Awesome Foursome, the Dazzling Dozen and the Speedy Seven – a Bank Holiday Symphony in Three Movements

Bank Holiday weekend in August is typically characterised by three things; the Challenge Cup Final, Creamfields and the triple-header of the triathlon club relays, the West Lancashire Triathlon at the club’s adopted swimming home of Edge Hill in Ormskirk and the Wirral Open Water triathlon at the Marine Lake in West Kirby. At Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre the club had just one team this year, comprising of Myka Heard, Shirley Fox, Paul Booth and Mal Balmer. The Awesome Foursome (their choice of name) did the club proud with some particularly forceful swimming honed by years of long distance sessions at various open water venues and powered their way to 84th place overall finishing the course in just over four hours.

It was an altogether busier morning at the West Lancs Triathlon at Edge Hill Sport. The club’s 12 entrants set off at various times during the day but the Ralfs family led the way on the results table, with Thomas being the only one from the Saints to dip under 70 minutes, his experience in short-course swimming proving pivotal in establishing a fast start and his contributions to the run track sessions paying dividends with his 24 minute 5k split giving his second in his age group. His dad Alan was mere seconds behind, having inched ever closer to his son’s time during the bike and run course he was just less than 20 seconds behind at the finish, his 1:10:12 nevertheless placing him just outside the top 50. Peter Leadbeater has gone a bit under the radar since his sparkling early season form, but having gone well at the April triathlons he went even better here, a sub-34 minute bike split elevating him into the top 60 overall and seventh in his category. Robert Courtley had Chris Dyson for close competition together with Andrew Beacock and Chris Wynne, as the quartet somewhat managed to concertina having been pretty spreadeagled after the swim, Andrew and Chris catching the eye on the 5k in particular. After this closely matched quartet there was a gap of a couple of minutes to Sam Walton, who battled like a man possessed to beat the 80 minute mark and did it to the tune of just nine seconds; he was glad of his blistering 6:02 for the 400m swim once the heat hit out on the bike and run course, and fourth place in his age group was a just reward. He was just over three minutes ahead of Mark Syratt, candidate for “under the radar” improver at the Friday night track sessions, who came up with a tight, consistent race plan and stuck to it, eventually finishing in a time of 1:23:06. He was followed home by Sean Dalby who obviously enjoys the concept of racing short distances frequently; he improved from his showing at Manley Mere particularly on the run to clock a 1:25:51 just seconds away from the top 250. Rounding out the club’s registered entrants was Keith Ashcroft, who went under ten minutes on the swim and dug in deep in the near-oven like temperatures on the top of the hill during the run course to finish in just over 90 minutes.

Over on the Wirral the open water triathlon was in full swing, with its trademark hilly bike route and run along the marina proving a hit with both the entrants and locals alike; a far cry from other such events where Bank Holiday disruption is seen as a major nuisance. Leading the was for the Saints sextet were the dynamic duo of Andrew McGlone and Richard Seville. A trip to the bookmakers a year ago might have got shorter odds on Richard leading the club home but Andrew positively starred in the marina, out of the water in under 13 minutes! He enjoyed two particularly rapid transitions as he put his name forward as a dark horse for 2020 GB consideration and despite Richard’s best efforts on the bike and run he could not catch his teammate, the pair separated by just twelve seconds at the flag. The pair were nearly a quarter of an hour ahead of recent new member Ian Wright, who has been prolific in running races for years as a member of the IRF but here he was right into the thick of things for his new club, as he was out of the water in just over 18 minutes and proceeded to clock 45 minutes for the bike before a solid mid-21 run time saw him home inside the top 150 just under five minutes ahead of a relay team featuring the club’s very own Neil Wallace. In the midst of this passage of play Mark Eccleston added another sprint triathlon to his varied 2019 resume as he recorded the fastest 5k in his long and storied career finishing in the top 70 with a strong run to 1:22:28, although he mentioned in his post-race comments that his 20mph+ average aboard his Giant Propel from Thatto Cycles was even more satisfying (the value of a good bike fit if ever we needed evidence!) Rounding out the club’s entrants on the Wirral were Azzam Taktak and Wendy Webb who were both closing out race seasons largely marked by long distance events; Azzam finished in just over 90 minutes while Wendy recorded a 1:56:07 to close out a weekend where the star turns came from Thomas at Edge Hill, Andrew and Richard at West Kirby and the Awesome Foursome at the relays. The schedule for next weekend is rather more sparse but entries are still available for the St Helens Triathlon on September 8th and the Rainford 10k four weeks later.

Mark, Andrew and Keith at Edge Hill

 

Six from the Top – Countdown to #BeatShaleyBrow Part 1

The past week has been one of those classic “in between” ones with relatively little in the way of actual racing but with several notable results coming in, just enough to fire everyone up for the packed Bank Holiday weekend and the final stretch run in September, including the #BeatShaleyBrow St Helens Triathlon. Two late results came in from the latest round of the North West Junior Series, where Grace and Holly Hirst were taking part in the Tameside Duathlon. Grace and Holly have improved in leaps and bounds thanks mainly to their regular participation at the Friday night track sessions, which are currently focusing on short, sharp efforts to prime everyone for the Rainford 10k and Fun Run. The sisters must figure to finish at the sharp end of the latter given how well they performed in East Manchester as while Holly placed ninth in the TS3 Girls race, Grace took a top 5 at TS1 level finishing very close to the podium. Read More

