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
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
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
The clock is now ticking down to Ironman UK but sprint distance races are still on offer and there was plenty for the club to celebrate over the weekend in Cheshire and Cardiff. At Cholmondeley Castle the focus was on the latest round of the Castle Triathlon Series where no less than 34 race options were on offer. The focus of such weekends is always on the triathlons but the club also had entries in the 10k and half marathon. Helen Broderick enjoyed her best ever overall placing in a race in the 10k competing with her daughter as she finished the multi-terrain course in a time of 56:58 placing 14th overall and sixth lady home. Read More
It was a case of “all up north” over the Father’s Day weekend as the juniors took part in the Salt Ayre Junior Triathlon while a select few seniors made their way to Ullswater for the first of the 2019 Epic Lakes Swim Series and we had an entry in the Lakesman Half. On the Fylde coast four juniors took part in the regional championships hosted by the City of Lancaster Triathlon Club and all emerged with credit. Unfortunately the results are incomplete at the time of writing due to a serious incident at the end of the bike stage when one of the competitors collapsed at the dismount line. As such only Oliver Murphy currently has a result, however the wellbeing of the young aathlete involved is the most pressing concern at this moment in time; we hope for good news and a full recovery.
KellyAnne Towns is no stranger to the half Ironman format having participated in many such events across Europe but the Lakesman must rank as one of her toughest and most rewarding to date. Out of the water in just over 37 minutes, she put in a fine performance on the bike and an even better one on the run to finish in a time of 5:53:43, putting her in the top 5 of her age group. Meanwhile four club members took on either the mile or 2.5km swim at Ullswater hosted by Epic Events. Lynette Houghton, fresh from her heroics at Ironman 70.3, was our sole entrant in the 2.5km race and cracked the top 150 as she finished in a time of 52:11. In the mile race Tony Waine described it as a “swim of all weathers” as the swimmers faced torrential rain and bright sunshine in the space of an hour. For his part he picked up speed as he got warmer in the sub-12c water and eventually finished in a little over 40 minutes. It was a good outing for Laura Banks, as she came good on her predominantly pool swim experience to finish in the top 75 with a time of 33:21 but the real star was George Houghton, who figures to be one of the club’s leading up and coming athletes for many years to come. In his first Epic Lakes swim he recorded an astounding 29:09 which must have him in the mix for age group honours in years to come, thus rounding out a fairly quiet but still fruitful weekend for the club. The remainder of the month is equally sparse in terms of major events but the Southport Half Marathon and 10k offers an interesting fixture close to home on June 30th, and at the time of writing, it’s only four weeks to Ironman UK!
It is somewhat unfortunate that Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and the Leeds ITU weekend seemingly clash year in, year out but that is the fact of life as the racing schedule gets ever more overcrowded. However, that is the current state of play and as such it was a tough decision for many St Helens Tri members as to which race to choose. First of all, however Megan Cowley and Ann Gregory got the ball rolling with the 2 mile swim in Windermere on Friday. Against a backdrop of torrential rain and high winds which thankfully proved less troublesome than first anticipated, Megan finished in the top 1000 in a time of 1:56:12, while Ann, who has been a valued contributor to the club at Wednesday night swim sessions as well as improving week by week on Friday mornings, was delighted with her 1:16:04 leaving her mere seconds away fro the top 400.
Onto Sunday it was then, and the first athletes were out and about at the crack of dawn for the Staffordshire 70.3 with seven club members facing the massed start in the water, a technical bike course and a varied run with flat sections and very tough hills thrown into the mix. Star of the show was undoubtedly Steve Williams, who had only just returned from his top-5 in the ETU championships in the Netherlands, but here he easily beat the 40 minute mark for the swim and kept up a 20mph pace on the bike. The run proved tougher going for him but he still finished in an overall time of 5:53:31, good enough for second in the M65 division. There wasn’t much in it between Steve and Mark Eccleston in the water but a succession of chain snaps early on during the bike course left Mark with a lot to make up in the later stages. To his credit, he made up some time on Steve on the run to finish within 20 minute of his teammate and hold off Lynette Houghton, who has been a revelation in recent weeks particularly at the Nottingham Sprint. Here, she finished in a time of 6:26:31 which placed her in the top 30 F45’s, a fitting reward for months of hard training and regular attendance at club sessions, not to mention her attention to detail on bike position, in collaboration with the fit team at Thatto Cycles. Peter Rawlinson was next over the line in just over six and a half hours having made up a fair bit of time from exiting the water thanks to a dogged effort on the bike and some much improved pace over the half marathon.
