Brilliant Bethany and Super Sarah Steal the Show in Southport – FA Cup Final Weekend Part 2

And so it was to Sunday, with no less than 30 club members entered in the sprint and standard distances races at the Epic Events Southport Triathlon, also incorporating the Triathlon England National Championships, while others preferred to travel to either Worcester or Nottingham for alternative racing ventures. On the Irish Sea coast the racing began at 7:30am for the standard distance races including a two-lap, 1500m swim in the Marine Lake, two 20km laps of the coast road and two 5k laps of a 5k run course including some portions of the route used at last month’s Splashworld event (the sprint course being one lap each of the above). Mark Glynn and Eddie Hirst were always likely to be fighting it out for first club member home and so it proved. Mark got an advantage of just over half a minute on the swim but Eddie chipped away and arrived at the end of the bike course slightly ahead. However, on this occasion Mark’s rather more sparse race schedule in the build-up to Southport came up trumps over Eddie’s fixture list which looked more like Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final and his fresher legs enabled him to take 18th overall in a time of 2:08:15, while also taking third in the M50-54 category. Eddie meanwhile was just edged out of a top-30 placing overall but still got in the top ten in his category, his experience with hanging in there paying dividends where others would have faded out of contention. Behind him, one might have expected a close battle between Andrew McGlone, Paul Austin and Michael Forber for the “St Helens Tri Podium” but amazingly Andrew pulled off the swim of his life and created a gap never to be bridged; while Paul enjoyed a superior bike time and Michael came up with his customary fast 10k to finish neither could reel him in and his 2:21:06 placed him 125th overall around three and a half minutes clear of Paul and a further 90 seconds clear of Michael. A gap of a few minutes followed while others rolled in, but there were plenty more interesting stories, including that of Claire Murphy who only eight days removed from ironman 70.3 Mallorca put in yet another memorable performance as her sub-28 swim and much improved pace on the bike and run stages enabled her to take a top-10 finish in her category and a final time of 2:38:17. Ian Wright only joined the club at the beginning of the triathlon year (April 1st) but he has certainly made quite an impression already particularly with his running prowess, and he gave Alan McKeegan a real run for his money as he sought to close the gap on the bike and run before Alan eventually finished 45 seconds to the good. Still the Saints came rolling home, but the next huge story of the day was about to unfold. Sarah Taktak has excelled for a long time at the Wednesday and Friday swim sessions held at Edge Hill Sport, but here she made a huge improvement on the bike, particularly in view of her preparation for Ironman UK, and with the number 1 on her race bib she came good on exactly that as she swept to victory in the F20 division completing the course in 2:52:26, her dad Azzam also continuing his good form after the spring 10k as he finished only a few minutes behind. One person Azzam overtook on the bike was Bethany Forber, who would produce the next great cheer of the day as she followed up her customary speedy swim with a sub-90 minute time on the bike and rounded it off with a 54:09 run to take third in the F20-24 category, behind only two team GB triathletes! The family photos, complete with mum Christine who was less than three minutes behind, were one of the highlights of the day. Behind Christine five more club members would yet finish, with perhaps the biggest cheer in order for Paul Hazlehurst who has a rather unusual background to triathlon having previously excelled in power sports such as boxing. Luckily no punches were thrown in the lake but he did a creditable sub-33 minute swim to exit the water not far behind Bethany and his strong legs propelled him round the bike course in a little over 90 minutes. Although not quite able to hold such a rapid pace on the run he deserved a cheer equal to that of those who won prizes as his diligent approach to his training was rewarded with a finish time of 3:25:19; indeed if a coaches’ award was to presented at midseason for progress during the sessions it would be hard to think of a more deserving recipient.

The sprint distance race saw five club members take on the single-lap versions of each discipline. Richard Seville has long been one of the few “win at everything” club members and is perhaps best remembered for his heroics at last year’s Ironman Austria, but here he not only led the club home, he signed off with a blistering 18:17 run and won his age category! And he wasn’t the only sprint distance racer to mount the podium as Myka Heard returned from a long running injury to post an incredible sub-13 minute swim and still have enough in her on the bike and run to win her division too. Coming up on the rails fast at the end, but not quick enough to overhaul Myka, was Ian Orford whose rise to multisport prominence really began during the winter club duathlon season. Here, he began with a good strong swim and while not able to match Richard or Myka on the bike he would follow Richard’s lead in saving the best until last, a 19:06 5k elevating him to within touching distance of the top 50. Also racing the sprint distance were Tony Waine and Robert Saile. Tony was two minutes behind Robert upon leaving the water but put in a solid shift on the bike to nibble away at the deficit, and eventually his superior running speed lifted him past his teammate as the pair finished 106th and 132nd respectively. All in all a terrific morning of racing on the west coast, and the question now was, could the Outlaw half entrants repeat the dose in Nottingham?

