Storm St Helens hits Rome and the “Riviera”

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Late September often signals the end of the triathlon season, but some club members are still pressing on with Ironman sanctioned races both at home and abroad. Gary Tomlinson was the first cab off the rank, or at least the start line, over the weekend as he took on Ironman Italy. On an emotional day for the sporting community, which saw ex-Formula 1 and Paralympic competitor Alex Zanardi capture the hearts of millions worldwide, Gary enjoyed his own day to remember as he was out of the water on under 85 minutes, and enjoyed the flat blasts through the Emilia-Romagna region to arrive at T2 within the 9:30 mark. A strong run solidified his position and he finished the race in 14:43:39, good enough for a place in the top 2,500. Closer to home, George and Lynette Houghton were once again on the OCR trail in a Wild Warrior race which they described as part obstacle, part swimming! Who would have thought that mastering kick and catch drills would help you in an obstacle race? Well, Lynette was first female home while George’s time of 65 minutes placed him in the top 10 of his class. The upcoming cross country season will no doubt be music to the ears of two of the club’s strongest all round athletes.

Sunday dawned in Weymouth for the start of Ironman 70.3 and the trio of Brian Diggle, Mark Eccleston, Kevin Dunbar and Lewis Shepherd woke to learn that due to the threat of high winds and driving rain, the swim had been halved in length to 950m. Kevin Dunbar has long been a strong runner and memorably surged over the line at Ironman Bolton earlier this year, but here, on the South Coast frequently referred to as the English Riviera, his swimming and biking really caught the eye, as he recorded 2:07/100m in the water and followed it up with an 18mph bike leg to lead the club home in under 5 hours 25 minutes. He was almost joined at the hip with Mark Eccleston who has effectively done two Ironmans this year if you count Staffordshire and Weymouth as one to go with Bolton. Mark was marginally in front out of the water and set a particularly notable sub-3 hour bike split but eventually Kevin caught his time on the run and it was Kevin who got the nod to the tune of just two seconds. Brian was actually in front of Kevin and Mark off the bike thanks to a stellar opening and middle segment but ultimately he had to give best to his teammates, nonetheless finishing in just and over six hours. Meanwhile Lewis was happy to finish the gruelling course in just over 6 hours 40 minutes following a good run where he ran impressively close to Brian’s pace.

There were no such worries for Debra Rayment who was racing a different middle distance event, hers being the Outlaw X in Nottingham. Her race was particularly notable for a 1900m swim around the 45 minute mark and a new half marathon PB as she marked a year since an ankle sprain with a gritty race to a time of just over six and a half hours, placing her in the top 200. On the other side of the Midlands Patrick Neill was following up last week’s run/bike special in Anglesey with the Crazy Legs Events Darley Moor Duathlon. Into the top 100 immediately out of the gate, he made up more than 20 places on the bike where he averaged close to 40kph for eight laps of the triangular circuit. His final 2.5km run of just over 10 minutes was a sparkling closing movement to another excellent performance as he took 92nd overall and 18th in his age group, rounding off another varied week of compelling stories and excellent results for the club. Next week’s signature events include the Kirkby Milers Knowsley 10 Mile Road Race and the Oulton Park Duathlon, while entries for the club’s own Rainford 10k are still available at the time of writing.

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