2022 MR340 Race Recap

Missouri River 340, July 12 – 15, 2022


#4933 – Mark Fingerhut – Epic V7 Surfski

56:00:09, 51st place overall, 20th solo men’s kayak


Going into my 6th MR340, 2nd solo, I felt pretty good about what to expect. In 2021, I helped support Paddle Stop New Haven’s 10-person dragon boat and really appreciated seeing the race from a new perspective. As a racer in previous years, I normally don’t get a chance to see a ton of other boats or their setups, or interact with ground crews to get good ideas, or appreciate what it takes to actually put this race on. I feel like that support experience certainly helped in prep for this year. The biggest wild card going in was going to be weather…and the choice of a boat.

The plan all along was to use the Mostar, the gorgeous 20ft cedar strip kayak built by Shane at Paddle Stop that I used both in my 2019 descent of the Missouri River, as well as in my last MR340 in 2020, a 57.5 hour finish. Earlier in the spring, I happened upon a local posting of an Epic V7 for sale at a reasonable price. I’ve always been intrigued by surfskis, but never had the chance to paddle one. I hopped to it and bought it, which also included a nice Epic mid-wing paddle. The V7 model is rotomolded, so can be treated more roughly than the other delicate, more expensive models, and is slightly heavier, more stable and a quicker learning curve. That said, I didn’t consider paddling the boat in this year’s 340 until I had a lot more saddle time and felt more comfortable.

In preparation for the race, I paddled quite often: weekly Tuesday night 5k races with the local crew at Creve Coeur Lake, day/night trips of varying lengths on the Missouri between Hermann and the confluence, the Mississippi above St. Louis, short/higher intensity paddles upstream then back on the Meramec River, among others. I also participated in the inaugural MR140 in Minnesota back in June, which turned out to be a terrific tune up. I paddled my Current Designs Nomad in that race, mainly for added stability and comfort on an unknown river with unknown support and multiple portages. After the 140, I realized I could have easily done that race in my surfski, so why not consider the ski for the 340???

Wanting one more true test of this boat under my belt, a couple weeks ago, I did a 70 mile speed run from downtown St. Louis to Chester, IL on the Mississippi. This stretch would have everything the 340 would have in a condensed form: darkness, navigation challenges, barge wakes galore, fluid/gear management, technology setup, etc. The run was quite successful, departing St. Louis at 4pm, arriving in Chester at 2am in the wake of 4 consecutive big barges. I felt comfortable in the boat, quite stable, I was able to haul enough gear, and was pretty excited with the pace I was able to maintain. The Mostar was out; the V7 was in.

credit: Ron Sloan

The Race

After the traditional pre-race KC barbeque binge (this time at Slaps BBQ) and a pretty good night sleep, I was up with my wife/ground crew Sara, stuffing bladders with water and Gatorade, scarfing some breakfast and hitting the water at Kaw Point. I’ll forever be a fan of putting in at the confluence point vs. dealing with the lines at the ramp. Sara’s done support over the years for me and other paddler friends, but this was her first time seeing the spectacle of the starting line, so I was excited for her to take it all in. I paddled around the crowd leading up to the 7am start, greeting so many paddlers I’ve had the privilege to get to know over the years, either from the local St. Louis community, friends from KC, or just those I see at the 340 every time I do it. It’s a tangible uplifting feeling knowing you are setting off on this epic challenge with so many others you admire and respect, less of a singular competitive challenge, more of a bond that we’ll tackle this thing together one mile at a time.

After a tapping of paddles to boat to thank the race organizers and volunteers (shout out Dave Amelung), we were off. My modus at the start is to stick hard left on the Kaw and hit the confluence at the highest point, with 99.9% of the boats to my right. That way, I am out in the fast current of the Missouri before anyone else, and sure enough, I was sliding right by the large mass of boats still transitioning from the Kaw morass into the churn of the main channel. I picked up the parked construction barges of the Buck O’Neil bridge just as the picture in the email the night before indicated and set a 6:30/mile pace through the downtown KC speedway of the first few race miles.

The pack I was paddling with thinned pretty quickly, and I could tell I was in a faster boat than I’ve ever paddled this race in before. Instead of paddling with plastic boats and beginner kayaks, I was with the Stellars, the Surfskis, the wielders of wing paddles, the upper level of boats that tend towards the front of the pack. It was new to me. After the fast water of downtown KC, I settled into the low 7 minutes per mile. My technology is quite low-tech: an Amazfit fitness watch that tells me time, distance, and pace. My phone tucked away in my PFD (or later my dry bag) running Race Owl. I’m not a channel tracker/ProPaddler guy, as I’ve rarely found the benefit of it with paddlers usually in sight, as well as knowing the river quite well between KC and STL.

I told Sara I’d text her if for some reason I needed to stop at Napoleon, it would have been only to refill water and Gatorade, but with a 3-liter water bladder, and 1.5 of Gatorade, my supply was sufficient as I passed by before noon. I got to Lexington at 1:15pm and stayed for less than 5 minutes, just getting more water and Gatorade. It was a long hot slog to Waverly, but I am always motivated to get to Waverly Ramp #1 to see my good friend and river rat Rob Kalthoff, who coordinates all the volunteers at what I think is the best run ramp on the race. I was there for about 10 minutes, again refilling water and getting a photo with Rob.

I wasn’t eating a ton throughout the day, maybe a cliff bar here or there, and a quick protein drink at the ramps, but still felt strong and confident arriving at Miami around 8:30pm. I’m pretty sure it’s the earliest I’ve ever arrived there. I also realized how less crowded the ramps are when you are a little bit faster, go figure! I stayed in Miami for about 25 minutes, scarfing some cold Thai noodles Sara had brought from KC and getting the sweet caffeine from a Dr. Pepper. It was on to the 36 miles to Glasgow for a short rest. My race plan in 2020, and for this year was the same: get to Glasgow sometime in the middle of the night, sleep til close to sunrise, paddle all day, get to either Chamois or Hermann, sleep til close to sunrise, then finish the race.

There’s almost nothing I love as much as night paddling, so I enjoyed the 36 miles into Glasgow, talking with a few paddlers, but generally spending my time solo with my thoughts, a little music and a podcast or two that triggered the much-needed endorphins provided by laughter. In the last 5 miles getting into Glasgow, I blew past a pack of 6 to 8 kayaks and arrived just before the rush, 1:48am.

Sara had my rest setup all ready to go. I scarfed two corn dogs from the food truck, got out of wet clothes, then laid down, where Sara used our massage gun to really work out the soreness in my back and shoulders before I popped 2 Aleve and was off to dreamland. The massage gun is now an MVP level piece of gear that I will have along for every race from here on out! I woke up at 4:30am feeling surprisingly spry and fresh.

I got back on the water just as the morning light peeked over the horizon and fog was starting to lift. Lisbon Bottoms was no problem and I passed the still sleeping safety boat crew on Jameson Island. Luckily this notoriously windy stretch was not so this morning and I made good progress towards Franklin. I passed a few boats who had been paddling pretty much all night, commending them on the achievement and wishing them luck. But the fact that I felt fresh as I passed them by and seeing how tired they were, I was happy with my choices so far. I caught up with my good friend and partner in adventuring Dan Strieker on his Timber Longboard SUP right as we got into Franklin in the waves of a passing barge. I had to stop to sit in the shade, eat some food, and just gather my thoughts for about a half hour before heading out again. I was joined by local STL paddling friend Chris Mullee for this stretch.

We had great conversation for the next 25ish miles. Quite amazing how human interaction keeps your mind fresh and off the muscle pain or discomfort of the blazing heat. Chris also suggested I cover my exposed toes and feet with my frogg togg towel, which up to this point, although covered in sun block, were burning up. Thanks Chris! We caught up with Dan again and passed him getting into Cooper’s where Chris stopped for a break and I kept moving.

To deal with the heat during the race, I generally kept to dipping my hat and pouring water over me, draping my frogg togg around my neck here and there. On my way into Jeff City, it was getting pretty bad. I knew of a couple ramps coming up, and I opted to stop at the private ramp just upstream of Hartsburg to cool off. As I pulled in, I saw a couple guys at the top of the ramp and thinking they might have been owners, asked them if I could stop for a dip. They replied, “Sure, not our ramp!” and proceeded to offer me a couple varieties of beers or rum and coke. Under any other circumstances, even during the race, I would have taken them up on it. But with an overheating situation near, I told them no thanks. I fully submerged into the end of the muddy ramp and felt much better. Approaching Jeff City, I passed an upstream sand barge that kicked up some real nice rolling waves which I had a lot of fun crashing through in my ski. Some dread barges on the river, but to me it’s a chance to wake up, get the adrenaline up and put your mind to work navigating the waves!

In Jeff City, I had half a double cheeseburger, about as much as my body would allow me to get down, and a couple other small snacks, before I closed my eyes for a half hour nap. I’ve learned on this race that even these shortest of rests allows my mind to reboot. I close my eyes with scattered thoughts, frustration and worries about the coming stretch of river, and awake with a renewed sense of motivation and clearer thinking. I was back on the river in less than 1.5 hours, prepared to push on to Chamois or further.

