A few days after the Ironman North American Championship at Mont Tremblant we received a very nice email from an unexpected source. TJ Tollakson wrote to say, "I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know I used your service to profile the course at IMMT this past weekend en route to my record setting performance." Needless to say we were very flattered and excited! After chatting with TJ for a bit, he graciously let us put together a case study breaking down his plan versus his actual performance file.
The first thing that struck us about TJ's profile was obviously his 360 watt FTP. He is a bit bigger rider than some of the triathletes in the field but regardless 360 watts is a huge engine.
TJ rides a bike of his own design, the Dimond. Not only is it very slippery as shown from his drag numbers below, but it’s beam design also makes for a very comfortable ride. You will notice that the bike weight is listed at a little over 22.5 pounds, but this is with a full Ironman race setup and many studies (as well as Best Bike Split) show aero trumps weight in all but extreme cases.
His bike setup show that he races with a wide deep front and a disc wheel on the back to get every aero benefit. One difference in TJ's setup from his model is that he uses latex tubes on his GP4000s tires as opposed to butyl. This tire/tube combination tends to have a lower rolling resistance and accounts for some of the time difference in his performance to the model.
TJ used the 2013 Mont Tremblant Course from the Best Bike Split database to plan out his race as it remained unchanged for 2014. The course consisted of two loops with a couple of steeper climbs on each section.
TJ chose to setup the course with conservative conditions. As his original goal was to see what power he needed to hold to break 4:30. (A conservative setup in the system can be useful.) The Course Road Condition set to "Average" adds some extra rolling resistance to the original tire choice calculation and the Course Terrain selection of "Heavy Forest" adjusts the wind model.
So how well did TJ's plan compare to his actual race? Below we show both the summary information from the pre race plan vs the actual race as well as the Best Bike Split power pacing plan to TJ’s actual power output.
Using a Target Normalized Power (NP) goal of 288 watts or .8 Intensity Factor (IF) the BBS model came back showing that a sub 4:30 was completely possible. TJ mentioned on the phone that he and his team had estimated that a 4:30 might require a power target closer to 300 watts, which would have changed the race strategy significantly. Knowing that he could average closer to 280 watts and still break 4:30 would give him more confidence that he could run well off the bike while still breaking the bike record.
|Best Bike Split Plan||Actual Race Performance|
|Distance||179.81 km||178.28 km|
|Avg. Speed||40.21 kph||40.10 kph|
|Avg. Power||279.86 watts||278.00 watts|
|Normalized Power||286.07 watts||283.00 watts|
|Training Stress Score||281||275|
The course in Best Bike Split was a little long which partially accounts for the lower time TJ was able to hit on roughly the same power. TJ was also able to ride at a bit lower TSS score, which ultimately might have helped his sub 3 hour run. In terms of pacing though, TJ nailed the power averages as well as any athlete we’ve seen. Considering the distance we are impressed and amazed. Below we show TJ’s Best Bike Split power pacing chart compared to a smoothed chart from his power data (displayed in Golden Cheetah).
The two charts show how similar the power strategy was over the course. A couple of deviations are seen on the second major decent where TJ stayed tucked to lower his heart rate back into a comfortable zone. The second major difference occurred on the first pass up the steeper ascent at the turn around point. Here TJ wanted to put some distance on his rivals so he put in a harder effort than the Best Bike Split plan. For the rest of the course he followed the plan limits to perfection. To get an idea of the kind of power targets TJ would have had up the various climbs we have added TJ's calculated Best Bike Split course cheat sheet to the right.
When we first envisioned the concept of Best Bike Split this is exactly how we hoped it would be used. Congratulations to TJ in an truly amazing race win. We were glad to help in anyway we could even though at the time we had no idea. Next stop KONA!
For more fun check out TJ's winning power plan link below. Feel free to download the TrainerRoad or ERG files and see how long you can ride at his level at home. We tried and the results were not pretty.