Bethany’s brilliance steals the show in Stockport

St Helens Tri began a varied week of racing with two turning out at the the midweek 10 mile time trial, the last Tuesday event of 2018. Debra Rayment and Helen Broderick faced the timekeeper and both managed to beat the 29 minute mark, setting the tone nicely for a Saturday of two contrasting races, these being the Lions Trail Marathon and the Bassenthwaite Triathlon. The former is a long-standing staple of the midsummer long distance running season, the latter an ever-popular triathlon which always sells out months in advance of race day. Lee Stinch was on form at the 26.2 mile event as he placed 14th overall with a fine performance which saw him duck under the 3:45 barrier, while Mark Derbyshire starred in the Lake District, where a combination of a strong swim and a couple of very speedy transitions lifted him into the top 50 by the end of the race. In keeping with the Lake District theme, four club members rounded off a very wet and windy weekend in the UK’s favourite National Park by participating in the Epic Lakes Swims at Coniston the following day, with the Semer Water Swim having been cancelled the day before. Carole James continues to improve posting a time of 42:26 for the mile distance, but the star performance came from Andrew McGlone who has proven to be one of the revelations of the 2018 season. Here, he completed the 2.4 mile event in an astounding 1:07:29, nearly twenty minutes ahead of Ironman Will Bardin, while Mark Eccleston crossed the line a further eight minutes in arrears at the end of one of the toughest long distance swims he has participated in.

There was plenty of racing action in somewhat less scenic locations as the Birchwood 10k and the Stockport Open Water Triathlon at Manley Mere also took place on Sunday. At the little New Town just outside Warrington Ian Orford and Diane Taktak took on their latest 10k challenge, with Ian making a welcome return to the racing circuit as he placed 125th in a time of 42:27 while Diane Taktak overcame the morning of the four seasons (at least in terms of weather) to clock a 59:18. Ian’s right hand man Kevin Dunbar was one of many tackling the Stockport event and it may yet be the first chapter of a long story to be told in 12 months’ time that Kevin’s Ironman 2019 journey started at this small venue which is perhaps the opposite of Bassenthwaite; it rarely attracts large numbers of entries, yet it is very conducive to fast times for all abilities whether new to the sport or very experienced. Kevin may not have much history to fall back on at multisport but here he was right into the thick of things as he clocked a sub-20 minute swim followed by a solid bike and a terrific run even quicker than one of the overall podium finishers, as he climbed to 18th place in a time of 1:24:13 at the finish line. He was only three places and just over 90 seconds behind Michael Forber who was participating in his first triathlon since Ironman. Here, he recorded a swim of just over 16 minutes, which set him up nicely for a top 15 finish overall and 5th in his age category, as he held off a fierce late comeback from Kevin to be first club member home. Entering the midweek 10 must have been an inspired move on the part of Helen Broderick as she was third of the six Saints over the line, with that all-important form on the bike lifting her to second in her age group and a top-40 overall placing. Ben Mason is relatively new to the club, but here he passed numerous people once out of the water with a strong bike performance and some good running off the bike to finish in just under 1 hour 36 minutes, coming so close to the top 50. Chris Forber had to give best to Ben on the final stage but her time of 1:37:35 was still good enough for third in her age group. However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Bethany Forber, who has made a strong impression with her coaching abilities at recent club sessions. Here, she exited the water in tandem with Helen, and though she dropped back somewhat from her teammates on the bike, an excellent run on tough off-road terrain not only placed her 61st overall, but first in the F20-29 age group by over seven and a half minutes, as she swept the board recording the fastest time in her age group on all three stages of the race; she had no competition whatsoever for the star performance not only in Stockport, but of the entire weekend. And Bethany will get another opportunity to shine next weekend as the signature race of the August Bank Holiday weekend is the national club relays at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham where the club has six teams of four entered in a unique race where all four members of each team have to complete the three disciplines, with plenty of recovery time between stages. With the West Lancs Summer Triathlon and a similar event taking place in West Kirby on the Sunday it promises to be yet another packed weekend of racing action.

The Sarah and Steve Show in Snowdonia and Scotland

St Helens Tri got off to a storming start in the first two weeks of August, and how timely it could prove with the club relays only twelve days away. On the first day of the month Richard Seville, Paul Booth and Emma Callery made the trip to Capernwray for the last of the midweek evening triathlons hosted by Epic Events. The trio were remarkably evenly matched in the water coming out of the lake less than five seconds apart, but on the bike course Richard pulled away brilliantly on his Giant Propel and a run which went tantalizingly close to beating the 20 minute mark saw him ease to first club member home and 12th overall in a time of 1:05:28. Paul and Emma were very evenly matched on the run course but ultimately Paul’s quicker bike split proved decisive as he rolled home 35th in 1:11:11, Emma placing 66th some four and a half minutes further back. For those wishing to return to this iconic venue in north Lancashire, it is worth noting that the aptly-named Fireworks 500 (metres) open water swim takes place on the evening of November 3rd, the Saturday before Bonfire Night. It was very much the second coming of the Three Amigos three days later at Capel Curig in north Wales as the second round of the Always Aim High events adventure triathlon series rolled into town. Among the many competitors in this ever popular race were Sarah and Azzam Taktak plus John Baden, for whom this event has become something of an annual favourite. Azzam Taktak was the first club member home in a time of 1:52:21 as his Ironman strength proved decisive on such a tough course but Sarah stole the limelight as she was out of the water in a little over eight minutes, put in a much improved bike performance in comparison with previous races and held firm on the run to win the female under 23 division and crossing the line just a minute behind her dad! It was also a welcome return to form for John Baden whose customary big effort on the bike course was rewarded with a time of 2:00:43 placing him just outside the top 100.

