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Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered
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Lionel Sanders posted an interesting blog about his training leading up to his 2nd place finish at KONA this year.
That post linked here: https://lsanderstri.com/2017/10/19/kona-2017/

In it he share some charts and stats about his swimming, cycling, and running training totals and averages.

He also included this chart of his combined total weekly training hours starting from early December 2016:



And to finish the blog post off, he throws in a PMC screenshot of his 14-week “Kona Block” leading up to the world championships, which he says peaks out at 182 CTL:


This looked like a cool opportunity to get some insight into the training behind a world-caliber performance, so I dug a bit deeper...


Weekly hours isn't enough information to build a PMC, you also need the intensity so you can calculate training load.


But, with a PMC screenshot I knew I could approximate what kind of training loads he was doing to hit 182 CTL. Couple that with his weekly hours and I could figure out intensity, and get a better picture of his overall training...


WARNING, serious data geekery lies ahead!


To start I took his PMC screenshot (this is a distorted view):


And recreated it on a weekly basis using Bereda (beredatraining.com):


And you can see that it was a pretty good match:




Recreating the CTL progression in Bereda gave me the approximate weekly training loads that Lionel would have had to withstand to get from 110 CTL to 182 CTL in the 14 weeks, shown by the red bars below:





I also read the values of the weekly training hours from his chart and plugged those into the chart too. Having weekly training hours AND training load means Bereda can calculate an intensity, and so we can see that Lionel’s “Kona Block” was done at an overall intensity value of about 0.8.


Here’s a spreadsheet output of the plan from above:





Check out the size of those training loads in the last five weeks!


I know there are a lot of Lionel fans on the forum so I thought I’d share my findings.


If you're interested, I go into a bit more detail in this post: https://www.beredatraining.com/2017/11/19/lionel-sanders-kona-block/


Weekly hours are great, but when I saw that massive 182 CTL I had to know how he got there. Truth is, I think other Ironman athletes go higher than that... Anyone know of another athlete with data like this that I could dive into?


Thanks!
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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When he posted this, I honestly thought 182 it was super low. Especially if you're abiding by the true Training Peaks swim TSS. I remember reading (and can attest) that 135 is pretty normal for a FOP amateur with a full time job. I hit that the last two seasons for extended periods of time and I don't post accurate swim TSS. Most of my swims are probably half of what Training Peaks would give me if I actually detailed how fast each interval was.

So, yeah, I still think 182 is crazy low and wouldn't doubt if someone like Ben Hoffman posts 250. Maybe I'm crazy but he bikes so damn much, it wouldn't shock me. Which begs an even better question... are most pros doing way too much?
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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Awesome. Thank you for sharing.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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This doesn't mean a hell of a lot without breaking it up into the individual sports. Swim TSS is mostly useless when compared to run/bike, so I wouldn't be surprised if Lionel and others don't bother including that in with his CTL.
I know I don't bother with it. I use CTL as more an indicator of injury likelihood and overtraining in the legs and rarely post anything more than time/distance for swim workouts. And I then delete the sTSS since I don't want it affecting the CTL values.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [BrentwoodTriGuy] [ In reply to ]
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I got the impression from someone that has worked with Training Peaks that 165 was really high.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [BrentwoodTriGuy] [ In reply to ]
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BrentwoodTriGuy wrote:
wouldn't doubt if someone like Ben Hoffman posts 250.


actually more, but the data is biased because so much of it is from HrTSS, not power based.
Last edited by: jkhayc: Dec 6, 17 11:08
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [BrentwoodTriGuy] [ In reply to ]
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That's the scary part. Ben Hoffman's training is much more in line of what traditionally has produced Kona podiums through-out the years. Crowie, Stadler, Deboom, Reid, Ralert, Frodeno, Al-Sutan, T.O, etc. all had programs with massive amounts of bike riding that ranged from 4-500 mile weeks similar to Hoffman.

Lionel just came 3 miles shy of winning the whole damn thing on 10-12 hour bike weeks. I often wonder if Lionel would be competing against the Sagan's of the world for one day classics and world championships had he found the bike earlier in life. It will be interesting to see how Talansky's bike splits match up to Lionel's.

