Home
Field Notes
 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Big Muddy, Big Race
Midwest Region, August 5, 2009
Print Friendly Version
Typical scene at Coopers Landing as MR340 racers check in, ground crews help re-supply them and spectators look on.
Typical scene at Coopers Landing as MR340 racers check in, ground crews help re-supply them and spectators look on. - Photo Credit: n/a
Brian arrives at Coopers Landing Wednesday afternoon to be greated by not only his ground crew, but co-workers as well!
Brian arrives at Coopers Landing Wednesday afternoon to be greated by not only his ground crew, but co-workers as well! - Photo Credit: n/a
Brian leaving Jefferson City and pushing on towards Hermann, only 115 more miles till the finish!
Brian leaving Jefferson City and pushing on towards Hermann, only 115 more miles till the finish! - Photo Credit: n/a

Once again canoeists and kayakers from around the world gathered to begin the journey that is the Missouri River 340.  To complete the race means successfully navigating 340 miles of Big Muddy, from Kansas City to St. Charles, Mo., near St. Louis.  This was the fourth annual running of the world’s longest, non-stop river race, featuring 255 participants and 183 finishers; the winning boat made the trip in just less than 39 hours.

 

Quickly becoming a tradition, employees from the Columbia FWCO stepped up to man the Coppers Landing checkpoint near Easley, Mo.  Simply enough, the job of the check station worker is gather the signatures of the racers as they pass through.  However, we are also presented with the opportunity to provide information about the Missouri River ecosystem and the plight of the pallid sturgeon to the public.  From Project Leader to STEP student, Columbia FWCO staff worked in shifts, manning the checkpoint for nearly 40 continuous hours.  However, Brian Elkington, a regular at the check station, was given a pass on his responsibilities this year as he became the first Columbia FWCO employee to tackle the big race on the Big Muddy…

 

It was an unnerving experience paddling away from Kaw Point in my kayak, knowing that I had 340 miles between myself and the finish. However, the adrenaline was pumping and I was surrounded by others in the same situation.  Due to my chosen profession, I felt I had an edge on some of my competitors.  I had already spent a considerable amount of time working on the river with sampling crews from Columbia FWCO.  Also, I had been pestering my co-workers for weeks before the race asking for any ideas that would hasten my journey to St. Charles.  Although we talked about river currents and water velocity, many of them jokingly suggested I “get an outboard!”

 

The race itself affects everybody differently, for me it was intense, particularly the nights, as well as mentally and physically arduous.  Although I trained for months in advance, there were many aspects that no training could prepare me for.  Such as, the utter exhaustion I felt in the early morning hours from 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. after paddling all day or the constant weakness and hunger, during the second half of the race, which no food seemed to help.  Through all the struggles and challenges, my support/ground crew, my loving wife, Alaine, and my dad, Tom, were always there when I needed them most; be it at the check points or a quick phone call when I needed some encouragement. They were always, reliably, there waiting for me with fresh water and food in hand, willing to jump through hoops to help me in any way they could.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  I also received a lot of support from my friends and co-workers and even bumped into a few of our sampling crews out working during the race, which gave me a boost!  It was also a turning point in the race for me when I pulled into the Coopers Landing Checkpoint, just past halfway through the race, and was checked in by my supervisor and co-workers.  Up until that point I could not see my end goal, St. Charles was too distant, but at Coopers Landing that changed.  I knew it was just a matter of time before I was in St. Charles.  From there on, I had more miles behind me then ahead, which may seem simple but was a big step forward mentally. 

 

The last leg of the race from Klondike to St. Charles was the most painful and yet invigorating experience of the race, for me.  I was so close to the end and was focused on making it to St. Charles in the quickest time I could.  I was continually doing the math in my head and realized that I might be able to beat 53 and a half hours if I kept pushing hard.  A perfect goal, I thought, to help me finish the race as I had not seen another men’s solo division boat for more than 12 hours.  With all the muscles in my body either aching or burning, or both, I pushed onward towards my new goal and hoped to make it.  With about 1 mile left in the race, I knew it was going to be close, I only had about 10 minutes left if I was going to beat 53 and a half hours.  I am not sure where I got the energy, but I started to pick up the pace and push a little harder.  As I got closer, I saw I was walking the line and was now completely consumed by beating my time challenge.  With a half mile left or so I felt like I was sprinting to the finish, pushing as hard as I could with everything I had left.  I pulled into St. Charles exhausted, but elated.  As my ground crew and other race volunteers helped me and carried my boat up the river bank I heard the time keeper say I made it in 53 hours and 27 minutes and was fourth place in the men’s solo division and 14th overall!  Not only did I survive this challenge, but had an amazing experience in the process.


Contact Info: Brian Elkington, (573) 445-5001 ext 25, Brian_Elkington@fws.gov



Send to:
From:

Notes:
Find a Field Notes Entry

Search by keyword

Search by State




Search by Region


US Fish and Wildlife Service footer