Racine 70.3 2016

What a day. This one stings a bit. The race was originally to start at 7am, but then due to increment weather the swim was cancelled, the bike course was shortened to 30 miles, and the race wasn’t to start until 10:30 am. The race was to be a time-trial start, with everyone let off in 30 second increments from each other.

I went off first. I did not have any plan whatsoever for the altered race distance and format, and eventually I think this mistake lead to my unravelling. The race starts up a very steep hill. I surged up the hill pushing over 500w. I then pushed very hard for the remainder of the bike, doing large surges out of every corner. This is very uncharacteristic for me. If you ask me how I think the best way to ride a bike is, I will say “dead steady power output leads to the fastest running.” For some reason I threw this out the window. About midway through the bike I was burping up my sports drink, meaning, it was not emptying from my stomach. I attribute this to riding at too high an intensity, as well as eating too close to the race start and still having breakfast food in my stomach (when the race was cancelled I went back to the hotel and had a second breakfast).

Stomach issues set the tone for the run. I came off the bike with a little under 3 minute lead on Matt Chrabot. I felt decent for the first while but could not, nor did I want to consume anything. I knew it was hot and that I had to consume something, so I tried to force water and sports drink down. It did not agree well with my stomach and I started to develop a stomach cramp. Around 5 miles the wheels started to fall off. My leg turnover started to drop considerably. Then I started to have the sensation I needed to use the port-a-john. It hit me really hard and really fast. I made it to mile 6 and stopped in to the washroom. A one-piece suit is great, but very tough to get on and off in the middle of the race.

The second half of the run was nothing but a struggle. I felt terrible, and to add insult to injury my mind was no longer in the race. By mile 9 I had already conceded the victory to Matt. I actually thought to myself, “you are going to finish second today.” This is how I know nutrition played a large role in the performance. The first thing to go when I am in a calorie deficit / dehydrated, is my competitive spirit. Contrast that with St. George 70.3, where I got the nutrition right, and you would have had to have taken me away on a stretcher before I would concede the victory to Sebastien Kienle.

Matt caught me right around 12 miles. I had no response for him whatsoever and congratulated him on a race well done. Unfortunately, another wave of stomach upset hit me, but this time there was no port-a-john around. I will spare you the details, but I stopped, walked, and had another episode of Ironman Arizona. I ran through the finish line feeling very embarrassed. I knew Erin was still periscoping and wanted to get off the camera and away from everyone quick. Unfortunately, there was drug testing afterwards, and so this was going to be a complete reliving of the Ironman Arizona experience. Fortunately, Erin had a fresh set of clothes for me in my backpack, but unfortunately a man had to watch me clean myself, as you are not allowed to leave the sight of the drug testing chaperone once you have completed the race.

I then went to drug testing and set a new record for longest duration to produce the 90mL sample of urine. I consumed 5L of liquids in 3 hours and 4 minutes, and produced exactly 90mL. That is with two attempts where literally nothing came out, and two partial samples. This is amazing because the race only took 2 hours and 20 minutes. To me this means that not only did I botch the nutrition during the race, I must have come into the race dehydrated as well. 7 hours after the race, I had consumed over 7L of liquids, and still had no desire to go pee.

 

Why did all of this occur? Leading into the race, I took a risk. 70.3 Worlds is my focus, and I did a full taper into Mont Tremblant 70.3 just three weeks ago, so I decided to train much harder than usual coming into this race. On the Sunday prior to the race I did 7x5min@435w on the bike to 10min@380w; then later in the day did 7x1km@3:02/km. On Monday I did 2hours@275w straight to 10k@3:55/km. Tuesday was 2x30min@370w to 15min@370w on the bike; then later in the day was 7x2km@3:17/km. Thursday was 2x15m@380w and 400w; then later in the day was 5x1km@3:14, 3:12, 3:10, 3:06, 3:02. I do not believe that this added fatigue played a role in the result, but I do believe the choice to train into this race set the tone for the day. Mainly, I think I did not give the race or the competition the respect it deserved.

I will say, if I had to lose to someone on the circuit, it would be Matt Chrabot. He is genuinely sincere, and an all around good guy. He has offered me many nuggets of wisdom over the years, asking nothing in return. Even after this race, he gave me some breakfast nutrition tips to hopefully help prevent the port-a-john episode from happening again. I am very happy for him and congratulate him on a very well executed race.

As for me, sometimes losing is worth a lot more than winning. The last time I lost was in Kona, about 8 months ago. I used that experience and the fuel it gave me to win in Arizona, Panama, Oceanside, Texas, St. George and Mont Tremblant. I already feel the anger and frustration growing inside, and I am sure this performance will have a similar effect. Thanks for reading and following along.

Training and Race Nutrition

I had a traumatizing experience at Ironman Texas in 2015. It was very hot and humid and I was coming from a long Canadian winter. In all of my training and racing leading up to this race I never really gave much thought to hydration and nutrition. It was the norm to go for a 20 kilometer run in the middle of summer and not bring anything to eat or drink. On the bike in Texas I consumed less than one Gatorade bottle per hour. The bike took me over four hours, and I also probably sweat a bit in the hour long swim. By the time I got off the bike my vision was beginning to get blurry, and my muscles were not functioning very well. I felt like a concrete block. These symptoms only got worse during the marathon, to the point where I was swerving all over the path. It was by far and away the most painful experience I have ever endured. I remember having the feeling that I was pushing myself very close to death. For a long while after that race I feared the next time I would have to do an Ironman.

