id879-Italian Job

Written by MM   

Mike May's Report from Italy

The Italian Job

By Mike May

The European Veterans Athletics Championships (indoors) – EVACI for short - are held every two years, and EVACI 2009 was the third I had entered. In terms of facilities Ancona in Italy far outstripped Eskiltuna in Sweden (2005), whose track was less than 200m on the inside lane (as it had to be fitted into a converted tractor factory), and Helsinki (2007) as it is the home of Italy’s only permanent indoor 200m track (The track used for the Turin European Championships last month was temporary – think Birmingham National Indoor Arena). The indoor track at Sheffield would be the closest equivalent here – with relatively gentle bends.

It was a combination of this, the fact that (pace the Beijing Olympics) I had not raced at this level since last March’s World Masters Indoor Championships, and the pleasant time I had had in Riccione just up the coast from Ancona at the 2007 World Masters Stadia Championship meant that I did not mind the relatively high hotel costs. I was sharing a room with Chuck Isetts, coach and friend, but we travelled there separately, as I did not want to use up a day’s extra leave to use Ryanair, which did not have a flight on the day before the championships. I flew to Bologna and got the train down to Ancona instead. As it happened my train was severely delayed once it got south of Riccione, and if Chuck had not already been in the town beforehand, I might have struggled to get myself booked into the hotel and registered at the championships the night before, as it took time to sus out which buses were needed to get to the hotel in one direction and the Palaindoor in the other, and Chuck had already done that. Luckily we found that the dinner tent at the Palaindoor was still operating after I had registered, and declared for next day’s 60 metres, which saved us a late night searching for somewhere to eat.

Day 1

We took a taxi in from the hotel, as Chuck had an early heat (9.50 am – anyone with events before 10am had to declare by 9pm the night before, otherwise the deadline was 2.5 hours before the official event start) and didn’t want to trust his luck with the buses.

Although the official warm-up area was meant to be on the outdoor track outside the Palaindoor, some field official had decided not to allow anyone onto that track while the weight was being thrown ( the national team managers got this silly decision reversed by the time I had to warm up), so warm up was indoors adjacent to the track near the call room, and there we found Charlie Williams warming up for the M75 60m semi-finals. Charlie easily cruised into the finals. As my heats weren’t until 11.15 I was able to watch Chuck’s heat of the 60m. At the first start he got off brilliantly, coming level with one of the favourites, but unfortunately said favourite had false-started, and on the second start he unusually didn’t drive well out of the blocks and ended up 4th in heat one (getting it on photofinish by 0.01secs from 5th) and was pushed out of the fastest loser spots by the third placer in heat two. I warmed up outside with Dalton Powell, an alumnus of Chuck’s group, and of Kingston and Poly., who has just come up into my age group (M45). Unlike at Clermont Ferrand (World Masters Indoors 2008), the call room was well organised, and start lists were generally posted up in good time, so that you only had to report 20 minutes before your heat instead of before the first heat (of many in the M45s). As soon as you reported, you were whisked away to strip down to your vest and shorts and apply your leg number, before being led out to the track. Sometimes they were so efficient that if everyone was there, they sent the race off early, which was how I missed watching Chuck’s 200m heat on day 3. I was in lane 7 and knew from the start lists and the programme that I should be able to beat the athlete in lane 8, and that there were two others running times in the 8.2s and 8.3s (to which my training this winter suggested I should be able to aspire), but they must have been too many lanes away from me to key on, as I only managed to do 8.65. Although I felt awkward coming up into the set position, a photo of the race taken once everyone was upright suggests I came out of the blocks level with them. I was 6th of 7. We then went to lunch in the restaurant tent, and this being Italy you could have a glass of wine with your meal. The value in this tent was not as good as at previous championships, nor as good as the restaurants in town, as 10 euros for a dish of pasta, a bread roll, a piece of fruit and a glass of wine (2 euros) at current exchange rates was equivalent to about £10. We had a much better evening meal that day for only 15 euros.

Day 2

We went in fairly early (by bus this time, as neither of us had any events) to watch the semi-finals of the 400m. I went off and did some warm-up strides before they started, and saw the proposed cross-country course for day 3 being set up. The races were to be 5km, and consisted of multiple loops of a small hilly area, with some of the paths being gravel, which would be too hard for spikes, but there were other parts of the course where spikes would be essential. We went back into town for lunch, as we knew we would be watching finals until quite late, and would be using the restaurant tent for our evening meal. In the afternoon, we declared for day 3’s 200 metres, and watched the 400m and 60m finals, including Charlie Williams’ silver medal winning performance of 8.83s in the 60m, and Terry Bissett (Chuck’s long time rival from Epsom and Ewell) winning the gold in the M65 400m. In the M45 60m Dalton Powell (see above) got the gold in 7.41s.

Day 3

On arrival at the Palaindoor, I go for a reconnaissance of the warm up track, as the cross country course sits between the building and the outdoor track, and I want to be sure I will be able to use it before my early afternoon heat of the 200m. It appears the area of the outdoor track (on the far side) which I had used the day before and which could be accessed by walking round the outside of the cross country course had been coned off to use as the finish of the cross country races, but that the marshals would allow you to cross the course to access the rest of the track through a gate on the side nearest the building, so the recce was worthwhile. I just miss watching Chuck’s heat of the 200m because it goes off ahead of schedule, but he progressed to the Semi-Finals as a fastest loser having come third in his race, while Charlie Williams easily qualified for his final. Then I go off to warm up (and cheer British athletes in the Cross Country races as they go by). I am in heat 5 (of 9) of the M45 200m in lane 1. The gun goes off and I set off ok, but an instant later I hear a perfect echo of the shot and think it is the recall gun, so stop accelerating. However the others are still running and I go off in pursuit, passing the athlete in lane 2 on the second bend. I don’t quite manage to reach the other 3 by the finish, coming 4th in 28.07. It is an indoor season’s best, but I know that it would have been at least half a second better but for the mishap with the gun echo, and wonder whether I could have done even better if I had been in touch with the first three finishers. Before the race I had planned to track the Frenchman in lane 3 (who finished second and was the slowest qualifier for the semis in 26.53) as his declared time suggested he would not be too far ahead to key on. The Italian in lane 2, who I passed in the race, had not declared any times for the 60m or the 200m so I had not planned to track him in case he was a ‘ringer’ (ie would turn out to be a finalist). In the early evening the British team had a gathering to decide the relay teams. Chuck was tasked with getting the M65 team’s details for the team manager. My details were taken by the M45 organiser, so I could be a reserve for any of the teams from M45 down to M35.

Day 4

As Chuck had a semi-final in the afternoon, and does not want to spend time on his feet, and I am free, I go into the old part of Ancona, and climb the hill to the Archaeological museum for the region. Although none of the notices are in English, I find that I can decipher enough Italian to enjoy the museum which covered the prehistory of Ancona from the stone age up to when the Romans took over that part of Italy in the 3rd century BC (The Roman section of the museum was being refurbished, and I wouldn’t have had time to look in any case). This time I got to the arena in time to watch Chuck run his 200m, although he did not progress to the final. As the evening approached we watched the 200m finals including Charlie winning gold in the M75, Terry silver in the M65 and Dalton winning the M45 outright.

Day 5 (final day)

As the GB relay teams had not been posted up the previous evening, we went in fairly early to check if I was in the reserves. In the event the team manager had only listed the running members of each team, but told me I should warm up in case I was needed. There was a rumour that the organisers wanted to bring the relays forwards two hours, but the team managers protested and the original timetable was restored. The ladies ran first, and then had their medal ceremonies, while we warmed up for the mens’ relays. Chuck’s M65 team which also included Terry Bissett managed 2nd behind the Germans.

In the event I did not get to run. After the relays Chuck and I went into the town in search of Lasagne and Tiramisu, which we had promised ourselves for the end of championships. We both enjoyed our trip, even if the times we posted were not what we had hoped for.


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