A Race to Remember for Jennifer – Saints Salute to Service 2019

As all round commitment goes, Chris Hayes has to be one of the best in the five year history of St Helens Tri. Rarely has a week gone by when he has been absent from the range of coached sessions and each time he has returned having given thought on how to improve in one area or another. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you improve as long as you do, after all a minute faster is a minute faster, yes? Well, on Snowdonia Marathon weekend he took the club into unchartered territory at the Marrakech half Ironman featuring a fast bike course and the joys of running in 31c heat. His hard work, especially at the Friday night track sessions was rewarded with a terrific result as he completed the course in a time of 5:32:31, placing him 76th in his age category, a division with over 200 finishers. The following weekend Mike Gregory was the club’s only entrant in the Tatton 10k where he overcame the stormy conditions to complete the 13.1 in under 1 hour 55 minutes.

One of the curiosities of the November schedule is the fact that the Warrington Way 40 miler is nearly always the same day as the second round of the Manchester Cross Country League and 2019 was no different. Lee Stinch is no stranger to this event which passes through four checkpoints in four villages. Like a longer version of the Helsby Half Marathon, really. Most people dropped over half an hour on last year’s times due to the XC section of the course being caked in mud but Lee only went 10 minutes slower and was thrilled with 14th overall and 10th in his age group with a time of 6 hours 49 minutes while Gary Birch battled on into the night and his mental fortitude was rewarded as he completed in a little over nine hours. Meanwhile the club was out in force at the University Playing Fields in Bagley with league positions and intra club points up for grabs. Claire Murphy looks unstoppable in the ladies competition and made it two wins from two as she finished 162nd overall in a time of 34:54, her son Oliver having placed 35th in the U17 Boys race earlier. Behind Claire a cracking battle was on between Chris Forber and Sheena Shearman for second and third counter home, which was only resolved at the end by just three seconds as Chris got the nod. Six men faced the timekeepers at the 2:30 start and Michael Forber was always going to be favourite to come home first. He duly delivered in under 40 minutes leaving the remaining St Helens Tri members stretched out behind. Kevin Dunbar’s 41:32 was next best as he moved into the lead of the club points competition while Patrick Neill was around another two minutes further back, cracking the top 300 in the process. The remaining runners were separated by only just over a minute with Chris Murphy putting in a gritty performance to edge out Mike Gregory, while Chris Hayes made his debut on the mud and was rewarded with a creditable 47:27 time less than half a minute behind Mike.

Jennifer Miller hasn’t been as active in 2019 as she was in previous years but she would have her moment in the very bright sun of Lytham St Anne’s for the annual Windmill 10k on Remembrance Sunday. Most other 10k times over recent years have hovered around the hour mark or just under, but on this flat fast course she was in her element, driven on by the sense of occasion Remembrance Day brings every year and she was justifiably delighted with her final time of 54:17 rounding off a fortnight of racing where she was the star together with Chris Hayes for Marrakech and Lee Stinch for the Warrington Way. It is worth noting that round 3 of the cross country league is on Sunday 8 December NOT Saturday 7th as Arrowe Park is already occupied on the original date.

Calm down, calm down, it’s only a marathon (that’s what Kevin said)

