FIRM Racing News: May 2010


A Message from Wendy and Bill: The Early Race Season



The early race season is a special time for FIRM as we catch up with our “regulars” and welcome newcomers. And we have had ample opportunity to do this at our April and May races--two duathlons, three pool swim triathlons, and a kid’s triathlon.

Over three hundred athletes braved cold, rainy conditions at New England’s multisport season opener, the Wrentham Duathlon on April 18. Tim Tapply in 54:43 took top honors over Joe Maloy in 56:16. The first place female was Kimberly Shattuck in 1:04:38 over Amy Shireman’s 1:05:03. The top relay team was Shawn Crotto and Jeff Donatello in 58:55.

On April 25, area athletes got to show off their off road skills at the Rockbuster Duathlon. Arnold Roest in 47:26 bested David Currie in 48:34. The first female was Darcy Foley in 55:09 over Jan Shillieto in 59:10. The top relay team was Jason Nutini and Josie Morway in 52:59.

The following weekend, Tim Tapply once again showed his early season fitness at the Sheriff’s Spring Sprint Triathlon with a 44:06 win over Brian Fuller’s 45:33. The top female was Nancy Thomson in 53:06 over Amy Warrington in 53:21. The top relay team was Seth Hanapole, Don Vescio, and Jonathan Magnusson in 45:47.

The weather at the Sudbury TriSprouts race on May 8 was the most formidable this year—temperatures in the low forties, strong winds, and torrential rain.  Proving they are a much heartier bunch than grownups, more than one hundred kids (ages 3 to 12 years) with determination and huge smiles, swam fifty yards (some with bubbles or noodles), biked, ticycled, or scootered one mile, and ran half a mile. Each earned a finisher medal and some yummy post race treats for their efforts.

The following day was the Sudbury Spring Sprint Triathlon, and it was just as cold with winds reaching 40 mph; thankfully, it was dry. Jose Almandoz got the win posting a 37:40 over Gary David’s 38:32. The top female was Tracy McCurdy in 43:05 over Sonja Kent’s 44:00. The top relay team was Nicholas Chin, Frank Kjaersgaard, and Dave Hamon in 36:46.

Finally some nice weather arrived for the Lions Spring Sprint Triathlon on May 16 where Grant Rice was first overall in 47:50 over Joe Biedenkapp in 48:46. The top female was Nicole Sinquee in 53:47 over Della Jennings in 56:28. The top relay team was Al Elian, Mike Howard, and Marc O’Meara in 59:28.

Dust off those wetsuits, because the open water swim triathlons begin on June 6 at the Ludlow Boys & Girls Club Triathlon in Ludlow, MA, and on June 13 at the Ashland Sprint Triathlon, and 2010’s first Olympic distance event, the Ashland Lions Metro West Triathlon.

Click here for a complete listing of FIRM events.




Registration is Open for Vmps Open Water Swim Clinics

These USAT sanctioned clinics are designed to help swimmers of all abilities become more confident and effective in the swim segment of triathlons.

Click here for more information.



Coach’s Corner: How Do I Choose an Aerobar (Part One)?

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

A well-designed aerobar is important for those who want to be competitive in time trials or multisport events, but choosing a set can be complicated.   There are many different styles of aerobars on the market and it can be difficult to determine what make and model might be best for you.

There are two considerations that you need to evaluate when selecting an aerobar: the aerodynamic characteristics of the aerobar’s design; its ability to match your fit coordinates.  The focus of this article is on aerodynamic considerations.  Aerobar fit selection will be the topic of the next article.

Aerobars come in a variety of materials and price ranges. One can spend under $150 for solid aerobar system, or over $1,500 for aerobars that are custom made to user specifications.   But is there a significant performance difference between lower priced and higher priced aerobars?  A lot depends upon the design of their construction.