The sunset from Jeff City to Chamois was nice, but my mood was soured by the fact I forgot my headlight at Jeff City, Sara forgot to give me a 5-hour energy, the damn bugs that kept flying into my mouth and eyes, as well as my phone really frustrating me by either stopping my podcasts every couple minutes, or continuing to play Rush on my seemingly randomized playlists. Rush – only in moderation, people! I got to Chamois before 10pm and soon learned about the brand new wing dyke that almost blocks the ramp, with the street light from the park shining straight into your eyes. I slightly scraped the wing dyke, then had to restrain myself from snapping at the ramp volunteer that perhaps better direction for paddlers landing here was in order. Hangriness had set in.

I had a good half hour rest in Chamois, ate some delicious sourdough with salami that our baker friend in KC had baked, and set out toward my evening sleep spot in Hermann. It was only in this stretch where I missed having a channel finder. A few times I found myself in slow water, realizing I had gotten out of the channel before making the correction. There were a few other boats far behind me, as well as a few ahead as I began to approach Hermann, arriving at the endlessly viewed bridge at 1am.

After some massage gun and Aleve, back to dreamland til 4am. If there were trains passing all night, that was news to me, I was out. I was back on the water before 5am, for the stretch from Hermann to New Haven. I was really in the home stretch, I know these waters from here to the finish in my sleep! I stopped for a quick 5 minutes in New Haven and said hey to my friend Melissa who was helping at the ramp. As I was pulling out, Shane came down from the Paddle Stop to bid me good luck as well. I booked it to Washington where I figured my good friend Pat Tenny would be waiting for me with breakfast biscuits from Hardee’s which he’s brought for pretty much each of my six 340s. Sure enough, there was Pat, snapping photos with a Hardees bag in his hand. I stopped for a half hour to enjoy a couple and get fluids for the long hot day ahead.

I really suffered in the heat in the short 8 miles from Washington to Klondike. The miles were slow and I struggled to stay cool with river water not quite doing the job. I finally got to Klondike at 11am, where some shade, some ice water, a little food and caffeine seemed to help. All that was left was Klondike to St. Charles, done it 1000 times. Fighting off the heat of the day with my rising adrenaline to finish the race, I powered through, passing the Boone bridge where a random dude stood up there looking at his phone. Hey, was that someone I know? After that I caught a glimpse of two paddle flashes up ahead. While not too competitive normally, at this point in the race, I always use whatever motivation I can find to finish strong and get a cold beer in my hands that much quicker. I picked up the pace as the specks of paddlers in front of me started to grow larger.

I passed the first guy just before the 364 bridge, not even giving him a glance. I just wanted to demoralize him by blowing by. There, standing under the bridge, I spotted the guy who’d been up on the Boone Bridge, oh hey that’s my buddy Keith, paddler from last year’s dragon boat and ringing a bell to bring me to the finish. The next paddler was moving fast and I didn’t know if I’d be able to get him, but I was up for the challenge. I changed my stroke from arm paddling to core paddling, and noticed my speed dropping once again to below 7 min/mile, not seen since the first couple miles of the race. The other paddler was sticking hard river right, which I’d normally do. But seeing as the finish was river left, I cheated a bit and stayed out more into the center of the river. I passed under the I-70 bridge still behind him, but with a direct path to the finish ramp, whereas he had to cross all the way over. I heard the yelling of the welcoming crowd and managed to out kick this guy, coming in 20 seconds before him, at 3pm exactly. I congratulated him, then apologized for the rather unnecessary show of competitiveness. He was luckily in good spirits and dismissed my apology. I soon learned that passing those two paddlers got me into a top 50 overall/top 20 division finish. Whatever it takes to get the beer in my hand faster, I say. Sara soon did just that and a 16oz PBR never tasted so good.


Overall, I consider this a very successful race. I was in a faster boat, but in slower water than previous years, but still managed a personal best by 1.5 hours. I did feel like I had to stop more often, mainly to reload fluids as my boat isn’t set up for hauling a lot. I opted not to do any after market modifications to the boat, no drilling through the deck for tubes or tanks or anything like that. However, my ramp stops were usually pretty brief, I had no issues getting back in the boat. I kind of like that style, as the body gets to get up and stretch more often. For my personal sleep needs, what I did here was about as good as I could expect. Minimum of two hours each night, with a hard reset during the second day. Anything less and I don’t think I’m getting the kind of brain activity that leads to good decisions. Plus, after getting back on the water after sleeping, I am immediately passing by paddlers that’ve been going for many more hours than I. I’ll take the tradeoff.

My nutrition absolutely needs work. I had a tough time getting solid food down throughout the race. I relied on liquid protein shakes mainly, a little bit of turkey jerky, an RX or Cliff Bar here or there, but my eating was reactive rather than proactive. If I do this race again, I’m going to focus a lot more of my prep and attention on a proper nutrition plan that will be more successful.

Once again, the people are what makes this race what it is. The friends and community I have from doing this race through the years, or friends I’ve made through paddling in general is really the spark that keeps me coming back. Yeah, finishing the race is cool, getting a time you can be proud of is ok, but my best moments of this race were Thursday afternoon after I’d finished, or when I came back Friday morning to watch my fellow racers finish – welcoming them in with a high five or a hug, seeing the looks on their faces, having accomplished something epic and something that will likely change their lives, as it has mine.

Huge thank you to my wife Sara for the amazing support, you knew exactly what I needed when I needed it. Thanks to Shane and Stacy at Paddle Stop for being great river friends and running with your dream to bring people to the river. Thanks Steve, Melanie, Kevin and everyone at MO River Relief for all the great work you do. Thanks to Scott, Christina and all the race organizers, I’ll love this event as long as I live. Volunteers, rampers, safety boaters – you are incredible. Thanks to the entire paddling community who continue to amaze me with your generosity, your good advice, your encouragement and support.


Mark Fingerhut, 2022

2022 MR140 Race Recap

Race Report – MR140 – Two Paddles Canoe and Kayak Races – June 10-12, 2022


Boat #1007 (Current Designs Nomad) – Paddle Stop New Haven, 19:57:00, 4th place solo men’s unlimited kayak, 10th overall (42 boats started)


As soon as I saw this race posted on the various paddling groups I frequent, I knew it was a race I wanted to do. I’ve paddled many miles on the Mississippi closer to St. Louis, but never up north. Scott Miller, one of the race organizers, is a guy I know through the paddling community and had the chance to paddle a few miles with his 2020 Mississippi Speed Record team when they passed through just above St. Louis. Plus, this would be a great tune-up for my 6th MR340 this coming July.

The biggest decision I had going into the race was boat choice. It was between the Current Designs Nomad, an 18-foot expedition/touring boat that would be plenty comfortable, stable in any waves or chop, and capable of carrying plenty of needed gear. My other choice was a relatively new-to-me Epic v7 surfski, which I knew would be faster, but more exposed, more chance of dumping me in the water, and capable of carrying much less. (Going in, I didn’t know if I’d be able to arrange dedicated support during the race.) One other factor was weather. With projected night temps in the low 50s, I decided the closed cockpit would provide better warmth and comfort while paddling all night.

I did a little bit of research on the race course ahead of time, studying the Mississippi Water Trail PDFs, google maps, and a few Youtube videos of some of the rapids and portages. I tend not to be too religious about race prep, kind of just get out there and see what happens…

I loaded up and drove from St. Louis to the St. Paul area on Thursday morning before the 5pm Friday start. I met up with some friends Bill and Jeff Behrns, Bill also paddling in the 140 with accomplished paddle racer Jeff faithfully supporting his dad.

Friday morning, after a massive IHOP breakfast calorie load, we headed towards the start in Brainerd. We planned to scout a few of the portages and checked out the Sauk Rapids takeout and put-in, as well as the Blanchard Dam portage. It would have been nice to have a bit more time to see more of the choke points, but we felt these were likely the most challenging spots. We arrived before the end of check-in at 2:30 and had plenty of time to organize gear/boats and attend the 3:30 safety meeting. I even had a spare few minutes to walk up to Casey’s for some final carb loading.  

The Race

With all boats on the water and the 5pm start approaching, we all lined up off the beach of Rice Lake, facing a quick 1.5 mile sprint to the first portage at Brainerd Dam. Scott sounded the siren from a local waterski club’s boat commandeered for the occasion and we took off. My past experience of mass MR340 starts had me on the outside edges of the pack and out of the morass of flying paddles, wayward boats and disturbed water, but turns out, 42 boats taking off is less of a spectacle than 400 boats. Nevertheless, I quickly got up to my normal Tuesday night 5k race pace, pretty much all out paddling. I raced on the edge of the pack, and settled into the top 10 boats. Approaching the steep takeout at Brainerd Dam, I saw a few others ahead of me struggle to keep footing when exiting their boats and trying to quickly pull their boats up the quickly muddying bank. When it was my turn, I very ungracefully hopped out, only to catch a foot on my cockpit lip, fall over my head-first into the water, with my kayak tipping over on top of me. I’m sure it was a funny spectacle to those behind me, but my level of caring was around zero this early in the race and I just laughed it off. I quickly pulled my boat to level ground, emptied the river water, remounted my two wayward bananas, loaded my boat on my C-Tug cart for the short portage and was off.

