Saints Santa season starts in a Stockport Sunset

It was a cool, breezy Saturday that greeted St Helens Tri to begin the month of December as they made their way to Woodbank Park for the third round of the Manchester Cross Country League in Stockport. Diane Taktak had got the ball rolling earlier in the day with a nice run to 27:48 at the Sunflowers Halewood 5k hosted by Knowsley Harriers, providing a nice starter to the main course down the M62. In the U13 Boys race Charlie Murphy came home ahead of Joseph Duffy by eight seconds and Oliver Murphy was able to place in the top 35 at U15 level. After lunch the ladies were off at 1:40pm for their two laps of the fabled course including the infamous hill which takes so much out of the legs. Claire Murphy was the first club member home in a time of 42:47 finishing less than 45 seconds away from the top 100 and giving herself a real chance of catching Cheryl Pace for the club championship, as Cheryl nonetheless kept up her consistent scoring despite nearly being eliminated on a tree stump. She finished in 45:28 just over a minute clear of Myka Heard who always enjoys this tough, technical circuit. Bethany Forber finished ahead of her mum Christine on this occasion, as she looks forward to her first marathon a few weeks from now. Her time of 50:37 sealed the deal for sufficient counters over the line to ensure a league placing for the ladies, and Yvonne Tinsley was next having run team Forber very close indeed. Another club member who has improved immeasurably at XC is Sarah Taktak, who came close to breaking 55 minutes and also was fifth junior lady overall on the day, while no-one ever doubts the spirit of Liz Spensley who once again dug deep and finished the toughest course on the calendar.

The last few ladies were still finishing at 2:30 as the men were set on their way for three laps of the course and the first mini-lap had the desired effect of spreading the field out to stop the usual traffic jam on the descent towards the fields. Colin Dobbs obviously thought this through very well as he scampered off early doors and was never to be headed by another teammate, as he finished in under 44 minutes despite mysteriously not being picked up by the timers at the finish. Robert Chesters found his longer spikes much more to his liking and, after overtaking Michael Forber at the end of lap one, put in a late bid to catch Colin but ultimately ran out of time, nonetheless finishing in 44:07 over two and a half minutes quicker than last year as he put his new-found knowledge from taking a BTF coaching course to good use. For his part Michael Forber finished 35 seconds back from Robert just ahead of a thrilling battle between David Isaac, who challenged Robert in the early stages, and Kevin Dunbar who was happy to have beaten the 45 minute mark. Patrick Neill and Kevin Dudley also had quiet but strong runs keeping the duelling duo ahead very honest, and it was a good first outing of the season for Paul Booth who was unlucky not to join his teammates in the sub-50 club. Two close battles followed, with Alan McKeegan just getting the better of Lee Stinch by 21 seconds and it was even closer between Chris Murphy and Peter Rawlinson, Chris (in black) coming home just four seconds ahead of Peter (in white wearing the club cycling kit – in the mud no less). With the sun setting over Stockport the pair came home less than half a minute behind Andrew Bridge whose contributions to the club at run sessions are most valued and appreciated, particularly last Friday night when a hailstorm soaked the track!

Here are the top 4 in the ladies points standings after round three:

Cheryl Pace 58
Claire Murphy 50
Myka Heard 45
Bethany Forber 30

And for the men:

Colin Dobbs 68
Michael Forber 55
Robert Chesters 36
Kevin Dunbar 30

It was a track of a very different type on Sunday morning as Mark Eccleston made the trip to Oulton Park for the Running Grand Prix. Comprising ten laps of the fabled racetrack, it’s a marathon like no other as it involves ten ascents of the punishing Knickerbrook Corner. On the day the competitors were greeted by strong winds and driving rain but Mark was more than equal to the task and finished in under four hours 40 minutes to close out a terrific first weekend of December featuring many star performances. Plans are afoot for a club awards night similar to the 2018 edition in February or March next year; full details will appear here as and when they become available.

Saints and Striders Salute to Service at Stadt Moers Park

It is rare nowadays that a Parkrun is the headline event of a St Helens Tri report but if ever there was an occasion for such a decision to be made it was Saturday 24th November at Stadt Moers Park. Off the back of Peter Rawlinson’s sub-47 minute time at the Movember 10k, Mike Goulbourne had led the club at the Preston 10 mile road race the previous week with an outstanding run to 58:34 and third in his age group while Lynette Houghton and Brian Davies finished just over three minutes apart and Diane Taktak recorded 100 minutes on the nose.

From one fast and iconic 2-lap course one week it was onwards to another for the Stadt Moers Special, as several club members who had not been to this underappreciated Parkrun made the trip to Tarbock Island for “the course that Aaron built” on Saturday 24th, as the Parkrun community remembered one of its greatest and most respected personalities on what also happened to be the 100th running of the 9am 5k at SMP. Conditions were near-perfect if a little on the chilly side as the runners stood to applaud Aaron Reading for a minute before they were set on their way as though the release of a week’s worth of cathartic energy had been fired from a cannon. It was a close race behind the runaway winner with mere seconds separating most of the top 10 positions. Mike Gregory lead St Helens Tri home in 6th overall in a time of 22:06; he also won his age group by just two seconds in the closest division race of the day. Helen Broderick has been a regular at the Saturday swim sessions since the club’s inception in 2015, yet here she brought her strength to a course that demands plenty of skill and toughness, and it paid off with a fine run to 26:05 which put her in the top 5 ladies for the day. It was also a day to remember for Wendy Webb, who ran the course together with husband Stephen plus Nick Hall; the trio completed the two laps of SMP in a little over 30 minutes and on a flat course must figure to go under the half hour mark soon. Also racing for the club were a number of other members whose names and times do not show up in the official results (as a reminder to anyone planning on entering a Parkrun, they are not chip timed but you need to register for a barcode), however one of the club’s most recent new members, Cheryl Pace, did remember to bring her slip of paper and while running for Penny Lane Striders, she banked a very satisfying warm-up ahead of next week’s Manchester Cross Country League fixture with the Saints as she finished in 24:14 and was second lady home.

Aaron Reading’s funeral will be held at Our Lady Help of Christian’s Portico, L34 2QT on Thursday 29 November at 10am, followed by the crematorium an hour later in St Helens, postcode WA10 6DF. 24th November 2018 will be remembered as the day when for one final Saturday morning, the moment belonged to a man who gave so much to the local running and triathlon community and would surely have had much more to offer had he been afforded the chance to do so. Therefore, on Thursday morning plans are afoot to honour him for the last time with a group ride to the funeral, with plans and timings to be announced shortly; this report will be updated in due course.

 

Aaron Reading, 1966-2018

It is with deep sadness that the club has to report that Aaron Reading, a much valued and respected member since the club’s inception in 2015, died last Thursday after an eight month illness.

Aaron came to the sport of triathlon relatively late after spending much of his earlier years participating in a variety of activities including mountain climbing, canoeing, paragliding and cycling. Perhaps he really was the club’s original “man for every occasion”. When he first joined St Helens Tri he never really saw himself as someone who would make his mark on the world of multisport but he quickly grew into his new venture and did what he did best, prove his doubts wrong. His most notable achievements included returning to Lancaster University, where he studied for his degree, to complete the autumn triathlon in consecutive years, as well as the Willowbrook Duathlon and the Warrington 10k. But perhaps his most significant contribution to the local racing scene was his involvement in the conception of the Stadt Moers Parkrun.

Set in 220 acres of land in the borough of Knowsley, Stadt Moers Park was cleared in 1983 by the local council to create an open space for all to enjoy, and in 2017 Aaron’s brainchild was born on the slopes, flatlands and (usually) muddy field on this once-barren wasteland situated between Whiston and Huyton just off Tarbock Island. He also competed on several occasions at his home event as well as appearing five times at St Helens Parkrun where he recorded his best time of 27:47 in July 2017. His future plans looking ahead had included his first open water triathlon, which he had mixed thoughts about, always one to sample the great outdoors but never keen on the idea of swimming close to fish!

Sadly such aspirations were never to be fulfilled, as he took ill just before Easter 2018. His battle inspired many, including Robert Chesters and Robert O’Shea who took back-to-back Parkrun victories at SMP in the weeks that followed, in two of the most improbable wins in club history. Aaron returned to Stadt Moers and St Helens Parkruns during his illness and even had the strength of character to complete both the Saturday 5k at SMP and the Griffin Grind in the same week just four months ago. However, he was not to beat his illness and tragically passed away on Thursday 15 November with the thoughts and memories of St Helens Tri with him until the end.

His funeral will take place at Our Lady Help of Chrstian’s Portico, postcode L34 2QT on Thursday 29 November at 10am, followed by the crematorium an hour later in St Helens, postcode WA10 6DF. By a twist of fate, this Saturday sees the 100th edition of the Stadt Moers Parkrun that became such a big part of Aaron’s life. In recent months the club has rarely reported on these “unofficial races”, however in Aaron’s memory it would be a fitting tribute for any Saturday morning regulars to tackle one of the North West’s most iconic yet underappreciated courses, to run one final time in Aaron’s memory, and as such next weekend‘s report will cover the Stadt Moers Parkrun together with last week‘s Movember 10k and Preston 10 mile road race.

Full details, including course, start time and how to register for a barcode are here at http://www.parkrun.org.uk/knowsley/.

 

Aaron Reading, 1966-2018.