The Simpler Version

Basic aerodynamic principles are pretty straightforward.   Thin objects tend to test faster than thick objects, and flat objects tend to be faster than round objects.  When examining an aerobar for its aerodynamic properties, take a close look at its base bar’s profile from a head-on perspective: the thinner the aerobar is, the more that it disappears from view, the faster it most likely will be.  So, for instance, an aerobar that’s flat and thin like Vision’s should test more aerodynamic than a more traditional base bar made out of round or ovalized tubing.  In most instances, aerobar extensions will have negligible impact on an aerobars’ overall aerodynamic performance.

Note how this base bar is made out of flat, thin stock





Note how the base bar is made out of round tubing; there will be more drag associated with this base bar than the base bar in the example above.



This example is the slowest configuration yet; note the significant amount of surface presented to the wind.


The Slightly More Technical Version

When evaluating an aerobar’s aerodynamic characteristics, one generally can discount the aerobar extensions, as they face parallel to the wind and are largely shadowed by the rider’s hands and arms--if the primary criteria for selecting aero extensions is comfort.  Base bars, on the other hand, do impact a rider’s aerodynamic equations.

The key concept to understand is aspect ratio—the ratio between the thickness of the bar (think: height) and its depth.  In most cases, large aspect ratios tend to be good; the original Hed aerbar was very flat and deep, and it had an aspect ratio of approximately 6:1 (it was six times deeper than its thickness).   A base bar made out of round stock has an aspect ratio of 1:1—its height is the same as its depth.   In terms of base bars available for the consumer, then, a 6:1 base bar  should be more aerodynamic than a base bar that has a 1:1 ratio.

Now, the UCI has begun enforcing aerodynamic restrictions on component design that have long been in its rule book.  Basically, most of the rules and regulations boil down to a single premise: you cannot have an aspect greater than 3:1.  As most manufacturers will follow UCI equipment regulations, even though they don’t come into play for most competitors, the most aggressive aerobars today do not exceed a 3:1 aspect ratio.  What this does is greatly simplify the selection process for most riders.   As a 3:1 ratio is about as fast as you can get under UCI criteria, riders should select base bars that have minimum protuberances and smooth transitions.  All things being equal, a well-designed sub-$100 aluminum base bar that has a good 3:1 aspect ratio will perform just as well as a $1000+ specialty carbon version.  Vision’s aluminum base bar, in other words, is a great value for its cost, as it normally performs at least as well as the high end carbon Heds, Zipps, and Ovals. As for aerobar extensions, there is absolutely no performance difference between carbon and aluminum offerings.  Provided that you find a set of extensions that are comfortable for you, there will be no performance gain of carbon over aluminum.

What’s the take-away?  Buy an aero base bar with the deepest aspect ratio possible and which can be adjusted for your position.  Take the money that you save by purchasing a good aluminum aerobar setup and apply it to the purchase of a good aero helmet or front wheel—your return (and your performance) will be the better for it.

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.




Orthotics: Worth the Cost?

By Neil J. Feldman, DPM, FACFAS,, and Michael Roberts- Physical Therapist,



Lower body overuse injuries make up the vast majority of injuries suffered by triathletes. Custom foot orthotics are a common treatment recommendation, but do you really need them? Custom foot orthotics are individually molded devices which act as an interface between your foot and the ground (or your pedal).  The foot orthotic industry is a multi-million dollar industry and the typical cost of a pair of custom orthotics range from three to five hundred dollars.  Because of this high price tag, it makes sense to make sure that a custom foot orthotic is the answer to your woes. 

Podiatrists, orthopedists, pedorthotists, osteopaths, chiropractors and physical therapists are the clinicians most likely to recommend an orthotic device.  These practitioners come from different training backgrounds which may explain why there are so many different types of orthotics.  Patients with the same injury and condition often receive extremely different devices from different specialists. This variability makes the decision on who is best to see and what to believe very difficult.  So what should you do? 

