Can you imagine what it's like to run 100 miles (roughly 160 kilometres) on trails which include a total climb of 6,300 metres? Or to complete a 230 kilometre race in Namibia in red desert sand in extreme temperatures? Or to take part in a race in which burning obstacles, freezing water, mud pits and barbed wire have to be overcome?
Inconceivable? A man who has done all these is Raffael Zeller. Yet the “Lakeland 100”, the “Namibia Desert Challenge” and the “Tough Guy Race” represent just a small selection of his sporting activities. After all, the civil engineer and business consultant has been a devotee of extreme sports for over 20 years now. Recently he has relied on a special SINN watch – the U1000 mission timer – while taking part in his exhausting activities.
Raffael Zeller came to extreme sport through boxing. He entered the ring aged 17, competing as a super heavyweight, before going on to become the Hessian champion while studying. He then took part in his first military pentathlon competitions. These consist of shooting, obstacle racing, obstacle swimming, throwing and cross-country running. Together, they constitute one of the most physically varied sports there is. In 2000 he was rewarded with a free flight to Washington DC to take part in the Marine Corps Marathon. This road race was the first long-distance race for Raffael Zeller and represented a turning point for him. He then decided to concentrate on ultra races and multi-discipline events.
Why does Raffael Zeller seek out these extreme challenges? One reason is that it's in the family: his father was a decathlete and so, even as a small boy, he was involved in athletics. He soon acquired a taste for measuring himself against others in competitions. But there is a further aspect. Raffael Zeller compares modern life with a comfort zone in which much of the hard work has been taken out of our daily existence: lifts, air conditioning systems, power steering and other technological achievements which make our lives predictable and simple, but which make us lazy as individuals. Extreme sports, for him, represent an ideal way of leaving the comfort zone. What is important, as a man, is to brave nature in all its different facets, to test your own physical and psychological limits and to achieve self-awareness as a result. Because each race or competition Raffael Zeller takes part in is a source of excitement: he never knows what will happen next. A further source of motivation is the incredible landscapes he experiences. And of course he's always keen to win or be among the top performers. But he is also interested in finding out what his mind and body are truly capable of. Answering this question is something which continually spurs Raffael Zeller on. He has come to the conclusion that 80% of extreme sport is all about the mind – as the Latin saying goes: “per aspera ad astra” (through hardship to the stars). Raffael Zeller is convinced that happiness and success cannot be achieved by always taking the path of least resistance.
Raffael Zeller uses psychological tricks to reconcile his extreme sports with his work and family. He could drive to work, for instance. But, whenever possible, he leaves his comfort zone and completes the 40 kilometre round trip on his bike or by running. He also needs to rest, of course. But to him, simply sitting on a sofa borders on the stressful. He can relax best while on the move. And preferably where real life happens: outside in the countryside. Using these tricks means that he doesn't have to use his evenings for training after a hard day's work. They help him keep fit while leaving him time for his family.
Zeller used his Mission Timer 6, the U1000, for the first time in the “Grenadier 2012”. This international comparison challenge, organised by Stabsbataillon 7 and Offiziersgesellschaft Wien, was held in the Austrian market towns of Paternion and Millstatt (Carinthia). A unique event in Europe, it places heavy demands on the 150 participants from eight countries. The disciplines include a cross-country run, a test of courage (crossing a gorge on a ropeway), a march lasting several hours over the “Obermillstätter Almkreuz” mountain up to an altitude of 2,046 metres above sea level and a speed march with backpack including an obstacle course. Also featured are knowledge tests, infantryman exercises and the securing of a mock crime scene. The result: in the final evaluation, Raffael Zeller and his two comrades emerged as the best German team, the best reservist team and came in eighth overall.
His use of the U1000 during the “Grenadier 2012” was not, however, his first encounter with a SINN watch. Raffael Zeller has been using the EZM 4 since 2005. “Sinn Spezialuhren has a good reputation among multi-discipline athletes. The watches are regarded as exceptionally reliable, technical timepieces which are built to withstand extreme conditions,” explains Raffael Zeller. He chose the U1000 model with black hard coating, as the case surface absorbs light most effectively. The chronograph function is also practical. The 60 markings allow him to stop times and read them off with great accuracy. He is also impressed by the watch's durability in extremes of cold and heat, functioning reliably from - 45°C to +80°C – and the fact that the U1000 is built for use in all kinds of operations including rafting or river crossings. The watch is clearly legible at night, too, as the hands and indices have a special luminous coating. Raffael Zeller also values the safety aspects of the U1000. Because regardless of whether he is climbing mountains or diving, he can rely on his watch whenever he is exposed to danger or even risking his life. Which is why the certification provided by Germanischer Lloyd plays such an important role. “The certification gives me a sense of security because it means that an external, independent testing institute has tested and confirmed its overall functioning including its resistance to extreme pressures and temperatures.”
The fact that the watch's movement is mechanical is also decisive. He believes that the U1000 is well worth its price, as it embodies superior German workmanship, craftsmanship and quality. Raffael Zeller would certainly recommend the watch to others – especially men looking for a timepiece suitable for use in operations. “It's exactly the right watch for people interested in moving out of their comfort zone,” he sums up with satisfaction.
Besides participating in the “Grenadier 2012” comparison challenge (www.grenadier.at) Raffael Eduard Zeller also takes part in many different ultra races. Among the most impressive events for him were the “Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra” at -50°C in Whitehorse, Canada (www.arcticultra.de), the “Tough Guy Race” in Wolverhampton in the UK (www.toughguy.co.uk), the “Namibia Desert Challenge” in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia (www.namibdesertchallenge.com) and the “Lakeland 100”, also in the UK (www.lakeland100.com). Raffael Zeller also runs his own website at www.androgon.com – a men's lifestyle magazine focusing on extreme sports, adventure, art, culture and health. It also features reports of individuals' experiences. Raffael Zeller is interested in art, culture, architecture and design, and he appreciates opera and listening to classical music and jazz. He plays the trumpet and enjoys making music with his wife and children.