 

Carol and Cart-Man enjoy Breakthrough in Bagley

The second round of the Manchester Cross Country League was the focus point for St Helens Tri over the past weekend. After Keith Ashcroft made it home well under the hour at the Arley Hall 10k in the morning, attentions turned to the University Playing Fields in Bagley, the newest round of the championship. In fact the venue has proven so popular than when attempts to revive the Sherdley Park round as a season closer fell through, Bagley was selected to hold a second round on February 9th. In the morning the club enjoyed a spirited battle between Charlie Murphy and Joseph Duffy, with Charlie edging it in a sprint finish by just a single second and both making the top 40 overall. With temperatures struggling to reach double figures it was a cooler version of round 1 that greeted 23 club members for the afternoon races, with only a slight breeze and even some sunshine – surely not cross country weather?

On return to the Saints fold, Claire Murphy strode confidently to take the title of first club counter home by just over a minute, her time of 33:12 giving her 158th overall. Behind her a cracking three way battle was son between debutant Carol Clive, a regular at the Edge Hill Friday morning swim sessions, Cheryl Pace who took first last time out at Wythenshawe, and Myka Heard, last season’s champion. The trio finished in that order, Carol scoring an outstanding debut result less than 15 second ahead of Cheryl while Myka eventually finished around a minute further back. Helen Broderick was next, her performance at last week’s Striders Trail 5 obviously having given her a confidence boost, while Bethany Forber chased Sheena Shearman all the way to the line and looked like she might overcome her more experienced teammate, but in the end their positions from round 1 were reversed leaving them both tied in the series standings. In recent months questions have abounded as to whether there is anything that Sarah Taktak cannot do, and until now she had little in the way of XC history to fall back on. That would all change as she put in a spirited performance to open her season account in a good strong run to a sub-40 time placing her eighth club counter home and in the top 300 overall. Her mum Diane was next home having just done enough to get under the 42 minute mark and Liz Spensley showed the inspirational spirit that has won her so many fans with a determined drive to the line as she rounded out the club’s entrants, also finishing less than three and a half minutes from winning her category.

Current ladies point standings, top 6:

Cheryl Pace 40
Myka Heard 30
Claire Murphy 25
Carole Clive 18
Bethany Forber 18
Sheena Shearman 18

At 2:30pm the men ploughed their way over what was left of the playing fields for the longest race of the day. After last year’s thrilling four-way finale at Wythenshawe this season’s edition is looking like a two horse race between Colin Dobbs and Michael Forber. Clearly Michael enjoyed the course more having raced well here last season and his time of 38:22 was enough to place him as first club member home, well inside the top 200 and the top 20 in his age group. In fact Colin was having a battle to hold onto second place because in a major turnaround from the season opener David Isaac was hot on his heels and Colin only held onto the position by four seconds, however after two rounds he still holds the lead in the club points competition. There were more surprises to come as while Ian Orford can usually be relied upon to finish on the podium or close to it, Dean Golba, who rarely featured in the headlines last season (as the aforementioned Cart-Man in the headline, nothing to do with the South Park character rather his own storied karting career) put in an outstanding effort to pip Kevin Dunbar for fifth club counter, Kevin apparently being the only person in the club who is actually looking forward to more muddy conditions! Indeed, Kevin just got home ahead of Patrick Neill, another major improver from Wythenshawe, who gave his illustrious teammate a real race for the last slot in the A team (first six counters for the interclub league) coming home just eight seconds in arrears. Kevin Dudley and Mike Gregory were the next two home, separated by less 20 seconds and it was even closer between Mal Balmer and Andrew Gaskell who were both unlucky not to break 45 minutes. With eleven runners home only two remained to finish, and they were Chris Murphy enjoying a well earned break from the role of chief supporter for Charlie, and Andrew Bridge who continues to grow into his role as a dynamic club coach.

Current men’s point standings, top 6:

Colin Dobbs 43
Michael Forber 40
Ian Orford 22
Kevin Dunbar 20
Robert Chesters 18
David Isaac 17

It wasn’t purely a cross country Saturday as Lee Stinch was running the last ultra of his 2018 campaign, the Warrington Way 40, which meanders through Cheshire to many quaint villages. Lee has done this event on numerous occasions in the past and he would have been forgiven for having the weekend off after running one and a half marathons in the past two weekends, and yet here he was on a mission to beat last year’s time when he dipped under seven and a half hours. In the under the radar story of the weekend he put in a spectacular performance to finish in 6:45:04, over 43 minutes faster than last year, to round off a super Saturday which will be remembered for Carol’s breakout debut and Dean’s rise to prominence as he came good on all the promise he has shown on the bike in 2018. The next few weeks are rather quiet with several club members running cross country for their first or second claim running clubs but the next St Helens Tri big day out is the third round of the Manchester cross country league at Woodbank Park in Stockport featuring a difficult off camber descent and the fabled climb at the end of every lap. As the final major league race of 2018 and the toughest on the MACCL calendar, the much anticipated finish under fading light promises to be an epic backdrop to a perfect calendar year finale.

