Team Alpine Shop Race Report: Castlewood 8hr Adventure Race

Hi everyone! It’s Emily here, coming to you LIVE as the NEW PROGRAM COORDINATOR at Alpine Shop! That’s right, the local business that has supported my adventure racing team for so many years has now become my employer. Let me tell you, it’s a dream come true. Not only am I surrounded by the very best outdoor gear and apparel all day long, the people I get to work with are amazing and share my passion of GETTING OUTSIDE YOURSELF! If you’ve been following Team Alpine Shop in our adventure racing season, you know that I write extensive and detailed race reports over on my personal blog. But here, I’d like to give you a shorter recap of our day at the Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr Adventure Race.

Jeff, Erl and I at the bike drop on race morning. Photo by Stacey Hagen.

Race morning was early and cold. Erl (our substitute teammate since Doug was out of town) and I met Jeff at the bike drop in Castlewood at 0630 and it was in the low 20s. We dropped off our bikes and biking gear at the beach, and then drove over to Race HQ at La Salle Middle School. The school had its doors and bathrooms open for us, and it was so nice to have a warm place to get ready! We figured out the perfect combination of base layers, insulation layers, and shell layers to keep us comfortable for this fast-paced race, and pretty soon it was time to line up for the start.

TREK 1, 2mi, CP 1-3, 0:15

Team Alpine Shop among the top 5 teams at the start! I’m in the purple fleece top. Photo by Mary Welter.

We take off in a herd of racers…172 to be exact. We let other teams set the pace and are quite content to sit somewhere in the top 10 overall. Jeff punches the CP1 cleanly and we take off to CP2. Here, the path turns to gravel and we start to encounter some Saturday morning dog-walkers who are a bit confused to see a mass of pack-wearing people barreling down on them. We pass them as politely as we can on the out-and-back run to CP2. I love out-and-backs early in races because they let us cheer for a lot of teams, and today is no exception. I actually get super out of breath from yelling “good job!” so much so I try to hide behind David to recover. We reach the end of the trek and tumble down the hill where all of the boats are staged. 

Jeff, Erl, and David running to CP3 with Nathan from Toporadicals. I’m just out of the picture. Photo by Patrick & Donovan Feder.

It’s basically mass chaos, but somehow we manage to collect 4 paddles, 4 PFDs, 2 canoes, and 1 punch of CP3. Oh, and….SURPRISE! The volunteer hands us a bonus map which adds an unannounced trekking section to the middle of the paddle. Unfazed, we put in to the Meramec River with minimal fuss and get paddling.

PADDLE 1, 4.2mi, CP 4-5

At the put-in. Steamy. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.

We’re in the mix of the top 5 teams as we start paddling downstream on the Meramec. We’re in our planned pairs, me in the back with Jeff and Erl in the back with David. I’m using my super-warm ski mittens to avoid the frozen hands like last year and so far they’re working great, even as the spray from the paddle starts to freeze on the gunwhales and thwarts. It’s really a beautiful morning to be on the river, and I use all my concentration to keep the boat on the most efficient line. We punch CP4 at Sherman Beach and get back out into the main channel. Pretty soon, we start seeing the boats in front of us land at CP5 for the start of the surprise trek. We get there quickly and do the same. Both Jeff’s and my packs are soaking wet, but for some reason I don’t even feel the chill when I throw it back on.

TREK 2, 2mi, CP 38-42

This is the map we were handed at CP3. I added the orange arrows showing our route. Also ignore the red scribbles, that was from later in the race.

We negotiate our way up the steep earthen bank with 5-6 other teams and take off on a clockwise loop for the 5 surprise/bonus trekking CPs. David’s decided to route us 39-41-42-40-38, and we join a pack of teams on the trail run to CP39. This entire map is a flat flood plain with only a few mapped vegetation features and basically one contour line to navigate off of. Once we’ve punched all 5 bonus CPs, we run across a field of tall, dead grass, take a group pee-break, and hop back in the canoes. Somehow, even though we’ve been running with about 5 other teams, we get onto the water in the lead!

Our friends on Team Virtus running through the field on Trek 2. Photo by Bob Jenkins.

PADDLE 2, 2mi, CP 6, 1:45 total for paddle-trek-paddle

Jeff and I finishing out the paddling section. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.

