Missouri American Water MR 340

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Dave Haessig, a transition specialist at Paraquad, and his teammates, Jan Cook and Joan Twillman, are participating in the Missouri American Water MR 340, a four-day, 340-mile trek across the state from Kansas City to St. Charles.

Dave is writing an ongoing blog about the team’s training and participation in the competition, which takes place from July 19-22.

The most recent entries appear at the top of the blog.

July 22, 2016

At 2:24 a.m., we reached the finish line at Frontier Park in St. Charles.

Missouri American Water MR 340

Some of the race volunteers then took over carrying our things to the storage area, and we went to Joan’s home to clean up and sleep. We arrived back to the park at 2 p.m. to get the rest of our stuff out of the boat and to clean it up. We also ate dinner and attended the awards ceremony.

We heard a story about the large number of paddlers who were pulled off the water by the safety boaters because they were disorientated from dehydration and heat exhaustion. There were several who had to be taken to the hospital to be intravenously rehydrated.

There was a record number of people who checked into the race at the hotel but did not start the race because of the heat. In total, about 675 people on 410 boats had registered for the race — 262 of those boats crossed the finish line. We came in at 66 hour, 24 minutes and in fifth place in our division.

July 21, 2016

The boat is smelling very badly with a mixture of body odor, urine and river water. One of the lesson we learned was not to try to go the restroom anywhere near a barge. The sloshing caused by the wake made for a mess in the boat.

We launched again in the morning headed for St. Charles — a total of 117 miles. We paddled along to Herman and made much better time. We did not have a headwind today, and the current was better.

We paddled along and stopped for a lunch of a hamburger and a banana. We also soaked for about five minutes on the boat ramp to cool off.

Now we were in what we considered home water, as we have paddled this section of river many times. The miles and river towns seemed to just click by — Hermann, New Haven, Washington, Klondike, Weldon Spring…

One of the things that really helped us was that a person I knew from the St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club had loaded into our GPS unit a map from the Army Corps of Engineers that showed the main channel and all the wing dikes.

We passed several paddlers who appeared lost. They were using a spotlight to try to light up wing dikes to avoid. On several occasions, we shouted to them to follow us as we had them marked and were able to avoid all of them using it.

It did mean that I spent the majority of my time that night staring at a 1.5-by-2-inch screen instead of the river. We got closer and were going under the bridges — the Daniel Boone Bridge, the Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Blanchette Bridge — that told us we were getting close to the finish.

July 20, 2016

We got about three hours of sleep and started about 8 a.m. with the goal of making it to Jefferson City. This would be the shortest day of the trip at only 98 miles, but it would be through some of the slowest river flow of the trip.

We had to stop on two occasions to sit in the water of the river up to our neck to just cool off. We were pouring water on our clothes and wetting our heads, but that was not enough.

We ran into our first barge traffic with two dredges (with barges and tugs servicing them) and two barges that had pulled over at night because of the race. The moving barges and tugs servicing the dredges put out a large wake that confused the water for a good 10 minutes after we passed. We did see a beautiful sunset by Rocheport.

Missouri American Water MR 340

We made it to Jefferson City, stumbled to the park and slept for about three hours. We were supposed to sleep longer, but I was awakened by the arrival of a firetruck, a water patrol truck hauling a boat and an ambulance. They were responding to a report that one of the paddlers had gone to the far side of a barge and disappeared.

After some investigation, the missing paddler was found sleeping in the back of a van in the parking lot. The person who reported her missing just didn’t see her reappear ahead of the barge. She had moved very fast by staying in the main channel.

July 19, 2016

Editor’s note: Dave Haessig, Paraquad transition specialist, and teammates Jan Cook and Joan Twillman set off Tuesday morning from Kansas City in a three-person kayak, embarking on a 340-mile trip that will conclude in St. Charles.

The team is competing in the Missouri American Water MR340, an annual event that challenges individuals and teams to press the limits of their endurance to complete the course in no more than 88 hours. Typically, one-third of the teams that enter do not finish.

Missouri American Water MR 340

It will be the first attempt at the race for Haessig, who wanted to participate to raise awareness of and funding for Paraquad’s Health and Wellness Center. The team named itself the “Paraquad Wellness Center” and has been training since March.

