Sometime in April, my club asked me if I could join them in Portugal for the European Champion Clubs Club on the 100m and 4x100m. At 38 years old, I didn’t consider myself the strongest sprinter for that task, but their options (not that many 100m sprinters, studies, injuries, people not having the Luxembourgish nationality, etc.) were limited. I had wanted to concentrate on vertical kilometer training in spring, but when offered the chance to travel to a country I’ve never competed in for the club I’ve been a member of since 1987, I could hardly say no.
So on May 27th the entire group took an early-morning flight on TAP from Luxembourg to Lissabon, and then spend another couple of hours in a minibus to drive down to Leiria. In the late afternoon, most people headed down to the track, where we were first hit by rain and then witnessed nice evening colors on Leiria castle that towers over the stadium.
After a decent night’s sleep in our hotel “Eurosol Leiria” (in which a third bed had been added to a regular two-person bedroom barely large enough for that task) and good hotel breakfast (the only decent food we had while in Portugal – the event catering offered by the organizing club was not very good), we headed out for the events.
The rain had passed and temperatures were climbing. No excuses, then.
Well, my 100m was bad. My start was a textbook example of what not to do (it felt like I stood up and ran). And to add insult to injury, I was competing against athletes that were faster than what we see in national or regional competitions. My series was won in 10″51, and I came in dead last in a disappointing 11″91. The fact that I was the only competitor marked as “masters” in the results list, and that we had a -1.2m/s headwind were not much of a solace.
Later that day, we still had to do a 4x100m. And again, we were up against strong competition. Not to mention that our team was compromised of a triple jumper, a javelin thrower, a high jumper who’d also done a long distance that day; and me, the old guy well past his prime.
During warm-up, it became evident that the meeting organizers had some kind of trouble. We had already finished our warm-up and were waiting to be let into the calling room when… nothing happened. This would ultimately last for close to an hour, during which we weren’t even allowed on the track to maintain our warm-up.
Finally, the first heat was allowed onto the track, and ran their race. I noticed that the race marshals didn’t even catch a very obvious mistake by one of the competitors (he stood with his entire body in front of the line that marks the start of the 10m acceleration zone, rather than inside it) that should have lead to outright disqualification of the offending team.
In our heat, we finished last. The time was a disappointing 45″44. Mind, I’m not slagging the team – we did as best as we could, and everyone gave his best given the circumstances. It’s just that it was disheartening to see several other teams do times between 43″ and 44″, which should really have been within reach for the club.