Prior to reading any post in the thread “We Race As We Train” its imperative that the reader watch and listen to the Youtube video of Lionel Sanders reviewing his performance at the 2019 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. The context for the “lessons” stem from the statements made by Sanders in that video.

Lesson #3

In his post Ironman World Champ review video Sanders states (@ 4:30mins into the video) the following:

“my vision fogged up and I was the most disoriented I’ve ever been [coming off the bike]”

You can all guess what Sanders’ explanation is for these symptoms… exactly… a failed execution of his hydration/nutrition strategy.  Right.

Lets go back to the series of events as Sanders describes… despite foggy vision and being the most disoriented he has ever been, Sanders managed to run coming off the bike which is at odds with the hypothesis that he was already severely dehydrated and these symptoms were a result. If these symptoms occurred immediately after Sanders left T2, then being that dehydrated would mean there would have been little to no chance that Sanders would have been able to finish the marathon especially since he was not holding down any liquids. It also doesn’t make sense that vision and disorientation would be the initial symptoms of dehydration as these are key to survival and the body won’t triage remaining resources away: vision & orientation are not sacrificed by our body systems in times of threat or danger, because we depend on both in order to survive. Our eyesight and our ability to be oriented to ourselves, our environment, and to whatever poses danger… is what keeps us alive, if the body shut these operations down, we would be dead in no matter of time. Also, if these were initial symptoms of dehydration and Sanders was only becoming more dehydrated as the race proceeded, then why would these symptoms disappear (since he doesn’t mention visual disturbances or disorientation beyond the initial moments after T2)? It doesn’t add up with the hypothesis of dehydration and a lack of nutrition.

In that case, what else could these symptoms be associated with if not dehydration and a lack of nutrition? To every triathlon coach… there is nothing to blame outside of failing to execute on a hydration/nutrition strategy because according to triathlon coaches there are absolutely no other variables that affect human performance (at least so says the un/undereducated and the in/under-experienced).

Look how Sanders rides his bike. Its flatter now than it was back when he had a hunchback of Notre-Dame position but Sanders is as perched as ever on the tip of his seat (compare his sitting posture to that of a real cyclist… George Bennett who rides for UCI WorldTour team Jumbo-Visma: see images on right). Sanders rides in this terrible position to make up for his terrible cycling technique: Sanders muscles his bike… there is no elegance, there is no fluidity, there is no grace that you would see amongst the best of the best riding in the grand tours as they effortlessly climb and attack the peloton in the Pyrenees and the Alps. Sanders – as if giving birth – straps himself onto his bike and bears down for the entire duration of the bike portion.

So what? As many ‘triathlon experts’ on Youtube say… it works, so why argue with it.  Ahh… the ignorance of the un/undereducated and in/underexperienced scratching their heads in disbelief that someone would suggest something outside of a failed hydration/nutrition strategy is at the root of poor performance.

Bearing down for a moment or two will have little consequence to the underlying systems of the body… but bear down for 112mi and then on top bear down to deal with crosswinds, and gusty crosswinds at that and Sanders ended up compressing himself to such a degree that when it came time to stand up… well, he encountered the problems he described coming off the bike to start the run.

For those unfamiliar with bearing down and how much force bearing down generates here’s a little story for y’all: I used to coach a marathon runner who shared that during the birth of his child, he was standing beside his wife during labour. His wife was grasping strongly on the rails of the bed during contractions in order to ‘bear down’ and pppuuuuussshhhhhh!!! In between one set of contractions, his wife who was a tiny little lady let go of the rail to relax & rest her grip, but with the next contraction coming on suddenly quickly reached for the bed rail but instead found her husbands thumb. Can you imagine what happened next? Yup… she squeezed, and then yanked and dislocated her husbands thumb!

Sanders was not delivering any baby on the Queen K Highway, but still, bearing down on a bike for 112mi because you have terrible technique, terrible bike handling skills, terrible posture and you end up with the consequences that anyone gets after sitting for a long time: serious serious stiffness and I’m not talking just in muscles, I’m talking everywhere including the fascia that surrounds the entire nervous system.

