FIRM Racing News: April 2011

A Message from Wendy and Bill: Hello, Race Season!


Get back into the groove of racing with the Wrentham Duathlon on April 17. The season opener offers a three mile flat run, eleven miles of cycling with a few ‘little’ hills on the course, and a quick two mile flat trot back to the finish line where food, fun, and festivities await you.

When you cross that finish line at Wrentham, you earn an entry in the 2011 FIRM Race Series Sweepstakes with a Kestrel Air Foil Pro SL (MSRP $4249) as the grand prize. Stick around for the awards ceremony, where additional entries will be handed to the top three finishers in each category. The drawing for the Kestrel takes place at the Halloween Duathlon on October 30. (Winner does not have to be present to claim his/her prize).

So say hello to the race season at Wrentham on April 17 and check out our 2011 calendar of races which include: duathlons, sprint triathlons, pool swim triathlons, Olympic distance triathlons, half iron distance triathlons, and even a kids’ triathlon.

Click here for a complete listing of FIRM events

Find Us on Facebook!

F.I.R.M. is on Facebook. (You know how much Wendy likes to chat). Like our page to stay tuned to the local race scene and receive special offers. 

Click here for FIRM’s Facebook page.

Local Highlight: This Man Has Vision

Erich Manser’s goal is straightforward—to become the fastest legally-blind Ironman competitor on earth. While he has a long journey to achieve this goal, he appears to have what it takes to truly have a shot at this title.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was three years old, Erich gradually lost his eyesight. He had night blindness as a teen; and now thirty-eight years old, Erich describes his eyesight as like looking through a straw that has the end covered with Vaseline. But what he lacks in eyesight, Erich makes up for with talent, determination, and a competitive spirit. His motto is, “You don’t need to have eyesight to have vision”..

A competitive swimmer growing up, the 50-yard freestyle record he set in 1991 still stands at the Fitchburg YMCA. Erich swam as a member of Northeastern University’s NCAA Division I North Atlantic Conference champions in 1994 and 1995. Then he went on to place 5th in the 50-meter freestyle, and 2nd in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2009 Bay State Games. In January 2011, he swam 4700 yards in an hour at the USMS One-Hour Postal, placing 23rd in the country. All these swimming results are versus able-bodied competitors.

According to the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) standings, Erich is firmly among the top-ten legally-blind marathon runners in the U.S., and is ranked second in the country for Clydesdales. He is an eight-time marathoner, including 4 Boston Marathons, with a P.R. of 3:31:46 at the Cape Cod Marathon in 2006.

Erich began doing triathlons in July 2010 at the Nautica New York City Triathlon as part of a team of 31 blind athletes representing C Different Foundation ( This provided Erich with an introduction to guided racing & racing tethered. (In previous running events, Erich would follow closely behind whatever runner appeared to be doing the right pace for him, simply finding an unsuspecting guide during each running event). Erich completed two subsequent sprint triathlons with different guides, placing first or second in the Clydesdale division as there was no visually impaired division at these sprints. At one of the sprint triathlons, he was fifth out of the water out of nearly 400 racers.

Visually impaired triathletes race tethered to a guide during the swim and run portions of the race, and ride a tandem with his/her guide during the bike segment. Finding the right guide for Erich is a challenge. He needs a guide who is slightly faster than him for the swim and the run, and who is a strong pilot on the tandem bike. At the Nautica New York City Triathlon, Erich’s guide kept yelling for Erich to slow down during the swim and then finished steps behind Erich during the run. One person commented that it looked like Erich was the guide in that race. His determination to not let anything slow him down was evident when he told his coach, Elaine Vescio, that he was thinking about trying an open water swim at a triathlon without a guide so he could go at his own pace. Fortunately he couldn’t see the look of horror on her face when he made this comment, but agreed that he wouldn’t try it when she pointed out some of the drawbacks of that idea.  

