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

Cardiff Today, Canada Tomorrow – Green and Blacks Strike Again

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

Four Swimmers Enjoy Four Seasons on Father’s Day

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!

Steve goes sub-6, Chris captures everyone’s hearts, and Green and Black’s Grand Day Out

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!

Diane, Sean and Chris at Ironman 70.3