FIRM Racing News: January 2011

A Message from Wendy and Bill: Happy New Race Season!


Happy New Year and Happy New Race Season! Plans for the 2011 FIRM Race Series are coming along well. Longtime sponsors are onboard including Vmps, FuelBelt, and Quintana Roo, and we welcome several new sponsors including Kestrel and Mix1.

Along those lines we are pleased to announce that one lucky participant from the 2011 FIRM Race Series will take home a new Kestrel Air Foil Pro SL triathlon bike (Retail Price $4249) courtesy of Kestrel and Vmps. Check out the details of the 2011 FIRM Race Series Sweepstakes in this issue of FIRM Racing.

Registration for most of 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. This year FIRM is capping registration for the TDD Triathlon at 525 so you may want to register early for that special event. Finally, based on feedback from our athletes, we have shortened the race distance for the Holliston Triathlon to ¼ mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3 mile run so that more people can enjoy that race.

Click here for a complete listing of FIRM events

Register Now for the Vmps Swim Prescription Program 

Sick of having the swim hold you back in triathlon? Now is the time to do something about it with the Vmps Swim Prescription Program. This USA Triathlon sanctioned program combines two workshops of in-person swim instruction and classroom discussion with twelve weeks of individualized online professional swim coaching.  It is designed to give you the skills, guidance, and motivation to finally transform you into the swimmer that you have always wanted to be. Class size limited to eight participants.

Click here for more information

Coach’s Corner: Is It Possible to Make an Aero Bike Less Aero?

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

This sounds obvious, and the answer should be equally as obvious: of course one can take a very aerodynamic bicycle and unintentionally make it less aero through various modifications.  Often, though, one’s best intentions can lead to unforeseen results in today’s world of aerodynamic bicycle design.

For the consumer who wishes to be well-informed, it is difficult to find aerodynamic data that is not shaded by marketing claims or poor testing designs.  Almost every major bicycle, component, and wheel manufacturer will produce data that substantiates a claim of clear aerodynamic advantage; often, the data produced is at odds with competitor claims.  For riders who wish to optimize aerodynamics, it is important for them to keep in mind that almost any item can be demonstrated as aerodynamically superior through selective test design.  For instance,  Dupont and Specialized produced a wheel almost twenty years ago, the carbon trispoke, that was far ahead of its time in terms of aerodynamic performance.  Hed bought the rights to this wheel and still markets it as the Hed 3, and the design of this wheel has largely remained unchanged.  Because this wheel is such a strong aerodynamic performer, manufacturers frequently will use it as a comparison standard for their own offerings; one of the easiest way to show that the Hed 3 is a poor aerodynamic performer is to test the wheel with a 23mm tire mounted to it.  As the Hed 3 is optimized for a much narrower (18-19mm) tire, its drag numbers shoot up, proving that it cannot compare with the latest, most current offerings from competing designs.

What this means is that not only must a conscientious consumer factor in marketing bias when reviewing aerodynamic data, the actual test conditions also need to be evaluated, the details of which normally are unavailable.   Manufacturer “A” can claim that its tri bike tests faster than competitor “B’s” bike, but unless the specific nature of the comparison is clear, the claim is problematic.  Did the test compare bare frames and forks only, or did it compare completely built bikes? If complete bikes are being compared, could component and wheel differences yield the performance differences?   Perhaps even more importantly, how do the claimed performance differences vary with different environmental conditions, such as yaw (it is relatively easy to design for straight headwind performance; it is not so easy to factor in varying degrees of crosswind).

Interestingly, we are  starting to see an integrated systems approach to bicycle aerodynamics in which component design is factored into frameset design (examples include Trek's Speed Concept stem and front brake, same for Specialized's Shiv, Cervelo P4's bottle design, and on).  From a purely aerodynamic perspective, this trend makes sense, as one can optimize component and frame design to work together.  On the other hand, this trend also locks the consumer into a limited ecology of aftermarket parts, which either don't fit on these new generation frames or which work aerodynamically poor when installed.    The other problem is that integrated designs can work extremely well only if the rider happens to fit its specific coordinates, which frequently have limited capacity for variation.  (For instance, ever see a P3 or P4, a frame designed with a low headtube, with a huge stack of spacers?) 

