Ancona EMACI 2016 (11th European Masters Athletics Championships Indoor), day 3: 200m

Ancona EMACI 2016 (11th European Masters Athletics Championships Indoor), day 3: 200m series

When the entry lists for the EMACI first appeared online in early March, it looked like my best chance to go on to the next round (half-finals) was in the 200m. As it turns out, the number of athletes in attendance and my own performances at the 60m series allowed me to progress to that half-final as well. I’m not complaining, of course, but given my less than optimal preparation (only getting green-lighted for competitions in late December after six months off due to an Achilles injury), running two 60m’s on Tuesday instead of one meant additional stress on my body, and by the time Thursday rolled around I wasn’t feeling fully recovered.

Once again, I warmed up on the outside track. Temperatures were manageable, but there was a very strong wind. I did my usual warm-up, plus some strides and starting blocks in the turn, trying to ignore a building unease in my left foot and Achilles tendon.

About ten minutes before the calling room opened for the M35 category, I headed back inside. The atmosphere inside was stuffy. The air conditioning that had been going full blast the first day had had been shut off. Combined with fairly full stands this meant that the air quality suffered a lot.

I had been assigned lane #3 in heat 2. With five heats in total, the first two athletes in each heat and the eight best times after that would go on to the half-finals. I knew that Richard Beardsell had a much faster season best, so he was certain to qualify, which meant that if I wanted to be sure to advance I needed to place ahead of the others.

The gun went off and I pushed out of the blocks. My start had been mediocre – I’d seen worse, but the acceleration into the first bend maybe wasn’t as aggressive as it could have been. Richard in lane #2 went past, and in turn I tried to get closer to Marvin Edwards in lane #4. The straight lines in Ancona seem quite long and the bends are quite narrow; which at almost 1.90m tall doesn’t suit me terribly well. Still, as we exited the second bend I was within breathing distance to Marvin and second place. However, there was still a long straight ahead until the finish line and I tried to push hard to inch ahead. The trouble with pushing hard is that it’s not really elegant and just running a relaxed stride would have been better; but while you’re in the effort that’s a hard thing to influence.

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The final 50m seemed to be twice as long, and if the crowd was watching I hope we gave them a good show – it was a close fight for second position. Unfortunately for me, I lost it by 4 hundredth of a second. The time was quite bad, 22”86 versus 22”82, or over a second behind the winner (22”72).

Official photo finish image, I’m in 3rd position (the fastest athlete is on the right)

Across the finish line, I collapsed on the floor. I would later repeat that performance in the stands, because the air was still quite oppressive and I’d given a hundred percent. The good thing was that my performance would allow me to progress to the half-finals. My time placed me as 13th out of 18 half-finalists.

Ancona EMACI 2016 (11th European Masters Athletics Championships Indoor), day 3: 200m half-finals

After running the qualifications around 15:00, it was once again a long wait until the half-finals that would take place close to 20:35. The logical choice would have been to head back to the hotel, but since ours was outside of Ancona it would have meant quite a drive and then the need to look for a parking spot again – things were quite busy on the roads and parking spots surrounding the area (although to Ancona’s credit, parking was free everywhere).

I started my warm-up about an hour and twenty minutes before the race. It was still light enough outside so I didn’t have to jog, stretch or do strides in the busy and stuffy indoor area; but the price to pay for the fresh air was that it came in very strong and cold gusts. I retreated into the corner that was the most sheltered, and did an undisturbed warm-up – most athletes had opted to be less exposed to the elements and stayed off the outdoor track.

My Achilles wasn’t too happy – this week was the most I’d worn my spikes in years – but I was quite confident that it would hold up.

About thirty minutes before the race, I headed back inside. Since the “official” way in was quite a bit of a walk, I followed a fellow athlete through a shortcut, a door marked “no exit / no entry” next to the calling room. We received a bit of a glare from an official, but nothing more.

Once again the calling room staff (who didn’t seem to change too much, and were probably long hard days as volunteers) checked our bibs, whether we’d confirmed our races, and the length of our spikes.

I was in the first of three finals, along with Jimmy Melfort from France who (spoilers!) would go on to win the final. Since I had one of the weaker times in the series, I was assigned lane #2. Again this didn’t make it easier to hit my ideal stride length during the turns, but the advantage was that I could see my competitors ahead of me.

For the fourth time this week the gun went off. Again I tried to push out of the blocks aggressively, but again I found myself not making any headway against the stronger athletes. I’d told myself that I’d do my best to catch up with Gavin Stephens (who had qualified 4/10 of a second faster than me). Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite able to do that, and during the second turn I was fighting with Daniele Carloni for fourth position.

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Once more, I came in four hundredths of a second short and crossed the finish line in fifth position in 23”82, to Daniele’s 23”78. Gavin was third in 23”31, with the two French guys (Jimmy Melfort and Thierry Henry) well ahead. They would both qualify for the finals.

This time, I was a bit happier with my race execution – my final meters were less forced. However, of course the time still wasn’t great. There’s a multitude of reasons for that, some of which I’ve mentioned before: difficult recovery from my Achilles troubles, inability to train at the same level of intensity and volume that the other guys probably still do, etc.

However, I’m happy enough with the general outcome of the week. I didn’t injure myself; and I came close enough to my season bests (200m), or even bettered them (60m). Of course I would have liked to run faster or closer to what I still consider my remaining potential at 38 years old. But “it is what it is” and as such I can only be happy with the experience and having reached the half-finals each time. As for the 400m, for which I’d signed up as a “backup plan” in case I failed at my 60m or 200m, I wisely skipped that one on Saturday.

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