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Lionel Sanders: “Making a decision based on fears and phobias is probably a mistake”

"I knew the race was over the moment I was treading water in a professional race"

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

While his recent fourth-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta was a solid performance, Canadian Lionel Sanders looks back at the day as a learning experience. In a recent race recap video posted on his YouTube channel (filmed while Sanders immersed himself in a pool in which the water was 57F/ 13.8 C), Sanders said that a poor choice of swim gear for the event ended up affecting his race.

Related: Sam Long takes Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta over Jackson Laundry; Lionel Sanders gets fourth

“I’ve developed a phobia of cold water,” Sanders said. “Coming into Indian Wells, I was aware that the water was going to be quite cold.”

A two-time winner of the race in California, Sanders said that he’d suffered a panic attack at the race once before, so he “made the decision to wear a thermal suit, knowing that I would sacrifice some speed.” He paired that with a thermal cap, too. Onee he started swimming, though, he once again found himself struggling in the water.

“I knew the race was over the moment I was treading water in a professional race against Sam Long, Jackson Laundry and various other top-tier talent,” he said. “I knew that you weren’t going to be able to overcome a massive swim deficit to guys who, normally, you would swim with.”

After losing almost two minutes to Long and Laundry in the water, Sanders put together a solid ride. Riding without any power or speed information, he negative split the 90 km ride, averaging 321 watts. Over the final 40 minutes of the ride he averaged 326 watts. His 2:03:03 bike split was about 90 seconds slower than Long’s, but he was able to catch up to Belgian star┬áBart Aernouts.

Related: Why Lionel Sanders is the most popular triathlete on YouTube

Once again, running by feel, Sanders spent much of the run close to the Belgian, but over the closing stages of the run Aernouts surged, increasing the pace to 2:40 km, and got clear of Sanders. Aernouts would take third, with Sanders finishing fourth.

“I’m actually quite happy (with my bike and my run) because I took my season break and had considerably low volume going in,” Sanders said. “I’m considering this to be the first race of the season, so I did transcend the training. But the swim was quite disappointing because I know I can swim better than that.

“The moral of the story is … If you think you’re good in the cold, you probably are,” Sanders continued, shivering by this point of the video. “If you think you’re bad in the cold, you probably are. It’s all in the mind.”

You can check out the video below: