February, 2008
Volume 1, Number 2






In this issue:


Message from Wendy and Bill: 2008 Grand Prix Series

Each year FIRM hosts New England’s only multisport team competition—the FIRM Grand Prix Series. It is an exciting way for members of multisport teams to compete for cash awards and really cool age group prizes.  

The FIRM Grand Prix series consists of 10 FIRM multisport events that have been selected by participating teams at FIRM’s annual awards banquet. The races in this year’s series are: Wrentham Duathlon on April 20, U. S. Coast Guard Duathlon on May 24, Ludlow Boys & Girls Club Triathlon on June 1, FirmMan Massachusetts Triathlon on June 8, Webster Lake Triathlon on June 22, Old Colony YMCA Triathlon on July 13, Lowell Triathlon & Wildcat Triathlon on August 3, Witch City Triathlon on August 10, Journey for Sight Triathlon on August 24, and FirmMan Rhode Island on September 7.  

Individuals earn points for themselves and their teams by placing in the top five in their age groups at these grand prix events. First place earns eight points, second place earns five points, third place earns three points, fourth place earns two points, and fifth place earns one point. At least three members of a  team must compete in at least five of the 2008 Grand Prix events for the team to be eligible for cash awards. Individuals from teams that do not meet this minimum requirement are still eligible for FIRM Grand Prix age group awards.  

The amount of money for the cash awards depends upon the number of overall participants and the number of participants from the multisport teams that compete in these ten events. FIRM places money from entry fees from the ten events into the grand prix fund--the more participants that register for the events, the more money goes into the fund. At the end of the season, money from the grand prix fund is awarded to the top three teams based upon the number of points earned during the season. Typically the cash award for the first place team is about fifteen hundred dollars.  The 2007 Grand Prix team winners of cash awards were Cyclonauts in first place, Comprehensive Racing in second place, and Wheelworks in third place.  

Teams that are interested in competing in the 2008 Grand Prix Series must register with FIRM by April 1st, 2008. Once registered, all team members must use Active.com to add their name to their team roster for the Grand Prix Series. Note that there is no charge for a person to add their name to a team roster on Active.com.  http://www.active.com/event_detail.cfm?event_id=1524739

You must be a member of a participating team to compete for grand prix awards. Check out the teams that are currently registered to participate in the FIRM Grand Prix Series. They offer members benefits such as camaraderie, training assistance, and sponsor discounts. Contact a team directly to learn more about becoming a member of that team.

Bay State Triathlon Club http://www.baystatetriteam.com/

Boston Triathlon Team http://www.bostontriathlonteam.com/

Comprehensive Racing Team http://www.comprehensive-racing.com/

Cyclonauts http://www.cyclonautmultisport.org/

Force 5

Heat http://www.ctheat.org

MRC http://www.minutemanroadclub.com/

North Medford Triathlon Club http://www.northmedfordclub.org/

North Shore Triathlon Club http://www.bnsfitness.com/adventures_NSTriathlon.htm

Providence Triathlon Team http://www.providencetri.com/

QT2 http://www.qt2systems.com

Tri Fury http://www.trifury.com/

Wheelworks http://www.wheelworks.com/tri_team.htm 

The 2008 Grand Prix Series is sure to offer great racing, team camaraderie, and plenty of fun. Make sure you are a part of it!

Wendy & Bill Fiske



Ask the Race Director

Each month, this section of the FIRM Racing Newsletter is reserved for responding to your triathlon-related questions. Please email your questions to billf@firm-racing.com Use the subject line, “Ask the Race Director”.



