FIRM Racing News: February 2011

A Message from Wendy and Bill: Hitting 500

When the triathletes hit the water at the Sheriff’s Sprint Pool Triathlon on May 1, 2011, FIRM will hit 500—the 500th multisport event produced by FIRM.

As we enter our 26th year of producing triathlons, we are proud to be the most experienced race production company in the world. That’s right; we have produced more triathlons than any other company in the world. (BTW—Wendy insists she was just a mere child when she started her career as a race director 26 years ago).

In 2011 we will continue to use our experience and our love of the sport to provide our athletes with top notch races at a variety of distances at the best venues in the Northeast. So check out our race calendar for 2011 and join us as we near the 500 mark.

Click here for a complete listing of FIRM events.

Coach’s Corner: How to Quantify Training

By Don Vescio, USCF Certified Cycling Coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services, LLC.

Athletes interested in improving their performances always look for ways to quantify the quality and volume of their training sessions. The ability to quantify training not only is a prerequisite for developing a structured training program, it also provides valuable data for the predictive forecasting of future performance. While quantifying training might seem easy to do on first consideration, it actually is a remarkably complex function that requires a strong understanding of the various factors that impact performance.

Cyclists, for instance, used to track mileage as a way to quantify training. While it is very easy to gather mileage data—in its most simplest form, all that is needed is a reasonably accurate map—tracking mileage alone does not give a true profile of the stresses associated with a training session, let alone the stresses that accumulate over the course of weeks and months. Mileage alone does not factor in such variables as terrain (was the loop hilly or flat), temperature, or wind; riding ten flat miles on a warm spring day is very different than riding ten hilly miles in the middle of a January freeze. And while one could draw a very rough equation between total miles ridden and overall physiological impact, such correlations will be extremely rough and non-predictive of future performance.

The next step for cyclists, then, was to track both mileage and time per session. By adding in the variable of time, a rough approximation of intensity could be determined. As heart rate monitors became common, a third variable was added to the calculus, and today power data promises to provide a fuller, more detailed overview of athletic performance.

The key concept to take away from the example of cyclists is that a variety of data need to be used in order to develop, assess, and predict individual athletic performance.

TRIMPS is an abbreviation of TRaining IMPulse, which was an early method of quantifying training volume and its overall physiological impact. The concept of TRIMP was developed by Eric Bannister in the mid-1970s and represents the product of training volume and training intensity. In its most elementary form, TRIMP scores could be based on the product of average heart rate and time spent training:

Avg HR * Minutes Training

Example: 120 average HR for a training session of 60 minutes would yield a TRIMP score of 7,200

The problem with this simple form of calculation is that it is possible to register a 120 average heart rate for 60 minutes in a number of ways, such as performing at a HR of 120 for the entire session (a steady effort), or by doing a series of high HR efforts of 190, followed by recovery at lower HRs (an interval session, for instance). While the TRIMP scores for both the steady effort session and the interval session are the same in this implementation, we know from experience that an interval session is more physiologically stressful than a steady ride at a conversational pace.

To better quantify training stress, it is possible to factor in time spent in specific heart rate zones, which provides a much more granular record of a workout session. In this slightly more advanced model, a TRIMP score could be calculated as the sum of a series of time in specific HR zones:


Workout A
5min Zone One * 112 avg HR = 160 (beginning of ride)
25min Zone Two * 128 avg HR = 3,200 (warm-up and warm-down)
15min Zone Three * 136 avg HR = 2,040 (partial recovery from intervals)
15min Zone Four * 159 avg HR = 2,385 (intervals)

Total Training Stress = 7,785

Workout B:
60min Zone Two * 124 avg HR = 7,440
Total Training Stress = 7,440

The advantage of this more detailed calculation is that it factors in different levels of intensity that might comprise a workout, but it still is problematic in that heart rate is not necessarily an accurate predictor of work actually performed. Heart rate can drift upward during the course of a session due to environmental factors (temperature, etc.), or heart rate can be depressed by fatigue, over-training, or cold temperatures. With the advent of cycling power meters, watts were added to training stress calculations, which provide an even more accurate accommodation of actual work performed. Power meters work great for quantifying training stresses for cyclists, but their data does not accommodate training stresses associated with swimming, running, and other athletic activities.

