FIRM Racing News: February 2012

A Message from Wendy and Bill: Race for Free!

We love when you do our races, and we wanted to show it. So, as a way of thanking you for choosing F.I.R.M. events, we are giving away triathlon entries. That's right. You can race for free in 2012. Here's how: 

1. Get five of your buddies to compete in a F.I.R.M. event, and you get a free entry for that race. 


2. Do five F.I.R.M. races this year, and get a free entry in a F.I.R.M. sprint triathlon for 2012. 

And we have plenty of races from which you can choose including three new sprint triathlons: 

  • Tri Geeks in Chicopee, Ma on June 3

  • Tri Chargoggagoggman.... in Webster, Ma on June 24

  • Y Not Tri South County in Narragansett, RI on September 16

For a complete listing of events, click here

For more information on earning a free race, contact

Qualifying for Age Group Nationals: It's Not Too Late

By Elaine Vescio, USA Triathlon Certified Coach with Vmps

For the second year in a row, New England hosts age group nationals with the 2012 USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championship scheduled to take place on August 18, 2012 in Burlington, VT. This is a wonderful opportunity for local athletes to compete at nationals without having to deal with the cost and hassle of traveling long distances. 

Athletes may qualify for nationals between July 20, 2011 and August 10, 2012. You should have been notified by USA Triathlon if you have already qualified for nationals. If not, you can still qualify for this event at a USA Triathlon sanctioned triathlon of any distance. Here's how: 

  • Place in the top 33% or top 5 finishers (whichever is greater) in your age group at a special qualifying or regional championship race. CLICK HERE for a list of regional championships  

  • Place in the top 10% or the top finisher (whichever is greater) in your age group at a USA Triathlon sanctioned event. 

In general, the best strategy for securing a spot at nationals is to plan to race frequently in early season races. You never know who may (or may not) show up on any given weekend; so let the odds be in your favor. Not a great swimmer? Then I have three words of advice for you..."pool swim triathlon". It may be a little chilly hopping onto your bike in one of these early season races, but the relatively short swim segment can up your odds of grabbing a qualifying slot at nationals. 

Once you have qualified, register right away to avoid being shut out of the race. So add some early season triathlons to your race calendar and soak up the energy at nationals in August. 

pFAST! Power Swimming

Led by pFAST! Swimming Founder and Vmps Swim Coach, Patty Flanagan, these coached swim workouts are designed to help you become a stronger, more efficient swimmer. One class emphasizes improving swim form; the other emphasizes improving swim endurance and speed. Choose the class you need most or take both to really fly. Next six week session starts week of February 13, 2012. 

Eccentric Chainrings

By Don Vescio, USA Cycling Coach with Vmps


This past season, I've been doing a good amount of testing with Osymetric's ( non-round (read "eccentric") chainrings.  The theory behind most non-round chainring design is that the effective size of the ring decreases in the minimal power phase of the pedal stroke (the "dead spot"), making it easier to pedal, while it increases during the maximal phase, when pedaling is at its most effective.


There is a good amount of debate regarding the efficacy of eccentric change rings.  For some varying perspectives, see:

My initial observations and thoughts regarding eccentric chainrings--in this case, Osymetrics--are as follows:

1. I mounted the 56t Osymetric with a 44t round inner ring; normally, I just run a single ring, but I wanted to see how well the Osymetric shifted.  It was a little fiddly getting the front derailleur set, but nothing all that challenging. Shifting was fine, only marginally slower/rougher than with standard round rings. I did  space my front derailleur back behind its mount (DuraAce); those with fixed front hangers may have difficulty raising the derailleur high enough for clearance when using Osymetrics bigger than 53 or so.

2. The ring is plenty stiff--no flex or other issues while shifting or while under power.

3. The ring's eccentricity fades into the background relatively quickly; it is very disconcerting to see the chain oscillating front and back when one glances down. 

4. The ring's eccentricity is most noticeable at higher cadences, say 90-95 rpm, plus; the eccentricity is much less noticeable at lower cadences, <80. As my optimal TT cadence is in the low eighties, I didn't really notice much of an impact, positive or negative, associated with the Osymetric. At higher cadences, there definitely was a sensation of variable effort during the pedaling cycle, much as what I recalled from my experiments with Rotor's crankset several years ago. Obviously, all of this is subjective.

5. I experienced no notable muscle soreness or fatigue, other than what I'd normally feel after a long TT event. I suspect that any adaptation process will not negatively impact on performance. 