Four club members made the trip to the East Midlands for this well-regarded half Ironman at the home of Robin Hood. All four members have been with the club for many years and as such had plenty of experience going into the race, but here Gary Birch stole the limelight as a sub-45 minute swim had him well up the field early doors and a sub-2:45 time for the 56 miles on the bike gave him a superb platform to build on for the run, which he duly did by completing the 13.1 miles in a little over two hours to eventually finish 626th in a time of 5:46:20. Gary Davies was marginally ahead as they got out of the water and extended his lead in the early goings, but eventually Gary Birch overhauled him during the bike course. Nevertheless, a two and a half hour 13.1 miler to finish meant that Gary Davies still got home in just over six and a half hours, very close to making the top 1000. If ever there was an example of “don’t give up”, Debra Rayment would be it. With her season seemingly over after a mountain bike accident in March, she would have been forgiven for pulling out of the Outlaw Half but instead she proved the doubters wrong with a gritty performance to finish in under 7:15. Caroline Bones rounded out the multisport proceedings for the week as she got home in a time of 7:51:38 but there was one more story on the other side of the Midlands as Lee Stinch tackled the Worcester Half Marathon in the Malvern Hills. On a tough, technical course a PB was never very likely but Lee, seemingly fresh from excelling at the club track session on the Friday night, put in an inspired display to complete the race in 1:38:24, good enough to finish in the top 50 overall and round off a thrilling day of racing where the star turns came from Richard and Myka in the Southport Sprint, Mark Glynn, Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber in the standard race and Gary Birch in Nottingham. Next week sees the return of Go Tri to St Helens while Crazy Legs Events host an ETU qualification race at the Darley Moor Duathlon, comprising a two-lap run, 8 laps on the bike and a final run lap to finish on a blindingly fast race track near Ashbourne. Closer to home, the Liverpool Rock n’ Roll races, namely the 5k, half marathon and full marathon should provide plenty of cheer for those making the short trip to the home of the Beatles to either participate or offer their support.

(Full results from Southport can be found at https://resultsbase.net/event/4940/results )

Six on the Scoresheet for Saints – FA Cup Final Weekend Part 1

With the weekend schedule being so busy, here we bring you the first part of a packed Saturday together with the midweek time trial results. Neil Prescott performed well on the bike at the winter club duathlon series but no-one saw his early eye-catcher coming at the St Helens CRC Wednesday night TT as he sensationally went under the 22:30 mark clocking a 22:13, good enough for a 5th place finish. Then it was onto Saturday with the main focus being the Keswick Mountain Festival plus a gentle nod to the Nottingham Sprint Triathlon. In our Splashworld Triathlon review, Lynette Houghton was described as perhaps the strongest “pound for pound” athlete in the club. As such a fast course with an opportunity to test out her new-found aero position was always going to be just the ticket and so it proved. She completed the 750m swim in a little over 15 minutes, good for anyone but outstanding for someone who, in her own words, “only swims at one pace” – well that is some standard for so many to aim towards! The bike leg was much improved as her newly-chosen aero road bike enabled her to climb the field, completing the four-lap course in under 36 minutes and a strong final run round the lake lifted her to a time of 1:19:06, 133rd overall and an excellent third in her age group.

Up north there were several members entered in the Keswick Mountain Festival, a long-running party comprising triathlon, lake swims, trail runs and much more. Unfortunately the warm weather brought on every swimmers’ nightmare – algae – leading to the swim being cancelled and swapped for a short duathlon including two tough off road runs and a technical bike course with plenty of climbs. Nevertheless the club was well represented, with the first member home being Paddy Lee, who aboard his new TT bike was very much at home on the technical bike course and managed to score a useful 72nd place finish, including the top half of his age group, in a time of 1:30:44. Mark Derbyshire and Helen Broderick enjoyed a cracking battle behind Paddy with Mark coming back from a sizeable deficit after the first trail run to close the gap to around 90 seconds at the end of the bike leg, and in the end it was perhaps his greater familiarity with his bike position (Helen having only recently purchased her new Giant Propel from Thatto Cycles) which made the difference, as he moved up to 102nd place at the flag in 1:36:19. Helen nonetheless scored the best age group result of the day among those travelling north as she placed ninth in her category. In addition Ann Gregory made the trip to Salford Quays for the USwim 1 mile race. Ann had a brilliant day out, coming good on her winter of consistent improvement at the Wednesday and Friday swim sessions and finished 115th in a time of 37:53 giving her a thoroughly deserved new PB. Part 2 of the report will follow tomorrow, covering the Southport and Outlaw Half triathlons as well as the Worcester Half Marathon in the Malvern Hills.

 

We’re Feeling Supersonic, Give Us Gin And Tonic (or a Chorley cake)

St Helens Tri are very much getting into the groove with open water season approaching and many people’s attentions turning to major league races like next week’s Marine Lake Triathlon. As such this week’s report reads very much like the calm before the proverbial storm but first off to race were Claire Murphy and KellyAnne Towns at Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca. Claire has been a mainstay of the club for years particularly on the long distance running scene and KellyAnne has much experience of racing on the continent. Claire averaged a superb 1:44 per 100 metres in the sea swim and a solid bike in just over three and a half hours set her up for a run which she covered in well under two hours, leaving her classified 33rd in her age group in a time of 6:07:30. KellyAnne was almost glued to Claire in the swim, even edging clear as they reached transition, and she made a bit of a break on the bike, but eventually Claire made the pass on the run to finish ahead. Still, KellyAnne managed to get home in under 6:10 cementing her place in the top half of her age group. Closer to home, Diane Taktak added yet another chapter to her recent history of intrepid adventures by participating in the Chorley 10k hosted by Fylde Coast Runners. The event promised a good atmosphere, an undulating route around a town normally known for hosting bike races and even a Chorley cake at the finish. In the event Diane enjoyed yet another grand day out and was rewarded with a time of 1:02:38 leaving her just outside the top 600. Also going the 10k route, albeit the Wigan Trail version, was Steven Bower, who starred at Ironman Barcelona last year but has had a mixed start to the 2019 campaign. Here, though, he was right into it from the beginning and his efforts in the heat were rewarded with a time of 1:11:29. Another result worthy of note was that of Ben Mason, who starred in the 6-day Supersonic Race Series. Last week we reported on his much improved performance at the Spring 10k and his final stage at the Crock n’ Roll 10k 24 hours later earned him a top-30 position in the inaugural series; it is to be hoped that Kirkby Milers keep this “Tour de France for Runners” on the calendar for 2020 (especially if the Oasis-inspired gin and tonic is on offer at the finish!)

