FIRM Racing News: October 2009

Message from Bill and Wendy: End of Season Celebration

Chilly mornings, leaves changing color, and decreasing daylight hours signal that the local triathlon race season is coming to a close. Twenty-four of the twenty-five events on the 2009 FIRM Race Calendar are done. And what a season it has been!

From the 400+ athletes that joined us at the season opener, the Wrentham Duathlon, to the 500+ athletes at our final triathlon of the season, the TDD Triathlon--participation in FIRM events continues to grow. It is rewarding to watch athletes who have been racing with us for more than twenty years line up at the starting line with people new to the sport.

In 2009 we overcame some unexpected race day challenges such as Frantic Fred and several members of the FIRM staff landing in the hospital the weekend of FirmMan Rhode Island. And we witnessed some unique triathlon moments with the magician chasing his escaped pig around the race venue at the TDD Triathlon.

So as the season draws to a close, let’s celebrate. Join us for an End of Season Celebration immediately following the Wrentham Halloween Duathlon on Sunday, October 25, 2009 in Wrentham, MA. At the celebration, we’ll have some extra yummy treats, present the awards for the Grand Prix Series, and draw the name of the lucky winner of the Vasa Swim Ergometer. (Winner must be present to claim his/her prize).

See you at the races!

Wendy and Bill


Upcoming Seminar: Building Cycling-Specific Strength

It’s no secret--top cyclists are physically powerful. The fall/winter is the time to work on developing the strength to ride stronger during the 2010 race season.

Vescio Multisport Performance Services and Central Mass PT and Wellness are teaming up to offer a seminar on building cycling-specific strength. In this seminar you will learn about the latest research on strength training for cyclists/triathletes, and how to incorporate this information into your cycling. You will leave with a structured periodized strength program that will fit seamlessly into your training routine.

The seminar is led by Michael A. Roberts, MPT, CSCS from Central Mass PT and Wellness, and Don Vescio, a cycling coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services. Mike is known for his ability to develop effective strength and conditioning programs for triathletes; Don is known for his fast bike splits in triathlons, and for helping Vescio MPS clients become fast on the bike. This duo combines Mike’s knowledge of using the weight room with Don’s knowledge of on-the-bike strength workouts.

Seminar is held at the Greendale YMCA, 75 Shore Drive, Worcester, MA. The cost for the seminar is $25.

Date and Time: November 2, 2009 at 7:00 PM.

Click here to register

New Location for Quad Multisport

Quadmultisport, FIRM’s official bicycle mechanic and support vehicle, has moved to 1346 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington on October 1. It’s just across the street from their previous location.

Throughout the race season, Quadmultisport has provided mechanical support at every FIRM race, including fixing fifty flats at FirmMan Rhode Island.   Quadmultisport thanks you for your support this year!

Coach’s Corner: More on Optimal Crank Length

By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services  

In a recent article, I looked at how moving to a shorter crank length could have a positive impact on power output by opening up hip angle while in an aero position.  The idea is that by shortening crank length by x-amount  and by raising aerobars and seat heights by the same amount, a rider can maintain his/her current aero position with less hip impingement.  For those who are struggling to get into a lower aero position, reducing crank length enables a lower frontal position for the same hip angle.  The concept is relatively simple:

Shortening crank length means that seat height needs to be raised in order to maintain the same overall extension of the leg.  Once this is done, the rider can decide whether to raise his/her aerobars the same amount, thus opening hip angle and possibly enabling greater power generation, or to leave the aerobars at the same height, which will result in a lower, more aerodynamic position.

Selection of crank length is somewhat of a combined black art and science.  There are many who support the proportional crank length argument, that crank length should be matched to a specific morphological characteristic, such as inseam length.  For instance, Dr. Michael Fararri (who has some degree of notoriety for reasons other than his biomechanical analyses of cycling)  recommends:

  • from 75 to 80 cm "inseam" = 170mm crank length

  • from 81 to 86 cm = 172.5mm

  • from 87 to 92 cm = 175mm

  • 93 cm and higher = 177.5mm

 He then further refines the recommendations above by factoring in a femur/tibia ratio—that is, if “the ratio femur/tibia is superior to 1.13, it might be suggested a slightly longer crank (usually by 2.5mm) than the one indicated by the inseam measure.” 