6. Now, there are a couple schools of thought regarding how eccentric chainrings work. One is that they benefit riders with slower cadences, as one is in the low power phase longer than riders with higher cadences; the ring's smaller axis during this phase helps one move more quickly through it. Another is that eccentric rings benefit riders with high cadences/low torque, making it easier for them to get through the low power phase.

7. It is possible that properly designed eccentric rings might be of most value for riders who don't efficiently unweight their pedal during the upstroke. There's been a number of studies that indicate that the fastest, strongest riders don't actually "pedal in circles"; rather, they are really, really good at stomping really, really hard on the pedals, while retaining the ability to minimize negative force on the upstroke. Eccentric rings might help compensate for negative force when pedaling with inefficiently.

8. Will I continue to use them? While I don't have any definitive conclusions. I am comfortable in saying, though, that the Osymetric does not hurt my performance; I also can say that I did experience a lower perceived effort with non-round rings on long climbs, while PE (along with watts) remained largely unchanged on fast flats.

The other major manufacturer of eccentric chainrings is Rotor ( .  Rotor's chainrings have less eccentricity than Osymetrics; also, unlike Osymetrics, Rotor's Q-Rings do allow some fine tuning of their position. 

Experiments with eccentric chainrings have been recorded as far back as the early 1900s.  Pedaling a bike is not a simple activity, as is comprised of a combination of multiple levers, vertical movement, and circular motion.  Today's eccentric chainrings take advantage of complex mathematical modeling to develop products far more sophisticated than the simple oval chainrings in the past.  Eccentric chainrings are not a magic bullet, but this said, they are worth investigating if one is interested in exploring variables that can impact positively on-the-bike performance.

How Eccentric Chainrings Work
(Click on image for enlarged view)


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 $2,099) 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. 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!

Power Testing for Cycling

For athletes who are looking for a more quantitative method of tracking their training progress in cycling over time, Vmps offers a simple Computrainer testing session that will provide you with data that can be used for comparative purposes as your season progresses. For those of you who train with power, Vmps can help you use this data to set your critical power zones.

Next scheduled test is Saturday, Feb 25, 2012 at 3:00 PM. Email  for a reservation. 

Race Highlight: Tri Geeks (Chicopee, MA)

This sprint triathlon is as much fun as its name. Begin with a 0.5 mile swim in a gorgeous 25 acre pond. Then ride a 16 mile single loop route over rolling terrain. Finish up with a run along the paved trail through Chicopee State Park, and finish under the giant F.I.R.M. arch as a bona fide tri geek.  

Dry-land Swim Training

By Patty Flanagan, pFAST Swimming Founder, and a Swim Coach with Vmps

A “Necessary Evil”…. Just Survive and Get on the Bike…. Save your Energy for the Bike and Run… Sound familiar?  What about, “Who has time?  If I swim-train just a little bit, I can get through the swim…” “Why bother, it won’t make that much of a difference…”  These comments are many and generally perpetuate the following (and other) myths.

  1. The swim is just a small piece of the triathlon, so it isn't necessary to excel at it.
  2. An athlete who pushes too hard in the swim will not have the strength, power, and energy left to perform in the bike and run.
  3. It takes too much time to train the swim, with little benefit.

If you really want to improve your triathlon performance, it is time to flush the myths down the drain!  Swim training, in addition to improving the swim portion of your race, if done consistently and well, will actually improve your fitness, strength and endurance in all three events, and bring you to higher levels of all-around success.

Dry-land is one piece of swim training, and can provide various benefits to your swim performance.  These include increased time to train, along with the development of muscle memory, strength and endurance.  Of interest to those who are challenged by the ability to get to a pool on a regular basis, and the time it takes to drive, change, shower, swim, shower, change, drive …  a dry-land routine can give you the ability to build your swim strength and endurance just about anywhere.  While not a substitute for getting into the pool or lake, when combined with an in-water schedule, a good dry-land workout will enhance your swim fitness.

In addition, a dry-land workout can be invaluable in training swimmers to identify the muscle actions needed to swim efficiently, reinforce and develop the muscle memory to repeat this action for minutes to hours, and build the strength and endurance to move powerfully and rapidly through the water.

How Do You Do It?  

There are a number of training aids that can help, such as the Vasa, Halo and Triton Trainers.  Weight machines including adjustable height cables and others can build strength in the swimming muscles, medicine balls can help to develop explosive power, and various types of tubing, bands and straps can be arranged to work any muscle group needed.  Most important, however, is not what you use, but what you do and how you do it.  Working with a personal swim trainer to learn the moves and build your program is the best way to learn exercises and get the most out of your dry-land swim training.

