The first weekend of September brought a quieter schedule than the August Bank Holiday bonanza but there was still several sources of cheer for St Helens Tri to enjoy. At the Sundowner Triathlon in Pocklington, North Yorkshire Charlie Stirrup and Gary Birch were out in force fighting high temperatures and testing crosswinds throughout the race. Charlie made use of his tight aero position to finish in a time of 5:24:10 leaving him just outside the top 100 overall while Gary opted for a cyclocross bike which apparently was an interesting experience in the shifting side winds but he still put in a good performance, narrowly missing out on a sub-6:30 time finishing as he did just as the festivities began on the banks of the lake at Allerthorpe Park.
One would be forgiven for thinking that the winter mud racing season had begun, or at least we were in preseason mode, as two off-road races took centre stage on the Sunday. Jennifer Miller was the sole club representative at the St Helens Dream Trail Race and was rewarded with a finishing time of 1:07:25 which placed her 117th. Meanwhile Lynette and George Houghton were back to their obstacle course racing after a few weeks away on their less familiar terrain also known as tarmac. Here, they were taking part in the Wolf 10k, and extremely muddy early autumn race full of tough obstacles and even some muddy water to have to swim through! Clearly their experience of the Nottingham club relays held them in good stead for that part of the course as George finished in the top 10 overall in 1 hour 9 minutes and Lynette’s time of 1 hour 15 was good enough for second female on the day.
Onto the next week and three events took centre stage, two being in Lancashire, the third in deepest Wales. Close to home we had the Lancaster Triathlon and the Wigan 10k. While results from Lancaster are not yet available at the time of writing, the streets of Wigan were treated to a very competitive race featuring thousands of runners from all over the North West. Six St Helens Tri members took part, with Andrew Bridge, in his first 10k for seven years, being first home, commendably breaking the 45 minute mark clocking 44:33 which put him in the top 10 for his age category. Neil Hunter, fresh from the South Cheshire 20 mile last week, his sub-46 time placing him 227th overall. As good as their performances were, in many ways the performance of George Houghton was better still; here we joined his mum Lynette on one of the few weekends when they were not racing OCR or a long open water swim, and in his first 10k he starred with an excellent 49:29 placing him in the top 500, while his mum recorded a 57:25 and with a bit more luck would have sneaked into the top 1000 finishers. Also racing for St Helens Tri were Helen Broderick and Diane Taktak, with Helen coming him in 52:02 just over nine minutes ahead of her teammate.
The big road trip of the weekend was Ironman Wales, where Eddie Hirst and Andy Fisher took on an increasingly popular alternative to the UK edition, because it offers an ideal opportunity for those who want a longer build-up, while also taking in some picturesque scenery which more than makes up for the fact that it is one of the hardest Ironman courses in the world. Eddie Hirst had a fraught start to his day when the bike mechanic snapped a valve on his tyre trying to pump it up to maximum pressure and then had someone run into him during the sea swim knocking his goggles which meant he never quite got full sight of the course from there on. Despite this, he was out of the water in 67 minutes having averaged 1:46 per 100m. He was out on the bike before 8:30am and some particularly speeding pedalling just after the halfway point propelled him to a bike time under 6:30, good anywhere but excellent on such a hilly course. On the run he nursed a tightening hamstring and ran conservatively for a while before stretching his legs to finishing the marathon in just over four hours, his final time of 11:44:18 placing him in the top 40 for his age category. Andy Fisher ran Eddie close in the water and showed much improvement on the bike course, his recent speed work for the club relays really paying dividends, and while he dropped back from Eddie on the run, some judicious use of the aid stations allowed him to cross the line to huge cheers from several club members who made the trip down to Haverfordwest, as he finished in 15:10:37 placing him 1683rd overall. The racing over the next few weeks reverts back to rather shorter formats for the most part, with the exception of the Warrington Half Marathon, but with sprint triathlons in Kendal, Wilmslow and Nantwich between now and the end of the month it promises to be a classic sprint finish to another successful season.