FIRM Racing News: June 2009

Message from Bill and Wendy: 2009 Race Season is in Full Swing

The 2009 race season is in full swing with nine of our twenty-four races already completed. And June is a busy month. The pros showed up for the Ashland Metro West Triathlon on June 14 with Tim Snow (first place male) and Cait Snow (first place female and fourth place overall)  burning up the olympic distance course despite the cold, rainy weather.

Two sprint triathlons round out the racing in the month of June with the Webster Lake Triathlon on June 21 and the Holliston Triathlon on June 28. Good news…we acquired more timing chips which means we can allow another 200 entrants into the ever popular Webster Lake Triathlon.

If you have been looking for ways to go faster on the bike then check out one of the free cycling clinics that Vescio Multisport Performance Services is hosting immediately following the Webster Lake Triathlon. Don Vescio is leading a cycling clinic for intermediate and advanced riders; Elaine Vescio is leading a cycling clinic for novice riders. (Don is that guy in the Fedex cycling clothing that sounds like a freight train when he goes by on the bike). Both clinics start at 11:00 AM. The intermediate/advanced clinic will focus on how to time trial faster and more effectively; the clinic for novice riders will focus on basic cycling etiquette and skills. The clinics will start at the race venue at the basketball courts near the bathhouse and will include a ride on the bicycle course for the Webster Lake Triathlon. Helmets are required. No preregistration is necessary for these two cycling clinics. Weather Alert: The clinics will be cancelled if it is raining. So if the weather looks questionable, check the Vescio MPS website for updates on the clinic. For more information on the clinics, email

The Holliston Triathlon is the last triathlon in the month of June. It is held in beautiful Stoddard Park. This race is a long sprint triathlon which makes it a wonderful race for triathletes training for their first olympic distance race this season. The 15 mile bike ride and 5 mile run on test any athlete’s muscular endurance.

Looking into July, we want to give you a heads up that the Appleman Triathlon on July 19 has less than 100 spots available. So sign up soon if you are planning on doing this race. Click here to check out a video about the Appleman Triathlon:

Click here to check out the complete 2009 FIRM race schedule: Contact us at with any questions.  

See you at the races!

Wendy and Bill

Tri Living: An Inspiring Mentor for the Danskin Triathlon/Deborah Sirko-Osadsa

Next month more than 3000 women will participate in the Danskin Triathlon in Webster, MA. A large percentage of these women have never dreamed they would toe the line at a triathlon. Some have not been active in many years or ever, some are overcoming serious illnesses, and some are past the age when most people would attempt a new sport more strenuous than shuffle board. Fortunately, the SheROX Mentor Program for Danskin New England is available to help these women prepare for their big event by providing information and support to first time triathletes.  

Deborah Sirko-Osadsa is a mentor in this program; she completed her first triathlon at the Danskin race in 2004 just ten weeks before her 50th birthday. When approached about mentoring by Elaine Vescio, Head Mentor for Danskin New England, Deborah agreed to the role immediately.  She clearly remembered the challenges and tribulations as well as the exhilaration and joy associated with her first triathlon, and she wanted to join others on this journey.  

Deborah is an ideal role model for many of the women in the mentor program. She came to the sport later in life. Overweight and inactive in her younger years, Deborah took up cycling in her mid thirties with the encouragement and support of her friends that own a bicycle shop. Under their guidance her confidence in her cycling grew.

In 2003, Deborah broke her foot badly. A young orthopedic surgeon told her that the poorly aligned spiral fracture would not heal well on its own; it would require the insertion of screws and plates through surgery for it to heal properly. Then he went on to explain that the surgery would not be necessary since she was an older person (age 49 years) and she would not need to use her foot for anything more strenuous than walking. At that moment Deborah made the decision that if her foot healed properly she would never take an active lifestyle for granted.

As soon as her foot healed, she began training for her first triathlon, drawn to the sport because of the variety of the three disciplines and the physical benefits of cross training. But it was not easy. Deborah was starting almost from scratch. She did not know how to run or swim. So she signed up for a running workshop, hired a coach, and carefully prepared herself for the 2004 Danskin Triathlon.

Then race day arrived and what a day! Deborah hardly slept. The weather was hot and very humid which was especially worrisome because she has asthma and extreme conditions can set off an attack. Emotionally, Deborah went through quite a lot. She cried during the Star Spangled Banner, and then hyperventilated during the first 50 yards of the swim and had to stop and gather herself to continue. But continue she did. And at the finish line, Deborah experienced a feeling of sheer exhilaration as her feet seemed to barely touch the ground in what she describes as an out-of-body experience, in slow motion. As she approached the finish, she alternated between looking at her heart rate monitor and ahead to the finish line. She was exceeding my anaerobic threshold and the chronometer was showing a lower time than expected. It was the strangest feeling--as though she had died, and her chronometer had stopped. As she crossed the line and heard her name being announced, she saw her husband waiting at the finish. This brought her back to reality, and she realized that she had finished the race faster than she had ever expected. It was an amazing feeling that she will never forget.

