Otaki surges to victory in Surgeres 48hr Classic

Posted on June 11, 2007 by

Otaki surges to victory in Surgeres 48hr Classic: By Tony Mangan.

Photos Courtesy: Martin Sattler – Link

I first heard of the Surgeres 48 hour race almost 10 years ago while living in the Colorado Rocky mountains.I often went for training runs with some of my running friends while training for the Lake City 50 mile mountain race ( Now called the San Juan Solstice 50 miler). Even though we lived in Gods Country running on those 4,000 meter plus mountain trails we often talked about other races far afield. When we finished up one of those long Sunday training runs we often stopped in the Lake City Ice cream parlor for our cold reward. It may have been called a city but it was really a big friendly village where I spent a couple of happy years.One of the ultrarunners mentioned the French 48 hour classic.I can’t remember who it was, but from that day Surgeres was permanently rooted in my mind bank. “Only one problem,Tony”, said my friend… It’s an invite only race for the worlds elite multiday endurance runners.”
“I may as well forget about that, besides I only run 50 mile mountain races and can’t fathom what it must be like to run for 2 days.”

Years later I am back living in Dublin,Ireland.I had increased my racing distance. I entered the Brno 48 hour indoor race in March more for the experience and to set some Irish records. I ended up winning it running “the race of my life”. 426.178km.
However, my own 24 hour best distance is on the road and a modest 228.2km.
A week after Brno while still nursing my aches and pains I got an e-mail from Surgeres 48 hour race director Michel Landret inviting me to take part.
Wow! What a thrill! I couldn’t believe it.The race was May 11-13th only eight weeks after Brno! Would I be recovered enough? Who knows but one thing is for sure I am going to give this chance in a lifetime my very best shot!
Apparently several time womens winner,Edit Berces couldn’t make it and they were offering me her place.Traditionally the race has 12 men and 12 women and for the first time that tradition would be broken as I was to be the lucky 13th man.What an honor.

My running club MSB ( http://www.msbac.com/home/index.html ) physio Mick Farrell agreed to be my ” handler ” for the race.
The day before the start we flew to La Rochelle on the west coast of France, which is situated near the Bordeaux wine region. We were picked up at the airport by Nathalie a young and very helpful local estate agent. Nathalie took us to the course which is a 301 meter outdoor track beside the ground of a local rugby team. We walked one lap and I sorted one problem in my head. I had been wondering what the surface of the track was. Some of my friends who had run it before gave me a variation of descriptions from:
cobblestones to gravel,stones,rocks and sand! Something must be lost in the translation.Even after watching a documentary dvd of the race it was inconclusive to me! I now considered it to be compacted sand with the odd pebble.

Back in the race hotel we all had dinner in the back garden. It was a lovely evening as we sat eating our pasta,pate and French cheeses. I was wearing my pre-race night ” No Fear ” tee-shirt. I lost a bet to Mick – the Japanese runners were drinking the red wine – I was drinking water much to the astonishment of the staff. ” You want what?” The mind games had begun.

In my log book I had marked down Masayuki Otaki as a five star danger man.The Japanese athlete held the Asian 24 hour record of 271km.He also won this race two years ago with 405km.In 2000 he was the Spartathalon winner.
I also had the Russian, Andrei Kazantsev as a dark horse as he has a great one day record of 258km even though has never run a two day before.I wondered how he would fare on his debut.I gave Andrei four stars.

The great day arrived. It was to be a 4pm start.That late start means we were going to be awake a few hours longer before we take our first nap.Fifteen minutes before the start we were introduced to the spectators.
The national anthems of all our countries were played.We each had our own caravan and table for our race food.Mick was to give me a 250 ml bottle of my energy drink and faithful Hammer nutrition products every 20 minutes.He would also keep the log book updated.I couldn’t believe my Tetrasok blew a hole while warming up and miraculously one of the race volunteers produced a needle and thread! A stitch in time!
There was a great carnival atmosphere
The gun went and to a huge cheer we were off.I was rubbing shoulders with some of the great French runners I had admired over the years. Claude Hardel and Emmanuel Conraux. Claude won the French 24 hour championship only a month before while setting a personal record of 253km. In 2004 Emmanuel ran three 24 hour races and averaged 247km.If that is not enough he currently holds the world record for the quintuple ironman = four ironmans back-to-back! Also in there was tough American Sandy Powell, Zoltan Kiss from Hungary. The other Japanese runner, Kaname Sakuri would have to be watched as he has a good pedigree and my information tells me he has placed well in a couple of Race Across America cycle races.
It was raining on and off. Someone mentioned it should suit me as it was typical Irish weather.I was a bit peeved off but next day I was to wish for it again, big time. My first decision was would I put on my tracksuit bottoms? Mick advised against it so I just grabbed my raincoat.I felt great.
Two hours gone with 20.5km clocked up and Mick says I look happy.By six
hours he had recorded ” really happy ” into the log. It has just stopped
raining and the night is mild.I have covered 61.2 km. Claude Hardell has charged into the lead six km more than me.The Russian is also looking strong. Conraux is having a good run. Otaki looks menacing and ready to pounce.Sure enough after ten hours he takes the lead with 106 km. I’m in forth place less than six km in arrears.
At fifteen hours as the sun is coming up Mick tells me I’m looking tired.I don’t feel too tired as that hour I got 9.3km.Am now in third place ten km behind Otaki and about two behind Hardel who is beginning to fade a little.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth hours Otaki leaves the track twice.On both of these hours he scores 6.9km and I close the gap a bit by getting 9.3km for each hour.I’m in second place about an hour behind him. I got to twenty-two hours, took a nap and puked.The sun was high in the sky and it was hot. Mick had a long hard night and fell asleep in the glorious sunshine!
‘Mick,Mick wake up I need your help!”
“What, says he, ‘Where am I? Oh! Shit I remember, What do you want now Mangan!” he grumbles.

