We catch up with German pro triathlete Horst Reichel on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition. From Challenge to IronMan, Horst has raced ultra distance events all over the world. Hear his story, including; some nutritional tips, what it is like to be at Challenge Roth, and so much more.
Welcome to this week’s addition of 32Gi’s Sports Nutrition I’m Mr Active, David Katz. Last week we did little bit of a focus on Challenge Roth the sort of Mother or the Grandfather of the Challenge Family and what event it is it’s coming up this weekend. So we staying with the theme of triathlon and looking at Challenge Roth, it is a 32Gi sponsored event.
We now gonna have a great pleasure to chat to one of 32Gi’s sponsored international athletes. I’ve been going through a bit of his Palmarès. He’s…we don’t have too many things in common. I’m South African he’s German. We were born in the same year he’s about four and a half months older than me. So we’re both youngsters…I’m a little bit taller than him, I weigh probably a kilo or two more than him.
So that’s about where the similarities end I think is our date of birth. Because he’s also quite a mean triathlete and I can’t say I’ve ever come close to top 10 and even in my age category. So it’s a great pleasure now to welcome Horst Reichel on to 32Gi Sports Nutrition. Horst thank you for joining us today.
HR: Hey David thank you for having me.
DK: Horst for people out there I mean there’s so many triathletes, there’s so many races going on all across the world. Fantastic to have both the IronMan and Challenge series and other races in between. But a little bit of a background on your sort of racing history.
How I got into endurance racing
HR: Yes sure, I’m a triathlete for a long time now. I started in I think 1994 it was my very first one. I think as a young kid and I came from swimming. I tried this new triathlon thing and since that I’m doing triathlon. Since 2009 I’m a professional triathlete.
So ja I’m a specialist in long distance trials, I’m doing also a couple of half a distances. But my main focus is long distance triathlon. So that’s my triathlon history. Do you know, do you wanna here something about my results or what can I tell you?
DK: Well we’ll touch on that. I’ll maybe see if we can point out a few, you’ve given us. An idea of where sort of you started in triathlon. I’ve been doing sort of arithmetic in my head, being the same age that helps. So you would have been about 12.
As you said that’s quite a long time you’ve been in the sport sort of over 20 years. For you when did you realise that maybe sort of the short course, Olympic stuff wasn’t quite your forte. When did you find that sort of niche of the longer stuff suited you better?
HR: Well I started triathlon as I told you as a short distance athlete. I was starting for Germany and also in the European Cups and doing stuff like this. In my age we had some pretty, pretty good guys all of them went to Olympics. I think three of my age were there.
Sebastian Dehmer was under 23 world champ. Steffen Justus is still doing ITU events and has qualified for this year’s Olympics. Jan Frodeno is one year older but the same category. So it was pretty, pretty tough competition in my age. In that time I have to realise that I’m not that fast, especially in a run. My top speed wasn’t that fast to compete against these guys.
Our national coach in the time they, we did some testing there were pretty strict and okay we have already three guys they are pretty fast. Can run 30 minutes low or faster and yeah you are just 31/32 guy, so think about what you want to do. It was an age around 16/17/18.
Finding my niche
So in that time I stepped a little bit back from short course racing. I finished my school and start studying. I studied sports science and history. I used to be a teacher but the change long since triathlon came little bit later. I did short distance until I think age of 28.
At that time we haven’t that much races in middle distance because today the guys can make their experience on the 70.3 distance and then step up to long distance race. For me it was a step from short distance to IronMan.
I thought okay now it’s enough with short distance racing because we had a lot of non-drafting short distance races. Also here where you could get some prize money. It was also the reason why I did it so long.
Then I thought okay I won all the local races and I wanna do maybe little bit of longer stuff. I also raced Bundesliga in German race circuit like the French Grand Prix on short distance. After a while you know you think about what’s the next aim and so I thought okay I wanna do long distance.
It was more like a fun idea. I thought okay next year I wanna do IronMan Switzerland it was in 2009 I think, I’m not sure at the moment. But I think 2009 and yeah that was the start in my long distance career. But it wasn’t that easy as expected in the beginning.
DK: Now Horst you’ve podiumed in a host of IronMan events, both the full and 70.3 also in Challenge events. Back in 2013 you did win the 70.3 in Italy, and you raced down in South Africa down in Port Elizabeth doing the full there. How did you find that experience? I know you were fourth overall and I know you’ve been to South Africa previously with racing camps. But how was your experience of racing in South Africa?
South Africa is a great place to race
HR: Yeah was a first time for me in Port Elizabeth. I spent a lot of time in Cape Town especially in Stellenbosch with Jan Frodeno. He invited me once and since that I was two or three times there.
Port Elizabeth was pretty new, I just knew from some other guys that did it race that it must be a very nice race course but pretty tough. Yeah the timing was perfect in the year because it was in still I think end of April.
So we Germans used to go in the late winter times from January until March to training camps in Spain and then after that you have a decent shape. So you can do IronMan also in that early stage.
So it was a pretty good timing and I was there. Yeah I was pretty impressed about organisation there. I was even more impressed about the volunteers because they were so crazy.
I think they had a kind of a competition with they had some groups on the run and yeah it was pretty cool to see that the South African locals were so supportive to the athletes.
I had a very good time there I mean the race was also pretty cool for me. I was fourth overall and I had a chance to do the podium but in the end yeah you know how it runs. Was just two minutes back to second place or around it.
But it was a good result and it gave me the point for my Kona slot. In that year also did Kona and ja I enjoyed it very much. I stayed a week longer there in Port Elizabeth and did some holidays with a local friend, he’s a farmer.
I went to De Aar or close to De Aar. It’s in the middle of nowhere, you guys know it maybe. But I didn’t know it. It was a kind of adventure trip after IronMan and I spent a week or so on the farm with a lot of sheep and just me my buddies there and we had a good time there ja.
DK: Well Horst I think a lot of people in South Africa you will ask them where De Aaar is and they might, I mean the Karoo is a massive part of our country and it’s very dry it’s very arid. Direct translation from Afrikaans with De Aar means The Vein.
All the different sort of rail routes used to meet in De Aar, we don’t have the most active sort of rail at the moment, that was the whole thing. So you were literally sort of in the middle of the country.
HR: Okay cool…
Understanding what works for your body
DK: Well moving on now you talked about sports science and studying and having that background sort of as a professional athlete must be so helpful. I mean maybe you wouldn’t have specialised so much in nutrition but and understanding of your body. Does that help you now when you plan and sort of look at your diet in and around racing?
HR: Yes I mean I had no special subjects in nutrition but I get some basics from my studies. I read a lot about nutrition and I have a good network with scientist and that. And so it helps me a lot during training.
Because it’s also very important during the race to know what I can use for fuel, fuelling up and it helps me, helps me a lot. But I have also to say that I had to try a lot. I fade a lot because it’s not so easy. It depends also on the athletes.
Because you have a theoretical information and some just doesn’t work out for you. And especially last year I did some really kind of experiment in nutrition. It was maybe a little too much and you need to do some experience. You need to know how the body works and how nutrition works for you.
DK: Horst look you know it’s trial and error. For most people where you look at the endurance event of a Challenge or IronMan it’s a long time out there. It really is a science to it. But every person is an individual.
But what are some of the tips that you can give to people out there. You know I mean the old one don’t try anything new on race day; but little things that you’ve maybe picked up that is some great advice that you can share with other people?
HR: In, in nutrition?
DK: Yeah round race day and the build up to race day. Are there any tricks that you’ve learnt or ideas that you implement that you think would be useful for anyone out there? That may be looking at sort of finding out more finding out a strategy for themselves?
My best nutritional tip
HR: Yeah, yeah okay all right. No there are a lot of tips; I mean I found it very helpful because everyone talks about carbo loading in the week before the race. Some, some guys are doing some kind Banting diet, is known as a low carb fat diet.
Started one week before the race and you reduce your carb intake. The last three days before the race you just doing carbo loading. Yeah but the most people know about pasta parties and carbo loading and think okay I have to eat a lot, as much as possible. They have enough energy but they don’t think about that your energy stores are maybe already full. So you cannot make your tank bigger.
You have to make sure that, that your fuelled up very well. Especially the last day before the race. I find it very helpful because I did it also in the first races. I ate all the day good carbs. But I was all the time this full stomach and fat not so much.
The problem with that is that your sleep quality is quite bad. I mean the day before the race the sleep quality is never good. But can make it better if you start eating or you make your last big meal more in the middle of the day. In the evening you just eat normal and not doing kind of a freaked out pasta party and with it going with full stomach you know to bed.
I found this really helpful because you sleep very good and also in the morning you have a much natural feeling for your breakfast. Because sometimes you don’t have any kind of, you don’t wanna eat breakfast because you so full from the last. Last night of pasta party or something of that.
I find that this is very helpful and nutritional thing and yeah you don’t have to over think it. It’s also experiences and stuff, but eating in the night before a race or not, not eating not so much it’s quite helpful I think.
DK: I agree with you and some great sort of tips I mean that sort of over filling your tank is just not a good idea. Rather build that slowly during the week.
