Ironman Champion...Inventor...Business Owner

TJ Tollakson is the Swiss Army Knife of People...A true Renaissance Man. He is an Ironman Champion, Mad Scientist Inventor, and Owner of Rüster Sports and Dimond Bikes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report...The Road To Victory

North American Championship
I knew I was taking a big risk waiting until August to race an Ironman in 2014. My 20th place finish at the 2013 Ironman World Championship didn’t leave me many points, so if I wasn’t going to race two Ironman races in 2014, I was going to have put all my chips on the table for the North American Championship race in hopes of grabbing one of the last 10 qualifying spots for Kona. It was a lot of pressure, but at the same time it really wasn’t all that different than the old system of slot allocation (the current system Age Groupers follow). Regardless, it was still a big task. Battling a back and hip issue late last year and early this year set me back a little -  and I knew I wasn’t as fit as I needed to be heading into St. George 70.3 or Kansas 70.3, but I still thought I was fit enough to have good (not great) races. After Kansas 70.3 I took the entire next two months to train and prepare for this event. No racing, just proper preparation for an Ironman. My daughter was born on June 17, and my fitness dropped to a season low three days after her birth, but then I started my build. I always tell myself, 99% of life comes down to one simple axiom, “Never Panic”. Patience would be extremely important as I would have to methodically build fitness for the next two months to put myself in a position to win the race. My coach, Cliff English, came up with a game plan, and I spent the next two months dedicated to preparing for IMMT. 

I arrived in Montreal on Wednesday August 13. I traveled with one of my aerospace engineers, Matt Cymanski, who would serve as my Sherpa and personal bike mechanic. We had a homestay with the Alix family in town. Pauline Alix was working with the race organizers and they graciously hosted both Matt and myself, but also fellow professional and dear friend, Mathias Hecht. Luckily, I took a few years of French in school and have spent time in France, so I was able to crudely speak with the French Canadians.
My race prep while in Mont Tremblant was pretty low key, but I was sleeping about 10 hours a night. Having gone from a house with a newborn to the homestay made a huge difference on uninterrupted sleep. I had Matt take care of my Dimond while there. He packed and unpacked it from my Hen House, changed my race tires, and did some minor fine tuning.

The night before the race I cooked a nice dinner of an 8 oz beef tenderloin (filet mignon), brown rice, pasta with pesto, bread and butter, and my mom’s wonderful carrot cake for dessert, washed down with water and an Ensure Plus shake. Plenty of calories for tomorrow, but not too much.
I woke up 2.5 hours before the race start and had a breakfast of a whole wheat bagel with PB and J, 2 Ensure Plus drinks, half a bottle of TYR Endurance Sport, and Red Bull. Forty-five minutes before the start I had the other half bottle of my TYR Endurance Sport and a packet of PowerBar Cola Gel Blasts. Twenty minutes before the start I had another Red Bull. Mathias I are were fortunate enough to have Jerome Alix (brother of our homestay), drop us off in the morning with our bikes, right next to transition. I setup my transition, added my items to my transition bags and headed over to the swim start. I spent some time stretching and relaxing in the grass before the start, slammed that last Red Bull and headed into the water for a warmup. I felt great in the water and decided to use the full sleeve TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit for the swim. It is always a tough choice for me unless the water is really cold because I love the freedom of a sleeveless wetsuit. The water was cool but not overly cold at about 68* F.