A dry-land swim clinic is a great way to get started, as a combination of exercises, using various pieces of equipment and your own body weight, will give you the greatest benefit by helping you to build swim strength, power and endurance, core strength and other conditioning to help you to remain strong and injury-free.

Three Dry Land Exercises You Can Do Just About Anywhere  

RESISTANCE TUBING:  For these exercises you need a length of surgical tubing.  This comes in various, color-coded strengths, and it is good to have a couple of colors handy.  You can either get plain tubing, and tie loops on both ends, or buy tubing with handles on each end.  These are available, reasonably priced, at most online swim shops.  I have also seen tubing at local department stores.  The best set-up for swim training is tubing with either hand paddles attached or a flat handle/strap arrangement that allows you to keep your hands flat when pulling. 

THE SET-UP:  Your tubing should be about 6-feet long, with handles at both ends.  Anchor the middle of the tubing over the top of a door or to some other point above your head.  Make sure it is securely anchored, either by hanging it on a coat hook then closing the door so that the tubing is closed in the top of the door, or making a loop and sliding the tubing through the loop as you wrap it around a bar (a chin-up bar is great for this).  Note that a firm, secure anchor is essential to your safety, as you will be putting a lot of tension on the tubing and you don’t want it to release and cause injury.

  1. Swim Strength:  Pulling with both hands simultaneously, pull through the full range of a freestyle swim stroke.  Use medium to strong resistance, and focus on engaging the lats and triceps to build strength.  Each pull should take 2-3 seconds, hold, then return to the starting point.  Maintain perfect form and control throughout the exercise.  Complete 3-4 sets of 15-20 repetitions.  Note that the shape of the pulling action roughly simulates a mushroom.  You want to reach a point of muscle fatigue by the end of this exercise.  Do this exercise 2-3 times per week.
  2. Swim Endurance:  Using weaker tubing, perform a freestyle swim stroke at your usual swim pace.  Maintaining correct form and focus on muscle action, do this for a length of time that you choose.  You can simulate any length of swim or go through an interval workout just like you would in the pool.  Try to breathe as you would in the pool, rotating your head to inhale, preferably alternating sides to keep the exercise balanced.
  3. Stroke Rate:  Use a metronome to help you to increase your stroke rate, while maintaining the same power in your stroke.  First, figure out how many strokes per minute you ordinarily do.  This is your Stroke Rate.  That will translate into seconds per stroke.  Set your metronome for a slightly faster pace and try to stick with it.  Do this in short intervals at first, then increase both the time and pace as you build endurance at the faster pace.

All of these exercises can give you great benefit, even in the comfort of your own home.  You may enhance their effectiveness by doing them on a specialized swim training bench, supervised by a coach or trainer.  They will also be even more beneficial when combined with core training, plyometrics and flexibility work.  

pFAST Dry-land Swim Clinic

Learn how to incorporate dry-land swim exercises into your training plan to take your swimming to the next level. Dry-land training helps with the development of proper muscle memory, strength, and endurance for freestyle swimming. And it can be done conveniently in the comfort of your own pool or lake required. 

Led by pFAST Swimming Founder, and Vmps Swim Coach, Patty Flanagan, this clinic takes place on Sunday, March 4, 2012 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM at the YWCA in Worcester, Ma. Fee is $25. Class size limited to 15 participants. 

CLICK HERE to register

Congratulations to long time F.I.R.M. racer, Janit Romayko of East Hartford, CT. She won the USA Triathlon Spirit of Multisport Award. This award recognizes those individuals who illustrate the principles of the positive spirit of the sport as displayed through acts of sportsmanship and leadership in multisport, with no deference to athletic ability. Janit Romayko is an experienced, enthusiastic, compassionate female triathlete who has been active in the sport since the 1980s.

Welcome TYR

TYR is the official wetsuit sponsor for the 2012 F.I.R.M. Race Series. Because of this sponsorship, you may even win a TYR Hurricane Category 1 sleeveless wetsuit at a F.I.R.M. event in 2012. 

Registration is Open

Registration for your favorite FIRM races is open. Remember to sign up early for the Sudbury Sprint Triathlon and the Littleton Appleman Triathlon as those races sell out quickly. 

Sponsors for the 2012 F.I.R.M. Race Series