Two events south of the River Mersey made up the remainder of the schedule. Grace and Holly Hirst represented the club with real distinction at the Deva Junior Aquathlon hosted by Chester Tri Club. In T1 Girls Grace was out of the water in an excellent 2:52 and a rapid transition saw her into a sub-6 minute run which propelled her to a terrific fifth place just twenty seconds away from the podium. Meanwhile in T3 Girls Holly Hirst completed the much longer swim in just over seven and a half minutes before recording a 13-minute run split to end up 12th, but mere seconds away from a top ten finish. Meanwhile at Nantwich James Nairn and Robert Saile were taking part in the Cheshire Triathlon, an ever-popular event now over 25 years old comprising a swim in Snow Hill outdoor pool, a 20km bike route through the Cheshire lanes and four laps of Barony Park to run round at the end. James Nairn has really caught everyone’s eye this year as his enthusiasm has been very much akin that that of a kid on Christmas morning and here he used a particularly quick run to finish 52nd overall and 9th in his category with a time of 1:11:49, while Robert’s efforts were rewarded with a top-400 placing and a final time of 1:31:31 to bring down the curtain on a varied week of racing with plenty of stories to tell. Next week’s schedule is particularly packed with the Southport and Slateman triathlons as well as the Great Manchester Half Marathon and 10k.

 

Pontevedra Party for Peter, Joy for Jennifer and a PB on Princes Drive

While some choose to watch snooker or mow the lawns on May Day Bank Holiday weekend, St Helens Tri are often seen up and down the country racing far and wide and 2019 was no exception. First cabs off the rank were those of Michael Herbert and Mark Ashton at the Tuesday night bike time trial at Bickerstaffe hosted by Prescot Eagle. Michael made a welcome return to the fold posting a sub-24 time while Mark just missed out on beating the 25 minute barrier. Tracy Chapman also recorded a notable result the following evening at the St Helens CRC hosted event on the same course, as she was first lady home in a time of 25:27. The world championships from the week before weren’t quite over as Peter Fairclough and Mark Riley, both members of St Helens Tri and St Helens Striders, were participating in the aquathlon in Spain. Peter has improved markedly at swimming and was well up the field upon exiting the water. For once he didn’t make up as much ground on the run as on previous occasions, but his seventh place and fourth in the GB team was a fitting reward for months of hard work. He was joined by Mark Riley, who was actually out of the water even quicker in less than 17 minutes but later dropped back on the run, nonetheless joining his teammate in the top ten.

Four events, including three triathlons and a hugely popular Liverpool Spring 10k made up the Sunday schedule. Mal Balmer and Eddie Hirst took the long haul trip in more ways than one to Cambridgeshire for the Grafman Triathlon, which has gained in popularity as an early season classic distance race. Eddie was only a few days removed from returning to the UK after his own participation in the World Championships, yet here he was straight into the thick of things as he completed the 1000m swim in just over seventeen minutes. Mal wasn’t far behind him at this stage, but Eddie would pull away on the bike and run to the tune of nine minutes, finishing in a time of 2:06:27 which would place him 14th in his category, while Mal’s 2:15:24 was good enough for 8th in his age group. Closer to home, Wilmslow and Horwich played host to two spring triathlons. At the venue near Manchester Airport Jennifer Pybis and Shirley Fox were taking in the course featuring the fabled bike stage under the airport road and the run through the leafy houses near the leisure centre. Jennifer had considerable experience of the course from previous visits and it was no surprise that her swim and run were both fast (her run being the fastest in her category) but it was on the bike that she really caught the eye; from being unable to crack the 50 minute mark on her first visit in 2015 she recorded a 45:46, and as such her accolade of being the second fastest female on the day was well deserved. Shirley Fox has long been a strong cyclist owing to her many trips to ride hilly routes both in the UK and further afield, and her years of consistent riding brought her a third place in her category, a result matched by Caroline Bones who made a long-awaited return to multisport after many years swimming. It wasn’t purely a ladies day out either, as Gary Davies and Nick Hall also took part, Gary riding with particular distinction on his way to placing 85th while Nick recorded some very consistent splits and demonstrated his abilities as a well-rounded triathlete in taking 8th in his division.

If you want a calm, sunny day to do a triathlon in early May, then Horwich might not be the race for you. However, you would be missing out on a cracking course, with a pool swim lengthened to 500m, a 40km bike course taking in some of the best scenery on the West Pennine Moors, and a run to Rivington Pike. Of course, it always seems to coincide with a day plagued with changeable weather (such idiosyncrasies being magnified in an area known for having a micro-climate) but such a factor often separates the pack out markedly and so it proved in the 2019 edition. Mark Turner was back in the fold after a few weeks away from competition and he was right up and at it straight away, completing the 500m swim in a little over eight minutes. His bike time was also encouraging given that he comes primarily from a running background, and indeed his 8.6km run was one of his trademark fast cadence sprints to destruction as he recorded the sixth-fastest run of the day to lift himself to 17th at the finish. Mark Eccleston’s season has been a story in itself, as he has particularly enjoyed the long, tough versions of traditional distances, particularly the Parbold Duathlon in March. As such it was little surprise that he excelled on the lumpy bike course, his newly-improved strength and fitness enabling him to finish in the top 125 with a time of 2:18:33. Steve Bower bounced back nicely from a few difficult races of late to edge Sean Dalby, the pair both finishing the testing course in under three hours.