The autumn season is usually defined by the opening rounds of the cross country leagues around the North West but the Snowdonia Marathon and St Helens Striders Trail 5 are always two occasions to raise a cheer, and 2019 was no different. Weather-wise it was a tale of two contrasting days as the marathon entrants knew they were in for a tough one from the moment some of them got such in a storm at Northop Hall on the way to the venue the night before. As such it was hardly the perfect build-up to the toughest marathon of the year but they responded brilliantly the following morning amidst stormy conditions which made even the tarmac sections extremely treacherous. Leading the way, as he had done so many times before, was Mike Goulbourne, perhaps the club’s most well rounded runner, as he mastered the course like a seasoned pro, got to Pen-y-Pass within 35 minutes and finished in the top 50 in a time of 3:09:54. David Isaac’s excellent 2019 marathon form continued as he was next home for the club, keeping remarkably close to Mike in the early stages before dropping back a little. Nonetheless he still recorded a creditable 3:28:46 putting him in the top 150. David had Lee Stinch for company early on l, Lee showing no ill effects from nearly catching frostbite at the abandoned Friday night track session (maybe the A55 traffic jam wasn’t so painful an option after all) and he held the gap down to around 10 minutes at the halfway mark before Ian Wright and Kevin Dunbar overtook him and while Lee finished in 4:11:55, Ian and Kevin enjoyed a fantastic battle with a few friends from the Isabella Rose Foundation, the pair eventually separated by just 35 seconds on chip times with Ian coming out ahead. Louise Johnson enjoyed her first trip to the Welsh classic as she closed a little on Lee over the final few miles, eventually recording a 4:33:42. Also taking part were Thomas and Alan Ralfs, two regular participants in the Friday night track sessions; on this occasion Thomas got the better of his dad to the tune of around five and a half minutes, while Helen Broderick’s long history of toughing it out on challenging courses paid dividends as she put in a spirited performance to finish in under five and a half hours.

The following morning’s Striders Trail 5 was once again a roaring success with many club members both racing for St Helens Tri and various first claim running clubs. First St Helens Tri entrant home was James Nairn, one of the club’s top improvers of 2019 who took to the trail like a duck to water and finished in a little over 36 minutes. There were also a couple of star turns from Alan Mckeegan who recorded a 38:53 and Michael Lucas who got round in just over 40 but the most amazing story of the day came from Kevin Dunbar who somehow crawled out of bed after Snowdonia to add another 5 miles on for the weekend, and even setting ba decent time of 42:31! Surely there must be an easier way to run a 50km ultra………..

Capping off the weekend was a calm and composed Diane Taktak (as per the headline) who beat the Liverpool-Tottenham match traffic to take on the Arriva Scouse 5k. This ever popular event hosted by Mersey Races includes a Scouse wig as part of the entry fee but it didn’t seem to get in Diane’s way as she overcame a foot issue to complete the course in under 45 minutes and round off an action packed weekend which will be best remembered for Mike’s top 50 performance in Wales and the remarkable effort of Kevin Dunbar to combine for 31.2 miles of off road racing within 24 hours at two different venues – surely a new club record!

Dirty Dozen do a Duathlon, Two Busy Bees go to Manchester

Six teams of two represented St Helens Tri at the rescheduled Firefighters 2up duathlon on Sunday amidst conditions only slightly better than what caused the race to be cancelled back in March. The race comprises two 3.5 mile runs and a bike ride of around 23 miles into the wilds of the West Pennine Moors. Leading the way were two of the best runners in club history, Mark Turner and Peter Fairclough. They finished the first run in under 25 minutes, and although they are not as renowned for their speed on two wheels as other long serving members they still recorded a fantastic bike split of 1:15:49. Remarkably, they even managed to come close to their first run split on the final stage as they powered past a duo from Horwich to grab third place with room to spare. Next up were Michael Forber and Kevin Dunbar. Kevin later described the race as “Michael dragging him round” (maybe he forgot he’d been to Wythenshawe the previous day) but in any case the strongman duo were in their element here as they built steadily towards the final stage and made their way through the pack to finish in under 2:25 bagging a top 30 placing. Patrick Neill and Gary Birch have always been fast on the bike and Patrick in particular looks like figuring at the sharp end of the winter racing season. Here, they actually got in front of Michael and Kevin on the bike stage but ultimately had to give best on the second run. Nonetheless they still beat the two and a half hour mark and made the top 40. In keeping with the theme of “everyone had a story to tell” perhaps no team has been quite as storied over the last few months as Myka Heard and Carole James. Myka only recently learned that she has earned another team GB call up after a season disrupted by a bike accident, and Carole must surely be in contention for newcomer of the year after her age group wins in Helsby and at the St Helens Triathlon. Here, the dynamic duo were into the pitlane in under 35 minutes and overtook their age group rivals on the bike course, never looking back as they obliterated their division to win by over ten minutes. Antony Lindley was joined at the last minute by Dave Ashworth after Anthony’s teammate was forced to withdraw. The newly formed pairing didn’t skip a beat as they headed Myka and Carole into the changeover but ultimately had to yield to their fellow club members on the bike. Their strong second run still helped them up the order somewhat to a very satisfying result; in better conditions they would certainly have beaten the three hour mark. No long distance team race would be complete without a chapter from Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber, and once again they had a race to remember. Despite a fall on the first run and both chains coming off during the bike course they still completed the course to a rapturous applause, beating the three and a half hour mark by just 41 seconds in their most rewarding team effort to date.

