Constant improvement is Lionel Sanders’ mantra. One of the best indicators of this drive is the state of the art Pain Cave he has established in his Windsor, Ontario home base. Since his March 19 injury – he suffered a sacral fracture while bike training before Oceanside 70.3 – Sanders has improved and upgraded his training facilities which he has used to relentlessly attack his weaknesses and increase his strengths. In the modern era, the romance of swimming, biking and running in the outdoors is confined to race day.
For training, Sanders relies on science and a controlled environment, making him the ultimate test pilot for 21st Century sports science.
“I can't say enough just how much I truly love this training room,” says Sanders. “And how grateful I am to have such a great training space. And how inspired I am when I am in here. A lot of people think indoor training is sub-par. Or why would you torture yourself for doing that? Oh no. You got it all wrong. Not only is it not torture. I love it. I crave it. I actually think with all of my tools, I think it is better than outdoor training.”
All pictures © Talbot Cox
The Man and his Pain Cave, lacing up his custom Skechers GOrun Razor 3 Hyper shoes.
Seen here, Lionel Sanders runs on his old Nordic Track C1750 treadmill with Wahoo Fitness Kickr Desk. Sanders says, “It has been through countless trials and tribulations – and I have rebuilt pretty much everything. New deck. New motor. Control Panel replaced three times. All the belts have been replaced.” One feature recommends this old reliable, what Sanders calls “the runner’s flex. When I run it flexes an inch or so which is fantastic for the joints. Especially when you are a little bit weary of the taxation of running – especially when recovering from my March sacral injury.” In the background is his Woodway Treadmill, which he describes as “The gold standard of all treadmills,” which is rated for approximately 200,000 miles. On the wall is a motivational mural of Sanders riding in Kona on the road back from Hawi: “You can see on this day that the crosswinds were coming up. I can’t wait.”
Sanders is working out in his Endless Pool. “Which I saved up years for,” he says. “Finally got a win at the Challenge World Championship in Samorin, Slovakia. It just so happened that the prize purse was enough for one of these bad boys.”
“So why would someone want such a beautiful device?” asks Sanders. “Well, it’s mainly due to the mirrors down at the bottom, crucial for my technical swimming routine, which I am currently using three days per week.”
“I come to each swim with some technical elements to focus on. In order, they are: Proper entry width. Proper entry depth. Perpendicular arm to the bottom of the pool. Proper pull path. Finish the stroke. Relaxed recovery. And steady kick.”
Sanders is on his old reliable Nordic Track C1750 treadmill while running on Zwift, a virtual running and cycling platform. He uses the program on an iPad which is resting on the ledge of the treadmill.
Notice he has mirrors to give him a picture of his frontal and side form on his C1750 treadmill and on the elegant Woodway, “the smoothest ride you will ever have on a treadmill,” which he uses for all his “super high end stuff.” Still, Sanders says, the Woodway can be set at 15 mph for hard intervals, which are hard. “With the (March 19) injury that I've had, I have not used it super a lot because I am trying to lessen the taxation on my joints at the moment.”
Sanders at work on his VASA swim ERG trainer, which gives him a power reading for swim specific strength training. “You can actually get some data, which I really love,” says Sanders. “I’ve only been using this for a few weeks now, but I am really excited to see where we can take this.”
A panoramic view of his training environment. Left: Cycle Station setup with Canton Aeroad race bike on Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer, Wahoo Desk and iPad with Zwift. Further back are the Golden Ear Hi-Definition speakers. Center: Nordic Track c1750 Trainer. Right: Woodway Treadmill with motivational Kona mural behind. Far right: Endless Pool room.
Unique feature of the Pain Cave - Smiley Face plastic bucket which serves as an economical, simple urinal.
Another angle of the main room of the Pain Cave with 6 LED spotlights to make it brighter as there are no windows.
The Heat Room with an infrared sauna, which can be adjusted up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Sanders also uses this space for storage. Neatly ordered, easily accessible parts include HED wheels hung from the ceiling and plastic basins for training shorts, shirts and jerseys, socks, towels and various training items.
Sanders sets his Canyon Aeroad race bike in the Wahoo Kickr.
Canyon Aeroad with Stages dual-sided power meter in the Cycle Station with bottle of Gatorade Endurance.
To the left is Sanders’ Squat Rack with 250 pounds of weights including dumb bells and bar bells which are a centerpiece of his rehab and ongoing conditioning.
The big Stretch Cage. “For me – in the bike, the run and the swimming – range of motion and mobility are still limiting factors. Slowly and surely I integrate this more and more into my routine.”