If the triathletes competed in fairly remote locations, the same couldn’t be said for Azzam Taktak, Ben Mason, Neil Wallace, Ian Wright, Brian Diggle and Jill Littler who joined over 4,800 other runners at the Metropolitan Cathedral for the Liverpool Spring 10k hosted by Mersey Races. This course has become incredibly popular in its short time on the calendar, featuring an opening stanza past the Philharmonic Hall, a middle stint into Sefton Parkand a final flourish onto Princes Drive. There was little to choose between them and all had a story to tell. Ian Wright has recently joined the club and marked his first appearance in the results column with a fantastic debut time of 40:55. Ben Mason was taking part in the race as a participant in the six-day Supersonic Race Series; the final round, the Crock n’ Roll 10k, takes place at Croxteth Park tomorrow. As such he was able to start in the first wave of runners competing for the series title, and he did his chances of a high overall placing no harm whatsoever by ducking just under the 50 minute mark, showing some particularly dogged determination on the run out of Sefton Park. On Team Taktak Diane and Sarah have enjoyed most of the limelight in 2019, as Azzam has preferred to train, rather than race, his way towards his next Ironman. However, he stepped out of the training room and onto the stage in fine style, crossing the line just seven seconds behind Ben but actually recording a quicker chip time to the tune of over a minute, his 48:42 being a new PB by over 20 seconds. keeping in with the theme of “after you, sir”, Neil Wallace started behind both Ben and Azzam, yet ended up with the second-quickest time of all the St Helens Tri runners, with 48:17 as his final time. Jill Littler was in fine spirits ahead of the start as she continues to diversify her weekend racing activities away from the Ormskirk Parkrun, and she was rewarded with a chip time of 50:20, just 24 seconds behind Ben while also placing in the top 30 in her age category, and it was an encouraging debut for Brian who was reruenore from a plantar fascia injury  yet managed a new PB of 51:55, a fine time on a day when so many runners from “partner clubs” such as St Helens Striders and Penny Lane Striders took part in what is now surely the biggest 10k race on the Merseyside running calendar. Next week’s main event is the Cheshire Triathlon at Barony Park in Nantwich, while the Howgills Triathlon and Trail Races offer something for those who like their races tough and off-road, before the next Super Sunday follows in a fortnight’s time with the Southport Triathlon at Marine Lake.

 

Mal and Eddie at the Grafman
Jennifer, Nick and Shirley at Wilmslow

Eddie gets Euro Vision and the Ladies Lap Up the (Local) Limelight

It has been a quiet few weeks of action, but to round off the month of April the club was here, there and everywhere in the UK and beyond. On Easter Weekend Diane Taktak and Jennifer Miller provided the only cheer for the club, with Diane taking part in the Caldervale Good Friday 10 miler which she completed in a little over 90 minutes, and she was joined by Jennifer for the Hale 5 organised by Interval Races on Easter Sunday. The dynamic duo faced a high quality field and extremely hot conditions for mid-April but ran their best races in a long time, Jennifer recording a time of 47 minutes on the nose while Diane came home just over two minutes further back.

After Dean Golba used his waxed chain to great effect in recording a 21:39 for the Tuesday night 10 mile TT at Rainford (lubricant now available at Thatto Cycles), the final weekned of April was characterised by the ITU Duathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain as well as two triathlons and the London Marathon. On the Iberian Peninsula Eddie Hirst was going for glory in the standard distance age group race, and came good on his years of running strongly and consistently on all terrain as he reached T1 in a little over 40 minutes. The bike course saw him make further progress and while he was not quite able to hold position on the run, he still managed to place in the top 25 in the world. HIs result would be quite a way to light the proverbial touchpaper for David Isaac’s mission to complete the London Marathon. David has mainly excelled at running during his time at the club and was first noticed when he completed the Southport Half Marathon last year in a little over 90 minutes. His build-up to the VLM was characterised by a top-5 position in the club XC standings and a phenomenal run at the Wrexham Half Marathon shortly after. On the streets of London he was straight into his stride, completing the first half in 1:32:22. Amazingly he came within two seconds of recording a negative split, almost unheard of in London, nonetheless he easily cracked the top 3000 and vindicated the club’s decision to hand him the ballot place with a stirring run to a final time of 3:04:56. he was joined by Craig Abbott who must have run out of superhero suits as he resurrected the Superman outfit of years past which he took to a time of 4:36:11. However, Mike Goulbourne stole the show as his epic running career took yet another improbable turn; he has finished many marathons in under three hours but that was before a major accident on his bike a couple of years ago left him sidelined for many months. However, he was out of the blocks like a scalded cat and his final time of 2:48:00 was absolutely extraordinary. No better result possible for no quieter spoken man, well done Mike, exceptional effort.

The Blackpool Festival of Running is a regular favourite amongst those who failed to get a ballot place for the VLM, so much so that if you enter both and the London ballot comes up good for you, the Fylde Coast Running organisers up north will even refund your entry fee! Lee Stinch took the trip to the Irish Sea coast and was pleased to overcome the strong winds and finish in just over 1 hour 35 minutes. He wasn’t alone in making the trip to this oft-forgotten backwater area of Lancashire as several juniors were in action at the North West Clubs and School Trawlerman Aquathlon at the Palatine Leisure Centre in the Pleasure Beach town. Grace Hirst ran a great race to edge into the top 10 (by just one second) in the T1 Girls event while it was a family day out for Thomas and Holly Saile as Thomas beat the 20 minute mark in the T2 Boys race and Hollie completed the T3 Girls race in 26:49, where she was joined by Grace’s sister Holly who was unlucky to be edged out of the top 20.

Two triathlons made up the remainder of the weekend schedule in Chirk and Southport. At the mid-Wales early season classic, Sean Dalby was joined by Mal Balmer and Myka Heard as they took on a course suited to those who like a challenging bike leg, somewhat unexpected in this “flat” part of Wales near the border. Sean showed considerable improvement particularly on the bike course as he finished 240th and was unlucky not to beat the 75 minute mark but the big hand of the day had to go to Myka, who was out of the water in under seven minutes before using her time trial bike to best effect on the testing roads of Wales, and her run was one of the most encouraging in a while as she not only recorded a 1:02:24 but was also second in her category. Meanwhile, Mal got within twelve seconds of Myka in the water and indeed the pair were out onto the bike almost line astern, but Mal would edge away during the course of the race and even dipped under the hour for good measure, finishing 58th overall and third in his division.

