German age grouper Axel Reusch traveled far to race IRONMAN 70.3 St. George, but when he witnessed Darren De Reuck falling early on during the bike segment, Reusch stopped to assist while many others did not. Boulder resident De Reuck had fallen hard and subsequently fractured his femur and was thus unable to continue. Reusch eventually rolled on and managed a 2:30 bike split and a 4:51:33 total time, and was able to grab a 70.3 Worlds slot. Currently Reusch is exploring Utah before returning to his day job as the owner of Der Laufladen running shop in Sonthofen, Allgäu. Reusch also organizes various events.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time.
Axel Reusch: My pleasure. It is an honor.
ST: Utah is a long way from Southern Germany.
Axel: Indeed, that was quit a trip from the Allgäu to Munich to Las Vegas and on to St. George. It was all worth it though.
ST: Did you gamble in Las Vegas, or did you just eat well?
Axel: I had the best intentions to gamble. We tried twice, but I must admit that gambling addiction is not a big threat for me. I find it very boring. Las Vegas is interesting for a day or two but for me not longer - too artificial and too fake.
ST: Have you recovered well enough from your St. George effort to enjoy your vacation time now?
Axel: Yes I have, my legs felt pretty good the day after the race already. I think the limiter in the last hours was more the heat than the legs. Simone and I have a few days to visit Zion national park, Bryce Canyon and a few other great places in the region. For me that is equally as important as racing. Getting to know the area and spending some time away from home.
ST: Why 70.3 St. George in the first place? Has that been a target for a while?
Axel: Yes it has. After 30 years of racing I am really tired of drafting. So I only do races with challenging bike courses. Plus Utah is just a beautiful place to be.
ST: Was there much drafting there as far as you could tell?
Axel: No. Not a big problem. I was very happy with that. Peace of mind!
ST: How did you prepare for this early season race coming from still relatively cold Europe?
Axel: I live in the mountains in Southern Germany and we had a long, snowy winter. Until the end of February I didn’t run for 3 months. I only skied and I rode on Zwift a lot. From March on I dropped the skiing, focused on running and kept on riding the trainer. I rode outside only twice before the race.
ST: You did not run in 3 months? But you have a treadmill and a Zwift account.
Axel: Yes I do have a treadmill in my shop. I don’t mind running in the snow though. I just felt I needed a break from running. Plus the conditions for skiing were just excellent.
ST: Talk about your skiing and how much you did?
Axel: I ski crosscountry (skating) and go ski mountaineering. Crosscountry mostly on the weekends for 1 to 3 hours, but nothing structured and I didn’t do any races this past season. Skimo mostly really early in the mornings before work. I start in the darkness and enjoy the sunrise on the mountains. It is a niche sport, but I enjoy that very much. Did only two small regional races last winter. I ski for fun but it is also excellent base training. I like the year to have seasons and training shifting to different activities.
ST: And what did you mean by riding your bike a lot on Zwift? How many hours a week and did you climb often?
Axel: I rode three times per week - once 3 to 3.5 hours and twice 1.5 hours. I never ride flat and I never ride very easy. Sometimes I do Zwift races, but I never do workouts. I ride the climbs hard and recover on the downhills or the flats, just like outside. I assume most people will regard that as missed potential, but I think it works for me and I enjoy it like that.
ST: So you never rode the new Fuego Desert Flats or the Volcano Flats?
Axel: Fuego Flats is new, so I did ride that a few times, before heading to the radio tower. I love what they did designing the scenery. Did get me in the mood for Utah. Perfect timing! Volcano Flats? I’m not sure where that is.
ST: What about swimming?
Axel: I swim twice a week. I don‘t get faster that way, but keep my level.
ST: What do your swim workouts look like?
Axel: I swim with a squad once a week 2 ½ to 3 km, shorter sets. I swim 2.5km in lunch once a week where I just cover distance. When the lakes warm up then I do that session outside.
ST: Can you go into detail what one of those squad workouts are like?
