FIRM Racing News: February 2010

Message from Wendy and Bill: FIRM’s 25th Anniversary

This year, FIRM celebrates 25 years of producing triathlons as well as our recognition by USA Triathlon as having put on more races than any other organization in the history of the sport. That’s right. Nobody else in the world has put on more triathlons than FIRM!


Not one to rest on our laurels, in 2010 we continue to do what we do best—put on topnotch triathlons for New England athletes. Our 2010 race calendar is packed with events—sprint triathlons, Olympic distance events, duathlons, kids races, and the region’s longest running half iron distance event.


Our 25 years of experience is evident with each event--safe, fun race courses, experienced race directors, enthusiastic volunteers, rockin’ music, post race food and festivities, and awards for the top three in each category. V3 Multisport, the Official Bicycle Mechanic and Support for the FIRM Race Series, will be available at each race venue for minor repairs and will provide support on the bike courses. Quintana Roo is back as the Official Wetsuit Sponsor which means there will be a drawing for a free wetsuit after each race. Their wetsuits are awesome! Vescio Multisport Performance Services (Vmps) is back as the Official Coaching Organization for the FIRM Race Series, providing coaching services, educational programs, and skills clinics for triathletes, cyclists, runners, and swimmers. 


A special thank you to our series sponsors who through their generosity make the race series possible: FuelBelt,, Hammer Nutrition, Principal Financial Group, Marathon Physical Therapy, Scott, Desoto, Zoot, PowerAde, and Speedo.


When you look at our 2010 calendar, you will see that all your old favorite events are back plus we have added five new races to the calendar.

Tri Sprouts, May 8, 2010

Set at Atkinson Pool in Sudbury, MA, this kids’ event lets the children bloom as they experience the joy of participating in their very own triathlon. The focus of this event is fun. All participants will receive a medal, and there will be no timing! Again, the focus is on fun.


Click here for more information

Tri-ng the Y, May 23, 2010

Set in Milford, CT, this pool swim triathlon is a fundraiser for The Make a Wish Foundation.

 Click here for more information. 

Ashland Sprint Triathlon, June 13, 2010

Concurrently run with the Ashland Metro West Triathlon, this sprint triathlon lets athletes experience the beautiful Ashland course in half the time.

 Click here for more information. 

Tri Adrenaline, August 22, 2010 (Tentative)

Set in beautiful, Narragansett, RI, Tri Adrenaline offers great courses and gorgeous scenery.

 Click here for more information. 

Du It for Haiti, October 10, 2010

Set in bucolic Sutton, MA, this duathlon is a fundraiser for Partners in Health, a Boston organization that has been providing quality health care for the people of Haiti since 1987.

 Click here for more information. 

FIRM Grand Prix Series—Completely Updated for 2010

Each year FIRM hosts the Northeast’s largest multisport team competition—the FIRM Grand Prix Series. Now in its sixteenth year, this series of thirteen specially selected races continues to be an exciting way for members of participating multisport teams to compete for cash for their teams and for cool prizes for individuals.

In the spirit of greater competition (triathlons are races, aren’t they?), we are introducing changes to the FIRM Grand Prix Series. At each grand prix race this year, teams earn points for up to five of their members placing in the top five in their category. At the end of the season, the three teams with the most points receive cash awards. This approach places a greater emphasis on having teams compete on triathlon ability versus quantity of members.

This year the individuals compete for the overall grand prix title instead of an age group grand prix title. So at each grand prix race, individuals earn points by placing in the top 20 overall for males and top 20 overall for females. At the end of the season, the top three overall grand prix point holders for men and for women receive a cool prize. Prizes for the individuals and cash awards for the teams are presented at the end of the season celebration held after the Halloween Duathlon in Wrentham, MA on October 31, 2010.

Click here for more information.

Coach’s Corner: What Makes a Helmet Aero

By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services  

What makes an aero helmet aero?  Is it its long tail or some other factor?  Do aero helmets offer a performance advantage over standard road helmets?  According to most experts, after getting aerobars and establishing a solid aerodynamic position, the next biggest gain a rider can make is by purchasing an aero helmet.  Depending upon the study cited, an aero helmet will provide an approximately one minute savings over 40km; of course, the raw time savings will be greater for slower riders.  

