Lionel Sanders before IM Kona

Canadian Lionel Sanders has already spent over two weeks in Kona to get used to the heat and winds, and we had a few words with him about the upcoming big day.

Slowtwitch: Hey Lionel, how has your trip to Kona been so far?

Lionel Sanders: Wonderful. I have been here 17 days now and finally starting to acclimate and feel kind of like a local. For instance my fiancee’s parents came yesterday and they are sweating bullets and everything, and I am thinking, hey it is kind of cold out. So from that standpoint it is very good.

ST: What have you been up to the last couple of weeks here?

Lionel: Basically just trying to get out in the elements as much as I can and adapt and become one with the environment. I did a lot of my training indoors for the last year and a half or so, and there was literally no sun exposure, and a lot of the time it was air-conditioned. So I think I screwed myself a little bit there and I think I lost any heat acclimatization I may have had several years ago. So I have been playing catch-up as quickly as I can.

ST: Is it working?

Lionel: It has been interesting to see how much my heart rate has come down in a very short period of time. Every day I am running faster and it is coming down, down, and down. It is hard to believe that the body can adapt that quickly. But it does.

ST: I know you have been riding out to Hawi and back. Have there been any surprises for you?

Lionel: I came here last year around the race for 10 days, and I experienced both a very easy day during that time and also a terrible day with a headwind going out and coming back. And once again I had that here during the time I have been here, so nothing really surprising.

ST: Will you be hoping for an easy day or a hard day?

Lionel: I would say an easy day during the swim, super easy with glassy water and a current both ways, and on the bike terrible 100k per hour crosswinds, and on the run overcast and cool.

ST: I see. Well, I think you said previously that you are here to figure it out and experience the race. Is that really what you plan to do?

Lionel: I learned a lot of things in the last little while. I am feeling good and it feels like I paid my dues in the last two Ironmans I have done. I am definitely here to race and give everyone a run for their money. I am not intimidated by anyone.

It is going to be a very challenging swim for me and I could come out of the water 10-15 minutes back, and in that situation all I can do is bike to the best of my ability and pace myself well during the run. Really all I want to do is to have a good run off the bike, and I did that last year at 70.3 Worlds. When I finished that race I wondered how I did that, and I would like to have the same feeling after this race.

ST: So who is your pick for this race, other than you?

Lionel: I would have to say Kienle. I think he has some cards that have not been played yet and he is becoming not a one trick pony, but a very well-rounded athlete. His swim has improved and his run has also improved. I think it could be a huge upset and he has the goods to do it.

ST: So what is going on for you from now until the race?

Lionel: I had my final harder bike workout today. I did two times 30 minutes at 330 watts, and then I will have a shorter run work out today. Out on the Queen K, just 10 miles total volume. Tomorrow is off with just a swim, and Thursday and Friday I sort of have my ritual. I do a 40-minute ride and then an 8k run and then a 20-minute ride and 20-minute run. Still swimming every day, but reducing the volume and just trying to relax, and that is something I have struggled with going into these races. I have this tendency to over train, and I am probably over trained year round. I think I am starting to come to the realization that you can’t do that in an Ironman. You can get way with it in a 70.3 and I have done that, but in an Ironman you will pay. Particularly during that second half of the run. I have now definitely taken the advice of the greats such as Craig Alexander and Mirinda Carfrae, and I am trying to come into this one rested and maybe under prepared versus over trained and injured.

ST: Any sponsor obligations before the big day?

Lionel: I have a couple things with my sponsors, but for the most part they have been super understanding about it. They know that you have to be off and be rested, so they haven’t put too much pressure on me.

ST: Well, we wish you a great race on Saturday.

Lionel: Thanks Herbert, I appreciate it.