The following weekend was characterised by four contrasting events; the Howgills Triathlon and ETU Sprint Championships in Glasgow on the Saturday, and the Leigh 10k and Preston 10 mile road race on the Sunday. First to race were the hardy souls attempting the Howgills event, one of the toughest sprint triathlons in the country with an out-and-back bike course split between the east edge of the Lake District and the western fringes of the Yorkshire Dales; few courses are as fast as they are scenic (or vice versa) so it is am absolute treat to be able to experience such an adrenaline rush if given the opportunity. Charlie Stirrup certainly made the most of it, as he was right back into the thick of things in a year when he has not featured as frequently as in the past, but has always come up with standout results on race days. Saturday’s outing was no different; his bike performances have been strong for a good few seasons now but here it was his running to the top of Howgills Fell and back which caught the eye, as he powered his way into the top 10 to lead the club home, an excellent result. Mark Eccleston continued his post-Ironman tour of the North West with a fine run to 46th place while Cheryl Pace ran Mark very close in the pool and actually took a minute and a half out of him on the run course, however Mark’s experience on the bike proved the difference as the pair were split by around ten minutes. Also racing was Lynette Houghton, who has been a star performer at many a swim and OCR race since joining the club. Here, she outpaced Mark and Cheryl in the water and got close to them on both the bike and run courses, as she marked her first sprint triathlon with a top 80 placing and a time of 2:29:14.

Meanwhile a Fab Four of Myka Heard, Shirley Fox, Mal Balmer and Steve Williams were up in Glasgow for the ETU Sprint Distance Triathlon Championships. They enjoyed two days of familiarisation to get used to the tricky, technical course and on Saturday they were set off to compete with the best of Europe once again. Mal and Myka were always going to end up with solid midfield finishes thanks to their natural swimming ability and Shirley Fox has improved immeasurably on the bike over the course of the past year, but Steve Williams once again stole the show as he was the second quickest on the bike and came very close to snatching second place, but eventually had to settle for bronze. Nevertheless, two podiums in two European championships three weeks apart cemented Steve’s place as the most inspirational member of 2018 and a near-certainty to win many awards at the next club prize giving. Lee Stinch and Diane Taktak rounded the weekend off the following morning with Lee coming out of nowhere to “sprint” ten miles in Preston and finish in the top 50 with a time of 1:14:22 (anything less than 20 miles in Lee’s book counts as a sprint distance) while Diane recorded one of her best times in a long while at the Leigh Community 10k where she finished in under 59 minutes to round off a fantastic fortnight of racing with the star performances coming from Sarah for her win at Capel Curig, Steve for yet another podium finish in the European Championships and Lee Stinch for his sub-75 minute time at the Preston 10. Next week’s schedule features the Semer Water lake swim and the Birchwood 10k, which comes just days before the start of the August Bank Holiday Weekend, where some choose Creamfields, others visit the Ormskirk Motorfest………and at St Helens Tri we go racing in the National Club Relays at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham!


Boy George no longer the Chameleon – well done champ!

The month of July was rounded off for St Helens Tri in style as the club achieved numerous successes across the UK in running, long distance open water swimming and triathlons at a variety of locations. Azzam Taktak was first to roll on the Tuesday night time trial at Rainford and despite having had only a week to recover after his heroics at Ironman UK he still managed to go comfortably under 29 minutes and set the tone for a weekend where team days out would very much be the order of the day. On Saturday Lynette and George Houghton did a little recce of the venue for the upcoming club relays, namely the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham, where the BlueSeventy Big Swim was being held. Lynette competed in the 5k distance and crossed the line in well under two hours, but George stole the limelight with a terrific performance at 2.5km level where he not only recorded a time of 46:21 but also won his age category; their respective teams for August 25th will no doubt take heart from their performances and see this as an ideal opportunity to make up early ground on a triathlon course where passing on the bike stage is notoriously difficult.