The biggest club outing of the day, and the second-biggest of the season so far after Edge Hill two weeks ago, was at the Southport Splashworld Triathlon hosted by Epic Events. Splashworld opened nearly 15 years ago and has been host to many events including parties and swimming galas. The running joke doing the rounds in the weeks leading up to the race was that the competitors would have to go down the slide to start the swim, but that might have been a little too frivolous even for an entry aimed at first timers, and indeed it was great to see so many newcomers tackling their first triathlon, whether for St Helens Tri or for another club (or unattached, just dropping a hint there). Robert Chesters might have had the honour of leading the club home in 13th overall with a time of 1:05:40, but his was a strange race; first off, he enjoyed a marked improvement on the swim, thanks in no small part to joining the club’s nucleus of BTF course qualified coaches (a terrific investment not only for triathlon success but also for developing professional skills). He was out of the water in around eight minutes but was soon struggling to hold position on the bike, and a mediocre performance on two wheels only got worse when a Honda Civic who obviously didn’t understand the “ROAD CLOSED” sign overshot the roundabout, did a three-point turn on Marine Drive and nearly took him out! Perhaps the “red mist” helped, as given he was nowhere near any accolades up until this point he did at least record the third-fastest run split of the day to lift himself up the order, but to say he got out of jail is an understatement. Perhaps a bike fit is in order soon. One person who has seriously improved on the bike over the winter is Emma Austin, who is used to racing at the sharp end. Here, she was out of the water in her customary sub-6 minute time and got within three minutes of the mark Robert set on the bike. She is still coming back from a running injury so for once it was just as well that the “attack the bike” pacing strategy was the right one, as she finished as third female in the open category (the junior division having mysteriously disappeared from the awards here) and 37th overall in a time of 1:11:04, 37 seconds ahead of her dad Paul who nearly made up the lost ground to Emma over the course of the race, but ultimately had to settle for third club member home, however he still placed 41st overall and fourth in his category. If there was an award for good guys with great character Chris Dyson would probably have locked it up for the next decade’s worth of awards nights; his was a great opening swim as he was out of the water in under eight minutes (proving once and for all the benefit of regular attendance at the club swim sessions) and having exchanged greetings at 25mph with Robert at least four times on the bike course he pulled into T2 with a very satisfactory sub-42 cycle stage time. This made for a very entertaining finish as he made a hilarious attempt to snatch the “best finish line pose” award while Robert closed in trying to look everywhere but ahead (or was he just pushing so hard?) but in any case Chris thoroughly deserved his top-100 placing and time of 1:19:01.

Chris isn’t the only one who has benefitted from the Friday morning swim sessions; Carole James has consistently held her own, and more, in Lane 2, indeed it will make for very interesting viewing to see if either or both can make the step to lane 3 in the near future. Carole was out of the pool in under nine minutes and used her low, aggressive race position on her bike to great effect into the wind on the coast road. Her run split of 25:15 was an improvement of over 30 seconds on her final stage at the Parbold Duathlon last month, and her eventual runners-up spot in her age group was a fitting reward, and quite possibly the performance of the day. Next up was Sam Walton who recorded a blindingly quick time in the pool of under six and a half minutes and he put in a determined shift on the bike and run to record a final time of 1:23:48. Lynette Houghton recently credited her strength improvements to a programme of bodyweight workouts and lighter, but higher quantity reps in her training. It paid off in style as her swim plus T1 time was comparable to what Robert and Chris managed, and her final time of 1:26:06 put her in the top 10 for the V40 category. Kylie Barlow was quick to pay tribute to the club after the race as until a few months ago she had never managed 50 metres of front crawl. Well what a difference a winter’s training makes; her sub-10 minute time in the pool was her personal best and although the bike leg proved somewhat more difficult she ran a terrific 23:57 for the 5k, the second-quickest St Helens Tri member on foot, as she recorded a 1:31:20 and came very close to cracking the top 200. Rob Chalmers has been at the club for longer than Kylie but also had a good outing, with a particularly encouraging bike split propelling him to a 1:36:36 finish, while Keith Ashcroft was back in action as he nearly caught Rob’s time at the finish, but eventually had to give best by just sixteen seconds. All in all a terrific weekend of racing, where the star turns came from Eddie in Pontevedra, Mike and David in London, Myka and Mal in Chirk and Emma and Carole at Splashworld. Next week’s Epic Triathlon is the long-running Horwich special, including the race to Rivington Pike on a course best suited to those who run long distances on a variety of terrain. With the Liverpool Festival of Running and a variety of other races on the schedule, the World Snooker final Bank Holiday Weekend promises to be action-packed for everyone, including St Helens Tri!

Emma and Paul at the finish in Southport

 

Jubilation for James and the Juniors, and a Taktak two-step

For many members of St Helens Tri the West Lancs Sprint Triathlon represents the true beginning of the racing season as it is literally a home event for those who turn up regularly to the Wednesday evening and Friday morning swims, or the Friday evening track session. The 2019 edition was attended by 17 members plus at least as many supporters who braved the near-Arctic wind chill at the crack of dawn to descend on Ormskirk. Leading the way for St Helens Tri was Adam Jones who has spent time at the NW Regional Academy. His swim of under six minutes was almost the quickest of the day, and while he gave a little away on the bike his incredible run split of 17:29 (utilising most of the Ormskirk Parkrun course) lifted him to 15th overall at the finish, winning the junior men’s category. It turned out to be a junior double to remember as Emma Austin went just a second quicker than Adam in the pool, came close to him on the bike on her new race wheels and had enough in the tank on return from a running injury to not only place top 60 overall but win the junior ladies’ title! A fitting reward to two of the club’s most talented and committed athletes.