Just because we’re leading for a moment, doesn’t mean it’s easy to stay there. We have 2 other boats for company through the first little congested section but I focus really hard on keeping my line and no-one dumps, although David and Erl tell us later that they came scarily close. This paddle is shorter than the first, so we work really hard to keep the boat moving as fast as possible. Finally, the Castlewood beach appears and we take-out with about a 30-second lead on Team CRX and AMTZ, with Toporadicals, 36 Down, and Extreme Electrical not far behind! CP6 has a gear check which is more mass chaos, but the volunteers do a great job at managing everything. A lot of teams opted to do this race with flat pedals, but we all take a bit of extra time to change into biking shoes, hoping that our feet will appreciate being dry and warm after the paddle.

At the take-out, with AMTZ hot on our sterns. Photo by Stacy Hagen.

BIKE 1, 6mi, CP 7-14, 0:40

Getting ready to start riding, I’m helping Erl put on his glove. Photo by Donovan and Patric Feder.

We’ve got a loop of Castlewood singletrack, and the route is pretty much the best-case scenario for me (keeping the most technical bits on the uphills instead of the downhills). We can’t see anyone ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean anything with the quality of the teams we’re racing today. We get to work climbing Grotpeter, motor through Roller Coaster, and descend smoothly down Love. The trails are starting to thaw and get greasy as we hit the short out-and-back on the dirt crit loop, but we all keep the rubber side down as we knock out the last CPs on this leg. Then it’s into TA where we will be given maps for the rest of the course! 

As we approach the shelter, we spot AMTZ already there, so we know we’re a few minutes down in second place. We punch CP14 and the volunteer hands us a map with instructions for 8 trekking CPs, 3 of which we have to plot ourselves. This isn’t a big deal, until David digs around in his pack for our plotter and discovers it fell out at the gear check! We allow ourselves about 5 seconds of panic, and then Jeff tells me to make a plotter out of paper like we did at the Berryman 16hr. I rip off a piece of the map and use the printed scale to make a rudimentary plotter. David calls UTM coordinates and we slowly get the 3 CPs transferred onto the trekking map. I’m not even sure if they’re right, but we have to leave NOW if we’re going to have a chance of catching AMTZ. 

TREK 3, 3.5mi, CP 15-22, 0:45

The map for Trek 3. We ripped the bottom of the map off and used it to plot 17, 18, and 19.

We storm out of TA on a mission, but I’m really, really scared about the 3 CPs we just haphazardly plotted on the map. I’m SO RELIEVED once we’ve found these first three CPs, and now only have the pre-plotted CPs left. We hit CP15 next, overrunning the side reentrant slightly, and as we descend back down after punching, we spot AMTZ approaching. Erl and I try to adjust our route to not give away the correct reentrant, but it doesn’t really do any good. We cross back over Ries Rd (legal to cross but illegal to run along), climb up to CP16, and then run back down to CP20. We catch up with AMTZ here because they took a slightly different order (17-16-15-20) and we all meet up at the creek crossing. David, sensing an opportunity, leads us straight through a knee-deep section of the creek while AMTZ chooses a slightly longer and dryer route. Our feet are now soaking wet but we’re in the lead! 

Here is a different team crossing the creek at CP20. We had crossed earlier in a deeper section, and then crossed here as well. We were not this careful. Photo by Patrick and Donovan Feder.

We all know this could be a make-or-break moment in the outcome of the race, so I give my team a quick pep talk, “Guys, we have a gap, we have to push it super hard up this hill and make it stick!” We charge up the backside of Lone Wolf, everyone red-lining in an effort to gain the lead. In between gasping breaths, I try to encourage as much as possible, and we make it to the top of the hill having opened up a slight advantage over AMTZ. We crash down the other side, David picks the correct reentrant for CP21, Jeff punches CP21, and we race back to TA with about a minute’s lead.

Back at the shelter, the volunteer hands us an entire packet of maps for the remainder of the race. It contants four 8.5×11 maps, double-sided, with 12 CPs scattered among them. It’s really confusing to make sense of everything and plan a route to the finish line. David and I work together to get everything sorted, reading the clue sheet again and again to make sure we’re doing everything according to the rules. Meanwhile, Erl and Jeff complete their TA and then help change David’s and my shoes so we can leave faster. Finally, we think we’ve got it all figured out and hop on bikes, leaving in 1st place!