 Finally, pedaling style needs to be accounted, too.  Dr. Ferrari  suggests that “rouleurs,” those who prefer to pedal in a seated position, might opt for slightly longer cranks, as opposed to those who climb out of the saddle (typical of lightly built climbers).

 All of this can get overwhelming.  There are, though, others who advocate a simple formula approach.  Such formulas are based on the notion of an average femur length:  

Inseam Length in mm x .219 = Crank Length

So far we have accounted for inseam length and physical morphology; we still need to account for predominate muscle fiber type.  In very simple terms, there are two types of muscle fibers: Type 1, slow twitch (recruited during endurance events); Type 2, fast twitch (recruited during explosive, anaerobic events, such as sprints).  Two basic principles need to be kept in mind.  All exercise initially will recruit Type 1, slow twitch muscle fibers; if the event is long in duration and short in intensity, then Type 1 fibers might be all that is used for the entire session.  Second , each athlete has a different proportion of Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fibers; research is inconclusive as to whether the proportion of Type 1 and Type 2  fibers is a genetic or acquired trait.

 While a needle biopsy is necessary to determine with any specificity the fiber type of a specific muscle, athletes can gain a general sense of their fiber type ratios by performing the following test as outlined by Jason R. Karp:

An indirect method that can be used in the weight room to determine the fiber composition of a muscle group is to initially establish the 1RM (the greatest weight that they can lift just once) of your athletes. Then have them perform as many repetitions at 80% of 1RM as they can. If they do fewer than seven repetitions, then the muscle group is likely composed of more than 50% FT fibers. If they can perform 12 or more repetitions, then the muscle group has more than 50% ST fibers. If the athlete can do between 7 and 12 repetitions, then the muscle group probably has an equal proportion of fibers 

What does all of this mean within the context of crank length selection?  According to Dr. Ferarri,

  • A longer crank could be adopted by those riders who have predominance in red fibers (or Type I) and prefer high pedaling cadences, while suffering high force peaks.

  • A longer crank in facts requires, at a given power output, lower force peaks for each pedal stroke, due to the longer arm.

  • Those riders who have a higher percentage in white fibers (or Type II) instead, more used to bear high muscle tensions, could opt for shorter cranks, allowing inferior articular excursions and reducing internal friction.

In simpler terms, I recommend the following as a starting point:

  • If you are a lightly built endurance athlete who tests primarily for Type 1, slow twitch fibers, you might want to opt for a crank length equal to (or slightly longer than) Dr Ferarri’s inseam proportion recommendations (listed above).

  • If you are a muscular athlete who excels in explosive efforts (i.e., has a high percentage of Type 2 (fast twitch) fibers, then you might want to opt for a crank length equal to ( or less than)  Dr. Ferarri’s recommendations.

In a future article, I will explore the final variable in crank length selection, which is cadence and foot speed.  


Don Vescio, a cycling coach at Vescio Multisport Performance Services, has set numerous course records in cycling events in the United States and Canada. You can reach Don at

Gee Whiz!: Computrainer Race League

Interested racing your bike throughout the winter's cold and darkness?  If you have a Computrainer, you can!  Visit the 2009-2010 Computrainer Race League to find out how you can participate in the main sixteen race series or the special Ironman-length endurance series.  Main series races vary in length from 10km to 40km time trials on downloadable courses; the endurance series will be based on the Kona course.  The Computrainer Race League is an excellent way to maintain and build fitness this off-season.

For information about Racermate's Computrainer, visit:

Tri This!: Not Your Typical Sports Nutrition Book

Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes by Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS, is a useful resource for people who are looking to match their nutrition to their current training focus. Just as an athlete’s physical training should vary throughout the year to allow the athlete to be in top shape for specific events, the athlete’s nutrition plan could vary to complement the physical training as it changes throughout the year. Plus in Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes, the author provides the reader with the tools to develop his or her own periodized nutrition plan based on personal data.

