dredge to give him room because I did not want to be in between him and the dredge. I paddled hard and he was pushing a lot of weight. He plowed up the river with three foot waves. My Stellar SEI Surf Ski loved it at first because the initial waves are like what you might get in the ocean and then it gets crazy like a rough windy lake with a thousand boats chopping it up more for twenty minutes. I get out of that mess and round the corner to the left and barge number two comes up and does the same thing. My core felt it but I knew I was in Jefferson City when I saw the train tracks, Bridge and State Capitol Building. I pulled in an hour faster than 2013 and 17 hours faster than 2011, its time for a bathroom break. Once I get on land I did manage to go number two. The little things mean a lot when you push your body to its breaking point. I spend 24 minutes on the bank. Once again the bank is the enemy in this race. Bank time means lost time. I go to get an adjustment to my back and wow, I feel great.
Back on the water with 33 hours and 45 minutes gone I’m still going to make it less than 50 hours in my mind. I suck down a chocolate milk and paddle on.
At this stage in the race I realized that my core took a beating and as the sun fell behind me. I started to get a touch tippy in my boat. This was not fun. I paddled on and in my mind I was at a breaking point. The Mighty MO was imposing her will to break me. I thought to myself. This is stupid. I could be on a beach with my wife and enjoying her company but no your dumb behind is out here on a skinny boat trying to win a race full of heavy hitters. What are you trying to prove to yourself? I’ll be 42 at the end of the month. The darker it got the lonelier I got on the big muddy ribbon of water. I generally like the night paddling better on this race because your senses come into focus and the cool air off the river feels great. This night was the exception. I slowed greatly and peeing became a chore. I used a giant sponge to urinate on and rinse. It would take 2 to 4 minutes to pee and every time I urinated, I lost time. I saw a guy standing over another guy trying to eat him and then a heard of giant elephants charging into the river. I looked again and it was the trees outlines making shapes of stuff like you would see in the clouds. Wow, I’m hallucinating.
A group of guys caught up to me by this point and we talked a bit. This motivated me some but my core was so gone I didn’t care if they passed me. I pulled in to Herman at 10:59p.m. beaten and needing rest. This was the only time my boat felt unstable in the entire 340 miles. I told my ground crew that I have to go to sleep. My daughter and her boyfriend (Nadia and Sultan) were there and it was nice to see them. They had me get in the back of Sultan’s SUV. They had a mattress with blankets and the seats folded down. I lay down and did not want to wake. I just paddled 269 miles in 40 hours. My sweet wife got me up somehow. I know it was not easy for her to wake me. I felt like a zombie and I could not close my hands. The suck was setting in and I hurt all over. My daughter gave me bacon and it was the second best thing I ate this trip. I put on a jacket because it was cold and back in the water I went after 45 hours and 13 minutes have passed in the race. I knew at this time I would not make the 50 hour club but I would finish with a good time.
I started paddling away from Herman and warmed up fast and my hands started to loosen up enough for me to grasp the paddle. I am feeling good again and this 18″ wide boat felt stable again under my 227 pound rear-end. What makes a boat more unstable for me is that I carry most of my weight in my upper body. I’m over 24 inches across the back of my shoulders. Some of my friends tell me it looks like I’m paddling a #2 pencil from behind. I shed the jacket and realize I have nowhere to put it. I roll it up tight and shove it in my PFD. I start paddling fast and catch seven solo paddlers before I get to Klondike. A paddler ask me how fast I was going and look down and see that I’m paddling 10.5 to 11 mph, I tell him and he replies that’s why you’re reeling in paddlers. I tell him good luck and stay safe as I paddle on. I now know at this pace I can make St. Charles by noon.
I get to Klondike at 8:58a.m. and I strip the boat of all extra weight, urinate, eat some more awesome bacon and I’m back on the water in nine minutes. I manage to catch two more boats. I did get the honor of another barge coming upstream at the I-64 Bridge. I pulled to the right to get out of his way and had to stop paddling or we would have been under the bridge together. That’s some excitement and danger that I did not want. I plowed through the big stuff and thought if I wasn’t in a race or have paddled over 311 miles, I would love to play on these waves. My spirit was high and I was having fun after paddling over 50 hours now. I knew I could paddle from Klondike to St. Charles in 3 hours.
I did notice another boat catching me. I looked back and realized it was an Epic boat. I did not know that it was Braxton Carter in his Epic V7. He caught me in the chop when I threw my legs over the side of my ski. I thought better be safe than to take a swim. We paddled together at 9.8mph for a little while as we chatted. I then thought to myself I’m not going to get beat by a V7 at this point in the race. I picked up my pace as the river calmed down and pulled away from him. I put a ten minute gap between us from about two miles down from the I-64 Bridge. I did catch a nice gentleman in a Seawind canoe shortly after that. He stated that he has not seen anyone all night. I paddled hard and saw the casino and then the I-70 Bridge. I got excited and called my wife! I said to her “I see the bridge. I’m in St. Charles” I was getting emotional.
Just before this, my suntan lotion ran in my eyes and they were on fire for about ten minutes but I did not let that slow me down. Even at the end your body is telling you to stop. That’s why you embrace the suck and drive on. This is my kind of pain. I see the finish line and I see my family and I say to myself. I am loved and this is awesome, 340 miles in 53 hours and 10 minutes. That is 13 hours faster than my first time. I say that I won’t do this again until I’m 50 but I think I’ll be back in 2017 when I’m nearing 44 years old. This ultra-non-stop unlimited will test you down to your core.
I completed 27th in the men’s solo and 50th overall. There was over 200 male solo paddlers and just over 400 boats in this race total. Go to raceowl.com for full stats. My gear was great. I used the G’power Galaxy II Mid wing from Elite Ocean Sports. Best paddle ever made. The shaft and blades are all one piece of carbon fiber. No glue on wing here.
My Stellar SEI, and Astrel SeaWolf PFD, was from River Sports Outfitters. I love this equipment and would recommend it to anyone wanting to paddle. I know that I have the correct gear and now I must improve myself as a paddler. I have come a long way since I started paddling in the summer of 2010. I have a long way to go to get better. I want to thank all who supported me on this race and that believed in me. I especially want to thank my beautiful wife Amber, daughter, Nadia, her boyfriend Sultan, mother, Sharma and Father, Charlie for their hard work as my ground crew putting in long hours and feeding the mosquitos as well. For anyone that would like to paddle with me or for complete gear reviews send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles M. Goodson
Volunteer Canoe & Kayak Race Coordinator