The Mike and Melanie Show in Llanberis and Lancaster

Mike Goulbourne has long been a man to lead by example and he marked the final weekend of October by putting in yet another epic performance at one of his favourite haunts, the Snowdonia Marathon. Often regarded as one of the most picturesque 26.2 milers in the country it combines road, trail and, you might say, a bit of fell terrain. In the event Mike placed in the top 25 overall in a time of 3:05:17, over 10 minutes quicker than in 2017 and good enough for a top six finish in his age category. Lee Stinch managed to get a last minute number for the race and despite not having ideal preparation he managed to complete the testing course in under 3 hours 50 minutes. Clearly one marathon in October was not enough for Kevin Dunbar as he followed up his Chicago trip (and Manchester detour) with a fine run to a time of 4:11:49 while Craig Abbott marked his first race in a long while with a dogged run to finish in just over five hours.

Kevin and Lee would play a starring role the following weekend but it was actually Melanie Sayed who got the ball rolling with a real off-the-radar special at the Epic Events Fireworks 500 swim at Capernwray Diving Centre. This is a popular end of season party race with hot drinks, bonfire and, obviously, fireworks at the finish. Melanie has mainly become known for her excellent marathon performances earlier this year but here she scored her best result since joining the club as her time of 10:22 put her eighth overall and even won her age group! Such a terrific feel good story was the ideal springboard for another grand day out for the club at two races, the Striders Trail 5 and the Lancaster Half Marathon. In St Helens Kevin Dunbar was once again the star of the show, as he ran in tandem with Michael Forber (competing for the Isabella Rose Foundation) and completed the mixed terrain course in a time of 36:32. He was just over a minute ahead of Neil Hunter enjoying his first outing in quite a while, and Helen Broderick showed the strength of character that took her to so much success during the summer as she rolled home in just over 47 minutes. Meanwhile in Lancaster the dust had only just settled from Melanie’s standout performance the previous day as Lee Stinch was joined by Emma and Matt Shillabeer plus Diane Taktak for the 3-1-5 races Half Marathon. Set in one of England’s most historic cities, the course features diverse scenery and a very tough hill at the end. Lee Stinch somehow managed to complete the seemingly impossible of Snowdonia Marathon, Friday track session and this testing 13.1 miler all in eight days, not only finishing but recording an excellent 1:37:12. He was able to sit back and enjoy the remaining trio roll in just 20 seconds apart, with Diane finishing in 2:11:22, edging clear of longtime members Emma and Matt Shillabeer who ran the course together, to fittingly round off another fortnight of road running and open water swimming where the star turns came from Mike in Snowdonia and Melanie at the Fireworks 500. Next weekend’s main race is the second round of the Manchester Cross Country League at the University Playing Fields in Bagley, a medium speed course with some flat straight for speed merchants, but also a testing infield section with some particularly tricky descents.

Superb weekend for Saints in Spain and Stockport

It was very much a “Spain and Stockport” theme for St Helens Tri over the weekend as duathlon took centre stage at home and abroad. First of all, though, Lynette and George Houghton represented team GB at the OCR World Championships in Essex. Held over three days, it requires competitors to complete three separate races totalling 33 kilometres with obstacles aplenty. The standards are set extremely high and it is particularly difficult to record a pass on any of the three courses but both George and Lynette had the strength to overcome the challenges thrown at them and end as proud finishers. Two remarkable all round athletes who have carved out their niche and done so with commitment and enthusiasm.

The main focus of the weekend, however, was in Ibiza where four club members were competing in the ETU Duathlon Championships. On the Saturday Shirley Fox participated in the sprint distance race. Shirley has really upped her game on the bike in the last 12 months and her strength carried her to a creditable 17th place in her category. However, the big story of the weekend was undoubtedly that of Jeanette Fisher who was competing at international level for the fist time. Jeanette has always been a fast runner but here it was her bike performance that caught the eye, as she recorded a bike time quicker than most of the eight who finished ahead, and only a handful of seconds behind the overall winner! Ninth place was the very least she deserved for a stunning conclusion to what has easily been her best season to date. The following afternoon saw the standard distance races take place and competing for St Helens Tri were Eddie Hirst and Mark Turner, who were only racing a week earlier in Bedfordshire and Parbold. Eddie has concentrated on his bike strength (you might see a trend here) due to a few minor niggles in recent months and it paid off, as he matched Jeanette’s 9th from the previous day in the M40-44 standard distance event. Mark Turner recorded the best result, however, as he fought the rising temperatures and a strong M25-29 field to go sub-38 for his first 10k. He held firm on the bike course and despite having to back off in the final stages so as to make the finish he crossed the line in an outstanding sixth place, and less than two minutes away from the podium!