In the days and weeks after that race I did a lot of searching for the answer as to why I felt so terrible. Eventually I went to a laboratory and had my sweat rate measured under similar conditions to those in Texas at the time of year of the race; I also had my sweat sodium concentration measured. In heat and humidity very similar to that of the race in Texas, my sweat rate on the bike was over 2L per hour. My sweat rate on the run was closer to 2.5L per hour. Keep in mind, the actual sweat rate during the race was likely higher because there was no sun heating the surface of my skin in the laboratory.

So, let’s assume I lost 0.5L in the swim. I was on the bike for a little over four hours, and sweat a minimum of 2L per hour, which means I lost a minimum of 8L on the bike. Thus, in the first five hours of the race, I lost 8.5L. I consumed four bottles of Gatorade in that time, each of which were 710mL, for a total of 2.84L. Therefore, coming off the bike, it is safe to say I was in a minimum deficit of 5.66L. In terms of percentage of body weight, 5.66L is equal to 12.45 pounds, and before the race I weighed about 165lbs, so I had lost a minimum of 7.5% of my body weight. Running a marathon being 7.5% dehydrated is a very painful experience that I do not wish anyone to endure.

Long story short, this whole experience lead me to a company based right in the city that I live, called Infinit Nutrition Canada. They create fully customizable nutrition products that allow you to control every aspect of your sports drink. For example, you can decide exactly how much carbohydrate, sodium and electrolytes, protein, caffeine, flavour intensity, etc. you want in each serving.

Over the next year or so, I continued to measure my sweat rate under various conditions, as well as started to log how I felt under various degrees of dehydration. I came to the conclusion, that at 3% dehydration I was starting to notice subtle cognitive impairment, and by 5% dehydration I was beginning to have significant cognitive and physical impairment. This lead me to conclude that ideally, I would be finishing the race around 5% dehydrated i.e. just as I was starting to have significant impairment. Knowing this, I can then work backwards and formulate both my race hydration plan, as well as my custom nutrition blend. I will give you an example:

Let’s say I am doing a hot 70.3, in Texas for instance. Under those conditions, I will likely sweat about 2L per hour on the bike, and 2.5L per hour on the run. The bike usually takes me about 2 hours, and then the run takes me about 1.25 hours. That means I will lose about 4L on the bike, and another 3L on the run, for a total deficit of 7L. When I first learned about this stuff, I wanted to keep pace 100% with my sweat rate, which lead me to rationalize committing this aerodynamic and weight atrocity, which I believe added a significant amount of time to my Kona bike time (photo cred to Slowtwitch):

kona-bike

But, keep in mind, all I really have to do is get to the finish line not too much greater than 5% dehydrated, because this is just when I am starting to experience serious impairment. So, 5% of 165lbs is 8.25lbs, which is equal to 3.75L. We calculated above that my total sweat deficit would be about 7L, but I have 3.75L to give away, therefore I really only need to consume 3.25L of liquids during the bike and run. Keep in mind, it is much more difficult to consume liquids while running than while biking, so it is best to consume as much of this as possible on the bike.

Of course, things always look different in the real world, and in reality I have no problem consuming four 750mL bottles on the bike. Therefore, in a hot race like Galveston 70.3, I was able to come off the bike having consumed around 3L of liquids. This means I would only have to consume 250mL during the run to reach the finish line right around 5% dehydrated. In reality, I usually take two cups of water per aid station, and it is safe to say I consume 50mL or so out of each of those cups, so I likely consumed a liter or more on the run. This puts me at the finish line having consumed around 4L and having lost 7L, which means I was around 4% dehydrated. This makes total sense because I didn’t have much cognitive deficit at the finish line, nor were my muscles functioning poorly, nor was my perceived exertion very high.

That is the process that I go through when determining my actual fluid consumption plan for a race. Armed with this, I am then able to customize my nutrition blend that is in my bottles, with the help of Infinit Nutrition Canada. First things first, I am exercising at a very high intensity in a 70.3, so a lot of my energy will come from carbohydrate. Therefore, I need to be sure I am consuming as much carbohydrate as possible so I do not begin to run out of energy before the end of the race. Through lots of trial and error, I have come to find I can safely consume around 400 calories per hour, without much gastrointestinal issues. Each serving of Infinit Nutrition needs to be consumed with a mimimum of 600mL of water, so on the bike, I will consume four servings along with 3L of water. This means, I need each one of my Infinit Nutrition servings to contain 200 calories, so that after hour one on the bike, I will have consumed two servings and a total of 400 calories, and the same is true for hour two. The math works pretty well on the run too, but I will likely consume slightly less.

Once the carbohydrate is added I can then add my electrolytes. I learned in the laboratory that I lose about 900mg of sodium per liter of sweat. This means I will need to consume as close to this much sodium as possible per liter of fluid consumed. During the bike, I am consuming each of my servings with about 750mL of liquid, this means that I need about 675mg of sodium per serving (because 900mg of sodium is needed per liter, which is 90mg per 100mL; and each serving is 750mL, so 90×7.5=675mg of sodium). But, this is where the expertise of Infinit Nutrition Canada really comes in.

I actually have a bit of advantage when it comes to creating a custom blend because my sweat rate is so high and therefore I am both able and required to consume very large quantities of water. Most sweat rates are nowhere near this level, and so most people are not consuming nearly as much water. Therefore, once the required carbohydrate is added to the blend, adding electrolytes can make the concentration of the blend very high. So high that after while, the concentration in the stomach can get so high that the stomach stops emptying itself. If you have ever been in a race and felt nauseous, or heard liquids swishing around in your stomach, it is likely that the concentration of the liquids in your stomach was too high. Infinit will work with you to find a good balance between carbohydrate, electrolyte, protein and flavouring, so that your stomach concentration never gets too high, so that you continue to process your nutrition properly right to the end of the race.