Erich’s 2011 race calendar includes sprints (Sudbury Sprint, TDD Triathlon), olympic distance (Rev3 Quassy, Denver Triathlon, Nautica NYC, AG National Championships, Nation’s Triathlon), and half iron distance (Patriot Triathlon and Augusta 70.3). To compete in these events, Erich needs to find a racing tandem bike at a reasonable price, and a few experienced triathletes who have the ability to guide him during these races. If you think you can help Erich with either a tandem or a guide, please contact him directly at  


New Series Sponsors

Join us in welcoming our newest series sponsors: Rudy Project, mix1, and MuchAdoMarketing.


Rudy Project 

Rudy Project is the maker of technically cool helmets and eyewear. Having Rudy Project as a partner means 25% OFF Rudy Project Helmets and Eyewear for participants in FIRM events. Offer good at Vmps only. Shop at the Vmps booth at FIRM events or at the Vmps Triathlon Center in Millbury, MA. Promo Code is WendyRP2011.


Mix1 protein drinks contain only the highest quality, all natural ingredients including whey protein isolate, carbohydrates, antioxidants, soluble fiber, and healthy fat. Designed to provide the maximum benefit to your body before a workout, after a workout, and throughout your day. Try a sample of mix1 at your next FIRM event and find out for yourself how yummy, good nutrition can be.



Much Ado Marketing is a social media, content creation, and marketing communications agency. Raise your hand if you need help with Facebook or Twitter, and raise both if you need a website (or yours needs a facelift). All set with those things? They're creative experts who bring out the best in your brand offline, too, offering copywriting and design services for marketing materials of any kind.

Understanding Where Foot Pain Begins

By Neil J Feldman, DPM

The key to running form, and running injury free, starts with a stable base. While most people would think that the base is a stable foot or a stable shoe, the truth is that the base is NOT the foot! The base is the pelvis. Though the feet are what lands on the ground, the pelvis is where all movement is initiated. Our legs (and feet by extension) attach to the pelvis from below and provide the motion initiated from above. The spine connects to the pelvis from above and provides holding control while the torso rotates and counterbalances leg movement.  When running, and performing most sports, the pelvis is where it all begins. To highlight this point, think of which weight bearing activities are tolerated when you have an injured foot. People who can’t run due to injury are often able to ride a bicycle or use an elliptical machine. Having less pressure and load on the foot helps, but the real reason lies in the pelvis.

From a professional standpoint, there are certainly times when I recommend a bike or an elliptical machine for my injured patients. A bicycle seat stabilizes the pelvis. The body is able to leverage against the seat and keep leg motion consistent. To discourage bad habits, it’s important to maintain a cadence that is in the proper run range (greater than 85 rpm). Below 85 rpm, athletes and patients tend to push the pedal with each stroke rather than lift with the opposite leg. You wouldn’t want to rely on one leg to carry all the effort when you have two that can do the job. Pedaling efficiency is no different than running efficiency: wasted motion costs energy. Above a cadence of 85 rpm, you’re much more likely to engage your hip flexors (front of hip) to create lift on the pulling leg and move through the classic dead spot in the top of the pedal stroke (between 10 and 2 o’ clock).

When the cadence (and efficiency) drops, and the push greatly outweighs the pull, there is increased force placed through the ball of the foot. Many triathletes who have not developed proper cycling skills present with a complaint of forefoot pain precisely due to this phenomenon.

The elliptical machine, with its absence of foot strike, has an advantage with the injured athlete.  It reduces stress on the pelvis by “pushing” one leg up, and removes the need for the athlete to lift the leg.  Athletes can then “run” without pelvic stability. This can be beneficial with certain injuries, however, the body can adapt to not using the hip flexors to create leg lift.  The act of moving one leg down automatically brings the other leg up. It’s as though we are allowing our body to walk or run while only stepping down and never having to lift the other leg. This is bad as we would now have to rely entirely on the feet to move us forward.  By spending a lot of time on the elliptical machine, you “run” the risk of developing very bad habits.

