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Lionel Sanders: Winning in Panama, winter training and what’s next

Lionel Sanders has had a great start to the year, taking the win in Panama a few weeks ago. TMC checked in with the champ to see what the win means for the rest of his season, how his training is different this year and where we can expect to see him racing next.
Credit: Barrie Shepley
Credit: Barrie Shepley
TMC: How do you feel about your upcoming season after your win in Panama?
LS: It’s an interesting feeling. I’ve never been in good shape so early in the season. I’m doing lifetime best workouts, in all three disciplines, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s only February. For the last month or so I have left every workout wanting to do more, but reassuring myself that this is the only way that I am going to be able to continue to race well until October.
Where do you spend most of your winter training and will you be heading to any training camps this year? 
I spend most of my winter training in my training room on the CompuTrainer and treadmill. I spent most of my summer training in there as well. I will go to a camp in Florida for a week, but that is it this year. I’m all about rhythm and momentum and I get in a really good rhythm in my training room.
What lessons did you learn from racing in 2015 that you’re planning to carry over to your racing this year?
The biggest lesson I learned was with regards to over-training. I did some very hard workouts last year, on many occasions. For instance, one time I held 329 watts for four straight hours on the bike and then ran a half-marathon immediately after in 1:17. To put that in perspective, I held 303 watts on the bike at Ironman Texas and rode 4:11. Eventually that style of training caught up with me. Once we reached the most important race, Kona, I was fried. When you’re fresh and hungry, you can push yourself very far. When you’re massively fatigued, tiny levels of exertion feel astronomical.
What races can we expect to see you in this year?
I’m trying to race a bit less this year as well. I will do mainly 70.3 races to continue to improve my top-end speed. I will be in Oceanside next and then St. George. I will likely return to Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant and then I am thinking of doing Ironman Canada. I’m still on the fence about Ironman 70.3 World Championships as it is very far away this year and the timing is pretty close to Kona. I will say, I regretted not going to 70.3 worlds last year, so it might be difficult to pass up that opportunity again. Of course, Kona will be the major focus of the entire year.
How do you balance training for both the half distance and the full distance in the same season? 
The biggest mistake I made last year is that I approached the two distances differently. To get in good half distance shape I put in a lot of miles, enough to race a decent Ironman. But I still continue to push the upper limits of my speed. Last year I did a lot of long, slow, race pace type intervals. I believe that was a mistake. The only difference this year will be that I spend a few more hours on the bike during my long ride.