The final part of the process is to decide what flavour you want your blend to be, as well as how strong you want the flavouring to be. You can also add a small amount of protein to curb hunger, or a small amount of caffeine to fight off fatigue. Once I have my custom blend, I will practice my race strategy in training. At the race, I will mix all four of my servings of Infinit Nutrition into my frame bottle on the bike, as well as 2.25 servings of Infinit Nutrition into my hand bottle on the run. For the entire race the only thing I will use from the on-course aid stations is water.

If you experiencing cognitive or physical deficits during a race, and you have trained properly, then it is very likely that nutrition has played a role in this. If you’re in Canada, I would strongly advise you to contact Darcy at Infinit Nutrition Canada and start working on a race-day nutrition plan that will allow you to achieve your true potential. If you are not in Canada, I strongly advise you to find an expert in your area who does this same sort of thing. I truly believe that implementing all of the things I outlined above both in training and racing, has allowed me to achieve my full potential in 2016.

lionel bike fuel

Thanks for reading.

Mont Tremblant 70.3 2016

Mont Tremblant holds a special place in my heart. This is where I started to truly believe that I could compete with the best in the world, after finishing fourth at the 70.3 World Championships behind Javier Gomez, Jan Frodeno and Tim Don. It also happens to be where Erin did her first Ironman, and where my mom did her first full Ironman (after finishing the swim cancelled Ironman Florida in 2014). My mom, Erin and myself were all competing again this year in the 70.3, so it was sure to be a memorable experience.

I put in four solid training blocks after St. George. My training blocks look like this:

Day 1: Hard

Day 2: Easy

Day 3: Hard

Day 4: Easy with long run

Day 5: Brick

Day 6: Easy with long bike

Day 7: Hard

Day 8: Active recovery

Day 9: Off

Day 10: Active recovery

I will say, I did not give the active recovery days enough respect after the first two blocks. I went to bed late, woke up early, and did not hydrate / replenish nutrients adequately. By the third block I was feeling very depleted. I felt very similar to the days when I used to do straight 21 day blocks without a recovery period. Fortunately, after I completed the third block, I realized the mistakes I was making and was able to correct them. Despite being four blocks deep, the forth block actually ended up being my best, as I had put a lot more emphasis on properly recovering. After the four blocks were complete I took a six day taper into Mont Tremblant 70.3.

I should also mention that after St. George 70.3 I decided that enough is enough with my current stroke mechanics. There just was no way that I could swim any harder. I had reached the ceiling of my current stroke. There is never a good time to tear a stroke apart, but I figured since it was mid-season, and the big races (Kona and 70.3 Worlds) were still several months away, I just might be able to make some improvements in time for those races. Since St. George I literally have not swam a single hard stroke. Every stroke I have taken has been with conscious awareness of the elements that I am trying to improve upon. As well, I have done underwater video analysis once every three days. In the first couple weeks of this endeavour, I was swimming some of the slowest times I have swam in several years. But slowly, I started to get some groove back in the stroke. I took solace in the belief that the stroke mechanics I was cultivating would have a higher ceiling than the stroke mechanics I was trying to rid from my muscle memory.

The race started at 8 am. The later the better for me, as I usually don’t start training until 9 or 10 am. One of the unique parts about Mont Tremblant 70.3 is that you are allowed to get into the water for a warmup as early as you wish. As a weaker swimmer, proper warmup is crucial for me, so I got into the water a good 20 minutes before the gun. We were pulled out of the water about 5 minutes before the start for the singing of the national anthem. I’m not sure what it was, but the national anthem, mixed with the fighter jet flying over head, stirred up a lot of emotion. So much so that I felt tears streaming down my cheeks.

Swim Start

It was a beach start, meaning we would have to run into the water once the gun went. I lined up right next to Cody Beals. I didn’t have too much expectations for this swim. My only goal was to continue to apply the good technique I had been practicing, but under higher load. After about 50 meters I was gapped by Cody. I knew that was my ticket to the second pack, but was unable to hang on. I took solace in the fact that I could still make out the second group for almost the entire swim, every time I sighted. When I emerged from the water I was told I had a deficit of just under 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I knew there were some very good swimmers in this race, so I figured this was one of my better swims.

It’s a long run up from the water to transition. I ran it very hard and was able to catch some of the people who had swam 15-20 seconds faster than me. Out onto the bike my intention was to push more power than I had ever pushed before in a 70.3. Almost immediately I could tell that this was not going to happen. It was the polar opposite feeling of St. George 70.3. In St. George, I constantly had to hold myself back. Whereas in this race, the average power I held for the entire race in St. George (352w) felt quite taxing. I decided then that I would make do with what I had, and tried to hold 350w as best as I could.

I caught the main pack of cyclists fairly early at around 15 or 20 kilometers. I knew this meant I had swam well because in the past it has taken me 30 or even 40 kilometers to catch them. On the first out and back section I caught a glimpse of the leader. It was Antoine Desroches, all alone out front. I was immediately impressed with the way he was riding. He was laying it all on the line, holding nothing back. Personally, I don’t like the pack riding that you see in many of the big races. I do not believe that everyone is biking to the best of their ability. I realize that this is a tactic many are employing to achieve the best result possible, but I still don’t like it.

I entered the lead around 40 kilometers. For the remaining 50 kilometers I allowed myself to have a little fun. Whenever the speed went below 25kph I got out of the saddle and spiked the power. I climbed almost the entire mountain section of the course standing. TrainingPeaks did an analysis of my power file if you are interested in a more in depth look at the ride:

http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/power-analysis-lionel-sanders-win-at-ironman-70-3-mt-tremblant

We are starting to get close to the big races, so I do not want to accumulate any unnecessary fatigue. For the first half of the run I strived to hold sub 3:30 kilometers. Once I reached the turnaround I was able to get a split on second place. At this point I had about a 4 minute and 30 second lead. I decided to relax a bit more, stop looking at my watch, and just run by feel. I must say, it is amazing how much quicker time goes by when you don’t look at the watch and just listen to your internal sensations. It was starting to get rather hot at this point, so I took it as an opportunity to practice my cooling strategies, and put ice down the front of my shirt and cold water on my head through each of the aid stations.

Run Course

Coming through the finish line was amazing. The sides were lined several people deep, and the sound was deafening. I made sure to slap as many fives as possible, and soak it all in. I stuck around the finish line for the rest of the day as both my mom and Erin were racing. My mom worked here way up from 51st in her age group out of the water, all the way up to 7th by the end. Erin was in much better shape this time round than in the Ironman and was able to finish in just over seven and a half hours, completing the half-marathon throughout the hottest portion of the day. I think her proudest moment this time round was not having to walk her bike at any point up Chemin Duplessis. I am very proud of both of them for how hard they worked to achieve their results.

Tremblant Finish

I have to give a huge thanks to everyone who cheered and followed along during the race. I heard many cheers throughout the bike and the run and this helped me to stay focused and continue to push myself to the very end. Next up will be Racine 70.3, and then I will do my final preparations for the 70.3 World Championship. I apologize for taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog. I have a few posts that I have been working on, so will get back on here more regularly from now on. Thanks for reading and following along!

Photo credit to Trimes.org.

St. George 70.3 2016

St. George 70.3 holds a special place in my heart. I did my first pro race in September 2013 at Muskoka 70.3. Long story short, I won the race over the great Andreas Raelert. It is likely that Andreas was deep inside his Kona preparation, so the significance of this victory may have gone to my head a bit too much. 8 months later I did my third pro race in St. George. At that time, it was one of the best 70.3 fields ever assembled. Jan Frodeno, Sebastien Kienle, Tim Don, Brent McMahon, Andy Potts, Terenzo Bozone, Bevan Docherty and Marino Vanhoenacker were just a few of the names on the list. Having won Muskoka 70.3 I felt that I had a real shot at competing for the overall win. Every day in practice leading into the race I envisioned myself crossing the line in first place. Another long story short, I ended up finishing 18th place, ten minutes behind race winner Jan Frodeno.

That experience was a true test of my love for triathlon, as I began seriously contemplating quitting the sport. The reality of the race was very far removed from how I had envisioned it. In the immediate hours after the race I was a terrible person to be around. I was miserable and did not want to talk. I felt terrible about myself. The worst part though was the embarrassment. All of my friends and family were watching. Many of them too thought I had a shot at competing for the overall win. The reality was that I lost time in all three disciplines to the top athletes. They were in a different league!

The next morning I went for a jog with my mom through the St. George desert. I reflected back on why I got into triathlon in the first place. I was in poor mental and physical health. I entered in an Ironman to help remedy those issues. After just 8 months of devoting myself to triathlon both my physical and mental health were completely transformed. But there I was less than four years later, feeling many of the same poor feelings I had when I embarked on my triathlon journey. It was there that I realized I had lost my way. Somewhere along the lines triathlon had turned from an endeavour in which I developed positive qualities, to an endeavour that was beginning to create and enhance negative qualities. I awoke right then and there from my slumber. I knew I needed to change my orientation and attitude towards triathlon. From then on I vowed that I would only do triathlon for fun and for the joy of pushing myself to the limit. If I ever crossed a finish line again without joy in my heart, that would be the last finish line I crossed.

I would say of all the lessons I have learned over the years, this was the most important one. Winning races is irrelevant if you are winning them with a poor orientation. You will have bad races, you will have mishaps. With a poor orientation to triathlon these experiences will have a negative effect on your mental and physical health, as well as the health of those around you. You are doing yourself, your friends and loved ones, as well as the triathlon community as a whole a disservice if you allow these types of negative feelings to go unchecked. When I changed my orientation to triathlon for the better, it felt like a weight had been lifted. There was no more pressure. There was no more disappointment or negative feelings. There was only one goal now: To push myself to the best of my ability, regardless of the cards I am dealt. I arrived in St. George on May 4th 2016 wanting to give thanks to the race for teaching me this invaluable lesson.

Unlike Oceanside 70.3, my build up for St. George went smoothly. After Texas 70.3 I took a few days easy, and then I put in a hard two week block. In that time I ran a lot of hills and did a lot of riding on the CompuTrainer out of the saddle, as I knew the course was going to be very hilly. I also mentally prepared myself to suffer more than I ever had before. But, I knew that due to the course being so challenging, I was going to have to be very patient. If I started off too crazy, it was likely that I would blow up, and not be able to push myself as hard as I could if I was more patient with dispersing the energy.