Enter Perceived Exertion
While most of today’s emphasis is on power values when monitoring performance, there is a significant body of research that suggests that perceived exertion still is a valuable and potentially accurate tool that an athlete can use to govern pacing during endurance events. There are a number of perceived exertion scales available. Gunnar Borg’s original scale ran from values of 6 (20% effort) to 20 (exhaustion); more intuitive are scales based on a simple ten point spread:
0 - Nothing at all
1 - Very light
2 - Fairly light
3 - Moderate
4 - Somewhat hard
5 - Hard
7 - Very hard
10 - Very, very hard

By carefully monitoring performance values such as heart rate and power, an athlete can quickly normalize their sense of perceived effort with actual field metrics. Incorporating perceived exertion can involve little more than adding an overlay to TRIMP scores like those calculated above:

TRIMP * PE = Total Training Score

Example of a Hard Interval Session: TRIMP of 7,785 * PE of 8 = 62,280/100 = 623
(Note: I divided the final Total Training Score by 100 and then rounded up to the next whole digit to establish a more manageable value)

Acute and Chronic Training Stress
While factoring in perceived exertion into TRIMP calculations (whether the TRIMP calculations are based on HR values or wattage values) does a pretty good job in getting an accurate sense of the intensity of a specific training session, it only provides insight into a specific point in time. Athletes tend to forget that the effect of training is cumulative, which can lead to exhaustion and over-training.

There are two different types of training stresses that we need to consider: acute and chronic. Think of acute training stress as the short-term impact of a training session. For instance, we know from practical experience that we will be tired the day after an interval session, so we try to build in easier workouts between intense workouts to facilitate recovery. Similarly, chronic training stress should be regarded as the cumulative effect that training has on use over an extended period of time. For instance, most good training programs will be based on a pattern of relatively intense of training cycles that might extend over a period of a month or two, followed by one to two weeks of light activity, again to facilitate recovery. 

Putting It All Together
Successful coaches and athletes consider the following variables when developing and updating weekly, monthly, and annual training plans:

· The duration of training sessions

· The physiological stresses of training sessions

· The short-term (seven day rolling average) acute physiological stresses of a training program

· The long-term (say, forty day rolling average) chronic physiological stresses of a training program

For multisport athletes, it is critical that metrics are used to do like-kind assessment within specific sport sessions, as well as metrics that can assess the overall impact of multiple sport training session. What is important to keep in mind is that whatever method being used to calculate session stress should be considered over short and long-term horizons and that individual session scores have value only when taken in aggregate. The easiest way to see emerging patterns is to graph acute and chronic training stress over time:

The chart above tracks both my acute (blue) and chronic (red) training stress for the months of November and December, 2010. Note the significant variations in intensity as signified by the peaks and valleys described by the blue line; this line is marking a pattern of intense workouts, followed by recovery sessions, on a weekly basis.

What is more informative is the pattern described by the red—the chronic—line in that accumulated training stress has been gradually increasing since the beginning of November. Based on my annual plan, I would anticipate that the red/chronic line will continue to rise for the months of January and February, after which I have scheduled two weeks of easy to moderate training to prepare for my next macrocycle. As I accumulate more data as the season progresses, the peaks and valleys of these initial curves will flatten, making it even easier to track long-term trends.

A good coach will help you collect and interpret data associated with your training sessions. It is not enough to gather lots of information; it is important to both collect data that will be useful, and carefully analyze the data on a regular basis within the context of your short and long-term goals.

Tri This!: Interactive Real Course Videos 

Want to experience some of the most famous triathlon courses in the world? Interactive Real Course Videos allow Computrainer users to train on Ironman, Ironman 70.3, and many other famous courses filmed on race day. Your Computrainer simulates the terrain while you see the scenery, other racers, and spectators along the course. It’s a great way to prepare for a specific race or just liven up your indoor riding.

You can check out a Real Course Video at a weekend group ride at the Vmps Computrainer Studio in Millbury, MA.

Click here for more information on Interactive Real Course Videos

Click here for more information on the Vmps Computrainer Studio

The Importance of a Functional Movement Assessment: Are You Really Moving as Efficiently as You Think You Are? (Part 2)

By members of the staff at Central Mass PT and Wellness--Mike Roberts, MPT, CSCS; Jackie Shakar, DPT; Dawn Roberts, PhD, MSPT; Michael Cumen, MSPT, CSCS

Unfortunately, even the best strengthening program can reinforce inefficient motion and subtle compensatory strategies. This is seen especially if muscle or joint stiffness is present. Without a movement assessment to find and target these inefficient patterns, you aren’t limiting risk for injury, and you may not be maximizing your full potential.


