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Friday, September 2, 2016

Ironman 70.3 World Championships - 'Sunshine Coast'

While most Canadians will be celebrating the long weekend and end of summer, Lionel Sanders will be soaking up the sun on the Sunshine Coast, gearing up for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia.

The race will host over 3000 athletes from 70 countries, ranging from 18 years of age to 75+, who have each qualified for the World Championships during another race throughout the season. There are a total of 85 qualifying races in destinations such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland. Lionel, who is racing in the Male Professional division, qualified for the Championships after finishing first in a series of Qualifying races this season, including Ironman Arizona, Panama, Oceanside, Texas, St. George, and Mont Tremblant.

As of late, Lionel has been faced with some obstacles that any athlete will face throughout their careers. At Ironman Racine 70.3, Lionel struggled through the race that was shortened to a 30km bike and a run that started 3 hours after the scheduled race start; inclement weather forced the convenors to scratch the swim and alter the race format. Having GI and hydration issues resulted in Lionel's first loss since Kona back in October. (Read his full race report on his blog by following this link). This performance lead him to register for one more race before the WC - a tune up race so to say. Ironman Wiesbaden 70.3 would be it - a tough course that would push Lionel's limits (Wiesbaden was also the European Championships which would be a great race to serve as prep for the Championships only a few short weeks later).

Hailing from Southwestern Ontario and one of the flattest areas in the province, Lionel was faced with something he doesn't have much experience with - a hilly course with sharp hairpin turns and narrow descents through small villages, as opposed to the wide open highway descents he is accustomed to. Having his doubts, and almost cancelling the trip, he persevered and perhaps had one of his greatest races in our opinion. Though he finished 2nd at Wiesbaden, he had the best swim of his career, pushed stellar bike speeds in between the hills, had a solid run to move back into second place, and adapted well to unfamiliar territory - looking sharp leading into the WC if you ask us.

It's no secret that every great race starts with a solid plan. Heading into the World Championships, Lionel has his eyes set on the big prize.

We're hoping to see a repeat of this on Sunday!. Lionel winning Ironman 70.3 St. George
"This is the race he has been training all year for.  All of his eggs are in this one basket." Erin McDonald, Lionel's manager and girlfriend commented. "Yes, he is doing Kona this year but knows he has a better chance of a career-best performance here.  He has been tinkering with some more things in the pool that may have attributed to his best swim, as of yet, in Wiesbaden.  That combined with some more outdoor riding and big volume run weeks, he is feeling very confident heading into this weekends race.

"Come race day,  he is going to race how he normally does; have the best possible swim to his ability and try to catch some good feet and ride as steady and hard as his body allows without sacrificing good run legs.  The only thing he may do differently this time around is take the leash off on the run sooner then he normally would.  The field is stacked and it is going to take someone digging very deep to prevail and come out a world champion.  Could this be Lionel?  We think so.

"The cherry on top could be his Dad, Doug, celebrating a second Father’s Day with Lionel as Father’s Day in Australia is the day of the race."

Best of luck to Lionel this weekend - we have a great feeling about this race! Want to cheer him on and follow the race? You can find all the race details here.