It was rather chilly the morning of the race (around 50 fahrenheit). Being on the heavier side for a pro triathlete, I knew this was advantageous for me. They were also calling for possible thunder showers, and I knew that a cold swim, mixed with cold air temps and rain would also be advantageous for me, so I kept my fingers cross for torrential downpours.

The swim was fairly uneventful for me. For the first 400m or so the water was quite calm, and I was swimming pretty well. I started right beside Sebastien Kienle and Cody Beals. I sighted often and was very close to both of them until the first turn buoy. Around this point I started to fall off the pace of the 25:xx swim pack. I was surprised how choppy the water got once out into the middle of the lake. This did not help my cause any, and the gap to the 25:xx group started to increase a lot quicker from then on. I emerged from the water with about a 4 minute and 30 second gap to the leaders. I knew this deficit would be difficult to overcome, but I welcomed the challenge.

St. George Swim

On the bike, my mantra was “be patient.” I wanted so bad to smash the hills. I knew my only shot at winning this race was to run very well, and I knew that smashing the hills would not fair well for my run legs. The only time I spiked the power was when passing people, and even then I tried my best not to spike it too much. I was surprised by just how quickly I was pulling time back from guys who I was sure swam 2-3 minutes faster than I did. The major changes I made between Texas 70.3 and this race is that this time round I used latex tubes for the first time, and I had CermicSpeed check my drive train before the race, and flush and lube the hubs of my wheels. As well, I was noticeably more comfortable on the bike; both from a position standpoint, and a fear of speed standpoint. Going down the hills at 60-80kph, despite it raining, I felt close to no fear. This allowed me to focus on producing good power, and holding my body taut and my head low.

St George Bike

Around 55km I caught the tail end of the main pack. Michael Raelert was in this pack and I knew he is one of the greatest runners to ever do this distance. I wasn’t completely secure with coming off the bike with him, and leaving things to a foot race, so I tried to get rid of this pack as quickly as I could. By 65km I was in second place, with Cam Dye about 30 seconds up the road. Right at the base of Snow Canyon (a 5 mile steady climb) I entered the lead. At this point I had a gap on Michael Raelert, so I thought about chilling for the rest of the bike, but then I started to worry about Sebastien Kienle. He was riding well and I knew he had the potential to run very well; at 70.3 Worlds last year he out ran both Jan Frodeno and Javier Gomez. I decided to burn a few matches up Snow Canyon and see if I could come off the bike with a gap. By the top of Snow Canyon I had about 45 seconds on Kienle.

What goes up must come down. The descent from Snow Canyon was a bit sketchy as it was pouring rain and I was hitting speeds in excess of 80kph. But interestingly, I felt close to no fear. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. Either I am increasing in confidence on the bike, or my self perseveration mechanism is beginning to wane; let’s hope it is the former. Out of T2 I had about a 30 second lead on Kienle. My hands and feet were completely numb, and I struggled to put my socks and shoes on, so I think I gave back a bit of the time I had gained on the bike here.

The run in St. George is very difficult. It starts off with nearly 3 miles of continuous uphill running. I was hurting from the first step. I knew this run was going to be a very painful experience, but fortunately I was mentally prepared for this and embraced it. I knew almost immediately that Kienle came here to win. I ran the first six miles very hard, and put no time into him. We ran pretty close to even for the first 8 miles. My family was waiting for me at the run turnaround. My dad yelled repeatedly at me “who wants it more? Who wants it more?” I thought to myself “I don’t want it anymore!”

St George Run

As I grow in strength a third layer of perception seems to be developing. The first layer is my physical body. It was hurting badly and was sending signals to slow down. The second layer is my verbally expressed thoughts. It was saying things like “slow down and let Kienle catch up and run shoulder to shoulder,” as well as “second is good, Kienle is a three-time World champion. There’s no shame in that.” The third layer observes this whole process and sees it for what it is: a delightful game of me vs. me. Despite both my body and verbal mind screaming at me to slow down, the third layer was experiencing pure bliss in taking part in a good game of me vs. me. The more it hurt and the louder the screams to stop, the more joy I experienced. Something tells me Kienle was having a good game of me vs. me as well, because I am pretty sure he gave me a big smile when we passed each other after the turnaround.

There was a second turnaround on an out and back section where I caught a second glimpse of Kienle. By this point the gap had opened up to around 45 seconds. By this time my body was actually starting to feel pretty good, but my mind was still saying I should slow down. I kept the pace as high as I could. The final mile and a half is straight and downhill. A little ways into this section I looked back and could not get a good sense of how far back Kienle was. I did not allow myself to think I was going to win the race until about a quarter mile from the finish. At that point, tears of joy and pain started to flow.

St. George Finish

It was deeply satisfying to win this race. What was more satisfying was to duke it out with Kienle for so long. I would much rather finish second in a good race, then win an easy race. I think Kienle and I had a good race on this day. I owe a lot to him as he has been one of my biggest inspirations over the years. He was the first man to prove that you don’t have to be a front pack swimmer to win the biggest races in the world. To duke it out with one of your biggest inspirations is a cool feeling.