From left to right: Spiuk, Catlike helmet fairing, Bell Vortex; LAS Crono

John Cobb, aero guru and bicycle designer, has spend a good amount of time in wind tunnels testing all sorts of factors that impact on cycling aerodynamics.  Joe Friel summarizes Cobb's findings as follows:

Any aero helmet was ‘faster’ than any road helmet when in the aero position. But here’s the one thing that blew me away: Aero helmets are more aero when the tail is sticking up in the air (face looking down) than when the tail of the helmet is against the back. I’ve always believed just the opposite as it seems logical. I even wrote a blog on this last year.

This is a critical point, as most riders assume that the purpose of an aero helmet's long, sweeping tail is to smooth airflow transition over the back. Cobb himself notes in his original article that 

During these early tests we discovered that the original long-tail helmets that were designed for the '84 Olympics really didn't work too well with aero bars. These helmets were designed for use when riding cowhorn bars with very slack seat positions.

In other words, the original design of aero helmets arose prior to the widespread use of aerobars and aggressive steep seat angle bike positions.  Cobb continues on by observing:

During these years I kept noticing that the pointy helmets were always faster when the riders would drop their head down and have the tails sticking up in the air. I believed this was because of the way that using aerobars made the air go over the shoulders, but the helmet companies never put much stock in that theory. They were diverting most of their R&D money to the safety side of things, with which I have no quarrel. And they have developed much lighter, cooler and prettier helmets. But they are also much slower helmets.

Cobb's testing seems to contradict popular wisdom:  If this point of an extended tail on an aero helmet is to manage airflow over the back, then why would sticking the tail of the helmet vertically into the airstream make negligible impact on aerodynamic performance?  Clearly, something was amiss.

In later in his article, Friel offers a compelling hypothesis:  

The reason why they are more aero when the helmet tail is pointing up has nothing to do with the tail of the helmet; it has to do with the air vents on the front. When the tail of the helmet is against the back and the rider is looking ahead the front air vents create a lot of turbulence which increases drag. When looking down so that the tail is raised the air flows around the helmet more smoothly since the vents aren’t exposed to the wind. So if you tape over the air vents the helmet creates much less drag and you go faster.

What Friel is saying--and what is suggested by Cobb--is that the benefits derived from an aero helmet arise not so much from its shape, but rather from the fact that aero helmets offer a smooth and solid aspect to the wind.  The reason why aero helmets were faster with their tails up than when their tails rested flat on their backs is because tilting the tail of the helmet up takes the front vents on the helmet out of play.  Accordingly, a smooth, ventless, and relatively round helmet should test faster than an aero helmet with a long tail and lots of vents.  (NB:  It was later theorized that the long tail of an aero helmet does have a practical aero benefit for riders who place water bottles behind their seats--the tail-up position directs airflow a bit higher over the back, which takes that messy airflow of seat back mounts out of play.)

Note how raising the tail of the helmet removes the front vents from play.

My own field and aero testing confirms the observations above--that helmet vents and aerodynamics don't work well together and that smooth helmets are better than helmet surfaces with many discontinuities:

  • If you are going to use an aero helmet with a long tail, then choose one that transitions well to your back.  
  • I suspect that the whole tail pointing up stuff really has to do with the front helmet vents being removed from the wind stream.
  • Basically, vents, holes, discontinuities in the helmet's surface = less aerodynamics.
  • For my position, I found that a round, smooth helmet has close to the same drag as a long-tailed aero helmet (close enough to be in the range of error). 
  • I also found that covering the front of a standard road helmet with mylar can be fast, too, though road helmets tend to sit a little higher than some TT helmets.
  • Most riders overstate the value of vents in most aero helmets in terms of heat reduction.  If one wants heat reduction, then one needs to think in terms of a road helmet (which won't be as aero).
  • Shrugging the shoulders and extending the chin forward drops the head, making any helmet at least marginally more aero.

When in a good aero position, the results of a full season of testing yielded the following data, arranged from fastest to slowest:

  1. Simple tight fitting lycra swim cap (or fully bald head--but I couldn't test this!)
  2. Plastic aero head fairing (Catlike, etc.)--very low profile, no vents, but no crash protection
  3. Bell Vortex helmet, with visor (can still get these on ebay)
  4. Modern aero helmet (giro, spiuk, etc.)
  5. Standard road helmet, front vents covered by plastic/mylar, etc.

The take aways:

Once you get rid of the vents in a helmet and make it as low profile as possible, they all are pretty good. Some might be a bit better for you position, but I don't think that any aero helmet will be dreadful. Those who extend their neck and drop their head low have a lot more flexibility in helmet choice than those who sit with their heads high above their shoulders when in the aero position.  If your aero helmet has vents, consider taping them over.