March's Happenings

Ride for JULES
Each year the Ride for JULES indoor cycling spin-a-thon raises money for the American Diabetes Association through their signature cycling event, the Tour De Cure.  The 2008 spin-a-thon will take place on Saturday, March 1st at the Boston North Fitness Center, 30 Prince Street, Danvers, MA with a goal to raise $100,000 to help in finding a cure for diabetes. Guru Bicycles is helping the Ride for JULES reach this goal by offering a Guru bicycle as a prize. If you make a tax deductible donation of $100 or more, you will be entered in a drawing to win either a custom Guru Geneo frameset ($4600) or a custom Guru Venio complete bike ($2800). For more information, check out: http://www.rideforjules.org/

Comprehensive Racing Team Informational Meetings
Comprehensive Racing Team is hosting two informational meetings for current and prospective members. Come by, socialize, and learn what the team has planned for the 2008 race season. The dates and locations are: Tuesday, March 4 at 7:00 PM at New England Running Company in Beverly, MA; and Wednesday, March 5 at 7:00 PM at PR Running in Westboro, MA.  Please RSVP to Kurt Maw elmo1212@gmail.com if you plan on attending. For more information about the Comprehensive Racing Team check out:



Coach's Corner: Data That Matters, Part II
By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Systems


Last month, we tried to distinguish between data that is simply interesting (or depressing!) from data that we can use to track and predict performance. This month, I'd like to suggest a couple of strategies for using data to assess specific performances and to predict how you might perform in the future. 

As a cyclist, I'm very interested in my power output as it's a fairly objective measure of the work that I can perform while riding.  But having a power meter and tracking average power for a given training session really doesn't offer much in the way of useful data; rather, for the data to be useful, it needs to be placed in a broader context. 

For instance, suppose I scheduled a workout based on six VO2 Max intervals of five minute duration each.  Because heart rate will drift over time and can be impacted by environmental conditions (excessive heat or cold, etc.), it isn't a consistent measure of performance during each interval.  Similarly, average speed won't work well, either, as terrain and wind are variables that are difficult to factor in during a post workout session analysis.

Power, on the other hand, is remarkably constant--work (in this case wattage) can be accurately measured independent of environmental variables.  So I do my six intervals and download my data later that night.  What I'm looking for is not so much my peak power during each of the intervals, but rather my average power across each of the efforts.  For example, suppose that I captured the following averages for my six interval workout:

Interval 1 = AVG 381

Interval 2 = AVG 403

Interval 3 = AVG 401

Interval 4 = AVG 398

Interval 5 = AVG 400

Interval 6 = AVG 329

What is important to me is how the data trends across all six intervals.  Looking at the data, it would appear that I could have gone a bit harder on the first effort and that my sixth effort was subpar and yielded little benefit.  If I were to schedule this session again for six intervals, I most likely would slightly reduce my effort during intervals two through five so that I could complete a quality sixth interval.  In terms of my intent for the session, the data above suggested that I did not achieve my goal of completing six quality intervals.

Data Over Time

The analysis above is remarkably simple and in actuality I would also attempt to identify additional patterns, such as whether my power trended upward or downward over the time that it took to complete the interval.  A similar sort of analysis can be done with heart rate data for runners and swimmers, though again environmental factors should be considered.

What really is useful are the larger patterns that emerge over time in your data collection.  There are a number of algorithms that can be used to quantify the amount of cumulative stress your body records as you complete your days and weeks of training.  We all have experienced instances when we are exhausted come race day; similarly we all wonder whether we are doing to much (or too little) training in the weeks leading up to an important event.  This is where your data (and a good laptop!) comes in--a good software package will automate most of these calculations, leaving you with the opportunity to focus more on your actual training.

TRIMPS ( which is a time in zones multiplied by a weighing factor) has been used my many different types of athletes since the late '70s; more recently, CyclingPeaks Software has introduced TSS (total stress score) that enables multisport athletes to track cumulative stress of their activities, and PhysFarm's TriUtilities' GOVSS extrapolates power-based efforts into swimming and running workouts.  Polar's Precision Software is an easy to use application for those who track heart rate data.