Kienle and I

Thanks to all of my sponsors for helping make this dream a reality. I could not do this without you. As well, thanks to everyone for cheering and following along. You made this day that much more special. If you are interested in the technical details of my race, TrainingPeaks did a cool analysis of my bike and run data. You can find that here:

http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/race-analysis-lionel-sanders-victory-at-the-2016-ironman-70-3-north-american-championships

 

Oceanside 70.3 By the Numbers

After Panama 70.3 I took five days very easy, a few of which were off. I recommenced training for Oceanside 70.3 on February 6th. Here are the numbers that led to that performance, not including the race itself:

Total training days: 56

Total swim distance in meters: 219482

Daily swim average in meters: 3919

Total days off swimming: 8

Total bike time in hours and minutes: 75:17

Daily bike average in hours and minutes: 1:20

Total days off biking: 6

Total run distance in kilometers: 749

Daily run average in kilometers: 13.4

Total days off running: 7

Total training time in hours and minutes: 187:54

Daily training average in hours and minutes: 3:21

To give you a sense of the intensity of those minutes, here is my time spent in the various zones on the bike (running is similar):

Training Zones in California 70.3 Build Up

Texas 70.3 2016

Texas 70.3 provided a great opportunity to learn and grow in strength. In all honesty, I did not plan on doing Texas 70.3 a month ago, because my focus was Oceanside 70.3 and I didn’t want to put unnecessary taxation on the body. But, as I spoke about in the Oceanside recap, I got sick and the illness lasted several weeks. As Oceanside was drawing closer and closer I was feeling less and less confident that I would be able to race there. You can’t expect to go up against some of the best guys in the world while feeling under the weather, and I definitely didn’t want to disrespect both my competitors and my body by racing while sick. During that time I signed up for Texas 70.3. As you already know, I ended up feeling better in time for Oceanside. I also felt pretty good in the days following Oceanside so I decided to go through with racing in Texas.

It was a tight turnaround. Fortunately, my bike shop Cycle Culture was able to look at my bike immediately upon returning home from California and remedied the shifting problem that forced me to stay in the big chain ring for many of the hills in Oceanside. As well, due to superstition, I put on a new set of tires, despite the current ones having only 100km or so on them. Additionally, I noticed my seat was angled downward about 5 degrees. I wasn’t sure if that was how I had been riding it, or if it happened during travel. I returned the seat to level and I could feel my muscle recruitment shift a bit from the quads to the glutes. I figured that I had been riding it angled downwards, but that this change was positive, so I kept it for the race.

I got all my packing for the race done fairly early. I checked that I had everything on my list twice. As I was closing my suitcase I said to Erin “I feel like I am forgetting something,” as there was more free space than I remembered when travelling to Oceanside. I took solace in the belief that everything I needed was on the list, so didn’t worry about it too much. Travel went smoothly and by 10 am Friday morning we were in Houston. I did a quick swim at a pool in downtown Houston as I knew there weren’t many swim options in Galveston other than the Ocean.

When we got to the hotel I immediately unpacked my bike. I was almost ready to go for my 40 minute recovery ride and then I realized there were no pedals on the bike. It immediately dawned on me what was missing from the suitcase: My Powertap P1 pedal box! I have a training bike and a racing bike, and I had forgotten the pedals on my training bike! I did my best not to panic. Erin immediately started calling local bike shops asking if they carried Look design pedals (as those were the cleats I had on my shoes). The closest shop that carried them was 25 miles back towards Houston. I knew it was a long shot, but I messaged my contact at Powertap to see if they knew of a dealer in the vicinity that could loan me a set of P1s for the race. Erin and I then went to the race expo in search of a set of Look design pedals. In a worst case scenario I knew that I could just ride off of feel, but this depended on me having pedals on the bike!

Fortunately, a vendor at the race expo had a set of Look design pedals. Almost jokingly I asked him if he had a set of Powertap pedals, and he said yes! I couldn’t believe my luck. I told him my situation and he said that if the pedals hadn’t sold by Saturday night at 5 o’clock he would give them to me, with my word being that I would have him a brand new replacement set sent out in return. This was a little bit reassuring, but not much, as there was no guarantee that the pedals wouldn’t sell by then. Fortunately, my friend Andy Froncioni from Alphamantis was able to get a hold of my contact at Powertap. Powertap immediately took a brand new set of P1 pedals to UPS and over night shipped them from Wisconsin all the way to Galveston Texas. It’s hard to believe, but within 14 hours of realizing I had forgot my pedals, I had a brand new set of pedals in my possession. I can’t thank Powertap enough for their help in this matter. I am proud to be associated with such a great company. Also, I have to say, what an amazing time and place we live in!

Pre-race Ride

Of course, things don’t end there. While unpacking my things I also realized I had forgot my hand bottle for the run. This is very important because I fill it with a super-concentrate of my custom blend from Infinit Nutrition, and then I only take swigs of this with water while out on the course. I didn’t actually forget this, as it was on my packing list. I consciously did not bring one because I needed a new one and I was going to buy one at the race expo. But, while trying to figure out how I was going to get a set of pedals, I completely forgot to buy one at the expo. I didn’t realize I had forgotten to buy one until I was packing my race bag the night before the race- after the expo was closed! Erin and I immediately went to the only local sports shop that was still open and unfortunately they did not have one. Our last resort was Wal-Mart, and fortunately they had one!

I have to back track a bit. On Saturday afternoon I participated in the pro panel. Andreas Dreitz was also on the panel. We chatted for a bit and I could tell he was very hungry. I know from experience, that nothing motivates someone more than being passed in the final miles of a race. He was all smiles that afternoon, but I knew he would be merciless towards me the next morning. When I got back to the hotel room I began preparing myself mentally to suffer even more than I did in Oceanside- I figured Andreas was doing the same.