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

Post Race Luau at FirmMan Rhode Island

To help celebrate our 25th anniversary, FIRM has added a post race luau at FirmMan Rhode Island. Rumor has it that Bill may be sporting a grass skirt and coconut bikini top for the party. 

FirmMan Rhode Island, a longtime favorite half ironman distance event, is scheduled for September 12, 2010 in Narragansett, RI. The 1.2 mile swim takes place in gorgeous Narragansett Bay, the 56 mile bike route combines flat, fast sections with rolling hills, and the run meanders Rhode Island roads before finishing with a stretch along the beach.

In addition to the luau, we will have a delicious pre race dinner at Liliana's Italian Restaurant with a special guest speaker. 

Click here for more information. 

V3 Multisport: New Name and New Location

V3 Multisport (formerly Quadmultisport) has a new name and a new location. Check out their new digs at 1346 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, MA. It’s directly across the street from their former storefront.

Commonsense Training: Is My Season Over If I Miss a Workout?

By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

Being a successful endurance athlete usually is associated with an obsessive personality--not only do we worry about the quality of our workouts, we also are concerned by their quantity. A solid training program is based on the aggregation of component units into a season-long pattern, with the hope that the normal build-up of fitness coincides with our most important events.  Most coaches will encourage their athletes to think of the big picture when it comes time to plan and execute daily workouts; we know intellectually that missing an occasional workout won't hurt us--in fact, we might benefit from an unscheduled day or two off--but emotionally the thought of deviating from a carefully structured training plan can cause us anxiety.  This anxiety often manifests itself in stacking workouts--increasing the workload in the remaining sessions of a cycle to make up for missed time.

It's illustrative to think of the workloads that training places on our bodies from short and long-term perspectives.  Not only do we need to gradually increase workload demands within a specific training cycle so that we adapt and grow stronger, we also must be mindful that workload stress accumulates over time.  There are two concepts that help us better understand this phenomenon: acute training load; and chronic training load.  If you want the scientific definition of these terms, do a simple Google search; for the purposes of this discussion, think of the acute training load (ATL) as the stresses that training places on the body for a relatively short period of time, such as one week.  Chronic training load (CTL) tracks training stress over a much longer period of time (say, forty days) and across multiple training cycles.  Graphing the relationship between these two variables helps us gain a sense of whether our fitness is improving; it also helps us place into context the potential impact that missing a workout might have on our ability to achieve our season's goals.

Below is a graph that displays approximately four months of training data.  My training is based on a four week cycle: three weeks of build, and one week of recovery.  

The blue line tracks my acute training load, a metric that measures the stresses over a seven day rolling period.  The dips in the blue line represent recovery weeks; note that there is a dip in the middle of the second month's cycle, when I took two days off because I had the flu.  Also note how the intensity of each monthly cycle has gradually increased since I began preseason training in November.

What's more important is the trending of the red line in the graph, which represents my chronic training load.  The first month marked by the graph is very jagged; the chronic training load tracks exercise stress over a rolling forty day period and there wasn't enough data points in month one (November) to describe an accurate trend.  But tracking the red CTL across multiple months describes a line the generally slopes upward, which means (to simplify considerably) that my fitness is gradually increasing, as signified by my ability to work at higher loads for more extended durations.  As I continue to track my data for upcoming training cycles, I would assume that the CTL/red line will continue to trend upward until my first A priority event.

The math underneath the values that inform my training graph is beyond the scope of this specific article; for now, what I am trying to show is that it is important to consider daily workouts from a broad perspective and that missing an occasional workout won't have a negative impact on your overall preparation and performance.  

Upcoming Free Seminars

FIRM is pleased to sponsor free triathlon training seminars to help you prepare for the 2010 triathlon season. Upcoming seminars include:

Time Trial Positioning and Aerodynamics 
It's not enough to train hard, watch your diet, and review your strategy--in order to ride fast, you also need to pay attention to bike position and aerodynamics. This workshop is designed for cyclists and triathletes who want to learn how to go faster through careful equipment selection and bike fit. 

Led by Don Vescio, a cycling coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services who has set numerous time course records in the United States and Canada, this workshop takes place on February 21, 2010 from 2:30 to 4:00 PM at V3 Multisport in Arlington, MA.