The aims of this article are to:

·         Explain the basic types of foot orthotic devices available

·         Provide a short summary of the latest research on foot orthotics

·         Describe a practical approach to go about determining if you should pursue foot orthotics 

What are the basic types of orthotics?  

There are 3 basic categories of foot orthotics:  custom, semi-custom and non-custom (off the shelf) orthotics.  Within these categories, each orthotic device has a number of specific features that further specialize them to each individual:

  • Hard vs. Soft orthotics: most people equate soft with comfort and hardness with discomfort.  Though softness often provides more cushioning, it is unable to provide support.  Many of the newer graphite orthotics provide excellent support combined with a high degree of shock absorption.
  • High arches vs. Deep heel cups:  Most would think the higher the arch, the more support an orthotic provides.  In most situations, it is the control of the heel, and thus the deep heel cup, that will provide stability to the foot.  The heel position, not the arch, locks and unlocks the foot.  Very few off the shelf orthotics offer correction of foot deformities as the heels and arches are fairly uniform.
  • Partial length vs full length: The main part of the orthotic almost always stops behind the ball of the foot and thus the importance of length is one of personal preference.  Orthotics that are full length do not offer any more support, but can be easier to fit into running sneakers and shoes with removeable sock liners.  Partial length orthotics will be more versatile in fitting different styles of shoes. 
  • Casting vs. biofoam box vs. scanning:  Plaster casting of the foot held in a neutral position remains the main method most practitioners use when casting a foot for custom orthotics.  It offers the most precise way to capture someone’s foot in the desired position.  The foam box technique is simple and neat, but is quite difficult to obtain a truly neutral foot.  Newer 3-D scanners are entering the marketplace and have promise.  In all methods however, the cast, impression or scan is only as good as the lab that is creating the device or the prescription that was written.

What does the latest research say about orthotics efficacy?

As with many popular rehabilitative treatments, quality research on orthotic use is inconclusive.  Most studies either have too small a sample size or lack control groups for comparability.  Other factors limiting quality research include the large variability of individual foot type, differing biomechanical philosophies of foot function and the large variety of materials as well as types of orthotics.  For every study that claims beneficial effects of orthotic use, another study exists that refutes that outcome.

With research on orthotics being inconsistent in the treatment of many conditions, is it possible to eliminate some of the guesswork, or make them more efficacious?  The answer is yes!  Many foot/ankle (and leg) problems or injuries can be mechanically linked to a larger underlying movement system inefficiency or asymmetry that should be addressed globally rather than simply through use of an orthotic.   Therefore, your primary goal should be to work with a practitioner(s) who will find the root cause of your injury.

Despite the equivocal research available on orthotic use, there are several situations where orthotics are more likely to help a triathlete. Some of these situations include:

·         To correct or accommodate for a structural foot or leg issue (ie. mal-aligned first toe, arthritis)

·         High rigid arches and a period of 3 or more months of foot pain.

·         Foot hot spots on the bike or pressure issues directly linked to structural abnormalities

·         After a thorough functional evaluation during which a skilled clinician determines that an orthotic device will allow for critical biomechanical adjustments that will eliminate the source of pain and lead to more efficient movement.

How do you know you’ve had an appropriate assessment?

You have had a thorough evaluation if your sports medicine doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or podiatrist assesses your biomechanics standing, walking, running or on your bike (if applicable), and while doing a number of complex activities such as squatting, standing on one leg, bending, running and reaching overhead. These assessments are done to evaluate movement for efficiency, alignment, and symmetry.  A thorough assessment should guide the practitioner to the area of dysfunctional movement and identify stability or mobility imbalances-even in remote areas that contribute.  This full evaluation should then be coupled with all other individual data (x-rays, previous injuries, and your specific goals) and will guide the skilled clinician to the appropriate treatment which may or may not include the prescription of an orthotic.  The practitioner should not just evaluate your foot at rest.


When athletes become injured, they often are in search of the quickest remedy, without first considering future consequences or cost to benefit. Orthotics should not only aim to reduce pain in the lower extremity, but should also be created so as to help restore normal movements, rather than compensate for poor ones.  Seek a skilled specialist that is both up-to-date on current research trends and familiar with the rigors of triathlon training.  You should also keep the following potential effects of an orthotic in mind. Once you begin using an orthotic your body can become somewhat reliant on the device.  As the foot adjusts to having a constant orthotic support, it weakens and is more vulnerable to stresses if the orthotic is removed. For this reason, use of any compensatory device should be carefully thought out, with consideration of both the short and long term impacts.

In summary, if your practitioner is quick to recommend a costly custom orthotic without knowledge of your background, goals (short and long), and he/she did not perform a standing dynamic assessment of your movement, then seek a second opinion from a practitioner who does this before making a large investment on costly custom orthotics. 

Michael Roberts is a 2 time all American triathlete and 3 time ironman finisher including a sub 9:30 personal best.

Neil Feldman is a 7 time ironman finisher including 2 Hawaii World Championships.  He is also a multiple time Boston Marathon qualifier who has completed numerous marathons. 



Gee Whiz: Simkins Design Group’s Egg Brake

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

Most reductions in aerodynamic drag take place on the front end of the bike—the goal is to have a smooth, continuous surface to facilitate efficient air flow around the bike and its components.   There have been a number of attempts to create aerodynamically clean front brakes to assist in this process, but most represented significant compromises in braking performance.

Simkins Design Group’s Egg brake is one the very few aerodynamically efficient front brakes on the market that is both easy to set-up and which offers significant stopping power.


By moving the brake caliper arms inward, Simkins is able to produce a brake whose shape follows the curve of most fork crowns, thus yielding a remarkable—and measurable—improvement in front end aerodynamics.  The Egg Brake is easy to install and Simkins’ customer service is second to none.


Visit for more details.




Vmps Announces Vmps Tri-It Boot Camp for Women

This USAT sanctioned half day triathlon immersion program is for women who are looking to improve their triathlon skills while having fun and meeting other triathletes.

Click here for more information.



Race Highlight: The TDD Triathlon in Douglas, MA

Described by numerous participants as their “favorite triathlon”, the TDD Triathlon is back and better than ever.

The TDD Triathlon is more than just a fabulous triathlon. It’s a memorial race for Tyrus, Dante, and Daniel Vescio, triplet sons of local racers, Elaine and Don Vescio, and a fundraiser for the UMass Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Worcester, MA. Over $15,000 was raised at last year’s inaugural event. Money for research to help other babies live long, healthy lives.

The 2010 race takes place on Saturday, September 18 in Douglas, MA with a ¼ mile swim in a placid, little lake, an 11 mile bike ride through bucolic country roads, and a 3 mile run in Douglas State Park. (This is an entirely new run course). The race venue, the lake, and the bike and run routes are absolutely gorgeous. And swim angels are available for people who want a little company during the swim.

Magician, Stephen Brenner, will be back to entertain folks at the race venue. And he’s bringing his lovely pig. (Hopefully the pig won’t escape again this year!).

So register today and be a part of this very special event.

Click here for more information.

Volunteers are always welcome. Email Elaine Vescio at if you would like to volunteer.



Review: Quintana Roo CD 0.1

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

Last season, Quintana Roo released its new generation time trial/triathlon frame, the CD 0.1:


Many of the CD 0.1’s features are reflected in today’s state of the art aerodynamic frame designs, such as highly sculpted and smooth carbon surfaces, sharp trailing edges, horizontal dropouts for precise wheel position and faired rear wheel cutouts.  What sets the CD 0.1 apart is the unique design of its downtube, which has a noticeable “bow” toward the right side of the frame.  The purpose of this feature is to shift airflow away from the chainrings, thus helping to minimize aerodynamic turbulence.  The CD 0.1’s massive bottom bracket section contributes to a significantly stiff and stable ride, while its thin seat stays both minimize drag and add just enough vertical compliance to make the its ride comfortable over long distances.