We wish Dave, Jan and Joan the best of luck and look forward to seeing them in St. Charles!

Please consider supporting the kayaking “Paraquad Wellness Center” with a donation that helps people with disabilities meet their health and fitness goals. And follow the Paraquad Wellness Center team starting Tuesday, July 19, at Spot Tracker, which gives updates every 10 minutes, and via the official race tracker, which charts each checkpoint.

July 19, 2016

We got to the starting point at Kaw Point at 5 a.m. to pack the kayak and wait until 8 a.m. for the second start of the race. The first start was an hour earlier for solo competitors.

We were able to start without incident and were making good time, averaging about 7.5 mph, but that pace did not last due to slower water and a constant headwind.

We got to the first checkpoint and had to stop because we were informed that our SPOT GPS Tracker wasn’t working. The plan was for me to eat either a Clif Bar, PowerBar or a protein bar each hour during our break, but I soon found that in the heat of the day, I just did not have any appetite to eat.

We heard the distant sound of thunder and then saw lightning and hurried to Waverly. We got there at 6:25 p.m., just before a major downpour. We ate pizza under a pavilion at the town’s riverfront park and waited an hour and a half for the storm to pass.

Missouri American Water MR 340

The storm passed, and we saw a rainbow, which was a hopeful sign. We continued on to our stopping point at Dalton Bottoms, about 15 miles short of our planned stopping point.

Missouri American Water MR 340

At Dalton Bottoms, we saw paddlers passed out all over the place — some sleeping on sidewalks with just emergency blanket over them. It appeared that they just got out of their walked a few paces and dropped.

Missouri American Water MR 340

July 18, 2016

We drove to Kansas City, Kan., dropped off the boat at the starting point, checked in to our hotel and went to the dinner and safety meeting. We also set up a tentative schedule for resupplying what we’ll need during the race. The dinner was two different pasta dishes, rolls and a salad. I filled up on pasta. We then hit the sack early because tomorrow is going to be a long day.

July 13, 2016

We were to meet for a paddle after work at Creve Coeur Lake, but storms prevented us. We instead met at the storage garage for the kayak to finish outfitting and figuring out placement of all of the things we need for the trip.

Depending on the temperature during the race, we could go through up to 1 liter of water per hour. The first check point at which we are going to get resupplied is nine to 10 hours into the race, so the three of us need to figure how to store 30 liters of water in the boat.

Click here if you want to track our progress. It will tell you when different boats get to the various check points. We will be carrying a SPOT GPS tracker on the boat that will update the kayak’s location every 10 minutes. Click here to view beginning Tuesday, July 19 at 8 a.m.

Finally, I’ve been asked why we are doing this. For me, I wanted to spotlight the Health and Wellness Center at Paraquad.  The Center is the only fully accessible gym in the Midwest.

An expanded Health and Wellness Center is currently under construction.  The 22,000-square-foot Center will enable up to 500 people with disabilities to achieve their fitness goals each year. It does wonderful things for the people who go there — I can personally attest to that.

We also got our team T-shirts.

Missouri American Water MR 340

June 24, 2016

We had our longest and hardest test this evening into the morning. My teammates, Joan and Jan, and I met in St. Charles at 4:30, and we loaded up Joan’s Honda Pilot (with Ron driving) and headed to Hermann. This was to be a dress rehearsal, and we packed as if we were setting out on the first day of the race. At Hermann, we unloaded the SUV and loaded up the boat.

I decided I needed to develop a better system to carry and try to keep my liquids cold. I placed the three 2-liter hydration packs I brought in a soft-sided cooler that was to sit between my legs. It fit, but it interfered with me being able to move around. Because of that, I developed some sciatica pain about halfway down the Missouri River. I decided to just mix Gatorade powder at 50-percent strength to drink as well as two small 750 ml vacuum containers with iced tea for a pick-me-up and a 12-ounce can of Redbull.

My teammates brought a combination of regular Gatorade bottles and bottles of water. I brought a combination of six energy bars and four Clif Bars to eat on the trip. I also packed two chicken wraps.

After getting the boat ready, I quickly ate one of the wraps with the intention of eating the other one during a break. We are using a “paddle for 55 minutes and break for five minutes” strategy.