Click here for more information about this book.

Fuel Talk: Post Race Season Nutrition Focus, Part One—Losing Body Fat

By Elaine Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

Maybe you have been thinking about trying to lose weight as a way to improve your racing. Or perhaps you who have experienced gastrointestinal issues during long course events and want to explore ways to minimize the chances of that happening again. The fall and winter months tend to be the best time in the training cycle to lose weight and/or address dietary issues that may increase the likelihood of GI issues during training and racing. Part one of this Fuel Talk article focuses on losing weight; part two addresses GI issues and will be in the November issue of the FIRM Racing Newsletter.

Losing Body Fat

There are a plethora of weight loss approaches available. The approach that would be best for you depends upon a number of variables including how much weight you want to lose, any medical factors, genetics, metabolic issues, tolerance for hunger symptoms, and ability to address the psychological aspects that surround food. The purpose of this article is not to review the various weight loss approaches, but rather to discuss the basic principles of losing body fat and steps that may be taken to improve the probability of success with a weight reduction program. 

Some basic principles hold true when it comes to losing body fat. Your body must be in negative calorie balance to lose weight, i.e. your body must use up more calories than you take in through food and drink. Specifically it takes a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. So if you maintain a calorie deficit of 500 calories each day for one week, you will lose one pound.

Creating a calorie deficit can be accomplished by decreasing the amount of calories you consume and/or increasing the amount of calories you expend. The calories you consume come from the food and drink you take in each day. The majority of calories expended come from three areas: (1) the amount of calories your body uses for basic functions like breathing, (2) the amount of calories your body uses for normal daily activities like your job, and (3) the amount of calories used by your body during workouts.

There are limits to the amount of body fat that you can lose in one week. Losing more than one to two pounds of weight per week means that you are losing muscle and/or water along with body fat. So if you don’t want to lose some of that muscle that you worked so hard to develop, keep your daily calorie deficit to between 500 and 800 calories.

Over the years, I have found the following ten tips to be useful when helping my athletes to lose body fat:

  1. Get a feel for what your current diet looks like with regards to the total calories, and the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. There are software programs such as Fitday that make this easy to do. (

  2. Try to take in the majority of your carbohydrates around the time of your workouts. This helps to fuel you for your workout and helps with the recovery process. Also there is some evidence that consuming carbohydrates throughout the day may limit your body’s ability to use fat for fuel.

  3.  Eat three meals a day and two snacks, taking in some protein with each meal and snack. This approach provides you with a steady stream of fuel throughout the day, helps to minimize your feelings of hunger, and according to the early evidence available, encourages your body to use more body fat stores for energy instead of glycogen.

  4. Eat at least five servings of fruits/vegetables each day, and choose lean sources of protein. You’ll feel much better with healthy food choices versus using up your daily caloric allowance with junk foods.

  5. Increase the amount of calories you expend in your daily activities such as parking further away and using stairs.  Wearing a pedometer can help you to measure your daily steps. Set a goal for increasing them, and then make an effort each day to hit this goal.

  6. Weigh in once a week on the same day, time, and scale. This gives you an accurate gauge as to whether you are on track with creating the appropriate calorie deficit. Normal daily fluctuations in body weight make more frequent weigh ins less reliable.

  7. Have a friend, family member, team mate, or coach track your weekly weight so that you know another set of eyes is tracking your progress.

  8. Don’t stay off track all day.  If you indulge in some treats that are not good choices for your weight loss program, decide to get right back on track. Don’t choose to splurge all day with the plan to start “being good again tomorrow”.

  9. The diet does not have to be something you stay with forever. Remember you are trying to reach a goal weight for racing. Once you reach that weight, you should be able to ease up a bit and maintain that weight.  Just continue with the weekly weigh in to catch any increase in weight right away.

  10. Don’t give up. If weight loss doesn’t occur or plateaus, then you are not in negative calorie balance. You need to eat fewer calories or increase daily calorie expenditure to have the scale move in the desired direction.

