This week's random age grouper hails from Germany and we actually had to hurry to get this interview done before the year is over. While this might be the first time Markus is featured here, it might not be the last time.
Slowtwitch: Markus it appears you'll be part of our first random German interview. Do you feel special?
Markus: Seriously? I am the first German? Wow! That is definitely a huge honor for me! I am a big fan of slowtwitch and I even still can’t really believe that I’ll be in an interview on your page!
ST: Well, I guess we are honored that German triathletes enjoy our site so much. But do many triathletes there know about this site?
Markus: As far as I know, yes, absolutely.
ST: Your season is most likely over by now, or do you still have some stuff planned other than Christmas shopping?
Markus: Fortunately I am almost done with Christmas shopping for this year. Since October I have been training for next year’s season. I am going to a training camp to Austria from Dec 16th till 23rd, it’ll all be about XC-Skiing plus some running and swimming. I love doing XC-Skiing during winter and I believe it is just the best whole body workout for triathletes!
ST: How is the weather where you live right now?
Markus: My home is in the ‘Erzgebirge’ - a very beautiful mountainous area in the Eastern part of Germany. It is pretty cold here but we are not having as much snow as usual during that time of the year. But it was still enough to go XC-Skiing for the first time last weekend. Halle - the city where I go to college is situated in the central part of Germany where it is just chilly and windy during winter.
ST: Are there many other triathletes residing in Halle?
Markus: Thomas Springer, German Olympic Distance Champion in 2009, is currently my swim training mate. Christian Ritter sometimes trains in Halle, too and Team TBB Pro Per Bittner lives in Leipzig very close to Halle… besides them there are quite a few more good triathletes around here. But the big ‘superstar’ of the city is actually Germany’s best swimmer Paul Biedermann. It's great and motivating seeing him swimming on the neighbor lane!
ST: It is good to hear that you find Paul Biederman swimming next to you motivating. It could be easily depressing to I suppose.
Markus: Well you still have to see that this is a different world. It would be depressing finding a triathlete next to you swimming as fast as he does.
ST: How do his swim workouts compare to yours?
Markus: Usually the swimmers do a lot more leg work sets than we do, but the mileage of our sessions are actually very similar, about 4 to 6k. But Paul does this two or three times a day while I go cycling and running!
ST: Looking back at this season, are you happy how your year went?
Markus: Considering that I had some bad luck during preparation in spring I am actually pretty happy with most of the results, with some victories at regional races and that I was able to keep up with some Pros. I used to work as a bicycle courier, had a bad crash in February and was not able to run for 8 weeks due to a torn muscle fiber. My big highlight was the 70.3 IRONMAN European Championships in Wiesbaden, where I had a solid but not a great race and finished 3rd in the age group and 31st overall. Thus I actually had the chance to race 70.3 Worlds in Las Vegas but unfortunately I have not had the money for this huge trip.
ST: Did either of the guys in front of you in the age group go to Vegas and how did they do?
Markus: No there was just one slot, and neither of the first guys could or wanted to go.
ST: Is there any other race this year you are particularly happy with?
Markus: I was really happy with my last Half Ironman Distance race in September in Germany where I just showed a great overall performance and got 2nd just 30 sec behind Pro Christian Ritter. I was leading with another athlete by 3 minutes after the bike, outran him with a 1:19 half marathon, but unfortunately got caught by Christian just 1.5k to go. However it was still the best race of my life!
ST: How is studying going?
Markus: I am studying nutritional sciences and it is going quite well so far. It requires a lot of self-studying, especially when you do a lot of training. But I think working on your body and working in your brain does go together very well.
ST: When will you be done?
Markus: As I am taking one year longer for studying to focus better on both triathlon and college I’ll be done with my bachelor degree in 2014.
ST: Any plans on what you want to do with that degree?
Markus: I definitely want stay connected with my sport, coaching athletes in nutritional questions or doing research, for example. Nutrition is such a big topic in triathlon especially on the long course.
ST: We had to do this random age grouper fast, because in a few weeks we might have had to talk to you as a random Pro. Is that a correct description?
Markus: Yeah, that is correct!
ST: What made you decide to turn Pro?
Markus: I always had the dream to become a professional athlete and doing something special in my life. Now I am taking the chance and trying to make my dream come true. Analyzing my past training and racing we’ve seen that there is so much to improve. Without a training plan, and with relatively low training volumes I got in a great shape last year. I am now working together with a coach and we’re hoping to lift my fitness up to new levels! Also at 21 I am still very young in our sport. I want to build up slowly and consistently to my long-term goals Vegas and Hawaii.
ST: Isn't Germany especially competitive in terms of fast Pros?
Markus: Yes it is. There are many great athletes, also many coming up out of my generation. But I think that is good and important for our sport. I won’t be afraid to race them and looking forward to some great challenges!
ST: Are you friendly with some of them and have any of them given you any advice?
Markus: Unfortunately I don’t know many Pro athletes personally yet, just a few of the younger ones who are actually in a quite similar situation as I am.
ST: So what is on tap for 2012 in terms of events?
Markus: I’ll focus on the great half distance races in Germany and Austria and I’ll try to win some regional events again, too. My highlights will be Challenge Kraichgau, 70.3 Europeans Wiesbaden and Challenge Walchsee. If I can earn some money and find some sponsors I want to make a trip to the U.S. to race 70.3 Miami and Austin in fall. So I am hoping to be in great shape and do some great racing!
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Markus: I actually spent half a year in Gainesville, FL and went to High School there. I used to swim and play basketball there and I am still a big fan of the Florida Gators!
At this point I also want to say ‘thank you’ to my parents and my grandparents - the most important people in my life that make this all possible. I am still searching for sponsors who could make my training and racing a little easier.