STORY BY PHIL WHITE / PHOTOS BY CINDY HILES
If you look quickly at women's standings for last week's MR340 – the ultra-distance race from Kansas City to St. Charles, Missouri – you'd see that the Boatylicious team won the women's team division in 36 hours and 22 minutes. But if you didn't then cast a second glance at the overall standings you might miss the big-picture news from the 340-mile race: This six-woman team also captured the overall title, beating 400 other teams. Yes, you read that right, gentlemen. The ladies showed you just how successful a dedicated women's team can be.
This is the first time that an all-female team has taken top honors in the MR340, or, to our knowledge, any of the world's most prestigious long-distance river races. MR340 organizer Scott Mansker has seen many great performances over the past 11 years, but says that while he's impressed by the ladies' triumph, he's not shocked by it.
"This is not a surprise at all because in a race of 340 miles, efficiency, teamwork, preparation and attitude are the most important factors. At each checkpoint I was asked, 'Are the girls from Texas still in the lead?' It was great to finally tell people that they did indeed win, posting a rocket-fast time that ranks with some of the best finishes in the history of the MR340."
The Boatylicious team's win was no accident. The six women did two on-water paddling or erg sessions during the week – including intense interval sprints with targeted split times – and then did at least one long, slower paddle of between four and eight hours each weekend. This was the plan, but as it often does for recreational athletes, life sometimes got in the way of training:
"Each training schedule has been slightly different for the girls depending on outside factors such as children, other races and full-time jobs," said team member Virginia Parker. "One mother of three teaches canoe lessons and takes groups of kids on weeklong adventures, so her speed training had to fit between her different day-jobs."
Though the girls beat every other team handily, the 340 miles served up some hardship along the way. First was the temperature, with the mercury hitting triple digits during the day. Then came sleep deprivation. Team Boatylicious didn't sleep at all, even while some other racers were taking catnaps at checkpoints along the way. To keep themselves awake, the ladies splashed themselves with water, sang songs and, of course, kept the caffeine flowing.
Another challenge was keeping the boat afloat when it was assailed by barge waves, one of which flipped the canoe. "Recovering from that took a lot of teamwork, coordination, and determination," said Boatylicious's Amy Boyd. "Our boat is very long, heavy, and can hold a very large volume of water. We lost much of our gear and all of our drinking water in the flip. We worked together extremely well to get back in the boat, and back on track with our race. It definitely hurt us, but it also made us more confident and proud as a team, knowing that we were able to successfully overcome such a large obstacle together."
And overcome they did. No matter how hard the other male, female and mixed crews paddled, they couldn't catch the six women from Texas, who were, in the end, too (cue shameless Beyonce reference) "Boatylicious" for any other team.
— Check out more stories from the MR 340, plus aerial footage from the Midwest’s great canoe ultra.