If there was a people’s champion award at the club prizegiving (currently scheduled for late November) Chris Forber would surely be a contender; not only has she enjoyed her best season to date, she has never been one to miss a race where her friends and family have been competing and has always been that person for a club member to turn to in times of self-doubt. As such it was only fitting that she should have her day and 9 June proved to be exactly that, as she was out of the water very close to the Steve/Lynette/Mark trio and her previous experience of the bike course helped her no end with her pacing strategy for the run. The video of her coming down the finish chute was one of the most uplifting clips in years and her final result of 7:06:50 put her just outside the top 40 in her age group. Indeed, her route recce “partner in crime” Diane Taktak, who had enjoyed a good warm-up race four days earlier at the Birkenhead Park 5 Miler, also enjoyed a day out to remember as although she was unable to hang with the St Helens Tri leaders in the water, she made up for it with a particularly good run to beat the 7:45 mark with room to spare. Rounding out the participants in Staffordshire was Sean Dalby, setting a similar pace to Diane on both the swim and bike and being desperately unlucky not to beat the eight-hour mark, surely it is only a matter of time.
Memo to the Staffordshire organisers: please choose a date other than June 7th for 2020. That’s an unusual choice of sentence to open the second half of a weekly report, but it’s because the Leeds ITU festival/stadium race/ampitheatre (choose as you wish) race has already been scheduled for that date, and there are some excellent early bird special prices available at the time of writing. This is one event no-one wants to miss, with the swim in Roundham Park often being set to classic party tunes, a bike course which despite the increased competitor traffic is still thrilling to ride, and a run course into the city centre akin to participating in the London Marathon. Up at the crack of dawn were three club members eager to get in with a chance of qualifying for the ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada. Mark Turner and Eddie Hirst were the two main contenders for the Saints and both would place 12th in their age group, with both recording excellent swim times mere seconds apart, Eddie having the edge on the bike and Mark setting a blistering 36:21 10k time to actually edge his teammate at the line to the tune of a couple of minutes. Both await the email to confirm a place on the world stage. If Chris Forber deserved the spirit of competition award for the 70.3, Chris Hayes had to get it in Yorkshire, as here he was taking part in his first standard distance event with friends from work and a couple of others who have taken part in Friday track sessions but at the time of writing have not yet joined the club. Coming from a rugby background, Chris has always had power and strength to burn, but the question was, could he maintain it over a three hour race? The answer was yes, as he set a promising time over the 1500m swim and beat the 75 minute mark on the bike. The run proved more taxing as the energy sapping heat started to kick in (or maybe the kids with the water and jelly babies didn’t appear until the sprint distance racers took to the run course) but his final time of just over two hours 50 minutes was one of the off-the-radar results of the year so far.
In keeping with the “spirit of competition” Chris even managed to get back to a good spectating point for the sprint distance race featuring Emma Austin, Paul Austin and Robert Chesters AKA Team Green and Black’s (the colour of their bikes, no reference to the chocolate company!) Emma was always going to be the favourite for grabbing the headlines and so it proved, as another terrific swim despite having to tread water initially had her into T1 in a commanding lead and an excellent bike split gave her every chance of an age group podium. Eventually a faster runner made their way past but Emma was still delighted with second in her division and ninth female overall, as she continues to work her way back from a running injury that took her out of much of the winter training block. Indeed, Robert would match Emma’s “9/2” result despite the running joke doing the rounds prior to the start that Paul, starting five minutes later, would be out of the lake before him, but luckily his coaching experience plus the memories of last year’s “yellow buoy……..oh no that’s a canoe” incident had him gunning for a much quicker swim time. 16:42 was certainly not anywhere near Team Austin territory but was 90 seconds quicker than his 2018 time, and while the bike course proved frustrating as he repeatedly caught packs of riders at the tight corners, he didn’t get mad, he got more than even on the run as a 7.5km time of just over 27 minute saw him make two critical passes on the way into the city centre to match Emma’s result, finishing in 1:24:38. It was also a cracking performance by Emma’s dad Paul, who quite incredibly went quicker than Emma in the lake, and was close to Robert’s time on the bike course. In the end he was just edged out of second in his division by a flying finisher, but his run of just over 35 minutes still cemented third in the M50 category to round off an exceptional week of racing where the star turns came from Ann at the Windermere Great Swim, Steve and Chris in Staffordshire and all six who raced in Leeds. Next week’s schedule is rather more quiet, with the only races of note being the Birmingham Triathlon, the Port Sunlight 10k and 5k and the Flash in the Park 10k at Leigh Sports Village, but there are only five more weeks until the date of destiny, Bastille Day and Ironman UK Day all in one. The date of 14th July is one not to be missed!
The month of June began with the city of Liverpool celebrating and most of Merseyside nursing some pretty sore heads but for St Helens Tri members making the trip down the M56 to Chester there was no such lie-in as 12 of them faced either the standard or middle distance Deva Triathlons hosted by Chester Tri Club. In the standard distance the stars of the show were Michael Forber and Patrick Neill. We are fairly used to seeing positions set in stone between club members nowadays, but it is a long time since such a back-and-forth duel in an open water race (as in decided on the finish line) has eventuated, yet here Michael and Patrick put on a thrilling show with Michael’s much improved swim pace seeing him out of the water nearly two minutes ahead only for Patrick to use his TT bike to ease away on two wheels, not easy given the strong winds and changeable conditions. However, you can never write Michael off and a searing 43:25 for the 10k run saw him edge it at the line by just 17 seconds after nearly two and a half hours of racing. This result also left him second in his age group, in which he overtook many tiring runners over the final few kilometres. Ian Wright and James Nairn were similarly well matched on overall time, however in this case it was more that James’ late rally fell short as despite making up over 90 seconds on the run and having superior transition times, Ian held on to be third club member home by only 28 seconds, with the pair having enough in hand to hold off Patrick Lee, racing for the first time in open water since the Birmingham Triathlon last June. He managed to hang onto his two teammates for much of the race before dropping back on the run to finish around five minutes in arrears. However, Bethany Forber once again stole the show and scored a podium as her much improved speed on the bike lifted her to third in the F20-24 category and 280th overall in a time of 3:10:13, huge encouragement for one of the club’s top young talents.
St Helens Tri members have been competing in various Team GB qualifier events with distinction recently and two more races over the Bank Holiday weekend relatively at new multisport venues offered yet another chance to represent their country on the European and World stages. Mal Balmer and Jennifer Pybis made the trip to Barry Island (which is actually a peninsula in Glamorgan) for an ITU draft legal sprint triathlon with a sea swim, a multi-lap draft legal bike course and a 5k run with sea views. Mal had a bit of a fight of it in the water but quick transitions helped him overcome some tough competitors on the bike and run stages and he eventually finished in 1:30:56, good enough for 23rd super veteran. However, Jennifer positively starred; for someone not used to sea swimming she was into the thick of things like she had been doing it for years, and her much improved bike performance and traditional rapid finish on the run gave her a time of 1:22:20 and lifted her into the top 15 senior ladies on the day before breakdown into 5-year age groups; it is to be seen whether this translates into team GB qualification for next year’s championships in Edmonton, Canada.
If conditions weren’t exactly ideal for sea swimming in South Wales, up north (or at least in the East Midlands) they were positively inhopsitable for club reporter Robert Chesters and the hordes who came from all over the UK to take part in what could have been viewed as an unofficial national championship race; with Oulton Park rarely featuring as a local qualifier nowadays and Bedford Autodrome hosting the other two 2020 ETU qualification races, Darley Moor near Ashbourne, Derbyshire is perhaps the best-kept secret for those whose swimming is not up to the same level as their other two disciplines. Darley Moor Circuit is best known for hosting motorcycle races and in essence is a straight triangle shape with a couple of chicanes, and this made for tricky going on both the run course, held around the gravel paths at the circuit perimeter, and the 8-lap bike segment which was Robert’s first opportunity to test a new position on his bike. The first run was hard going for many, especially those relying on compression gear toaid bloodflow, and as such Robert reached the pit lane outside the top 30, but an imcreasingly quick bike stage on what was fast becoming a river more than a racetrack saw him move up the order as others faded and a top-10 final run split enabled him to pull off some critical overtakes landing him sixth in the M35-39 category, which will hopefully put him into position for a wildcard slot next year’s ETU duathlon championships, for which the date and venue are yet to be confirmed.
Five more members stayed closer to home and tackled the Liverpool Rock n Roll Half Marathon. A favourite among many local running clubs, the Run Rock n Roll series has grown in popularity since its inception in America and now boasts multiple events in countries all over the world. For St Helens Tri Chris Dyson was making his half marathon debut alongside Neil Wallace, Diane and Azzam Taktak and Karen Kelly and the quintet shone through conditions every bit as difficult as those at Darley Moor. While Neil led the club home in a time of 1:50:37, the resurgence of Azzam continued after his spectacular return to form at the Spring 10k earlier this month. Here, he was in his element and having only been hoping for a sub-2 hour time he went and smashed the target by over three minutes, clocking an excellent 1:56:44 in possibly the performance of the weekend. Chris got in some valuable training miles ahead of his half Ironman distance debut next week in Chester as he got round in 2:16:29, and it was actually a close run thing to the line as he found himself sandwiched between Diane, who came in 27 seconds ahead and Karen, with the trio finishing just over two and a half minutes apart. All in all, an exciting Bank Holiday weekend had by all who competed with star turns coming at all three race venues. Next weekend the month of June begins with the Deva middle distance and the Epicman Windermere while the Leeds ITU Triathlon takes place a week later at Roundhay Park as the final build stretch towards Ironman UK begins in earnest.
And so it was to Sunday, with no less than 30 club members entered in the sprint and standard distances races at the Epic Events Southport Triathlon, also incorporating the Triathlon England National Championships, while others preferred to travel to either Worcester or Nottingham for alternative racing ventures. On the Irish Sea coast the racing began at 7:30am for the standard distance races including a two-lap, 1500m swim in the Marine Lake, two 20km laps of the coast road and two 5k laps of a 5k run course including some portions of the route used at last month’s Splashworld event (the sprint course being one lap each of the above). Mark Glynn and Eddie Hirst were always likely to be fighting it out for first club member home and so it proved. Mark got an advantage of just over half a minute on the swim but Eddie chipped away and arrived at the end of the bike course slightly ahead. However, on this occasion Mark’s rather more sparse race schedule in the build-up to Southport came up trumps over Eddie’s fixture list which looked more like Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final and his fresher legs enabled him to take 18th overall in a time of 2:08:15, while also taking third in the M50-54 category. Eddie meanwhile was just edged out of a top-30 placing overall but still got in the top ten in his category, his experience with hanging in there paying dividends where others would have faded out of contention. Behind him, one might have expected a close battle between Andrew McGlone, Paul Austin and Michael Forber for the “St Helens Tri Podium” but amazingly Andrew pulled off the swim of his life and created a gap never to be bridged; while Paul enjoyed a superior bike time and Michael came up with his customary fast 10k to finish neither could reel him in and his 2:21:06 placed him 125th overall around three and a half minutes clear of Paul and a further 90 seconds clear of Michael. A gap of a few minutes followed while others rolled in, but there were plenty more interesting stories, including that of Claire Murphy who only eight days removed from ironman 70.3 Mallorca put in yet another memorable performance as her sub-28 swim and much improved pace on the bike and run stages enabled her to take a top-10 finish in her category and a final time of 2:38:17. Ian Wright only joined the club at the beginning of the triathlon year (April 1st) but he has certainly made quite an impression already particularly with his running prowess, and he gave Alan McKeegan a real run for his money as he sought to close the gap on the bike and run before Alan eventually finished 45 seconds to the good. Still the Saints came rolling home, but the next huge story of the day was about to unfold. Sarah Taktak has excelled for a long time at the Wednesday and Friday swim sessions held at Edge Hill Sport, but here she made a huge improvement on the bike, particularly in view of her preparation for Ironman UK, and with the number 1 on her race bib she came good on exactly that as she swept to victory in the F20 division completing the course in 2:52:26, her dad Azzam also continuing his good form after the spring 10k as he finished only a few minutes behind. One person Azzam overtook on the bike was Bethany Forber, who would produce the next great cheer of the day as she followed up her customary speedy swim with a sub-90 minute time on the bike and rounded it off with a 54:09 run to take third in the F20-24 category, behind only two team GB triathletes! The family photos, complete with mum Christine who was less than three minutes behind, were one of the highlights of the day. Behind Christine five more club members would yet finish, with perhaps the biggest cheer in order for Paul Hazlehurst who has a rather unusual background to triathlon having previously excelled in power sports such as boxing. Luckily no punches were thrown in the lake but he did a creditable sub-33 minute swim to exit the water not far behind Bethany and his strong legs propelled him round the bike course in a little over 90 minutes. Although not quite able to hold such a rapid pace on the run he deserved a cheer equal to that of those who won prizes as his diligent approach to his training was rewarded with a finish time of 3:25:19; indeed if a coaches’ award was to presented at midseason for progress during the sessions it would be hard to think of a more deserving recipient.
The sprint distance race saw five club members take on the single-lap versions of each discipline. Richard Seville has long been one of the few “win at everything” club members and is perhaps best remembered for his heroics at last year’s Ironman Austria, but here he not only led the club home, he signed off with a blistering 18:17 run and won his age category! And he wasn’t the only sprint distance racer to mount the podium as Myka Heard returned from a long running injury to post an incredible sub-13 minute swim and still have enough in her on the bike and run to win her division too. Coming up on the rails fast at the end, but not quick enough to overhaul Myka, was Ian Orford whose rise to multisport prominence really began during the winter club duathlon season. Here, he began with a good strong swim and while not able to match Richard or Myka on the bike he would follow Richard’s lead in saving the best until last, a 19:06 5k elevating him to within touching distance of the top 50. Also racing the sprint distance were Tony Waine and Robert Saile. Tony was two minutes behind Robert upon leaving the water but put in a solid shift on the bike to nibble away at the deficit, and eventually his superior running speed lifted him past his teammate as the pair finished 106th and 132nd respectively. All in all a terrific morning of racing on the west coast, and the question now was, could the Outlaw half entrants repeat the dose in Nottingham?
Four club members made the trip to the East Midlands for this well-regarded half Ironman at the home of Robin Hood. All four members have been with the club for many years and as such had plenty of experience going into the race, but here Gary Birch stole the limelight as a sub-45 minute swim had him well up the field early doors and a sub-2:45 time for the 56 miles on the bike gave him a superb platform to build on for the run, which he duly did by completing the 13.1 miles in a little over two hours to eventually finish 626th in a time of 5:46:20. Gary Davies was marginally ahead as they got out of the water and extended his lead in the early goings, but eventually Gary Birch overhauled him during the bike course. Nevertheless, a two and a half hour 13.1 miler to finish meant that Gary Davies still got home in just over six and a half hours, very close to making the top 1000. If ever there was an example of “don’t give up”, Debra Rayment would be it. With her season seemingly over after a mountain bike accident in March, she would have been forgiven for pulling out of the Outlaw Half but instead she proved the doubters wrong with a gritty performance to finish in under 7:15. Caroline Bones rounded out the multisport proceedings for the week as she got home in a time of 7:51:38 but there was one more story on the other side of the Midlands as Lee Stinch tackled the Worcester Half Marathon in the Malvern Hills. On a tough, technical course a PB was never very likely but Lee, seemingly fresh from excelling at the club track session on the Friday night, put in an inspired display to complete the race in 1:38:24, good enough to finish in the top 50 overall and round off a thrilling day of racing where the star turns came from Richard and Myka in the Southport Sprint, Mark Glynn, Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber in the standard race and Gary Birch in Nottingham. Next week sees the return of Go Tri to St Helens while Crazy Legs Events host an ETU qualification race at the Darley Moor Duathlon, comprising a two-lap run, 8 laps on the bike and a final run lap to finish on a blindingly fast race track near Ashbourne. Closer to home, the Liverpool Rock n’ Roll races, namely the 5k, half marathon and full marathon should provide plenty of cheer for those making the short trip to the home of the Beatles to either participate or offer their support.
(Full results from Southport can be found at https://resultsbase.net/event/4940/results )
With the weekend schedule being so busy, here we bring you the first part of a packed Saturday together with the midweek time trial results. Neil Prescott performed well on the bike at the winter club duathlon series but no-one saw his early eye-catcher coming at the St Helens CRC Wednesday night TT as he sensationally went under the 22:30 mark clocking a 22:13, good enough for a 5th place finish. Then it was onto Saturday with the main focus being the Keswick Mountain Festival plus a gentle nod to the Nottingham Sprint Triathlon. In our Splashworld Triathlon review, Lynette Houghton was described as perhaps the strongest “pound for pound” athlete in the club. As such a fast course with an opportunity to test out her new-found aero position was always going to be just the ticket and so it proved. She completed the 750m swim in a little over 15 minutes, good for anyone but outstanding for someone who, in her own words, “only swims at one pace” – well that is some standard for so many to aim towards! The bike leg was much improved as her newly-chosen aero road bike enabled her to climb the field, completing the four-lap course in under 36 minutes and a strong final run round the lake lifted her to a time of 1:19:06, 133rd overall and an excellent third in her age group.
Up north there were several members entered in the Keswick Mountain Festival, a long-running party comprising triathlon, lake swims, trail runs and much more. Unfortunately the warm weather brought on every swimmers’ nightmare – algae – leading to the swim being cancelled and swapped for a short duathlon including two tough off road runs and a technical bike course with plenty of climbs. Nevertheless the club was well represented, with the first member home being Paddy Lee, who aboard his new TT bike was very much at home on the technical bike course and managed to score a useful 72nd place finish, including the top half of his age group, in a time of 1:30:44. Mark Derbyshire and Helen Broderick enjoyed a cracking battle behind Paddy with Mark coming back from a sizeable deficit after the first trail run to close the gap to around 90 seconds at the end of the bike leg, and in the end it was perhaps his greater familiarity with his bike position (Helen having only recently purchased her new Giant Propel from Thatto Cycles) which made the difference, as he moved up to 102nd place at the flag in 1:36:19. Helen nonetheless scored the best age group result of the day among those travelling north as she placed ninth in her category. In addition Ann Gregory made the trip to Salford Quays for the USwim 1 mile race. Ann had a brilliant day out, coming good on her winter of consistent improvement at the Wednesday and Friday swim sessions and finished 115th in a time of 37:53 giving her a thoroughly deserved new PB. Part 2 of the report will follow tomorrow, covering the Southport and Outlaw Half triathlons as well as the Worcester Half Marathon in the Malvern Hills.