On the Sunday the club was well represented at three diverse events, two close to home, the third on the North Sea coast. The first of the more familiar locales was Aintree Racecourse where there was a choice of 5k, 10 and half marathons on offer. Clearly nobody told some poor unfortunate that the 10k involved two laps (not one) because he crossed the line in second place only to be disqualified. It’s rare that such an occurrence happens and even more unlikely that it would benefit a member of St Helens Tri, but Mark Turner had already been fourth over the line, or so he thought, only to get promoted onto the podium when he was informed of the aforementioned disqualification and as such his new PB of 37:35 placed his third, just 16 seconds adrift of the runner-up! Meanwhile Diane Taktak managed to get into the race at the last minute and performed very well in her first 10k since Port Sunlight in the middle of June; with better conditions she would certainly have dipped under the hour with room to spare. At the Manchester end of the M62 a few multisport regulars, including two who only recently competed at Ironman UK, were at the MediaCity complex for the Salford Triathlon. In the sprint distance we had Mark Eccleston, fresh from his awesome result in Bolton. His swim and bike speed were certainly not affected despite the rain and strong winds plaguing the race, and while he had to drop a little of his usual pace on the run course he was still more than satisfied with his time of 1:24:18 which placed him 52nd overall. Patrick Neill was flying in the standard distance, completing the 1500m swim in a little over 26 minutes, and he continued to make up places on the bike course as well. As per Mark, he was not quite at his usual pace on the run but his 2:31:02 still put him into the top 40, while just up the road from him Andrew McGlone, who has starred at various standard and half Ironman distance races in recent months, was flying through the water as he was into T1 in just 21:18. Eight increasingly quick bike laps followed, and a well-drilled T2 launched him into four consistent run loops placing him 26th overall in a time of 2:27:04.

In the North East the club had several GB qualification regulars at the Redcar Sprint Triathlon hosted by TriHarder events. There was considerable doubt in the days leading up to the race as to whether the swim would have to be cancelled and replaced with 2.5km run but in the event the full race was run. Che Heard was quickest club member on the day as he performed his usual trick of getting to the front during the swim, rolling with the leaders in the front pack during the bike stage and keeping as good a form as possible on the tricky run course. This netted him 72nd place in a time of 1:10:36 as he edged a close duel with Dave Gaskell for first club member home, Dave nonetheless placing the top six at M50-54 level. Emma Austin has featured at the sharp end of the big races all year long and Redcar was no exception, a rapid swim and a much improved bike performance on her new racing machine propelling her to 2nd in her category and third in the BTF 17-20 development race. She was just over two minutes ahead of her dad Paul, who had the now-legendary Steve Williams to chase down in the final stages, as the pair were separated by just twelve seconds at the finish despite Paul making up over a minute on his illustrious teammate during the 5k run. It has been said before “change nothing – nothing changes” and perhaps the best example all weekend was that of Myka Heard, who has been focusing on improving bike speed and strength in recent months. It paid off brilliantly as she set the fastest bike split in her age group, indeed the only sub-40 minute time, which lifted her to third in her category less than two minutes adrift of the winner, while Pete Leadbeater, who has only recently joined the club, made up a lot of time from the opening leg with a particularly fast 5k run to finish less than two minutes behind Myka and round off a suitably varied weekend where the star performances came from George in Nottingham, Mark in Aintree, Andrew in Salford and Emma on the North Sea coast. As the calendar turns to August, the first signature race of the month is the Snowman Sprint in Capel Curig, North Wales while the month is rounded off on Bank Holiday weekend with the club relays in Nottingham

A post-Ironman week like no other – Arise Sir Steve

As the dust settled and the banners were taken down on Monday morning in Bolton, there was no reason to believe that the following week would be anything other than the quiet one after the most monumental day on the 2018 UK multisport calendar. After all, there is a shortage of signature races until at least the club relays at the end of August and the St Helens Triathlon on September 9th. However, July 21st would be a date like no other, one which would change the status of St Helens Tri forever and establish them as champions like never before.

It all started so quietly with the midweek time trials coming up with little other than Robert Chesters setting his second-quickest time over the last three years on Tuesday night as he stopped the clock with a 23:07, good enough for equal 12th place with Arthur Winstanley. Things got a little warmer, in more ways than one, two days later as Kevin Dunbar, who is looking to take on long multisport challenges of his own in the near future, placed third and won his age group at the Scorcher 50k ultra run in Salwick near Preston. So with two results to get the ball rolling the second half of the season was underway nicely, but they would all be forgotten about just 48 hours later.

With a myriad of qualifying races and both European and World Championships to participate in, navigating the ETU/ITU qualification process can be very difficult to keep up with, and as such, after Mark Turner’s spectacular top ten in the ITU Duathlon two weeks ago, the ETU Standard Distance Triathlon Championships had been overlooked by most club members, but not by Steve Williams, who made the trip to the former Soviet Republic of Estonia for the 2018 European Championships held in Tartu.