Missouri American Water MR 340

We finally got on the water around 6:40 and started our paddle to St. Charles. We paddled through daylight, dusk and night. The moon rose at 11:30 to help guide the way, albeit with partly cloudy skies.

We made good time at first, averaging 8.1 mph. We mounted a GPS unit in front of me to help us find the fastest moving water on the river.  I am still amazed that by moving the boat just 10 feet we can pick up 1.5 mph.

Early on, we did a speed run for five minutes, and we were able to reach and maintain a speed of 10.5 mph in a faster moving section of river. Generally the river slows down where it widens; where it narrows, it speeds up. But there are many other factors like the water turning and the gradient of the river affecting the speed of the current.

As the sun went down, I knew that our speed would slow down because we wouldn’t be able to chase the fast water because of safety concerns. The river was at 15.91 feet and flowing at 130,000 cubic feet per second, according to the gauge at Hermann.

View USGS Current Water Data for Missouri

This gave us a little confidence since we would be able to pass over wing dikes, but it would still cause some trouble. The water would be very confused, and there would be the possibility of hitting the rocks of the wing dike with the bottom of the boat.

As the sun set, we had some additional problems when the backlight on the GPS unit did not automatically turn on as I had assumed it would. This meant we would be paddling in the dark, and we wouldn’t have any idea of how fast we were traveling. Since the moon didn’t rise until 11:30, this would be the most challenging time, but there was enough light from stars and we had navigation lights on the Paraquad Wellness Center kayak.

Joan had a spot light in the front that she could use to spot markers along the shore since not all of the navigation markers have lights. The lack of light caught up with us when we went over the end of a wing dike just downstream from the Klondike Park boat ramp in Augusta.

By the time we spotted it, we couldn’t move far enough over to avoid it. It was quite an exciting ride as we jostled about — luckily we didn’t hit any rocks.

We had a second scare about 7 miles farther downstream, but luckily the moon was high enough in the sky at that point that we saw the wing dike in time to avoid it. We got to the Daniel Boone Bridge in Chesterfield, and the nature of the river changed. All of the bluffs disappear, and the river and valley widen out with flood plains on both sides. We also hit a head wind and slowed down even more.

Missouri American Water MR 340

Many of the buoys have been washed away because of high water this spring and haven’t been replaced by the Coast Guard. These 800-pound buoys are anchored by cables to large concrete pads on the bottom of the river — that gives you an idea of how powerful the river is.

Occasionally we’ll see a “peek-a-buoy,” which is what we call a buoy that is being dragged underwater and then suddenly pops back up again. This is often caused by logs and other debris getting tangled on the anchor cable. At about 2  a.m., we had a peek-a-bouy suddenly appear in front of us, and it took some fast turning to avoid having it hit the kayak hard.  We bumped into it with the rudder and stern, but the impact was minor and left not a mark on the boat.

We finally got to the boat ramp in St. Charles around 3:30 a.m.  We learned several things from this trip:

  • We can paddle after being up all day.
  • We can navigate the river at night.
  • We can keep a pace to be able to avoid the grim reaper (also known as the safety boat that removes all paddlers who are unable to meet the minimal times).

This is the list of checkpoints and cutoff times:

Kaw Point (mile 367) – Race begins Tuesday, July 19 at 8 a.m. (7 a.m. for solo paddlers)
Lexington (mile 317) – 5 p.m.
Waverly (mile 294) – 9 p.m.
Miami (mile 262) – Wednesday, July 20 at 11 a.m.
Glasgow (mile 226) – 6 p.m.
Katfish Katy’s (mile 180) – Thursday, July 21 at 12 p.m.
Wilson’s Serenity Point at Noren Access (Jeff City) (mile 144) – 7 p.m.
Hermann (mile 98) – Friday, July 22 at 10 a.m.
Klondike (mile 56) – 6 p.m.
St. Charles (mile 29) – Saturday, July 23 at 12 a.m.

These cutoff times are part of our safety plan filed with the United States Coast Guard and the Missouri Water Patrol. Cutoff times are essential to adventure racing and ultra-marathon events to keep participants within a reasonable safety halo.

The times have been fine tuned over the previous 10 races and have been consistent for the last six years. When preparing for the race, competitors should build a cushion of time over the course of your miles so as not to be up against the clock at each checkpoint. Barely scooting into each checkpoint is not a sustainable strategy. One hiccup could end our race. Here is a “paddler’s guide” that offers a better understanding of the race.