How exactly does bearing down connect to vision fogginess and disorientation that Sanders described coming off the bike? Here’s how…

Sanders beared down for so long on his bike that the fascia (connective tissue that encases all nerves) which is similar to a brake cable casing which encases brake cables (i.e. the nerve) tightened due to his flexed position, and then when Sanders stood up straight coming off the bike and tried to run, the tightness in this connective tissue compressed these cranial nerves impairing his vision and his orientation no different than when you ‘hit your funny bone’ and the compression of the nerve results in temporary abnormal sensations down the forearm and dysfunctional strength, coordination & dexterity of the forearm and hand.

No different than the way the symptoms from hitting your funny bone diminish with movement and a bit of time, the symptoms Sanders described diminished and disappeared as he slowly stretched tall into his running posture.

Later in the video…

Sanders said that the amount he vomited later in the race showed that his body was not taking in much if any liquids he tried to ingest out on the run course… if these disturbances in vision and orientation were related to hydration then they should have only gotten worse, not disappear.

There is scant if any evidence to suggest that the vision & disorientation were related to dehydration, instead its Sanders’ biomechanical issues which relate to his non-existent core strength, stability and non-existent cycling technique and bike handling skills which resulted in compression of his cranial nerves and the subsequent issues he had to deal with on the run.

Yet what is Sanders going to focus on in order to improve his performance at Ironman World Champs… thats right he is gonna focus his attention onto his hydration/nutrition strategy. Talk about missing the forest because of the trees!

Posture of a proper world class level cyclist:

George Bennett finished 4th in the GC classification of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California, and in the 2019 Tour de France he was a super-domestique for the Jumbo-Visma captain Steven Kruijswijk who finished 3rd in the GC classification. Notice how Bennett sits on his seat.

Posture of the typical triathlete:

Lionel Sanders… like most triathletes doesn’t sit on his seat, instead is perched as a result of insufficient core stability, control & strength-endurance.

Here is why that is the biggest waste of time…

In addition to the optic and oculomotor and vestibucocchlear cranial nerves there is another key cranial nerve that Sanders likely crushed the crap out of in his ‘bearing down’ on the Queen K Highway… CRANIAL NERVE X – the VAGUS nerve. Why should Sanders care about his vagus nerve and what he is doing to it in training and racing? Because the vagus nerve is the critical nerve supplying the visceral organs of the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems and is also important in the control of heart rate, broncho-constriction (i.e. breathing) and digestive processes.

Wait a tick… did you say that the vagus nerve is related to digestive processes… you mean like digesting water, you mean like to ensure proper absorption of water and nutrients from the intestines preventing dehydration and ‘bonking’? No way!

You mean Sanders shitty core strength which results in shitty cycling technique (add in no bike handling skills) requiring him to bear down onto his bike causing himself to compress his cranial nerves to the point that he causes his own dehydration and bonking… no way!

Yes way!

Failed hydration/nutrition strategy… what bull!

Want to know why its always a failed hydration/nutrition strategy?

How many coaches know that there are such things as cranial nerves, let alone where they are located, what are their function, or how possibly an athlete could impact the function of their nervous system by digging really really deep? Few, very very few.

And cranial nerves are just one aspect of human anatomy, every problem isn’t a cranial nerve problem either. On top of knowing human anatomy, and biomechanics, and physiology and basic psychology / sport psychology, coaches should have an understanding of many other subjects but most of all disease and how its caused because if coaches don’t understand the mechanisms of injury, illness and disease… they become part of the problem.

Hence why so many athletes are injured, ill, or worse.

Yet how many individuals claim that they are qualified to coach athletes of all levels?

Yet how many actually can coach an athlete to goals without compromising on health, without causing health issues? Few, very very few.

Stop trusting those who are un/under-educated and in/under experienced with your health. Don’t be their test subjects! Who cares if they are passionate? Who cares if they are a former athlete, even a former pro athlete? Ignorant is ignorant, period. No amount of ‘happy positive’ thinking or hype is gonna give them the tools they need in order to coach anyone properly let alone make up for a basic (forget expert level) understanding of human physiology, biomechanics, etc…

Find a coach who is worthy of being trusted, instead of hoping that your coach can be trusted because in the end… its your health, its your well-being, its your life.