Featuring a 17th-century university, a “kissing fountain” in the Town Hall Square and a ruined cathedral, Tartu has positioned itself as the cultural capital of Estonia in recent years, but on the weekend of 21-22 July it took on a very different, modern image as it played host to hundreds of athletes from all over Europe starring in age ranges from 15 to 84 years old. Racing in the 65-69 division for St Helens Tri was Steve Williams, who only joined the club a couple of seasons ago having been a keen cyclist for many years. A regular at the Tuesday night “brick” sessions comprising bike and run courses, he has become particularly rapid on the time trial bike he bought around 12 months ago from then-club member Mark Livingston, and that would become a major factor in the almost indescribable drama that was about to unfold. The competitors were set off in their respective age groups……….and then it was time for Steve Williams to being the 1500m swim, 40m bike and a 10k run. Of course, Steve had only recently played a starring role in a race of similar description having come ever so close to getting on the age group podium at the ITU public race at Roundhay Park in Leeds six weeks earlier but here on the world stage he was right into a barnburner of a race from the opening swim stroke, and was out of the water with every chance of coming up with a result for the ages. Anyone who has been to the Tuesday night brick sessions will know that Steve has been in the form of his life at recent gatherings – indeed his time over five laps of Pimbo on July 10th would have put him in the top 5 of the club’s TT championship a couple of years ago – but what he came up with in this tiny former Soviet Republic was unlike anything a club member has ever done, as he completed the 25 miles on the bike in under 65 minutes (which would have beaten several competitors at the Liverpool Phoenix 25 mile TT on the night he was powering round Pimbo) and another sub-50 minute 10k run confirmed the seemingly impossible:


Let that one sink in for a minute or two. It has happened. The club has a European champion. Now, this would be a special story no matter who won their respective age group. However, we should also remember that few, if any, Team GB competitors rise to such status off the back of only a few years of experience, many will tell you that the results they earn as they advance through the age group ranks are the fruits of many decades of swimming, riding and running, if only one or two depending on their chosen sport. While some club members are rarely out of the weekly reports simply for their regular achievements amidst a near-weekly schedule of racing, Steve has shown how committed training, an enthusiasm for the sport and focus on the events that matter the most can make even the most improbable of success stories a reality.

The club could have been forgiven for arriving at the Manchester Tri Club Boundary Breeze Triathlon the following morning with the equivalent of a mental hangover but eight members went to this relatively rural setting for an event that has very much become a staple of the midsummer calendar over the years. Rarely does a week’s worth of reporting go by without at least one of Che Heard and Emma Austin (pictured below) featuring at the sharp end and this race was no different, as they were out of the water separated by mere seconds. Ultimately Che’s greater familiarity with his bike proved to be the difference as he pulled away to be first club member home (6th overall and under the 70 minute mark) but Emma’s first outing on her new bike was still a memorable one as she was first under 20 female home, while the pair were split by Dave Gaskell, his sub-38 minute bike split lifting him to just outside the top 30 and fourth in his category. Myka Heard managed to keep the tearaway two in sight in the lake and a combined bike and run time similar to that of Emma lifted her to second in her age group, while she was joined in the top 100 by Paul Riley who was particularly speedy on the bike. It was a very close run thing between Carole James and Rob Preston for next over the line and at one point it looked as though Rob would catch his teammate at the finish, but Carole held on to be sixth club member home by just 18 seconds, also beating the 90 minute mark into the bargain. Cheryl Pace and Tony Doyle rounded out the day’s action, with Cheryl continuing to improve with every race since she joined the club from Penny Lane Striders and Tony running Cheryl close for much of the event. A fine way to end a very special weekend where Steve Williams wrote his name in the club record books as the first ever to win a European Championship. Next week’s signature race is at MediaCity UK for the Salford Triathlon, where a 10k road race is also held in early September. With several Ironman entrants somehow recovering in time to take to the murky waters of the Salford Quays, it promises to be a fitting finale at an iconic venue to round off one of the greatest months in club history.





Emma pulling away from her competition en route to winning her age category



Thunderstruck, Awestruck and Starstruck – The Story of Ironman 2018

And so it dawned, July 15 2018, the ultimate stage being set for the ultimate challenge, Ironman UK. This year’s roster of St Helens Tri entrants was markedly different to previous editions with a particularly pleasing array of first time participants, some being used to the middle distance variant, others coming from seemingly nowhere to make their mark on the biggest race of the year. Read More

Pre-Ironman Prizewinning Party at Pooley Bridge

With the start of the biggest multisport race of 2018 mere hours away, here comes the first of two reports over the weekend, this one focusing on the midweek time trial at Rainford and the Ullswater Triathlon. On Tuesday evening club reporter Robert Chesters arrived at the Liverpool Phoenix race HQ, Bickerstaffe FC, to learn that instead of a 10 mile time trial, it was one of only two 2018 Tuesday night 25’s on the D25/3 course, featuring two loops of the M58/Rainford Island section book ended by a blast up the A506 from Mossack Hall Golf Club and a little bit of the Bickerstaffe road race circuit thrown in for good measure to make the mileage up. Having removed the bags and, more disastrously, the bottle cage in the pursuit of more speed this looked like being a train wreck of a performance for someone who had never raced his time trial bike over more than 21km before (for sprint triathlons) so it was with some trepidation that Robert pedalled down the A506 on his warm-up to join 27 others on the start line. Starting off at number 9, with most of the faster riders going later, it at least offered a good opportunity to close in on the one, two and three minute men and Robert managed this with room to spare as he grew into the event, not easy on a windy night when many riders reached 50km/h on the run to Rainford but were struggling to break 30km/h on the northward stretch to what is still known as the “Little Chef” roundabout. He also had to contend with two near-misses, one when a 4×4 driver pulled out onto the A570 after he circled the Little Chef turn for the second time, the other when his four-minute man wobbled so badly due to lack of energy that he ended up almost on the wrong side of the lane and nearly got taken out by a motorist! The last few miles were particularly arduous in terms of holding the aero position beyond the usual distance but the slight downhill into the finish gave Robert a real boost, and having aimed for a sub-1:05 time he was delighted to record 1:01:41 for his first 25, which placed him 13th overall just inside the top half on debut.

