Junior Joy, Super Swimmers and Middle Distance Masters – Pre-World Cup Weekend Part 2

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St Helens Tri juniors have enjoyed back-to-back racing weekends in the North Lancashire area during the first half of June and come away with some encouraging results. On the weekend when most club members were in Chester at the Deva Triathlon, Holly Hirst and Harriet King made the trip to the north west’s own Varsity City for the City of Lancaster Junior Triathlon. Holly raced in the T2 event and made stead progress through the field to place 11th in a time of 28:42. However, Harriet stole the show with an emphatic victory in the youth race; it was a close run thing with her rivals out of the water but she put the race away on the bike course and could afford to relax a little on the run, even then she won by 90 seconds, a truly dominant performance.

The following weekend saw several of the club’s young stars make the trip to the Fylde for the Blackpool Trawlerman Triathlon held at Palatine Leisure Centre. This is a unique event as it aims to simulate the open water experience by having the competitors swim round buoys in a pool, followed by a cycle track for the bike stage and a fast flat run to finish. Harriet King, fresh from her heroics in Lancaster the previous week, was in a fierce battle for much of the race with a rival from Rochdale and the pair traded positions throughout the early going. In the end her rival pulled away on the run but a second successive podium finish was still a great return on a fortnight’s work. Grace and Holly Hirst enjoyed a family day out and both showed good signs of progress, Grace finishing with a flourish to narrowly miss out on a place in the top 20 at T1 level while Holly edged a battle to the line in the T2 race to claim 20th position. It was also a welcome return for Reuben Wilson who showed consistent pace across all three disciplines and demonstrated the importance of working on previous weaknesses to match Grace’s 21st position in the T2 Boys event.

While the Leeds ITU weekend was the focal point for St Helens Tri senior members last week, many more took on a variety of challenges starting with the great Swim in Lake Windermere. The venue hit the local news over the weekend on the topic of leisure and tourism but there were plenty of “tourists” taking part in perhaps the biggest mass participation swim in the country. Among the entrants were seven St Helens Tri members divided neatly into three “families”. The interesting life and times of Kevin Dunbar continued here as his armbands to Ironman journey took a giant step forward finishing the 1 mile swim in 44:44, and remember until last year’s Kendal Triathlon he had never even competed in a pool swim let alone a lake. The Forbers also had a day out to remember, with Christine putting in an outstanding performance to break the 32 minute mark while Bethany not only beat 40 minute but knocked a staggering 25 minutes off her time from last year. Perhaps the most heartening story was that of Molli Forber who has only just taken up competition and has already completed various running races for the Isabella Rose Foundation. Here, with St Helens Tri, she was joined by her dad Michael and completed the mile in a time of 46:58, an amazing achievement. In addition we had Steve and Wendy Webb taking on the 2 mile race and finishing in 1 hour 23 minutes and they were joined in the longer event by Meg Cowley who opened her 2018 racing account by finishing the tough course in 1:48:21 displaying true grit by hanging on in there when so many lacked the mental strength to get over the line.

There was plenty more happening up north over the weekend including the Keswick Mountain Festival where Neil Hunter, who has recently joined the club from Liverpool Phoenix, took part in the 25km trail race and cracked the top 200 in a strong field of 550 runners, a good result any day but a great one coming off the back of the St Begas Ultra. At the same festival we had Chris Wynne and Philip Hughes competing in the half Ironman distance, one of the most scenic in the country. They actually finished remarkably close on position and must have seen quite a bit of each other out on the course as they traded places in the early going but eventually Chris pulled well clear on the run stage to go top 20 in the super-vets race. Meanwhile, south of the Cumbria-Lancashire border, the EpicMan middle distance was the latest instalment in the Epic Events calendar which now boasts over 50 races. A very competitive field assembled for this increasingly popular race and the participants were treated to a scenic cycle ride over the Trough of Bowland plus a fair few “characters” on the run course who wouldn’t look out of place on the climbs of the Tour de France but Neil Jackson led the way for St Helens Tri finishing in the top 100 as he completed one of the toughest half Ironman distances in the country with a time of 6:31:47 and Ryan Hume was not too far behind either finishing in 6:50:19.

For those who wants the official “half Ironman” experience, however, there is little to rival the atmosphere of Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and it has only increased in stature and popularity since the organisers re-routed the run course to finish at Market Square in Stafford town centre. Three athletes from St Helens Tri made the short trip south to the Potteries County with Nick Hall, veteran of pretty much every triathlon distance, leading the trio home and feeling “a little bit chuffed” as he put it, finishing in 7:30:50 while recent newbie Steve Martin was joined by the inspirational Robert Saile; here, there was little to split the pair and they overcame the hot and humid conditions to cross the line in under eight and a half hours. Meanwhile George Houghton, fresh from his second place in Nottinghamshire, took on a second OCR race in as many days at the Hero Assault Course in Preston where he placed third, while his mum Lynette won the ladies race to round off another weekend for the senior members where the star turns came from Team Forber at the Great Swim, Neil Jackson at the Epicman and Nick Hall at Ironman 70.3. Later this week a junior triathlon round-up will follow covering the City of Lancaster and Trawlerman triathlons held over the first two weekends of June.

 

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