While the Dirty Dozen were battling around Belmont, Mike Gregory (pictured below) thought the same as Kevin, that one race for the weekend wasn’t enough, and joined sprint specialist Chris Hayes at the Manchester Half Marathon. The city was still buzzing from the Super League Grand Final the night before and the Saints really did come back to town for more with a bang, as the City of the Buzzing Bees was spared the worst of the weather that plagued the duathlon. The question was, would Mike’s experience overcome his tired legs or would Chris’ exuberance win the day? In the event Mike came out ahead, as he worked his way into the race gradually, peaking during the middle phase, and eventually recording a 1:43:21, three minutes and 23 seconds clear of Chris who clearly relishes the long distance races and promises to be a breakout star in 2020. Next week’s signature event is the Stockport Duathlon starting 8:30am at Poynton Leisure Centre, while the Petzl Night Run series and the usual Halloween themed races promise to provide plenty of surprises – hopefully of the treat variety!

Wizard of Wythenshawe and Hero of Hawaii – Robert and Eddie’s “Fields of Gold”

It was a busy second weekend of October as four events took centre stage with the Manchester double of Cross Country season opener at Wythenshawe Park and the Half Marathon close to home, while the Epic Events 2up duathlon and Eddie Hirst’s Ironman Kona adventures drew plenty of attention further afield. Part one of the roundup centres on the events in Manchester and Hawaii either side of the Super League Grand Final. While Eliud Kipchoge was resting up in Vienna after his historic sub 2 hour marathon and St Helens RLFC were preparing to do battle with the Salford Red Devils at Old Trafford, seven St Helens Tri members faced the flat but muddy confines of Wythenshawe Park with Claire Murphy off first in the ladies race. She had an open goal to take a commanding early lead in the club championship standings (with the best four results from five races to count this year) and she opened the defence of her title with an excellent run to a time of 40:40, placing her 137th overall. As she returned to base to join Andrew Bridge on photography duties, six members made their way to the start line for the men’s race. Robert Chesters had a history of getting off the line well at this venue, but here he spotted an open lane on the right, flew off like he’d been fired out of a cannon, took up a good position into the first corner and after passing a few fast starters on the opening lap, was into a good rhythm, apart from some difficult moments on the second lap when slowing pace in the mud led to falling blood pressure levels and some awkward lightheaded moments (proof that compression socks can be a lifesaver) but despite nearly landing on top of a Chorlton runner who fell over in the woods on the final tour, he finished in a new course PB of 38:12, 101st overall (bumped up to 93rd after removal of unattached runners) and take the first lead in the men’s club competition. Kevin Dunbar had the 2up duathlon on his mind and would definitely have challenged Robert in normal circumstances, but he still managed to record a good mid-41 time which put him easily in the top 200. Mike Gregory only managed to make it to Prestwich for round 4 last season but you wouldn’t have known it here, as he put in a gritty sprint finish just six days after his excellent Rainford 10k performance to clock a 44:06. Behind him a cracking battle was on between the more experienced Lee Stinch and the more powerful Peter Rawlinson. In the event Lee’s knowledge and all round abilities won out as he came out ahead to the tune of just 28 seconds, the pair finishing inside 47 minutes. It was great debut for John Wilson whose contribution endured the club finished 38th overall; with further experience the 39 second gap to Peter doesn’t look quite so insurmountable.