Axel: I guess pretty basic. Warming up, followed by a few drills water feel. The main set hundreds, two hundreds, pyramids… whatever the swim coach dishes out. With one exception everyone in my lane could be my kids. I bring Ironman towels to swim which are older than some of the kids. It is always a good laugh. When I started triathlons in my early 20s there was a guy in my lane who was 40-something. I remember that I was really impressed by him but also wondered what the deal was doing triathlons when you are so old. Funny how perspectives change! I don’t feel old at all.
ST: When did you arrive in Utah?
Axel: We arrived on Sunday before the race to allow time to cope with the jet lag and adjust to the climate.
ST: Talk about the bike you brought and how it was set up?
Axel: I have been using the same bike for many years. An old Cervelo S2 that I upgraded with a Rotor power meter and a SRAM eTap. I use the same bike in training as in racing, and yes, I use drop bars and a clip on. In races I use a Lightweight disk and deep rim front.
ST: Did you feel good going into the race?
Axel: Yes, I felt ready. I was really looking forward to it.
ST: What does your race morning look like? Basically how soon do you get up and what do you eat etc.
Axel: I like to get up really early. I don’t like to be rushed. I eat a little toast maybe with honey and a banana. I like coffee. Try to arrive at transition 2 hours before the start (not at the small local races, but at the bigger races). That way I have time should some last minute problem arise. In St. George I was not sure about the parking situation and how far away from transition we would have to park. Everything went smoothly though. They had organized everything well.
ST: Talk about the swim.
Axel: I loved the swim! As an oldtimer I‘m not a huge fan of the rolling start, as it takes away the orientation and changes the dynamic of the race. But it makes for a peaceful swim and spreads the field out. The water was cold but manageable. The views with the sun on the water and on the red rocks of the island were fantastic.
ST: You had a pretty solid bike split, despite the unscheduled stop.
Axel: Yes. I like hilly courses and they suit me well. A few miles into the bike, on the first climb, a saw a rider a bit up ahead fall and not get up again. When I got there I stopped to see if he was ok and if I could do anything. He was seriously in pain. I got his bike of the road and waved for a motorcycle marshal for help.
ST: When the guy crashed, how many other athletes had the opportunity to be a good human and stop?
Axel: I think around 20 people passed him while he was laying there. I assume they didn’t realize how seriously injured he was and probably thought he would get up and continue on.
ST: But you mentioned on social media that you also did not feel like stopping, but also not feel like simply continuing?
Axel: Well, I‘m old but still ambitious… and especially at the start of the bike the adrenaline is high. But I could not just let him lay there. I’m happy now that I made the right decision.
ST: What became of the athlete as far as you know?
Axel: I saw his number, look up his name and contacted him on FB. He broke his femur and had to have an operation the same night. He seemed to be in good spirit and I wish him a good and fast recovery.
ST: Did that incident take a bit the wind out of your sail?
Axel: Yes, it took my focus away for a while. But I was able to get back into the race a little later.
ST: How did the run go?
Axel: I had some really good training runs, so I was a little surprised that the first miles felt awful. After 3 or 4 miles I felt better and was able to pick it up. 1:40 is slower then what I had hoped for, but it is not an easy run course and I was not used to the heat.
ST: You ended up with a 70.3 Worlds slot after a big roll down. Is that now the big A race?
Axel: Yes. I was 12th in my age group. It was pretty close with 6th place only 5 minutes faster. We had 6 slots and of the top ten only 3 wanted to go. I got the 4th slot with roll down going until the 20th place. I have raced at Nice in 1991 and wow, I‘m going back after 28 years!
ST: What else is on your schedule?
Axel: I will do a few local run races and our local triathlon for the 26th time straight. Then 70.3 worlds and maybe another half-Ironman distance in Mallorca - Challenge Paguera in October.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Axel: After all these years I still enjoy doing races and traveling places. I’m being careful with my body and hope to be able to keep on training and racing for many years. Thank you!