The first weekend in July is normally characterised by the opening of the Tour de France and that time when Ironman UK entrants are nervously tapering in preparation for the big day the following Sunday, but there was still plenty for St Helens Tri to be happy about as the busiest month of the multisport year got underway. James Nairn and Robert Courtley got the ball rolling at the midweek Capernwray Sprint triathlon hosted by T2 Events, who also stage the Semer Water Swim in Hawes on August 17th, a perfect warm-up race for the St Helens Triathlon three weeks later. Held on the first Wednesday of every summer month, the course comprises 500m of swimming at Capernwray Diving Centre followed by a 20k bike and 5k run around the local lanes. Robert had a lead of nearly three minutes over his teammate upon exiting the water, but James would reel him in on the bike course, and his 5k run, sharpened as it was over the winter at the BeUrBest duathlons, was good enough to lift him to 38th overall and a top-6 place in his age group, while Robert’s time, easily under the 1:20 mark, still put him 4th in the M25-29 division. As a regular attendee at the Wednesday and Friday morning sessions, where she regularly swims while helping with the direction of the development lane, Ann Gregory is one of those unsung heroes who has steadily worked her way up the long distance swim ranks over the past few months. At the USwim Salford she had her most impressive outing to date, as she was aiming for a sub-2 hour time in the 5k, yet would beat that mark by three minutes, cementing her position as the club’s most prolific contributor to long course open water racing. While Ann was gliding around the Salford Quays, Lynette and George Houghton were participating in their latest obstacle race, the Hero 8k in Preston hosted by Born Survivor. In perhaps the result of their careers so far, George not only won his age group, but won the race outright, while Lynette was 7th overall and first female over the line! A spectacular double for two of the club’s most diversely talented athletes, and they would pitch up the following morning at the Derwent Epic Lakes Swim, as Lynette was racing the 3.8k and George entered the mile where he was joined by Tony Waine. Lynette recorded a time of just over 1hr20 for the Iron distance, but George and Tony both managed astounding PB’s, George clocking a 26:49 knocking 2:20 off his Ullswater time while Tony found the warmer conditions much more to his liking and beat his previous best by four minutes recording a 37:25.
Charlie Stirrup decided to boldly go where Richard Seville had gone the week before to do an Ironman in Germany. Except that this wasn’t the European Championship; rather, this was the iconic Challenge Roth, which took a little bit of a back seat this year, Frankfurt having hosted the European Championship the week before. Charlie was out of the water in a little over 65 minutes, before averaging over 20mph on the bike course to set himself up perfectly for a great finish. Despite not quite cracking the four-hour mark for the marathon he still completed the course in a fantastic time of 10:42:06, as he entered the 10,000 seater stadium at the finish to rapturous applause.
It wasn’t all long-haul trips this week as Mark Turner was up early doors with his new Scott Plasma to tackle the Liverpool Phoenix 25 mile TT hosted on the D25/3 course. The field was packed with class time triallists but Mark more than held his own, recording an encouraging 1:00:46 as he continues to develop as a cyclist. Meanwhile seven club members took part in one of the annual charity specials, the Griffin Grind. This event is organised by the Isabella Rose Foundation, who several St Helens Tri members also run for, and this year’s event was much better attended given that it did not clash with a certain 140.6 mile race in Bolton which you might have heard of………..On the day Ian Orford led the way with a time of 32:44 putting him just outside the top 10 overall but Louise Johnson stole the show, not only taking fourth lady overall but first in her age group! Her time of 36:03 put her just over three minutes clear of Brian Diggle, a regular attendee at the Friday night track sessions, while Helen Broderick got her pre-birthday celebrations off to a fine start by being next club member home with a 41:46. Melanie Sayed had a rare outing at a shorter-than-marathon race and came home less than 45 seconds behind Helen, while Violet Costello and Nick Hall rounded out the club’s participation as Violet finished in 43:36 just over 90 seconds ahead of her teammate. Meanwhile Dave Gaskell returned from injury to have a crack at the Boundary Breeze Triathlon. In spite of not having raced as much as he would have liked he was in the fight for age group honours all the way, until a faster runner made the difference on the final leg. Nonetheless, Dave still managed to hang on for a meritorious second place to round out the club activity on a weekend where team Houghton and Charlie Stirrup grabbed most of the headlines for their adventures further afield and Louise Johnson put in the star turn closer to home. Next week’s main event needs no introduction, as club members young and old take on the biggest race of the year, Ironman UK. 6 days and counting!