I loved that the start was a beach start because I feel it is one of the few fair ways to start a race, even though I believe a dive start is the fairest. I started on the left side of the swim next to Andy Raelert and Eric Limkemann and felt the pace was solid, but comfortable. It was pretty cool to have 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, Simon Whitfield leading us on the paddleboard. I quickly noticed there was a large front group swimming to my right inside the buoy line. I kept an eye on them and made the jump to bridge over once I found myself leading the small group I was swimming with. I did most of the swim next to Mathias but kept making sure there were no gaps opening up ahead. The water was shallow for quite a ways when exiting so the gaps stretched out a bit, but not much. I had a quick transition and was on my bike and ready to hammer.
I had aero shoe covers on my bike that I practiced with before and took the extra few seconds necessary to pull them over my Sidi T3 Air shoes (I wouldn’t need the extra ventilation). I felt amazing on the bike for the first 10 miles or so, then suddenly started to feel really bad. My HR was a bit too high so I let Andy Raelert pass me on an uphill.  He coasted in a tuck on the downhill so I just followed suit and it happened to work wonders for me.  It seemed to work as my HR dropped from 169 to 140 bpm. Suddenly I was back and feeling like a million bucks. I knew I needed to keep my HR under control the rest of the race. Andy passed me a few times on the bike, but he was the only one to change positions with me as the rest of the competitors were content to sit behind and let us dictate the pace. My plan was to be patient but keep the pace honest until the short steep hills around mile 45 or so. Once I was on this section, I hit it pretty hard on the Dimond (putting out 340 watts for 14 minutes), but it was very short and punchy so I had a one minute power of 414 watts and peak 20 second power of 504 watts. This was enough to fracture the group and only Raelert made a valliant effort to stay close. I held between a 90s and 3 min lead on Andy for the rest of the bike while the rest of the competition continued to fall back. I stuck to my plan of one PowerBar Gel every 20 minutes on the bike with a packet of PowerBar Cola Gel Blasts at the turn around. I started the bike with a bottle of Limao flavored TYR Endurance Sport.  The remainder of the bike I consumed only water as a beverage. On the last hilly section of the bike, around mile 100, I hit it pretty hard again, but not near as hard as before. At the finish of the bike, I had around an eight minute lead on Andy.

I started the run with a big lead, but knew I had one of the sport’s fastest runners chasing me. I trained to race a 2:49 marathon and knew I needed to hold 6:27 per mile to get there. I concentrated on holding that pace and maintaining my cadence around 92 steps per minute. I told myself to focus on my race and make Andy do the work to try and catch me. At the first turn around I had put about another minute on him.  Things were looking good, but I could tell he was still mentally in the game and chasing. At the second turn around (back in transition) I extended my lead to over 13 minutes and Andy was suddenly looking behind at 3rd place instead of ahead at me. I kept the pace as solid as I could. I consumed one PowerBar Gel at mile 3, mile 6 and mile 9. I drank nothing but water until mile 10 where I switched to coke and water and a few RedBulls (when available). There was RedBull on the course which was new to me, but a favorite to have.  Sadly, it was not available at every aid station. Everything was going as planned and my pace was solid and steady. Around mile 21 I saw Andy for the third and final time and he was more than two miles behind me. I quietly smiled to myself and thought “You just won this race, now just don’t lose the race.” We’ve all seen some of the epic fails of the past where an athlete with a big lead collapses and can’t crawl to the finish line for the win. So, I slowed my pace and walked through the last aid stations. My HR dropped considerably and I focused on getting my nutrition and hydration. There were several fans who wanted to high five me and celebrate as far back as 10k to go, but I told myself not to celebrate until you can see the finish line. As I came into town, it was an unbelievable feeling. I was elated and overjoyed. Finally I was back racing at my ability level.
It has been a long journey since my race at Ironman Lake Placid where I felt like I was racing to my potential and I have struggled with injuries and setbacks since then. It feels amazing to be back in the winner’s circle.
A special thanks to all of my sponsors and supporters, I couldn’t race without your support.

YMCA Healthy Living Center
Photos Courtesy of Nils Nilsen Photography

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stroking it with a Rubber?

Stroking it with a Rubber?