The example below was taken from Polar's software and tracks one week of recovery, followed by three weeks of increasing training intensity:

Looking simply at the vertical axis of the graph, I can immediately see that my actual training activity matched what I had planned in advance.  In the example below, my taper prior to FIRMman RI also is evident.  If there wasn't a drop in training stress prior to the large spike associated with FIRMman, then I would have known that I had not prepared sensibly for such an intense race.


What to Take Away?

In short, data collection and analysis can be a powerful tool in optimizing your workouts, in assessing prior performance, and predicting future performance. Keep in mind the following:

  • Collect data that can vary over time

  • Collect data that accurately measures your effort (such as power) and the impact that the effort has on your body (heart rate)

  • Look for micropatterns within individual workout sessions

  • Look for macropatterns that emerge from your data over time

  • Consider adopting one of the many excellent software packages that will help you analyze and compare your data



Gee Wiz: A 60 Tooth Chainring?
By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Systems

How much is too much?  Do you have gears on your bicycle that you never have used before?  Have you ever been in a situation in which you wished that you had a much smaller (or larger) gear?

The bicycle is an amazingly efficient machine whose transmission hasn't changed appreciably for over one hundred years.  In most instances, a bicycle chain, chainring, and rear cogs are 95% efficient in translating your energy into movement.  While most riders will carefully consider how to optimize their gears for going up hill through the use of broad cassette ratios or compact cranksets, not too many ask if their chainrings have been maximized for optimal efficiency on the flats or downhill.

Chester Kyle, in High-Tech Cycling (ed. by Edmund Burke), notes that large chainring/large cog combinations are more efficient than small chainring/small cog combinations for the same gear ratio.  For instance, a 52/15 chainring/cog combination offers the same ratio as a 42/12 combination; in other words, either combination would enable a rider to travel the same distance for each revolution of the crank.

All else being equal, however, the 52/15 combination will be more efficient because the bend of the chain is less than that of the 42/12 (engineering types: think chordal action); additionally, in the 52/15, the chain will be positioned toward the middle of the rear cogs, which also leads to greater efficiency (the chainline will be straighter).  According to Kyle, cogs smaller than 14 teeth are less efficient than cogs 14 teeth or greater.  A 1% increase in drivetrain efficiency could yield over 12 seconds improvement in time over 25 miles.

The question then becomes one of how to run large cogs in the back while still having a gear high enough to move quickly on the flats and downhills.  The answer is to consider a larger chainring.

 Here's a 130 tooth chainring that was used by José Meiffret for derney races on the track, circa 1960:


In 1941, USA's Alfred Letourneur road this bike to 109 mph:


Notice the chainring used by Albert Marquet in his 1937 record breaking ride of 139.90 km/hr:


Here's a 77 tooth chainring used by a British time trialist last season; in back, his most frequently used cogs were 16, 17, and 18:


While most of us never will use a chainring as large as what is seen in the photos above, chainrings larger than the stock 52 or 53 that is most likely on your bike are worth considering if you frequently find yourself in the smallest cogs on your rear wheel for extended periods of time.  In order to run a more efficient chainline and chainring/cog combination (and given a propensity of this rider to push large gears), the following bicycle has a 60 tooth chainring:

Front derailleur retained as a chain catch.

While a chainring this large may seem excessive, remember that a 53/13 has almost the exact same gear ratio as a 60/15.  But because the 60/15 is based on a larger chainring/cog combination than a 53/13, it will be mechanically more efficient, which should yield a slightly faster time, all other factors being roughly equal.

Of course, there still remains the issue of going uphill with a single 60 tooth chainring up front!


Tri Living



Swim, Bike, Run, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

(Ford Ironman Florida 2007)

By Patrick Smith, Team Comprehensive Racing


The Time Required to Reach "The Promised Land"

Patrick Smith



On November 3, 2007 I (and three friends) had the honor of becoming a first time Ironman in Panama City Beach Florida at the Ford Florida Ironman. This three part training/race-day report summarizes my seven month season to "The Promised Land". 

