BY PHIL WHITE
Since its founding in 2006, the Missouri American Water MR 340 (commonly referred to simply as "the MR 340") has joined the Yukon River Quest and the Texas Water Safari as one of the staples of the distance paddle-racing scene.
The most popular endurance contest in the Midwest, which runs from Kansas City to St. Charles, Mo., each summer, the Missouri American Water MR 340 attracts a host of top competitors in traditional classes such as kayaking, fast-growing divisions such as SUP, and some more atypical events, such as dragon boating. More than just a distance race, the MR 340 also raises awareness for conservation and cleanup of the Missouri River and its tributaries.
In 2011, race organizers had to push the start date back to October due to high water. This year, though some racers claimed the Missouri was "low water," the level was in fact normal, so the race ran on time. As temperatures remained unusually temperate, with the mercury hovering around the mid-70s, 526 paddlers in 348 boats lined up at the start on July 23.
"The goal of the race is to bring people to the Missouri River and let them see this beautiful resource," said race founder and director Scott Mansker. "It’s a fantastic river for canoeing and since the race started in 2006, recreational paddling on the river has gone up dramatically. The word is out and the river has literally thousands of new fans, stewards and advocates."
In the men's solo category, Kyle Mynar came home first in 43 hours, 34 minutes, with Joe Mann second in 45:19 and Chris Spoor third in 51:25.
"It was very tough, but in the end a very rewarding experience," Mynar said. "The people and scenery in Missouri are awesome. This is something I think more people should try, whether to be competitive or just for an adventure."
In the women's solo, Traci Martin claimed victory in 56:42, ahead of Nancy Bowers in 62:45 and Christy Miller (64:53). The most significant performance of this year's race came from the six-man crew of Winter is Coming, who smashed the previous overall event record with a time of 35:58.
There were three competitors in the men's SUP division, the most in race history. Shane Perrin took the title for the third year in a row with a time of 64:52, finishing ahead of John Straub in 79:11. Alex Linnell battled hard but couldn't make it to St. Charles before the cutoff time. (Click HERE to read more on how Perrin fit the MR 340 in the middle of his 640-mile Iron Athlete expedition.)
The dragon boat category saw two 12-person mixed teams fight it out. The crew of Blazing Paddles got stuck on a wing dam for two hours and were eventually pulled off by a safety boat. Despite this setback, the paddlers fought back, regained the lead over Penny a Gallon and came home ahead by just over six hours, 53:09 to 59:12.
Despite the high number of entrants, fine weather and record times, there was one cloud over the race. A 61-year-old paddler who dropped out of the race at Lexington, Mo., died while camping in Miami, Mo. Some media sources reported that the man had a history of medical problems, suggesting that the exertion from the race was not a contributing factor. (See below, or click HERE to read more).
— CLICK HERE TO READ BRETT DUFUR’S TAKE ON WHAT IT TAKES FOR AN ORDINARY PADDLER TO TACKLE THIS MULTI-DAY ENDURANCE EVENT.
— CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE WILD SECTIONS OF THE MISSOURI RIVER ALONG THE RACE COURSE.