Race morning went smoothly. I got a good warmup jog in, and a few hundred meters of swimming in before the gun. This was probably one of the biggest start lists I have ever participated in. There were nearly 60 guys on the start list. As well, we all gathered into a very small strip of water before the gun. I didn’t give any thought to this beforehand i.e. strategic lining up on the start line due to the large number of people. When the gun went, it was chaos. I was immediately boxed in with nowhere to go. Guys in front, beside and behind. I got dunked. A guy grabbed my shoulder and threw me backwards. I got kicked in the face and my goggle suction cupped to my eye so hard it hurt. It really wasn’t until the first turn buoy, about 400 meters out, that I finally started to be able to swim a decent stroke. By that point, the swimmers I had hoped to swim with were gone. I would swim the remainder of the swim solo. Well not completely solo, there were guys around me, but we were all swimming our own lines. I know this is nothing in comparison to the ITU starts where they have 60+ guys on the line, all of similar ability, but it certainly gave me a taste of that world. It is actually quite scary! I have some new found respect for those guys.

On paper, the swim was not great. I am happy that I was able to keep my cool during that whole experience and not panic too much. My swim coach Gerry Rodrigues assured me that the next phase of training will begin to work towards improving in some of these more open water specific areas. I came out of the water with nearly a 3 minute and 40 second deficit to the leaders. It wasn’t what I was hoping to hear, but I knew it was nearly 40 seconds closer than I was the previous year, so I knew I was still part of the game. I also had Erin tell me how far back I was to Andreas, as he was who I feared most in the race: about 2 minutes.

Out onto the bike my intention was to push more power than I did in Oceanside. Unfortunately, my legs didn’t feel nearly as good this time round as they did in Oceanside. I pushed about 365w for the first half, but it was very laborious. In Oceanside I pushed a similar amount of power and it felt quite controlled. Fortunately, by this time, I had rode through most of the field and was now in 3rd place, only 20 seconds or so down from Andreas. I figured the double had taken its toll on him. When he saw how close I was I felt him lift the pace. I wondered if perhaps he was employing a different strategy this time round i.e. ease off a bit on the bike and go toe to toe on the run. After another couple of kilometers I caught him and went for the pass. I didn’t surge as I knew he was too strong of a biker to drop. I also didn’t look back as I did not want to show weakness or worry. On a bend I finally caught a glimpse behind me and he was no longer there. It was bitter sweet. As I have said in the past, there is nothing I love more than a good race right to the finish. But, I reminded myself, the race wasn’t over yet. I had no idea how my run legs would feel, and Andrew Starykowicz was nearly two minutes up the road on me. One thing that really popped out at me over the next 30 minutes or so, was how badly my glutes were starting to hurt. I realized then that changing my seat angle just a few days before the race was probably not the best idea.

Texas 70.3 Power

Out onto the run course, my intention was to race similar to how I did in Oceanside i.e. very controlled for the first half of the run. The run did not feel nearly as good as it did in Oceanside. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really a time where it didn’t hurt. Around mile 3 I made the pass and entered the lead. I did not feel great and my fears now were of the run-specialists who were coming up behind me. I kept steady and tried to increase the perceived exertion level each lap. Fortunately, it seemed I had built a big enough gap on the bike to hold off the strong runners. I allowed myself to relax mentally a bit while still striving to hold my pace steady. Unfortunately, I may have allowed myself to relax a little too much, as I literally had to run straight through the finish line to the port-a-john afterwards. That was a little bit embarrassing, but oh well, that’s racing!

Photo Cred: David Tilbury-Davis

Galveston Run

Texas 70.3 Run Data

All in all it was a good race. Lots of lessons were learned. The biggest one being that I will likely not do two races only one week apart, again! It is just too taxing on the body. With the reduced number of prize purses, more and more pros are showing up to races. The days of being able to win a race at 90% capacity are over. If you want to do well you need to be fit, healthy, hungry and rested. I can just feel that the toll of this race was significantly more than Oceanside. I would like to compete for many years to come, so in the future I will give a bit more care to adequate rest.

I need to give a huge shout-out to my sponsors. Everyone stepped up big time for this one. Powertap sending me the pedals; Garneau, Skechers and Infinit donating prizes for some fun contest we had on Facebook; Freshii fueling me with high quality calories both before and after the race; Cycle Culture for getting my bike in working order on such short notice; as well as HED, CompuTrainer and CeramicSpeed for giving me the tools I need to perform my best. These last two races are a byproduct of your support.

Post Race Fueling with Freshii

If you’ve made it this far in this chapter book I also need to thank you for following along and taking an interest in my career. It means a lot!

Galveston Big Chair

 

Oceanside 70.3 2016

In the days and weeks leading into Oceanside I was feeling very insecure about my chances of performing well. On March 14th I started to feel a tickle in my throat. By that evening I was coughing uncontrollably for minutes on end. I spent almost the entire next day under all the blankets in the house, with all my winter clothes on. I had the urge to cough every few minutes, so the next four nights were quite grueling. I tried to keep my training volume and intensity up but as fatigue grew due to lack of sleep, I was forced to cut back. I was also starting to accumulate phlegm in my upper respiratory tract, so it was becoming very difficult to breathe- particularly while swimming. Eventually I was able to get some sleep, but the coughing and phlegm continued for the next two weeks. It wasn’t until my ritual pre-race workout on the Wednesday before the race that I finally started to feel like I could breathe properly again.

Unfortunately, about a week prior, I pulled a muscle in my neck. I think it was due to coughing to the point of dry heaving, while running and in the time-trial position. The pain was quite grueling and I walked around with a permanent headache for 8 straight days. I think these two ailments are what made me feel so insecure before the race. I said to Erin as we were driving to Oceanside on Saturday morning “this is the most nervous I have been for a race in several years.” I actually felt a bit sick to my stomach.