Closer to home, three members enjoyed rather shorter journeys to races in Liverpool and Manchester. Sarah and Diane Taktak changed into fancy dress for the Beat the Reaper 10k at Croxteth Hall. Sarah was flying round the iconic venue with her time of 55:51 putting her in the top ten of her category and Diane recorded an encouraging 1:02:17. Meanwhile, Robert Chesters  pictured belowb took on his first solo multi-sport event in nearly four months at the end of season Stockport Tri Club Duathlon held at Poynton Leisure Centre. This is definitely one for your 2019 diary, comprising two technical 5k runs with some sharp climbs through a forest and a few stiles to swing round, together with a two-lap, 21km cycle stage featuring a very tough climb which caught out many a seasoned competitor. Robert came into T1 at the back of the top ten but made use of the flat time trial sections and his own recent weight loss on the hill to move past several competitors on the first lap of the bike course, and he remained at the sharp end all the way to the flag to finish fourth, with third in his age group, in a time of 1:20:39 and round off a terrific weekend where the star turns came from Jeanette Fisher and Mark Turner for their standout performances in Ibiza as well as Lynette and George Houghton in the OCR world championships. The Halloween weekend is a relatively quiet one but Kevin Dunbar returns to one of his favourite haunts at the Snowdonia Marathon, while November’s schedule includes the Fireworks 500 open water swim at Capernwray on the first Saturday and the second round of the Manchester Cross Country League at the Kenworthy Woods University Playing Fields on November 10th.

Storm Eddie plays a Starring Role in the South East

Sunday would prove to be just as busy for St Helens Tri as the first round of the Manchester XC league the day before. The long haul tripper of the week was Eddie Hirst, who was travelling by far the furthest to compete but was actually in the most significant race of the weekend. Bedford Autodrome is a smaller, twistier version of Oulton Park owned by Jonathan and Jolyon Palmer (both former Formula 1 drivers) and Eddie was competing in the standard distance duathlon which also served as an ITU Duathlon qualifier. With a series of calf and hamstring niggles over the past few months the last thing Eddie would have wanted would have been a poor weather forecast; unfortunately so it transpired as large puddles of water courtesy of Storm Callum made progress very difficult for everyone especially on the bike course. Nevertheless, his black and orange bullet also known as his time trial bike served him as well as ever and he held on tenaciously during the second run to place 31st overall in just over 2 hours 6 minutes, which also gave him fifth in his age group and leave him in with a chance of world championship qualification. Closer to home, Mark Turner (pictured below) led the club by example as he has done so often in 2018 by taking an excellent seventh place at the ever popular Parbold Duathlon, where he was backed up by Will Bardin, who also had a strong outing particularly on the cycle stage, as he got home under the two hour mark which put him just outside the top 50. Strangely, for two events that were originally scheduled for March 18 (and both fell victim to the final Beast from the East) Parbold and Lancaster were rescheduled for the same date again, so it was left to Chris Murphy plus Sarah and Azzam Taktak to tackle this increasingly popular race which comprises two off road runs with some fast roads to stretch those cycling legs on. Chris Murphy was on fine form as he was into his stride from the off, and a good show of consistent pace over all three stages saw him place 32nd overall, while taking a top-six place in his age group. His 6th place was matched by Sarah who recently set a new mark to aim for in training with a fine run in a recent club 3000m time trial at Edge Hill University, and the first signs of this improvement were evident from the off, yet she actually saved some of her best pace for towards the end as her running strength combined with two lightning fast transitions saw her match Chris Murphy’s sixth place, in the junior women’s standings. The pair were split by Azzam who seems to be fitting in a race every weekend at the moment, but he showed no sign of burnout as he finished in just seven seconds over two hours, yet cracked the top 50 overall.

Sarah and Azzam weren’t the only ones racing from the Taktak family as Diane had to contend with some rather miserable conditions in Liverpool for the Alder Hey 10k. Hosted by Sports Tours International, it is a scenic route round Croxteth Hall and Country Park, normally associated with the weekly Parkrun. According to some runners there were some rather tight turns marked out by some rather haphazardly placed cones but Diane overcame it all in her usual cheerful manner to go well under the 58 minute mark and place 263rd overall, scoring, you guessed it, yet another sixth place to match her daughter and Chris Murphy in Lancaster. Meanwhile several club members who raced at Wythenshawe Park the previous day were out in force for Team Isabella at the Manchester Half Marathon, widely regarded as one of the fastest courses in the country. While their results counted for the IRF, Danielle Buckley raced for St Helens Tri in the hope of getting under the two hours mark after a year plagued by injury and as such she was delighted to cross the line in a time of 1:57:35, rounding off a super Sunday where the star turns came from Mark Turner in Parbold, Chris and Sarah in Lancaster and, with the result of the weekend, Eddie Hirst at the Bedford Autodrome. Next weekend’s schedule is rather more sparse but while Eddie and Mark go for glory at the ETU standard distance championship in Ibiza, the Stockport Tri Club Autumn Duathlon at Poynton still has entries available at the time of writing while there will no doubt be plenty of pictures doing the rounds on social media as the plethora of Halloween themed races offer plenty of tricks and treats in the run-up to October 31st!