Deborah offers this advice for women training for their first triathlon: “Don't be concerned about your time or where you place. The mere act of crossing that finish line is a victory in itself. And it is not the only victory. The process of training for a triathlon, with its goal-setting and required discipline, makes anyone a winner”.

Coach’s Corner—Selecting Race Wheels

By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services









You’re looking for a new set of race wheels and don’t know where to begin.  There are carbon wheels, alloy wheels, wheels with deep profiles, ultra lightweight wheels, disk wheels, tubular and clincher wheels—at times choosing a wheel set might seem harder than actually racing.  

Keep in mind that next to your fitness, aerodynamics is perhaps one of the most important variables that need to be addressed in cycling.

Contrary to what many might believe, aerodynamic equipment offers slower riders greater return on their investments than the riders who finish out in front of the pack. Partly, this is due to the fact that slower riders are out on the course longer; mostly, slower riders experience more effective crosswind in most instances than their faster competitors (see my article in the April issue of FIRM’s newsletter for a fuller discussion of apparent yaw angles and wind).

It’s important to choose a wheel that matches your average race speed and the wind conditions that you are likely to see in most of your races. A good place to compare the aerodynamics of different wheel designs is Steve Hed's site, which has an interesting interactive tool that will allow you to compare wheels of different configurations:

While this tool is based on Hed's data, it seems relatively consistent with other sources; I'd use it for general comparisons and not worry about specific coefficient values. 

Under virtually all situations, a wheel’s aerodynamics is much more important that its weight.  If you are interested in competing in multisport or time trial events, then you should get the most aerodynamic wheels possible. A rear disk will be the fastest wheel possible under any conditions; because the rear wheel doesn’t have a steering axis-it only can roll forward—it is largely unaffected by crosswinds.  Front wheel selection is more complicated, as they both roll and pivot, and it’s that pivoting that creates handling problems.

While very deep profile rims in the front tend to be the fastest, consider using a moderate profile front wheel if you are worries about handling. Most major manufacturers will offer front wheels in the 50mm-60mm depth range. This depth makes for a good all-around front wheel, and it doesn’t give up much speed to its deeper profiled cousins. Again, it’s important to have a general sense of what your average race speed is and what the average wind conditions are for most of your races.

All aerodynamic wheels are optimized for a relatively narrow range of yaw—that is, for a relative narrow range of apparent cross winds. Most deep profile rims will stall when the wind angle exceeds its optimal yaw range (Hed’s tool, linked above, graphs wheel response to yaw). When a wheel stalls, it effectively loses its aerodynamic advantage. The one main exception to this is Hed’s trispoke wheel, which remains very fast across a wide range of wind angles, though it can be more difficult to handle than a deep profile wheel. 

You can make some generalizations.  The faster you are, the more that you can be assured that pretty much any aero wheel will work well for you (fast riders experience shallower yaw angles than slow riders); the slower you are, the more you need to match a wheel’s design to your race speed and the likely wind that you’ll encounter. Deeper wheel profiles (80mm or greater) tend to provide more aerodynamic benefits than shallower profiles (60mm or less), though they can be more difficult to handle in very heavy crosswinds. If all of this confuses you and you have funds for only one set of wheels, then go with a wheelset that has a moderate, 50mm-60mm profile. If you only have funds for one wheel, go for a front wheel, as more aerodynamic benefit will be gained here than with a rear wheel, as the rear wheel is drafting the frameset.

Now that you have your wheels, you need to decide what tires you will use—and this is a topic for the next newsletter.

Email Don at if you have any questions related to this article.

FIRM Interview—Rob Sleamaker: Author, Physiologist, & Founder of Vasa, Inc.


Last month, we had the opportunity to interview Rob Sleamaker, M.S., founder of Vasa, Inc., and co-author of Serious Training for Endurance Athletes 

Question: Rob, What’s your professional and athletic background?

I’ll begin with my professional background. I have been very fortunate to do what I am so passionate about and that is finding better ways for athletes to train in order to improve their performance in sports. In 1982, after I earned a masters degree in Exercise Physiology from University of Arizona, I moved to Vermont and was given the opportunity to work with many top endurance athletes, including Olympic cross country skiers, biathletes, and professional triathletes.  Those coaching experiences led me to write my first book, SERIOUS Training for Serious Athletes, which was published in 1989. The second edition, Serious Training for Endurance Athletes, co-authored with Ray Browning, was published in 1996. 