This is part one of a three part series (Part 1 - Training, Part 2 - Pre-Race, Part 3 - Race Day)

TRAINING (April to October 2007)

Goal:  Avoid Injury, Avoid Overtraining, Keep Your Eye on the Prize

United by a desire to test our endurance, I find I have three friends that have also signed up for Florida Ironman 2007, Jay and Kev (the brothers Curry) and Stu "big man" Greeley (brother-in-law to the Currys).  This will become the best recipe for success; training partners. For seven months, we would live with the motto given to us by Denise (my wife) on magnets from Tri-Sports, "16:59:59 - The Time Required to Reach 'The Promised Land' ".  The four of us, "The 4 Horsemen" as we would call ourselves, would train together, race together (at trail races, duathlons, triathlons and other running races), and we would all reach "The Promised Land."  Anything less would be failure as a team.   

Trifuel.com had a great Ironman schedule for the "first time Ironman" that included helpful advice, nutrition info, and most of all a thirty-two week training program broken down into a 20-week base, 12-week competitive season and a 2-week taper.  The program emphisized periodization training of increased workload over three weeks and backing off the volume (not intensity) on the fourth week of every month.  To minimize potential injury at the peak of training max individual runs were limited to two hours, and a duathlon run day of 2.75 hours (run 1:45, bike 0:45, run 1:00). The program started with a weekly volume of eight hours, peaking at nineteen hours before tapering back down.   

Our spring training started with Saturday bike rides to Smolak Farms (to re-fuel on yummy scones) in North Andover MA and Sunday swim/runs to Stiles Pond (Boxford, MA) and Lynn Woods (Lynn, MA).  We'd end the training in early fall with 2 to 2.6 mi swims (Ocean and Pond) followed by 60 to 80 mi rides on Saturday and Sunday long runs of two to three hours.  In the end, I will have trained 400+ hours in seven months (swim 80 hrs, bike 200 hrs, run 130 hrs).  We would also join some organized Century rides and 30k runs for endurance.  Although our eating habits were good, we developed an ever increasing desire for jelly stick donuts after the ocean/pond swims (my fault)--it became our Pavlovian reward.   As our training progressed, we had an ever growing following of training partners. We'd have over a dozen riders on any given ride to Smolak Farms in North Andover and beyond, eight to ten swimmers at Nahant Beach or Stiles Pond, and if the run was in the woods (Lynn Woods), there would be many.

Even with training partners it was hard to stay motivated over the last month. Keeping a weekly diary of my workouts kept me goal orientated.  If I was training alone, I would have considered getting a coach to stay motivated, but I was far from being alone this training season.  Throughout the year, we would exchange articles obtained from triathlon magazines, web sites, and information from Ironman Finishers.  Trifuel.com has a great bi-weekly newsletter that contains periodic information on triathlon training (including IM training) that I highly recommend.  There's a lot of information if you look for it.

A quick set of tips for your first Ironman:

  • MAKE this season count by familiarizing yourself with your schedule to come;

  • GET your mind ready and have a solid sense of self-awareness, goals, and confidence;

  • DON'T kill yourself training and progress from-to base, to competitive, to game-day

  • BUILD technique and endurance and don't worry about speed work--a few shorter races during the year will cover the speed;

  • FOCUS on key sessions and make sure that your long workouts are quality workouts;

  • SLEEP AND RECOVERY are as valuable as the training--without the rest and recovery you'll never go forward;

  • KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE for your first Ironman--be areful how you schedule your other races of the season, pace that first IM, and leave the ego on IM race day at home.

