The month of July was rounded off for St Helens Tri in style as the club achieved numerous successes across the UK in running, long distance open water swimming and triathlons at a variety of locations. Azzam Taktak was first to roll on the Tuesday night time trial at Rainford and despite having had only a week to recover after his heroics at Ironman UK he still managed to go comfortably under 29 minutes and set the tone for a weekend where team days out would very much be the order of the day. On Saturday Lynette and George Houghton did a little recce of the venue for the upcoming club relays, namely the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham, where the BlueSeventy Big Swim was being held. Lynette competed in the 5k distance and crossed the line in well under two hours, but George stole the limelight with a terrific performance at 2.5km level where he not only recorded a time of 46:21 but also won his age category; their respective teams for August 25th will no doubt take heart from their performances and see this as an ideal opportunity to make up early ground on a triathlon course where passing on the bike stage is notoriously difficult.
On the Sunday the club was well represented at three diverse events, two close to home, the third on the North Sea coast. The first of the more familiar locales was Aintree Racecourse where there was a choice of 5k, 10 and half marathons on offer. Clearly nobody told some poor unfortunate that the 10k involved two laps (not one) because he crossed the line in second place only to be disqualified. It’s rare that such an occurrence happens and even more unlikely that it would benefit a member of St Helens Tri, but Mark Turner had already been fourth over the line, or so he thought, only to get promoted onto the podium when he was informed of the aforementioned disqualification and as such his new PB of 37:35 placed his third, just 16 seconds adrift of the runner-up! Meanwhile Diane Taktak managed to get into the race at the last minute and performed very well in her first 10k since Port Sunlight in the middle of June; with better conditions she would certainly have dipped under the hour with room to spare. At the Manchester end of the M62 a few multisport regulars, including two who only recently competed at Ironman UK, were at the MediaCity complex for the Salford Triathlon. In the sprint distance we had Mark Eccleston, fresh from his awesome result in Bolton. His swim and bike speed were certainly not affected despite the rain and strong winds plaguing the race, and while he had to drop a little of his usual pace on the run course he was still more than satisfied with his time of 1:24:18 which placed him 52nd overall. Patrick Neill was flying in the standard distance, completing the 1500m swim in a little over 26 minutes, and he continued to make up places on the bike course as well. As per Mark, he was not quite at his usual pace on the run but his 2:31:02 still put him into the top 40, while just up the road from him Andrew McGlone, who has starred at various standard and half Ironman distance races in recent months, was flying through the water as he was into T1 in just 21:18. Eight increasingly quick bike laps followed, and a well-drilled T2 launched him into four consistent run loops placing him 26th overall in a time of 2:27:04.
In the North East the club had several GB qualification regulars at the Redcar Sprint Triathlon hosted by TriHarder events. There was considerable doubt in the days leading up to the race as to whether the swim would have to be cancelled and replaced with 2.5km run but in the event the full race was run. Che Heard was quickest club member on the day as he performed his usual trick of getting to the front during the swim, rolling with the leaders in the front pack during the bike stage and keeping as good a form as possible on the tricky run course. This netted him 72nd place in a time of 1:10:36 as he edged a close duel with Dave Gaskell for first club member home, Dave nonetheless placing the top six at M50-54 level. Emma Austin has featured at the sharp end of the big races all year long and Redcar was no exception, a rapid swim and a much improved bike performance on her new racing machine propelling her to 2nd in her category and third in the BTF 17-20 development race. She was just over two minutes ahead of her dad Paul, who had the now-legendary Steve Williams to chase down in the final stages, as the pair were separated by just twelve seconds at the finish despite Paul making up over a minute on his illustrious teammate during the 5k run. It has been said before “change nothing – nothing changes” and perhaps the best example all weekend was that of Myka Heard, who has been focusing on improving bike speed and strength in recent months. It paid off brilliantly as she set the fastest bike split in her age group, indeed the only sub-40 minute time, which lifted her to third in her category less than two minutes adrift of the winner, while Pete Leadbeater, who has only recently joined the club, made up a lot of time from the opening leg with a particularly fast 5k run to finish less than two minutes behind Myka and round off a suitably varied weekend where the star performances came from George in Nottingham, Mark in Aintree, Andrew in Salford and Emma on the North Sea coast. As the calendar turns to August, the first signature race of the month is the Snowman Sprint in Capel Curig, North Wales while the month is rounded off on Bank Holiday weekend with the club relays in Nottingham