Note the “bow” in the CD 0.1’s downtube near the bottom bracket.


The CD 0.1 also attempts to remove the brakes from the airflow boundary layers.  The rear brake is tucked underneath the frame’s chain stays, while the front brake is buried behind the fork crown.  Both brakes are modified centerpull designs (Tektro TRP 925s) that are easy to install and maintain.  Braking is both powerful and easy to modulate.

I found that the CD 0.1 was extremely easy to build—cable routing was straightforward and relies on full length housing, which helps minimize performance degradation in adverse weather conditions.   The CD 0.1’s seatpost is one of the few aero seatposts that offer both a wide range of adjustability and mechanical ease of use. 

For me, aerodynamic performance (after fit) is a prime criterion for me when selecting a time trial bike.    Quintana Roo claims that their new frame is one of the fastest available on the market today; through my own extensive regression testing in the field, I’ve found that the CD 0.1, with identical components and wheels, consistently is faster than my Cervelo P3C, enough so that I’ve retired the Cervelo for PowerCrank use. Available as both a frameset and a complete bike, Quintana Roo’s CD 0.1 is a refreshing offering from a long established multisport company that always have offered great performance at an affordable price.  Contact V3 Multisports for more information, or stop by to chat at one of FIRM’s races.



IronDreams: Focus Your Training

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



You’ve signed up to do an Ironman, carved out time to train, and put together a plan to get into Ironman shape. Maybe you’ve even hired a coach to put more structure into your training. Then you look at your plan and see strength workouts, aerobic workouts, long rides, intervals, tempo, bricks, recovery, lactate threshold, RPE, heart rate training zones, etc., etc., etc.  More things to think about than you can shake a Power Bar at. So how can you simplify these details into a few essential aspects to focus on?  I recommend the following:

·         The Swim--Efficiency

·         The Bike--Muscular Endurance

·         The Run--Strength

The Swim--Efficiency

The swim is the shortest event in the Ironman.  It’s less than 2% of the entire race distance, and for many people, less than 10% of the time needed to finish the race. Some consider the swim to be the warm-up before the race really begins on the bike and run courses.

In a recent Ironman race, less than twenty minutes separated the fastest swimmer from the swimmer who came in five hundredth. At that same race, it was a difference of more than sixty minutes for the bike and nearly ninety minutes for the run. Training to swim faster saves you little race time yet consumes much more training time. Likewise going all out in the swim yields small time gains but creates tremendous costs in terms of energy expenditure--energy better preserved for the bike and run.

As a result the focus in swim training should be on efficiency. That is, completing the swim at a steady pace while using as little energy as possible. Unless you’re already a sub hour Ironman swimmer, time spent working on your swim technique yields more gains than just pounding out 100’s. You end up coming out of the water feeling fresher and with more energy to use on the bike.

The Bike—Muscular Endurance

For cycling, muscular endurance is essential for strong riding. The more force you can apply to the pedals over a long period of time, the faster you cover the distance. The bike leg of the Ironman is the longest both in distance and in time spent racing (unless you really fall apart in the run). Workouts that focus on developing powerful legs are essential.

However powerful legs without pacing are worthless. The best approach is to “negative split” the bike leg by going out relatively easy and then picking up the pace in the second half.  In reality, because of fatigue the perceived effort goes up but the speed stays about the same. But that’s ok and preferable to going out hard and then getting slower and slower in the latter part of the bike segment.  Going out hard to put “time in the bank” doesn’t work in the Ironman.  You never really “save” time, you only borrow it and pay it back later in the race with interest. That five minutes you “saved” by going out hard on the bike gets paid back with a fifteen minute longer run.