With that being said, I must also say that I was very angry and hungry. Last year in Oceanside I came out of the water with over a four minute deficit to the leaders. I biked as hard as I possibly could and eventually caught them on the bike. Out onto the run course I ran side by side with Jan Frodeno for the first 5 kilometers, until eventually he dropped me. To add insult to injury, Andy Potts then caught me at mile 12 and I had no answer for him as he flew by me. I have literally thought about that experience every day since then. In fact, I spent hundreds of hours over the last year staring at a picture of Jan and I running together. To say that I came back to Oceanside this year with vengeance in my heart is an understatement. I told my dad on our call the day before the race that “if they beat me, they will suffer hardcore for it.”

Fortunately, on the day of the race, everything went smoothly. I got to transition with lots of time to spare, was able to use the washroom a few times before the gun, got a warm-up jog in, and a few hundred meters of warm-up in the water. When the gun went, I got out decently well. I was on some feet and working moderately hard. I thought I was in a pace-line, but when sighting I realized that the two guys in front of me were falling off the back of the pack in front of them. I immediately went around them but it was too late, we were dropped. I continued to work hard, and passed quite a few people over the next thousand or so meters. With about 400m to go I found a set of feet that was moderately hard to hold and stayed there for the rest of the swim. I came out of the water with a deficit of just over 3 minutes to the leaders. I assumed it was Andy Potts, and so I knew that relative to him, this was probably my best swim yet in a 70.3.

Out onto the bike my biggest goal was to bike a lot smarter than I did the previous year. In the first hour on the bike last year, I pushed the most power I have ever pushed for that duration. That made the run very challenging, but what was even worse was how sporadically I pushed the power. Out of every corner I pushed the pedals as hard as I could. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I had over fifty 500w+ surges. This time round I wanted to push a more controlled amount of power, and push it much more steadily.

Oceanside Bike

Photo Cred to Jesper Gronnomark.

For the first hour, I averaged about 368w with a normalized power of 376w, and a VI of 1.02. It would have been steadier, but I was passing people and didn’t want to risk a drafting penalty for not making the pass inside of 25 seconds. In the next half hour things got a bit more sporadic. I was beginning to catch stronger bikers so race dynamics were beginning to play a role. In this half hour I pushed about 356w with a normalized power of 375w, and a VI of 1.05. With about 20 kilometers to go I caught who I thought to be the main contenders in the race (Tim Reed, Andy Potts, Sam Appleton). I went straight to the front and then eased up significantly.

No one came by to pass me so I rode on the front of the pack until about 400m from the dismount, when Andy Potts came by me. In the final half hour I averaged 302w with a normalized power of 317w, and a VI of 1.05. I knew easing up on the bike meant Dreitz was likely putting time into us, but I figured the race would be settled on the run course, amongst those in the pack behind me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out, Dreitz can run! Here is the data file from the ride:

Oceanside Bike Data

Off the bike, I had a deficit of just under 3 minutes to Dreitz, and Potts put about 5 seconds into me in transition. After about half a mile I caught up to Potts and we ran side by side for another half mile or so. Eventually I pulled away and the hunt was on for Dreitz. I must say, I’m not sure there is anything I enjoy more in a race than being the chaser on the run. Especially when the deficit doesn’t seem unattainable. This scenario allows me to enter a state of Flow, where there is very little mentation and close to no awareness of the passage of time; I am completely one with myself and the activity of running. For lack of a better term, I am no longer myself, I am the act of running. It is a very enjoyable experience. My face may show lots of pain, but inside it is all pleasure.

Oceanside Run

Photo Cred to Brian Comiskey.

For the next 8 miles I did nothing but enjoy the moment. I was getting time updates quite frequently by spectators on the course and so I knew the deficit was coming down. By the turnaround point I was only 40 seconds down. Finally, right around mile 9, I pulled up next to Dreitz. I put out a little surge and he came with me. I was impressed that even this late into the race he still was not willing to concede the victory. On one of the hills though a gap started to open, and I knew it was time to snap the elastic. I pushed the hill hard and by the top I could no longer hear him. At the final turnaround I got a good look at Tim Reed and he looked great. I really wanted the fastest run split, so I continued to push the pace on the final two miles. Below is the data file from the run (thanks to Nick Immell for this suggestion!). I must say, this is the best paced run I have ever done.

Oceanside Run Data

Crossing the finish line in the lead was deeply satisfying. This race in 2015 definitely goes down as one of the most memorable and formative races of my career. The lead up to this race was less than ideal, so when I crossed the line with a good performance, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I have to give a big shout out to Andreas Dreitz. That is some of the gutsiest racing I have ever seen. The dude is just 27 and is still improving rapidly. I have a feeling this is only the first of many good battles over the coming years.

A lot went into this performance. I want to sincerely thank all of my sponsors for believing in me and giving me the tools I need to perform my best. There is no way this would be possible without you.

I also want to thank everyone for the words of encouragement before, during and after the race. You guys help give this endeavour meaning, and I am very grateful for that.

Finally, I have to give a huge shout out to Erin. Not only does she cart me around, keep me on task and focused, as well as calm my nerves when they are spiralling out of control, but she does some of the best race coverage around.

I will be heading back to Galveston 70.3 this weekend so stay tuned for some exciting updates around that race. Thanks for reading and following along!