I patiently waited in line to get back in the water and was soon off. Over the next couple dozen miles, I paddled with a handful of friendly folks, Luke in a nice wooden kayak, a couple Wisconsin gentlemen in a Minn 2, Brooke from Oklahoma and a few others.

Though my career is in technology, I tend to paddle the rivers pretty low tech, stowing my phone in a PFD pocket or deck back, only accessing it to occasionally check the map or change up a playlist or podcast (a small waterproof Bluetooth speaker is required gear on long-ish paddles). I also wear a $50 Amazfit watch that provides me with speed, time, distance travelled and heart rate. Due to my lack of technology, I soon realized I may be at a disadvantage as the course passed through several areas of islands and distinct channels/splits. With the river level relatively high, there was no danger of running aground in a bad channel, but there were certainly channels that had slower currents or were not the most efficient route distance-wise.

Luckily, I soon settled into paddling with Brooke and the first-place SUP paddler Brad from Winnipeg. Both told me they were tracking the channel on their devices so I tried to follow their lead as much as possible. I also did not know how many miles it was between these portages (39.5), also information that they were happy to provide. Several times, Brad pulled in right behind me just off my rudder to draft and use my wake to lower his effort. I was happy to provide a small assist as we talked about paddling in Canada, his upcoming Yukon 1000 race and my sales pitch for the MR340.

During this time, we also paddled by Camp Ripley, apparently a pretty active military base. The far off echo of artillery provided an interesting audio backdrop, and at 9pm, Taps was played from the base PA system, pretty cool.

As Brooke, Brad and I approached the second portage at Little Falls, we got a bit separated, and I soon found my wing paddle scraping the mud and sand of a super wide channel. I struggled to get off the shallows and back into the deeper channel. We spotted some people up on the bridge with a red light who directed us under the bridge to the take-out within spitting distance of the water rushing over the dam.

I hopped out and carted up and was greeted by Jeff and good friend Bernie Arnold, who was also up from St. Louis for the weekend as a race volunteer. Luckily, Bernie’s responsibilities didn’t start til Saturday night, so he pretty much served as my support for the rest of the race. (Bernie – thank you so much, you are an absolute beast!) I quickly filled a water bottle and dropped 2 Nuun tabs (with caffeine!) into it for the long night ahead. I quickly carted down the hill to the put in and shoved off right behind Brad’s SUP. A strong eddy below the dam threatened to push paddlers back into the raging waves, but a minute of hard paddling got me down to the bottom of the eddy and back into the foamy current.

The next section was 9 miles of mostly slack water. Finding myself alone for a good distance, I put on a couple podcasts and kind of zoned out with some steady paddling. After an hour, I started to hit it much harder, and soon caught up to and passed Brad right as we got to Blanchard Dam – around midnight.

After scouting the challenging Blanchard portage earlier in the day, as well as having seen a YouTube video, I quickly carted up and took off down the gravel road, passing a few race volunteers hanging out at a bonfire. I struggled mightily pulling my kayak up the steep bank with inconveniently located stairs. I managed to separate my boat from my wheels and completely flip it over. Cursing my situation, who else appears but Bernie! I told him to go ahead and drive down to meet me at the put in, while I negotiated the rest of the mosquito-ridden portage, only flipping my boat one additional time.

I met Bernie at the put in, grabbed a few food items, a water refill, and switched to a higher backed-PFD than my Astral Green jacket that I started with. At the Blanchard put-in, I struggled to get out into the crashing waves, totally swamping my cockpit and again soaking me in the process. While I contemplated donning the skirt I brought along, in hindsight it wasn’t too bad emptying the cockpit with my plastic bail cup/toilet and sponge.

The next section was a bit of a blur – 24 miles of middle of the night paddling. Brad and I paddled together a lot, then he or I would stop for a drink or a bite, then the other would catch back up, and so on. I again relied here and there on Brad’s direction, or managed to keep an eye on a small red light he had on the back of his PFD. As long as I stayed within eyesight, I could see where he was heading and faithfully follow. At one point, I was ahead of Brad, and soon found myself passing under a surprisingly low bridge. I almost hit a bank of rocks (and a spooked family of Canadian Geese) before flipping on my headlamp at the last second. When I went under the bridge, I saw lights and heard yelling behind me. Momentarily confused, I realized Brad, and another canoe, I think, were calling me back. Sure enough, I was heading up a dead end. I quickly U turned back into the channel and caught back up.

Eventually, we made our way to the Sartell Dam portage, with the flashing red light not appearing around the corner seemingly til last second – around 4am. At the portage, I met Bernie, loaded up and walked down the road with a guy who’d been ahead of me in an Epic v10. It started to rain and picked up quickly during the walk. With faint traces of the coming day in the sky, an awesome volunteer at the put in offered me a coffee. She told me to add a scoop or two of powdered Starbucks to some amazingly hot water. It may have only been caffeine, but it was probably a huge amount of it, because I was getting a good buzz on for the next few hours.

I sprinted the short two miles from Sartell to the Sauk Rapids take-out, loading up for the 1.2 mile portage at 5am in steady rain. With a choice playlist going, I really enjoyed being in that particular moment, pulling a kayak on wheels on a road next to the river, heading towards the rapids, this was my paddlers high, ironically while not paddling, and I took my only photo (selfie) of my race.

I put in just after Brad and the v10 and watched them negotiate the rough water of the lower Sauk Rapids. I chose not to follow their path, paddling hard to river right to avoid the roughest water. My adrenaline was pulsing and I did not realize, it was only a short three mile paddle to the final!! portage at St. Cloud.

I loaded up, then was horrified at the staircase down to the water at the put-in with several twists and no cart to help. I think I avoided any serious gashes on my delicate hull. I put back in the water between two wading fishermen, one of whom snapped a photo as I took off. (At this point, I did break down my cart into pieces and stowed it away in my hatches, having strapped it to my deck fully assembled up to this point in the race.) Nothing but 60 miles of paddling open water to the finish!

The rain soon tapered off, the sun eventually came out, my mind fog burned off a bit and I began to dry out. I again teamed up with Brad, and certainly appreciated his navigation assist at some island chains and channels along the way. We were cranking pretty good, averaging around 7.5 to 8mph. We padded by Clearwater Access, the start of the soon to follow 48 mile race. I saw Bernie waiting there, and yelled to him that all was good and to meet me at the finish. I give huge credit to Bernie for not listening to me, because with around 25 miles left in the race, I started to notice my water supply getting low. I wasn’t panicking, but I was starting to ration a bit, slowing down on my water intake. I noticed my heart rate getting pretty high up, into the 180s. When I drank more water, I noticed it going back down. I deduced I was getting dehydrated and needed to do something if I was going to finish.

Rounding a fast bend in the river to Norin Access, who else do I see but Bernie on the shore, a sight for sore eyes and a thirsty throat. He threw me a spare camelback full of water and I was off again. This was the last I saw of Brad til the finish line. I really paddled hard the last 20 miles. In my mind, I was doing mental math on my place in the race. I searched my memory of the first mile of the race sprinting toward the dam, trying to picture what other solo kayaks were ahead of me. I think it was like 4 or 5. Then I think I passed 2 or 4 overnight. Or maybe 5? Could I be in first place? I’m sure I’m not, but I’m probably top 3, and top 3 get a trophy! Bam – that’s solid motivation.

I paddled the seemingly endless bends approaching Elk River and the eventual finish. I finally saw the last bridge and paddled out to the middle for an extra-wide landing into the finish just before 1pm. I soon found out I was the 4th solo kayaker to finish, just missing a trophy. Brad came in about 10 minutes behind me, and I congratulated him on an epic feat on a SUP and a great overall race. Thanks for being a great paddling partner, sir!

Lessons Learned/Race Feedback

Overall, this was a great experience. It was well organized and volunteers throughout the race and after were super friendly and helpful. I really liked the 5pm start time. And the portages interspersed throughout the race were a nice break to the monotony of endless hours of repetitive motion paddling (hello MR340!). I looked forward to each portage to change the set of muscles I was using, and to stretch and rest a bit.

I might suggest adjusting the timing of the check in/race logistics for Friday. Allowing a later check in, more efficient safety briefing would allow paddlers to take more time scouting some of the course, or even to get some valuable sleep-late (or travel) time that morning. Also, it would be cool to coordinate the shorter races with the 140, so paddlers of all distances get more contact and experience paddling together. (Though I know that was the intent, and there were a lot of fast paddlers on the 140, higher/faster water, etc.) Generally, if the events could be compressed a bit more, including the post-race party, I know more people would stick around after they’d finished the long race a day earlier. But it worked out well nonetheless, I’m very glad I stuck around for the party!

My nutrition/hydration left a lot to be desired, and I likely would have been worse off on a longer race, say 340 miles or so. I had some turkey jerky sticks which I occasionally snacked on, and a few bananas here and there, but my only other calorie consumption was some protein/meal replacement drinks, which certainly did the job. I supplemented calorie intake with more chemical remedies, such as caffeine, nicotine pouches for appetite suppressant and alertness (I know, nasty vice), and two rounds of Ibuprofen for sore muscles. I drank water and Nuun mix throughout the race, but should have been drinking more and planned re-supplies better. Always better to have pre-arranged race support with detailed plans (though that’s not often a luxury I have, especially on a race 9 hours from home!)

