From the VMPS Coaches

Quick Tips for Tackling the Lake Placid Ironman Swim

posted Jul 25, 2014, 5:21 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jul 25, 2014, 8:13 AM by Elaine Vescio ]

By Nancy Thomson, Vmps Triathlon Coach and Vmps Swim Coach

After racing Ironman Lake Placid twice and lifeguarding at the event twice, I would like to share some tips with you that I learned the hard way. 

Seeding for the rolling start:  I cannot emphasize enough here to seed yourself accordingly. I was talked into starting in the front row by my training partner ( this was before seeding but the concepts still apply) Starting in the front row was the absolute worst mistake I could have made, I was battered and bruised for the entire 2.4 miles. I honestly think I would have been faster if I started back further and was able to actually swim and not fight people. Eventually when I settled into a large group of people the same speed, the drafting effect was unbelievable! By not seeding yourself properly you will miss out on a great opportunity to use others to your advantage. When you first start swimming, make sure you are going straight and use high elbows and don’t swing your arms wide. Try to find some open water if you can to the side. Everyone wants to get on the cable so it is VERY crowded there. The buoys are huge and easy to see so don’t be afraid of swimming off to the side, trust me there will still be lots of people but you should find yourself with more space to swim without aggressive contact.

Pacing:  Unless you can swim 2.4 miles in under 56 minutes and are trying to qualify for Kona, there is no point to sprinting out as fast as you can right at the start. You will put yourself in oxygen debt and the day is just too long to burn that kind of energy at the get-go. Start at a slightly faster pace than usual and then quickly settle into your ironman pace. You want to even split both loops if you can. I recommend swimming the first loop slightly slower than you think you should because you can always pick it up on the second loop. The run onto the beach for your second loop is a great place to check your watch – don’t rely on the official clock because it starts timing when the pros go off.

Sighting:   In terms of Ironman swims, Placid is one of the easiest to navigate. The buoys are very easy to see and if you are lucky enough to get within 10 feet of the cable you will be able to see it. You will not even need to sight much because all you need to do is watch the cable underwater – the buoys are anchored directly to the cable. Try not to make the mistake that I made and swim into EVERY buoy on your way out! I highly recommend looking up occasionally. The buoys along the way out and back are circular and the buoys at the end where you turn are larger triangles – they are also different colors but with your goggles on they look the same color.

Drafting:  Because of the large number of people in the race, you will find yourself drafting or being drafted the entire race. Try to find someone your same speed and get on their feet; it is also beneficial to swim right on someone’s hip for an optimal drafting effect. Personally I find it easier to just follow feet in front of me. Small groups of people form and if you are finding that you can swim faster, move up to someone’s hip in your group and draft there for a while as you conserve your energy. Once you see another group in front of you, you can bridge up to the other group by putting in a harder effort to get on someone else’s feet and then hold on and settle in to that new pace. Continue to do this to move up when you need to do so.

Common problems:  The biggest problem that I saw when I lifeguarded was people getting their googles knocked off. I always avoid this problem by wearing two caps. I put an extra cap that I bring with me on, then I put my goggles on, then I put my race cap over the first cap and the goggles strap. By doing this there is no way that anyone is going to knock your goggles off , and it also keeps them anchored more securely over your eyes. You will see many Olympic swimmers do this in competition – it is an old swimmer’s trick to keep your goggles on.

Wet suit strippers and run to transitionWet Suit strippers are a GLORIOUS thing – do not be afraid to use them. Get your wetsuit down to your waist, run to a stripper and sit on the ground with your legs extended. The stripper will pull your wetsuit off from your waist over your legs in one quick pull. If they are really experienced, they will extend their hand to you to pull you up off the ground and hand you your wetsuit so that you can be on your merry way. The run to transition is long and I saw many people bypass the strippers and run with their wetsuits on up to transition – this is not a great idea and you will get really hot. Plus why should you bother struggling with your wetsuit when they have people there that will take it off of you easily.


Good luck and be safe!

