Five club members took the short trip north to Capernwray, near Lancaster, for the T2 Events midweek series season finale. James Nairn has regularly featured early in the weekly reports without ever quite being the one to lead the club home, but here he was star of the show, as his sub-14 minute swim and a pair of very fast transitions were pivotal in establishing himself at the front of the club cohort, and 21st overall with 4th in his category was a fine reward. Next up was Stephen Bolton, who only joined the club midway through the season and has bean a regular at the pool and open water sessions over the last two months. Here, he was warming up for the St Helens Triathlon with his first ever outing for the club, and a superb 36 minute 20k bike was key to him finishing in a time of 1:18:14 just a handful of seconds away from the top 30. Robert Courtley was not far behind as he put in a terrific performance in the water, however he had to give best to his teammates on the bike, nevertheless finishing in the top six in his age group. Team Taktak were able to go for it and not worry about the big show in town at the weekend as they would be among the many valued contributors to enabling the club’s flagship event to run smoothly. Azzam’s sub-13 minute swim and a promising bike split lifted him to 52nd overall less than half a minute away from the top 50, while Sarah set the only sub-10 minute swim of the Famous Five, eventually finishing 61st in 1:28:23, good enough to take another age group win to store in her impressive trophy cabinet.
Four days later the club’s biggest race of the entire year rolled into town at the fourth running of the St Helens Triathlon held at Eccleston Mere. The race offered sprint and standard distance options; the former including one lap of the Mere, a lap of the bike route and a single lap run round Rainford, simply going to two laps per discipline for the longer option. In the sprint distance it was a fairly spread out race at the head of the field, but Emma Austin, fresh from returning from Lausanne, was out of the water right at the front of the overall field and her huge improvements in bike strength meant that she had more than enough in hand on the run to finish third overall, easily winning the ladies’ race outright to boot. Equally impressive was Mark Derbyshire, who broke out at last month’s Manley Mere Triathlon. Here, in a far less chaotic race, he was out of the lake in exactly 15 minutes, and although he left it too late to catch Emma he still took fifth at the line, winning the M40 category. He was just over a minute ahead of bike specialist Peter Leadbeater, who was third-quickest of anyone on the bike course and briefly looked like edging the intraclub battle, but in the end Mark’s much improved running form proved to be the difference. Sam Walton is always in the mix for fastest swim time and here he was once again, flying round the Mere in under 12 minutes, while he notably recorded the fastest T2 time of anyone which proved to be crucial in determining which of the club’s up and coming talents would follow Emma home; Sam finished 11th just over a minute ahead of George Houghton, wiith the pair sandwiching Brian Diggle who positively starred on his debut for the club; 12th place being a good first outing any day of the week, but an outstanding one set against the backdrop of his planned Ironman 70.3 debut at the end of the month! Also finishing in the top 20 were Stephen Bolton, nicely recovered after his trip to Capernwray, David Mellor, another promising debutant, and Carole James, who knocked over a minute off her Manley Mere swim time and was particularly impressive on the run. Behind Carole a furious battle was on between Chris and Bethany Forber, with Chris ahead as they left T2 but Bethany starring both in the photos (Helen Broderick’s photography and encouraging words getting the credit here) and on the 5k as she overhauled Chris to lead the family home. The complete results including the club’s remaining finishers are available to view at https://www.webscorer.com/race?raceid=194217 where the sprint and standard results are listed in full.
In an exciting standard race, which saw former St Helens Tri member Sam Wardle win a thrilling battle with Alex Ward and Steve Hall for the overall victory, recent new member Dominic Pike led the current crop of Saints home, coming home just over five minutes ahead of his usual Friday night “partner in crime” Callum Bishop, as he asserted his authority on the race early doors with a blistering swim, followed it up with a bike time just over 75 minutes and rounded things off with a sub-36 10k. It was a close run thing between Mark Ashton and Dave Connor, as Mark edged ahead in the lake and put some serious daylight between him and Dave on the bike. A furious last-ditch effort on the run was enterprising but ultimately came up short for Dave as the pair finished 12th and 13th separated by just over half a minute. The next trio of Chris Connor, Neil Prescott and Paul Austin chopped and changed like an arcade slot machine as Paul held a big lead over his teammates in the water, but Neil and Chris battled past Paul on the bike and in the end it was a superior 10k from Chris that made the different as he grabbed a top-15 place to boot. There were plenty of highlights throughout the field, including Louise Johnson using her recent experience of long, tough, hilly bike rides to take second female home, and a welcome return for Gary Birch, who has made a name for himself at half and full distance Ironman races over the last few years, but here completed the course in under two hours 50 minutes enjoying a good battle with Paul Booth in the process. Another notable performance came from Chris Hayes, completing his first full season with the club, as he recorded his best 10k run performance to date elevating him into the top 50. Ultimately it was an exciting day of racing on the local lanes marred but the aforementioned accident for Kevin Dudley, but the club nonetheless did itself proud with valued contributions coming not only from those who participated but also the BeUrBest team, Rainford High Technology College and club members who gave their Sunday mornings to help with marshalling, the T2 drinks station and take photos. Next week’s main events are the final Epic Lakes Swim of the season at Windermere and the South Manchester Triathlon hosted by OP Events, while the Rainford 10k is just four weeks away and entries are still available at the time of writing.