Lighting up the Lakes, Cruising round Cardiff and Blazing round Birmingham

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The month of June has been very much the month of long distance triathlon for St Helens Tri and the third weekend was marked not only by Father’s Day but also by the Lakesman triathlon in Keswick, a fairly flat course ideal for novices and experienced triathletes alike. In the 2018 edition St Helens Tri had two entrants with Peter Jones and Will Bardin enjoying a superb  battle in the half Ironman race. Peter made the early break in the water to get out of the lake 24 seconds ahead but Will had a quicker first transition to get a handy advantage on the bike course. However, Peter pulled past once again on the fast roads around Keswick and cemented his position on the run to finish his first half Ironman in an excellent 5:28:24, around eighteen minutes clear of his teammate. Meanwhile down south we had Tony Doyle competing in the Shrewsbury Half Marathon, a single lap race starting and finishing at the Shropshire County Showground. Tony was more than equal to the task and marked Father’s Day with a fine run to a time of 2:11:53 while closer to home Diane Taktak took part in the Port Sunlight 10k hosted by BTR Liverpool and was not too far off her PB, as she finished in 58:29 while also placing in the top 15 in her age category.

The following weekend was a far busier affair with the seniors racing in Cardiff, Cheshire, Coniston and Birmingham while the juniors took part in the Denbigh Triathlon. Much has been written in recent months about Harriet King leading the juniors by example and the breakout graduations of Emma Austin and Sarah Taktak to the senior ranks. But almost unnoticed has been the rise of Charley Devaynes. She made the trip over the border into Wales on Saturday to participate in the Denbigh Junior Triathlon, a prelude to the senior’s event the following day. Hosted by Ruthin Tri Stars, it is an under appreciated midsummer classic with plenty of hills and technical sections for competitors to deal with. Charley took part in the 2017 edition but here she knocked an excellent four minutes off her time from 12 months ago to finish in 1 hour 27 minutes and is looking forward to more over the remainder of the season. Her father Andy was one of several club members to tackle the Coniston Triathlon the following morning as the Epic Events season kicked into a higher gear. One of the most scenic triathlons in the UK, it has gone from strength to strength in recent years as it has developed a reputation as a truly thrilling course to race on. Andy made up a lot of ground over the course of the race, gaining strength where others fell back in the heat and finished the testing course in a time of 2:58:40. Ahead of him on the road were speedy swimmer Kevin Dudley and fast finisher Mike Gregory; Kevin’s time of 2:40:29 was good enough for a top 30 placing while Mike edged his duel with Andy to finish just over a minute ahead of his teammate. Rob Preston also shadowed the duel ahead of him for much of the race, before dropping back on the run course to finish 126th in a time of 3:16:10. However, the standout performance of the day came from Andrew Mcglone, who has only recently joined the club from Kirkby Milers. He starred with a sub-25 minute swim, only just missed out on a sub-1:20 bike split and confirmed his star credentials by beating the 45 minute mark on the run to finish 21st overall. Enjoying a rather shorter event was Sean Dalby who went to the prestigious venue of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire for the triathlon festival where he took part in the super sprint distance. Sean’s race was similar to that of Andy at Coniston where he made up considerable ground over the course of the race, eventually finishing 62nd in a time of 1:23:13.

Two events further south made up the rest of the club’s schedule for World Cup Sunday as four members took on the ITU World Championship Qualifier at the Suunto Cardiff Sprint Triathlon hosted by Always Aim High Events. After a mad rush to get his road bike for what was a draft legal event, David Gaskell came up trumps as the first St Helens tri member home; he has always been quick in the water and on the bike but here it was his run that caught the eye, as he pulled off an excellent time of 1:12:15, not quite enough for a top 10 age group placing but a fine result nonetheless. Jennifer Pybis recorded the club’s highest age group place in the Welsh capital as she shadowed David out of the water, and while he edged away on the bike her run time was very comparable to that of her more experienced teammate as she took fifth in the F30-34 category while going under 75 minutes. Myka Heard and Helen Broderick also took part, the pair being fairly evenly matched on the bike course as they revel on their new speed machines but in the end the gap Myka pulled out in the water together with a good comeback run proved to be decisive as she finished in a time of 1:22:47, just over four minutes ahead.

Two club members took the road slightly less travelled, at least in St Helens Tri terms (not in that of Spaghetti Junction) and made the trip to the Midlands for the Birmingham Sprint Triathlon, the latest instalment in the UK Triathlon series. Held at Sutton Park just south of the city centre, it comprises a lap in what is known as “Sutton Pool”, four laps on the bike round the tight but traffic-free confines on Sutton Park and a two-lap off-road run round the trails and “beaches” which the race director described as the best run course on the UKT calendar. Racing for St Helens Tri were Robert Chesters and Paddy Lee, starting half an hour apart in different age group waves. For Robert it was a much more comfortable swim after getting lost at Roundhay Park, and once on the bike course it was time to make up as many positions as possible against the fast swimmers. This was not easy when the course is sometimes not wide enough for mode than two bikes side by side (all while hearing the spectators cheer the riders on as though they are in the Tour de France), but Robert was off the bike and onto the run course well inside the top 10 and the only sub-19 minute run of the day plus a thrilling sprint finish against a competitor from the next age group up sealed the M30-34 age group title, his first in open water, as well as 4th overall in a time of 1:14:46, while Paddy managed to keep his head where others got distracted by the presence of cows trying to cross the run course as he finished in 1:22:22, second in his age group and 18th overall as well as setting the fastest bike split in the M50-54 division to round off a cracking fortnight of racing around the country with star turns aplenty, not only from the dynamic duo in Birmingham but also from Peter Jones for his first half Ironman and Jennifer Pybis for her top-5 age group placing in Cardiff. Next weekend, as the second half of 2018 begins, attentions turn to the Ripon and Ullswater triathlons in the first two weekends, followed by the biggest event of the multisport year, Ironman UK, on 15 July.

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