Super Cup Win for Carole in Chilly Cheshire

Quarry Bank Mill is a popular tourist destination for families as well as school trips and last Wednesday it provided the backdrop for the first St Helens Tri outing of the week. Diane Taktak, who had enjoyed a packed season of running on and off road joined friends from the Isabella Rose Foundation to take on the Run North West trail race. Such has been the variety of events on Diane’s schedule, here on a particularly testing course she ran strong where others faltered and completed the course, just over five miles long, in a time of 51:52. Three days later it was the turn of Violet Costello to star at the Dee Mile swim hosted by Chester Tri Club. This event now offers a half mile option for juniors to participate in and Violet, a regular attendee at Friday morning swimming and the Friday night track run session, performed brilliantly to take third in her category. Where Emma Austin and Sarah Taktak have progressed from junior to adult racing, Violet is set to follow! Read More

Serious accident at Manley Mere Triathlon

The Manley Mere Triathlon on Sunday 11 August was overshadowed by a very distressing accident at the start of the bike course involving longtime club member Dave Gaskell. Dave had entered the race hosted by Stockport Tri Club as preparation for the World Championships and was looking forward to the trip to Lausanne. However, he fell on the first corner of the cycle stage in Cheshire and suffered a fracture of his femur bone. The Stockport marshals were on the scene immediately and were a credit to themselves, their club and the triathlon community as they were there to help Dave in his state of shock while they awaited the arrival of the ambulance. Further to this, a helicopter airlifted him to Aintree Hospital where he underwent surgery on Sunday evening.

As such we will hold back from publishing any race reports from the past week until the time is appropriate. In the meantime, we all at St Helens Tri wish Dave a full and speedy recovery.

Stars of Salford, Snowdonia and the Soyembika – Double Gold Medal Edition

It is easy to forget sometimes, but as recently as the end of 2014 St Helens Tri did not even exist as a club. Within the first two years of existence the club had already racked up many wins on a local and national level as well as organised the first ever St Helens Triathlon, for which entries for the 2019 edition are still available at the time of writing. However, even as the starters’ orders were given on 13 September 2015, some club members were already taking their first steps towards representing their country on the European and World stages. There have been many such episodes of Saints greatness in the last two years in particular but none quite like what the club experienced at the home of the fabled Soyembika Tower in Kazan, Russia on Sunday morning. Read More

Silver for Stephen in Salford Scorcher – “Not the Post Ironman Blues”

During the weeks immediately pre and post Ironman, various members have been flying the St Helens Tri flag at a wide range of venues across the UK. First of those was Steve Howe who claimed a top-six age group finish at the Sport in Action Ullswater Triathlon, while on the same day George Houghton was once again climbing ropes and cargo nets aplenty at his latest OCR event, this being a 15k Spartan held at Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Read More

The greatest St Helens Tri story ever told – “The Architect’s” edition

For some, it is the winning or the completion of the challenge that counts, nothing else, and it doesn’t seem to matter how they do it. To an extent this is understandable, as there are many ways to finish an Ironman or qualify for team GB (the roll of honour having been extended in the last 24 hours with the news that Eddie Hirst had qualified for the Kona Ironman World Championships). But there is a special place in people’s hearts, as well as in the history books, for those who win with style, win while overcoming impossible odds, win with an epic story to tell. The column written earlier today held the title of “best St Helens Tri report ever” for slightly less than the time it took Eddie to finish the race yesterday, as this year’s youngest competitor Sarah Taktak submitted this almost indescribable account of how she slayed the biggest challenge of all. Sit back with a snack/drink/tipple of choice and let it sink in………. Read More

From Belmont to the Bright Lights of Bolton – A Bastille Day Like No Other

It may well transpire at the end of 2019 that we look back on July 14 and anoint it as the most extraordinary sporting day of the year. While the greatest Wimbledon Final ever played out on Centre Court and England’s cricket team won a stunning World Cup Final in extra overs, the roads of Lancashire and particularly the streets of Bolton were pure theatre as thousands of athletes from all over the country and beyond descended on the hometown of Peter Kay for Ironman UK, this year’s race featuring a tougher than ever bike course through Ramsbottom and up Winter Hill (interesting how as running race courses get flatter, Ironman courses get tougher). St Helens Tri had 11 entrants in the annual 140.6 challenge and with all having a story to tell, we have decided to defer the Ullswater and Deva Divas results until next week’s report with a far lighter schedule on tap, while also dividing this week’s column into segments for each individual participant. Read More

Charlie Conquers “The Challenge” and more Houghton Heroics

The first weekend in July is normally characterised by the opening of the Tour de France and that time when Ironman UK entrants are nervously tapering in preparation for the big day the following Sunday, but there was still plenty for St Helens Tri to be happy about as the busiest month of the multisport year got underway. James Nairn and Robert Courtley got the ball rolling at the midweek Capernwray Sprint triathlon hosted by T2 Events, who also stage the Semer Water Swim in Hawes on August 17th, a perfect warm-up race for the St Helens Triathlon three weeks later. Read More

European Excellence against the Elements and Making a Mark in the Park

It was very much one of those weekends when it was as if the club was on a mission to send as many people as possible to as many different events as possible for global takeover, as St Helens Tri were represented throughout the UK and Europe. Bala was the central focus for a couple of juniors as George Doyle and Holly Hirst took part in a national standard triathlon at TS3 level. George was out of the water in 7:15 then posted a top-10 bike split, and his run was good enough to land him in the top 25 boys in his age group. Meanwhile Holly gained ground throughout the race, finishing with a particularly encouraging run split lifting her to a 27th place finish in the girls’ event. Read More