St Helens Tri got off to a storming start in the first two weeks of August, and how timely it could prove with the club relays only twelve days away. On the first day of the month Richard Seville, Paul Booth and Emma Callery made the trip to Capernwray for the last of the midweek evening triathlons hosted by Epic Events. The trio were remarkably evenly matched in the water coming out of the lake less than five seconds apart, but on the bike course Richard pulled away brilliantly on his Giant Propel and a run which went tantalizingly close to beating the 20 minute mark saw him ease to first club member home and 12th overall in a time of 1:05:28. Paul and Emma were very evenly matched on the run course but ultimately Paul’s quicker bike split proved decisive as he rolled home 35th in 1:11:11, Emma placing 66th some four and a half minutes further back. For those wishing to return to this iconic venue in north Lancashire, it is worth noting that the aptly-named Fireworks 500 (metres) open water swim takes place on the evening of November 3rd, the Saturday before Bonfire Night. It was very much the second coming of the Three Amigos three days later at Capel Curig in north Wales as the second round of the Always Aim High events adventure triathlon series rolled into town. Among the many competitors in this ever popular race were Sarah and Azzam Taktak plus John Baden, for whom this event has become something of an annual favourite. Azzam Taktak was the first club member home in a time of 1:52:21 as his Ironman strength proved decisive on such a tough course but Sarah stole the limelight as she was out of the water in a little over eight minutes, put in a much improved bike performance in comparison with previous races and held firm on the run to win the female under 23 division and crossing the line just a minute behind her dad! It was also a welcome return to form for John Baden whose customary big effort on the bike course was rewarded with a time of 2:00:43 placing him just outside the top 100.
The following weekend was characterised by four contrasting events; the Howgills Triathlon and ETU Sprint Championships in Glasgow on the Saturday, and the Leigh 10k and Preston 10 mile road race on the Sunday. First to race were the hardy souls attempting the Howgills event, one of the toughest sprint triathlons in the country with an out-and-back bike course split between the east edge of the Lake District and the western fringes of the Yorkshire Dales; few courses are as fast as they are scenic (or vice versa) so it is am absolute treat to be able to experience such an adrenaline rush if given the opportunity. Charlie Stirrup certainly made the most of it, as he was right back into the thick of things in a year when he has not featured as frequently as in the past, but has always come up with standout results on race days. Saturday’s outing was no different; his bike performances have been strong for a good few seasons now but here it was his running to the top of Howgills Fell and back which caught the eye, as he powered his way into the top 10 to lead the club home, an excellent result. Mark Eccleston continued his post-Ironman tour of the North West with a fine run to 46th place while Cheryl Pace ran Mark very close in the pool and actually took a minute and a half out of him on the run course, however Mark’s experience on the bike proved the difference as the pair were split by around ten minutes. Also racing was Lynette Houghton, who has been a star performer at many a swim and OCR race since joining the club. Here, she outpaced Mark and Cheryl in the water and got close to them on both the bike and run courses, as she marked her first sprint triathlon with a top 80 placing and a time of 2:29:14.
Meanwhile a Fab Four of Myka Heard, Shirley Fox, Mal Balmer and Steve Williams were up in Glasgow for the ETU Sprint Distance Triathlon Championships. They enjoyed two days of familiarisation to get used to the tricky, technical course and on Saturday they were set off to compete with the best of Europe once again. Mal and Myka were always going to end up with solid midfield finishes thanks to their natural swimming ability and Shirley Fox has improved immeasurably on the bike over the course of the past year, but Steve Williams once again stole the show as he was the second quickest on the bike and came very close to snatching second place, but eventually had to settle for bronze. Nevertheless, two podiums in two European championships three weeks apart cemented Steve’s place as the most inspirational member of 2018 and a near-certainty to win many awards at the next club prize giving. Lee Stinch and Diane Taktak rounded the weekend off the following morning with Lee coming out of nowhere to “sprint” ten miles in Preston and finish in the top 50 with a time of 1:14:22 (anything less than 20 miles in Lee’s book counts as a sprint distance) while Diane recorded one of her best times in a long while at the Leigh Community 10k where she finished in under 59 minutes to round off a fantastic fortnight of racing with the star performances coming from Sarah for her win at Capel Curig, Steve for yet another podium finish in the European Championships and Lee Stinch for his sub-75 minute time at the Preston 10. Next week’s schedule features the Semer Water lake swim and the Birchwood 10k, which comes just days before the start of the August Bank Holiday Weekend, where some choose Creamfields, others visit the Ormskirk Motorfest………and at St Helens Tri we go racing in the National Club Relays at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham!