FIRM Racing News: August 2012

A Message from Wendy and Bill: Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are here. This is a wonderful time for triathletes when months of training propel them to new levels of fitness. It would be a shame to miss flaunting this fitness at the races. So check out the info in our newsletter and fill up your race calendar. 

In this issue, understand how cadence and gearing selection impact exertion level, check out the huge savings at Vmps' Sales Tax Holiday Celebration, learn about a triathlon in memory of three tiny babies, and find out why so many athletes are sporting compression sleeves these days. 

$10,000 Cash and Prizes at FirmMan Rhode Island

We are celebrating the 20th running of FirmMan Rhode Island, with a $10,000 prize purse ($10,000 cash and prizes) for this premier half iron distance event. Set in the resort town of Narragansett, FirmMan Rhode Island offers scenic courses, enthusiastic volunteers, live music, a fabulous Saturday night pasta dinner, a hearty post race bbq, long sleeved tech shirts, and a guest speaker who will wow the compression socks off of you. 

CLICK HERE for more information

Huge Sales Tax Holiday SALE at Vmps--Saturday August 11

50% off Rudy Project sunglasses (in stock only)
30% off TYR and Quintana Roo wetsuits--in stock only (15% discount if the wetsuit needs to be ordered) 
20% off TYR transition bags and convoy bags
20% off Fuelbelt products
20% off swim gear (goggles, fins, paddles, wetsuit care kits, etc)
20% off triathlon apparel and swimsuits
10% off Computrainers

And no Massachusetts state sales tax on single items costing less than $2500!

Special Sale Hours: Saturday 8/11 from noon to 5:00 PM

Vmps Triathlon Center is located at 45 River Street in Millbury, Ma 01527
For more info: 508-612-3000 or

Maintaining Balanced Exertion Through Cadence and Gearing Selection

By Don Vescio, USA Cycling Coach with Vmps

A good amount has been written on cycling and cadence, with many coaches and athletes assuming that higher pedal cadences (+90 RPM) are better than lower cadences.  Lance Armstrong's Tour successes often have been seen as predicated on his higher than average cadence selection, and a review of the hour record on the track indicates that almost all record holders pedaled in cadences in excess of 100 RPM.  Most professional cyclists will race at cadences between 90 and 105 RPM, and cadences in excess of 150 RPM are not uncommon in some events on the track.  Based on all of this observational data, it's easy to assume that one should ride in cadences greater than 90 RPM if one wants to be competitively successful.

But before we look at cadence specifically, it might be useful to describe how we generate power on a bike, which is directly tied to the cadences and gearing that we select.  Basic terminologies as applied to cycling:

1.  Strength: the amount of downward force or energy that  is applied to the pedals

2.  Torque: the ability to rotate the pedal/crank (strength is the limiter of torque)

3.  Power: the application of strength over time

4.  Speed: the register of power over distance

Power is delivered to the bike as follows:

 1.  Pushing forward through the top-center of the pedal stroke

 2.  Pressing down on the pedal on the down stroke

 3.  Pulling back through the bottom-center of the pedal stroke

 4.  Unweighting the pedal on the upstroke


Most elite cyclists focus almost all of their strength on pressing hard on the pedal during the down stroke, while trying to minimize the weight of the foot and leg on the upstroke.  In other words, elite cyclists don't apply force smoothly throughout their pedal stroke--they do not pedal circles, but rather they stomp down hard for a limited portion of their pedal stroke, while trying to reduce loss on the remaining portion of their cycle.  To go fast, they "stomp" down on their pedals.


Above is a representation of how force is distributed in a pedal stroke.  Note that the larger the arrow, the greater the force.  According to Broker, cycling power is the product of instantaneous crank torque and instantaneous crank angular velocity; what this means is that for a given average power at a given average RPM, instantaneous power (the power of a given moment) will fluctuate significantly through each pedal revolution.

Okay--now that we have some basic concepts out of the way, let's take a look at a simple way of describing power as applied to cycling:

 power = force x angular velocity

 A more expanded form of this description might look like this:

 power =  ability to push really hard on the pedals x the ability to spin the pedals rapidly in a circle

Here's an easy way to think about all of this--in order to ride, say, 25 mph, a rider may need to generate an average power of 250 watts (power on a bike is measured in watts).  To achieve this average power that will enable the realization of this target average speed, I have two basic options:

1.  I can push down really hard on the pedals when I'm in a big gear (this emphasizes the force side of the power equation, which is tied to physical strength)

2.  I can spin my pedals really fast when I'm in a bigger gear (this emphasizes fitness)

Cycling cadence has a specific metabolic cost.  Athletes who are very fit and who have a high VO2 value have greater metabolic capacity than those who are less trained or who are less genetically gifted.  In practical terms, higher cadences generally result in higher heart and respiratory rates, which carry a high metabolic cost.  The fitter one is, and the higher one's VO2, the greater metabolic cost that can be carried.  Lance Armstrong's success was in part tied to his high sustained cadences, which were possible due to his tremendous aerobic capacity (think: he had a large metabolic bank account).

A low cadence carries an increased cost of muscular fatigue.  Pushing down really hard on the pedals while in a big gear requires a considerable amount of strength in one's quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus; the cost, here, is muscular fatigue, which is the failure of muscular strength.   All riders are predisposed to cadences that average above or below the ideal 90 RPM marker--and this is perfectly okay.  In fact, the most recent thought is that a cyclist should simply self-select his or her cadence and not worry about cadence as an absolute value in itself--just let your body decide what is the most effective cadence for a given effort.

This is not to say that riders should ignore their cadence--far from it.  Rather, one should be attentive to cadence in relationship to its impact on one's perceived exertion.  Sounds complicated?  It really isn't.  We know that

1. That pushing down hard in a big gear results in a slow cadence that taxes the strength of our legs;

2.  That spinning a small gear results in a fast cadence that taxes our heart and respiration rates.

So, if you're in a race and you find that your heart rate is drifting up and your breathing is becoming quick, you can slow down a bit to recover (which never is good for one's performance!), OR you can shift to a bigger gear and decrease your cadence, which will shift greater emphasis to the force/strength side of the power equation, enabling your heart and respiratory rates to decrease.  Similarly, if you're in a race and your legs are getting tired and heavy, shift to a smaller gear and increase your cadence, which shifts emphasis to the part of the power equation that privileges fitness over muscular strength.

Successful cyclists will adjust their cadences and gearing not only to meet the challenge of changing terrain, but also as a way to balance out the various stresses placed on their muscular strength and overall fitness during the course of an event.     


Win a Quintana Roo Triathlon Bike


Two lucky participants in the 2012 FIRM Race Series will win a new Quintana Roo triathlon bike. That’s right, two winners! Quintana Roo, the official bicycle sponsor for the 2012 FIRM Race series, has donated a new QR Seduza triathlon bike (MSRP $2,299) for one lucky gentleman to win, and a new QR Dulce triathlon bike (MSRP $2,299) for one lucky woman to win. 

Earn entries each time you complete a F.I.R.M. event, and earn extra entries by placing in your category. (Extra entries are added in at the end of the season...ah the beauty of technology). Drawing will be held at F.I.R.M.'s Halloween Duathlon on October 28. So race often and you just may find yourself racing on a new QR triathlon bike!

Race Highlight: TDD Triathlon (Sept 15 in Douglas, Ma)

If you are looking for a fun, yet meaningful triathlon--the TDD Triathlon is your race. This sprint triathlon celebrates the brief lives of Tyrus, Dante, and Daniel Vescio, triplet sons of local athletes, Don and Elaine Vescio, and is a fundraiser for the University of Massachusetts Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Worcester, Ma. Proceeds from this year's event will be used to purchase specialized video cameras for the NICU's 'Look at Me' project which enables parents, siblings, and grandparents to see their baby when they cannot be at the hospital around the clock. 

The race venue in Douglas State Forest is absolutely gorgeous. The 1/4 mile swim takes place in a placid lake; the 11 mile bike route follows the country roads of rustic Douglas, Ma; and the 3.2 mile run is out and back, primarily in the park. Bring the whole family. Children's entertainer, Mr. Kim, will perform during the race. 

If you would like to volunteer at the race, please contact Elaine or 508-612-3000

CLICK HERE for more information or to register

Compression Sleeves: Functional or Fad? 

By Elaine Vescio, USA Triathlon Certified Coach with Vmps

The use of compression sleeves is growing. Once primarily worn by elite athletes, the practice of using compression sleeves has trickled down to the masses. Does this mean that compression wear actually provides the benefits touted in marketing materials or have athletes stumbled upon yet another fad promising performance benefits and enhanced recovery. After sifting through the research it looks like it may be a bit of both. 

First let's take a look at how compression sleeves work. Compression sleeves are designed to be tightest at the ankles, gradually becoming less constrictive towards the knees. By compressing the veins, arteries, and muscles, the blood is forced through narrower channels. The increase in arterial pressure results in more blood returning to the heart and less blood pooling in the lower extremities. This is why compression socks were first introduced for clinical use to help people with circulatory problems and to prevent blood clots in bedridden people. Eventually their use was recommended for people on long airline flights to decrease the risk of blood clots. 

Now that we understand how compression sleeves work, let's examine how compression sleeves are proposed to benefit athletes. It is widely suggested that compression sleeves are good for athletes because they improve blood flow and decrease muscle vibration. The blood flow hypothesis suggests that the increased blood flow results in the flushing out of more fatigue causing by-products. The muscle vibration hypothesis suggests that less vibration of the muscles and tendons during running decreases delayed muscle soreness. This, in turn, hastens recovery. 

Research supports that compression sleeves improve blood flow at rest, however, the jury is still out on whether the blood flow increase is enough to improve performance or recovery. Some research studies have shown decreased muscle soreness after races when compression sleeves were worn, and faster lactate recovery after exercise when wearing compression sleeves. Other research has shown no significant differences in key performance indicators (maximal oxygen consumption, heart rate or minute ventilation) when compression sleeves were used during exercise. 

At this time, more research is needed to conclusively determine if compression sleeves improve athletic performance, however, there is sufficient preliminary evidence to suggest compression sleeves enhance recovery. So, triathletes looking to recover faster between workouts may want to try using compression sleeves after exercise. As for during exercise, compression lands in the 'can't hurt, might help' category for now. 

Vmps: Everything You Need to Love Triathlon Even More

- USA Triathlon and USA Cycling Certified Coaching
- Open Water Swim Clinics and Training Race Series
- Time Trial Training Race Series
- Six Week Power Swimming Classes
- Bike Fittings and Performance Testing
- Triathlon Boot Camp for Women
- Vmps Triathlon Team
- Retail Center with triathlon bikes, wetsuits, wetsuit rentals, tri gear, sports nutrition products, and more...

Triathlon Center is located at 45 River Street, Millbury, Ma 01527. 

Summer Hours: Tuesdays 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM; Thursdays 10 AM to 2:00 PM; and Saturdays  2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, or by appointment. 

For more information or to register for a Vmps clinic or training race:

Visit  or call 508.612.3000 or email

Upcoming Races in August

August 12, 2012--Wild Dog Triathlon (Bristol, RI)--CLICK HERE
August 19, 2012--SheROX (Devens, MA)
August 25, 2012--DKH, Give it a TRI (Moosup, CT)

CLICK HERE for our complete event schedule

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