I ran a couple of below par hours and finished day one with 223.77km about eleven behind Otaki. Its an Irish 24 hour track record by about 40 meters

On into the second day.Otaki and I are very tired.The hot conditions are difficult. I don’t know what the temperature is but it is hot we are both suffering.Around twenty-seven hours we both take short naps.The sun goes down.When we return we both run strongly for about two hours.Into the second night.It’s cool but we are still both very tired.I’m more tired.I took a couple of power naps and walked a few laps, I’m slowing.My mind is very strong but my body is tired. I’m sluggish and trying to hide that I’m staggering a bit.I’m running with my eyes almost closed.Mick’s most important instruction from me was if he saw me like this to come out onto the track and give me a huge kick in the backside! He is trying his best to get me back running well again.
At thirty-two hours I take drastic action and take a full hour nap.When I returned Otaki has gone through 300km and I am at 277.The two Russian women Irina Koval and Galina Eremina are having a fierce battle.They are in third and fifth places Irina is about sixteen km behind me and Galina two behind her. Conraux is still fourth and Hardel has dropped dramatically down the standings.
That long nap didn’t work too well.I plodded on for about ten more hours just getting the odd decent hour. My head is still strong but my body is ragged. I need to put my feet into my head and give them an energy boost.
Otaki was also tired but less so. I swore after last years across the years
72 hour race in Arizona
that I would never mentally quit a race again. I learned more from that race than all my other races put together. With six hours to go I gave myself my incentive. At 343km I needed 57km to claim my second 400 plus km
48 hour race in eight weeks. The way I was moving it would be an enormous ask but I didn’t care as I was up for the challenge. Then the sun came out and my body got a kick start. I started moving more freely, lifting my feet and pumping my arms. Now I was smiling a lot and it was easy again I got Mick to time every lap from there to the finish.I figured every one had to be around 2 mins:02secs with no slacking whatsoever in between.
Masayuki Otaki was about thirty km in the lead at this stage. We ran together for about an hour, knocking out the laps in the 1:40’s to mid 1:50’s.
He told me he is a doctor and doesn’t get much time to train! I joked that I thought the real reason was that his wife recently had a baby and he probably was otherwise busy looking after the baby! He was visibly shocked and almost missed a step! ” How did you know that, Tony?”
” Ah! Masayuki.. Fail to prepare.. Prepare to fail! ” I did my research.
He also told me that Kenji Okiyama, who I had that incredible battle with in Brno is a great friend of his. I asked him did Kenji give him a report back!
“No I haven’t spoken to Kenji in a long time.” Sure ” Ha! Ha! I laughed.

I put some more sunblock on as it was starting to heat up again.It was just as hot as the first day but there was a cool breeze on parts of the course which helped us.Also, as we were hours from the finish and I was focusing so hard on my 400km mission – making it not as much an issue as it was the first day.
The other Japanese runner Sakuri moved up into third place, about nineteen km behind me and with five hours to go.I was twenty-seven behind Otaki.The two Russian women were in fourth and fifth places on the same lap with 331km
– one km behind Sakuri who was making steady progress after a poor first day due to illness.That hour I clocked 9.95km against Otaki’s 8.14km.I was running very comfortable and confident now.For the next couple of hours I recorded distances in the mid nines and it was a great feeling to be running strongly again! With three hours to go I needed just under twenty-eight km for the 400.Then I got a shin injury.It wasn’t a bad injury,just a bit sore and I knew I couldn’t increase the pace for fear of making it worse.I knew I had the strength to hold out for those last hours – it just depended on the shin holding out. It would be terrible to finish on 399 with the shin breaking down I thought.I was a bit stressed that the lap counters would miss any of my laps but they kept cheering and telling me not to worry.
Injured German runner,Martin Sattler was busy taking photos and shouting. ”
Go Tony! 400 km. Go Tony! Go. ” I felt really strong now and could have run another 3 or 4 km but for the shin problem. So there was no point risking breaking down before 400 while attempting a 404 or 405 when I could nurse myself to 400.
Still,I was running faster than Otaki and with two hours to go closed his huge lead to twenty-four.Then he started running faster again.In the last two hours he averaged just over ten km/h allowing him to break my Brno 48 hour record for the best in the world this year by only 270 meters. Darn him!! Runners all think alike…
It seemed the whole town was out spread around the track cheering us on, hand slapping us and calling out our names.They certainly love their race.My effort was still nice and steady and the shin was holding out well. Mick was still timing the laps. I was doing well now running the laps in the low 1:40’s and ran 9.04 and 9.65 km/h for the last two hours.Thank you Mick and Nathalie, I would never have done it without you. The first day’s split was
223 km and the second day’s was 178 km. When it was all over I ran a lap of honour carrying an Irish flag in one hand and a Dublin flag in the other.

Masayuki Otaki was a gallant winner.Mentally and physically very tough. His winning distance was 426.44km. I was second in 401.11km and Kaname Sakurai held onto third spot with 372.
Galina Eremina won the women’s race finishing fourth overall in 367km.Second woman was Irina Koval with 355km to break an age group world record.
Michaela Dimitriadu from the Czech Rep. was third, 353km.

When the race was over we had another race! We were told we had less than an hour to get back to the hotel to shower,change and get back to the stadium for the presentation dinner. Somehow we all made it. I fell asleep in a chair while Martin took half a dozen pictures of my eyes in various stages in the back of my head. I had lived my dreams from all those years ago and given it my best possible shot.

Revoyez-vous! Tony Mangan.

Posted in: Europe, Ireland, Multidays