BIKE 2, 23mi, CP 23-34, 1:46

We know AMTZ is stacked with really strong bikers, so we organize into a towing paceline and hustle out of Castlewood State Park. The first three CPs (23-24-25) must be found in order, and David guides us smoothly to each one. Then we have a bit of a route choice, and, after further analyzing the map as we’re riding, David decides to change his original plan and go 27-28-29-30-26, and then head into the west side of Castlewood for 31-32-33. We ride across Ridge Rd and descend down the paved Rock Hollow trail to CPs 28 and 29. On the way down, we actually see CP30 hanging in the woods, but race rules say we must bike to it (no bike-whacking allowed on this land) so we ride down to the Zombie trail head (CP29) and then take the singletrack uphill to the flag. This singletrack is newly-built by GORC and it’s a really fun ride. We get the punch, ride the trail back down, and then take the Al Foster path to CP26 and continue into the west side of Castlewood.

The three controls on the west side of Castlewood are really fun. The singletrack is straightforward and fast, and we’re all still feeling decent. David guides us smoothly to each CP and we’re out of there in a flash. Once we’re back on the Al Foster, we know we just have a mile to the CP34 and the finish line. Time to empty the tanks! The boys each take turns pulling while we absolutely fly down the path. Pretty soon, we spot the iconic orange and white Bonk Hard Racing inflatable arch signifying the finish line. We ease the pace just slightly to make sure everyone’s together and cross the finish line with huge smiles.

FINISH 5:11:46

Big smiles at the finish line. Photo by Mary Welter.

It is incredibly satisfying to finish 1st at the Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr Adventure Race. Sprint races are so stressful for me, since one mistake or mechanical can derail an entire race, where as in the 24hr races you have more opportunity to recover. We did make a few mistakes out there, we always do, but each one was small and we were able to recover quickly. That’s the value of racing with three highly experienced teammates. Even though all of our transitions were chaotic, we were always communicating and trying to help the team as a whole. We were constantly checking on each other, making sure that no one was getting too cold or hungry or blown-up. When we had the opportunity to grab the lead, we all recognized it and had the legs to make it happen. 

It is so great to see a huge field in an adventure race, and we enjoyed the intense competition from several speedy teams. Everyone was so positive and encouraging, even when we were trying to rip each others’ legs off.  That is the spirit of adventure racing! If you are a beginner racer and have questions, please stop by the Alpine Shop in Kirkwood anytime, I am happy to help you learn more about the sport!




Snow Talk with Jake White: Episode Two

Burton EST and Channel Board System


Snow sport outfitter Jake White takes a few moments to explain the awesome benefits of switching to the Burton EST/Channel Board setup. This proprietary system by Burton eliminates the chunkiness of material between your foot and the board. The Channel system also gives the rider an exponential amount of stance options. Come on in and talk with our experienced staff for more information on snowboarding!

Marmot: Anthem for the Winter

Limited Time Offer

Receive a free $25 Alpine Shop Gift Certificate with a purchase of $125 worth of Marmot clothing gear. Deal is valid at all Alpine Shop locations and online ( through November 30, 2014. Gift Certificates are valid for redemption between December 1st-14th




Annual Coat Drive Begins Monday, November 24

child_cold_coat_drive-11214Since 2010, Alpine Shop customers have donated over 7000 coats to help keep our communities warm during our winter coat drive. This year, we’re asking for your help in bringing in 1000 more as Alpine Shop kicks off it’s ninth annual One Warm Coat Drive on Monday, November 24, 2014 at all Alpine Shop locations.

How It Works

From Monday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, December 7, we’ll accept clean, gently-used coats, jackets and sweaters at each and every Alpine Shop location.

• For each coat or sweater donated you will get one entry into a drawing for one of four $250 Alpine Shop Gift Cards that we will give away when we reach our goal of 1000 coats.
• For your participation in the coat drive, you’ll also receive a $30 off coupon to Alpine Shop.
NOTE: Alpine Shop will only give away one coupon to each customer during the coat drive no matter how many different coats you donate. However, each item donated will still earn one entry into the gift card drawing.

How to Donate

Alpine Shop has made donating simple. Just bring your clean, gently used coats, jackets and sweaters to any Alpine Shop location. Bring your coats inside the store and check them in with one of the store’s outfitters to make sure you receive your coupon and get entered into the drawing. Then, Alpine Shop and One Warm Coat take care of the rest.