Aerodynamic flow can be tricky and frequently counterintuitive—what appears to be most aero oftentimes is not.   This past season, I was very surprised to find that the stock fork that came with my TT frame performed much better than it did with a super-aero, 7:1 aspect fork that always has tested extremely fast.  When looking at the data, it quickly became apparent that the frame's stock fork was optimized for the frame's unique design features.   The takeaway from this discussion is that it is possible to individually select the most aerodynamic components offered in the marketplace, mount them onto the most aerodynamic frameset that fits you, and find out the total build, when taken in aggregation, performs less optimally than possible.   In other words, you need to regard component and wheel selection as part of a more comprehensive analysis that factors in how specific parts influence overall performance.  

How does one assess aerodynamics without having access to a low speed wind tunnel?  This is the subject that I will cover in the next FIRM Racing Newsletter.

Don Vescio, a USCF Certified Cycling Coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services, has been a competitive cyclist for almost thirty years. He is the holder of numerous timed course records in the United States and Canada. Currently, he is training for an attempt on a master’s world hour record.

Are You Really Moving As Efficiently As You Could?

Importance of a Movement Screen for Your 2011 Race Season

By Michael Roberts- Physical Therapist, CSCS, and Jackie Shakar, DPT,

Thomas is a 33 year old newbie triathlete. Thomas started triathlon training hoping to complete a local Olympic triathlon that he had often spectated, and always aimed to participate in.  Despite being very athletic throughout high school while playing basketball and lacrosse, Thomas had become relatively sedentary for a 15 year period post-graduation. Other than one severe right ankle sprain in his senior year of high school, he had never been injured so he assumed that he was ready to begin training for his triathlon as long as he followed a plan.  After a month of swimming and biking, Thomas decided to be smart and he recruited a well-known coach to safely progress his training.  To start his training, his coach took Thomas through a battery of performance tests---outlining appropriate heart zones and paces for training.  Over the next 3-4 weeks of training, Thomas embarked on his quest to complete his first multisport event.  As he did so, he quickly began to notice progressive right knee achiness which soon progressed to pain. Initially he felt pain only while running hills and descending stairs, but over a 2 week period, pain progressed so much that he felt it constantly.  He eventually had to stop training and consult his orthopedist. 

Most coached athletes do a great job maximizing sports specific drills and physiological training, but few consider efficient movement as the foundation of a successful training program.  The Optimal Training Pyramid (Figure 1) forms the basis for the authors’ approach to comprehensive and injury-free multisport training. To summarize, efficient movement should form the foundation of training at any level followed by sport-specific skill acquisition and individualized scientifically guided endurance training.  Put another way, dysfunctional movement that is repetitively performed is a recipe for overuse/mechanical breakdown (2).  

FIGURE 1: The Optimal Performance Pyramid. Training and competing at an ideal level and to assure injury reduction risk is dependent on achieving these three components. (3)

In the scenario above, if Thomas were to have undergone a movement assessment-at initiation of training- his limited right ankle joint mobility would have been discovered. While his ankle was painless and moved well enough to complete activities of daily living, it was not mobile enough to efficiently squat deeply, run uphill or descend stairs without significant knee compensation.  Most likely, Thomas’s ankle mobility never returned to the level that he needed to train for multisport prior to his high school ankle sprain. His right ankle mobility was causing his right knee to cave inward during these activities resulting in knee cap tracking issues. In this case, his knee was the ‘innocent victim’ and the ankle stiffness was the ‘root cause’.  Ankle stretching and mobilization exercises could have been built into his routine as well as exercises to retrain the habitual caving inward of his knee.  Ultimately these would have been FAR more instrumental in Thomas’s success than even performance training.  

This two part article will explain how and why an individual’s movement should be assessed prior to beginning any serious training routine. Advice regarding who an athlete can consult with for obtaining an accurate movement screen as well as examples of corrective strategies will also be covered.  Using real athlete scenarios, this article will present a rationale for why a movement screen should take precedence over performance or physiological tests for a large percentage of athletes. 

The human body is an extremely complex structure with multiple moving parts (joints, muscles, nerves and ligaments) working in harmony to perform. The majority of human movement occurs within movement patterns. Optimal movement pattern quality requires normal mobility, stability and coordination of movement between the joints of the trunk and four limbs.  Any limitation in movement quantity (ROM), quality (coordination) or timing (motor control) will result in movement pattern breakdown and compensation.