DK: Mark Wolff has done a podcast recently where we looked at the build-up and sort of progressed to and through a whole race day. So I’ll put the link up on the show notes of this episodes for anyone listening who wants to go find that out.
What makes Challenge Roth so special
Talking about Mark Wolff he’s off to do Challenge Roth for the first time. I know you did it last year. Your German. Challenge Roth is arguably the greatest triathlon in the world. I mean from a support perspective it is by far the best triathlon in the world. But having been there as a German, what makes this race so special?
HR: It’s pretty unique it’s kind of the Wimbledon of triathlon. Because the race takes place not in a big city, it’s more in a area where just small villages are. But interesting is the whole community stands really behind the race and this is not just a tour.
If you go on to watch Challenge Roth live you will feel it because everyone even if it’s the old woman or the people in the Supermarket they know about Challenge Roth and they are so supportive.
It’s pretty unique because also you have this massive people cheering for you. You know maybe you know the pictures of Solar Hill you have a thousand of people like in the Tour de France like pushing you to the limit. You have to be careful not to push too hard.
So this is very special you don’t have it somewhere else. I think because I did a lot of racing. Was also in Frankfurt and Hawaii and you having this kind of crazy crowds in that on my own.
On the course so it’s pretty, pretty cool. Also the run finish in the stadium it’s a kind of arena. You run there through finish and a lot of people there and even in the for the cut off, for the last athletes, the arena is pretty packed.
I mean in the middle of the day, there are more or less people there, but for the top pro’s and for the last one the arena is so full. They have this nice fireworks after the last finish and it’s very theatric. But it’s kind of a show there
So it’s pretty nice and the community is very supportive and maybe you will also hear about it. Maybe there are really no hotels there and so they have this unique home stay programme. So you can book for sure a house or a flat maybe. But there are not really hotel rooms, so they have the home stay programmes.
So you get into a family and they are very they are big triathlon fan. They will support you as much as possible even as a age grouper, so not talking about the pro’s. So it’s pretty, pretty nice there and very supportive.
I was there in 2012 and the first time as supporter of my teammate. He won that race already and it was the first time I experienced it. It was little bit strange in the beginning cos the people are so nice and so friendly. Man this is cool.
But it’s you know the Germans are sometimes a little bit silent and even if the people are coming from a other part of Germany or the world, in the beginning a little bit. Yeah they were not so open sometimes but there it’s pretty cool there, very supportive it makes that race very unique.
Follow Challenge Roth here
DK: I’m looking forward to Challenge Roth this week. If you haven’t been there if you don’t haven’t even had a chance to see what it’s like and to get a feel of that atmosphere. They are gonna have both English and German commentary sort of online. So go over to the Challenge Roth website I’ll put that up in the show notes as well.
Horst just before I let you go what’s on the agenda for you? I know Challenge recently launched, will debut next year they’ve got a half distance sort of World Championship. What I love about that is all points count.
If you doing IronMan, if you doing Challenge all those points go in and you can get your place there. Is that possibly something on your agenda and what can we look out for you racing sort of over the next 6 to 12 months.
HR: Yeah I’ve already qualified for the Challenge World Championships in Samorin, because I had a podium at Challenge Heilbronn. It was the German Championships. So I will be there I think next year. I’m looking forward for that.
I’m now in the preparation for Copenhagen it’s next month and before that I will do some, some last smaller small racing. End of the year will maybe Challenge Pegeura in Mallorca it’s very pretty place there. Yeah I’m looking forward for next year coming back maybe to Roth.
Because I had very nice, experience there and maybe racing but it depends little bit on the tour on my main focus. Because I wanna maybe go to Hawaii. But if I start early qualifying then I can go to Roth. So I’m looking forward to be there even if I’m just a volunteer or supporter for, for a friend also.
DK: Well Horst Reichel it’s been absolute pleasure chatting to you. But you know I feel like we could talk for hours, very insightful. Thanks for joining us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. From myself David Katz, Mr Active I’ll be back next week, we’ll do a little recap on Roth. But Horst just before we do actually let you go I know you have a website you on twitter, how can people follow you?
How to follow Horst
HR: Yeah easiest thing – my website is at the moment not up to date really, okay there’s some new blog post. But the best things go on my Facebook fan page is Horst Reichel. Just go on my Instagram account because I think this is the new thing at the moment.
I’m not so used to it but I try my best and I know Mark is also there and he did some pretty cool post about nutrition especially. So you can follow me there even on Twitter but more on Instagram and Facebook.
DK: Well Horst we’ll put those up on the show notes if people wanna click through and follow you. All the best for the upcoming year and upcoming events. Once again Horst thank you very much for chatting to us.