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Sanders Sets Sights on Kona

Lionel Sanders will be one of the race favorites in Mont-Tremblant this weekend, but has his sights set on a big day at the Ironman World Championship later this year.

When Lionel Sanders hits the starting line in Mont-Tremblant this weekend, he’ll no doubt be looking for another win, but with his inaugural appearance in Kona coming up in October, he’s also looking at Subaru Ironman Mont-Tremblant as a chance to nail down his nutrition plans over the full distance.

Sanders suffered during his second full-distance event in Texas in May (he won Ironman Florida last November) thanks to severe dehydration. Coming off the bike he felt dizzy and had blurred vision – not exactly the way you want to start the marathon in an Ironman. Normally Sanders rips through the field once he is on dry land during both the bike and run legs. In Texas he struggled just to get to the finish line.

“It was a learning experience,” he said in an interview, recounting his fourth place finish in Texas. “It’s not something I’d like to repeat.”

Sanders did some extensive testing when he got back from Texas and learned that in conditions like the ones he faced at Ironman Texas he was “losing two litres [of liquid] an hour.”

“I had no idea I was sweating so much,” he says, adding that he ran into problems because he “applied a 70.3 hydration strategy in a full.”

Sanders looks to fine tune his nutrition strategy this weekend in Mont-Tremblant. “I feel like I need to get one more Ironman in,” he says, “It’s hard to get the experience of doing an Ironman without actually doing an Ironman.”

Because of his intense training schedule, he isn’t worried about how close the Mont-Tremblant race is to the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona in October.

“I do pretty high volume training as it is,” he says. “I do almost a full Ironman every week.”

All that training is meticulously documented and analysed, too, and now the 27-year-old from Windsor, Ont. has another line in his training diary – he keeps track of his fluid intake during and after workouts. He’s found that his recovery has improved by getting more fluids after his workouts.

Those workouts have also given Sanders lots to look forward to as he prepares to take on the world’s best in Kona this year. His ultimate goal is to be able to “push 320 watts on the bike and run a 2:40 marathon – my life work will be done once I have been able to do that.” Last year he spent some time on the Big Island training so he would be familiar with what he’s up against, riding the entire course on the bike and 30 km of the run.

The meticulous training regimen is directed towards someday winning in Kona. It is a tribute to just how much he has improved – and become a factor on the world’s triathlon scene – that stories like this one are now focussed on his athletic achievements rather than his amazing comeback from drug and alcohol addiction. This weekend’s race in Mont-Tremblant will be a chance to showcase his full-distance talent for a Canadian audience. In the end, though, the ultimate goal is Kona.

“I’m in this to push my limits and see how far I can go,” he says. “It’s difficult to say that you were at the top of the sport and not won the Kona race.”