Iron Mayer: The "multi-purpose rescue tool" from the mountains

A bavarian paramedic and mountain rescue worker runs, swims and cycles more than 2263 km to collect donations for his mountain rescue organization. For our new video series “ TALK”, we visited him with our Talk-Grill to find out exactly what went wrong.

The words of Commander John Collins, the inventor of the world’s toughest triathlon are legendary: “Whoever finishes first, we will call him the iron man.” But what do you call someone who doesn’t just run one iron man, but ten? In this case: just Stephan Mayer.

Ten Ironmen. Just to make this clear, with almost four kilometres of swimming, 42 kilometres of running and over 180 kilometres of cycling, a normal Ironman is no walk in the park. That’s why it’s called an iron man. But a Deca Ironman: that’s swimming from GS corpuls’ hometown of Kaufering in Bavaria all the way down the river Lech to Augsburg, from there to Kassel on foot and then finally the last stage to Leuca in Italy by bike. To be more precise, that’s all the way to the far end of Italy’s heel. Oh, and there’s a time limit, of course: 345 hours. What kind of person does something like that?

A bit nuts?

“I’m definitely a bit nuts,” Stephan admits openly. We can vouch for this. Especially when you realise that he only registered for his first triple triathlon in 2007 – and he couldn’t even swim at that time! But the Iron Mayer, as we now call him in the editorial team, is more than a high-performance sportsman. He is truly driven. And not only in high-performance sport.

Staphan Mayer/Iron Mayer ist mehr als ein Hochleistungssportler

For 19 years, the 48-year-old has been working full-time in the rescue service. But as this isn’t enough for him, Stephan is furthermore involved in all areas of educational work. “First aid for everyone” he calls it – staying true to the motto: if you are going to do it, then do it right. The Iron Mayer garnishes an already full schedule with his commitment to the mountain rescue in Oberau – one of the most frequented holiday regions in Germany, the Zugspitz Region.

Customers in flip-flops

Two hundred meters above the Loisach valley Iron Mayer and I are sitting on a bench. We gaze over Oberau and Garmisch to the Mountains Kreuzeck, Alpspitze and Zugspitze. With this view, it becomes immediately clear why this region is so popular. But this popularity also has it’s consequences. Just below us around 1,000 cars an hour cruise towards Garmisch. On calm days. On weekends, the stream of cars with people on excursions is almost endless. And this of course brings in heaps of potential customers for Stephan Mayer: “There are real specialists amongst them,” he says, “especially the ones who think it’s a good idea to climb a mountain in flip-flops, well…but if one of them breaks a leg, then he’s mine.”

Neben dem Bergrettungsfahrzeug VW Amarok steht in der Garage noch ein ATV

Indestructible as well: corpuls aed – the Ironman among AEDs

The Oberau mountain rescue has all the gear to recover such cases from the rocky areas of the Ester Mountains: in addition to the fully-equipped VW Amarok mountain rescue vehicle, which can tackle any terrain thanks to the lift kit, there is also an ATV in the garage, a quad’s big brother. A real score for the mountain rescue, because many roads in the mountains are simply too narrow for the Amarok. “I can drive the quad to the edge of a forest road on the side of a mountain and a second man can stand up and look straight down the hill,” the 48-year-old tells us. But it’s the corpuls aed that does it for the Iron Mayer in particular: “For us, the corpuls aed is just right: small, crazily robust and works with all other corpuls devices. If we have to pick someone up from the mountain, the patient can be connected from the aed directly to the corpuls3 in the Ambulance, without anything needing to be changed. This gives us valuable seconds.”

The rescue backpack of the soul

In his job, it can really be a matter of seconds. These seconds can make the difference between life and what every emergency assistant and paramedic fears: the loss of a patient and therefore one of those calls, which take a long time to digest. Even a guy who runs the Deca Ironman without batting an eyelid has these. “I see it this way: Everyone has a mental backpack in which they carry around six to seven calls. Some get replaced, but there are one or two that will stay with you forever. The ones you will never forget”. In Stephan Mayer’s case, it was the cot death of a small boy. “I was still a trainee, so it was a really long time ago. But I still know exactly where it was. And how it was. Everything. It’s only the names that I’ve forgotten.”

Christmas carols at Easter

I would like to know if the sport is a compensation for the onerous job. “Sure”, he says, letting his view wander over the Loisach Valley. “But also my wife, I’d be lost without her. She also gives me a kick up the backside when it’s needed.” Mrs. Mayer’s name is Dagmar. The two met in, how could it be any different, the rescue service. After moving to Landsberg, Missus Iron wanted to meet new people and joined the Red Cross. She met Stephan during her training as a paramedic. Training for life, it seems, because the two even go to rescue service together. “This works really well! Stephan calls the shots; he’s the trainer, after all. Only when he starts singing Christmas carols at night – at Easter – then I could strangle him.” In the background you can hear Stephan laughing. Something tells me he knows that full well. And does it on purpose.

Dagmar, die Frau von Stephan Mayer

Picture of calm with experience in Afghanistan

Dagmar is a picture of calm. She’s a project manager with experience in Afghanistan: so there is someone who can get Iron Mayer under control, and she also manages everything to do with her dearest’s sporting escapades. “Now and then I have to slow him down a bit. When he’s between a Triple and a Penta Ironman and he shows up with the idea of a 24-hour mountain bike race, then I say: come on, that’s enough.” Stephan had to negotiate a deal for the Deca Ironman. The Iron may only be the Iron when a doctor gives him an all-encompassing clearance certificate. Because, of course, Dagmar would like to spend a little more time with him.

Sweating for comradeship

Sometimes, the opposite is the case, however: Stephan says he was recently a bit limp during a Triple Ironman. He treated himself to a small break in the team tent, much to the displeasure of his queen of hearts, who threw him out of the tent with the words: “Are we here to lie around, or are we here to compete?” Because if you’re going to do it, then do it right, Dagmar says.

So we’ve now answered the “how”. But there’s still the question of “why”. For two weeks of extreme torture in June 2018 there’s no medal, no certificate, in fact not even a free beer for Stephan. Instead, he hopes for donations. Not for himself, but for the Oberau mountain rescue team. It’s where he grew up, he feels at home there. “It is the comradeship”, Stephan explains. “We’ve known each other since childhood and have gone through a lot together, sweated together”.

I’m not a hero – that’s my job!

And as we perch up there, overlooking the Loisach Valley, and Iron Mayer shows me where the swimming pool is, where he will do his laps and where the running and cycling will take place, I can see how much the man loves his home country. Iron does not see himself as a hero – but he’s an extremely cool guy with a huge heart. One question still remains, however: why “Multi-purpose rescue tool”? The answer is quite simple: Mr. Mayer is a trained rescue swimmer. “But don’t tell the water rescue. Otherwise I’ll have to go into the water, too.”

Loisachblick – Zweihundert Meter über dem Loisachtal
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