Donated coats will be split among organizations in St. Louis, including: Sunshine Ministries, St. Patrick Center, Coats for Kids and Edgewood Children’s Center. In Columbia, all coats will go the Salvation Army.

Here’s a little bit of what your donations have meant to the St. Patrick Center in St Louis.

Thanks again for thinking of SPC for your One Warm Coat Drive. The coats we received were distributed immediately. Case Managers were able to support their clients and families as were people in the community in need. All of the coats were distributed within 2 days of receiving. It was especially gratifying with the quality (gently used) coats that clients received.

Thanks again to you and your customers for your support of our clients and community.

Gene Smith
St. Patrick Center

About One Warm Coat

One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that supports and encourages coat drives. It helps individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the country collect coats and deliver them to local agencies that distribute the coats free to people in need. More than one million coats have been provided to those in need at no cost since its inception in 1992.

Snow Talk Series with Jake White

Brand New Technology

Custom-fit Ski Boot Shells

Highly-skilled ski boot fitter and snow sport outfitter, Jake White talks about the highly anticipated custom-fit ski boot shell technology from Salomon and Atomic Skis.

Check out how this new technology changes the game for both new and experienced skiers who have had issues with uncomfortable boots!

Atomic and Salomon have included this technology in select styles for men and women.

Due to the oven being used to “cook” the shells, Kirkwood and Chesterfield are the only stores able to perform the custom fit.

Stay tuned for additional videos on the best tips and tricks in the industry on the next episode of Alpine Shop Snow Talk!

Team Alpine Shop 5th Place: USARA National Championship

“Overall, Team Alpine Shop covered approximately 9 miles of paddling, 26 miles on foot, and 80 miles on mountain bikes, all through the hilly Maryland terrain.”

After 29 hours of racing, Team Alpine Shop finished 5th overall at the USARA Adventure Racing National Championships in McHenry, Maryland this past weekend. Team members David Frei, Emily Korsch, and Jeff Sona have been training for this event all year, and were thrilled to improve upon their 8th place finish from 2013.
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
The race started out with a run…straight up the 600′ ski hill of WISP Resort. After reaching the top of the hill, teams were challenged with a swim relay through ASCI’s man-made whitewater park, featuring Class III-IV rapids. Then, teams ran back down the same ski hill to get on their bikes for the rest of the race – a combination of mountain biking, paddling, and trekking to find over 40 checkpoints scattered throughout the hills of Western Maryland. And as with all adventure races, the course is not marked – teams must use a map and compass to navigate their way through the race.
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Team Alpine Shop made an early strategy choice to skip two of the paddling checkpoints as allowed by race rules, and found themselves near the lead for much of the day. After battling back and forth with Team Checkpoint Zero from North Carolina and Team Odyssey from Virginia, Team Alpine Shop pulled ahead in the overnight orienteering section of the race. Team Alpine Shop maintained their lead over these teams for the remainder of the race, but were beaten at the finish line by 4 teams who had not skipped the paddling checkpoints early on. Team Tecnu from California repeated as National Champions, and Team Bushwhacker from Illinois came in a close second place. Team Untamed/ from New York and Team DART-nuun from California rounded out the top 4 positions.
Overall, Team Alpine Shop covered approximately 9 miles of paddling, 26 miles on foot, and 80 miles on mountain bikes, all through the hilly Maryland terrain. In addition to the grueling course, the team dealt with fierce headwinds, heavy rains, and temperatures dipping into the low 40s around sunrise – a tough combination when you’re trying to bike at top speed!

Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Next year’s USARA Adventure Racing National Championships will be held in Eastern Kentucky, and Team Alpine Shop hopes to continue their climb into the top ranks of American adventure racing teams.

Mackeen’s vs. MR340: Never Give Up!

Hi Everyone!

Wow, it’s been about six weeks since we finished the race, and have had time to contemplate the enormity of what we did.

You heard about the race mostly from my point of view, the support crew director. I thought it would be fun and interesting to hear about the experience from the teams, and my helpers. We had a “hotwash”, to explore what we did right, what we could do better, and what we learned.

