The third weekend of May has long been the busiest of the year for multisport athletes in the North West and 2018 was no exception as even two signature running races took a back seat to the crowded schedule. First off to race were Charlie Taktak and John Baden in the Pedalcover Slateman Triathlon. Set in picturesque scenery in the Snowdonia National Park, it is the first of three league races available as standalone entries, single day races or Savage double headers. John Baden was attempting the latter and put in a strong effort on the Saturday to finish in just over two hours which he converted to an aggregate time of 6:50:54 after the longer Sunday race placing him just outside the top 100 while Charlie positively starred on her first trip to north Wales since last year’s Sandman in Anglesey as she set one of the quickest times in the lake and finished second junior female in the sprint distance race.
The Sunday itself was a heartening one not only for triathletes but for those attempting the Liverpool Rock n’Roll half and full marathons and also for the runners competing in the most significant Great Manchester Run in the event’s history. On the Mersey waterfront it was a close run thing between Ian Orford and David Isaac. David ran the seasoned veteran to the wire and on another day may have come out on top, but Ian ultimately finished ahead by just over 90 seconds in a time of 3:25:09, and the pair were joined by Jill O’Connor who enjoyed her first crack at this ever popular race finishing around an hour later, about twelve minutes behind Neil Hunter and just ahead of Andrew Bridge who did a fine job taking a friend from outside the club round his first marathon. There were some promising performances in the half marathon as well, as John Wilson completed the course in 1:46:19 and Neil Wallace finished in 1:51:19 while Lisa Hirst competed in her first 13.1 miler and came home in well under two and a half hours not far behind Diane Taktak who has now surely completed every half marathon within 100 miles of St Helens! Jennifer Miller tried something altogether more enterprising and followed up a time of 28:37 in the Saturday 5k with a half marathon in under 2:15. Another terrific story was unfolding at the same time in Manchester as Dean Golba, for so long known as a bike specialist, took on the Great Manchester Half Marathon on a very emotional day for the city as a whole, and in the extreme urban heat exceeded his own expectations by finishing in an outstanding time of 1:33:39 – surely good enough for a sub 90 minute time on a cooler day – which placed him 161st overall. Meanwhile Lee Stinch braved particularly sticky conditions in the West Midlands at the Worcester Marathon and put in an excellent shift to finish in 3:45:40 which placed him in the top 25.
The main focus of the day, however, was undoubtedly the Southport Triathlon where it was as if most of the club had congregated either to race or give their support. In the sprint distance Peter Fairclough, who last year recorded his first sub-17 minute 5k, translated that form to the big stage as he finished in the top 10 overall thanks to his customary blistering final stage, 17:01 being the third fastest run of the day. Next home was David Gaskell who ran Peter close on the bike course, while Michael Forber’s trademark strongman running lifted him into the top 75 just ahead of Mal Balmer who was one of the top 50 swimmers. Jennifer Pybis’ second place in the F30-34 category set off a string of age group successes, the most notable of which was Emma Austin scoring another crushing age group victory as she has grown in confidence since being elected the female junior captain at the recent AGM. Emma’s dad Paul was just up the road as he edged a close battle with Caroline Stalker, the pair separated by just five seconds as Paul’s superb form on the bike made the difference. Continuing the theme of age group glory was Myka Heard, now aboard a time trial bike, and what a difference it made during the middle stanza, indeed with a slightly longer bike course she may well have won her age category but second in her division was still one of the standout performances of the day. It was a close run thing between Kevin Dunbar and Helen Broderick, two athletes with very different strengths, as Helen was more comfortable with the overall format of the race having much more experience, but Kevin put in a final run similar to that of Michael Forber to edge ahead. Next up was a consistent, well rounded performance from Chris Hayes while Christine Forber matched the swim times of many far more experienced entrants; while Sean Dalby got ahead during the second transition Christine powered past once more on the run to come out ahead by just 11 seconds. Meanwhile Christine’s daughter Bethany was following up her first half marathon back in February with her first open water triathlon and actually set a faster run split than Christine, her time of 1:36:23 placing her inside the top 300.
In a packed standard distance race Che Heard and Mark Turner were the stars of the show. Mark ran out of time to catch Che but still managed to secure the third qualifying slot for the world championships in Australia in the M25-29 group. Kevin Dudley overhauled Terry Bates for third club member home, but it was still a day to celebrate for the club’s leading coach as he took the silver medal in his age group and was fastest qualifier for the world title race. Adam O’Shea put in an excellent run to be next man home around six and a half minutes ahead of his brother, the pair separated by a fast running Paul Booth, an excellent bike performance from Mark Eccleston and a well rounded display by Dave O’Connell. Andrew Gaskell put in an excellent swim before dropping back to finish just inside the top 200 while Andy Devaynes and Mike Gregory were very closely matched out of the water before Andy edged away on the road. Cory Sandys may have been a little further back but he certainly captured the spirit of the day with his post race comments about how much he enjoys the sport and being a member of the club while recent new member Alan Mckeegan enjoyed his first outing with the club as he dug deep to beat the 2:50 mark. Just outside the top 350, but with an exceptional swim time, was Melania Sayed who has not had very long to turn her attentions to the multisport scene after her marathon heroics last month, while Azzzam Taktak and Robert Saile rounded out the club’s involvement in proceedings with a nice little duel of two athletes with contrasting strengths.
A few club members eager to test their early season triathlon form journeyed south to Nantwich and Nottingham. Results from the One Step Beyond events in the East Midlands have only just come in but Steve Williams overcame a comedy moment after the swim when he lost his number belt to place third in his age group and qualify for Glasgow later this year while it was an interesting day out for Will Bardin and Kevin Richardson in the Outlaw Half. Will has only recently joined the club but put in a spirited performance particularly on the run course to finish the 70.3 in just over five and a half hours, while Kevin might well have run him close if he hadn’t somehow ended up doing one and a half laps of the run course but he was still happy to finish in a time of 7:51:21 with recent new member Rob Dubelbeis neatly finishing between the seasoned duo in just over six and a half hours. It was a party atmosphere in Nantwich for the 26th Cheshire Triathlon at Barony Park where club reporter Robert Chesters joined over 550 other triathletes for a 500 metre swim in one of the few remaining brine pools in the UK, a 21km cycle route similar to the sporting courses favoured by early season time triallists and a four lap, 5km run around the “stadium” of Barony Park. It seemed improbable that anything special could come out of the day early on as first a loose brake block threatened to derail proceedings and a difficult swim stuck in traffic threw everyone’s rhythm off but Robert’s decision to fit new, grippy racing tyres for the new season paid dividends on a bike course full of road imperfections (not just potholes) and, against the backdrop of a heavy heat haze and an eclectic mix of music from the bandstand, he overturned a deficit of around one and a half minutes after the bike leg to take the M30-34 division title by just 28 seconds while also rounding out the top ten overall, thus completing a thrilling weekend of racing up and down the country where star performances came from so many in Southport plus Charlie Taktak in Llanberis and Lee Stinch in Worcester. Next weekend’s schedule is somewhat quieter but June brings the Deva Triathlon and the Leeds ITU World Championship weekend while UK Triathlon who organised the race in Nantwich host the UK Ultimate and Half Ironman races at the beginning of the month and, on June 24, the City of Birmingham Triathlon in Sutton Park for which entries and an ideal club trip south are still available at the time of writing.