When I race on the Missouri, I am always sure to stay in the channel where the fast water is. Even though I don’t use technology to keep me there (ProPaddler App – shout out Jon Marble!!), I’ve got a few thousand miles of paddling under my belt on that river, so I like to think I can spot where the fast water is. I went into this race with the same mindset. But after a dozen miles or so, I realized this river doesn’t behave like the behemoths further downstream. I found very little variance in speed in different spots within the main channel, and following the lead of other paddlers, soon adopted more of a point to point route, vs. looping around the outside of curves.

Anyway, thanks Bernie, thanks Jeff, thanks Scott Miller and all the race organizers and volunteers! I hope to be back next year with a larger contingent of Missouri area paddlers! See you on the river!


2020 MR340 Race Recap

Mark Fingerhut – Solo Men’s Kayak – Boat #2456 – Finish time: 57:37

Support/Ground Crew: Matt Frank, Sara Fingerhut, Andy McDonald

2020 Finish
Photo by Denise Damon

After finishing the MR340 four previous times as a member of a tandem team, I felt my next logical step was to attempt the race solo. Having completed a solo descent of the Missouri River from Yellowstone to the Arch last summer, I felt I was ready for the challenge. My plan since last summer was to paddle the MOStar, the 20 foot cedar strip kayak I used last year on my journey in the race.

Prep: I don’t typically undertake a strict training regimen or structured plan. I’ve grown to love paddling and being on pretty much any body of water as much as possible. Even over the winter months, when we sometimes get the freak-50/60 degree winter day, I like to get out on a river or lake nearby. So as the weather started to warm this year, we experienced the unprecedented conditions of a global pandemic. So many weekend activities and events were cancelled and suddenly, my weekends were completely free. As being out on a river or lake far from crowds was one of the safer activities to undertake, that’s where you found me most weekends this spring and into summer. To avoid shuttling in a car with others and keeping socially distant, many times I just drove to a river ramp, paddled upstream as far as I could, then paddle back downstream to the car. I did quite a few of these on the Meramec and a couple on the Mississippi near Alton, IL. Later on in June and July, when safety procedures and mask wearing was pretty much standard, I did a few long paddles on the Missouri shuttled by PaddleStop New Haven. Then this year I also began paddling with a couple regular-meeting groups in St. Louis – the weekly Creve Coeur 5k and monthly Meramec Sunset Race. These are wonderful opportunities to get in quick/high intensity paddle workouts, with the added bonus of being able to compare notes, techniques and tips with very experienced paddlers and all around cool river people.

The things I focus on in training is developing my paddling muscles, callouses on the critical parts of my hands, comfortability within my boat, and anticipated logistic/supply needs for the race. Having spent 96 days in my race boat last summer, I was very comfortable with my setup in the boat, the main difference being I wouldn’t be hauling 250 or so pounds of gear in the MOStar during the race. She would glide like a dream, hopefully. In addition to paddling, I also undertook a loose, low intensity weight-lifting regimen. Three sets of bench, butterflies and triceps every other day of the week. By June and July, I felt like my hand callouses earned last summer had started to come back and I was confident I could complete a gloveless/tapeless MR340.

The Race Plan: The question is posed to me countless times before the 340: what’s your goal? My answer is and will always be, to finish. In my mind, the second someone says a goal other than to finish this race is when things start to go wrong. I’ve been fortunate enough to finish every 340 I’ve started, but there were several times me and my partners were seriously discussing dropping out of the race for various reasons. I will never take finishing this race for granted.

Secondarily to finishing, my competitive nature gets me thinking about what times I’d like to shoot for. In 2010 and 2011, my partners and I finished in the mid-70s hour range. Then in 2015 and 2017, we made it into the mid-60s. Knowing what it takes to hit those numbers, I felt that if everything went perfectly this race, I might be able to go under 60. So I began stating that as a secondary goal.

To make this goal happen, I began to dissect a specific race plan. Breaking up the 340 miles into paddle days and logical places to stop, recharge and refresh. I will first say that I will never consider completing the MR340 on zero sleep. My mind and body don’t possess the strength (or insanity) to skip sleep entirely, so my plan always includes places where a few hours of sleep can be had. In previous years, my teammates and I typically made it a goal on day 1 to make it to the Glasgow checkpoint to stop for some sleep. Two of the four previous times, we were able to do that, however due to various factors, we didn’t arrive there until sunrise on Day 2. Trying to get to sleep as the sun is coming up, the heat starts rising and paddlers/crew noisily start stirring is a pretty terrible experience. So my goal this year was to paddle the 141 miles or so to Glasgow, hopefully arrive there in the 2am to 4am range so I could sleep for a few hours while it was still dark. (The 7am Day 1 start time really helped as well, as having an extra hour of paddling vs. the 8am team start time would improve chances of a decent arrival time in Glasgow.) If I could do this, Day 2 should allow me to arrive in Jefferson City in the late afternoon, grab some food and drink, maybe even a cat nap if absolutely needed, then paddle into the night to a pre-determined point downstream. That would leave a Day 3 paddle of less than 100 miles, and the very realistic possibility of finishing before 7pm, the 60 hour cutoff. I talked this plan over with my support crew and we were set.

To make life easier for my crew, I also prepared and giant tub of gear, organized into separate bags and bundles, with everything I could possibly anticipate needing during the race. Asking your crew to procure something for you during the race that you hadn’t previously prepared is in my mind a very tough ask, should be minimized and be used sparingly, if at all.

The Race: In the days before the race, I was absolutely delighted with what the weather forecast was showing. High temperatures in the day in the low 80s, lows in the 50s at night, little to no chance of storms. Plus, recent rain in the Missouri River basin would ensure a high, fast-flowing current. Going into the race, I knew conditions would be nearly optimal for what a successful race required. I even had to adjust my gear to include more cold-weather attire for the chill we’d experience each night.

On Monday morning, my friend and 2017 340 partner Matt loaded me and our other friend Brett, who had joined up within the previous 3 days with a paddler from Texas after both of their original partners had to drop out, into his truck for the ride to KC. We arrived in time to grab a great sandwich for lunch, head to Boulevard Brewing for some beers on their spectacular deck overlooking the KC skyline, then head to Kaw point to check in. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about transporting my boat, as Shane and Stacy from PaddleStop were hauling boats and paddlers and offered to take my boat as well. We got checked in, I did some last minute prep on my boat including adding navigation lights. We got checked into the nearby Hilton Garden Inn then the three of us headed out to meet up with a few friends for the requisite Kansas City barbeque pre-race meal. We chose Woodyard BBQ, the third consecutive time I’ve eaten here before the race. Back to the hotel where we tailgated outside the hotel for a beer or two, sharing laughs and stories with some other paddlers dealing with the pre-race jitters of anticipation, before heading to bed around 10. There are those who treat the leadup to the race as a sacred time of abstaining from sweets, fatty foods, alcohol, debauchery, etc. The 340 will always be to me first and foremost about fun and connecting with friends and fellow paddlers and I have no shame in enjoying my time going into it, within reason.

5am came quickly and Matt drive me down to Kaw Point with a quick McDonald’s pit stop for a coffee and two sausage McMuffins to provide a base of fatty calories for a full day of paddling. As the main ramp already had a line of boats forming, we opted to take my boat down to the actual point of the confluence to launch. The footing was a little tricky and it was a bit muddy, but I highly recommend this spot as a launch to avoid the chaos of the main ramp.  I paddled upstream, spotting a few friends, wishing them good luck.

Soon enough, we were counted down and the race started. I chose to take the highest line I possibly could leaving the Kaw and entering the Missouri. In years’ past, we’d always been smack in the middle of the massive mess of boats and when the swift current of the Missouri starts absorbing the meandering Kaw, things get very swirly, boats start turning in odd directions, and there is almost always collisions and dumped boats. This time, I hugged the left shore on the Kaw as close as I could, even coming close to clipping the KC Fire Department boat parked right at the point. I easily swing out into the Missouri with nearly every other boat to my right. I believe this helped in getting out to a pretty good lead, passing a lot of boats who were fighting to avoid others and keep from tipping.

Very quickly I settled into a rhythm, checking my watch as I started doing sub 7-minute miles, translating to roughly 8.5 mph. The early race adrenaline is evident in nearly every boat and it’s always a fast start. I truly enjoy the first couple hours of the race, as the boats are bunched together, I make it a point to greet nearly every boat I pass or that passes me, wishing folks good luck or complimenting their boats. As the first few hours passed, my pace began to slow a bit, sliding up towards 7.5 minute miles, sometimes approaching 8. At this point in the race, I just wanted to keep it somewhere in that range. Technology-wise, I operate pretty low-tech. I have an Amazfit watch that I generally use to track speed, distance and heart rate, then have the race-owl tracker going on my phone – which is tucked into my deck back in front of me. I do not use the Pro-Paddler or channel tracking during the race. I would recommend this to relative newcomers to the rivers, but I feel pretty comfortable finding the channel and fast water with a few thousand river miles under my skirt. I also carry a Bluetooth speaker for playing music or podcasts when I find myself paddling alone.