There are only a few objective ways to measure total body movement efficiently. One is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) which was created by Lee Burton, PhD, ATC and Gray Cook, MSPT, OSC, CSCS. The screen has 7 simple tests and takes 3-5 minutes to complete. It scores athletes using an objective 0-3 scoring system for each of the seven tests. The higher the FMS score, the better the movement quality. A score of 21 is ideal. Initial research has shown that athletes scoring <14 put them at higher risk of injury (1). The FMS is used by many professional sports organizations and is appropriate for athletes that are uninjured and not experiencing pain (2). Athletic trainers, coaches, doctors and therapists can all become certified to administer this screen. Results can indicate the areas of greater importance and also areas of vulnerability. Interventions can be implemented and re-screening can be done to determine effectiveness.

Another more thorough assessment is the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). The SFMA tests movement patterns in greater depth than the FMS. Also created by Gray Cook, the SFMA is an efficient objective template that can clearly illuminate movement inefficiencies and their sources. This assessment is a more biomechanically skilled test and is performed mainly by doctors and therapists. It is the author’s belief that this test should be the gold standard of movement evaluations.


All triathletes should have a functional movement assessment prior to initiating their training program. If needed, corrective exercises can then become a part of training in an effort to prevent injury and maximize performance.

Seasoned athletes experiencing chronic injuries should consider having a functional movement assessment at any time during training to determine if chronic movement dysfunction is contributing to their injury. Adding specific corrective exercises based on individual movement assessment results can both lessen injury risk and improve performance potential.

Athletes who get injured should seek clinicians who do the SFMA. We find, that far too often, injured athletes treat only the pain associated with injuries and not the dysfunction that lead to those injuries. It is inaccurate to describe rehabilitating this way. Frustration and the injury return again and again as the root cause of the injury (movement dysfunction) has not been addressed. Do not fall into this pattern! In the human body one joint never moves without another being involved. Therefore, a ‘whole body approach’ should be taken. In many cases, the contributing factors to the injury are not at the area of pain. Without a thorough total body movement assessment you may just be ‘chasing pain’. 


Let’s look at an example of an athlete with movement dysfunction we’ve seen at our clinic. This 42 year-old female was seen for an acute ankle sprain. As part of her evaluation, she was taken through a total body movement assessment. This revealed that she had significantly less total body rotation to her left compared to her right (see fig 1 & 2). This finding (among others) prompted us to question which side she breathes during swimming, and whether or not she gets shoulder pain with swimming. She explained that she is more comfortable breathing right and has recently been working with her swim coach to improve both her left sided breathing and her habitual right arm crossing midline while breathing left. She also complained of aches in her right shoulder after many swim workouts last year.

More in-depth testing revealed that this athlete lacked mid back rotation range of motion to the left and had both right chest muscle and shoulder joint tightness. These results are quite common in someone who sits for a living and we explained that until she attains the ‘tools’ to swim with good form (in this case the flexibility/mobility) she is unlikely to improve. Pool drills will not improve her mobility in these areas and will only result in further compensation.

In order for this athlete to correct her swim stroke flaw, she must first attain the range of motion she lacks (Figure 3). Once her mobility improves she should then be re-educated to move normally within this new motion (Figure 4 & 5). When both motion and patterning are better outside the pool (depending on the depth of dysfunction this timeframe can vary from days to weeks), appropriate swim drills should be initiated to make use of the newly corrected range of motion.

We see situations like this every day at our office. The example highlights the importance a movement assessment can have on both staying healthy and performing well.


Don’t let all your hard work, training, or season be ruined by an injury! Be proactive by including injury prevention in your training program. A movement assessment can pinpoint and isolate your individual dysfunction and a trained professional can provide you with corrective exercises to get rid of your dysfunctional movement patterns. Often, simple corrective interventions are all that are required to keep you moving well, prevent injury and allow you to perform at your highest level.

To learn more about the FMS or the SFMA go online to 

Contributing Authors:                          

Michael Roberts, MPT, CSCS- Mike is a full time physical therapist (10+ yrs experience) and strength coach at Central Mass PT located in Worcester Mass.   He is a 2 time All-American Triathlete and holds an Ironman PR of sub 9:30. 

