Almere, Anglesey and Ambleside – Epic Distance Season goes to Extra Time

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At St Helens Tri, it is somewhat rare we run out of plaudits to bestow on a specific individual for their athletic achievements, but over the weekend the club saw another outstanding performance from Eddie Hirst at Challenge Almere. Held on the flat roads of the Netherlands, it offers the strong bikers a chance to make a break for it, something that is harder to achieve on the UK course. This would be the theme of Eddie’s race as he frequently recorded splits of close to 40kmh aboard his time trial bike. He planned his run to stay in Zone 1 with the Kona World Championships next month, but he still went under 3:45 for the marathon and placed an astonishing eighth in his category with a time of 10:04:12. A phenomenal achievement for the club’s most impressive and consistent athlete.

Closer to home, two triathlon festivals were taking place in Anglesey and Brighton. Patrick Neill overcame a virus to take seventh overall, and third in his category, at the Sandman Duathlon and he was joined by Mal Balmer who got off to a very good start in the Classic Triathlon which features a fairly flat bike course and a run through the woods finishing on the beach. His sub-20 minute 1000m swim was followed by a fine performance on the bike of just over 1:50 and a sub-50 minute 10k through the forest lifted him to 46th at the finish, while Paul Mcgregor rounded out an epic year of half and full distance triathlon with a time of just over six and a half hours in the Legend event, Mere seconds away from the top 100. On the south coast it was a somewhat chaotic race as Lynette Houghton, Myka Heard and Steve Williams were aiming once again for GB age group qualification in the draft legal sprint race. However, a crash on the bike course in an earlier wave meant that the trio were stuck in transition and though all finished the race, adjusted times are still being finalised at the time of writing. It wasn’t all long distance trips as Stephen Bolton took on his third triathlon in 10 days in Wilmslow, where he was joined by Chris Murphy, a long time club member and regular photographer at the Manchester Cross Country League races. Despite feeling like “the heaviest legs he’s had” on the run course Stephen’s recent experience proved key in enabling him to hold on for 61st place and a top 8 in his age group, with a particularly impressive bike split speeding him to a time of 1:30:58. Chris clawed some time back on Stephen on the run course, eventually coming home just over four minutes on arrears with 1:35:21.

For single sport events it was a tale of two races in Windermere and Hoylake. At the Epic Lakes Swim finale near Ambleside Mark Eccleston capped off an amazing endurance year with his first ever 5,000m swim, well over Iron distance. He has focused on stamina over speed since Ironman in July and it paid off as he finished the longest Epic Swim on the calendar in 1:54:11, with Andy Devaynes finishing around a quarter of an hour behind. In the mile race Tony Waine completed his “season subscription” to the “classic” distance with another solid sub 40 time. Over on the Wirral Peninsula Diane Taktak was on tour with the Isabella Rose Foundation, though she was running for St Helens Tri. Here, she completed the part tarmac, part grass course in under 65 minutes to round off a fine weekend of racing with star turns coming from Eddie for Almere, Mark at the Epic Swim and Patrick for his gritty effort in Anglesey. Next week’s offerings include the North West Triathlon at Barony Park in Nantwich and the Kendal Triathlon in the South Lakes as well as the Southport Seaside 10k. A backlog of postponed races also bunched the junior season into three successive Sundays from 15-29 September; an all-in junior column will be released separately at the end of the month.

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