The wind started picking up a bit in the afternoon, but probably only 5 to 8mph headwinds, nothing too serious. I had the great pleasure of paddling alongside some pretty amazing and inspiring women, including first-timer (at 60+) Sherry Isenhart and Ryan Gilliken – who was one of only four finishers at last year’s inaugural Alabama 650 race and who I just learned went on the win this year’s 340 in the Women’s solo kayak division in 48 hours! I also experienced a small manner of celebrity when a few paddlers saw my boat and my name printed on the side and told me they’d followed my trip down the Missouri last summer.

Right at Napoleon, I checked over my shoulder and noticed the eventual first place winner Kraken approaching. I adjusted my track to get closer to them, wishing them good luck and admiring the mad science ingenuity it took to build and operate such a vessel. I passed by Lexington just after 1pm. With typical summer heat, I’d probably need to stop there to refill water and Gatorade, but with the mild temps, I still had ample supply of both and pushed on to Waverly. I got to Waverly around 6pm, 73 miles from the start. I stopped and quickly coordinated a re-supply with Matt. More water, Gatorade, and Spiz (calorie/dietary meal replacement drink). I also had Matt cut me some strips of moleskin, where I was a bit surprised I had blisters already starting to form. He also got me a burger and hot dog from the local boy scout troop tent, that I scarfed down as soon as I got back on the water.

As the afternoon heat began to give way to early evening, things were feeling very good. I maintained a decent pace with the added motivation of reaching Miami before darkness set in – an experience I’d never had on the 340. Between Waverly and Miami, there were three or four separate groups of spectators gathered along the river, watching boats and cheering on the racers. This was new to me, evidence of a growing popularity of this event in the communities along the river. I even half-jokingly inquired about getting a cold beer thrown to me from the bank from the revelers. Alas, beer would have to wait.

I got to Miami at 8:30 with the setting sun still providing daylight; I was excited. I stopped for only two minutes, dumping my Gatorade and picking up and jacket for the chilly night air. With 36 miles to reach Glasgow, my day 1 goal, things were looking very promising to be able to get some much needed sleep. The sun set and it began to get a bit chilly. I paddled for a bit with John Trupka, who I paddle with quite often at Creve Coeur, and I’d like to think I inspired him to push on the Glasgow with me. The only risk of getting to Glasgow at a decent hour was the fog. In 2011, my partner Mike and I were in a similar position and timeframe. Then around midnight, a massive thunderstorm blew through and we spent a harrowing 3 hours sitting on a muddy bank waiting for the wind, rain and lightning to subside, not allowing us to reach Glasgow until 5am. I was determined not to experience a similar delay.

As the curvy strands of fog began to form just above the water, I knew it was a matter of time before visibility would be severely limited. I paddled with a few different boats for a few stretches, happy to keep sight of a light in front of me and behind me. I also had the friendly faces and encouragement of the support boat manned by Steve Schnarr and Elke Bettina of Missouri River Relief. I was happy I decided to grab a rain jacket at Miami, as the fog and paddle splash soaked everything on my boat and myself, however my main core was dry and warm. I also kept awake with some great sing-along music, probably much to the surprise of paddlers within listening distance. I approached the long sweeping curves of the river just above Glasgow and knew it was going to happen. I furiously paddled the last few miles and pulled around 1:30am. 141 miles down, less than 200 to go.

My wife had joined Matt in Glasgow to bolster my support team and I quickly devoured many fried things from the food truck before laying down in my tent for sleep. I set the alarm for around 4:30am and groggily got up and gathered what I needed for the day. Matt and Sara dutifully arose with me to help get me on the water by 5:30. The first light of the day was just over the trees and the fog was still there, though thankfully not terribly thick. I passed through Lisbon Bottoms without incident and into the seemingly endless straightaways near Boonville. I was happy to be in very familiar water here, having done the Freedom Race a couple weeks prior. I had a very quick stop at Franklin Island, grabbing a Coke, a red bull for the afternoon malaise and some gum to rid my mouth of the fried-food hangover mouth funk.

The only two barges of the entire race were encountered between the I-70 bridge and Hartsburg. The first barge kicked up some pretty nice rollers, and I was pretty happy to have some adrenaline powering my fatigued muscles for a bit. Shane Camden engineered my boat to easily handle the rolling, wind-generated waves on the massive lakes of the upper Missouri, so cutting through the rollers after a barge was just plain fun. I was experiencing zombie-like symptoms as I blew by Cooper’s Landing, giving some waves and shouts to some familiar faces. Luckily, just after Coopers I met Chase Wrisinger, a cool guy from Lee’s Summit doing his first race. We had a few common acquaintances, so the conversation flowed and I was able to ignored my increasing muscle soreness and sleepiness for a bit.

Approaching Jefferson City close to 5pm, I could nearly smell the pizza brought for me by Diane Spieker, the mother of Matt’s fiancé who lives in Jeff City. Hitting the beach at Wilson’s Serenity Point, this would be a more leisurely stop. I took my time, downed a couple cherry cokes while enjoying the pizza and planned my next steps.  I could tell my mind was starting to get a little cloudy. I knew from previous years that this was a dangerous place to be.  A lack of sleep and overall body fatigue can lead one to make poor decisions, endangering one’s physical well-being, not to mention the prospect of finishing the race. I briefly thought about taking a short nap at Jeff City before continuing on, but after looking at the cheat sheet, realized Chamois was only 26 miles further. Getting to Chamois, where there was a quiet campsite and even a shower(!), would set me up for a final day of 90 manageable miles to the finish in St. Charles.

I set out from Jeff City as the sun was setting and had a pretty amazing pizza and caffeine-fueled journey to Chamois. With the sun set, the stars came out in full force. Several times, I just leaned back and took in the entire sky, even seeing a couple meteors brilliantly race across nearly the entire view. I put on a few podcasts to keep my mind occupied as there were very few paddlers I encountered on this stretch. As the lights of Chamois welcomed me in, the blood-red moon rose over the trees just ahead. I arrived in Chamois around 10:30pm.

I grabbed one of the best showers of my life while Sara set up my tent. Matt had been relieved by my other friend Andy who drove out from St. Louis. I hit the pillow hard and managed to get a pretty great sleep from around 11:30 til my 3am wake up call.

Sara and Andy graciously hopped into gear at the ungodly hour to get me on the water by 3:45am. I paddled the first few hours completely alone in the stillness of the early morning, finally seeing the bridge of Hermann eight miles away as the morning light slowly appeared. I challenged myself to make it to Hermann before the first speck of sun appeared over the trees, but lost the challenge by a mere minutes. Still, it was one of the most brilliant sunrises I’ve experienced, and one the true moments of transcendence on this race. I was greeted by the friendly masked face of a good friend Jay Doty, who helped pull my boat and welcome me in. I’d paddled for a few days on my long trip last summer with Jay close to St. Louis, and got to know him and hear about the amazing conservation and invasive species battle he conducts. I truly believe that familiar and encouraging faces along the way really provide more motivation and energy than 100 cans of red bulls could ever do.

Andy really came through with a hot cup of coffee and two of the legendary bratwurst prepared by Hermann residents. Nothing has ever hit the spot at 6am like those brats. I was further reassured in my decision to stop at Chamois the night before, as I saw quite a few paddlers who had pushed on to Hermann and were either still sleeping, or slowly emerging and getting ready to set out. With a few hours of paddling under my belt for the day, I quickly got back in the boat and set of on this very familiar home stretch.

The final stop I was planning for the race was New Haven, 20 miles from Hermann. Of course New Haven has become somewhat of a river home for me, where Shane and Stacy operate PaddleStop, where Shane crafts his amazing boards and boats and where I’ve gotten to know quite a few members of the community. Sara had also coordinated with my parents, who were going to greet me at the ramp. I pulled in and stuck around for 15 minutes, catching up with Shane, Stacy and my mom and dad.

Buoyed by the energy of seeing loved ones, I got back on the river and was cruising. I began to do the math in my head, and was quickly realizing a sub-60 time was nearly assured, just being a matter of how far below 60 it would be. I blew past Washington and approached the final checkpoint at Klondike, where Andy was waiting to see if I needed anything. From a distance, I gave him a thumbs up and pointed downriver, I was gonna go for the finish. As I passed Klondike, I noticed another paddler getting into his boat, a wooden strip solo canoe. This was the first time I’d seen another wooden boat during the race. In addition to the standard divisions in the race, other unofficial categories have developed over the years. The most noteworthy of which is the Unofficial Aluminum Boat Division. Shane had half-seriously considered starting a wooden boat division, even going so far as the begin working on a trophy. So when I saw this guy getting in his boat at Klondike, my competitive juices started to flow just a bit. I dropped the hammer and increased my speed, wanting to put distance between me and this guy should he get any ideas of catching up. As I approached Weldon Spring, I looked back and there he was. He’d kept up, even closing the distance. We both caught up to a pedal drive Hobie and talked to the friendly guy for a while. At one point, the other wood boat guy said ‘Good luck, guys’ and took off. I chatted with the Hobie guy for a bit longer before excusing myself to keep the wooden boat within sight.