Report from Sprint Triathlon World Championships in London

posted Jul 25, 2014, 5:18 AM by Donald Vescio

By Marc Saucier

Patti and I had an enjoyable time in London.   Cool, cloudy with occasional drizzle most of the week, typical UK weather.  Opening ceremonies were rained out.  Everybody said we should have been here "last" week when the weather was beautiful.   The Sprint race was 
on Friday with my wave not starting until 11:00AM.   The entire course was within Hyde Park in London, site of the 2012 Olympic Triathlon, using the same pontoon dock for the swim start in the "Serpentine", and the finish line was the same one used complete with spectator stands and carpeting.  Because of the number of competitors (8000 total in Aquathlon, Juniors, Under 23, Para triathlon, Sprint, Olympic and ITU) the transition area was several hundred meters away making for long transition times.  The bike course was 3X back and forth along a road within the park making for five 180 degree turns and 6X through a downhill, off camber S turn in the middle.  It was drizzling that morning and while watching the earlier waves ride I saw 10 crashes in 10 min. including a 3 bike pile up.   The run was 2 loops of a 2.5K course around the "lake".

The 750M swim was a deep water start in the Serpentine.  With no swim warm up you marched single file onto the pontoon dock, jumped into the water with one hand on the pontoon and 5 seconds later the start horn went off.  I had positioned myself to be one of the last ones onto the pontoon and only had 4 people to my right.  The first buoy was a left turn about 250 meters out. Rather than battle everyone around me I counted to 3 when the horn went off swam to the right to pass the 4 guys next to me and had clear water pretty much the whole swim.  The water was about 65 degrees so I wore two swim caps.  They actually shortened the swim for the Olympic distance race on Sunday because the water and air were even colder that day.  I did the swim in 12:30.

After a long run to T1 I got on the bike vowing to take it easy on the 180's and S-turn so as not to crash.   On the first lap coming back through the S-turn I made it through cleanly, congratulated myself for my bike handling skills, stood up to accelerate and lost the back wheel.  I slid across the course hitting the curbing at the side of the road.  I should have been DQ'd for unsportsmanlike language but managed to pick myself up, put the chain back on and kept riding.  I bemoaned the holes in my new $300 Tyr Carbon tri suit but was glad I was riding a rental bike.  Fortunately it was raining so it washed off all the blood coming down my arm onto the tri-bars.  Doing a mental inventory I had lots of road rash and one puncture on my elbow but other than that I and the bike were rather intact so I managed to calm myself down and rode the rest of the bike strong finishing the bile in 40:28.

After another long run to T2 I saw fellow US Team member Jeff Reed just getting out of transition.  He had beaten me by 1:22 at the Cranberry Sprint by out biking and running me.   I thought if I could keep him in sight I'd have a good run.   By then it was pouring buckets.  I felt good on the run and managed to get within 50 meters of him towards the end of the first lap.  One really cool experience was seeing a group of three runners ahead of us from GB, Germany and Brazil.  Jeff blew past them and as I passed them I heard one say "Those Americans are fast today".

I caught up Jeff with about a mile to go and then kept it up to the finish line.  I did the run in 20:00 finishing in 1:20:25, 40th in my age group and 10th for the US.  Not a bad result considering the crash and the level of competition.

IronDreams: I Just Signed Up for an Ironman (Part 2)

posted Jul 25, 2014, 5:15 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jul 25, 2014, 5:17 AM ]

By Marc Saucier

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. Marc can be reached at or 978-314-7325. 

IronDreams: I Just Signed Up for an Ironman (Part 1)

posted Jul 25, 2014, 5:15 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jul 25, 2014, 5:16 AM ]

By Marc Saucier

So, you’ve signed up to do an Ironman. Now what? The good news is that you have twelve months to get ready for it.  The bad news is that you have twelve months to get ready for it.

 The ever growing demand to “do an Ironman” results in entries selling out faster than a U2 concert, often within a few hours of registration opening the day after the race. For some races, like IM USA, the next year’s race fills up with on-site registrations at the current year’s event.  It never even makes it to on-line registration! For those of you who haven’t registered for an ironman, spots are still available for Ironman Louisville KY as well as several European and Asia races. Community Foundation entries are still available for Ironman Lake Placid, Florida, Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho and Canada. Ironman Community Foundation entries involve an additional $550 tax deductible charitable donation for local charities in addition to the regular entry fee of $550. Go to for more information.