Jackie Shakar, DPT- Jackie is a full time professor and part time physical therapist (25 yrs experience) at Central Mass PT.  She is a top age group runner and National Director of Education for Graston Technique.

Dawn Roberts, PhD, MSPT- Dawn is a full time professor in the Physical Therapy Department at Springfield College and a part time physical therapist (15 yrs of experience) at Central Mass PT.  She is a top age group runner and cyclist.

Michael Curnen, MSPT, CSCS- Mike is a full time physical therapist (11+yrs experience) and strength coach at Central Mass PT located in Worcester Mass.  He is an avid cyclist. 

1078 West Boylston Street, Suite 201
Worcester MA, 01606/ (508)-852-3700


(1) Can Serious Injury In Professional Football Be Predicted By A Preseason Functional Movement Screen? Kyle Kiesel, PT, PhD, ATC, CSCSa, Phillip J. Plisky, PT, DSc, OCS, ATCa, Michael L. Voight, PT, DHSc, OCS, SCS, ATCb.  NAJSPT, Aug. 2007, Vol 2, No.3.

(2) Movement: Functional Movement Systems— Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies, 2010, Gray Cook, MSPT, OCS, CSCS with Dr. Lee Burton, Dr. Kyle Kiesel, Dr. Greg Rose & Milo F. Bryant; On Target Publications.

Grand Opening Celebration: Vmps Triathlon Center

Join us for the grand opening celebration of the Vmps Triathlon Center in Millbury, MA on Saturday, March 5, 2011 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The triathlon center is conveniently located from the Mass Pike, just off Route 146.

The celebration will include triathlon seminars, team and individual competitions, and door prizes from companies such as FIRM, Quintana Roo, TYR, FuelBelt, and Mix1.


Gather a few of your training buddies to compete in the Computrainer team time trial where teams of four cyclists compete for cash prizes (and beer)--$500 for first place, $250 for second place, and $100 for third place. Never been on a Computrainer? Don't worry. It's as simple as riding your bike.


Team slots begin on the hour starting at 10:00 AM with two teams for each time slot. After a nice warmup, the teams begin the eight mile time trial course over rolling terrain. Computrainer's drafting feature will be turned on so members of each team can use tactics to try to improve their time on the course. Registration for the teams opens Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Register early to get a preferred time slot.


After you hammer the "roads" in the team time trial, test your swim fitness in the 100 meter swim time trial competition on a Vasa Swim Ergometer with cash and beer as the prizes--$100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $25 for third place. 


This grand opening is a great way to get revved for the triathlon season. More details coming soon on 



Race Highlight: Webster Lake Triathlon, Webster, MA

Join us at the magnificent, five mile long, spring fed Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaugg for the Webster Lake Triathlon on June 19, 2011.

This popular sprint triathlon consists of a 0.5 mile swim, a single loop 12 mile bike course around the lake, and an out and back 3 mile run. The bike course includes one very big hill and many miles of scenic, quiet back roads. 

BTW-- Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaugg means “You fish on your side of the lake; I’ll fish on mine; nobody fishes in the middle”.

Check out all the details about this fine event and add it to your race calendar for 2011. 

Click here for more information

A Dream Cycling Studio

Don Vescio has designed his dream cycling studio and now is leading Computrainer classes at this state of the art cycling studio in Millbury, MA. Located in a huge renovated old mill, this studio includes an eight person multi-rider Computrainer system, two 50” plasma displays, three industrial fans, and a vast library of Interactive Real Course Videos.

Never one to just wing it when it comes to his training, Don has planned the classes for optimal cycling training. This time of year, weekday rides are structured and primarily focus on developing cycling specific strength. The weekend rides simulate group rides and focus on building aerobic endurance and developing efficient cadence. Interactive Real Course Videos enhance the weekend group rides. Participants choose the course from Vmps’ library of Interactive Real Course Videos and the group rides that course. Last weekend, the group rode the courses for Ironman UK and Ironman Australia. One of these weekends, we are tempted to turn up the heat in the building, blast the fans in one direction, and experience the Kona course.  

Participants may register online for single classes or choose an eight week program. (First time riders at Vmps’ studio get one class for $15). In addition, teams and riding buddies may rent the studio for group rides.

Click here for more information or to register.

IronDreams: You Know You’re an Ironman When….

