With Cork suffering the worst of the effects from hurricane Ophelia, there was a big doubt over SCAR actually going ahead this year.
An email from the organisers after the storm indicated that roads were blocked, 50+ trees down and a real danger that, if held on the original date, more trees or debris from the storm could fall and injure competitors and marshals.
Hearing the news was disappointing as SCAR had really left a “scar” on me last year!! I was determent not to be caught off guard with the difficulty this year, it is tough!
The original course starts fast with the 3k run and on the first bike you hit “the wall” . Many walk it due to its severity but it’s not only the climb that kills the legs, your arms are hanging off you too due to using them as leverage to drive your feet through the pedals. When you get to the top there is a steep decent and because your arms are dead it is not easy to hold on!!
Then you have a tough 8k forest run, 1.5 kayak and another bike which has another draining short sharp hill and if that’s not enough, a 2k uphill run to the finish…ouch.
So after receiving the email, I was sure that I would have to wait until next year to extract my revenge on the course! But to my delight the organisers worked relentlessly to find an alternative route, new date, venue, marshals, physios and the other million little jobs that need to be done to organise a race. It is a real credit to them that they managed to achieve this in short timeframe.
So, the date was set, the 4th of November. A different course and venue but still included the 2 nasty climbs along the way…that’s it I’m in!
The venue was the local GAA pitch which was great as it had loads of parking, space and delightfully hot showers after!
We started with a 5k hill run with a nice bite at the midpoint to dib in, turn on your heels and head back to the transition zone to grab the bike.
With the forest still dangerous and un usable as a run route the bike section was lengthened adding a different challenge over last year.
The views were sensational along the coast…although I spent a lot of my time head down gasping for air trying to keep with Matt Casey and trying to catch Philip Smith who was off like a bullet from the start!
We soon came across “the wall”…it hurt, again! I think they should have a tour de France KOM idea for it…if you don’t get off the bike to push it you get time off at the end!! (I only propose this as I didn’t get off but genuinely, it’s no quicker cycling it over walking/ running it in places!!)
The kayak is set in Europe’s largest salt water lake and it is also another breath-taking area of our beautiful country.
The transition and start location was changed this year reducing your run between your bike and the kayak which was nice as I remember my legs hanging off me last year running from the kayak back to the transition onto the bike! This year it was a nice handy 50meter run at most…delightful!
On the water there were again marshals and safety personal ensuring your safety, setting you in the right direction and also cheering you on.
We lost some time on the kayak section due to getting single kayak and the following pack getting doubles. But that’s racing, and you win some and loose some!
The last bike section was also lengthened but still included “Calgary” another kicker of a climb that kills the arms and legs equally! Feeling the pinch of the first long bike and pushing on to try catch the group that passed us in the kayak I was feeling it! The route has no more major climbs but rolls up and down to the finish which really drains the legs.
With about 5k to go Matt pushed ahead and I couldn’t keep with him, but I still managed to catch 2 of the guys and battled back into 5th.
With the finish line approaching a long drag of a hill was not welcome but the downhill into the GAA club was! You racked your bike and sprint finished over the GAA pitch to finish directly in front of the stands. A nice touch was the organisers calling your name as you sprinted across the pitch over the finish line.
With medal in hand I tipped into the warmth of the clubhouse where you were welcomed with warm hearty soup, tea or coffee and a massage if you wished to avail…. I availed!
In all SCAR was a great race, a different course this year but still excellent. The use of the GAA pitch was perfect in my opinion. Not as scenic as Lis ard but very practical and need I mention the hot showers again!!
The event is extremely well ran, everywhere you go there are marshals, and not just one per junction…. multiple!! Stopping traffic, showing you the way but most importantly cheering you on as you give it socks along the route. Any course can be challenging and demanding but the sheer numbers and enthusiasm from the marshals on this course really adds to it!
The event is also 100% for charity too, so everyone gives their own time to help raise money for the charity of choice.
Once again, I would like to hand it to the organisers for putting in trojan work to get the event back on the calendar after the storm weeks previous.
Already SCAR is penned into the 2018 calendar!