Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant, North American Championship, By Hunter Allen
With a new baby, a new bicycle company (Dimond bikes), and training, TJ Tollakson is one professional triathlete that has to train efficiently and effectively. He cannot afford a wasted minute in his training and maintains a training discipline that many envy and few can follow. He uses two of the most important tools in training and racing to help him achieve great success, like his recent win in Ironman Mont Tremblant, and those tools are his SRM Training System and TrainingPeaks WKO+ software.
“My SRM is so important, and I mount the PC7 right on my handlebars, so I can look at it without moving my head or position a single bit. I look at my SRM almost the entire time and sometimes it feels like I am a Jedi knight controlling my power and heart rate just the way I want it.” TJ also uses TrainingPeaks WKO+ software to analyze his power and pace data and has a clear understanding of his power data and metrics. "I look at my Performance Manager Chart obsessively inside WKO+ and know what my FTP is at all times. TrainingPeaks WKO+ software gives me the confidence to race smart and do the perfect pace for my FTP."
In analyzing TJ’s winning power file from IMMT, there are some key perspectives that any triathlete could learn from and benefit. First off, TJ has an incredible ability to produce power smoothly and steadily despite changes in terrain and conditions. In Figure 1, it is easy to see how stable his power output was throughout the race. A key metric that quantifies this stability is called “Variability Index” and this the normalized power divided by the average power in a ride. A triathlete should strive to be below 1.05 for their event. TJ’s VI was 1.03 for IMMT demonstrating that he suppressed any hard bursts in power with smoothly metering out his power.
“I have been working on my pacing ability for years and I knew that I needed to average about 280Watts for the entire event, and I knew I wanted to be at the front from the start, so I set a strong tempo, but nothing crazy. Then when we got to the short hills section, I really pushed hard here on this 14minute section. This is where I fractured the group I was with and got a 90 second gap on second place, which was exactly my plan. I wanted it to turn into a time trial from there to the finish.” So, not only was his pacing critical to success, but also strategy of when to go hard and when to hold back. In the graph below you can see how his heart rate drops on every downhill with him consciously trying to relax and save energy on the downhills, staying as aero as he can.
I also had the privilege of also analyzing his win from 2011 at Ironman Lake Placid and after looking at his power file from Mont Tremblant, I knew I had to overlay his file from Lake Placid. Even though these are two completely different courses with different size hills, weather conditions along with 3 years later, TJ’s two power files were incredibly similar. This really goes to show how well does at creating power in an Ironman triathlon and how consistent he has become over the years.
TJ recounts, “I have gotten my aero position dialed over the years and riding my Dimond bike really makes a difference too. I watch my SRM the whole time and don’t get out of my Aero bars unless I am below 12mph and then when going downhill, I am trying to stay as aero as possible and save as much energy as I can.”
From my coaching perspective, TJ’s ability to create power like this is absolutely a critical skill that is needed for success in triathlon. If you want to do well in triathlon, then you have to learn how to create a smooth and steady output of power.
Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He specializes in coaching cyclists with wattage meters and is on the forefront coaching with cycling’s newest tool. He has online training programs available at www.TrainingPeaks.com/hunter and you can contact Hunter directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com
Learn more about TJ Tollakson here: tollakson.com