June 22, 2016

We met at Creve Coeur Lake after work to complete two laps in the heat of the day. The temperature was supposed to reach 100 degrees, but I didn’t check to see if it was that hot. The warm weather gave us the opportunity to try out various things to stay hydrated and cool, like a towel dipped in the water and wrapped around our neck or seeing how long ice would keep our hydration packs cold. I found that one tray of ice in my hydration pack will keep it cool for four hours.

Missouri American Water MR 340

 

June 18, 2016

The St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club had their skills clinic at Council Bluff Lake near Potosi today. We had more than 50 people participating in an all-day class for kayaking. My teammate, Joan, taught the beginners section, and I taught the advanced section with my other teammate, Jan, helping me as a safety boater. It was good to teach so many people how to safely paddle.

Missouri American Water MR 340

June 15, 2016

All three of use met after work and paddled two laps around Creve Coeur Lake in the Paraquad Wellness Center (the name of the triple kayak we are using for the MR 340). My teammates and I are still fine tuning seating arrangements and what we’re going to wear for the race.

Foot wear was discussed tonight. We want our feet to be comfortable, but also have some support on the foot pegs on the kayak.

We also discussed the food that we are going to bring on the trip. We are planning to do 55 minutes of paddling and five minutes of rest, so what we eat will have to be frequent, small meals that can be consumed in five-minute intervals.  If anyone has experience with energy bars and has one that they would recommend, I would appreciate any input.

June 12, 2016

My team and I all kind of punted on training.  I spend the day in my kayak, but I was fishing which does not require a lot of paddling.

June 11, 2016

Today was the Life Outside festival at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.  Jan and I worked the festival at a program set up by the Mississippi River Water Trail Association and the St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club. We taught mini kayaking classes that lasted an hour. Unfortunately, the hour class was only 40 minutes in the boat and 20 minutes of on-shore teaching — though we did spend nine hours teaching, which gave us about six hours in a kayak.

June 4-5, 2016

I completed some practice runs on flat water, doing laps around Creve Coeur Lake to get miles and seat time. I have not been having any issues with sciatica or leg pain, but I still have not been able to complete anything that is equal to the time I will have to put in the cockpit of the kayak during the MR 340.

The race starts at the confluence of the Kaw and Missouri rivers and goes 340 miles to St. Charles. Our team hopes to bank miles in the beginning in case we have trouble later in the race. I should mention that there is an 88-hour cut-off time. If we don’t finish within 88 hours, we’re disqualified.

On the first day of the race, we are planning to paddle nonstop to at least Miami, which is 101 miles from the starting point. That equates to at least 13 hours in the boat. At Miami we plan to have a short stop to stretch and resupply with liquids and food.

We will get back on the river to start banking miles by paddling to Glasgow (141 miles) before we get out of the boat again. Our ground crew — teammate Joan’s husband Ron — will actually be at each checkpoint to check us in by sighting us on the river. He will then go to the checkpoint table and report that we have gone past the checkpoint.

Once we make it to Glasgow, we will decide whether to rest or to continue during the cool of the early morning, and then rest further down river and nap through the heat of the day. There will be many variables on our decision including the team’s health, temperatures, wind speed and direction and the flow of the river.

If the river is high and moving fast we can travel at 4 mph without paddling, but if it is low, that can slow to 2 mph.  The current will be a variable that will greatly affect how much time and energy we will have to exert.

June 1, 2016

I met with Dr. Kelley Humphries at the Logan University Chiropractic Clinic at Paraquad. I told her about some issues I have been having with pain in my back from my arthritis and numbness in my legs. She gave me some exercises to help alleviate the problems.

This reminded me why I wanted to participate in the race and name the team Paraquad Wellness Center. It was because of the Health and Wellness Center at Paraquad that I was able to even think about doing a 340-mile race.

Before I began rehab at the Center, I was having severe pain after only an hour in a kayak. I thought I would have to give up an activity that I find very relaxing and important to me.

After work, I met up with Jan, Joan and some other people to practice at Creve Coeur Lake. While there, we ran into two other people who are going to participate in the race this year. It was good to discuss strategies, ideas and past experiences with them.

May 28-30, 2016

Jan and I took advantage of the Memorial Day weekend to get some additional training. Our other teammate, Joan, who has completed in four previous MR 340 races, was away this weekend racing in the South Dakota Kayak Challenge. She and her teammate came in first place in their division.

Jan and I went to Sunnen Lake in Potosi and took advantage of the facilities there. We were able to get a lot of seat time in kayaks. We hit the water before 8 a.m. each day and paddled until sunset with occasional breaks to participate in activities at the YMCA Trout Lodge of the Ozarks. While we couldn’t fully justify taking skeet and archery lesson as part of race preparations, it did give us some relaxation during the weekend.

Our main goal was to get in many miles and seat time — we succeeded at both.

In April, I briefly mentioned a fourth member of our team: Ron. Roan is Joan’s husband and he will be an integral member of the team as ground support. His job is to be at each of the checkpoints. As we get near, he will go to the table and check us in. That way we will not have to stop, get out of the boat and check in ourselves.

Ron will also communicate with us by cell phone and replenish us with needed liquids and food to keep our energy at an optimal level. He will track us using a SPOT Satellite Messenger, which will transmit location updates to a website. I will post the address when I get it so you can track us during the race.

May 25, 2016

We met after work at Creve Coeur Lake for a workout. To prevent burning my arms, I took some lightweight socks and cut the toe out for my finger and cut a slit for my thumb. I then curled up the foot section, which adds additional padding at the base of my fingers where my hand are blistering. I hope this solution will fix two problems. We did two laps of the lake (about 12 miles), and there were no issues with blisters or even redness on my hands.

May 22, 2016

We did another run on the Missouri River today. Jan, one of my teammates, was ill, so it was just Joan and me. We started in Washington and paddled to St. Charles. It was a total distance of 40 miles.

We used a GPS to track our speed and to help us to find the area on the river where the current is strongest. On a big river such as the Missouri, the water does not all move at the same speed.  There are many variables that change the speed of the river, including the gradient of the river, the width and where a boat is positioned.

A rule of thumb is that on a curve, it is always better to be on the outside of the curve. The current on the outside is stronger and moves a boat more efficiently.

There is a setting on the GPS that tells us how fast we’re traveling. The river was higher than normal, and we were moving very well. Occasionally, we reached speeds greater than 10 mph, but on average we were doing closer to 8.4 mph. We finished in less than five hours. We would have done better, but we were battling a headwind for the last 10 miles that slowed us down to 7.7 mph.

After much experimentation, we are all trying to perfect our seating arrangement, as we’ll be sitting for long periods of time. Our plan is to start in Kansas City on the first day and reach at least Lexington — which is more than a third of the way — before we even get out of the boat for the first time. So with an 8 a.m. start time, we will probably reach Lexington between 11 p.m. and midnight. You can seat why perfecting a seating system is so important.

I am also still working at avoiding blisters on my hands. I have gotten them on every practice trip that lasts more than 30 miles. I have tried two different sets of gloves, and now I’m thinking about trying some paddle shaft pads.

Finally, to prevent sunburn, I am wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but the area between my gloves and the bottom of my sleeve got very red.

I was out on the river and in the sun yesterday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. as part of the Riverlands Paddle Festival, an event put on by the Mississippi River Water Trail Association. As an aside, I serve as safety director and am on the board of directors for the organization. At the event, we put 325 people into kayaks and canoes to paddle a back bay of the Mississippi River.

Today, we paddled for five hours. I definitely got burned and will need to come up with a solution for the 2-inch area on my arms.

Missouri American Water MR 340

May 19, 2016

We finished painting the PWC and putting the decking back on it. The boat looks better, and hopefully it will cut through the water more efficiently with all of the imperfections on the hull smoothed out.

Missouri American Water MR 340

May 10, 2016

With the boat being painted, we decided to try a conditioning run in shorter boats going upstream on the Meramec River. We did this in an attempt to get the greatest workout in the shortest amount of time. We paddled 12 miles on the river today.

May 7, 2016

The infection is under control, and my back is clearing up. We were able to get the first coat of paint wet sanded and a second coat on the hull of the kayak. All that’s left is clear-coating the deck and painting a green line where the hull meets the deck.