Setting the Pace in South Manchester

The second weekend of October is always one of the busiest weekends of the season with the first round of the Manchester Cross Country League and the Manchester Half Marathon but this year the postponed Parbold and Lancaster duathlons, a corresponding event in Bedford and the Alder Hey 10k made for an action packed schedule. First on the fixture list was the flat, fast expanses of Wythenshawe Park where the club enjoyed a record turnout on an unusually hot and windy day, which together with a modified course made shoe selection a minefield to say the least. The U13 boys got the ball rolling early doors with Charlie Murphy both cracking the top 40 and finishing just three seconds apart, with Reuben Wilson coming home less than three minutes adrift. Oliver Murphy took 39th in the U15 Boys race and George Houghton made the top 25 at U17 level but after lunch the focus switched to the seniors, with ten ladies and sixteen men facing the starting horn in the 1:30pm and 2:30pm races. A remarkable story developed in the ladies race as debutant Cheryl Pace was first club counter home! Coming from a long background of trail racing at Penny Lane Striders, she completed the course in a little over 40 minutes holding off fellow PLS/St Helens Tri member Myka Heard in a close battle. Lynette Houghton carried on where she left off from last season in bagging another podium finish coming in less than two minutes behind Myka, but another fascinating story was concluding just over 90 seconds Lynette as Bethany Forber, who stepped up to half marathon level earlier this year, came good on all the promise she has shown by beating the 45 minute mark and being fourth club member home to round out the A team. The next two were spaced out by just over a minute apiece, Sheena Shearman marking her first appearance for the club with a strong run to 45:17 just ahead of Chris Forber who would also turn out the following morning at the half marathon for Team Isabella. Yvonne Tinsley has only recently joined the club but was right at home from the off as she recorded a time of 47:22 on debut just over half a minute clear of Jennifer Miller, while a case of mistaken identity saw Shirley Fox credited with a time of 53:18 just two seconds clear of the (present) Liz Spensley! Quite how someone can score a couple of points for the club XC league when they are in a swimming pool is anyone’s guess, but the report will be updated when corrected results became available. In the event the ladies placed 46th in the overall team standings.

With the ten (nine?) ladies home and dry, sixteen men lined up at 2:30pm for the start and the main question was whether Michael Forber could maintain the form that saw him take last season’s club championship. On this occasion, however, with the terrain unusually flat and dry, different running styles proved to be equally productive and he was quickly into a congested upper midfield pack featuring teammates Colin Dobbs and Robert Chesters, the former having seriously improved his strength following a recent marathon in Iceland, the latter able to use his straight line speed for once on a day when the conditions would not punish poor downforce and road-holding ability. Colin edged away over the final lap to take the honours in a time of 39:07 and place 123rd overall but Robert and Michael planned things to take advantage of their strengths, with Michael able to fly on the technique parts of the course while Robert made up ground on the long straights. The pair traded places during the second half of the race but in a thrilling sprint finish, Robert found that little bit extra on the home straight to not only take second club counter but also boost the club’s overall points tally, making it a double-double for St Helens Tri/PLS registered runners. After a wait of just over 90 seconds Kevin Dunbar completed his Chicago Town Pizza burn-off with an excellent effort to finish as fourth club member over the line, just missing out on the top 200. He in turn was 16 seconds ahead of Ian Orford who in turn cleared Patrick Neill by just under two minutes to secure the A team a top 25 place in the team standings. Andrew Gaskell was next man home as both he and Kevin Dudley got into the sub-45 club, while David Isaac was listed as next in 45:28 but his time is subject to confirmation from the race officials. Mal Balmer and Garry Banks enjoyed a sprint finish every bit as enthralling as the Robert/Michael one earlier as they came home just red seconds apart, Garry proving that it’s never too late to return to cross country (this being his first XC in over a decade) while Andy Devaynes performed heroically after his performance six days earlier in Chester to get close to the duelling duo ahead and round out the B team.

There were still more to finish, however, and they were led home by the running section’s biggest contributor Lee Stinch, whose resume includes track coaching, race number administration and, you might remember, guiding people to car parks (especially in Bagley last year with the infamous “broken down bus” incident). Here, he ran Andy very close to only finish seven seconds behind and he was just over two minutes ahead of Lord Lucan, or should that be Peter Rawlinson, who took a unique double of proving hard to find (at least for one of the officials) while simultaneously winning the club fashion parade award for racing in the club cycling top (well they say white reflects heat while black absorbs it). Rounding out the club entrants were the closely matched duo of Ben Mason and Dave Shearman who finished in 54:11 and 54:15 respectively, Ben also providing much appreciated alternatives for those who abstain from dairy in the club’s tea and coffee department! All in all a fantastic first round of the 2018/19 season with many memorable moments including Cheryl’s stunning debut performance, Colin leading by example, the madcap finish between Robert and Michael, and Kevin and Andy picking their legs up off the floor to run so well just six days after their marathon efforts. In part 2 of the weekly report we will cover a diverse collection of duathlons as well as the Manchester Half Marathon and the Alder Hey 10k.