The role of the hips

In Chi Running (Danny Dreyer, 2009), the pelvic position is the key to maintaining posture and form during running.  Anatomically, there are many muscular attachments on the pelvis, but I will highlight four main groups.  When your pelvis is in neutral (not tilted forward, back, or rotated), the transverse abdominus, (deepest abdominal layer), the multifidi (low back muscles), psoas (hip flexors) and hamstrings are all in harmony.  The transverse abdominus functions as a primary pelvic stabilizer. This takes tension off the other muscles that attach the pelvis.  Because most of us sit, and started to do so at a young age, most of us have a pelvis that is tilted forward.  (The best guess as to why this occurs is due to the relative shortening of the psoas in a sitting position, the adaptation it makes over time as well as the adaptive weakening of the posterior hip.)  The abdominals are a thin, sheet-like muscle that is unable to contract or relax like a bicep muscle. When it is stretched, it can no longer stabilize the pelvis. With forward tilt of the pelvis, the abdominals and the hamstrings are placed into relative stretch, while the psoas and multifidi are shortened.  Shortened muscles quickly become dysfunctional when they adapt to the new position. This leaves the hamstrings as the only major group that can stabilize the pelvis, though the hamstrings should have a distinctly different role (hip extension and knee flexion).  This is precisely why patients and athletes complain of chronically tight hamstrings.  In many instances, the hamstrings aren’t tight.  They are just being “flexed.” 

What does this have to do with the feet?

In normal function, our hip flexors should be able to provide leg lift on the up (swinging) leg, and the hip stabilizers should be able to stabilize the body on the down (standing) leg.  Pelvic dysfunction can be defined as improper or inadequate stabilization (holding).

If this involves a forward tilt of the pelvis, the psoas is unable to do its job as intended, and the body needs another strategy to complete forward movement.  This strategy requires using our feet to push our body forward.  The feet are made up of small bones, small joints and small muscles that weren’t designed to push the entire body forward with every step. Large bones, large joints and large muscles in our hips perform that job.  Think of how much easier it would be to walk in place for hours on end rather than do calf raises for hours on end. 

Change in center of gravity is another part of forward pelvic tilt that affects the feet. When our pelvis is in a neutral position, weight should be evenly balanced between the ball of the foot and the heel.  As the pelvis tilts forward, the weight shifts back toward the heel, which causes our calf muscles to engage for balance purposes.  Just as the hamstring is overworked and doing a job it’s not supposed to with forward pelvic tilt, so too is calf musculature.  By turning calf muscles on (increasing load per step), their function becomes altered and they become limiters of ankle mobility rather than enablers of normal foot function.


Normal function starts with a neutral pelvis. Balanced posture is the key to running efficiently.  We walk before we run for a reason, in much the same way as we have to learn how to stand before we walk.  Just as the first time we learned to run in our lives (as toddlers), without balanced posture, it will be impossible to learn how to run properly as an adult if you don’t know how to stand with balanced posture.  Good posture is the key to efficiency whereas bad posture must be overcome somehow.  Most foot injuries from running result from asking our bodies to function beyond its capabilities by using our muscles and joints inappropriately.

With fatigue, the pelvis loses stability and the upper body leans forward.  The hip angle and hip range of motion is reduced as a result.  The foot will land in front of the body (think relative positions, as if the upper body is leaned forward, then the foot should be landing in line with the body, and thus behind the pelvis), and the toes will have to lift to allow the foot to clear the ground as the hip won’t be able to lift high enough.  The leg muscles in the shin lift the toes and with time and fatigue lead to shin splints.  The heel will hit the ground first and can lead to plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis (though this is not due specifically to the heel strike), among other ailments.  The toes will grip the ground to stabilize the foot which can lead to bunions, hammertoes, metatarsal pain, stress fractures and neuroma’s.  Those are just the foot related issues!

Creating a significant base of fitness is crucial to any training program.  Without that base, we fatigue quicker and fall into bad movement habits quicker, increasing the risks of these injuries.

How do I put this all together?

Starting with good posture, run relaxed, lift the legs and lean slightly forward with the lean coming from the ankles (see Figures 1 and 2).  Keep the hips stable and land more towards the ball of the foot, with every foot strike occurring underneath the body.  Sounds simple, right?  Reading articles like this, reading books, listening to coaches, friends and doctors can be confusing.  Everybody seems to have an opinion and/or a solution.  We are all unique individuals who bring different body types, with different strengths, weaknesses, levels of dysfunction, to the table.  There is no cookie cutter approach to figuring things out and as such, it would be impossible to say what specific needs each of you reading this article would require.  What’s presented here is the goal all runners should try to reach, but it may take time to get there. Be patient, and work with what your body allows.

