Lionel San­ders Im­presses at Iron­man 70.3 Muskoka

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Warm Up News -

Hamil­ton,Ont.’ s Lionel San­ders trailed by 3:14 af­ter the swim, but man­aged the fastest 94 km ride (2: 20:54) and run (1:10:58) to win the 2013 edi­tion of Iron­man 70.3 Muskoka. The win was even more sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the elite- duath­lete-turned-triath­lete beat Ger­many’s An­dreas Rael­ert, who holds the fastest full- dis­tance time in his­tory ( 7: 41:33 set at Chal­lenge Roth in 2011). Van­cou­ver’s Rachel McBride had the top ride of 2:38:12 and left T2 with a 3:34 lead over Aus­tralia’s Mirinda Car­frae. How­ever, the 2007 Iron­man 70.3 world cham­pion and 2010 Iron­man world cham­pion chased McBride down with the top women’s run of 1:18:09 to take the women’s ti­tle in 4: 29:34. McBride had to set­tle for sec­ond ( 4:31:30) and Lisa Mensink of Cal­gary fin­ished third ( 4: 44: 16). We caught up with Lionel San­ders to get the scoop about his big win. Triathlon Magazine Canada: You tar­geted Iron­man 70.3 Muskoka and came out on top in im­pres­sive fash­ion. First of all, how does it feel? Take us through the process on how you built up to that suc­cess on race day. Lionel San­ders: The whole ex­pe­ri­ence was a bit sur­real. I started dream­ing of win­ning the race about four months ago and then, two weeks from the race I found out that An­dreas Rael­ert would be in it. I started to ques­tion whether it was re­al­is­tic to think that I could win. I fig­ured I’d give it ev­ery­thing I had and, re­gard­less of the out­come, I would come out more mo­ti­vated ei­ther be­cause I did poorly, or be­cause I did well. An­dreas is one of my triathlon he­roes, so sim­ply be­ing in the same race as him was an hon­our. I biked at least 90 km four or five times per week. I also knew that if you are run­ning 3: 20/ km off the bike, you’re one of the best in the world, so in run prac­tice I was try­ing to get very com­fort­able at this pace for pro­gres­sively longer and longer. My swim is still weak, so I was ba­si­cally just putting in lots of time in the wa­ter.

TMC: Did you have to de­vi­ate from your race plan, or did ev­ery­thing go per­fectly? LS: I stuck to my race plan 100 per cent. I knew if I could catch some feet and work re­ally hard I could hold 1: 20s for the whole swim. Due to the wind, hills and the wind­ing na­ture of the course, I was ac­tu­ally five watts shy of my in­tended bike wattage. But, I came off the bike feel­ing very fresh. My goal then was to hold 3: 20s on the run as long as I pos­si­bly could. I had done a brick work­out in prac­tice that in­cluded 2 x 10 km where I was com­ing in sub 33: 40, so I knew that this was re­al­is­tic for at least 10 km. I made it through 12 km un­der 40 min­utes, and fell off slightly from 3: 20 pace over the next 5 km. I stopped look­ing at the watch af­ter 17 km. In a nut­shell, ev­ery­thing went per­fectly. TMC: You ran an in­cred­i­ble 1: 10 half marathon on a chal­leng­ing course. Did hav­ing An­dreas Rael­ert chas­ing from be­hind have any­thing to do with that? LS: I knew An­dreas would be com­ing up from be­hind so I cer­tainly didn’t want to give back any time. For the most part, I just wanted to ex­e­cute what I had been do­ing in prac­tice. I told my­self I wouldn’t go through 10 km any faster than 33:00, and I think I was 33:10 or so. I saw Rael­ert a lit­tle while af­ter, and so my mo­ti­va­tion at that point be­came to have a faster run split than him. So An­dreas was def­i­nitely push­ing me dur­ing the late stages of the run. TMC: You are a full-time stu­dent at McMaster Univer­sity. What are you study­ing and how do you bal­ance your course work­load and your train­ing. LS: I am study­ing so­ci­ol­ogy. For the most part, all I do is train, race and study. I get my so­cial­iza­tion in on rest pe­ri­ods in be­tween in­ter­vals. I took sum­mer school both this sum­mer and last sum­mer and it was a bit tax­ing. Next sum­mer I am not go­ing to school.

TMC. Why choose Iron­man 70.3 Muskoka as your main race this year? LS: I chose Muskoka mostly be­cause it was close. I was able to go up a month be­fore and bike and run the course. I also stayed at a friend’s house for a week in the Bala area where I was able to train on very sim­i­lar ter­rain. Once I saw how dif­fi­cult the course was I knew the course suited me as I have al­ways loved hills. TMC. Where does your triathlon ca­reer go from here? Will we see you in more higher pro­file events next year? LS: My swim is still very weak so I will go back to the grind­stone hard­core for the next five to six months with that. If I can get my 1,500 m time un­der 20 min­utes in the pool then I will likely make a go for the Iron­man 70.3 World Cham­pi­onship. Ever since I started triathlon my pas­sion has been long course rac­ing, so ev­ery­thing I am do­ing now is in preparation to make a go for Kona in the com­ing years. School is def­i­nitely my pri­or­ity, but I only have one year left, so I have de­cided to spread it over 1.5 years, that way I can fo­cus a bit more on train­ing. I’m not get­ting any younger.

TMC: You’ve clearly made some great strides in your swim­ming. What has brought about that im­prove­ment? LS: For the most part I am just get­ting more com­fort­able in the wa­ter. Un­for­tu­nately I can’t make up for the 15 to 20 years of wa­ter time I’ve missed that many of the ath­letes I’m com­pet­ing against have logged. I’m just be­ing pa­tient and pay­ing my dues. Ad­di­tion­ally, many coaches have helped with the process, in­clud­ing An­drew Cole at McMaster Univer­sity. As for bik­ing, my po­si­tion and tech­nique are very bad. In my opin­ion these are ba­si­cally free gains if cor­rected, so that will be my main fo­cus on the bike over the win­ter. With run­ning, I will con­tinue to push my­self against the pure run­ners while run­ning cross- coun­try at McMaster, and en­ter­ing some run­ning races in the late win­ter/early spring.

TMC: You are not shy about dis­cussing your past drug strug­gles, but is that some­thing you’d rather not have brought up again as you take your ca­reer to the next level? LS: It has made me who I am to­day, so it must be ac­knowl­edged. I feel like a dif­fer­ent per­son now, in a good way, and I would like to share that. Much of my mo­ti­va­tion now stems from the be­lief that not only can you change your life com­pletely, but you can be­come some­thing great in the process.

TMC: Any ideas of what your next big race might be? Or tar­get races for next year? LS: My next big race will be cis cross- coun­try. My next big triathlon will likely be an early sea­son 70.3 maybe Florida or St. Croix. But I haven’t con­sulted with my coach Bar­rie She­p­ley on this, so noth­ing is set in stone.

Above Lionel San­ders at the 2013 Iron­man 70.3 Muskoka in Muskoka, Ont.

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