St Helens Tri members have been competing in various Team GB qualifier events with distinction recently and two more races over the Bank Holiday weekend relatively at new multisport venues offered yet another chance to represent their country on the European and World stages. Mal Balmer and Jennifer Pybis made the trip to Barry Island (which is actually a peninsula in Glamorgan) for an ITU draft legal sprint triathlon with a sea swim, a multi-lap draft legal bike course and a 5k run with sea views. Mal had a bit of a fight of it in the water but quick transitions helped him overcome some tough competitors on the bike and run stages and he eventually finished in 1:30:56, good enough for 23rd super veteran. However, Jennifer positively starred; for someone not used to sea swimming she was into the thick of things like she had been doing it for years, and her much improved bike performance and traditional rapid finish on the run gave her a time of 1:22:20 and lifted her into the top 15 senior ladies on the day before breakdown into 5-year age groups; it is to be seen whether this translates into team GB qualification for next year’s championships in Edmonton, Canada.
If conditions weren’t exactly ideal for sea swimming in South Wales, up north (or at least in the East Midlands) they were positively inhopsitable for club reporter Robert Chesters and the hordes who came from all over the UK to take part in what could have been viewed as an unofficial national championship race; with Oulton Park rarely featuring as a local qualifier nowadays and Bedford Autodrome hosting the other two 2020 ETU qualification races, Darley Moor near Ashbourne, Derbyshire is perhaps the best-kept secret for those whose swimming is not up to the same level as their other two disciplines. Darley Moor Circuit is best known for hosting motorcycle races and in essence is a straight triangle shape with a couple of chicanes, and this made for tricky going on both the run course, held around the gravel paths at the circuit perimeter, and the 8-lap bike segment which was Robert’s first opportunity to test a new position on his bike. The first run was hard going for many, especially those relying on compression gear toaid bloodflow, and as such Robert reached the pit lane outside the top 30, but an imcreasingly quick bike stage on what was fast becoming a river more than a racetrack saw him move up the order as others faded and a top-10 final run split enabled him to pull off some critical overtakes landing him sixth in the M35-39 category, which will hopefully put him into position for a wildcard slot next year’s ETU duathlon championships, for which the date and venue are yet to be confirmed.
Five more members stayed closer to home and tackled the Liverpool Rock n Roll Half Marathon. A favourite among many local running clubs, the Run Rock n Roll series has grown in popularity since its inception in America and now boasts multiple events in countries all over the world. For St Helens Tri Chris Dyson was making his half marathon debut alongside Neil Wallace, Diane and Azzam Taktak and Karen Kelly and the quintet shone through conditions every bit as difficult as those at Darley Moor. While Neil led the club home in a time of 1:50:37, the resurgence of Azzam continued after his spectacular return to form at the Spring 10k earlier this month. Here, he was in his element and having only been hoping for a sub-2 hour time he went and smashed the target by over three minutes, clocking an excellent 1:56:44 in possibly the performance of the weekend. Chris got in some valuable training miles ahead of his half Ironman distance debut next week in Chester as he got round in 2:16:29, and it was actually a close run thing to the line as he found himself sandwiched between Diane, who came in 27 seconds ahead and Karen, with the trio finishing just over two and a half minutes apart. All in all, an exciting Bank Holiday weekend had by all who competed with star turns coming at all three race venues. Next weekend the month of June begins with the Deva middle distance and the Epicman Windermere while the Leeds ITU Triathlon takes place a week later at Roundhay Park as the final build stretch towards Ironman UK begins in earnest.