While the Saints Community was enjoying the Super League Grand Final and looking forward to Japan vs Scotland the following morning, Eddie Hirst’s incredible story was into chapter 132 (or whatever his current strike rate is) on the lava fields of Kona as the Ironman world championships rolled into Hawaii. After a packed week of activities including familiarisation swims, running races and swimming with turtles, Eddie lined up with the backing of his whole club and indeed of team GB. He was out of the water in a little over 68 minutes and his bike split was a 19.47mph. Amazing any day of the week, but it transpired that he’d hurt his foot and he spent some time in T2 having it seen to. He was advised to walk/run the marathon and wouldn’t quite beat the four hour mark but if anything it made his story all the more epic, the blur in the picture below was somewhat befitting of such a performance (no Eddie wouldn’t slow down) and he finished in under eleven and a half hours to close out a thrilling first half of the weekend. Part 2 will follow later today covering the 2up duathlon and the Manchester Half Marathon.

No Raining on Joe’s Parade – Rainford 10k Report 2019

And so amidst murky skies and squally showers, it arrived; the club’s second flagship event of the autumn as the Rainford 10k rolled around once again. It was six years to the day since the first running of the event and it continues to attract runners from beginner to England standard every year, as it pays tribute to local runner George Faulkner who was tragically killed while out running in 2012. Once again runners from far and wide made the trip to Rainford High Technology College to participate, but local talent would come out on top. In keeping with the “runners of all abilities” theme Matt Crehan did what he has done so many times before and took a resounding win for local club St Helens Striders in a new course record of 32:47; his contribution to the local running scene including his shop Made to Run is much valued by members of St Helens Tri. For the host club, Joseph Dennett, who has quietly worked his way through the ranks over the past few years, came from nowhere to lead his teammates home with 14th place overall and a time of 41:06. After Joseph came a sequence of mad scrambles to beat a particular “minute mark” beginning with Mike Gregory going two seconds under the 44:30 mark, while Chris Murphy beat his pre-race 46 minute target by just five seconds with a very driven sprint out of Ivy Lane. Peter Rawlinson was aiming for sub-50 on the back of a somewhat disrupted summer of running but he needn’t have worried too much as he handled the mixed terrain with aplomb and finished in the top 75 recording a 48:36. Lee Brownhill hasn’t been at the club as long as the likes of Joseph and Peter but he made his mark here, sneaking into the top 100 with a 50:26. Helen Curran has enjoyed a productive first season with the club particularly in sprint triathlons, but here she showed some good running form in the later stages as she put in a dash for the line and finished in 57:33, around ten seconds shy of team Costello (Dermot and his daughter Violet) who made an instant impression in her first ever 10k. A special mention must go to Sue King, who has been a most enthusiastic member of the Friday track run session team and ran the fun run with her children before the main event. Here, she was raising money for charity and amidst the morning gloom was immediately recognisable in blue and orange, and she recorded a result to back it up as she finished in a time of 1:00:53.

So plenty of winners, but full credit must go to Terry Bates and the BeUrBest team for once again staging an impeccably organised event which just gets better every year. In addition, thanks must go to the marshals, registration desk volunteers and catering team (including Marie Leahy’s family baking team) who put so much effort into making the day so memorable. Next year’s race is provisionally scheduled for October 4th, here’s to an even better event in 2020!

