I remembered last year's Scar AR was a race we ran in the most heated conditions among environments that looked the same wherever you went--fields of palmettos and sugar sand. Although there were some cloud coverage this year, the heat would later play a role in the fate of our race.
Stuart ran alongside me at his second event. We scored a 3rd place during his first event. He's a great racer to have, someone with an above average memory and who constantly engages with navigational talk during the race.
race map and instructions
The race started with a quick 5 minute prologue of scrambling around the parking lot area to grab five control points (CPs). I believe this was designed to prevent a clog up of boat launches that came next. We originally thought the punches would have a corresponding letter to them and purposely skipped a couple that we found correctly. No worries since they were all within close proximity to each other.
We decided to skip CP8 from the start, remembering how overgrown it was last year. And how we conveniently carved the vegetation out to form a clear path for racers who came back to it in the end.
CP6, 5, 4, and 3 had the benefit of other racers punching them ahead of us. I still kept track of my position on my own map, however, just in case. I use a little pinch of sticky tack as my map marker and keep track of every turn. It works great for me.
Once we identified the river split, CP2 was just a matter of paddling our way up on the adjacent river til we found it along the channel. As we headed back, we traded places with Ron Eaglin's team a couple times. We enjoyed our assumed first position, but knew it wouldn't last long :) Apparently they had skipped CP7 on the way out too, and as I attacked in at an incorrect nearby opening, they found it on first try and just pulled away.
We picked up CP8 in the end and immediately transitioned out to the foot section with no stopping.
CP10 has got to be the gnarliest bushwhack I have experienced to date. I had determined the first trail bend as an attack point, but upon getting there, it was a thick wall of trees, palmettos, brush and stiff criss-crossing brambles. So we went further to see if the next trail bend would provide a better opening. It did not. I told Stuart, "either we go in here or back there." He had a look of "wtf??" but complied :) The wall of vegetation looked like this:
Usually we just bust out our machetes and slash away at a bushwhack, but this entangled mess had our feet and arms roped up at times. A little further in and we ran into some eye poking brush. It was even denser!
We eventually ran into vegetation that had less density at the lower foot or two. Stuart took initiative, crawled on hands and knees, and slithered belly down for about half a football field. Here is some incredible footage:
CP12 was next. The quicker way was to bomb down from the trail north of it (route A). We stayed safe by going the long route (route B).
CP14, 13, 11, and 9, completed the counter-clockwise loop, and were relatively easy with our skills.
Bike 1/Run 2
Our morning strategy had us picking up 21, 20, and 17, on the western ends, and then heading up to gather the northern controls, before going back down to 18 and 19 on the return route.
On our way to 21, I became pretty concerned with Stuart. We had been biking extraordinarily slow, almost the speed of jogging, but he struggled to keep up on the sugar sand. His breathing resembled what I would be like when doing rocky sprints on a treadmill. I could only imagine what his heart rate was like. I took off to grab CP21 when we were near, while he walked the bike behind me to save whatever energy he could. Then I strapped his bike to the tow rope for a few minutes, but it was futile. We were just beginning the biking portion, in which trails would get worse and worse up north. I had seen and heard these symptoms before with my other race buddy, Nate, during another scorching hot race, in which he thick-headedly endured about 4hrs of heat exhaustion. It is an experience I would never wish upon another man.
Pride can only take you so far, but for Stuart, I strongly suggested to him that he ended the race early. There was no good to be had for "toughing it out". I know it took a lot for him to swallow, and it was a race he had been training hard and truly looking forward to, but it was the right choice. He insisted I continue forward and that he would walk back. I acknowledged the DQ and plowed ahead. It also solved the issue of him forgetting his helmet on this bike portion :)
CP20 and 17 flew by en-route to CP16. At CP16, I bushwhacked through some dense razor sharp palmettos taller than my head.
some environments on the north side
there's a path underneath somewhere
At CP15, I debated changing my morning strategy of attacking these CPs clockwise. But I stuck to the plan, ditched the bike here and ran to grab 22 and diagonally bushwhacked to 23 since all was slow-going up there.
My plan for getting 24 was something like this:
In actually, the plan executed like this (below), lol. I was mentally fatigued at this point. After missing 24, I took a safety bearing of West to get out, only to hit the canal and follow it down. I gave it a couple minutes to find WP2, but with time I had allocated for getting back to my bike to finish the race, I took another abort bearing back out to the trail I came from.
As I biked back down the trails, I took the route that would allow me to touch CP18 and 19. 18 was easy to find. At 19, I knew with a clue of "small pine between marshes", it would be difficult to find with how vague marshes are illustrated on this map. However, I did see a marsh from the trail, so I gave it an attempt. The first marsh was a large circle of overgrown yellow grass-like plants. I followed the southern perimeter and ran up to the west side of it, but there, the brushes were too dense I that I could hardly see 5ft in front of me. There were plenty of small pine trees out there! I went and tagged about a dozen of them but failed to see any controls. Upon GPS review, I was literally on top of it!
That last attempt at CP19 forced me 4 minutes into overtime. Oh well, I was already DQ'd. As I booked it back to the Main TA, it drizzled, rained, and then poured. Without the DQ, Canyoneros were 4th! At the Main TA, it was cool to see plenty of father/son/daughter teams.