Part two of this article will focus on reducing you body’s dependence on glycogen for fuel. Look for part two in the November issue of the FIRM Racing Newsletter.

Elaine Vescio, a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach at Vescio Multisport Performance Services, has helped numerous athletes achieve their athletic goals. Elaine has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Nutrition, and interned at Massachusetts General Hospital. You can reach Elaine at

Local Highlight: Zone Labs Inc. 

Established in 2002, Zone Labs Inc. has quickly risen to become an industry leader in the development and sales of innovative, patented nutraceutical products.  Located in Danvers, MA, the company is based on the vision of Dr. Barry Sears, a leading authority on the dietary control of hormonal response.  Zone Labs combines cutting-edge technology with the latest scientific research to develop a wide range of performance products, including foods and dietary supplements.  Every product produced and sold by the company has been independently tested and adheres to Dr. Sears’ research.

Zone has helped countless elite athletes find an edge. Zone athletes use Omega 3 fish oil and polyphenols to fight inflammation and recover faster. This summer Zone athletes have competed in some of the most grueling and challenging events in the world. Zoners have taken top spots in races ranging from the Tour De France to Ironman triathlons. Zoners Christian Vande Velde, Brad Wiggins, Andy Potts, Becky Lavelle, Matt Charbot, Morgan House and Lisa Bentley have all found success this season with the help of Zone products.

Click here to visit the Zone Labs website

IronDreams: OMG! I Just Signed Up for an Ironman (Part 1)

By Marc Saucier, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

This article is the first installment in a series about making your Ironman dream come true.

So, you’ve signed up to do an Ironman. Now what? The good news is that you have twelve months to get ready for it.  The bad news is that you have twelve months to get ready for it.

 The ever growing demand to “do an Ironman” results in entries selling out faster than a U2 concert, often within a few hours of registration opening the day after the race. For some races, like IM USA, the next year’s race fills up with on-site registrations at the current year’s event.  It never even makes it to on-line registration! For those of you who haven’t registered for an ironman, spots are still available for Ironman Louisville KY as well as several European and Asia races. Community Foundation entries are still available for Ironman Lake Placid, Florida, Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho and Canada. Ironman Community Foundation entries involve an additional $550 tax deductible charitable donation for local charities in addition to the regular entry fee of $550. Go to for more information.

As a result of races selling out quickly, most Ironman registrants have to commit to the race one year ahead of time knowing that a lot can happen in twelve months: jobs change, relationships start and end, injuries happen, finances collapse.   A lot can happen that can derail your dream of finishing your first Ironman. On the bright side, now you have twelve months to put everything in place to make the dream come true.  So focus on that aspect--twelve months to be perfectly prepared so that you may join the elite club of people called “Ironmen”! 

With twelve months to go, many people figure there is plenty of time to get ready so why start now.  It has been a long season, time to kick back and take care of those chores around the house that have been neglected all summer long. “I’ll start my training after the first of the year,” these procrastinators say. Well, January comes along and then it seems way too cold for the procrastinators to do any serious training. Preparing for an Ironman seems daunting so they keep putting it off and putting it off, and before they know it, the race is twelve weeks out and they haven’t done a thing to prepare. So the procrastinators rush out and find a “12 week to becoming an Ironman” plan, ramp up the swimming, biking and running, get injured, do the race anyway, and finish by walking the “last” 22 miles of the marathon, dehydrated, exhausted and in the medical tent.  Yes, they finished, but was that really their dream race? 

Others take the opposite approach. These eager beavers get right into Ironman mode for twelve months, pounding out 15 - 20 mile runs every week, 80 – 100 mile bike rides and 6000 yard pool sessions.  Unfortunately they usually end up getting injured, fired, or divorced by race day.  Yes, they may end up finishing, but again was that really the way their dream was supposed to unfold?