And please don't take this as me armchair quarterbacking the guy. He just came 3 miles shy of winning the whole damn thing.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [jaretj] [ In reply to ]
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Yes. I read most kona qualifiers average 120-150 for considerable amounts of the year and they all have pretty respectable threshold values, so alot of work performed by a pretty good athlete... job done!!. I need to do more work.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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This is a pretty good ad for Bereda!
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [BrentwoodTriGuy] [ In reply to ]
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I thought 182 seemed reasonable, like I said I think others go higher, but what I found interesting was how intense his training is especially when you consider that it was gearing up for Ironman.

I would have figured 0.75 instead of 0.8

His average time on the bike during his "Kona Block" looks to be about 8 hours a week. Pretty different compared to more "traditional" Kona podium training that mdgreene mentioned.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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The question is would he be faster if he biked more?
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [endurance1234] [ In reply to ]
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endurance1234 wrote:
The question is would he be faster if he biked more?

I wouldn't be surprised if he does bike more this coming year. I remember him saying that he felt he fell off the pace at the end of the ride in Kona.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [writhe] [ In reply to ]
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writhe wrote:
This is a pretty good ad for Bereda!

I didn’t know it existed, but now I do.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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Dennis Cottreau wrote:
(beredatraining.com)

Hey look: yet another website ripping off the PMC without crediting either the person who came up with the idea (i.e., me) or the people who own the trademarks (i.e., TrainingPeaks). Have you no shame?
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [BrentwoodTriGuy] [ In reply to ]
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BrentwoodTriGuy wrote:
Which begs an even better question... are most pros doing way too much?

I would vote a yes on that.

Too much of what specifically I think is individual. But seeing so many come into Kona after heavy race schedule, talk of high volume training, etc. Then "just not have it" race day, fade off the back, etc. I think many just over do it. It would at least be safe to say more over do it versus under doing it.

I have a lot of respect for many in the pro field, but I feel many get very insecure in the last 1-2 months and just add in too much.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [endurance1234] [ In reply to ]
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The question is would he be faster if he biked more? //

Keep in mind that a lot of the people that bike more bike slower. Doing more miles doesn't always get you faster. I remember Dave Scott and a few others going through this in the early days, doing 400/500/600 mile weeks only to go faster in the race when they dropped down to the 300's with more quality. If he rides 12 hours in a week and his average pace is 27 or so mph, there is you 300+ miles a week. And I doubt that riding that few hours indoors that there are any junk miles in there..


And I just wanted to get my thoughts in here, have a feeling this thread is about to take a 180 degree turn away from the OP... (-;
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [CU427] [ In reply to ]
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CU427 wrote:
BrentwoodTriGuy wrote:
Which begs an even better question... are most pros doing way too much?


I would vote a yes on that.

Too much of what specifically I think is individual. But seeing so many come into Kona after heavy race schedule, talk of high volume training, etc. Then "just not have it" race day, fade off the back, etc. I think many just over do it. It would at least be safe to say more over do it versus under doing it.

I have a lot of respect for many in the pro field, but I feel many get very insecure in the last 1-2 months and just add in too much.

Honestly, reading this is like reading about most amateurs. Chasing overall training hours instead of being focused how they get those hours.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [monty] [ In reply to ]
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Actually, the original post was all about getting some extra insight into the what seems to be a different approach to Ironman training, so this discussion is on point.

It will be interesting to see if Lionel adjusts and increases his training volume upwards next year like BrentwoodTriGuy thinks he might, or if we'll see more pros moving more towards the Lionel end of the spectrum.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [writhe] [ In reply to ]
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writhe wrote:
This is a pretty good ad for Bereda!

That was my thought as well. Also, I think it should be called Brenda
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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Dennis Cottreau wrote:
It will be interesting to see if Lionel adjusts and increases his training volume upwards next year like BrentwoodTriGuy thinks he might, or if we'll see more pros moving more towards the Lionel end of the spectrum.

Personally, I think he should bike a tad more and hang with Wurf the whole ride. I figure if they can gain an extra minute or two, Lionel might hold Lange off on the run... IF, big if, everything shakes out the same as this year.

