Training Tips

PowerUp Tri Podcast Episode 33: Lionel Sanders

by Zwift
on December 18, 2020

The PowerUp Tri Podcast is hosted by former pro triathlete Matt Lieto and Zwift Pro Tri mentor Sarah True. They love lending their in-depth knowledge of the multisport to the Zwift Tri audience! Listen/follow/subscribe on SoundcloudiTunes, Spotify, or Podbean.

Play Episode 33


In what may be the understatement of the decade, 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone—athletes included. Making goals, checking them off, finding the next event. 2020 is, ahem, the worst.

But Canadian pro triathlete Lionel Sanders has kept the negativity of this year at relative bay, managing to set a new Canadian Hour Record on the track, chasing down a 5K personal best, winning the Z Pro Tri June Invitational, racing in the first-ever UCI Esports World Championships, and recently finishing 4th at the PTO Championships in Daytona. In this episode, we chat with Lionel on how important these missions are for an athlete in 2020. Oh, and Matt welcomes on his new co-host, Sarah True!

Known as a pretty “in tune” athlete, Lionel realized early on during this COVID year that he needed to set some new goals to continue developing as an athlete while keeping himself mentally sane.  Lionel lets us peek into his psyche a bit during the time the pandemic started to develop and as he realized racing may be off the table. “I feel completely apathetic. I feel like I have no purpose in life anymore because I realized that racing, not winning races, but just goals, having a goal out there on the horizon and working towards it, you know, executing the training, executing everything that goes into it.”

Instead of sitting in malaise, he set some goals that wouldn’t just be a distraction, would raise his level as an athlete as well.

And he certainly did raise his level, by almost anyone's standards! Lionel beat Mattheui Van Der Poel in a bike race (on Zwift), set the Canadian hour record, ran his fastest 5k (14:34), was 4th at the PTO Championship, and won the inaugural Z Pro Tri Series.

But how do these efforts make Lionel a better TRI-athlete? If you raise your bar in the individual sports, your game as a triathlete improves. Lionel explains, “It was because I repositioned what is good. Before Oceanside in March, I thought 16:40 for 2x5K was pretty good. Now, if they're not sub 15:40 2x5k, you're not even in the right ballpark." (Just an FYI, those times are CRAZY fast for training paces!)

Lionel was lucky enough to get a race in recently over at the PTO Championship in Daytona. We took a bit of time to get his impressions of the race in general, but also his performance on the day.

Of course with new co-host Sarah True, there was plenty of banter to go around, but mostly Sarah and Lionel made fun of Matt’s inability to pronounce Emma Pallant correctly. Pallent, Pallaunt, Pallint?

What did you accomplish during this “downtime”? Don’t worry, there’s still time to make hay, so get a pen and paper and start setting some new goals!

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