Figure 1:  Maintaining posture at foot strike.  The yellow line indicates where alignment should be: ankle, hip, shoulder and ear.  The image shows that the upper body is slightly forward of the posture line and thus there is too much bending from the hips.  The blue arrow indicates where the elbow should be at foot strike, with an arm angle close to 90 degrees which is ideal.  Also, the wrist is above the waist which is also positive.  The red arrow indicates the how the stride extends behind the runner, as opposed to out in front.

Figure 2:  At lift off, posture is maintained (head should be slightly forward an in line with the yellow line passing through the ankle, hip and shoulder), the bend comes from the right ankle (not marked here) and the left knee (red arrow) is driving up while the left foot remains neutral or relaxed. 

(Gait analysis photos provided through Central Massachusetts Podiatry, PC utilizing Dartfish professional software).

Neil Feldman, DPM is the owner of Central Massachusetts Podiatry, a 3 physician practice located in Worcester, MA.  Dr. Feldman is Board certified in foot surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.  He has completed numerous Marathons and 7 Ironman triathlons including the Ironman world championship in Kona twice.  Last year Neil completed the Vermont 100 mile run in 21 hours, 34 minutes.

Happenings at the Vmps Triathlon Center

Tuesday Evening Time Trial Training Series

Looking for a fun way to train for the bike segment of a triathlon? Then check out the Vmps Time Trial Series. Starting in early May, Vmps will host a Tuesday evening time trial with a 9.7 mile single loop course in Millbury and Sutton, MA. Details coming soon on

Stock Up on Tri Gear

With race season just around the corner, Vmps Triathlon Center is getting stocked with triathlon goodies:

--Beautiful bikes from Kestrel and Quintana Roo

--Rudy Project technically cool sunglasses and helmets including the superfast Wingspan TT helmet, some in bright neon colors to help make you more visible on the roads.

--TYR and Quintana Roo wetsuits and wetsuit rentals. Shop early for best selection.

--Gray wheels which are designed and handmade for maximum aerodynamics and minimum weight while still being durable and strong.

--TYR triathlon apparel

And so much more….

For triathlon center hours and location, visit

Race Highlight: The Y Tri in Milford, CT

300 Yard Pool Swim, 10 Mile Bike, 3 Mile Run

Wendy keeps raving about how gorgeous this race venue is. The pool is in a glass building with a mushroom pool on the side for children. The transition area is in a big field with picnic tables galore. The bike and run courses are top notched. This race is just really cool overall. So pack up the family and a picnic lunch, and make a day of it. Be sure to tell Wendy what you think. 

Click here for more information

Nuvision Action Image

Hands down the best race photos are taken by Nuvision Action Image. And they will be at all the FIRM races in 2011. These guys are pros. Wait till you see the shots they get of you this year.

IronDreams: Dealing with Race Day Adversity

 By Marc Saucier, USA Triathlon Certified Coach with Vmps

You’ve been training for this day for months. You’ve put in the fast swims, the long bike rides, the hard runs.  You’ve dialed in your hydration and nutrition. You’ve got a new wetsuit and new race wheels.  You’ve studied the course until you know every hill and turn. You’ve checked out all your gear and arrived at the race site a week ahead of time so you could memorize the transition area. You’ve done everything you can to have a perfect Ironman race.  You’ve done everything you can except to learn to expect and accept the unexpected.  Read that again. Expect and accept the unexpected.

