The Times They Are a-Changin’

One delightful coincidence of timing on my current Big Trip was that I could be in Bellinzona, in Ticino, on the Swiss/Italian border on the very day that the annual Swiss Masters International track and field meeting takes place. This is a meet with a great reputation, and over the years, several Brits have taken part in events at it. Bellinzona is also a very attractive town, worth a visit in its own right.

My wayward route (see previous blog) meant I’d hardly had the best preparation, and an 80 mile ride from Luzern to Bellinzona was also tacked on to the day of the event. I was thus a bit apprehensive to say the least. This was going to be my final preparation before racing at the European Masters Games, so it was do or die.

Like many other things Swiss, this event ran like clockwork. Simple check in, clear programme, decent intervals between races, electronic timing, and prizes, more of which anon! I was pleased to find that, in addition to my buddy Pino, there were several other German, Austrian, Italian and Swiss athletes there who I knew from European or World competitions, and a couple of other Brits, who lived in that part of the world and were keeping the event a secret!

Since the recent Worlds in Daegu, I’ve been psyching myself up for 100m races with the words “Kim Collins”, such did this 35 year old wonder’s leg and arm speed impress me when I saw him on tv. His inspiration got me a second place, and somewhere close to my season’s best time, despite a 1.7m/s headwind. It also got me a kilo of Swiss cheese as a prize. The meet is sponsored by a local co-op, I think. Gotthard Lucendra for the cheese-ophiles amongst you.

I don’t really like excessive heat, and found it hard to keep cool before my 200m race, despite the breeze in the stadium. Thus it was that I went to my blocks feeling heavy and lethargic. But a gun is a gun, and a sprinter is a sprinter, and, though I say it myself, I ran well. I won by a considerable margin, in the fastest time I had run for two full years, since just after the fateful (for me) World Championships in Lahti, Finland in 2009. into another 1.7m/s wind, too.

I was thereafter a worried man. If second place was a kilo of cheese, would first be two kilos? I need not have worried, on that score at least, given that the winner’s prize was, in fact, a container of 5 litres of Swiss apple juice.

Now, if you have been paying attention, you’ll remember that this tour I am on is by motorcycle. Packing it with everything I need is a daily art. I needed a kilo of cheese and five litres of fruit juice like a hole in the head. Pino and I, plus several other of the athletes stayed that night in the Bellinzona Youth Hostel. This is a great place. A former sanatorium or asylum, I think, and architecturally very grand. Avoid Room SF02 though, it has a resident scorpion! Happy to say, the hostel kitchen was delighted to have a donation of a kilo of cheese. By chance and a reshuffle, I had space for the juice, which, as I write, seems to have come in a self-refilling, magic container, hitherto known only in fairytales. As fast as I drink it, more seems to appear.

As warm up for the European Masters Games, this is all quite unconventional, of course. But I think they are going to prove to be unconventional too. On Twitter tonight, the organisers have posted the proud boast that everything is still coming together for a successful Games. That’s comfort, I suppose. They actually started yesterday.

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