Coniston, Chester and Catalonia – Three Epic Challenges, One Epic Day

It was a momentous Sunday at St Helens Tri as the club hosted the Rainford 10k six years to the day since the inaugural event in 2013. Full details of how that played out will feature in a special report, but this column covers the Swim run Coniston, the Chester Marathon and Ironman Barcelona. Mark Livingston and Charlie Stirrup took on the unique challenge of Swimrun in the Lake District, an event similar in format to next week’s 2up duathlon in Belmont, whereby teams of two swim and run in tandem. However, the participants have to swim and run in the same kit (even shoes!) and have to stay together for the duration of the event. It also requires extreme endurance to stay out there for so many hours, but the two long serving members (entered for this race as the Terminators) were up to the challenge and finished 12th in a time of 7:44:57. Six members made the trip over the Runcorn Bridge to the Deva City for one of the most prestigious marathons in the country. The ever popular course is mainly flat but features a tough hill a couple of miles from the finish which always serves to put a dampener on those hoping to run negative splits. David Isaac is always up for such a challenge, though, and here he was right into it from the off, clipping away at 7 minutes per mile. Although slowed by the inclines towards the end he still led the club home in a fantastic 3:06:10, giving him a top-200 finish. Ian Orford has always been at or near the front of the club’s challenge when playing the long game and once again he ran a well measured race to finish in 3:15:21, but he was pushed all the way by Adam O’Shea who was closing in on him at the end, as the pair finished less than five minutes apart. Behind them a cracking race was on between Alan McKeegan and Alan’s brother Robert. While Robert held position over the first 30 kilometres, Alan made the pass in the fourth quarter of the race and beat his teammate to the line by just over four minutes with a particularly impressive surge of pace to close the deal. Will Bardin had done quite a bit of marathon running down the years, primarily in an Ironman setting so it was always going to be intriguing to see how he got on in a pure running race. It wouldn’t be long before we got the answer as he finished in 4:01:22; with better conditions he would certainly have beaten the four hour mark.

Nick Hall and Azzam Taktak made the trip to Spain for Ironman Barcelona, widely regarded as one of the fastest courses in Europe. Nick set a cracking pace of 2:02 per 100m in the water and followed that up with a solid 17mph average on the bike to reach T2 in just over six and a half hours. He proceeded to plug away on the run amidst the roars of the crowd to finish in a time of 13:30:06. Azzam was out of the sea in a little over 90 minutes and completed the bike course well before the seven hour mark. Being a veteran of so many long distance races the run was never going to cause him any worries and as he finished under the floodlights along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, he ran into the club Hall of Fame as a multiple Ironman, recording a time of 14:52:49, to round off part one of this week’s report, with part 2 being an in-depth write-up of the BeUrBest Rainford 10k.

Ladybower, Lightning Bolts and Lions – plus a Cruise in Chilly Cheshire

The end of September brought some pretty stormy conditions to race in at the Oulton Park Duathlon and the Kirkby Milers 10 in Knowsley, but several notable results gave St Helens Tri some good cheer ahead of the BeUrBest Rainford 10k. In keeping with the ultra theme, one late result from last week came from Stephen Webb who ran the Ladybower 50 miler and was in the top 10 from the beginning, rising to 8th at the 20 mile mark into a position he would never relinquish. He even made a late bid for seventh but ultimately came up a little short, however it was still an amazing result, arguably the best “under the radar performance of the season.

James Nairn has been one of the club’s most impressive improvers over the course of 2019; while others have grabbed the headlines, he has always been in position to spring a surprise on a race format he knows well and at the draft legal Oulton Park duathlon hosted by OP Events, he was in his element. For those not familiar with the rulebook, draft legal essentially means you are allowed to draft others, and road bikes only allowed (no clip-on tri bars allowed and restrictions on wheels are also enforced) James was right into the thick of things, recording a first run lap of under 17 minutes. His bike time was 37:10, good on a time trial bike but excellent without the benefit of an aero optimised position, and he put in one final strong shift on the last run lap to finish in a time of 1:15:10, good enough for 13th overall and a well deserved third in his age group. The Kirkby Milers 10 results are still very much incomplete at the time of writing due to an electrical storm which afflicted the timing system but Ian Wright was delighted to lead the club at Knowsley Safari Park, his time of 1:12:03 being less than a minute adrift of the time he set in much more favourable conditions last year, setting himself and the club up nicely for their second blue riband event of the autumn, the Rainford 10k, for which entries close on Thursday at midnight.

Storm St Helens hits Rome and the “Riviera”

Late September often signals the end of the triathlon season, but some club members are still pressing on with Ironman sanctioned races both at home and abroad. Gary Tomlinson was the first cab off the rank, or at least the start line, over the weekend as he took on Ironman Italy. On an emotional day for the sporting community, which saw ex-Formula 1 and Paralympic competitor Alex Zanardi capture the hearts of millions worldwide, Gary enjoyed his own day to remember as he was out of the water on under 85 minutes, and enjoyed the flat blasts through the Emilia-Romagna region to arrive at T2 within the 9:30 mark. A strong run solidified his position and he finished the race in 14:43:39, good enough for a place in the top 2,500. Closer to home, George and Lynette Houghton were once again on the OCR trail in a Wild Warrior race which they described as part obstacle, part swimming! Who would have thought that mastering kick and catch drills would help you in an obstacle race? Well, Lynette was first female home while George’s time of 65 minutes placed him in the top 10 of his class. The upcoming cross country season will no doubt be music to the ears of two of the club’s strongest all round athletes.

Sunday dawned in Weymouth for the start of Ironman 70.3 and the trio of Brian Diggle, Mark Eccleston, Kevin Dunbar and Lewis Shepherd woke to learn that due to the threat of high winds and driving rain, the swim had been halved in length to 950m. Kevin Dunbar has long been a strong runner and memorably surged over the line at Ironman Bolton earlier this year, but here, on the South Coast frequently referred to as the English Riviera, his swimming and biking really caught the eye, as he recorded 2:07/100m in the water and followed it up with an 18mph bike leg to lead the club home in under 5 hours 25 minutes. He was almost joined at the hip with Mark Eccleston who has effectively done two Ironmans this year if you count Staffordshire and Weymouth as one to go with Bolton. Mark was marginally in front out of the water and set a particularly notable sub-3 hour bike split but eventually Kevin caught his time on the run and it was Kevin who got the nod to the tune of just two seconds. Brian was actually in front of Kevin and Mark off the bike thanks to a stellar opening and middle segment but ultimately he had to give best to his teammates, nonetheless finishing in just and over six hours. Meanwhile Lewis was happy to finish the gruelling course in just over 6 hours 40 minutes following a good run where he ran impressively close to Brian’s pace.

There were no such worries for Debra Rayment who was racing a different middle distance event, hers being the Outlaw X in Nottingham. Her race was particularly notable for a 1900m swim around the 45 minute mark and a new half marathon PB as she marked a year since an ankle sprain with a gritty race to a time of just over six and a half hours, placing her in the top 200. On the other side of the Midlands Patrick Neill was following up last week’s run/bike special in Anglesey with the Crazy Legs Events Darley Moor Duathlon. Into the top 100 immediately out of the gate, he made up more than 20 places on the bike where he averaged close to 40kph for eight laps of the triangular circuit. His final 2.5km run of just over 10 minutes was a sparkling closing movement to another excellent performance as he took 92nd overall and 18th in his age group, rounding off another varied week of compelling stories and excellent results for the club. Next week’s signature events include the Kirkby Milers Knowsley 10 Mile Road Race and the Oulton Park Duathlon, while entries for the club’s own Rainford 10k are still available at the time of writing.

Almere, Anglesey and Ambleside – Epic Distance Season goes to Extra Time

At St Helens Tri, it is somewhat rare we run out of plaudits to bestow on a specific individual for their athletic achievements, but over the weekend the club saw another outstanding performance from Eddie Hirst at Challenge Almere. Held on the flat roads of the Netherlands, it offers the strong bikers a chance to make a break for it, something that is harder to achieve on the UK course. This would be the theme of Eddie’s race as he frequently recorded splits of close to 40kmh aboard his time trial bike. He planned his run to stay in Zone 1 with the Kona World Championships next month, but he still went under 3:45 for the marathon and placed an astonishing eighth in his category with a time of 10:04:12. A phenomenal achievement for the club’s most impressive and consistent athlete.