The Run--Strength

Strength is the essential aspect of the Ironman run. The training goal for the Ironman run isn’t necessarily to try to run faster, but to try to avoid slowing down during the marathon. This requires the strength to maintain good running form throughout the marathon with appropriate knee bend, high heel lift, and strong cadence. Unlike swimming with its long stroke phase and cycling with constant power being applied to the rear wheel, in running you only are able to apply force to the road for the short instant that your foot is in contact with the ground. The shorter time your foot is in contact with the ground, the faster you run. During your stride, energy is stored in the ligaments, tendons and muscles of your leg. This energy is released when the foot hits the ground pushing you up and forward.

In the final miles of the marathon, weak legs result in shuffling and scuffing. The knee barely bends, the foot rises only slightly behind the runner, and there is little forward swing of the leg. Then the foot hits the ground in a breaking motion causing the scuffing and prolonged contact time of the foot with the ground. While this stride takes little energy, there is little momentum and forward force. The runner’s “speed” is reduced tremendously.  If the runner could maintain the leg strength to produce a full stride, then speed could be maintained. 

There are lots of ways to spend your time training, but these are three essential aspects of Ironman training that should be embraced: efficiency in your swim to preserve energy, muscular endurance on the bike to generate sustainable speed, and strength for the run to maintain form.  With these in mind, you can achieve 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 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.   



Let’s Go to the Midway

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

Most of the time, triathlon plays a positive role in our lives—feelings of accomplishment, improved health and wellbeing, and the sheer fun of swimming, biking, and running. However, there are times when triathlon brings frustration, disappointment, and even physical pain--bad races, equipment problems, and injuries. Learning to deal with the downtimes can help our overall experiences with the sport and with life.

Through example, my father taught me how to deal with the sport’s letdowns even though he had never trained for or competed in a triathlon. I’ll dust off the old cliché for this article, because when life gave him lemons, he made lemonade. And he did this through his final days.

A situation that clearly illustrates my father’s determination to enjoy life occurred this past January. My father had been battling mylodysplasia for years, and the disease was progressing. My sister brought my father to a doctor’s appointment and the prognosis was not good. When my father and sister came out of the examination room, my mother asked my father how it had went.  My father responded, “I’m fine. Let’s go to the Midway”. (The Midway was one of my father’s favorite restaurants). Shocked, my sister asked, “Dad, Did you understand what the doctor had said to you?” My father replied, “I understood what he said; now let’s go out to lunch”.

My father had understood; his prognosis was dire. There would be no more holidays, no more birthdays, and no more anniversaries. He would not live to see his youngest grandchildren grow to adulthood. My father only had weeks left to live. But at that moment, he was feeling ok. He was with his wife and his daughter, and he was a little bit hungry. So rather than wallow at his failing health, he decided that the best thing to do at that time was to enjoy lunch at his favorite restaurant with his family. He wanted to go to the Midway.

There were plenty of times during his final years that my father felt sadness and anger and fear as he battled mylodysplasia. He acknowledged and dealt with those feelings.  Yet, he knew instinctively to make the most of the moments given to him, to embrace the simple pleasures that life has to offer. And we should do the same. So when faced with feelings of frustration or disappointment about training and racing, let’s acknowledge and accept those feelings. Then as soon as possible, we can make the most of the time that has been given to us and let’s go to our “Midway”.

Elaine Vescio, a USA Triathlon Certified Coach at Vescio Multisport Performance Services, has been a competitive athlete for over thirty years, earning podium spots in running, cycling, and triathlon events throughout the years. Recently, Elaine qualified for the 2010 World Duathlon Championships. She races for the Kestrel Triathlon Team and is the Head Mentor for SheROX Webster. Elaine can be reached at or 508-612-3000.   



Vasa Swim Erg Available

The winner of FIRM’s 2009 Vasa Erg Sweepstakes is sticking with duathlons so he would like to sell his brand new Vasa Erg to a FIRM triathlete. Scott is looking for the best offer over $1000 for the erg which retails for $1899. You can learn more about the Vasa Erg at


Email Scott at if you are interested in the erg.