I’m a big fan of practicing safe sex and find the condom the most effective (behind abstinence of course) prophylactic for practicing safe sex. The condom is easy to use, affordable, and readily available at your corner Walgreens. With a little practice just about anyone can feel comfortable wearing a condom. Well maybe not as comfortable as going au naturale but with the inherent risk of an unwanted pregnancy or chance of a sexually transmitted disease the comfort is really in the mind. The lack of use of a condom should only be done by those individuals committed and experienced enough to minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. There is one category of condom users I just despise…those little punks who use a condom solely for the purpose of extending their stamina. Now maybe they don’t have enough experience to perform like Dirk Diggler or Ron Jeremy, but never give up on a dream without first giving it your all and thrusting forward towards that dream with all your vigor. Not there yet? Just keep thrusting at your dream until you come to the conclusion you will or will not be a stud. On that note, stop comparing yourself to others anyway, and just give all you’ve got. Now is not the time to hold back. While a person who is using a condom to prolong the activity will never actually be as good as the person who is “naturally” stellar, it can narrow the margin and give a false pretense of ability. Dangers of this false pretense of performance include creating a false sense of hope or belief in the actual ability level only to knock the individual down a few notches on the old leather belt when the deed is performed for something worthwhile (like a momentus occasion or pregnancy attempt). One of the best things about graduating from the ranks of horny experimental college kids is the ability to safely and appropriately judge the use of condoms (instead of just defaulting to wearing one all the time). Most men would agree having sex while wearing  a condom is like taking a shower while wearing a raincoat.

I’m equally a fan of practicing safe swimming and find wearing a wetsuit in unusually cold situations to be the best prophylactic for preventing hypothermia and thermal shock. The wetsuit is easy to use, affordable, and readily available at .  With a little practice anyone can feel comfortable swimming in a wetsuit.  Well maybe not as comfortable as going au naturale, but with the inherent risk of hypothermia and thermal shock from swimming in cold water, the comfort is really in the mind. The lack of wetsuit use in colder water should really be left to the professionals committed and experienced enough to avoid hypothermia and thermal shock. There is one category of professional triathletes I just despise…those punks who love to race in a wetsuit regardless of the temperature  because it helps them compensate for poor swimming ability.  Now maybe they don’t have enough experience to perform like Andy Potts or Benji Sanson, but never give up on a dream without first giving it your all and thrusting forward towards that dream with all your vigor. Seriously, stop comparing yourself to Benji Sanson…he has way more experience than you and will slay the water with the ease of a hedgehog burrowing in a hole. While a person who is using a wetsuit solely to improve his or her swim time will never actually be as good as the swimmer who is “naturally” stellar, it can narrow the margin and give a false pretense of ability. Dangers of this false pretense of performance include creating a false sense of hope or belief in the actual ability level only to knock the individual down a few notches on the old championship belt when the deed is performed for something worthwhile (like a major or championship race). One of the best things about graduating from the age group to the professional ranks is the ability to safely and appropriately race in warm water without a rubber. Most swimmers would agree wearing a wetsuit in warm water is like having sex in the jungle with an Eskimo Parka and three condoms. It is hot, uncomfortable, very restricting, and downright dangerous (some guys just love how this levels the playing field).

Risks of swimming in warm water with a wetsuit include:
1.       Death
2.       Heat stroke
3.       Heat exhaustion
4.       Dehydration
5.       Overall Discomfort
6.       Lack of performance

I have four recommendations:

11)      WTC should follow suit with the ITU and USA Triathlon and amend the professional water temperature rule to the following: wetsuit maximum temperature for elites at 68 degrees for swim distances less than 3,000 meters and 71.6 degrees for distances of 3,000 meters or greater.
22)      WTC should also distribute condoms to all athletes opposed to this proposition and require they wear them 90% of the time (even when trying to get pregnant and when the situation seems overly safe).
33)      My advice to anyone who disagrees with this resolution…practice, practice, practice and maybe one day you can build enough stamina to perform like a stud (without your rubber). Great lovers, like great swimmers, are made and not born. You don’t need a rubber in either instance to perform like a stud, just some more practice.
44)      If it has been a while since you upgraded your “rubber” I would recommend Trojan Ecstasy (in the gold wrapper) for your intimate moments and the TYR Freak of Nature (in the silver suitcase) to bring out your same inner freak when swimming in cold water.

In closing, wearing a condom during sex is safe and often necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancies and/or STDs. Wearing a wetsuit in cold water is safe and often necessary to prevent hypothermia and/or thermal shock. Having sex without a condom is what you do when all the stakes are on the line and the end result is as important as the process. Swimming in warm water without a wetsuit is what you do when all the stakes are on the line and the end result is as important as the process each individual took to prepare for the race. Practice safe swimming; wear a rubber only when necessary (when the water temp is 68 or less).