Compensated movement is less efficient and typically leads to earlier muscle fatigue or greater joint stress which ultimately results in further compensation or pain. Stated another way, joints and muscles used inefficiently are clearly more susceptible to injury and injured athletes will not perform to optimal levels when this occurs. Unfortunately, as an individual’s level of fitness increases, these subtle movement pattern dysfunctions can get hidden. Athletes are typically very skilled at using large muscle groups to compensate for the subtle structures such as the inner core, deep neck flexors and pelvic stabilizers. Well known physical therapist and movement screen expert- Gray Cook warns: “Don’t develop fitness on top of dysfunction!”  Often an athlete has developed compensatory strategies to accomplish sports-specific skills which over time will lead to tissue breakdown and injury.

In the second part of our movement article we’ll explain the components of a holistic movement screen, when it is appropriate to get screened and who to see.

Michael Roberts, MPT, CSCS- Mike is a full time physical therapist (10+ years experience) and strength coach at Central Mass PT located in Worcester Mass.   He is a two time all-american triathlete. 

Jackie Shakar DPT- Jackie is a full time professor and part time physical therapist (25 years experience) at Central Mass PT.  She is a top age group runner and national director of education for Graston technique.


(1) Picture above from Google images:


(3) 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. 

Gee Whiz: Bending the Flow of Air

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

In the context of time trial and triathlon bicycle design, we have reached a point of maturity in which the majority of the recent decade’s aerodynamic innovations have been incorporated into the offerings of most major manufacturers.  The goal of good aerodynamic design is to manage airflow as efficiently as possible; normally, this is done through careful attention to narrow frontal profiles and clean trailing edges.  Quintana Roo, however, has added an exciting component to this calculus.  Correctly reasoning that the drive side of a bicycle, with its rotating chainrings and hanging front derailleur, is less aerodynamic than the opposite side of the frame, Quintana Roo designed its CD 0.1 frame with “shift technology,” which directs airflow away from the right side of the crankset by carefully curving the downtube.

The result is an elegantly designed—and extremely fast!—frameset that offers advantages not seen in any other brand.  For more information, visit:

Local Highlight: NRG BAR Founder Runs 50 Miles

Pounded the Pavement to Raise Awareness for Healthy Choices

Dan O’Rourke put his feet where his mouth is. On December 4th, the founder of NRG BAR, a locally made energy bar, ran from his hometown of Southborough to Boston and back again to raise awareness about nutrition and fitness, and how the foods affect the quality of our lives every day. 

Dan and his wife learned firsthand the importance of a healthy lifestyle after years of struggling with fertility. With continued focus on health and nutrition, and no reproductive medicine, O’Rourke’s 50-Mile Run for Your Health took place ten days before the birth of their second daughter. According to Dan, “The foods we eat affect our sleep, our concentration, our relationships, and our health, every day.”

His passion about proper fueling led him to create NRG BAR, a company founded with the simple mission of creating and advocating a healthy, happy lifestyle of real food living. Look for NRG BAR samples in your race bag at all FIRM events. For more information, visit for further information or contact Dan O’Rourke at 978-821-2878 or

Race Highlight: FirmMan Rhode Island

Maybe it was the gorgeous setting in Narragansett or the scrumptious post race luau. Maybe it was the enthusiastic volunteers or inspirational pre-race dinner talk by mighty John Young. We’re not sure, but we do know firsthand that a number of participants in the 2010 FirmMan Rhode Island event said that it was “better than Kona”.

FIRM takes great pride in FirmMan Rhode Island. It’s the longest running half iron distance event in the area, and an annual must do event for many triathletes. We are pleased to offer this half ironman distance race to our athletes for a fraction of the entry fee for other 70.3 events. Plus it’s a great excuse for us to hang out in Narragansett for the weekend.

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

Click here for more information

Coming Soon….Vmps Triathlon Center

The rumors are true. Vmps is opening a triathlon center in Millbury, MA. Computrainer classes led by Don Vescio kick off the weekend of January 29, and the grand opening celebration takes place on Saturday, March 5.

Save that date because there is going to be a whole lotta stuff happening at the celebration including a team 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. 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. Plus there will be triathlon seminars and clinics, door prizes from companies such as FIRM, Quintana Roo, TYR, FuelBelt, and Mix1, and plenty of fun. This celebration is a great way to get revved for the triathlon season. Details coming soon on  

IronDreams: First You Have to Sign Up

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

For many people the hardest part about doing their first Ironman is signing up.  Not because it costs nearly $600 and commits you to hours and hours of training.  No, the hardest part is just getting an entry.  Ironman races are so popular that they sell out faster than a U2 concert! As of this writing, of the 11 Ironman races in North America, only St. George, Louisville and Texas have openings.  And just like a U2 concert, most entries don’t even make it to the public. The three thousand slots for the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid race sold out minutes after online registration opened. Well, not really three thousand since only a handful of the slots actually made it the online registration on the Monday after this year’s race. Most of the entries were gone well before online registration took place. Where did they go?