Closer to home, two triathlon festivals were taking place in Anglesey and Brighton. Patrick Neill overcame a virus to take seventh overall, and third in his category, at the Sandman Duathlon and he was joined by Mal Balmer who got off to a very good start in the Classic Triathlon which features a fairly flat bike course and a run through the woods finishing on the beach. His sub-20 minute 1000m swim was followed by a fine performance on the bike of just over 1:50 and a sub-50 minute 10k through the forest lifted him to 46th at the finish, while Paul Mcgregor rounded out an epic year of half and full distance triathlon with a time of just over six and a half hours in the Legend event, Mere seconds away from the top 100. On the south coast it was a somewhat chaotic race as Lynette Houghton, Myka Heard and Steve Williams were aiming once again for GB age group qualification in the draft legal sprint race. However, a crash on the bike course in an earlier wave meant that the trio were stuck in transition and though all finished the race, adjusted times are still being finalised at the time of writing. It wasn’t all long distance trips as Stephen Bolton took on his third triathlon in 10 days in Wilmslow, where he was joined by Chris Murphy, a long time club member and regular photographer at the Manchester Cross Country League races. Despite feeling like “the heaviest legs he’s had” on the run course Stephen’s recent experience proved key in enabling him to hold on for 61st place and a top 8 in his age group, with a particularly impressive bike split speeding him to a time of 1:30:58. Chris clawed some time back on Stephen on the run course, eventually coming home just over four minutes on arrears with 1:35:21.

For single sport events it was a tale of two races in Windermere and Hoylake. At the Epic Lakes Swim finale near Ambleside Mark Eccleston capped off an amazing endurance year with his first ever 5,000m swim, well over Iron distance. He has focused on stamina over speed since Ironman in July and it paid off as he finished the longest Epic Swim on the calendar in 1:54:11, with Andy Devaynes finishing around a quarter of an hour behind. In the mile race Tony Waine completed his “season subscription” to the “classic” distance with another solid sub 40 time. Over on the Wirral Peninsula Diane Taktak was on tour with the Isabella Rose Foundation, though she was running for St Helens Tri. Here, she completed the part tarmac, part grass course in under 65 minutes to round off a fine weekend of racing with star turns coming from Eddie for Almere, Mark at the Epic Swim and Patrick for his gritty effort in Anglesey. Next week’s offerings include the North West Triathlon at Barony Park in Nantwich and the Kendal Triathlon in the South Lakes as well as the Southport Seaside 10k. A backlog of postponed races also bunched the junior season into three successive Sundays from 15-29 September; an all-in junior column will be released separately at the end of the month.

The Saints Showpiece 2019 – #BeatShaleyBrow Edition

Five club members took the short trip north to Capernwray, near Lancaster, for the T2 Events midweek series season finale. James Nairn has regularly featured early in the weekly reports without ever quite being the one to lead the club home, but here he was star of the show, as his sub-14 minute swim and a pair of very fast transitions were pivotal in establishing himself at the front of the club cohort, and 21st overall with 4th in his category was a fine reward. Next up was Stephen Bolton, who only joined the club midway through the season and has bean a regular at the pool and open water sessions over the last two months. Here, he was warming up for the St Helens Triathlon with his first ever outing for the club, and a superb 36 minute 20k bike was key to him finishing in a time of 1:18:14 just a handful of seconds away from the top 30. Robert Courtley was not far behind as he put in a terrific performance in the water, however he had to give best to his teammates on the bike, nevertheless finishing in the top six in his age group. Team Taktak were able to go for it and not worry about the big show in town at the weekend as they would be among the many valued contributors to enabling the club’s flagship event to run smoothly. Azzam’s sub-13 minute swim and a promising bike split lifted him to 52nd overall less than half a minute away from the top 50, while Sarah set the only sub-10 minute swim of the Famous Five, eventually finishing 61st in 1:28:23, good enough to take another age group win to store in her impressive trophy cabinet.

