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What You Missed: A Q&A with Globetrotter Jonas Deichmann, the “German Forrest Gump”

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Last week we told you the story of German Jonas Deichmann, the man nicknamed German Forrest Gump after completing a triathlon around the world.

Over the course of 14 months, Deichmann swam 284 miles in the Mediterranean Sea, cycled 13,000 miles through Russia and parts of Western Europe, and traveled the 3,100 miles to Mexico. Throughout his journey, Deichmann struggled with extreme temperatures and fatigue. He also became a celebrity in Mexico, where crowds of fans ran alongside him.

We recently caught up with Deichmann, 34, to hear about his trip. (Answers edited for style and clarity.)

Out: What memory of your trip brings you the most joy?
Jonas Deichmann: He was riding around Mexico with the other crazy runners who were singing songs and having so much fun.

What moment brought you the most pain?
It was my first big swim crossing. I usually swam along the shore, but sometimes I had to swim to a peninsula or an island, and I had to cross seven or eight kilometers of open sea. By day five or six in the water, I miscalculated. There were currents so it took me longer to get to where I was going. It was dark and I was still three kilometers from shore. For someone who isn’t a swimmer, out there in the open sea, and it’s pitch dark, I felt I shouldn’t be there.

How did you deal with the mental challenges posed by this stage of the triathlon?
Swimming is a physical challenge, but the mental side is so difficult because it is impossible to distract yourself. There is nothing to watch. When you spend seven hours at sea, you just have to think about it. To keep a sharp mind, I always have small targets, and that’s the big secret to stamina challenges. You always need to see a finish line. I don’t think of swimming 60 kilometers, I swim to the next rock. In my attached little raft, I still have a bag with a chocolate bar, I take it out and eat it, and I’m happy again. Then I swim to the next rock, eat my chocolate bar, and I’m happy again.

After swimming and cycling for several months, you were delayed for 13 weeks at the Russian border. How did you experience the wait?
I was in southern Turkey, sunny and on the beach. It’s perfect for a lot of people, but for me it was awful. When I swam or cycled, it all depended on me. Being stuck and waiting for the visa, things were out of my control and I felt helpless. I know when I complain it doesn’t change my situation, so I focused on what I could control. Who can I contact? Can I change my itinerary? I finally got my license.

I would have assumed that cycling through Siberia would have been the most difficult challenge.
It was uncomfortable, but it was never really cold. Due to the delays, I was in Siberia at the end of winter and it was minus five degrees Fahrenheit on the bike, and it’s really not that bad if you have the right gear. The worst times in Siberia were in early spring when the temperature was around 32 degrees during the day and five degrees at night because your clothes get wet and you sleep in the damp cold after that. In the morning, your cycling shoes are frozen. I also had major mechanical problems with my bottom bracket. I had to change it twice in 10,000 kilometers and also had to pee on my bike several times to thaw the chain.

You started your run in Mexico on your own and ended in Cancun as a national celebrity. Take us through this evolution.
When I ran through Baja California it was pretty lonely and I was camping alone every night. When I came to the mainland, there was a street dog that followed me 130 kilometers. I tried to get rid of the dog first, as I was running through towns, but she was sleeping in front of my tent and waiting for me. I gave an interview on TV and looked for someone to adopt her, and Mexico is such a crazy place she was adopted and a reception from the mayor of the next town. The next day, I was also on the news under the name of the German Forrest Gump. After that, I was never alone again. The next day there were 20 people running with me, and after that sometimes up to 100.

What wisdom can we learn from your adventure?
It is not a question of physical capacity, it is really a question of state of mind. You have to stay positive and believe that you can do it. You set small goals, do them, and if you want to, you end up doing this really big thing. The hardest part is getting to the starting line, having the courage to do it. You learn everything you need to know along the way.

Federal Council renames Colorado Peak

A mountain in Colorado’s Arapaho National Forest will be one of the first famous landmarks after US Home Secretary Deb Haaland bans the use of the word squaw on federal lands on November 22.

On Thursday, the American Board of Geographical Names approved a petition filed by the Northern Cheyenne tribe to rename the 11,486-foot mountain peak Mestaa’ehehe. The new name honors Owl Woman, an influential translator and member of the Cheyenne who helped keep the peace between local tribes and settlers until her death in 1847.

“It shows that there is nothing we cannot accomplish if we think with our own hearts and if we always remember who we are doing it for,” said Teanna Limpy, director of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

The name change followed the early stages of decision-making, and in September, the Colorado Board of Geographical Names unanimously approved it, sending the final decision to the National Board. The only major refusal came from Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who came under fire after saying the new name was too difficult to pronounce.

The mountain has several roads and trails that still bear its old name, including a pass between Idaho Springs and Bergen Park. Local county commissioner Randy Wheelock said there would likely be a discussion to change those names as well.

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