Like David Letterman, the MacKeens also have a Top Ten…

Top Ten Things Learned from the MR340

10. Install a GPS in the RV…what’s wrong, Jarod and Kaity, you didn’t enjoy all of our “adventures” while getting lost?
9. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget your lips (and your thighs). Ouch! Need I say more?
8. Always follow the directions….or, don’t put “Nuun” tablets in your mouth without water!

While attempting to overcome boredom, especially with the food selection on the kayak, Nikki thought she’d shake things up by putting her Nuun tablet, that she normally puts into her water bottle directly on her tongue. She says, “It started out okay, but I immediately regretted it. I guess I hadn’t thought it through, because it only occurred to me after it was in my mouth that it made bottled water fizzy…and that was in my mouth. It really started hurting, but I was determined to carry through with my idea. I made it about halfway, realized how dumb it actually was, and ended up spitting it out into a water bottle. I’m not doing that ever again!”

A shout-out to Nuun & Company, Inc. Thanks for the tablets; they really helped us get through the race!

7. When all else fails, learn to juggle! Being on support crew consists of short, extremely intense periods of activity, followed by looooong periods of waiting (at least for those not driving the RV!). Jarod combatted the boredom by teaching himself to juggle! And he’s pretty good at it, too! Whatever you’re faced with, be creative!
6. Be consistent. This helped Heather to make it through. When you’re paddling, just keep up a steady pace. If you don’t, “first you annoy the other person, and (then) you get tired really quickly!” This goes for anything in life.
5. Paddling (and life) is a lot harder if you don’t use the right technique. Heather says, “At the end of the first day, before we started night paddling, my arms were very much in pain. It hurt to paddle, and when I did I wasn’t helping very much. By the middle of the third day, Dad commented on how I wasn’t really doing torso rotation (an important technique…find out how to do it when you take a kayaking class from the Alpine Shop, I had been trying to, but I wasn’t doing a very good job. Amazingly, when I changed the way I was paddling, my arms stopped hurting. I was able to do longer times of constant paddling after that.”
4. Deer swim, and swallows dive-bomb. The teams got to experience some amazing parts of nature! They watched deer swim across the river, and swallows dive-bomb them to “feast(ed) on the bugs we disturbed from the water,” Rich and others commented. “Turkey vultures, swirling whirlpools, piled debris from the last flood stage water (was) just some of the splendor we saw. When we were not talking to each other, just the natural peace and quiet with the backdrop of forested riverbanks and the cliff faces near Hermann, MO…priceless!” Rich shared.

Heather was impressed by the meteorite shower that they paddled through, “that lasted all three nights we were out there. I counted twenty and more.” Our recommendation? “Get outside yourself”, and experience nature!

3. Teamwork is essential to success in any venture. Nikki mentioned that “being a team-player is super important, because there is no way I could have done that alone.” Chris appreciated strengthening his friendship with Nikki by the time they spent together…even though they had disagreements! Rich said, “My favorite thing was to see my children start and finish this race with a greater understanding of themselves, the level of this accomplishment and a greater understanding of each other. This includes our support team who had to overcome obstacles of their own. The look of accomplishment and success on everyone’s face was priceless! Since the race there have been occasions of doubt for a school assignment or extracurricular task, but without my even saying so the kids sail out of the doldrums with the simple comment… ‘Why am I worried about such and such…I did the MR340.

2. ’You gotta have a sense of humor. Rich quips, “A funny thing happened to me on the way down the MO river…I won’t quit my day job…we occasionally saw a floating water bottle, who we affectionately named ‘Bob.’ The floating walnuts we called ‘Wally” and the wood debris ‘Woody.’ Yes, you get giddy and start to sing or hallucinate! We would comment, ‘How did Bob get in front of us again, must have been an African (or European) swallow.’”

1. And…the Number 1 thing we learned from the MR340?….Drumroll…….NEVER GIVE UP!

Rich said, “This was my first kayak race and we were counseled not to do this by some and encouraged by others. I have always been a ‘Glass half FULL’ kind of person and have raised my kids to also have that outlook. The organizers of the event pulled no punches about how hard it would be, but were very clear that this was as much of a mental challenge as physical, maybe even more mental. Life changing events, such as this, are choices. You can decide to participate or not. We overcame the physical fatigue and put our minds to the task of just getting past the next bend in the river. It was very similar to the age old question of ‘How do you eat an elephant?…one bite at a time’, but rephrased as ‘How do you complete the MR340?…one paddle stroke at a time.’ I highly encourage anyone contemplating doing the MR340 not to let naysayers or negative people affect your decision. You will never be able to know if you could or could not have done anything until you try. In fact, the only way to fail is to not try. Even trying is not failure if you attempt it again, so rephrased, the only way to fail is to give up.