Andrew McGlone led the seniors home, his swim being mere seconds behind that of Emma and Adam, and a strong bike and solid run enabled him to lock out a top-30 finish in a time of 1:04:22. Newcomer James Nairn has made quite a name for himself since joining the club, having finished well inside the top 10 at the club duathlons over the winter, and his status as third club member home (44th overall) in 1:07:12 was one of the most popular stories of the day, his feel-good result matched if not surpassed by his enthusiastic comments about how much he enjoys training and racing with the club (and in his case, dodging a parked car on the last bend before T2!) He even edged out Emma’s dad Paul, who looked to have the upper hand after the swim and bike but could not stay with James on the run, nevertheless Paul wound up 58th overall, 7th in his category and just over a minute ahead of his daughter. Steve Williams had only just returned from training camp in Mallorca and as such would have been forgiven for having an easy like Sunday morning rest day but here he put in a proper good shift particularly on the bike to edge the fast-finishing Mark Eccleston out, Steve coming home 23 seconds in front while also taking second in his division. Mark used the race as training for his Ironman adventures later in the year, but comendably he set by far the fastest bike split of any St Helens Tri member and only a difficult start on the swim prevented him from challenging for a top-60 placing. Anthony Bearon’s season has been one of continual improvement especially at Friday night track sessions where he has regularly been quickest man on track, particularly over short intervals. It paid off here as a rapid run helped him make up places (having lost time to a slowly deflating rear tyre on the bike course) and with a bit more luck he would have cracked the top 100. Peter Leadbeater was next over the line just 21 seconds behind Anthony, his cycling experience with the Liverpool Century paying dividends as he made up time on the twisty bike course to place 108th overall.

Chris Dyson only joined the club at the beginning of the year but has been a regular at the Friday morning swim sessions. Coming from a rugby background, he has relatively little experience of measuring effort over more than one hour having come from a game where it’s all about sprinting on demand, but here he was right into his element. Benefitting from being drawn in lane 2 (his regular station on Friday mornings) he flew through the first half of his swim in under four minutes and but for a fellow competitor impeding him (for which a penalty should have been awarded at very least) he would have been out of the water in under eight minutes. Nevertheless, he decided to get even rather than get mad, put in a good shift on the bike and then polish it off with an assured run to take 120th overall in a time of 1:15:44; on a less technical course such as Splashworld in a fortnight’s time he has every opportunity to break the 70 minute mark, you certainly wouldn’t bet against him. Ian Orford has rarely featured at swim sessions but is known for his superb speed over 5k, and sure enough his form from the club duathlons carried over very well indeed as his 20:07 was the second-fastest St Helens run of the day; he was just four seconds adrift of Chris Dyson’s time at the finish. Andrew Beacock regularly does a Friday double and has a tendency to work his way into sessions and races. Sure enough, the same thing happened on race day as he also enjoyed considerable progress despite being drawn in an early (read: freezing) wave, his time of 1:19:26 lifting him to 147th. Next up were Paul and Paul, namely Paul Burns and Paul Hazlehurst, who have both contributed regularly to the club with their efforts at the Friday sessions. The pair were fairly closely matched on the bike, before Paul Burns edged away on the run to finish around two and a half minutes ahead. Three more club members also did the Saints proud, starting with Stuart Dillingham who recorded a swim even faster than Steve Williams, eventually finishing 305th just over 90 seconds ahead of Jill O’Connor, a Parkrun regular who made a long-awaited return to the multisport fold and marked t with a particularly encouraging run to place 311th. Meanwhile Michelle Beacock enjoyed her day out just as much as those battling for honours as her time of 1:41:54 was enough to get her into the top 350 and round off a freezing, yet fantastic day of racing where the star turns came from Emma Austin, Adam Jones, Andrew McGlone and James Nairn. A special mention must also go to Diane Taktak, who completed a seemingly-impossible double of the Hawkshead 16k trail race on the Saturday followed by the Lancaster 10k the following morning, recording a time of just over two hours for the trail race and finishing the 10k in a time of 1:03:15. Next week’s Epic Events Sprint Triathlon is in the wilds of Clitheroe, with a particularly challenging bike route taking in Birdy Brow and plenty more climbs, while the Salford 10k and a range of Easter specials including the Delamere Easter Bunny Dash and the Rivington Pike fell race should all add up to a very exciting holiday weekend indeed.

 

When in Rome, do as the Saints do + Masters of Manchester 2019

The last weekend of March and the first Sunday of April, often regarded as the true beginning of the racing season, provided more cheer for St Helens Tri at an unheralded race venue, two modern classics and a rarely-visited European capital as the Saints headed abroad. Chris Dyson closed out the month of March at the Liverpool Resolution Run where he joined three work colleagues and recorded a pleasing 1:06:55; hopefully his teammates will find the joys of swimming and cycling quite as much as Chris has in his short time with the club! The following weekend saw several members up and about early with Rob Preston and Steve Bower travelling to the South Lakes for the Epic Events Uverston Triathlon. In a dramatic race, which saw former St Helens Tri member Phil Ellison come within 12 seconds of winning outright, Rob and Steve were fairly evenly matched throughout the swim but Rob set a quicker T1 time and his additional power on the out and back bike course along the dual carriageway also translated into superior running form for the final leg. In the event he placed 145th in a time of 1:45:38 while Steve would wind up just over 40 minutes in arrears having finished 237th.