We approached the highway 40/64 bridge and I was doing my best to keep up. This guy was absolutely cruising. We were back to doing close to 8.5 mph. I expected to bonk at any moment, eating an apple and pounding a red bull to keep my energy up. I kept him within sight, though I was starting to resign myself to finishing just a few minutes behind this guy in what I suspected was the first wooden boat to finish. As we approached the Creve Coeur power plant, I noticed he sort of stopped paddling. Catching up to him, I gave him kudos for keeping such a pace. He then told me he’d re-injured his arm and that I could finish the race uncontested, as he had to slow down. I made sure he was going to be ok and bid him farewell. The adrenaline of the final ten miles or so kept my spirits up and I passed another tandem canoe as I made my way under the final two bridges. I sprinted into the finish just after 4:30pm, finishing in 57:37.

Shockingly, I was pretty sure-footed getting out of the boat and greeting my support crew and friends. I feel like I had more energy than at the finish of any of my other 340s, likely due to finishing in daylight on day 2, as opposed to a late night finish. I grabbed a cold beer and enjoyed the sweet nectar, then grabbed a second one. When the wooden boat approached the finish, I let him get his footing, then handed the wooden boat dude Keith Sappington his well-deserved beer. I congratulated him and thanked him for motivating me to a strong finish. He’d built his boat himself, and I believe there is a higher level of accomplishment upon finishing a MR340 in a boat you built yourself. Well done, Keith!

Summary: Considering overall conditions experienced during the race this week, I don’t feel I will ever finish a 340 faster or with more success than this one. I feel like I maxed out my physical and mental capabilities and I feel satisfied with the result. I certainly had down moments, but they seemed fewer and shorter than in years past. It is absolutely true that every time you do this race, you may learn one important lesson, or 100 small lessons that will make your experience even better the next time. I’ve learned from countless other paddlers little tips and tricks to be successful and I hope to pass along those same things to anyone willing to listen. The sense of accomplishment to anyone who even gets on the starting line of this race, let alone finishing, should not be take lightly. It’s an amazing thing to even consider doing, and I love the community of river rats from one end of the state to the other.

Congratulations to the starters, the finishers and a massive thank you to the real MVPs of the 340: the volunteers, race management and ground crews who make this whole crazy thing happen. Matt, Sara and Andy, you guys are incredible and I truly appreciate you being there for the whims of a mad man. Special thanks to Shane and Stacy at PaddleStop New Haven for the boat and your amazing support on my stupid adventures.

See you on the river!







Speaking Gigs and the Next Adventure

I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing a couple speaking engagements, sharing photos, videos and stories from my trip. I presented at the Edwardsville Public Library and the Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport, MO in February. I’ve reached out to the St. Louis City and County libraries but have yet to hear back. I also gave the presentation for coworkers at my office this week.

My next confirmed presentation, and this one is much closer to home is at the St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club on Thursday April 2nd. It starts at 7pm at 238 St. Louis Ave, Valley Park, MO 63088. Here are the event details on the Facebook – all are welcome! https://www.facebook.com/events/329249644679591/

One of the most common questions I get from people is what’s your next adventure? For a while, my standard answer was, well I guess I’ll just go back to being a boring office dude. Then a couple months ago, I was asked to attend my company’s Asia-Pacific conference in Brisbane, Australia. I have a personal policy to never get on a plane for a 12+ hour flight twice inside of a two week period, so I was able to tack on a week’s vacation before the conference for me and my wife who’s coming along as well. We have a 3 day/2 night live-aboard scuba trip booked on the Great Barrier Reef and I couldn’t be more excited for that.

We get on a plane in a few hours and after navigating the increasingly perilous labyrinth of international travel these days, will arrive in Cairns, most likely jet-lagged but ready to play.

Thanks to all who’ve attended my presentations, either in person or online. I hope you can make it out to the next one or (hopefully) other upcoming gigs.

Stay tuned for some updates from down under, either here, https://www.instagram.com/paddlestlouis/ or https://www.facebook.com/mark.fingerhut

Winter Update – January 2020

As I sit in the warmth of my house on a early evening in January, the smokiness of a new batch of beef jerky fills the house while the temperature outside may have hit freezing today.  It’s been a while since I’ve updated paddlestlouis.com so I figured I’d share a bit of what’s going on and what’s on tap for 2020.

First, the jerky! The jerky I prepared for my 2019 trip down the Missouri River turned out to be pretty darn good. It was delicious, convenient and packed a bunch of protein that was so important on long days of paddling. The recipe I chose to use required ground beef – pretty different from what you’d find on your average grocery store shelf. Ground beef, once seasoned and dehydrated, is a nice tender and salty snack. You aren’t in danger of breaking a tooth as you chew it and your jaw muscles aren’t fatigued after a handful. In December, I made a big batch and decided to individually package it to give as Christmas gifts to friends and family. Here’s the label I stuck on the packages: MOManJerky (1)

It’s a cool little hobby, and I might try to continue small-scale production of the jerky and see where it goes. At a minimum, I talked to my friends Shane and Stacy who run Paddle Stop New Haven and they are open to selling it in their shop.

This past weekend, Sara and I were invited to Boonville, MO where Missouri River Relief was holding their annual pot-luck awards ceremony. As you may remember, MRR was the main beneficiary of my fundraising leading up to and during my MO River trip. Sara and I ended up raising around $5000. I was surprised and honored to get an invite and was under no expectations I’d be receiving any award. I was just happy to go hang out with friends and meet more river people. As the awards were being given, Steve Schnarr, Executive Director of MRR started reading this:


Dude #2, Shane Camden, was seated right next to me. We both went up to receive our lovely awards and I gave a short thank you speech. I was quite surprised and humbled to be recognized. A lot of the others who won awards that night did wonderfully amazing things and did a lot of hard work. All I had to do was take a little paddle trip down the river. (The photos used in our awards were actually ones I took during my trip, and which Sara deviously downloaded from my computer when I wasn’t paying attention…)


Speaking of a little paddle trip down the river: From mid-May to just before I returned to work in late September, I grew out the longest beard I’d ever had. It was big and bushy and picked up all manners of sweat, dirt, grime, food, beer, sediment and countless other mystery substances over the course of my trip. I thought it would be such a waste to simply shave it and watch it swirl down the drain. In years’ past, I’d grown out mustaches for the last few months of the year, which I then carefully waxed, cut off, and mounted artistically. Each mustache was given out at various white-elephant gift exchanges. Each time, the lucky recipient was grateful and has prominently displayed my beautiful coifiture in their homes or offices. So I decided to do something special with my Missouri River beard:


Those are my friends Gordon and Shirley. They were so happy to unwrap my gift, they hid it under their chair for the rest of the gift exchange to ensure no one else stole it from them. What you are looking at is one half of my beard, glued to hand-cut and stained cedar, engraved with the number of miles I traveled on the Madison, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Shirley asked that I autograph this one, before she mounted it in a frame to minimize future beard loss. I created a second installation with the other half of my beard, which is currently hung with care in the house of some of my wife’s close friends. Homegrown gifts are the best, am I right?

My mother-in-law graciously gave me a fantastic book for Christmas, which I just finished absorbing. (I would say reading, but there is so much more to visually consume and really enjoy!)


The author is one of the primary historians at the nearby Missouri History Museum and was heavily involved in creating an exhibition that accompanies this book. I’ve yet to get to the exhibition, but it is here until April 2021 so there is plenty of time. I encourage everyone to check it out, it’s free by the way. Anyway, the book is an incredible collection of stories, pictures, artwork, maps and other aritifacts from St. Louis’ rich history. I learned so much about our city’s history which I didn’t know, including one of the young engineers to initially channel and tame the Mississippi at St. Louis was none other than Robert E. Lee. Studying maps from the late 1800s, I also saw the plots of land named for their owners occupying the neighborhoods I grew up in in north St. Louis County. Those names became the main streets we used to bike down as children – Jennings and McLaran.

So what’s on tap for 2020, Mr. Missouri Man? Nothing quite as crazy as 2019, but there are a few adventures planned. In March, I was asked to travel to Brisbane, Australia for our company’s annual Asia-Pacific conference. Sara is travelling along with me and we plan to take around 10 days of vacation around the conference. The Great Barrier Reef has been on my bucket list since I first heard of it so we hope to get there to see it.

I’ve also been helping to resurrect an event that’s been dormant since the early 80s. In the late 70s and early 80s, local rock radio station KSHE-95 put on an annual beer/float/rock extravaganza called the Meramec River Raft Float. Young party rockers would build all kinds of imaginative, human-powered crafts that may or may not have floated them down the short route on the Meramec, guzzling beers and rocking out the whole way. Needless to say, when the main organizer asked me and some friends to jump in to help resurrect this event, we were in! The event takes place June 20th and starts in Greentree Park in Kirkwood. For more info, check out the event. All proceeds go to the important work of Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper.