12 months ago the talk of the club was Che Heard making his Ironman debut as one of the youngest competitors in the race. Since then Che has made the best possible use of his strength to develop a blistering turn of speed and he would take it to Ullswater for the annual triathlon weekend hosted by Sport in Action. It’s not clear whether the Heard family’s newly qualified driver took on the chauffeur duties a mere 24 hours after passing his test, but he would not get the opportunity to blow away his opposition before the bike leg here because due to a last-minute appearance of blue algae the organisers had to substitute the swim for an additional run of 2.5km but Che was out of the blocks like a cheetah as he was into transition in less than eight and a half minutes. The bike course was quite lumpy and after recent mechanicals he must have felt a bit of trepidation in such unfamiliar surroundings but he then made it two blistering transitions out of two and confirmed a top-5 overall placing and a resounding age group win to the tune of nearly 15 minutes as he completed the second run in 21:14 to cap off a fantastic 24 hours. Che’s mum Myka wasn’t left out of the party either as she was similarly dominant in the F50 division, holding a 2:40 age group lead into the pit lane, but then going on to blow her opposition away on the bike course and follow it up with one of her best 5k runs in a long time as she won her category by a staggering 24:44! In the standard distance race we had Peter Rawlinson, a relatively new member who was very quick indeed on the bike course, as his spinning speed propelled him to a solid 66th position in a time of 2:40:25 to round off a cracking “first half” of Ironman week when one club member went into unchartered territory (almost literally thanks to a couple of near-misses) and two of the club’s all-time legends set about making some more room in an increasingly crowded family trophy cabinet. At the time of writing it is to be assumed that most of the club’s Ironman entrants are probably resting before their big day out in Bolton tomorrow but we wish them all the best with their epic endeavours which will include a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash, a bike course cut short to 95 miles due to the recent wildfires on the West Pennine Moors, and a marathon finishing in Bolton town centre on a day which, together with the World Cup final and the Wimbledon men’s title decider promises to be one of the most epic sporting days in recent memory.


Awesome Aaron “Takes 5” at the Griffin Grind

The third instalment of club results in two weeks rounded off the pre-Ironman fortnight in style, with landmark results in various single-discipline events as well as a breakout performance at the Deva Divas triathlon. Derwent Lake was the curtain-raiser on the Saturday where the club had five competing in the 1 mile race and one opting for the Ironman distance of 3.8km. Lynette Houghton went for the longer option and was rewarded in her first non-OCR event for quite some time with a time of 1:19:23, while her son George took part in the 1 mile and produced quite the surprise of the day as he clocked an excellent 27:52. In fact, the only club member who finished ahead of him was Paul Austin, who took time off from supporting his daughter Emma to have a race of his own and his 26:21 was good enough to put him in the top 50 and, moreover, 4th in his age group. Laura Banks also went home happy as she knocked over two minutes off her time from last year, 29:01 giving her 71st overall while it was a close run thing between Rachel and Anthony Bearon as they finished line astern, Anthony eventually coming out on top by just 14 seconds. A similar event was being held simultaneously at the Salford Quays where the Uswim Manchester was in full swing. Wendy and Stephen Webb took park in the 1500m distance held in this iconic location near the Granada TV studios and were very evenly matched. Stephen finished two places ahead of Wendy (24th to 26th) but Wendy’s performance was arguably the more memorable of the two as she beat her 2017 time by an astounding 12 minutes, not to mention finishing less than a minute behind Steve! She would also turn out the following day at the Griffin Grind 5 mile for Team Isabella; the St Helens Tri story of the weekend will feature from that very race later in this column.