Many were distributed to pros, VIP’s, and sponsors such as coaching companies and travel agencies; some were sold at other Ironman races.  Entries to the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid were available to competitors of the Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island race held in June. But most entries for the following year were taken at the Lake Placid race venue.  The day before their race, participants in the current year’s ironman could sign up for the following year’s race. The day after the race, the people who volunteered at the race could register, and then anyone else at the race site could register. The remaining slots went to on-line entry--maybe a few hundred at most.Not many for the thousands of hopefuls poised at their computers waiting for online registration to open.

So, if you really want to do an Ironman how do you get in? The easiest approach is to go after one of the “less popular” races such as St. George, Louisville, or the newest Ironman in Texas. Entries for these are still available online although they are going quickly. For the more popular races like Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Florida the best way is to volunteer for this year’s race. Volunteers are first in line when onsite registration opens up the day after the race. The next best approach is to come as a spectator. As a spectator, plan to get to the registration tent early. At this year’s Ironman Florida people were camped out in front of the registration tent the night before. A bonus of choosing onsite registration (as a volunteer or a spectator) is that it gives you a chance to watch the race and check out the race course. At this year’s Ironman Lake Placid where I volunteered, I was surprised at how many people dropped out after the first loop of the bike course. Several of those DNF’s told me they had never seen the course and weren’t prepared for the hilly bike route.  

If you can’t get to the race site then you’d better have a fast internet connection and be ready when the remaining spots open up to online registration. Make sure you’re already registered with and start hitting the refresh button well before the announced opening time. Check out the race website ahead of time so you know exactly where to go. Oh yeah, make sure you know the correct time zone for the race. I was hitting the refresh button for an hour for Ironman Florida before I figured out that Panama City is on Central time.

In addition to General Entry spots many races also have “Foundation” or “Community” spots where Ironman raises funds for local charities by selling entries at a premium. For an additional $500 - $600 contribution you can get one of these entries. It nearly doubles your cost to enter the race but at least the contribution is tax deductible and it helps out the local community. Although these spots sell out, they tend to be available for a few weeks or months after the general entries are sold out.

If you’d rather get more for your money than just a tax deduction, you could sign up for one of the Carmichael Training camps.  For $1800 you get a three day training camp at the race site and an entry to that year’s race.  Spots for this year’s Lake Placid race are still available through Carmichael. Another approach is to use one of the two Ironman “approved” travel companies that include the race entry in their travel packages.  Endurance Sports Travel and Hannes Hawaii Tours both have ground travel packages with a race entry for $2000 - $2500 per person. 

Yet another pricey way to get in is to apply for the Ironman Executive Challenge.  This gives you entry into the race, VIP access to all race activities and finish line, first class accommodations, and you get to rub shoulders with other VIP’s, the pros and past Ironman legends.  If you have to ask how much it would cost, you can’t afford it. They don’t even tell you what the fee is until after you’ve applied and been accepted, but it’s typically between $4500 and $7000 per race. 

Recently Ironman tried to start a new membership program called Ironman Access. For a $1000 annual membership fee you could register several weeks earlier than general entries. It created such uproar in the Ironman community that Ironman quickly cancelled the program and issued a public apology for “misreading their customers’ desires”.

In addition to registering in person, online, or paying big bucks, other potential entries to Ironman races are available at some of the Ironman 70.3 races.  As I mentioned above, limited entries to the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid race were available at the Ironman Rhode Island 70.3 race this past June. Some 70.3 races have “qualifying spots” available to winners for select full Ironman races. Several years ago Timberman 70.3 in NH had some qualifying spots for Ironman Florida. Since many of the 70.3 races sell out, you may not find out about those entry opportunities until it’s too late. However it’s still worth checking out the various 70.3 race websites to see what’s available.

Forget about buying an entry on eBay or Craig’s List. Entries are not transferable and they have strict photo ID requirements at registration.   With that said, Ironman has sold a few spots to the Hawaii Ironman World Championships on eBay after getting winning bids in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.

So there you have it. Registering for an Ironman and completing an Ironman race are very similar in that you need a plan, persistence and a little bit of luck. Put it all together and you can be on your way to realizing your Ironman dreams.

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. 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

Each time you complete a FIRM race, you receive one entry in the sweepstakes. Stick around for the awards, 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).