By Marc Saucier, USA Triathlon Certified Coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services, LLC 

  • You shave way too many body parts for a guy.
  • You call a 5 mile run an easy day.
  • After you meet someone and they tell you they race, you go home and check online to see what age group they’re in and what their times are.
  • You plan family vacations around where your next race will be.
  • You use the words "easy" and "long run" in the same sentence. 
  • You not only eat gels, but you know the best flavors for every brand.
  • You know what I mean by “eat gels”.
  • You come back after a 1 hour run and your spouse says 'I didn't expect you back so soon.' 
  • Your RHR is below 50 and you’re not dying.
  • You know what RHR is.
  • You don’t think it’s odd to know what color your pee should be.
  • An easy swim is any distance less than 2000 yards. 
  • You do a Century ride for training, not charity.
  • You ride your bike to the start of a local 10k race.
  • You hear a gunshot and dive under water, not for cover.
  • You know that a “special needs bag” is for.
  • You hear someone else ran a marathon and think, “Oh, that’s cute.”
  • You grab the leash and your dog hides under the kitchen table.
  • Speed work on the track is 4 mile repeats.
  • You have nightmares about the Energy Lab.
  • You have dreams about Ali’i Drive.
  • You know where these places are.
  • The cashier at Costco says to you, “Didn’t you just buy that tub of peanut butter last week?”
  • Your long rides consistently take you across 10 town lines and at least one state line.
  • You put more miles on your bike than your car during peak training.
  • Your training race is just over 70 miles long.
  • You routinely find gels in the laundry.
  • You can eat 8,000 calories in a day and still lose weight.
  • You are over 30 and there is still someone in your life that you refer to as "coach".
  • Your bike cost more than your first car.
  • You have peed outdoors more times in the last year than you did in your first year of college.
  • You think of mowing the lawn as a form of cross-training.
  • You refer to the front hall of your house as the "transition area".
  • When you get home from a training session at the pool, the newspaper is just being delivered to your house.
  • The most frequently used software program on your computer is the one that keeps track of your workouts.
  • You have no idea why they call Cal Ripken Jr. "Iron Man", after all, he was just a baseball player.
  • The first three items on your grocery list are Gatorade, power bars, and gels.
  • You know how far you biked and ran last year, to one-tenth of a mile.
  • A 19-year old kid who works in a bicycle shop knows more about you than your next-door neighbor does.
  • Your children are more likely to recognize you if you put on your bicycle helmet.
  • You have a vanity license plate with the word "Kona" in it.
  • You have an M-Dot tattoo.
  • You know what an M-Dot is.
  • The only t-shirts you own have at least a dozen logos on the back of them.
  • You don't see what’s so funny about the word "Fartlek".
  • When you refer to your "partner", you don’t mean your spouse but the person you run or bike with three times a week.
  • You shave your legs more often than your wife shaves her legs.
  • There is a group of people in your life about whom you are more likely to know how fast they can swim 100 meters than their surnames or occupations.
  • There's a separate load of laundry every week that is just your workout clothes.
  • You failed high school chemistry but you could teach a course on lactic acid.
  • All you want for Christmas is a carbon crank set.
  • You wore a digital watch to your wedding.
  • You keep your bike in the living room.
  • In order to establish a new personal best, you consider peeing without getting off your bike.
  • You cried during the television coverage of the Hawaii Ironman, more than once.
  • You are comfortable discussing the sensitivity of your nipples with other guys.
  • Your spouse is looking forward to the day when you will just run marathons.
  • You see no issue with talking about treatments for chafing or saddle rash at the dinner table.
  • You recently asked your spouse out for dinner by asking if he or she wanted to "fuel up" together.
  • For you, "bonking" no longer has a sexual connotation.
  • Every marathon you've run has started in the afternoon.
  • When you finish a race, it’s after nightfall.
  • When you’re the last finisher and the crowds at the finish line are bigger for you than for the winner.
  • Most of this list doesn't seem like a joke to you.

Marc Saucier, a USA Triathlon Certified Coach at Vescio Multisport Performance Services, 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.   

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 Plus we are lining up really cool ‘consolation’ prizes from our other sponsors in case your training buddy wins your Kestrel.

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.

Stay tuned for additional opportunities to earn entries such as signing up for FIRM events at the FIRM booth at Multisport World Expo, attending the grand opening of the Vmps Triathlon Center, and telling Wendy she looks beautiful when you see her at the races.

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).