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Local family conquers the Missouri River

Despite the team name, muscle soreness, strong headwinds, fog, lack of sleep – and even boredom, the Williams family conquered the Missouri River. From their first paddle stroke in Kansas City to the final row in St. Charles, “Imminent Mutiny,” as they called themselves paddled together.

The team of dad, Brooke, and daughters, Ivy and Anna Mae, dominated the Missouri River 340 (MR340), a 340-mile canoe or kayak race across the state of Missouri. In 2018, Brooke was inspired as a curious bystander of his friend and thought, “we should go for it.” 

The following year, the river had other plans when flooding prevented the 2019 race. This year it was a go and the team was up for the challenge.

The race took place from Aug. 4 through Aug. 7.

Marquette High senior Ivy is a swimmer and water polo player. Her older sister Anna Mae, a 2020 graduate, is a diver and pole vaulter. Training and conditioning came first.

Team Imminent Mutiny before the MR340 
(Photo credit: Leah Willams)
Team Imminent Mutiny before the MR340 (Source: Leah Willams)

“We had to toughen up our hands and get calluses so our hands wouldn’t blister. We also needed to keep our bodies from stiffening up,” Anna Mae said.

The best conditioning was getting in the boat and paddling. Their runs ranged from a short trek of 20 miles to the longest practice run of 77 miles. Still, that was a far cry from the race’s 340 miles. Racing in the team division, the trio had 85 hours to finish the race, with a personal goal to finish around the 70-hour mark.

Imminent Mutiny made impressive progress on day one, traveling a total of 141 miles without stopping until 4:15 a.m. the next morning, a total of 20 hours. The pace continued for two more days.

Normally about 600 kayaks and canoes participate in MR340. But with COVID-19, there were just 324 registered participants. Not only did Imminent Mutiny finish the race, but did so in 57 hours, coming in 13th place in their team division and 61st overall. The team impressively placed in the top 20% of all racers. Ninety-nine boats did not finish this year’s race.

While not on the boat, mom, Leah, played a critical role in the team’s success – as pit stop crew. In addition to running shuttle during training runs, she replenished food and water and acted as sunscreen enforcer. Having planned out the route and made note of the required check-in points, Leah also went ahead of the trio to prepare a bed. Family friend Beth Ambler assisted on the pit crew, including meal prep.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on Aug. 4, the team crossed the finish line at 5 p.m. on Aug. 6. With a combined total of just 3.5 to 4.5 hours sleep, over the three days, there was a lot of time to fill. That’s where the girls shined. Leah describes Ivy as CEO, chief entertainment officer.

“The longer she goes without sleep, the more comedic she becomes,” Leah wrote in updates to friends and family. “This can be good … or bad.”

Anna Mae was described as the team’s cruise director, leading games, such as word games you might play on car rides, to pass the time. The mental game was the hardest, staying awake and keeping positive attitudes. Keeping each other motivated was a team effort.

Music was important to their sanity, listening to a reggae beat to keep the paddles churning. And they connected with nature and wildlife.

Anne Mae (with life jacket) and Ivy Williams on the Missouri River
Anne Mae (bow) and Ivy Williams on the Missouri River

“Anna Mae liked to find shapes in the clouds and, at night, find shapes in the trees,” Ivy said. “Watching the sunset and the moonrise each night, without any distraction, was really special. We also saw some awesome shooting stars and a bunch of bald eagles, waterfowl and leaping Asian carp.

“It was sunny each day but not too hot. We had to deal with strong headwinds on some stretches. At night, we had a nearly full moon to help us see in the dark.”

Although the weather cooperated, at one point, Brooke said the fog was so thick he could not see Anna Mae, who sat in front of him in their 23-foot canoe.

With an Eagle eye, Anna Mae served as the team’s spotter searching for buoys, wing dikes, day beacons and navigational markers. She said that, although it was a family venture, “it was very much a community race.”

“You paddle next to someone and you end up talking with them. It’s beneficial to hear other stories and their plans for the night,” Ivy added.

Imminent Mutiny was proud of its accomplishment – and absolutely exhausted. ​Completing the race was a bonding experience the family could celebrate together. With it behind them, they are looking toward an even better race time next year.

“We were very focused on finishing the race but the journey was the prize,” Brooke said.

The Williams family
The Williams family

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