Work Hard,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday Gift List

My Top 5 Holiday Gifts for 2012

The holidays are upon us and if you are like me and like to do your shopping last minute and online then I have some gifts for you.

1) TYR Carbon VLO Cycling Jersey ($109.99) and Cycling Bibs ($119.99):
Absolute Gourmet Cycling Apparel: Jersey is HERE: Bibs are HERE

2) TYR Red Line Warmup: On Sale for $69.99 and get Free Shipping over $75: Warmup is HERE

3) Sports Supplements:
     A) Omega 3 Athlete, High Potency Omega3 Fish Oil 800mg EPA, 400mg DHA  $35                            Omega3 Athlete Here
     B) HMB 1,000mg Capsules from Optimum Nutrition: Anti Catabolic and Huge Recovery Tool            HMB HERE only $26.96

4) Ruster Sports Armored Hen House: Each one custom built with armored plastic, rolling wheels and pull handle...bags clip together for easy transportation in the airport $625: Armored Hen House HERE

5) For the Triathlete who has everything...except the fastest bike in the world: Dimond Bikes, Black Dimond: Pure Aerodynamics, Comfort, and Speed! The ultimate triathlon bike $5,500 frame/fork: Black Dimond HERE

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thrice as Nice Ironman Arizona Race Report

Thrice as Nice…Ironman Arizona Race Report
November 18, 2012

After sitting on the sidelines for Kona this year, I made Ironman Arizona my goal race for the end of the year and I was there to win. This was my third time racing in Arizona, and my previous two finishes I was second. This year I was entering the race a bit fresher, a lot more experienced, and I would be wearing bib number 3. I was hoping the third time was the charm, but as it turned out, the third time was just thrice as nice as I wore bib #3, in my third attempt at the event,  I finished third. It was not quite the result I was hoping for, but it was still a solid race.

I spent the two months before the race in Tucson, Arizona so I was able to make a short drive to Tempe on Friday morning with Ashley. It is always a nice change to be able to drive to a race. We stayed at the Aloft hotel just over a mile from the race start. The logistics in Tempe are some of the easiest of any Ironman event on the circuit.
It was chilly in the morning with temperatures in the low 50’s but the water was actually warmer in the low 60’s. I chose to wear the full sleeve TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit and Racetech Metalized goggles. The goggle choice was very important on the day as we started out swimming in the dark, but soon were headed straight into the sunrise. The metalized goggles were the best choice for high visibility swimming into the sun, and the Racetech model made sure the fit was second to none.  I started the swim out hard and made sure to have a tactical swim after having a poor swim at Austin three weeks ago.  I was quickly in the lead on the swim, but there was a very large group of about 15 guys and there was very little separation.  I quickly dropped back to take advantage of the draft and conserve as much energy as possible.  I had to keep an eye on the front of the pack to make sure there wasn’t any separation in the lead group, but it was a very tame and calm swim. I exited in the front pack and quickly hopped on the Black Dimond bike and within minutes was in the front of the race. Several miles into the first lap, Andrew Starykowicz passed me for the lead. I was fine with Starky taking the lead because I would feel comfortable spotting him up to 10 minutes on the marathon, and I knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere near 10 minutes on me, but I also knew my best race would be to race my power and pace on the bike. The unfortunate part of riding my pace and power is that a large group of pros out of the water with me all maintained my pace (not power), by riding legally 10m (and often illegally closer) behind me. Some athletes have honor and respect for the rules, some don’t. I’m not writing this to complain or whine, it is part of racing and I have to deal with it. I do wish there was a better way to enforce drafting on the bike, but in the meantime, I will just continue to race with honor and hope others choose to do the same.  I made sure to maintain a constant intake of 1 PowerBar Energy Gel every 20 minutes, and I had three flavors with me, Green Apple, Kona Punch, and Vanilla (the finest of the flavors). I had one packet of PowerBar Gel Blasts at 56 miles then another at 93 miles. I also had 12 salt capsules on the bike. The Dimond was fast and very aerodynamic. I was able to break the old bike course record, but unfortunately, Andrew Starykowicz was bit faster than me on the day. I rode 4:19:03 on the day, 25.93 mph average.  My average power was 281, norm power was 290.