In a race as long and as hard as the Ironman something can and will go wrong.  Some things take only a second to happen, your goggles get knocked off, you get a flat, you spill a whole cup of Gatorade into your shoes.  In a 12 hour Ironman there are 43,200 seconds.  Even if your race goes 99.99% perfect, that’s still leaves 4 things that can go wrong.  And sometimes more than one thing will go wrong.  Some of these are short term events that can sour your mood for the rest of the day if you let them.  Others are longer term events that can slow you down for a while or maybe the rest of the race.  It’s pouring rain on race day. It’s hotter/colder than expected. The normally flat lake swim is whipped into froth by the wind. You can’t find your bag in transition. You crash on the bike. You lose a contact lens. You see your competition riding away from you because they’re drafting, etc. etc. etc. Speaking from a lot of Ironman experience, this stuff happens. It has happened to me.

Your ability to adapt, accept and go on will make the difference between feeling like you’ve wasted all the time, energy and expense it took to get you to the race, and having it be one of the greatest days of your life.  You need to be able to change the things you can change and accept the things you can’t.  Most of all however you need to be able to tell the difference.  Being an Ironman is more than just swimming, biking and running; it’s also about handling the adversity that’s going to happen during the race.   That is part of being an Ironman.

Some problems need to be dealt with and then put behind you.  If you get a flat you need to fix it, get back on your bike and tell yourself the short break will let you ride faster. Chrissie Wellington spent 10 minutes in the 2009 Ironman fixing a flat. She still went on to win the race.  Several Ironman pros have had to serve drafting penalties before the start of the run and then ran down the competition and won. They couldn’t have done this if they got mad, lost focus and let it get the best of them.  I’ve seen pros throw their bikes down in disgust when getting a flat, making a minor mechanical problem a major one.

Other problems such as the weather, course conditions, or other competitors can’t be fixed but rather need to be ignored or adapted to.  One fellow age grouper I know was good enough to be considered a slam dunk to get an Ironman Qualifier spot for Hawaii at a recent race.  However during the bike he got so upset over all the drafting he saw that he lost focus, screwed up his nutrition, and barely survived the run--missing his chance to compete in Hawaii.   Conversely a client of mine once got a flat and then crashed her bike when she was run into by another competitor, severely bruising her hip. She finished in just over 12 hours despite limping the entire marathon, and she was ecstatic with her finish time.  Was it a perfect race?  No.  Was it a great race?  For her it was.

Accepting that problems are part of becoming an Ironman will help you deal with adversity when it happens and, better yet, help you achieve your Ironman Dreams.

Marc Saucier, a USA Triathlon Certified Coach at Vmps, has been a competitive triathlete for over twenty-five years. He has competed in twelve ironman triathlons, including three Hawaii Ironman World Championships. His next Ironman is Kona 2011. Marc can be reached at or 978-314-7325.   

Vmps Triathlon Team...

has arrived!

The Vmps Triathlon Team held its first meeting in March and already has more than 30 members on its roster. If you are looking for the opportunity to train with others, discounts from sponsors, camaraderie, and a chance to meet people who share your enthusiasm for the sport of triathlon, then click here to check out this team

FIRM Race Series Sweepstakes

Grand Prize--Kestrel Air Foil Pro SL

Earn entries to win a Kestrel Air Foil Pro SL by participating in FIRM events in 2011. Retail Price: $4249

Our ‘consolation’ prizes from other sponsors are really cool in case your training buddy wins the Kestrel. You could win a year's supply of Mix1 (30 cases) and a Mix1 race kit, a Rudy Project helmet, or a Quintana Roo Ultrajohn wetsuit. (If your size wetsuit is not in stock, Quintana Roo will ship it to you when it becomes available).

Earning entries is easy and fun. Each time you complete a FIRM race, you receive one entry in the sweepstakes. Stick around for the awards at each FIRM race, because when your name is called for placing in your age group, you receive more entries—5 for first place AG, 3 for second place AG, and 1 for third place AG.

Winner’s name will be drawn at the Wrentham Halloween Duathlon in October. Winner does not have to be present at the drawing to claim the prize. In addition, the winner receives a free bike fit by Don Vescio of Vmps. (Retail Price: $275). 


50% OFF Powerbar Products

Half price energy gels, gel energy blasts, performance bars, Ironman Perform Sports Drink Mix, and high intensity beta alanine. While supplies last.

Vmps Triathlon Center

45 River Street, Millbury, MA