Deep Dish Delights in Chicago and Chester plus Rainford 10k Review

With the St Helens Triathlon falling victim to an overgrow of algae at Eccleston Mere the BeurBest Rainford 10k was the club’s only home event of the year. Established in 2013, it is an undulating course using many of the roads found on the Monday night social run from the Golden Lion, except that the 10k start and finish is at the ever-supportive Rainford High School. It attracts a field of 400 runners and always sells out in advance of race day. Given that it avoided the clash that befell the recent Southport/Ormskirk 10k double-header a strong field was to be expected and so it proved, but Ian Orford was more than equal to the challenge as he stepped up to the plate and led the club’s entrants home, finishing in 13th place in a time of 40:20 leaving him 5th in the open category. Next up was a close battle with Mike Gregory and Alan McKeegan, two of the club’s long distance triathlon specialists, crossing the line just 33 seconds apart, Mike recording a 43:10 thus putting both under the 44 minute mark, with the next pair of Neil Hunter and Kevin Dudley coming in as close as could possibly be, just a single second apart, 43:57 to 43:58. The club’s ladies were well represented, and while the results page is a little confusing as some raced for St Helens Tri and others for the Isabella Rose Foundation, Jillian Littler was the first St Helens Tri-entered lady to cross the line, her time of 50:04 placing her third in the open female division. Melanie Sayed and Christine Forber were the club’s next two ladies over the line, both recording a gun time of 43:34 but Christine setting a slightly quicker mark based on the timing chip. Other highlights included Azzam Taktak beating the 50 minute mark at the end of a long Ironman season, Derek Ireland, fresh from his heroics last week at Oulton Park, following up all those climbs of Knickerbrook Corner with a fine run to a time of 58:18 and the inspirational Liz Spensley completing the route in under 65 minutes. Full results are available to view at https://www.stuweb.co.uk/race/21O/ featuring all the participants; note also how large the winner’s margin of victory was and the photo finish for second and third!

It wasn’t a purely Rainford 10k day either as Diane Taktak was racing just down the road at Knowsley Safari Park for the increasingly popular Kirkby Milers 10 mile road race. Diane has been getting her form back in recent weeks and a time of 1:35:40, a season’s best, was a fitting reward on such a tough route. In addition the Chester Marathon took place around a surprisingly hilly course where the club was represented by David Isaac, Andy Devaynes and Robert Saile, with all three having a story to tell. David Isaac has been a regular at the Monday night runs turning up in all weather conditions, even leading a route on occasion, and here, an outstanding chip time of 3:10:11 was a thoroughly deserved reward for months of hard training. Andy Devaynes took to the start line unsure if he would even finish the race having battled injury problems for much of the past few months but still managed to tough it out “on one leg” as he put it, finishing the race in under 4:40. Meanwhile Robert Saile, who has spent much of the 2018 season supporting his son and daughter in their racing endeavours, rediscovered his form from iron man 70.3 in June as he pulled out arguably the biggest effort of the weekend to cross the line in a time of 6:02:58 while raising money for the Encaphalitis Society. In keeping with the 26.2 theme, it was just as well that the Chicago Bears NFL team were on their bye week as the Windy City was taken over by thousands of runners from all over the world, including a few from the Liverpool and St Helens areas, one being Kevin Dunbar. Kevin (pictured below) has already completed numerous marathons and is working towards Ironman 2019. Here, he almost didn’t make it to the race following a 30-hour delay triggered by a cancelled flight but once at the home of deep dish pizza he grabbed, well, more than a few slices of the action, even hand-slapping with the spectators on the course at one point (the video has already been uploaded) and after all the pre- and in-race hi-jinks he still put in negative splits, as per David Isaac in Chester, to finish in a terrific time of 3:29:54.

Three more club members tried something a little different. First off, Lynette Houghton completed the trifecta of sprint, middle and long distance Spartan obstacle course races as she negotiated 25km in a downpour at Windsor. Despite having to complete 210 burpees during the course of the event she finished the toughest race of her season in under four and a half hours. In addition Stephen Gavin and John Bowes travelled to the Catalan capital to take on Ironman Barcelona. Stephen performed brilliantly to finish in under 12 hours thanks in no small part to a blistering sub-5:45 bike leg, while John Bowes finished handily in the top 2,000 overall in a time of 13:05:13 rounding off yet another busy weekend where the club’s biggest race of the entire year was a roaring success and David and Kevin stole the headlines on the road for two landmark performances in Chester and Illnois. Next weekend’s big event is the first round of the Manchester Cross Country League at Wythenshawe Park, which is traditionally the final round of the championship but this year serves as the curtain-raiser. As well as being the club’s main focus for training and racing over the winter, it offers all members the opportunity to compete for the club’s own senior mens and ladies titles, won last year by Michael Forber and Myka Heard, with the awards presented at the annual prize giving.