The Sunday was more typical of an early season weekend as the club had one or two members at a wide variety of races around the North West. At the Deva Divas in Chester Carole James, who has rarely featured in the club results columns, was out of the water in just over 18 minutes and this gave her a strong platform from which to attack the bike stage. She held firm during the middle stanza and a strong run lifted her to 21st overall, and second in her age group. Her teammate Helen Curran was actually over a minute ahead coming out of the water having completed the 750m swim in a time of 16:50, but Carole made the pass on the bike and that is how they finished, however Helen was still able to crack the top 100 with a time of 1:50:56. Also making the trip over the River Mersey was Reuben Wilson who competed in the Wirral Junior Triathlon hosted by Mersey Tri. Results are not yet available at the time of writing but plenty more scores on the doors came in during the course of the day, including the final results being confirmed from the BTR Events Tour of Merseyside. A six-day, 52 mile race, it began with the Epic Events Southport Half Marathon and actually finished mere hours before England’s World Cup quarter-final win over Sweden on the Saturday, but by the Sunday several club members had turned their attentions away from the football and had already entered for the 2019 edition which begins on 30 June. Kevin Dunbar and David Isaac completed the week-long campaign for St Helens Tri and both were rewarded with a place in the top 30. Kevin was able to give David a run for his money on the technical courses such as Thurstaton and Stadt Moers Park but David’s straight line speed eventually proved the difference (though apparently fancy dress isn’t all that aerodynamic either) and he came out on top having remarkably finished in under six hours, while Kevin was 18:45 further back but was nonetheless delighted to place second in his age group less than a quarter of an hour behind the division winner. Meanwhile, Jennifer Miller took on a bit of multi-terrain of her own in the Northwich Festival of Running 10k where her time of 1:02:37 was more than enough for a place in the top half of the field.

However, the most inspirational story of the weekend, if not the entire season, came at the aforementioned Griffin Grind 5 miler. Several club members turned out to marshal and offer support for this ever-popular “middle sprint distance” running race which always sells out in advance of race day and this year’s helpers included several who have starred at similarly tough events, but Aaron Reading produced unarguably the most gritty performance by a club members all year as this was his comeback race following a lengthy illness. To even take on such a difficult race was a daring challenge in itself given that 5 hilly miles in such heat is probably twice as difficult as a morning Parkrun (you may also remember that he was the driving force behind the inauguration of the Stadt Moers Parkrun in Knowsley where the club took such a thrilling double win back in April) and here he was soaking up the atmosphere from the crowds lining the road. His outstanding effort to finish in just over 1 hour 10 minutes deservedly put him in the top 200 and cemented his place as a club legend. Speaking of which, the stage is now very much set in Bolton town centre for more legends to be made, not just for the World Cup Final, but for the biggest multisport event of the year, Ironman UK, starting at 6am sharp in the murky waters of Pennington Flash next Sunday. While some will take on the ultimate triathlon distance, other club members have already made their own three-stop plans including the lakeside, the Rigbye Arms and Bolton town centre for what could be not only the most epic day in English sporting history but also in the already-rich annals of St Helens Tri. Seven days and counting at the time of writing………

Podium on the Peninsula and Flying the (GB) Flag in Fyn – The Mal and Mark Show

A couple of late results from last weekend plus two landmark achievements mean that that modern rarity a midweek column has been required to report on all the club activities ahead of a busy second weekend of July. The Abersoch triathlon festival took place last weekend on the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales and Mal Balmer took part in this long-running event which offers various triathlons as well as 10k and 1k beach running races. Mal was in a hotly contested M50+ division and rolled with the punches from the off with a tough sea swim leading to a picturesque bike course and an off-road run to finish. He finished 13th overall in a very competitive field while also placing third in his age group, taking in some of the more bizarre occurrences all season along the way including a massed start run and dive into the water, followed by a house on fire during the bike course! There was more age group success to come at the Fergus Sprint Triathlon in Northern Ireland where Nigel Taylor flew the flag for St Helens and won his division.

It is somewhat rare that a bike time trial makes the headlines nowadays, but Dean Golba has made a remarkable transformation from racing with various forms of petrol engine to human-powered competition on two wheels having only purchased his first TT bike a few months ago. Those of you who read the reports weekly might remember that he set the fastest bike split at the club duathlon on Good Friday en route to third overall and since then he has steadily go this 10 mile times down on the Rainford course. On Tuesday night, while most went for the “night off” option also known as watching England beat Colombia at the World Cup, Dean took to the D10/1 course once again having made more tweaks to his position and lowered his previous best time by over a minute, recording an outstanding 22:32 which put him seventh overall on the night.

However, the biggest midweek story undoubtedly came from Fyn, Denmark where Mark Turner was competing in the world standard distance duathlon championships for the second straight year. Last August, in Penticton, Canada he placed 10th in the world after a relatively trouble-free season. The past 12 months have been more difficult including one injury which held back his training for seven months but remarkably, he repeated his 2017 result in a time of 1:55:49 while also finishing as third GB athlete home. Mark has reached this level unbelievably quickly having not raced at all before 2016 and his remarkable rise to stardom will only continue in nine week’s time at the world triathlon championships in Australia. Before then, however, there are a whole host of signature races, including the conclusion of the ongoing Tour of Merseyside, the Ullswater Triathlon, the Snowman Triathlon weekend (hosted by the Always Aim High events team who organised Abersoch), the club relays and the Sundowner Half Ironman, not to mention the biggest event of the year, Ironman UK, which is only nine days away at the time of writing. Cowbells and big screens at the ready for the World Cup Final in Bolton, then……….