Four days later the club’s biggest race of the entire year rolled into town at the fourth running of the St Helens Triathlon held at Eccleston Mere. The race offered sprint and standard distance options; the former including one lap of the Mere, a lap of the bike route and a single lap run round Rainford, simply going to two laps per discipline for the longer option. In the sprint distance it was a fairly spread out race at the head of the field, but Emma Austin, fresh from returning from Lausanne, was out of the water right at the front of the overall field and her huge improvements in bike strength meant that she had more than enough in hand on the run to finish third overall, easily winning the ladies’ race outright to boot. Equally impressive was Mark Derbyshire, who broke out at last month’s Manley Mere Triathlon. Here, in a far less chaotic race, he was out of the lake in exactly 15 minutes, and although he left it too late to catch Emma he still took fifth at the line, winning the M40 category. He was just over a minute ahead of bike specialist Peter Leadbeater, who was third-quickest of anyone on the bike course and briefly looked like edging the intraclub battle, but in the end Mark’s much improved running form proved to be the difference. Sam Walton is always in the mix for fastest swim time and here he was once again, flying round the Mere in under 12 minutes, while he notably recorded the fastest T2 time of anyone which proved to be crucial in determining which of the club’s up and coming talents would follow Emma home; Sam finished 11th just over a minute ahead of George Houghton, wiith the pair sandwiching Brian Diggle who positively starred on his debut for the club; 12th place being a good first outing any day of the week, but an outstanding one set against the backdrop of his planned Ironman 70.3 debut at the end of the month! Also finishing in the top 20 were Stephen Bolton, nicely recovered after his trip to Capernwray, David Mellor, another promising debutant, and Carole James, who knocked over a minute off her Manley Mere swim time and was particularly impressive on the run. Behind Carole a furious battle was on between Chris and Bethany Forber, with Chris ahead as they left T2 but Bethany starring both in the photos (Helen Broderick’s photography and encouraging words getting the credit here) and on the 5k as she overhauled Chris to lead the family home. The complete results including the club’s remaining finishers are available to view at https://www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=194217 where the sprint and standard results are listed in full.

In an exciting standard race, which saw former St Helens Tri member Sam Wardle win a thrilling battle with Alex Ward and Steve Hall for the overall victory, recent new member Dominic Pike led the current crop of Saints home, coming home just over five minutes ahead of his usual Friday night “partner in crime” Callum Bishop, as he asserted his authority on the race early doors with a blistering swim, followed it up with a bike time just over 75 minutes and rounded things off with a sub-36 10k. It was a close run thing between Mark Ashton and Dave Connor, as Mark edged ahead in the lake and put some serious daylight between him and Dave on the bike. A furious last-ditch effort on the run was enterprising but ultimately came up short for Dave as the pair finished 12th and 13th separated by just over half a minute. The next trio of Chris Connor, Neil Prescott and Paul Austin chopped and changed like an arcade slot machine as Paul held a big lead over his teammates in the water, but Neil and Chris battled past Paul on the bike and in the end it was a superior 10k from Chris that made the different as he grabbed a top-15 place to boot. There were plenty of highlights throughout the field, including Louise Johnson using her recent experience of long, tough, hilly bike rides to take second female home, and a welcome return for Gary Birch, who has made a name for himself at half and full distance Ironman races over the last few years, but here completed the course in under two hours 50 minutes enjoying a good battle with Paul Booth in the process. Another notable performance came from Chris Hayes, completing his first full season with the club, as he recorded his best 10k run performance to date elevating him into the top 50. Ultimately it was an exciting day of racing on the local lanes marred but the aforementioned accident for Kevin Dudley, but the club nonetheless did itself proud with valued contributions coming not only from those who participated but also the BeUrBest team, Rainford High Technology College and club members who gave their Sunday mornings to help with marshalling, the T2 drinks station and take photos. Next week’s main events are the final Epic Lakes Swim of the season at Windermere and the South Manchester Triathlon hosted by OP Events, while the Rainford 10k is just four weeks away and entries are still available at the time of writing.