For many members of St Helens Tri the West Lancs Sprint Triathlon represents the true beginning of the racing season as it is literally a home event for those who turn up regularly to the Wednesday evening and Friday morning swims, or the Friday evening track session. The 2019 edition was attended by 17 members plus at least as many supporters who braved the near-Arctic wind chill at the crack of dawn to descend on Ormskirk. Leading the way for St Helens Tri was Adam Jones who has spent time at the NW Regional Academy. His swim of under six minutes was almost the quickest of the day, and while he gave a little away on the bike his incredible run split of 17:29 (utilising most of the Ormskirk Parkrun course) lifted him to 15th overall at the finish, winning the junior men’s category. It turned out to be a junior double to remember as Emma Austin went just a second quicker than Adam in the pool, came close to him on the bike on her new race wheels and had enough in the tank on return from a running injury to not only place top 60 overall but win the junior ladies’ title! A fitting reward to two of the club’s most talented and committed athletes.
Andrew McGlone led the seniors home, his swim being mere seconds behind that of Emma and Adam, and a strong bike and solid run enabled him to lock out a top-30 finish in a time of 1:04:22. Newcomer James Nairn has made quite a name for himself since joining the club, having finished well inside the top 10 at the club duathlons over the winter, and his status as third club member home (44th overall) in 1:07:12 was one of the most popular stories of the day, his feel-good result matched if not surpassed by his enthusiastic comments about how much he enjoys training and racing with the club (and in his case, dodging a parked car on the last bend before T2!) He even edged out Emma’s dad Paul, who looked to have the upper hand after the swim and bike but could not stay with James on the run, nevertheless Paul wound up 58th overall, 7th in his category and just over a minute ahead of his daughter. Steve Williams had only just returned from training camp in Mallorca and as such would have been forgiven for having an easy like Sunday morning rest day but here he put in a proper good shift particularly on the bike to edge the fast-finishing Mark Eccleston out, Steve coming home 23 seconds in front while also taking second in his division. Mark used the race as training for his Ironman adventures later in the year, but comendably he set by far the fastest bike split of any St Helens Tri member and only a difficult start on the swim prevented him from challenging for a top-60 placing. Anthony Bearon’s season has been one of continual improvement especially at Friday night track sessions where he has regularly been quickest man on track, particularly over short intervals. It paid off here as a rapid run helped him make up places (having lost time to a slowly deflating rear tyre on the bike course) and with a bit more luck he would have cracked the top 100. Peter Leadbeater was next over the line just 21 seconds behind Anthony, his cycling experience with the Liverpool Century paying dividends as he made up time on the twisty bike course to place 108th overall.
Chris Dyson only joined the club at the beginning of the year but has been a regular at the Friday morning swim sessions. Coming from a rugby background, he has relatively little experience of measuring effort over more than one hour having come from a game where it’s all about sprinting on demand, but here he was right into his element. Benefitting from being drawn in lane 2 (his regular station on Friday mornings) he flew through the first half of his swim in under four minutes and but for a fellow competitor impeding him (for which a penalty should have been awarded at very least) he would have been out of the water in under eight minutes. Nevertheless, he decided to get even rather than get mad, put in a good shift on the bike and then polish it off with an assured run to take 120th overall in a time of 1:15:44; on a less technical course such as Splashworld in a fortnight’s time he has every opportunity to break the 70 minute mark, you certainly wouldn’t bet against him. Ian Orford has rarely featured at swim sessions but is known for his superb speed over 5k, and sure enough his form from the club duathlons carried over very well indeed as his 20:07 was the second-fastest St Helens run of the day; he was just four seconds adrift of Chris Dyson’s time at the finish. Andrew Beacock regularly does a Friday double and has a tendency to work his way into sessions and races. Sure enough, the same thing happened on race day as he also enjoyed considerable progress despite being drawn in an early (read: freezing) wave, his time of 1:19:26 lifting him to 147th. Next up were Paul and Paul, namely Paul Burns and Paul Hazlehurst, who have both contributed regularly to the club with their efforts at the Friday sessions. The pair were fairly closely matched on the bike, before Paul Burns edged away on the run to finish around two and a half minutes ahead. Three more club members also did the Saints proud, starting with Stuart Dillingham who recorded a swim even faster than Steve Williams, eventually finishing 305th just over 90 seconds ahead of Jill O’Connor, a Parkrun regular who made a long-awaited return to the multisport fold and marked t with a particularly encouraging run to place 311th. Meanwhile Michelle Beacock enjoyed her day out just as much as those battling for honours as her time of 1:41:54 was enough to get her into the top 350 and round off a freezing, yet fantastic day of racing where the star turns came from Emma Austin, Adam Jones, Andrew McGlone and James Nairn. A special mention must also go to Diane Taktak, who completed a seemingly-impossible double of the Hawkshead 16k trail race on the Saturday followed by the Lancaster 10k the following morning, recording a time of just over two hours for the trail race and finishing the 10k in a time of 1:03:15. Next week’s Epic Events Sprint Triathlon is in the wilds of Clitheroe, with a particularly challenging bike route taking in Birdy Brow and plenty more climbs, while the Salford 10k and a range of Easter specials including the Delamere Easter Bunny Dash and the Rivington Pike fell race should all add up to a very exciting holiday weekend indeed.