 

Age Group Awards Aplenty in Chilly Cheshire

St Helens Tri members were racing at four different venues on Sunday, with the focus mainly being at historic Oulton Park in Cheshire. Predominantly a motorsports venue, in recent years it has become a popular racetrack for holding multisport races with occasional running events being something of the spring and autumn duathlons. It’s a while since Mark Ashton has been spotted leading the club home but he has a very good past record in the Endurance Store winter training events, and all that practice of running off the bike proved useful as he followed up a solid first run and a blistering sub-34 minute bike with a dogged effort to take 72th overall in a time of 1:10:41. Given a little more time to practice on his Giant Propel Michael Forber may well challenge Mark for the honour next time as he made up nearly 90 seconds on the final stage, eventually finishing just under a minute adrift but placing in the top ten in his age category. In doing so he extricated himself from the clutches of Garry Banks whose 1:13:02 put him the top 100 overall and 5th in the M55-59 category, after which it was a little wait for Chris Murphy to be fourth club member home in 194th overall having run in a race of his own throughout. Behind him a cracking battle was on between Azzam Taktak and Helen Broderick which was only resolved on the final run as Azzam pulled away to get the nod at the line, to the tune of just 23 seconds. Shirley Fox has improved immeasurably with her weekly long rides and while unable to catch her teammates ahead, her time of 1:30:37 put her in the top 250 and 4th in her age group. A great story was developing in Shirley’s rear-view mirror as Bethany Forber and Sarah Taktak, who have raced many long-distance events together this year were side by side for much of the race, and as such it was fitting that they crossed the line together in 1:36:15, Sarah finishing second in her age group only a week after wrapping up the adventure series title in Anglesey. For some time it looked as though Christine Forber would stay with them, especially after a much-improved bike split, however she eventually came home a couple of minutes adrift having still done more than enough to beat the 1:40 mark. The remaining club entrants were Laura and Karen Banks with the pair separated by five minutes at the finish, Laura placing eighth in the F30-34 category and Karen sixth in her age group.

That was it for the sprint distance but in the afternoon five club members were off at 1pm for the longer standard race. While the sprint distance was five bike laps sandwiched by single lap runs, the standard length comprised a two-lap run to start, nine laps on the bike and a single lap to finish off. Mark Turner has steadily worked his way into being a specialist at races lasting around two hours and here he was again, leading the quintet home as his blistering sub-32 minute run at the beginning gave him a lead he would never lose, finishing over eleven minutes clear of his teammates, 41st overall and third in the M25-29 group. Terry Bates also had a day to remember as he threw everything at his division leader to catch him, only to fall short by just eight seconds, however his 2:07:25 and second place in his category was still an outstanding result. Neil Jackson was next up having actually run ahead of Terry early doors, however Terry’s experience on the bike eventually proved to be the difference with around two and a half minutes separating the pair at the line. Also racing was long distance specialist Mark Eccleston who was probably feeling the effects of many hard running events over the course of the season yet commendably rode faster than both Terry and Neil en route to a 2:10:50 finish. One more long-time servant of St Helens Tri, stretching back to the days of Ashurst Bike Club, also raced in the classic black and white colours of 2004 vintage. Ashurst Bike Club ran from 2004 to 2014 and one of the upcoming stars around the turn of the decade was Richard Kettle who had many fine outings at Oulton Park. Tragically he died of a heart attack a couple of years ago. So in his memory Derek Ireland, who had not raced in nearly a decade, decided to compete at the Cheshire circuit to honour his great friend. He did Richard proud, too, giving a particularly determined performance on the bike with his final time of 2:50:29 giving him a top-six placing in his age group. A fine example to club members new and old.

The juniors were out in force at the Blackpool end of season triathlon, the final round in the Triathlon England North West league. Holly and Grace Hirst competed for St Helens Tri alongside Hollie and Thomas Saile. Results are not yet in at the time of writing but while the grand St Helens Tri outing was in full swing in Little Budworth, Dean Golba scored the club’s best result at the Nantwich Triathlon since 2016 as he finished fifth overall and won his age group; undoubtedly a contender for the most improved triathlete of the year for 2018. Meanwhile Lee Stinch travelled a little further, to say the least, as he tackled the Monster Ultra Trail race in Ely, Cambridgeshire. On a tough, windy day he performed brilliantly to place in the top 20 with a time of 6 hours 55 minutes to round off a terrific Sunday of racing. Next week’s big event needs no introduction as BeUrBest host the Rainford 10k, with the kids fun run beginning at 9:45am and the main event starting 45 minutes later. Entries are still available but online entry closes in the next 24 hours for the 10k, which regularly sells out in advance of race day.