Pending the potential flooding this summer (and us river people are once again crossing our fingers for a manageable year), the MR340 will take place on August 4th thru 7th. I’ve signed up and this will be my first time paddling in the solo division. Each of the four other times I’ve done the race, it was with a partner in a tandem boat. I plan to race the MoStar across the state of Missouri, retracing the route of the final week or so of my 2019 trip, hopefully moving a little bit faster.

One last plug! On Thursday, February 6th at 6:30pm, at the Edwardsville Public Library in Edwardsville, IL, I’ll be presenting a short presentation about my 2019 Missouri River trip. I’ll show a bunch of pictures, tell some fun stories, answer some questions and share my experiences on the river. All are welcome!

Hope everyone’s winter is going well! The days will soon get shorter and we’ll be out on the water or enjoying the great outdoors once again!



Owl Creek Gazette – Nov/Dec

Thanks to Don and Jan Stover, wonderful owners of Creekside Community Brew and Coffee House in Greenville, IL, podcaster extraordinaires, and publishers of the Owl Creek Gazette. They allowed me to publish another article about my adventures, this time about my three day trip with Mark Juras on the Mississippi River. Check it out on page 13, and stick around for the other great content in this issue of the Gazette!


St. Louis to Cape Girardeau – Mississippi River

After three weeks of getting back into my pre-expedition life, I wanted to get back on the water, just for a couple days: to reactivate the callouses on my hands, to wake up my paddling muscles once again and to see a new stretch of river. Originally, I had talked with friends about heading down to southern Missouri to the Current or Jack’s Fork Rivers for some paddle camping. As last weekend approached, a new opportunity presented itself.

A fellow river traveller, Mark Juras, was making his way down the Missouri River and was near mid-Missouri. He started his trip at the start of the Missouri River in Three Forks, Montana and was going all the way to the Gulf of Mexico – a true source to sea trip. He stopped in New Haven, MO where he met some friends of mine, including Shane from Paddle Stop New Haven and Timber Longboard Co. Shane paddled with him from New Haven to Washington, then gave me Mark’s contact info so I could help him out with anything as he neared St. Louis. Mark made it to Pelican Island in North St. Louis County last Saturday, then decided to take a day off Sunday as it rained pretty steadily for the first half of the day. He would be at the Arch on Monday. I asked him if it would be alright if I paddled with him for a few days and he obliged.

When I asked him what he needed, he responded with a pretty specific list of items. In addition to water and ice, he also requested “meat”. I responded to ask what kind of meat. “Pre-cooked chicken breasts or thighs, a cooked half rack of pork ribs, frozen Italian meatballs and Polish kielbasa sausage.” Very specific, this is a guy who knows what he wants, I thought. I was also impressed at how well he was obviously eating on his expedition.

On Monday, I loaded up my kayak with all the gear I needed, plus everything on Mark’s list and headed down to the Arch. I met him, and prepped my boat for departure, and he packed his coolers with the meat. Mark is using a rowing skull – a wooden boat he built from a kit himself. He sits facing upriver, then with a seat that slides forward and backwards, pulls two large oars to propel himself downriver. He uses rearview mirrors to see where he’s going and to spot approaching hazards or barges. His boat is also large enough to haul quite a bit of gear, including a couple coolers where he can store lots of meaty goodness.



I was not paddling the MOstar for this trip, she being stored out in New Haven for the time being, but my Missouri River backup plan boat – my Current Designs Nomad – nearly 19ft long. We loaded up and departed, into the thick of the Port of St. Louis. Within two miles, I had seen and passed more barges than I had on the entirety of the 2,456 miles of my trip down the Missouri. The Port of St. Louis is an extremely busy area and you have to constantly keep an eye out for barges and tugs moving in and out, parking and departing, loading, unloading. Many years ago, my friend Doug and I paddled my very unstable Wenonah racing canoe from Chain of Rocks to Jefferson Barracks Park, dodging barges and somehow not tipping the boat over in the barge-induced waves. I still don’t know how we managed that. Mark and I had a lot more experience under our belt and were comfortable in our respective boats so passed through South St. Louis and under the JB Bridge with little fanfare.

We passed the large Bussen Quarry at I-255 then Cliff Cave Park. Around 5pm, we started looking for a decent place to camp on the Illinois side of the river. We found a nice sandy spot under some shady trees and set up camp. I gathered wood to build a fire to keep the bugs away and to start some coals for dinner. I’d gotten a full rack of ribs versus Mark’s requested half rack, so he wrapped the whole rack in foil then dropped them on top of the coals to warm up. He cooked up some cabbage, onions and tomatos as a side and we ate very well that night. Mark’s cooking setup was amazing, he had nearly a full kitchen’s worth of ingredients, gear and spices. The dehydrated meals I survived on during my trip sounded pretty unappetizing in comparison to Mark’s setup. He even popped popcorn after dinner as we shared our experiences of traveling down the Missouri. With the sun setting, the aggressive mosquitos appeared so we retreated to our tents for the night.

From St. Louis to Cape Girardeau, MO, it’s around 128 miles. Mark had a plan to reach Cape by Wednesday. After paddling 30 miles Monday, Mark wanted to knock out at least 50 miles the next two days. We got on the water by 7:30am, again navigating a bit of barge traffic. Having spent a lot of time on the big rivers, I’ve had the chance to learn how barges navigate, where they need to stay within the river channel, and where it’s safe to be when they pass. Mark and I wanted to remain in the channel where the fast water is as long as possible when a barge approaches, moving off to the side into the slower water when it gets closer. A few times, we got the helpful blast of the barge’s air horn alerting us to their presence and to kindly get the hell out of the way.


Some of the barges kicked up some pretty big waves as they passed, but Mark and I had dealt with much worse on some of the bigger lakes further up the Missouri. I found myself looking forward to bobbing up and down and surfing down the backside of an approaching swell. We passed St. Genevieve, MO close to mid-day and continued on to Chester, IL. Mark was rowing with a purpose today and I paddled at nearly race pace to keep up. We stayed together quite a bit during the day, but occasionally he would move out ahead of me. When he stopped to rest, even being able to stand up in his boat to stretch (color be envious!), I was able to catch back up with him.

We pulled into the boat ramp at Chester, then walked to the nearby Landmark pub and grill. We had a refreshing afternoon beer and a bite of lunch before getting back on the water. We paddled for another couple hours before starting to look for a campsite. Just below Chester, we approached three gentlemen in canoes making their way down the river. We talked to Greg, one of the three from a group called Warrior Expeditions. This group outfits and supports veterans who want to paddle the entire Mississippi River. we visited with them for a bit and bade them good luck before continuing on. We once again had a pretty nice sandbar campsite that night after completing a long 57 mile day. Mark cooked up some pasta with the meatballs I had brought from St. Louis, another fantastic dinner.



We had a nice breeze through the night and nearly a full moon to provide some pretty amazing illumination at the river’s edge. We were up early once again and got onto the river as the morning mist was burning away.


We had a nice uneventful early morning, knocking out some miles and enjoying the wonderful scenery at a slightly slower pace than yesterday. Around mid-morning, we were suddenly in a barge traffic jam. For about an hour, we had to navigate probably eight barges moving up and down river. We attempted to remain in the main channel when possible, often having to move over to the side to let the big boys pass. It quieted down a bit as we got closer to Cape Girardeau, arriving around 2pm.

Mark packed up some dirty laundry and got a ride with some Department of Conservation workers to the laundromat and grocery store – he needed to top off his meat supply. I stuck around the boat ramp, keeping an eye on our boats and gear and relaxing in the shade of a pavilion. A friend of mine was driving the two hours from St. Louis after work to pick me up, so as I awaited my ride and Mark’s return, I encountered the characters of Cape Girardeau’s weekday boat ramp visitors.

Sally and Keith walked up and sat at the pavilion with me. They had a brown bag full of airplane bottles of booze. They were very friendly, but obviously under some distress. Sally was sick and on her way to the hospital. They stopped at this riverside spot to drink away some of her pain, as it’s where they got engaged years ago. Sally told me she’d put on 20 or 30 pounds of water weight in the past week, fearing her heart or kidneys were the problem. Several times through tears, she told me she was dying. I struggled to provide any kind of words of comfort to these people I’d known for five minutes. I’m no doctor, but drinking shots of hard liquor obviously isn’t a good idea in her state. So when she offered me one, I accepted, hoping that consuming slightly less booze would help her in some way. After a half hour of conversation, Sally and Keith, often in tears and attending to messages and phone calls from family and friends inquiring about her health, departed. Before they left and out of earshot of Sally, I told Keith that their next stop had better be the hospital. He nodded vaguely and they left.

Mark returned later in the day with clean clothes, groceries and some cold beers, getting a ride back from town from Giles. Giles, an older gentleman from Cape Girardeau, sat with us and shared many stories from his life, some inspiring, humorous and also heartbreaking. A kayaker drove up and unloaded his kayak. Ken introduced himself and his dog to us, asking us about our trips, then took off for a late afternoon paddle on the river. Mark decided to pack up his boat and row five more miles downstream to an island to camp. I bid him farewell and good luck on the rest of his journey. After he departed, another paddler came from down river and paused at the ramp. I met Danny, who was a very experienced paddler on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. In the small world of expedition paddling, we played the name game for a bit and found some mutual acquaintances. He told me in a few weeks when it cooled down, he planned to paddle upriver from Cape to St. Louis. Quite impressive.