I got off the bike and was 1:50 down on Starky, and it only took me just over 2 miles to catch him. I ran that first mile a bit fast in just under 6 minutes, and I was really trying to hold back. I settled in a better pace after the first mile, but about 5 miles into the run, I was having some GI distress and just was not feeling great. I knew it was time to hit the coke and settle down the stomach. For some reason the coke always seems to help calm my stomach. I really miss having the PowerBar Energy Gel available on the run course and feel most of my stomach distress was caused by using a different gel than what I train with. I know I shouldn’t have tried it, but sometimes during a race, you just start grabbing whatever you can. I’ll make sure I bring my own PowerBar Energy Gel next time. I was passed for the lead around mile 10. I took my special needs bag at mile 12 then started sipping on my Red Bull and that really turned some things around for short while, but soon after Paul Mathews (Barney) passed me on the run. I kept him close for about 5 more miles before I started struggling again, and he put about 2 minutes on me. I made a big come back push at mile 19. I thought I was going to have a go at catching Paul, but he was a bit too far in front and running well.  I ran hard until mile 26 when I realized I wasn’t going to catch Paul. I could hear him crossing the finish line, so I let up just a little that last little bit. I ended up running a 2:56:01 marathon, so maybe I should have pushed about 30 seconds hard that last mile just to run a 2:55, but there really wasn’t much point. I was third and happy with my effort on the day. So much of an Ironman race is managing highs and lows; knowing not to push too hard when you feel great and knowing not to let up too much when you feel like hell. I definitely had some highs and lows in Tempe, but overall it was a great race and new PR on a very fast day. I went 8:07:36. I wanted to run a 2:50 marathon, and that would have won the race. I still feel capable of running a sub 2:50 marathon, but just need to put it into action and make it happen.  I’ll keep practicing until I can’t get it wrong. I want to thank all my family and friends who watched the race and cheered for me. Thank you to Coach Cliff English for being out on the course and providing splits and encouragement. It was awesome to have so much support out on the course. I also need to thank my sponsors, without their support I wouldn’t be able to race as a professional. Thank you to TYR Sport, Mizuno Running, PowerBar, Yurbuds, Maxxis Tires, Profile Design Aerobars,, Zipp Wheels, SRAM components, SRM Power Meters, HMB, Dimond Bikes, and Ruster Sports.


Work Hard,


Monday, October 29, 2012

If you ain't first, you're last...Ironman Austin 70.3 Race Report

We all know the popular line from Will Ferrell’s movie, Talladega Night’s, “If you ain’t first you’re last.” While there is some truth to this statement in that society loves winners and forgets second place soon after the race, there are other places besides first (and last). Let’s face it second place sucks. Finishing second is very tough because you are so close to the top yet just didn’t quite make it. Close but no cigar. So close, yet so far away. To the victor go the spoils. It pays to be a winner. These are all some of my favorite lines. I hate to lose, but I definitely love to win more. If I HAD to lose to somebody then I am glad it was Andy Potts. Andy Potts is a class act, a true professional, and man of principle and integrity.
When I saw Andy was racing this weekend. I knew he would be hard to beat, because Andy only toes the start line if he believes he has a chance to win. Although he just finished 7th (and top American) 15 days ago at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, Andy brought his “A” game to Austin, just like he always does. The other tough competitor of the day was 2x Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack who was coming off a disappointing DNF at the Ironman World Championship. Chris has won more triathlons than most pros have raced. There were plenty of competitors on the start line who I was concerned about, but Macca and Potts are both World Champions.

Race morning was quite chilly with temperatures in the 40’s, but the water temperature was 71 degrees. I still believe Ironman needs to modify the wetsuit temperature rules to fall in line with the ITU and WTC, but that is an issue for another blog. There was no swim warm-up allowed for most, but they let the pros in the water 5 minutes before the start. I smashed a Red Bull and cola flavored PowerBar Gel Blasts on the way to the swim start. I wore my TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit for the swim and my TYR Special Ops Custom goggles. The cold air temp wreaked havoc on my goggles as soon as I lifted my head out of the water the goggles fogged and I spent the first part of the swim, just trying to figure out where I was going. The official sunrise wasn’t until 7:40 AM and we started at 7:30 AM. This didn’t help my poor visibility. I did a lot of pulling in a small group that was actually second pack (third back from Andy), until we came closer to shore and I couldn’t make out where I was supposed to be swimming so I dropped back and let someone else be my eyes and just followed the bubbles. I came out of the water with Macca, Bryan Rhodes, and Tim Marr, but it was not a good swim. I was close to 2:30 down on Potts, so I had my work cut out for me. I lost more time in T1 putting on arm warmers and gloves, in retrospect, I should have done without the arm warmers and just put the gloves on while riding, oh well. I ended up losing :50 seconds  to Rhodesy and Macca in T1, but I caught them soon enough and was in hot pursuit of Potts. I pulled behind Potts at mile 30, and passed him shortly after. He kept a legal distance behind me for a bit, then I made a few attempts to stretch the elastic and break him, it took a couple tries but it worked, and I was clear with a small lead around mile 40. The bike course was one loop with very rough roads, but the course itself was beautiful with undulating and winding roads lined with trees and real Texas ranch land. I enjoy a one loop bike course, and I enjoy undulating hills to play to my strengths on the bike. I fueled the bike leg with Green Apple PowerBar Energy Gel, hey it’s apple season, what goes better in the fall than some apple cider? I biked into T2 with a good, but not good enough lead on Potts (maybe 40 seconds). My 2:08 bike split was the fastest on the day by a couple of minutes. The new Black Dimond bike was simply amazing at both absorbing the road vibrations and making me incredibly aerodynamic.  I was running very well and had a goal to run 1:15 (based off my current Ironman focused training). I was right on track through the first lap, and Andy finally caught me right after the first of 3 laps on the run. I chose to wear the lighter weight Mizuno Wave Ronin shoes, but will wear the more supportive Wave Elixir at IM AZ.  The run course was cool. It was hilly, but not huge hills (not the 119 ft advertised, more like 931 vertical feet of climbing).  There was a bit of off road gravel and some hard packed dirt with mostly straight running, but a few twists, and NO dead turn-around points. Both ends of the loop contained lollipop sweeps to turn you around to comfortably maintain your pace and rhythm. I fueled the run with Coke and water. I didn’t start the Coke right away, but still did most of the run off of Coke. Once Potts caught me, I stayed with him for a bit, but he dropped me on a downhill. I was putting time back into him on the up hills, but it wasn’t quite enough. I maintained the gap at 12 seconds through mile 9, but Andy pulled the throttle back just a little bit at mile 10 to make sure to give himself a comfortable lead and not get stuck in a sprint finish with me. (Quick flashback to a 2009 TYR photo shoot in New Hampshire where Tim Taber took a cool photo of Andy and I doing a sprint finish on a gravel road, I’ll let Andy tell you who won!). I was digging deep to try and close from mile 11, but just as I started to dig I was having a few muscle cramps and just wasn’t really able to open it up like I wanted. I ended up finishing just over 30 seconds behind Andy (who ran a 1:14:06). I was pissed for losing this race that I really wanted to win, but also proud of my effort on the day. I had a great day, I just came a bit short at the end. Chris McCormack rounded out the podium after serving a 2 minute penalty for drafting on the bike, and he had a slightly faster 1:15:02 run split to my 1:15:27. The podium was great company. 

Recovery starts now as I have Ironman Arizona in exactly 3 weeks. I still have some key hard training sessions to complete but the bulk of the work is done, there is just some fine tuning left. After finishing second twice at Ironman Arizona (2008 and fall of 2009), I look forward to fighting for a victory (hoping the third time’s a charm). Arizona is a course I know well, and doing all my preparation in Tucson, just 100 miles away, is a huge advantage.  Let’s face it second sucks…here’s to not finishing last (preferably first) in Tempe on November 18. 

Work Hard,


For those interested in power data: Below is a copy of my SRM file: 323 avg power, 329 normalized power, pedal time of 2:07:20