Missouri American Water MR 340

May 3, 2016

I developed some issues with my back while sanding the boat. Where my back brace attaches, I rubbed an area on my back raw, and it ended up becoming infected. This is a common issue I have because of all the medication I am on for rheumatoid arthritis. All of my medications decrease my immune system. I am on antibiotics and am running a low-grade fever.  I have had cellulitis infections become severe, requiring hospitalization. So I need to stay on top of this because if I don’t, I can get quite sick.

May 1, 2016

We were able to get the first coat of paint on the hull of the boat — the bottom is going to be white.

Missouri American Water MR 340

April 27, 2016

We had a boat maintenance and repair day after work. We got together to get PWC in better shape for racing, including painting it. This will not only help the appearance, but a new coat of paint without gouges will help the boat slice through the water better.

As part of the repair, we removed all of the deck attachments, riggings and runner, and sanded the kayak to get it ready for paint. We also paid special attention to any blisters in the fiberglass and any deep gouges in the hull.

Missouri American Water MR 340

 April 24, 2016

We had our second shakedown paddle in PWC on the Missouri River. This time we paddled from Herman to St. Charles. We decided to do the run as if we were racing, which meant no stopping for stretching or relieving ourselves.

I must say I might have a slight advantage over my teammates, Jan and Joan, when it comes to reliving myself. I took an empty peanut butter jar, removed the label and wrote with a Sharpie a large “P” so I wouldn’t mistakenly use it for anything else. The ladies were looking to use a small Tupperware container.

We also brought the hydration packs we are going to use for the race. I had one 3-liter hydration pack and two 2-liter hydration packs. We decided to try a routine of paddling for 55 minutes and then taking a five minute break to eat and stretch. Jan is our stretching coach.

In addition to the hydration packs, I brought three high-protein energy bars, three hard-boiled eggs and a 1-liter Nalgene bottle full of trail mix. We used a GPS to track our speed and to help us find the section of the channel that is moving best.

Overall, the trip went well, but my legs were like rubber when we got out. That is problematic in that we paddled for only about five hours. Our plan on the first day of the Missouri 340 is to start at 8 a.m. and not get out of the boat until 11 p.m. in Miami.

I am going to have to stretch better to get circulation to my legs, or I am going to have to move them around while seated to try to increase circulation.

April 20, 2016

My teammates and I met after work at Creve Coeur Lake again. There was rain and lightening in the forecast for most of the day, but the skies cleared up at about the same time we were going to paddle.

I brought a new seating system: a 2-inch block of closed cell foam and a circle pad full of tiny polystyrene balls. It worked well. We did so well that we were able to complete two laps of the lake.

I used my old Werner 240 carbon fiber paddle. It was the paddle I initially wanted to try but did not because of its long length.

Of the 10 paddles I own, this paddle is the only low-angle paddle. It worked out well, though this kind of racing is very different.

I am used to paddling using a long, drawn-out stroke. I also use a high-angle stroke that keeps the blade of the paddle very close to the boat.

Because we are in a triple kayak and sitting somewhat close together, we have to synchronize our strokes with each other and use a short, low-angle stoke.

It is still very important that I use torso rotation to paddle with. Doing so will increase my distance and also give me a complete body workout.

Maybe after all this practice and the Missouri 340, I will end up with a set of six-pack abs. I can dream, right?

April 13, 2016

We had another practice run at Creve Coeur Lake after work. Following some discussion, it was decided to put me in the far back seat. I am significantly taller than the other team members, and the thought is that I could see better from the back to control the rudders that steer PWC. We tried that set up, and it worked much better.

We found that communication also worked better without me in the middle. This is kind of funny since I’ve teased Jan and Joan from the beginning that I wanted to sit in the back seat so they could not see that I wasn’t paddling. I had planned to just kick back and eat bonbons the whole time. They quickly squashed the bonbon idea since I would now be in the back of the boat.

I also tried a different piece of closed cell foam — one that I had carved out to fit my bottom — but I still felt the familiar sciatic pain at the end of our 90-minute paddle.

Our team also experimented with different paddles to find the length and style that would work best for each of us.

April 10, 2016

We had our first shakedown run in the PWC (the Paraquad Wellness Center triple kayak). We started in Washington and paddled to St. Charles. We also experimented with different pads and seats to adjust our seating positions.