Eventually, my friend Brett arrived and we loaded my boat and gear onto his jeep for the return journey to St. Louis. I’d scratched the expedition paddling itch and was happy to be heading back home. During my trip down the Missouri, I very much enjoyed the few days I paddled with others. It was a great opportunity to have good conversation and share the journey with someone versus the day to day slog of solitary adventuring. Although Mark was obviously comfortable travelling solo, as I was the first one to paddle with him on his trip, he did thank me for joining him and told me how welcome it was to have company for a couple days. I was a little surprised I didn’t even have the slightest urge to continue down the river with Mark and complete the full source to sea journey to the Gulf. That’s not for me, at least right now. Someday maybe. Well, stronger than maybe: most likely. Definitely.





Missouri Man in the News

Just wanted to have a post to keep track of articles/news coverage during my trip. There should be a few more to add to this when it’s all said and done so I’ll post updates here. Once again, thank you all for your support and for following my journey!

Owl Creek Gazette – September/October 2019

Creekside with Don and Jan Podcast – September 1, 2019

St. Charles County Community News – August 28, 2019

e-Missourian.com – Washington, Missouri – August 23, 2019

KRTV – Great Falls, Montana – May 29, 2019

The River Press – Fort Benton, Montana:

Fort Benton Press

New Haven Independent News – New Haven, Missouri:

John Fingerhut

St. Louis Arrival +4 Days

It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed since my arrival at the Arch on Saturday. Time on the river seemed to really slow down. I was in awe of that my first week out on the river and that feeling didn’t change throughout the trip. Back in St. Louis, I luckily haven’t really been rushing around to do a bunch of stuff, see a lot of people or places. I’ve been able to relax for the most part, and really pick and choose where I spend my time. Sunday, I was able to do a bit of trip/gear cleanup then spend the rest of the day at a big Hash (running) event, where I most certainly did not run, just enjoyed some cold beers and reveled in the misery of friends running 12+ miles in 95 degree heat. Monday, I spent almost all day catching up on stuff around the house, more gear and boat cleaning, grass cutting and other little maintenance things. Then yesterday, I loaded the MOstar up on my car then drove out to the Paddle Stop New Haven. Shane, who built my kayak, just opened a pretty fantastic workshop and store. I’ll be storing my boat out there for the time being as there’s a ton more space.

Because PSNH is regularly running shuttles on the Missouri River, all I have to do when I want to paddle my boat is to get the pickup in St. Charles, then put in at New Haven or Hermann and paddle back. I also assisted Shane (more learning techniques than actually helping) in his building of a cedar strip canoe that will be raffled off around the MR340 to benefit Missouri River Relief. The rest of the week will be more cleanup, house maintenance stuff, catching up with friends and family, talking to some folks at work to lay out my return, then believe it or not, heading down to the Meramec River for a float trip this weekend. I’ve been guaranteed I won’t have to do a lot of paddling.

I had a few things that didn’t really fit in other posts that I wanted to share:

Early on during my trip, I had the pleasure of staying with Jim and Vicky Emanuel near Helena, MT. Jim completed the entire Missouri River, eventually going all the way to the Gulf last summer. He showed me his spare wooden paddle he took on the trip. All along the way, Jim had his river angels who helped him along the way sign his paddle. I thought about doing something similar, and decided the best option I had was for people to sign the inside of my rear hatch on my kayak. So here’s the end result. Just a bunch of amazing people, some names are known up and down the river as legendary helpers of paddlers, as well as some close friends and family who really helped me on my trip. This is not a completed work. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one of the most instrumental characters in making my trip a success – Norm Miller. Don’t worry Norm, I plan to hit the reunion next summer and we can get you added. (And apologies to Missouri River Relief’s Steve and Melanie – I just had a couple too many beers at Cooper’s and just forgot. I’ll make sure you sign it at some point.)

Another amazing keepsake from my trip – this one crafted with love and creativity by a good friend Susan. When I pulled into Sioux Passage Park in St. Louis County the night before my finish, Susan handed this to me. I was blown away at how so very cool this thing is, as well were all my friends. The image is based on a photo taken of me by either Peggy or my friend Dan when I was paddling out of Tobacco Gardens in North Dakota (I think). Missouri Man I suppose has become my nickname after a few news articles referred to me that way, I’ll take it.

My final reading on my Garmin InReach. The time and mileage refers to what we covered on the final day, then the odometer includes the total mileage incurred from the very start of my trip. I was surprised it is not too far off from the offical river mileage for what I paddled, 2,456 miles. There were several times where I forgot to turn off tracking at the end of the day so it included me walking around a bit, or even riding in a couple cars. It also doesn’t include portage miles. I had my wife Sara make one of those corny cardboard signs that people put in their pictures at the top of a mountain. I suppose the Missouri River is my Mount Everest (someone mentioned to me on the trip that more people have climbed Everest than have paddled the whole Missouri River).

Friday afternoon, I paddled into St. Charles and was sure to get a photo by the not so life-sized statue of Lewis and Clark and Lewis’ dog Seaman. One of the many L&C sites along the river, this one really meant a lot. I have walked (and run a marathon) by this statue many times, never really stopping to pause and really examine it. Having retraced part of the route of L&C’s 1804 – 1806 expedition, I have a very small sense of what they saw and the challenges they faced. Of course I had all the modern conveniences that made my trip much easier, but throughout my trip, I relished the chance to walk where they walked, climb hills thay they climbed, and paddle meandering river bends that they navigated so long ago.


Finish Line

Just thinking of yesterday’s experience brings back the tears to my eyes that were flowing so liberally when I hit the bricks under the arch. Fortunately, I have weeks to process, recover, review, decompress and readjust to “normal” life. But I felt I needed to capture some of the moments and feelings from the last day of my journey while they are still fresh.

I’d be remiss not to first thank each and every one of you, whether you waited in the 90 degree heat by the river yesterday, or gave me a shoutout on the web, followed my blog, or even just sent prayers or positive vibes my way. Seeing the shore packed with friends, family, coworkers, relative strangers was very emotional for me as I’m sure many of you saw. I’d venture to guess that few, if any Missouri River paddlers ever had that kind of reception. It’s unreal, the highest of highs, easily one of the best days of my life. THANK YOU ALL!!!

I was so happy to share the final 20 miles of my journey with some close friends.

What you’re seeing is a beautiful mix of people – some with years of experience on the rivers, some with none. One of the main objectives of doing this trip and being so active in writing about my experiences was to connect more people with the river. There is no better way to do this than to take a few folks out on the river who’ve never experienced it, help them navigate the experience and enjoy it, and also relive my first time through their eyes. We dealt with some fast water, swirly whirlpools, strongs winds, big waves, shooting the chain of rocks, passing barges/tour boats and many bridges – in other words, the full river experience. Everyone did great, and I was happy to have the company.

Once on shore, I was at a loss as to what to do. Luckily, cold beverages were placed in my calloused hands, my wife, nieces, nephews, mom, dad, sisters, brother, uncles, cousins started the longest round of hugs I’ve ever had in my life. People didn’t even seem to mind the sweat, river funk, and the overpowering Missouri Man beard essence as they embraced me. It was unreal. So many photos, I did a quick interview with Fox 2, and it barely registered with me that there was a Corvette car show going on right above our gathering. Eventually we pulled the boat up the arch stairs to just below the arch for some pretty cool photos.

To put into perspective just how incredibly diverse the gathering of people were yesterday: quite possibly a person who’s known me the longest in my life (family excluded) – my kindergarten teacher Susan Federspiel! Susan taught not only me, but each of my three siblings as well. She’d been following my journey and made the trip out to see my arrival. On the other end of the spectrum – I camped at the boat ramp in Klondike Park three nights ago and got to talking to an interesting character, Austin, who was fishing for catfish. I told him about my trip, then sat and enjoyed a few beers with him late into the night after some visiting friends had left. As I was hugging friends and family, there was Austin, having known me all of 3 days, coming to welcome me home. Indescribable.

When I pulled into Sioux Passage Park the night before my finish, I also had a pretty large group of people awaiting my arrival, as the park was also hosting that night’s run of the Hash. Of course some people where taking photos of me as I paddled onto the beach, but I thought later that night that I should have taken a quick photo of them standing on shore and waiting my arrival. I had a second chance to do it yesterday, and though you may have to zoom a little, you can see the crowd of people waiting on the levee cheering me in below the iconic arch.

I woke up this morning in my soft bed in my air-conditioned house, then got up and glanced out the back door. There lay the MOstar, sitting in the morning sun, ready and waiting to take me thousands of more miles if I were to demand it. Future adventures await, but now it’s time to clean up, reflect, share, love, pack back on a few (but not too many) pounds and try to take every moment from this trip with me as I move forward back into “normal” life.

There will certainly be more updates, recaps, stories and other fun stuff in this space. Thank you for continuing to follow my journey!