As a result of races selling out quickly, most Ironman registrants have to commit to the race one year ahead of time knowing that a lot can happen in twelve months: jobs change, relationships start and end, injuries happen, finances collapse.   A lot can happen that can derail your dream of finishing your first Ironman. On the bright side, now you have twelve months to put everything in place to make the dream come true.  So focus on that aspect--twelve months to be perfectly prepared so that you may join the elite club of people called “Ironmen”! 

With twelve months to go, many people figure there is plenty of time to get ready so why start now.  It has been a long season, time to kick back and take care of those chores around the house that have been neglected all summer long. “I’ll start my training after the first of the year,” these procrastinators say. Well, January comes along and then it seems way too cold for the procrastinators to do any serious training. Preparing for an Ironman seems daunting so they keep putting it off and putting it off, and before they know it, the race is twelve weeks out and they haven’t done a thing to prepare. So the procrastinators rush out and find a “12 week to becoming an Ironman” plan, ramp up the swimming, biking and running, get injured, do the race anyway, and finish by walking the “last” 22 miles of the marathon, dehydrated, exhausted and in the medical tent.  Yes, they finished, but was that really their dream race? 

Others take the opposite approach. These eager beavers get right into Ironman mode for twelve months, pounding out 15 - 20 mile runs every week, 80 – 100 mile bike rides and 6000 yard pool sessions. Unfortunately they usually end up getting injured, fired, or divorced by race day.  Yes, they may end up finishing, but again was that really the way their dream was supposed to unfold?

Whether your goal is to finish just under the seventeen hour time limit or to earn a Hawaii “IQ” spot, you should start today to make your dream a reality. Proceed in a well thought out and proven manner, but start your Ironman preparation today. Consider reading this article step one, and moving forward with the recommendations in this article as step two.

Your preparation needs to center around a plan that balances the demands of everyday life with the demands of training for an Ironman. Begin building this plan by looking at basic considerations such as:

  1. Determine how much time you have to train over the course of the year. 

  2. Identify obligations you need to work around such as business travel, vacations, and weddings.  


  3. Think about ways to minimize the impact your Ironman preparation and race will have on your job, significant other, family life, and budget.   

  4. Assess your current fitness and health status such as body composition, typical diet, and physical and medical issues, i.e. asthma, ongoing back or knee pain. 

  5. Research equipment that you may need or want, such as a new bike, race wheels, wetsuit, heart rate monitor, or power meter.

After you address the basic considerations, then you can start thinking about the actual physical training. The initial three to four months of your “twelve month” plan should be spent working on your weaknesses. Whether it’s developing a  more efficient swim stroke, generating more power on the bike or learning to run stronger out of T2, these first few months are the ideal time to go in maintenance mode on your strengths and concentrate on your weaknesses while keeping your whole training load and time fairly light.   

An easy and objective way to determine your biggest weakness is to look for trends in your past race results. Are you typically in the top 20% in the swim and bike, but only the top 50% in the run? Or maybe it’s your swim or bike segment that lags behind. Making all three segments more “even” will go a long way toward your becoming a more “efficient” triathlete which is key to successfully completing an Ironman.  A comfortable swim leaves you with plenty of energy for the bike, an efficient bike leaves you strong for the run, and a strong run means crossing the finish line with a smile instead of a frown from doing the Ironman “shuffle” for the last 15 miles.

After you have determined what areas to work on, become a “single sport” athlete. That doesn’t mean completely giving up the other events, but you want to go into your focused training sessions well rested and ready to go. Getting outside help is usually the most effective way to develop the expertise and skills needed to make improvements in your weakest sport. You can get help through coached workouts with your triathlon club or local health club, or better yet by signing up with a personal triathlon coach. The right coach can provide the technical instruction and guidance needed to help you improve your weaknesses as well as help you put together the rest of your plan for getting ready for your Ironman dream.

In the next issue of FIRM Racing, the IronDreams section will cover time management and how to find more time to train while actually improving your relationships, family life and job performance.

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. Marc can be reached at

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