After the Battle of Britain on October 29, 1941 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Harrow School. His famous quote is so applicable to the MR340…

‘But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson: Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’

“The more common shortened version of this speech is: ‘Never, never, never give up.’”


This philosophy was exhibited recently by our oldest, Joshua. He raced at the USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships in Indianapolis, September 25 – 28 for the Air Force Academy cycling team. He was doing quite well, until he was involved in a crash. Despite major road rash, he got back in there and raced! Go to @randrwoodcrafts on Twitter to see photos of him racing.

I have enjoyed sharing our experiences with you. We hope that you will be inspired to “Get Outside Yourself!”

Mary MacKeen








Floating Is All There Is To It, Right?

The MacKeen Family vs The MR340

MR 340 Thought for Day 3: “All the kayakers have to do is float down the river all day.” – Sandy Sandi

When I began to plan for the MR340, I thought, “All I have to do is organize food and supplies, look at the map and guide book and drive to a checkpoint and wait for hours.” How hard is that? I even brought projects to do, thinking I would have time for them. Hasn’t happened yet!
A month ago, when the MR 340 was going to be in July, I got my RV license. My sister-in-law Sandi, who has previous experience driving large vehicles, gave me some informal lessons.
From Day 1, Sandi and I have been extremely busy planning our route, and then having to change it when things didn’t go right. You don’t want to miss a turn in a motor home…have you ever tried backing one up? With a trailer attached to it? Or a burning car in your path?

Scary Mari, Sandy Sandi
We came up with “handles” for ourselves. I’m Scary Mary, and she’s Sandy Sandi. Explanation: I told my oldest daughter Nikki the other day, “I’m really getting the hang of driving the RV.”
She responded, “How do Kaity and Jarod feel about your driving?” Hmmm…I asked them. Their response: “Scared.” “Terrified.” Hence the handle! However, Jarod was sleeping when he was supposed to be navigating today. Looked pretty relaxed to me!
The other day, Sandi was driving us to the checkpoint in Glasgow. We had inadvertently printed an older MR 340 guide book, so the directions were a little off. We turned too early at one point, and ended up in a Sand Plant. I remember Sandi saying, “Oh, this is not the checkpoint, I’ll just turn around here. We might get into a little sand.” A little sand! Well, let’s just say after a tow truck got us out, we were fine!

GlasgowHermannOff into the Fog, Katfish Katy 2
This morning, we saw the kayakers off into a light fog at Katfish Katy. Each time we saw the teams, they all seemed in fairly good spirits. They should be; they have moved up in the ranking! On Day Two they were #176 and #179 out of 283. On Day Three they were #135 (RED-E Oar Knot) and #138 (RED-E Set Go)! They got in fairly early at Hermann, MO, around 9:00pm. We are had a good night sleep!

On day 4 the thought for the Day: “We got this!” – Nikki MacKeen

We Got This!

We’re all pumped! Teams were up at 5:15am, left Hermann by 6:00am. Crew waiting for teams at Klondike, MO. They should be here by about 1pm. Not even getting out of the boat; crew bringing them tea and crumpets…no, just kidding, sandwiches and coffee.
When Nikki got out of the boat, she put her fists in the air and yelled, “We got this! Only 27 miles!”
The air was full of anticipation and excitement. There was a ceremony at 7pm, we were excited to receive our final results. We ended as #163 RED-E Set Row, and #164 RED-E Oar Knot (out of 283 teams). The teams tied for 14th place in the Mixed Tandem (out of 22). We did pretty good for our first time!

Klondike Boat RampSmiles 2


Huge shout-out goes to Perry from the Alpine Shop! For all his training and help, we couldn’t have done it without him!
It’s been quite the adventure!



Till next time,

Mary Mackeen


The Secret To Getting (The MR340) Started

The Mackeen Family vs The MR340


The thought for Day One of the MR340: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

The Race Begins

Last night we considered parking our RV at a nearby WalMart, but opted instead for the parking area by Kaw Point, a stopping point for Lewis and Clark, and for the MR340. Right by train tracks, and heard the loud whooshing and rattling of trains on the track all night. Despite that, most of us slept pretty well.

Ground crew up at 5:20am to make blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Coffee, pancakes, oranges, and we all piled out to get teams and kayaks to the river. A DJ playing upbeat music, Lewis and Clark reenactors walking around in costume, and even a flying GoPro whizzing over the river made for an animated early morning scene. As the 8am start neared, the DJ shouted over the loudspeaker to “Get your boat in the water!” About 250 boats of various sizes and colors filled the river, the Kansas City skyline in the background.

The mayor spoke, and several in 1800’s costume shot off guns to start the paddlers. With the crowd yelling and gun smoke filling the air, the paddlers were off! I managed to get some pictures of both teams, RED-E Oar Knot and RED-E Set Go before they followed the pack down the river.

Jarod and Kaity have been making awesome food, and were a great help to the teams, getting them down to the starting point on time. I had heard from Rich via cell phone, and Nikki and Chris via the Safety Boat Crew (not to worry, no problems, just no phone!) that both were due at the first checkpoint in Lexington, MO around 3:30pm. We arrived safely there at 2:00pm, after a few errands. Sandi and I took turns driving the RV. I did pretty well, if I do say so myself!

Here We Go! (2)What am I doingKaity

As we began day two of the race the thought of the day was “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Heather said, “This has been the worst day of my life! But it was fun!” The first day is the toughest day. It’s the longest, at 105 miles. Even if you don’t finish the entire race, even one day is an accomplishment. And at the end of it, there are blisters, sunburn, sore muscles, exhaustion…you get the picture.

IMGP0010DiBruno Bros 1RED-E Oar Knot Day 2

RED-E Set Go (Rich and Heather, had it reversed yesterday!), and RED-E Oar Knot (Nikki and Chris) made it to the third checkpoint at about 1:30am! So, technically the second day. You can keep up with their progress on Currently, RED-E Oar Knot (Nikki, Chris) are 176 out of 283 teams and RED-E Set Row(Rich, Heather) are 179!

Kayakers have to make it to a checkpoint by a certain time. The “Grim Reaper” Safety Boat (how’s that for ironic?) gets to each checkpoint by the deadline. If you end up behind the Grim Reaper, you are out of the race! The deadline for the third checkpoint, Miami, MO, was 11am today. So they were safe! And worn out.

As Jarod and Kaity, our youngest children and ground crew, waited at the boat dock with me. Jarod  helped a safety crew member carry his kayak to a large grassy area. Those who were staying the night there kept their boats in this place. Safety crew have been so amazing and helpful, working round the clock.

Josh Race 4

Our son Josh who lives in Colorado is lending his support by racing with the USAFA Cycling Team while we race on the Missouri River.

We may be tired and sore but we are still in the race! We’ll update you on Day three as soon as possible!


Mary Mackeen

Red-E Oar Not, Here We Come

The Mackeen Family Versus The MR340

Here we go! The MacKeen Teams are ready for the MR340. We had our kayaks on a trailer behind our RV, and were on our way to the starting point in Kansas City, KS last night. After we had a safety briefing in Kansas City at 7pm and a good night’s sleep, we have an 8am start for all racers. There are currently around 250 boats racing in the MR-340. If the race had taken place last month as originally planned, there would have been closer to 400 boats (we lost some, as not everyone could get the time off).

We are nervous and excited, and looking forward to the bonding time we will have as a family. Rich is anxious to hear the peaceful sounds of the river as he paddles with his daughter Heather. Siblings Chris and Nikki are packed, ready to go, and relishing the thought of passing father and sister!

Drivers Sandi and Mary have studied the map and are ready to meet the teams and supply them. Jarod and Kaity, well, they’re just looking forward to a little R & R with no home chores! But they know there will be many short crazy times of hard work, followed by long stretches of waiting (they’re already planning bike rides, and kicking a ball or throwing a Frisbee around). Josh is waiting patiently in Colorado Springs to hear news, as he cycles and goes to classes.

Here’s a question: How many times do you think the MacKeen Teams will get hit by flying carps?

Stay tuned as we update you daily on our adventures on the Missouri River, and we’ll let you know how many carp we catch! Tom and Huck didn’t have nuttin’ on us!


-Mary Mackeen