Whether your goal is to finish just under the seventeen hour time limit or to earn a Hawaii “IQ” spot, you should start today to make your dream a reality. Proceed in a well thought out and proven manner, but start your Ironman preparation today. Consider reading this article step one, and moving forward with the recommendations in this article as step two.

Your preparation needs to center around a plan that balances the demands of everyday life with the demands of training for an Ironman. Begin building this plan by looking at basic considerations such as:

  1. Determine how much time you have to train over the course of the year.

  2. Identify obligations you need to work around such as business travel, vacations, and weddings.  


  3. Think about ways to minimize the impact your Ironman preparation and race will have on your job, significant other, family life, and budget.   

  4. Assess your current fitness and health status such as body composition, typical diet, and physical and medical issues, i.e. asthma, ongoing back or knee pain.

  5. Research equipment that you may need or want, such as a new bike, race wheels, wetsuit, heart rate monitor, or power meter.

After you address the basic considerations, then you can start thinking about the actual physical training. The initial three to four months of your “twelve month” plan should be spent working on your weaknesses. Whether it’s developing a  more efficient swim stroke, generating more power on the bike or learning to run stronger out of T2, these first few months are the ideal time to go in maintenance mode on your strengths and concentrate on your weaknesses while keeping your whole training load and time fairly light.   

An easy and objective way to determine your biggest weakness is to look for trends in your past race results. Are you typically in the top 20% in the swim and bike, but only the top 50% in the run? Or maybe it’s your swim or bike segment that lags behind. Making all three segments more “even” will go a long way toward your becoming a more “efficient” triathlete which is key to successfully completing an Ironman.  A comfortable swim leaves you with plenty of energy for the bike, an efficient bike leaves you strong for the run, and a strong run means crossing the finish line with a smile instead of a frown from doing the Ironman “shuffle” for the last 15 miles.

After you have determined what areas to work on, become a “single sport” athlete. That doesn’t mean completely giving up the other events, but you want to go into your focused training sessions well rested and ready to go. Getting outside help is usually the most effective way to develop the expertise and skills needed to make improvements in your weakest sport. You can get help through coached workouts with your triathlon club or local health club, or better yet by signing up with a personal triathlon coach. The right coach can provide the technical instruction and guidance needed to help you improve your weaknesses as well as help you put together the rest of your plan for getting ready for your Ironman dream.

In the next issue of FIRM Racing, the IronDreams section will cover time management and how to find more time to train while actually improving your relationships, family life and job performance.

Marc Saucier, a USA Triathlon Level One Certified Triathlon Coach at Vescio Multisport Performance Services, has been a competitive triathlete for over twenty-five years. He has competed in eleven ironman triathlons, including three Hawaii Ironman World Championships. Marc can be reached at or 978-314-7325.

Vasa and FIRM Racing Sweepstakes 


The drawing for the Vasa Swim Ergometer (Retail value $1899) will take place on Sunday, October 25, 2009 after FIRM’s Halloween Duathlon in Wrentham, MA. The person whose name is drawn must be present at the awards banquet to claim the swim ergometer. No exceptions or proxies, please!

Throughout the 2009 race season, people had the opportunity to earn entries by competing in FIRM’s multisport races.  

  • One entry each time a person competed in a FIRM multisport event.

  • Additional entries for placing in the top five in his/her race category in FIRM multisport races. Categories are: elite, age-grouper, Clydesdale, Athena, and relay team. First place earned eight entries, second place earned five entries, third place earned three entries, fourth place earned two entries, and fifth place earned one entry.

  • Double entries for Grand Prix events and triple entries for FirmMan RI

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 and beyond. 

Sign up for either the Vescio MPS Platinum Level Triathlon Training Service or Gold Level Triathlon Service by September 30, 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. This offer may not be combined with other offers.  

Zone Labs

Local Highlight: Zone Labs Inc. 

Zone Labs offers a variety of performance products including foods and dietary supplements including fish oils, polyphenols, cereal, pasta, and meal replacement bars and shakes. Click here to get 10% off your Zone Labs purchase. Choose your products on Zone’s website, click checkout, and then click “submit” for the 10% to be deducted from your order.


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