Intro to Triathlon Training 
Get the information you need to effectively prepare for your first triathlon. This workshop covers setting realistic goals and specific training objectives, addressing your limiters, choosing your first race, planning an appropriate training schedule, and creating the time to train.

Led by Elaine Vescio, a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services, Head Mentor for SheROX Webster, and a member of the Kestrel Triathlon Team, there are two dates and locations to choose from for this workshop. You can attend this workshop on March 8 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the Boroughs YMCA in Westborough, MA or on March 28, 2010 from 2:30 to 4:00 PM at V3 Multisport in Arlington, MA. (Please note that the Boroughs YMCA will require that non members purchase a $15 day pass to attend the seminar). 


Time Trial Training and Strategy 
Learn how to optimize your time trial and triathlon performance through specific training and racing strategies. This workshop is designed for cyclists and triathletes of all abilities and will explore such topics as heartrate and power-based training; preseason and in-season preparation; and race strategy.

Led by Don Vescio, a cycling coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services who has set numerous time course records in the United States and Canada, this workshop takes place on April 11, 2010 from 2:30 to 4:00 at V3 Multisport in Arlington, MA.

The seminars listed above are free, courtesy of FIRM. Preregistration is requested so that we can better set up the room for attendees.

Click here for more information or to register.

Vmps Group Programs

Triathlon Programs

Vmps group triathlon training programs provide participants with the information, guidance, and motivation to help them reach their triathlon goals. Led by a certified USAT Triathlon Coach, these programs combine seminars, skills clinics, and group workouts to make triathlon preparation fun and effective.

Vmps Tri Ready is an eight week group training program for people who are new to triathlon.

Vmps Tri Faster & Stronger is a ten week group training program for people who have some experience with the sport of triathlon. 

Programs are starting soon in Lowell, MA and Westboro, MA. For more information or if you would like to have a group training program scheduled in your area, please contact Elaine Vescio at


Vmps Swim Prescription Program 

The Vmps Swim Prescription Program combines two workshops of in person swim instruction and underwater videotaping with twelve weeks of online professional swim coaching. The next session starts April 3, 2010, and has the two group workshops at the Atkinson Pool in Sudbury, MA. 

Click here for more information. 

 IronDreams: Creating Your Time to Train

By Marc Saucier, Vescio Multisport Performance Services 

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

You’ve registered for your Ironman and you’ve committed to putting together a plan to get ready for it. But what comes first?  Designing a training plan and then trying to find the time to follow it, or figuring out how much time you have available and then designing a training plan that fits your schedule? 

The problem with the first approach is that you might schedule more training than you have time to do. The problem with the second approach is that you might not find enough time in your existing schedule to train properly. So, you need to approach the problem from both ends--determine the necessary training needed to achieve your Ironman dreams and determine the true amount of time that you have available to train. 

Depending on your goals, training for an Ironman can average from 10 to 20+ hours per week--that’s just the time spent with your heart rate elevated. In addition, there are the prep tasks for working out--getting your gear and supplies together, changing into your workout clothes, mixing your sport drink, driving to the pool or track or gym, and warming up.  And there are the post training tasks—cooling down, stretching, putting your gear away, showering, dressing, refueling, and rehydrating. The prep and post workout activities can add several hours each week to your training schedule which means less time for the other parts of your life such as family, friends, and work.  Somehow you have to balance your Ironman dreams with your real life.

So how do you get the time to train properly for an Ironman and still have time for a life?  There are three areas to look at:

  • Finding “free” time.

  • Making training part of your family life.

  • Using training time wisely. 

Finding Free Time

Now you’re asking “What free time? I’m booked solid with work, the kids, and the house”!  Well, sometimes you need to be creative. The first step is to look at your everyday activities and see where you can combine training with that activity. The most obvious choice is commuting to work or school. Commuting by biking or running saves money, helps the environment and is practically free time. I used to commute twenty-five miles to work. It was almost an hour by car with traffic, but only about seventy-five minutes by bike. That was a gain of seventy-five minutes of training for a fifteen minute “investment”. 

If your round trip commute is too long, try driving to work with your bike in the car and riding your bike home. The next day, bike in and drive home. You need a safe place to leave your car overnight or join a carpool that can accommodate your bike. If you have a short commute, try running to work or school. There are logistical issues involved with commuting by bike or foot, and a shower and locker room at work would help, but don’t discount a good “birdbath” with baby wipes, a washcloth, and a towel. Remember to pack all your work clothes. More than a few times I had to hit the local K-mart for socks, underwear, or a shirt.  

