When Lionel Sanders found triathlon he was at the bottom, nowhere to go but up. His battle with addiction during his college years led him to stand on a chair with a belt around his neck, ready to end his life instead of beating his addiction. This was in 2009, just one year before he completed his first Ironman in a very respectable time of 10:14:31, a time that motivated him more as he knew there was room to improve and hopefully compete with the fastest in the world.
November of 2016 he set the fastest Ironman bike split making him the fastest Ironman on two wheels. The record has since been beaten by Tim Don. If Lionel was not on the radar of the best in the sport before, he was certainly on their radar now. The very next October Lionel was lined up in Kona with a real chance to compete for the top step. He led the World Championships through mile 23 of the run before finally being overcome by eventual winner Patrick Lange. Lionel went on to finish second in the world, making it clear that he was in charge and that his ability to steamroll the competition on the bike was something to be taken very seriously.
Here we are in 2018 and Lionel is poised to fight for the win again in Kona. He has won all but two races he has entered this year, one to previous world champion and fellow Wahooligan Jan Frodeno and the second at Mont Tremblant after a nutrition breakdown.
Follow Lionels 2018 journey to Kona from his perspective in the following video content.
Humbled at Ironman Mont Tremblant
Lionel arrived at Mont Tremblant with a massive amount of confidence after winning his last three races including Mont Tremblant 70.3 just two months prior. After making some nutrition changes over the course of the season and becoming obsessed with being as light and lean as possible the wheels came off with an hour still left on the bike. There was nothing left in the tank and pulling out at the run transition was a real possibility. A Wahooligan trait of Lionel that enders him to so many is his respect for the other athletes in the race and the pain and suffering they are going through. Throwing in the towel was simply not going to happen.
“I just think it is so disrespectful to drop out, so I said to myself ‘your damn well going to walk this damn thing’ I don’t give a shit how the hell you’re going to get to the finish line, you’re going to get to the finish line.”
After a disappointing Mont Tremblant race Lionel was in a position to go back to basics. A test session was necessary to give Lionel the confidence that his fitness was there and to get his nutrition dialed in. Lionel attributed his Mont Tremblant race to arrogance and disrespect for the race and the distance.
“…arrogance and disrespect, so you get what you deserve. I got what I deserved”
Lionel trains almost exclusively indoors and has been doing so ever since he had a few too many close calls with cars and even ended up in the hospital not knowing who he was. While he has used the KICKR Smart Trainer and then rollers, he has since returned to the KICKR as it provides him the real road feel and the resistance changes he needs to compete at the highest level and to maintain his razor-sharp bike splits.
“I conduct every single one of my trainer rides on the Wahoo KICKR while using the ELEMNT BOLT,”
Listen to Lionels Kona playlist here.