SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Shortly after paddling 340 miles down the Missouri River from Kansas City to just outside St. Louis, Thomas McClelland was already planning his next adventure.
The eight-year Navy veteran and 56-year-old Sioux Falls resident completed his trip in the MR340, an endurance race across the state of Missouri where participants have 85 hours to complete.
“I’m exhausted,” McClelland told KELOLAND News nearly two hours after finishing with a time of 75 hours and six minutes.
McClelland said he could have finished the final three hours of the race late Thursday night/early Friday morning, but would have finished around 2 a.m. Friday.
“I wanted to end the day with my dog on board,” said McClelland, who documented part of his journey on his personal Facebook page.
After his final checkpoint, McClelland was joined by his dog Whiskey, a 15-month-old Belgian Malinois.
“If you have a good support team, it’s not that bad,” McClelland said.
There are five checkpoints throughout the race where competitors can stop to rest and pick up food and water. In McClelland’s case, receiving fresh watermelon from his “ground crew” was a memorable supply boost.
“These things give you a mental boost that you can’t even articulate,” McClelland said. “I was positive, I stayed positive throughout the case.”
The first leg of the MR340 is the hardest part of the trip, McClelland said, adding that he has to cover 74 miles in some time.
He noted that many other competitors had expensive, smaller and faster racing kayaks. McClelland competed with his Hobie Pro Angler fishing kayak, which allowed him to navigate the wakes created by barges and other motorboats on the river.
“It was very intimidating,” McClelland said. “Most were younger than me. Everyone had boats that were faster than me, so I went all out from day one.
During his trip, McClelland said one of the toughest stretches was between Miami, Missouri and Glasgow, Missouri, when he faced heavy fog overnight.
“I couldn’t see anything,” McClelland said. “The moon had already set. I was using an app to navigate the river and stay in the main channel as best I could.
After his time in the Navy, McClelland served as a law enforcement officer and retired in 2013. Growing up in Council Bluffs, Iowa and living in South Dakota, McClelland said the weather n weren’t too bad.
He also said he took his same fishing kayak down the Missouri River in Montana. He said that after watching videos on the MR340, he thought the race looked “strenuous and fun”.
And he’s ready to race again next year.
“I might have a faster boat next year,” McClelland said.