Whenever possible, replace a drive with riding or running. Ride your bike or run when doing errands or to family events and outings. Use a backpack for your clothes and your “birdbath” kit or have someone meet you there. You create training time whenever you replace driving with riding or running. 

Kids’ activities can be a source of training time. Do pool laps while your child’s in swim lessons or find a pool that has daycare. Run laps around the soccer field during soccer practice. Go for a run or bike during dance/music lessons instead of waiting in the car reading a magazine. Get a bike trainer and do an indoor session during nap time. Trade playdates with other parents who are also looking for time to train. The potential sources to find time are almost endless. 

If you’re the cook in the family, spend some time on the weekend getting meals prepared ahead of time so that you can go on a run or bike and have dinner ready within minutes of getting back. On the weekend, I freeze marinated chicken breasts and cook baked potatoes. During the week, I cook the chicken on a Foreman Grill, microwave the potatoes, steam some veggies and dinner is ready in fifteen minutes. A crockpot is great way to have dinner “cook itself” while you’re training. Put everything in a freezer bag on the weekend, dump it in the crock pot on your way to work, and dinner’s ready when you get back from your post work ride or run.

Making Training Part of Your Family Life

Training doesn’t always have to be about ‘you’, make it about ‘us’ and you can actually improve your family life by training! When my daughter was young, we spent hours of quality time using a baby jogger. I would give her a stick and every time we’d pass a road sign she‘d try to hit it. I bought a bike trailer and she’d spend the whole ride playing with her Barbies. Usually I’d make it a destination ride by going to the lake or the playground. That way she’d look forward to our “rides” together. I don’t recommend pulling a trailer with your carbon tri-bike. A mountain bike with road tires handles much better and will give you an even better workout.  Don’t forget a helmet for the little one.

There’s some great equipment out there.  You can buy bike trailers that convert to joggers.  One jogger I’ve seen even has a harness option so you can pull it and keep your arms free.   Give your kid a whip and you can play Ben Hur!  

To keep your significant other happy get a tandem bike. While not cheap they’re priceless when it comes to spending time together. You can get the whole family involved by getting a child seat and/or trailer to bring the kids along. They also have special bolt-on cranks that a child can use in the “stoker” position when they get too old for a childseat or trailer.

Offer to take the family to the beach, lake or park and then go on a run or swim while they play or lay in the sun. It makes for a fun outing and you get to work out with new scenery.

Using Training Time Wisely

Save time by being efficient. Keep your bike in good working order so that you don’t “blow” a session by having a mechanical problem. Have all you bike and running clothes readily available in the same place so that you don’t have to search for your gloves, hat, or rain gear when you have to dress for the weather. Always keep a bag packed with running and swimming gear in the car so you can get in a workout if the opportunity presents itself.

The greatest training time efficiencies can be gained by having a good training plan with specific training objectives or milestones. Every workout should have a goal and a plan, and every workout should lead towards your training objectives or milestones. This prevents wasting time accumulating “junk” miles. Track your workouts and regularly review the plan to make sure you’re making progress toward your Ironman goal. There are a number of good books available to help you design an effective training plan, or a good coach can help you put together a training plan that’s specific for your needs. A coach who is experienced at the ironman distance can help you develop training sessions that incorporate some of the training opportunities described above. Most of all a coach can help keep you on track to reach your IronDreams while balancing the rest of your life. 

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. His next ironman is Ironman Florida 2010. Marc can be reached at or 978-314-7325.    

 SheROX Webster News

Registration is open for the SheROX Webster Triathlon which takes place on July 25, 2010. This popular all women’s event offers significant support for women looking to complete their first triathlon and for experienced triathletes who want to improve in the sport.

A unique feature of the SheROX experience is the SheROX Mentor Program which provides women with information and support to make sure they have a positive race experience. Elaine Vescio is back as the Head Mentor for the event.

Click here for more information on the mentor program.

Elaine is looking for a few enthusiastic women who have completed at least two triathlons to serve as mentors in the program. Email Elaine at for more information. 

In addition to the mentor program, this year SheROX has named Vescio Multisport Performance Services (Vmps) as the official coaching organization for SheROX Webster. Vmps will offer SheROX participants a variety of free and fee based coaching services to help them prepare for the race.

Click here to register for SheROX Webster Triathlon