SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Shortly after paddling 340 miles on the Missouri River from Kansas City to just outside of St. Louis, Thomas McClelland was already planning for his next adventure.
The eight-year Navy Veteran and 56-year-old Sioux Falls resident finished his journey in the MR340, an endurance race across the state of Missouri where participants are allowed 85 hours to finish.
“I am exhausted,” McClelland told KELOLAND News nearly two hours after he finished 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 he would have finished around 2 a.m. Friday.
“I wanted to finish during 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 Belgium 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 pickup food and water. In McClelland’s case, receiving fresh Watermelon from his “ground team” was a memorable supply boost.
“Those things give you a mental pick-me-up that you can’t even articulate,” McClelland said. “I was positive, I stayed positive through the whole thing.”
The first leg of the MR340 is the hardest part of the journey, McClelland said, adding he had to paddle 74 miles in a certain length of time.
He noted many other competitors had expensive, smaller and faster racing kayaks. McClelland competed with his Hobie Pro Angler fishing kayak, which allowed him to plow through wakes created from barge boats and other motor boats on the river.
“It was very intimidating,” McClelland said. “Most were younger than me. Everyone had faster boats than me, I just got on it hard from Day One.”
During his journey, McClelland said one of the toughest stretches was between Miami, Missouri and Glasgow, Missouri when he dealt with thick fog overnight.
“I couldn’t see anything,” McClelland said. “The moon had set already. 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 conditions were not too bad.
He also said he’s taken his same fishing kayak on the Missouri River in Montana. He said after watching videos about the MR340, he thought the race looked “grueling and fun.”
And he’s ready to compete in the race again next year.
“I might get a faster boat next year,” McClelland said.