It was very much one of those weekends when it was as if the club was on a mission to send as many people as possible to as many different events as possible for global takeover, as St Helens Tri were represented throughout the UK and Europe. Bala was the central focus for a couple of juniors as George Doyle and Holly Hirst took part in a national standard triathlon at TS3 level. George was out of the water in 7:15 then posted a top-10 bike split, and his run was good enough to land him in the top 25 boys in his age group. Meanwhile Holly gained ground throughout the race, finishing with a particularly encouraging run split lifting her to a 27th place finish in the girls’ event. The following day Jennifer Pybis was the club’s sole representative in the sprint distance race and clearly benefitted from her confidence boost at the SWYD ITU qualifier as she used her trademark run speed to lift herself to seventh in her age group, finishing in just over 1 hour 10 minutes and mere seconds away from a top-six finish. Holly’s dad Eddie made the dash from mid-Wales to Kent to race on the Sunday at the Leeds Castle Triathlon where once again ITU championship places were on offer. Similar to the Cholmondeley Triathlon weekend, the picturesque setting offered a lake swim, a fast bike course and a mainly off-road run, and Eddie was more than up to the task despite facing a non-wetsuit swim (the water temperatures being no less than 25c). His cross country experience was particularly useful on the 10k run on freshly cut grass (pass the hayfever tablets!) as he eventually placed sixth in his category which leaves him in prime position to take one of the GB slots for the world championships.
The remaining multisport focus was very much on a tale of two Ironmans, Richard Seville in Frankfurt and Stephen Webb in Norway. Richard faced conditions even hotter than Eddie in Kent as temperatures hit 38c, more inhospitable than what he faced last year in Austria. This year’s Frankfurt event also incorporated the European Championships and as such Richard was mighty relieved not to face too much pressure knowing that there would be high attrition. IN the event he raced superbly, as he was out of the water well up the field before averaging a stonking 31kmh on the bike course, all those early morning solo rides paying dividends. The run was tough for all but Richard handled it brilliantly and he finished in an astounding 12:13:24, good enough for 141st out of 453 in his age group and easily in the top 1000 overall, a good result at any Ironman but excellent in a championship race. If Richard was being baked alive, Stephen was contemplating a post-race trip to the treatment centre for frostbite as driving hailstones and lightning plagued the Haugesund course. However, Stephen completed the swim in a little over 90 minutes and somehow held it together on the bike to reach T2 in one piece. From there he ran at a steady six minutes per kilometre for the 42.2k and as such was delighted to beat the 13:30 mark by just 35 seconds, an outstanding achievement.
While Richard and Stephen were facing the elements in Europe, three club members stayed closer to home and ran the Southport Half Marathon and 10k hosted by Epic Events. This race is now a firm favourite for many local running clubs, not least because it is a flat and fast course down Lord Street, although the 2019 edition would also feature a nasty headwind in the second half of the race (and the type of headwind that doesn’t actually cool you down). While club reporter Robert Chesters took pictures at the Bold Hotel and enjoyed an easy like Sunday morning breakfast, Caroline Bones and Jennifer Reeve tackled the 13.1 miler and Mark Derbyshire came up with perhaps the under-the-radar result of the weekend. Caroline and Jennifer started and finished together in the half marathon as they rolled into Victoria Park after just over two and a half hours of gritty effort, but Mark (pictured below) was something of a revelation. He has plenty of recent history in half and full Ironman races, but here he was in his element from the off, even getting the opportunity to wave at Robert taking his picture! At the halfway point, before the headwind cut in, he was looking good for a sub-46 minute time and a top-50 finish. Despite not keeping the same pace in the second half (on a day when negative splits would have proved near impossible anyway) he still managed to make up a few places towards the end, and his final time of 45:45 and a 42nd place finish (seventh in his age group) was a fitting reward for one of the club’s most valued contributors. He wasn’t the only one taking on a 10k either as Diane Taktak joined friends from the Isabella Rose Foundation to compete in the Preesall 10k on the Fylde Coast, raising money for the Lancashire Fire and Rescue service. Quite how the marshals in firefighter’s uniforms didn’t catch heatstroke in the warm temperatures and breezy conditions is anyone’s guess, but in any case Diane showed no signs of any fatigue from her busy 2019 race schedule as she finished in 51st recording a 1:02:25, to round off a weekend of racing pretty much everywhere with star turns coming from both of our European travellers plus Eddie in Kent and Mark for his out-of-nowhere performance in Southport. The month of July begins next Sunday with the Derwent Epic Lakes Swim as a precursor to Ironman UK, the biggest event of the year, on 14 July.