Seville the Saint Slays the Styrians – Ironman Austria 2018 Special

Over the past week the St Helens Tri activity could be broken down into three distinct categories; long distance triathlon, obstacle course racing and how to survive 13.1 miles on the arid flatlands of the Merseyside coast praying for some desert rain. It’s rare that our report begins with an Ironman save for the annual showpiece in Bolton, but if ever there was an exception to be made it had to be for Richard Seville, who only joined the club from St Helens Striders just before the St Helens Triathlon last September. Richard impressed on that occasion and marked himself out as one of those career “strongman” runners who frequently feature at the sharp end of triathlons well into their 40s but he had never taken on an Ironman prior to last weekend. Sports fans in Austria who weren’t at the Red Bull Ring for the Formula 1 Grand Prix were able to turn their attentions to one of the most scenic long distance triathlons in the world as Ironman Austria rolled into town. Richard kept the club updated throughout the weekend with photos which looked more like the Florida Quays than the Styrian hills which must surely inspire those who have done Ironman UK and want to venture a bit further afield. Much of Richard’s training has been based on non-stop rides of over 80 miles and there really is no better way to prepare for the ultimate endurance test, as he proved brilliantly. His swim and bike times were right up there with the best in his age group and despite having to walk through the aid stations on the run course (as many do) and shuffling through the last few miles (as he put it) he still recorded a phenomenal time of 10:40:07 which instantly put him among the best Ironman performances in club history. In the short history of St Helens Tri, there are perhaps only two members who joined and made a similar impression within 12 months at Ironman level; one being Che Heard, the other Eddie Hirst. The latter was in action at the Outlaw Half in Nottingham organised by One Step Beyond events, who host the club relays next month. Eddie was quick as usual in the water but it was his bike time which really caught the eye, and event though Eddie has only recently returning to running following an injury he still completed the challenging course in under five hours, good enough to put him in the top 15 for his age group on a day when the exposed nature of the Nottingham course and the high UV made for especially challenging conditions.

Moving onto obstacle racing, George and Lynette Houghton were racing once again having qualified for the world championships thanks to the results of last week’s Spartan Super at Aston Downs. They didn’t venture quite so far afield on this occasion, instead settling for the Delamere Commando 10k which must feature as a possible option for a club day out in 2019. In a close run thing, George crossed the line just ahead of Lynette who was second female on the day. Both are now looking forward to the club relays weekend where plans are already afoot for anyone who wants to try obstacle course racing to have a go at Holme Pierrepont on the Sunday – let the battle for third place begin……….

While Lynette and George were enjoying the relative UV shelter and a bit of mud and water in Cheshire, Kevin Dunbar and Ian Orford joined a few friends who race for the Isabella Rose Foundation in part one of the Tour of Merseyside, a six day, 52 mile event comprising of various distances and terrains. Part 1 itself was the Epic Events Southport Half Marathon, held as per the opening line of the report in an area in the midst of a Saharan drought (hence the reference to desert rain). The conditions were probably the toughest ever for said event but Kevin and Ian were more than equal to the daunting task as they spearheaded the St Helens Tri challenge and completed the 13.1 miles in a time of 1:37:34, Kevin even having the energy to complete the mile race with his son before the main event. However, they were upstaged on this occasion by David Isaac, who has not been racing quite so much in 2018 compared with previous years but he made up for lost time in more ways than one as he powered round the seaside town in a remarkable 1:29:25, which put him in the top 70 while John Wilson took time off from supporting the juniors to round out the club contingent as he quite comfortably beat the two hour mark. Also in action close to home were Paul Stupples and Charlie Stirrup who competed in the Liverpool Phoenix CC 25 mile time trial on the Bickerstaffe/Melling course. Paul was among the first few off the starting ramp and dug deep to beat the 70 minute mark while Charlie showed why he is one of the club’s leading cyclists with a fine performance clocking 1:00:47 to round off a weekend where Richard Seville undoubtedly took the plaudits for star performance, with a respectable nod to Eddie Hirst for his sub-5 hour half Ironman. Next weekend’s signature events include the Ullswater Triathlon and the UKFast Manchester 10k starting and finishing at the Etihad Stadium which should serve as a fitting prelude to the biggest event of the year seven days later, Ironman UK.


Lighting up the Lakes, Cruising round Cardiff and Blazing round Birmingham

The month of June has been very much the month of long distance triathlon for St Helens Tri and the third weekend was marked not only by Father’s Day but also by the Lakesman triathlon in Keswick, a fairly flat course ideal for novices and experienced triathletes alike. In the 2018 edition St Helens Tri had two entrants with Peter Jones and Will Bardin enjoying a superb  battle in the half Ironman race. Peter made the early break in the water to get out of the lake 24 seconds ahead but Will had a quicker first transition to get a handy advantage on the bike course. However, Peter pulled past once again on the fast roads around Keswick and cemented his position on the run to finish his first half Ironman in an excellent 5:28:24, around eighteen minutes clear of his teammate. Meanwhile down south we had Tony Doyle competing in the Shrewsbury Half Marathon, a single lap race starting and finishing at the Shropshire County Showground. Tony was more than equal to the task and marked Father’s Day with a fine run to a time of 2:11:53 while closer to home Diane Taktak took part in the Port Sunlight 10k hosted by BTR Liverpool and was not too far off her PB, as she finished in 58:29 while also placing in the top 15 in her age category.

The following weekend was a far busier affair with the seniors racing in Cardiff, Cheshire, Coniston and Birmingham while the juniors took part in the Denbigh Triathlon. Much has been written in recent months about Harriet King leading the juniors by example and the breakout graduations of Emma Austin and Sarah Taktak to the senior ranks. But almost unnoticed has been the rise of Charley Devaynes. She made the trip over the border into Wales on Saturday to participate in the Denbigh Junior Triathlon, a prelude to the senior’s event the following day. Hosted by Ruthin Tri Stars, it is an under appreciated midsummer classic with plenty of hills and technical sections for competitors to deal with. Charley took part in the 2017 edition but here she knocked an excellent four minutes off her time from 12 months ago to finish in 1 hour 27 minutes and is looking forward to more over the remainder of the season. Her father Andy was one of several club members to tackle the Coniston Triathlon the following morning as the Epic Events season kicked into a higher gear. One of the most scenic triathlons in the UK, it has gone from strength to strength in recent years as it has developed a reputation as a truly thrilling course to race on. Andy made up a lot of ground over the course of the race, gaining strength where others fell back in the heat and finished the testing course in a time of 2:58:40. Ahead of him on the road were speedy swimmer Kevin Dudley and fast finisher Mike Gregory; Kevin’s time of 2:40:29 was good enough for a top 30 placing while Mike edged his duel with Andy to finish just over a minute ahead of his teammate. Rob Preston also shadowed the duel ahead of him for much of the race, before dropping back on the run course to finish 126th in a time of 3:16:10. However, the standout performance of the day came from Andrew Mcglone, who has only recently joined the club from Kirkby Milers. He starred with a sub-25 minute swim, only just missed out on a sub-1:20 bike split and confirmed his star credentials by beating the 45 minute mark on the run to finish 21st overall. Enjoying a rather shorter event was Sean Dalby who went to the prestigious venue of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire for the triathlon festival where he took part in the super sprint distance. Sean’s race was similar to that of Andy at Coniston where he made up considerable ground over the course of the race, eventually finishing 62nd in a time of 1:23:13.

Two events further south made up the rest of the club’s schedule for World Cup Sunday as four members took on the ITU World Championship Qualifier at the Suunto Cardiff Sprint Triathlon hosted by Always Aim High Events. After a mad rush to get his road bike for what was a draft legal event, David Gaskell came up trumps as the first St Helens tri member home; he has always been quick in the water and on the bike but here it was his run that caught the eye, as he pulled off an excellent time of 1:12:15, not quite enough for a top 10 age group placing but a fine result nonetheless. Jennifer Pybis recorded the club’s highest age group place in the Welsh capital as she shadowed David out of the water, and while he edged away on the bike her run time was very comparable to that of her more experienced teammate as she took fifth in the F30-34 category while going under 75 minutes. Myka Heard and Helen Broderick also took part, the pair being fairly evenly matched on the bike course as they revel on their new speed machines but in the end the gap Myka pulled out in the water together with a good comeback run proved to be decisive as she finished in a time of 1:22:47, just over four minutes ahead.

Two club members took the road slightly less travelled, at least in St Helens Tri terms (not in that of Spaghetti Junction) and made the trip to the Midlands for the Birmingham Sprint Triathlon, the latest instalment in the UK Triathlon series. Held at Sutton Park just south of the city centre, it comprises a lap in what is known as “Sutton Pool”, four laps on the bike round the tight but traffic-free confines on Sutton Park and a two-lap off-road run round the trails and “beaches” which the race director described as the best run course on the UKT calendar. Racing for St Helens Tri were Robert Chesters and Paddy Lee, starting half an hour apart in different age group waves. For Robert it was a much more comfortable swim after getting lost at Roundhay Park, and once on the bike course it was time to make up as many positions as possible against the fast swimmers. This was not easy when the course is sometimes not wide enough for mode than two bikes side by side (all while hearing the spectators cheer the riders on as though they are in the Tour de France), but Robert was off the bike and onto the run course well inside the top 10 and the only sub-19 minute run of the day plus a thrilling sprint finish against a competitor from the next age group up sealed the M30-34 age group title, his first in open water, as well as 4th overall in a time of 1:14:46, while Paddy managed to keep his head where others got distracted by the presence of cows trying to cross the run course as he finished in 1:22:22, second in his age group and 18th overall as well as setting the fastest bike split in the M50-54 division to round off a cracking fortnight of racing around the country with star turns aplenty, not only from the dynamic duo in Birmingham but also from Peter Jones for his first half Ironman and Jennifer Pybis for her top-5 age group placing in Cardiff. Next weekend, as the second half of 2018 begins, attentions turn to the Ripon and Ullswater triathlons in the first two weekends, followed by the biggest event of the multisport year, Ironman UK, on 15 July.