In 1988, my first invention, The Vasa Trainer, was introduced.  Since then, my company, Vasa, Inc. has been the platform for developing more training equipment designed to help athletes train more effectively.  The Vasa Trainer has evolved and improved.  In 2004, we launched the Vasa Ergometer Swim Bench, the Vasa Kayak Ergometer, and soon we will introduce a new movement specific ergometer that is versatile and provides a multitude of sports-specific training & rehabilitation opportunities.

My athletic background crosses many spectrums. In high school and college, I was a track sprinter, soccer player and skier.  After graduate school, I rediscovered my love for cross country skiing and pursued that avidly.  Along the way, I got into triathlons, mountain bike racing and trail running – all to stay in shape for XC skiing! 


Question: How did you identify the need for a trainer, and how did you create the first Vasa trainer?

In the early 1980’s, the sport of cross country skiing and biathlon allowed a new technique or discipline.  It was skating on skis, now called freestyle.   I was working with the US teams and realized that we needed a much better way to train the upper body muscles for double poling, since freestyle required that much more than classic ski technique did.  In 1988 the first Vasa Trainer was born out of that need.  It was more advanced than using tubing or homemade roller boards.

By 1990, I realized that the Vasa Trainer was useful for training swimming, so I changed the design slightly and off it went.  The very first Vasa Swim Trainers were purchased by 3 different US Olympic swim coaches at a coach’s conference – I didn’t even know who they were at the time.


Question: In addition to being a sports physiologist for Olympic-caliber winter biathletes and x-country skiers in the early 80s, you also coached pro triathletes. How did you get involved with coaching triathletes? Who did you coach?

Coaching elite athletes coincided with the publication of my first book, SERIOUS Training for Serious Athletes.  Ironman legend, Dave Scott, wrote the foreword.  The book quickly became popular with triathletes.  I was fortunate to coach or advise a host of athletes, including Ray Browning, Scott Tinley, Colleen Cannon and many top age group athletes.


Question: The effectiveness of the Vasa trainer has enjoyed some stunning validation by its widespread use among top-tiered athletes. Can you tell us about its popularity with Olympic swimmers?

Since that ASCA clinic in 1990 when the three Olympic swim coaches “discovered” the Vasa Swim Trainer, it has become a mainstay on the pool decks and training rooms of virtually every university, college, and swim club in the US and world wide.  We even have photos of Michael Phelps at age sixteen being tested on the Vasa Trainer by USA Swimming sports scientists.


Question: In 2004, you created the Vasa Ergometer. Can you explain the difference between the trainer and the erg? How should an athlete determine which product is best for them?


The Vasa Ergometer is a swimming treadmill and power meter in one machine.  It is ideal for increasing sustained power and endurance, which translates very well for better open water triathlon swims. It employs an airflow resistance, similar to the Concept 2 rowers. Athletes and coaches use it to precisely monitor workouts, progressions in sustained power, force measurements for Right and Left arms, and to make improvements in stroke technique. While elite levels use the Erg for testing and training, many age group athletes report that swim training using the Erg has improved their swimming dramatically while saving them a lot of time compared to traveling to the pool.  Many a triathlon spouse have quietly thanked Vasa because their athlete spouse can get in a great workout in thirty minutes without leaving the house, and in some cases, while watching the kids!

The Vasa Trainer is great for building movement specific strength and for rehabilitating injuries.  It’s useful for improving stroke technique, too.  The resistance is your body weight as you pull or push it on a rolling bench along an inclined monorail.


Both the Vasa Ergometer and the Vasa Trainer are excellent for triathlon training.  The Erg is best suited for building sustained power and endurance, as well as offering precise electronic monitoring, which can be highly motivational.  The Vasa Trainer is best for movement specific strength training and versatility.

Click here for a video about the swim ergometer:


Question: On your site, there are several activities listed (like triathlon, surfing, pilates) that might benefit from use of a Vasa product. So it sounds like in addition to swim-specific training, it can also be used for cross-training for other activities?

Correct. All Vasa products provide excellent movement or sports-specific training and rehabilitation.  We like to think of the Vasa Ergometer for increasing power and stamina and the Vasa Trainer for building strength, and preventing or rehabilitating injury.  Both are great tools for teaching or learning proper stroke mechanics.