My teammates, Jan and Joan, changed out their seats from front to rear to see what would work best. We did not make a full race-like run, as we stopped at a sandbar halfway through to stretch and to relieve ourselves.

I came to one quick conclusion: I would have to really try some different seating options. I was sitting on a raised piece of closed-cell foam to raise me off the floor of the PWC and started to have sciatic leg pain about an hour into the run.

When we got to St. Charles, Joan’s husband, Ron, came and picked us up. Before I forget, I have to tell you about Ron, who also serves as ground crew support for the team.

Ron has previously been the ground crew support for Joan, who competed the past four years in the Missouri 340 . The ground crew support is just as important as the people in the boat.

Ron will be at each checkpoint during the Missouri 340 to get us any needed supplies and verify we passed that point in the race. He will be our logistics person and make sure we have food and liquids to keep us running.

We are lucky to have both Joan and Ron on our team because of their experience.

March 23, 2016

My teammates, Jan and Joan, and I met at Creve Coeur Lake after work, where we  had our first introduction to our triple kayak. It is going to be an interesting ride.

The boat is about 8 feet shorter and about a foot wider than I would like. Randy, who owns the kayak, has set up an additional set of foot pegs in the middle. We’re also going to have backbands and seating pads for all three positions.

We took it out on the water for the first time. I was placed in the middle spot since I am the tallest. Jan and Joan thought that I would be best there because that is the section of the boat with the most leg room. We did one lap and realized that we are going to have to individualize the seating areas for a trip that could last up to 88 hours.

After we got out of the water, we talked about the team name. I mentioned the Health and Wellness Center at Paraquad to Jan and Joan and the project that will expand it to serve up to 500 people with disabilities each year.  I told them that it would be good to name the team after the Health and Wellness Center to help publicize the expansion.

They both agreed that would be a great thing to do. So (at least semi-officially) the team will be called the Paraquad Wellness Center.

March 13, 2016

I did my first practice run today for the Missouri American Water MR 340, a four-day, 340-mile trek across the state from Kansas City to St. Charles. I was in my Valley Nordkapp, a solo boat. It will be nothing like the triple kayak that I will be using with my teammates, Jan Cook and Joan Twillman. The team came together kind of strangely.

I had long dreamed of doing the Missouri 340. After the inaugural race was finished and a second event was announced, I started planning, designing and building a custom made stitch-and-glue wooden boat for the race.

But fate sometimes has a way of changing plans.  I went to my doctor because I had been experiencing sciatica pain in my legs. I also had developed problems with my fingernails that I assumed was a fungus. I was quite surprised when he referred me to a rheumatologist.

The doctor diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis. I guess the pains and aches I was experiencing weren’t because of old age. I had to go to several additional doctors to rule out other things. I had X-rays, blood tests and an MRI before being referred to orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons to be evaluated for surgery and fusion of vertebrate in my neck and back.

I continued to try different medications to treat the problem and, in the meantime, also looked for an alternative to surgery. I was prescribed physical therapy, and it was determined that I could avoid (or at least delay) surgery if I could build up the surrounding muscle.

At the same time, I had to make a career change because of my neck and back issues. I was fortunate to be hired at Paraquad.

At Paraquad, I found out about the Health and Wellness Center, where I began receiving chiropractic treatments through the onsite Logan University Chiropractic Clinic and participating in adaptive yoga classes. That, combined with the right medication, caused my neck and back to not only stop regressing but actually begin to improve.  I found that I could start doing things like paddling long distances in my kayak again.

I once again began planning to race in the Missouri 340; I was just doing it 10 years later, and my plan to race solo was changed to racing as a member of a team. Initially, it was to be with one other person, but after some discussion, we decided to compete with three people. There was just one problem: none of us had a triple kayak.  We had a friend name Randy who did, but his kayak was in rough shape. Nonetheless, Randy agreed to let us use his triple kayak and even did improvements to make it ready for the race.

My teammate, Jan, and I made a practice run today from Herman to Washington in our own boats because the triple was not quite ready. We were able to paddle the 28 miles without any difficulty, though we did have to work on finding the main channel. Flooding this past December had washed out the buoys that marked the channel.

Once we reached Washington, Jan and I were very excited to continue training for the race.

Dave Haessig is a Transition Specialist at Paraquad. He can be reached at dhaessig@paraquad.org.

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