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Man against nature: Sanson crosses state in kayak during MR340 race

Editor’s note: The Missouri 340 river race last week included three competitors from Excelsior Springs. What follows is an account of the experience of one of them, Gary Sanson, in his own words. Next week, the Elms Hotel team of Eric Busick and Kevin Snedden will recount their story of the race.

The Missouri 340 is an endurance race across the state of Missouri on the Missouri River. Competitors will start in Kansas City and finish, some of them anyway, in St Charles. You have 88 hours to complete it. The MR340 has been picked as one of the top 40 events in the USA by National Geographic.

Building up endurance for this race was a challenge. I decided three weeks out I was going to do the race. Ray Smith, a good friend from St. Louis, mentioned he was doing it so I said why not? I was already training and working out on a regular basis. The last time I was in a kayak was over 15 years ago. Could I do this? Everything I read said I did not have enough time to prepare. I was up for the challenge. I went out and bought a kayak 15’11’’ x 22” and hit the water. I went out to Watkins Mill and did 10 miles a day two weeks prior to the race and went down the Missouri River for the first time for 25 miles. The stories you hear about river boils, swirls, whirlpools, barges and flying Asian carp are true. When you travel down the Mighty MO you will see the water erupt in front, under and all around you. Buoys, dikes and loose brush are hazards you have to watch for. Any of these can be catastrophic if you get knocked out of your kayak. The energy wasted recovering your items floating downstream and getting back in could be the beginning of the end! Average current speed at that time of the race was about 3.1 miles per hour. If I was going to complete this race I had to do it in a well-thought-out plan. I knew it was going to be physically and mentally challenging.  I had 88 hours to travel 340 miles.

I believe the way to complete a race of this magnitude is to break it up into segments and have a game plan. Everything had to be planned out. I printed laminated detailed maps covering every mile that I was going to travel. I had 65 5”x7” pages broken down into three segments so I would not have to carry all of them with me at once. When I planned a rendezvous with the ground crew I would exchange for a new set. I would also exchange hydration packs and food coolers. I had to watch how much weight I was carrying also. Too much and it would slow me down and make my kayak unstable. How much is enough? It depended on the weather and temperature. I knew a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat were necessary to keep up my strength and endurance. The expected time of arrival was calculated by using spot tracker, a device that gave my location every 10 minutes. I carried a waterproof

GPS to continually monitor my speed and we were required to carry a cell phone, waterproof by choice, which I used to check in and out of check points if I did not want to physically stop. I also strapped on my GoPro camera to the front of my kayak to record occasional shots of my journey.

The first day I traveled 141 miles. I left Kaw Point at 7 a.m., traveled 50 miles, passed Lexington and texted in at 3:15 p.m. At 6:52 p.m., the 73 mile mark, I met the ground crew for a brief stop at Waverly and swapped out hydration pack and food coolers. At 12:21 a.m., the 105 mile mark, I checked in at Miami.

For more on this story, see the print edition or e-edition of the Friday, Aug. 2, Standard.

Gary Sanson was one of three local residents who competed in the MR340 river race across the state of Missouri, departing KC at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, and finishing in St. Charles at 2:23 a.m. on Friday, July 26. (Submitted photo)

Gary Sanson was one of three local residents who competed in the MR340 river race across the state of Missouri, departing KC at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, and finishing in St. Charles at 2:23 a.m. on Friday, July 26. (Submitted photo)

By Standard Staff • StandardStaff@leaderpress.com

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