With that said... LS is so incredibly motivated to swim front pack; what are the chances that he gets there and hangs with the pack for too long swimming AND biking, surges a bunch throughout this time and then sucks on the run?

I truly think he cracked the swim code this past year and getting "faster" won't necessarily help him in the long run (literally and figuratively). I think getting out of the swim in the uber-biker pack is most beneficial to him. He just needs to capitalize on what he didn't execute this year.. hanging with Wurf the last 20 miles and hydration. Work on that... I just don't see someone beating him.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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Actually, the original post was all about getting some extra insight into the what seems to be a different approach to Ironman training, so this discussion is on point. //

I have know athletes that train like Lionel, one in particular who trained quite a bit less and had even more success than he has thus far. One of my old training partners would never ride much more than 200 miles a week, run 40+ and swim 4 days a week and would simply just crush Kona every year, setting several records there. She started to have problems when she got nervous about all the people racing her doing such big mileage, so she upped her volume. She never was as good as the low volume. high intensity days, but a good long history of one elite athlete who went both routes.


And as I said earlier, a lot of the male pros in my days went the more is better until some were just doing crazy mileage and hours. It mostly all fell back to a reasonable level and most went faster on the lower hours/higher intensity. Mostly it was the Germans doing some crazy miles, but they worked up to that over an entire career I guess and could handle it. They sure seemed to and still do very well at Kona as a country, and from stories I hear a lot still train the old school way of 40 hours a week..
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [monty] [ In reply to ]
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Maybe the lower volume, is also what has kept him from becomming injured/ill, and that alone has given him an edge, has Lionel ever had an injury?
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [lassekk] [ In reply to ]
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I wonder one thing about Sanders Training for a while now.

In middle distance track running you basically have athletes from two sides. The guys that come from more of a sprinter background and thrive on lower volume but more high end speed stuff. And the guys that benefit from higher mileage and more aerobic miles. (And a mixture of that).

I know that Ironman is a long way from mid-d but I wonder if Sanders is one of those guys that have a bit more fast twitch muscle fibres and thus can handle more very intense sessions and thrive on it. I might be off completely and someone with more physiological knowledge can debunk my theory. But what I notice is, that I am a complete endurance guy with no speed whatsoever. But I make big improvements when I train a lot at or just below threshold and also a ton in the "nowhere" zone between easy and hard. I just seem to thrive on it. But when I do too much intensity I plateau or even go backwards (when I overdo it).

So about Lionels high intensity/low volume training:

A: Is it something everyone should/could do to optimize his training?

B: Is it only ideal for some individuals?

C: Is he only able to do it because he still benefits from his huge base? (from the day when he trained something like an Ironman everyday)

D: Is he such a talent that every appraoch would have gotten him to the Kona podium? (and it is just the result of back to back years of hard training in whatever way)

Interesting is that Lionels approach evolves from blog post to blog post and he constantly optimizes and learns from the past. Maybe one day he will conclude that a bit more race pace stuff is helping. Scary to think that he still has room to grow.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [ToBeasy] [ In reply to ]
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ToBeasy wrote:
Interesting is that Lionels approach evolves from blog post to blog post and he constantly optimizes and learns from the past.

I agree, like I said, it will be interesting to see what he changes next year trying to make the next step. Will he add more volume or will others transition more to his end of the spectrum?

I'm surprised no one has chimed in to defend the virtues of high volume endurance training yet.
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Re: Lionel Sanders "Kona Block" Reverse Engineered [Dennis Cottreau] [ In reply to ]
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To improve you need to make your body do things it isn't used to. So Sanders could maintain his volume and make his hard sessions even harder. Or he can try to extend the amount of time he spends in those high zones.

Something interesting about the mileage monsters. There was an Interview with Hellriegel in a recent magazine. He mentions his most training hours week of all time. It was something like 56 hours. 54 on the bike and 2 running, so a big riding block with tons of elevation gain. But he himself states that this was of little physiological use. It was for the mental side. After that, he lost any fear of the 180k in races. Suddenly everything felt like downhill riding.

Sanders clicks off the mental side of his training with his indoor approach. So no need to do epic mileage destruction.
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