The rest of the weekend schedule was of the marathon variety as three club members did the Manchester marathon while Mike Gregory won the award for most enterprising choice of race, going to Italy for the Rome Marathon. Mike described the course as tough, particularly the cobbled sections, but with nice scenery especially for a city marathon, and a fast start propelled him to a fine time of 3:55:02. Meanwhile Kevin Dudley was joined by longtime club members Matt and Emma Shillabeer in Manchester for what is fast developing a reputation as the quickest course in the UK. Kevin has long been a regular on the long distance race circuit and has often been top of the club’s “second division” at the cross country races behind the top three who generally led the way during the winter series. Kevin’s commitment to the cause has long been unheralded but here he had his day, as he completed the 26.2 miles in a time of 3:50:15. As good as his story was, in KA y ways Emma Shillabeer’s was even better, as she was rarely more than a 5k entrant in the years when St Helens Tri was known as Ashurst Bike Club. However, a commitment to training the longer distances was always going to pay off -and spectacularly so, as she and Matt finished in just over 4:11 and gave away less than a minute per mile to the seasoned veteran Kevin in doing so, thereby rounding off a fortnight in which few races, but all had a story to tell. Next week’s signature event needs no introduction as round 2 of the Epic Events sprint triathlon season takes place in Ormskirk with the West Lancs Spring Triathlon at Edge Hill Sport, a venue the club is eternally grateful to for being able to use its facilities for swim and run sessions. As such it provides a perfect opportunity for late starters to get their season going on home ground.

Dean serves up Six of the Best in Skelmersdale

The second St Helens Tri club duathlon of the winter season took place today with 21 athletes converging on Pikelaw Place in Skelmersdale for a course comprising two laps of running twice through the local walkways and along Pimbo Road bookending a six lap blast on the bikes around the course normally reserved for local road races. Conditions were not as warm as a month earlier and a noticeable wind picked up during the course of the morning which would blunt the top end speed on the cycle stage but a cracking race was enjoyed by all. In the early stages Robert Chesters put his winter of cross country running and tough sessions in the hills of Aughton to good use and reached T1 around a minute ahead of Ian Orford and Dean Golba. However, the bike course would prove to be somewhat different and while Ian dropped back, Dean was immediately into the zone that saw him record him 4:31 at Ironman 70.3 Dubai. Equipped with a finely tuned position on his Giant Trinity (even down to the length of his aero extensions!) he took the lead at the end of lap 2 and would reach the pit lane over two minutes ahead thanks to an amazing sub-32 minute 20k bike time. Robert would not give up and somehow completed the second 4.5km run in under 15:30 but ultimately ran out of time to make the deficit up as Dean won in a time of 1:07:20, some 29 seconds ahead. After a wait of a few minutes it was new member Neil Prescott who took third place, his excellent bike split within a minute of the time set by Robert being the difference in his battle with Patrick Neill for the last podium position. James Nairn, last month’s best newcomer, enjoyed considerable improvement as he moved up from 10th in February to 6th here, challenging Neil Jackson for 5th overall even if Neil’s superior bike speed proved to be enough of an edge.

Steve Williams made it two out of two in the super-vets race, almost catching leading M50 Paul Austin on the bike, before Paul’s superior running speed took him clear on the final stage, happy as he was to be cheered on by his daughter/photographer/marshal/junior team GB star Emma (who took the ohotos shown below, a small selection of her esxelexce photography). Indeed, they both had their hands full holding off Ian Orford towards the end as he rebounded from outside the top 10 on the bike to chase them down on the run and give them a real hurry-up to the finish. Carole James reached T1 in the top 10 and was happy to have chosen her race bike, as in a marked contrast to Parbold a week earlier, she found the position well suited to the flat and fast confines of Pimbo; she would hold onto her position on the second run to join Steve in winning her division in both events. She finished around three and a half minutes clear of Lynette Houghton, whose son George put in a terrific charge on the final run segment to overtake Melanie Sayed and finish in the top 15, demonstrating the sheer potential of the club’s junior cohort. Indeed it is they who will undoubtedly drive the future of the club as it looks to continue its recent successes on the wider stage and also promote its own events, with the next one being the St Helens Triathlon on Sunday 8 September, for which entries are now open!

Race winner Dean on the first run
Leading runner Robert Chesters on the bike

 

Carole James on her way to winning the ladies race

Paddy’s Day means Parbold, Podiums and Pies!

Two long standing classics and two recent additions to the racing calendar brought plenty of joy for St Helens Tri on St Patrick’s Day. At the Trimpell 20 Ben Livingston’s meteoric rise continued apace. Having only recently rejoined the club after a few years away, he was taking part in by far his longest ever race, a tough 20 miler as part of the Lancaster Race Series. In a high quality field he not only recorded an outstanding time of 2:24:46 but he also cracked the top 60 overall, outpacing many more experienced runners and looking comfortable in illustrious company. The slopes of Wigan town centre often make for tough going particularly at this time of year (having been one of very few mid-March races to survive last year’s Beast from the East) but three club members enjoyed a grand day out. Diane Taktak’s 10 mile time of time of 1:40:54 was good enough for ninth in her age category, but while Mark Derbyshire’s 22:35 was enough for 57th in the 5k race, Helen Broderick ran one of her best short distance races to date as she clocked 25:14 and, in a furious battle for age group places, took third in her category. Needless to say, the pies on offer at the finish were well received and well deserved.

Paul Booth has long been an athlete to relish tough off road courses and as such he was always going to be a perfect fit for the Lancaster Duathlon hosted for the first time by T2 Events. Paul has years of running experience with St Helens Striders but here he caught the eye on both run and bike as he raced soundly to a 17th place finish, a good result any day of the week but a great one given that it was his first outing in more than two months. Meanwhile six hardy souls joined the masses at the ever popular Epic Events Parbold Duathlon. In a very competitive race, which saw local runner Ian Lawton take a runaway victory, Ged Roberts led the way for the Saints with a consummate performance drawing on the strength and confidence gained from recently topping the time sheets at the 3000m club time trial (used by the coaches to set training paces) and despite his relative lack of familiarity with the race format he came up with a brilliant performance, especially on his recently acquired Giant Propel with disc brakes (which were a godsend on the descent of Hunter’s Hill) to place in the top 15 overall in a time of 1:38:27 less than five minutes away from the top ten. Next to finish, both inside the top 60, were club coaches Mark Eccleston and Lee Stinch. Lee was over half a minute ahead as they entered the pitlane at the end of the first run, but Mark’s greater experience and familiarity with the bike paid dividends and he eventually pulled clear of Lee in finishing 46th overall. Indeed, Peter Rawlinson got within sight of Lee towards the end of the bike course, however Lee showed why he regularly features towards the front of the club Friday night track sessions and eventually held off his teammate to the tune of just over two and a half minutes. Will Bardin and Carole James exited the pitlane pretty much in tandem as the inevitable Parbold Duathlon traffic jams built up, but Will would pull away on the bike course and managed to cross the line just under the two hour mark. Carole enjoyed an eventful race as she continues to grow in confidence, even surviving a scary moment at the end of the second lap on the bike when the person she was attempting to overtake forgot that it was three laps not two (just as well he couldn’t turn his bike quickly because it was clearly too big for him) but she overcame her trepidation of descending Hunter’s Hill to place third in her age group and join the stars of the weekend, namely Ben for his 20 mile time, Helen for her age group podium in Wigan and Ged for his top-15 overall in Parbold. Next week’s main event is the second club duathlon of the winter season, Entries will remain open until Wednesday at midnight, including post race breakfast at the Skelmersdale truck stop.

 

March Winds Blow, but it’s still On with the Saints Show

The first two weeks of March were nothing like the warm, sunny end to February and the race schedule suffered as a result with the cancellation of the much awaited Firefighters 2-up duathlon in Belmont. Running in rather warmer conditions was Jennifer Miller who took on the Benidorm 10k along the beach. Starting at sunset in an old favourite holiday resort/TV series (delete as you wish) she was more than equal to the conditions and the rolling terrain and soaked up the atmosphere to finish in just over an hour, her result plus the late news of George Houghton once again qualifying for the OCR World Championships being a nice little prelude to the following weekend’s races in St Helens and on the Liverpool waterfront.

The St Helens 10k has been a club favourite since its inception in 2011, even in 2018 when the Beast from the East forced a hasty rescheduling to mid-April. Conditions were hardly any more hospitable for the 2019 edition but the club had no less than eight entrants on the start line ready to take on the climb of North Road and the finish into the Totally Wicked Stadium. Leading the way for the club was Alan McKeegan who has had quite a year since joining the club last spring. Here, he slayed the slopes of St Helens and the tight confines of the city streets to great effect and beat the 42 minute mark as he recorded a time of 41:48 and a top-75 place. Next up were Mike Gregory, Chris Dyson and Will Bardin who were locked in a tight battle during the early going, however Mike pulled away later on and took the honour of second club member home in a time of 44:57 just over 90 seconds ahead of Chris whose 46:31 was a new PB. Will fell back after the halfway point but was always well clear of Jordan O’Shea, who was a further minute down the road, meaning that the first five club members had all beaten the 50 minute mark. Another trio were also locked in a close contest as Tony Waine, Lisa Hirst and Melanie Sayed were aiming for a sub-55 time. Tony took a while to get into his rhythm but eventually worked his way past to lead the group home, just 28 seconds separating the trio while Lisa took most of the plaudits for a new PB of 54:40.

Three club members attempted the Liverpool Half Marathon which suffered the worst of the shifting crosswinds on the waterfront. During the commentary of the 12noon game from Anfield the weather was described as “four seasons in one day” but that would have been of scant comfort to those who ran 13.1 miles as they could have been forgiven for thinking they were in Alaska rather than Merseyside. Robert O’Shea has travelled far and wide over the last 12 months with races in all corners of the country and at long last he was back on home ground battling the winds on the waterfront, and here it was his turn to lead the club home, a time of 1:38:50 being a just reward, around six minutes clear of club website designer Scott Farrow who did just enough to go sub-1:45, while Steve Williams used the race as strength training for his upcoming attempt at Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire and recorded 1:57:31, finishing seventh in his age group and making it home just in time for the football!

While Liverpool and Burnley tried not to catch frostbite in the aforementioned lunchtime kickoff, several St Helens Tri juniors were at the Wirral Aquathlon, the traditional multisport curtain raiser at the Bebington Oval where Sally Bearon was joined by Oliver and Charlie Murphy, plus Holly and Grace Hirst. First off to race were Grace and Sally, and both had a fine outing as they cracked the top 20, Sally finishing in 15 minutes. Grace put her regular Friday night track run sessions to good effect as she worked her way up to seventh by the end of the race. Her sister Holly faced stiffer competition at T3 level but still ran in good spirit and 16th place was her end result. Charlie Murphy has ran well throughout the winter cross country season and his improved strength carried him to 16th position at T3 level before watching his brother Oliver turn in arguably the performance of the day along with that of Steve Williams in Liverpool as he too came good on his XC campaign to take fourth in the youth race and round off a wet and windy weekend of racing where it was probably for the best that the flagship duathlon on the West Pennine Moors was postponed. In any case two signature duathlons characterise the next couple of weeks as next Sunday sees the return of the Parbold Duathlon while the second St Helens Tri club duathlon takes place the following Sunday, for which entries are still available at the time of writing.