Currently athletes use Vasa products include for swimming, triathlon, surfing, kayaking, canoeing, dragon boat paddling, nordic skiing, and volleyball. Many physical therapists, sports medicine clinics, trainers, health clubs and gyms rely on Vasa products for quality training opportunities.

Click here for more information on Vasa products.

Click here to contact Rob Sleamaker.

Tri This!—Interesting How To Video on Practicing Open Water Swims

This video offers an interesting training perspective for helping to make you more comfortable in open water swims.

Gee Whiz: Cycling.TV

See the best in professional cycling at Cycling.TV. Cycling.TV offers over 150 days of cycling, including the spring classics and the grand tours on both a free and subscription basis.  Subscribers can view live events or access an extensive catalog of prior events on demand.  Races are narrated by knowledgeable commentators and can be seen in highlighted and full length versions; coverage generally is excellent.  Cycling.TV is highly recommended to while away the long indoor training hours, as well as for anyone excited by the US and European cycling scenes.


For more information, visit:


Local Highlight—Wilderness Experiences

Swimming, biking, and running are wonderful ways to enjoy the great outdoors, but sometimes even triathletes need a little more variety in their lives. How about white water kayaking, rock climbing, or caving? These are great ways to spend time with your family and friends and add a little more adventure to your day. Wilderness Experiences is a local company that can help you make it happen.


For the past 28 years, Wilderness Experience in Southwick, MA has been offering quality outdoor adventure education programs throughout Western Massachusetts. This family run business takes pride in helping people reach their potential as trained instructors encourage them to learn and grow in nature’s classroom.

Wilderness Experiences offers a wide range of programs and every aspect of each program incorporates a philosophy of “challenge by choice.”  Program offerings include: recreational & whitewater kayaking, SCUBA diving for beginners through instructor level, rock climbing, caving, and summer camps for children ages six through seventeen.

So if you want to have a little fun with nature, click here for more information.

Tri-2-Excel Sports Videography 

Personalized Tri Video


The Personalized Tri Video (PTV) is a video of just your triathlon/duathlon experience.  Sure you've seen other video coverage of sporting events but this one is tailored specifically to you! You will see yourself as you come through the swim transition, biking out on the course, and running through the finish. The PTV helps you remember your race experience forever.

Click here for sample videos and a list of other available merchandise.

Looking for Interns

FIRM is looking for a few talented interns to help at the races this year.  One role is for a race announcer and the other role is to demo the Vasa Swim Ergometer. Email Wendy for more information.

Vasa and FIRM Racing Sweepstakes: Grand Prize--Vasa Swim Ergometer 

Vasa and FIRM Racing are pleased to announce the Vasa and FIRM Racing Sweepstakes with the grand prize - a Vasa Swim Ergometer (Retail value $1899).

Earning entries for this sweepstakes is fun. You earn entries by competing in FIRM’s multisport races in 2009. The more you race, the better your chance of winning.

  • Earn one entry each time you participate in a FIRM multisport race.
  • Earn one entry when you try the Vasa Swim Erg at FIRM races.
  • Earn additional entries by placing in the top five of your race category in FIRM multisport races. Categories include: elite, age-grouper, Clydesdale, Athena, and relay team. First place earns eight entries, second place earns five entries, third place earns three entries, fourth place earns two entries, and fifth place earns one entry.
  • Earn double entries for Grand Prix events and triple entries for  FirmMan RI

The winner’s name will be drawn at the FIRM Grand Prix awards banquet at the end of the race season. The person whose name is drawn must be present at the awards banquet to win the Vasa swim ergometer. No exceptions. The date and location of the awards banquet will be announced next month. So update your race calendar and start earning entries to win a Vasa Swim Ergometer.


Special Offers from Our Sponsors

Vescio Multisport Performance Services

Vescio Multisport Performance Services is thrilled to once again be the official coaching organization for the FIRM Race Series, We are looking forward to helping FIRM athletes achieve their athletic goals in 2009.  

Sign up for either the Vescio MPS Platinum Level Triathlon Training Service or Gold Level Triathlon Service by August 31, 2009 and get 20% off the first month’s coaching fee. To receive the discount, enter “FIRM20” in the appropriate space on the client sign-up form. May not be combined with other offers.  

Wilderness Experiences

FIRM Triathletes take 10% off your entire purchase at Wilderness Experiences. This includes any purchase of regularly priced in store items. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts. If you need an item ordered, we’ll remove any special order fees such as shipping. We are dealers of TYR, Aquasphere, and Cressi who are manufacturers of goggles and swim attire. And of course we are a specialty store for kayaking and scuba diving. Offer expires 12/31/09. Visit our website for more information:

Please contact us with any questions. 413-569-1287 or