I highly recommend reading as many Ironman post-race reports as you can find. No matter what a racer's time might be, Pro or Age-Grouper, an Ironman is an Ironman, and we all have a "lesson learned" from the race.  I may have considered bypassing my bike special needs bag (PB&J, energy bar, iced tea) at mile fifty if it wasn't for one report saying "I felt great 1/2 way through the bike and didn't feel like eating" (which is how I also felt but stopped anyway) That racer crashed on the run.  Another report indicated much stomach distress after a steady diet of sugary Gatorade and gels on the bike and start of the run.  I decided on Accelerade (protein/carb drink mix) and Clif Blocks to keep that sweet stomach away while ridding the bike, supplemented with solid food at the special needs stop.  Gels definitely have their place, and in one report a triathlete had 16 during the race without much problem (or so they said), but everyone is different.  In yet another report a triathlete had a special treat in their special needs bag, Pringles chips.  I tried it, and let me tell you, it was so nice to have a couple crunchy salty chips in the middle of my bike ride.  And I don't think I could have got that PB&J down at mile 50 without that iced tea I had packed.  Water was just not going to do it.  The iced tea was a treat for us, "The 4 Horsemen", at stops on many long rides.  Whatever you use, make sure you've tried it out during training, do not wait until race day to try something new.   

Training mission completed, time to pack it up, it’s game time.



Tri This! MapMyRun

Tired of driving around trying to estimate the distance of your favorite running course?  Well those days are going the way of the speedo.  MapMyRun is a wonderful website that allows you to map, save, and share your favorite running and cycling courses.  Plus the search features allow you to look for running and riding courses in your area and throughout the world for when you are traveling. The website includes an online training log and event searching tools. It’s a fun, free website.  Check it out: www.mapmyrun.com



Local Highlight: Finding Peace Through Her Marathon Journey

Saying 2006 was the worst year in Caitlin Connelly’s life is an understatement.  In a matter of months, her mother, Anne, and her unborn daughter, Mary, died. As Caitlin worked through the grief and shock, she struggled to find something positive on which she could focus her mind and her energy.  Finally, she made a decision in November 2006 to run the Boston Marathon in April 2007 in memory of her mother and daughter--an incredible decision given that Caitlin was not a runner and had some biomechanical issues that caused one doctor to say that she couldn’t figure out how Caitlin was able to run at all.  

Unfazed, Caitlin plowed ahead. She asked Elaine Vescio from Vescio MPS to help her prepare for this race and then started on her marathon journey. Through that long, cold winter, Caitlin gradually increased her running mileage and included swimming and cycling to build her aerobic base without pounding her lower body. When Caitlin felt tired during a long run, she thought of her mother and her mother’s ability to endure through years of illness. When Caitlin felt like giving up the idea of running the Boston Marathon, she thought of her baby daughter and how running the Boston Marathon was something unique that she could do in Mary’s memory. And Caitlin thought of her two other children and the importance of demonstrating to them how to deal with life’s challenges.  

Training for the marathon transformed Caitlin.  Her workouts became the time for her to sort through her feelings, and physically she felt stronger, leaner, and healthier than she had ever felt before.  Caitlin had found a way to take control of her life. She had found a much needed peace through her training.

The day before the Boston Marathon, forecasters predicted epic weather conditions for the event—a nor’easter with torrential rain and strong winds. The forecasts did not worry Caitlin. Compared to the year she had endured, a nor’easter during her first marathon was not a big deal. The next day as she made her way along the historic course, Caitlin thought of her mother and her baby girl, and she thought of her friends and family. During the race, she experienced a range of emotions—sadness, fear, hope, and elation. Caitlin completed the Boston Marathon in 4:24.

She was hooked. With her first marathon under her belt, Caitlin asked Elaine Vescio to help her train for triathlons and prepare for The Walt Disney World Marathon where she hoped to qualify for the 2008 Boston Marathon. Her first triathlon season went well including a second place finish in her age group at the Wild Dog Triathlon in August 2007. And Caitlin began the 2008 season with a bang—qualifying for the Boston Marathon with an impressive run at The Walt Disney World Marathon. While she is going to wait until 2009 to run the Boston Marathon so that she can have surgery to take care of those biomechanical issues, you will see her on at the FIRM races in 2008. Be sure to say hello and congratulations for the strength and determination she has shown.



Special Offers from Our Sponsors

Wing Press: Special Thanks!
FIRM would like to extend a special thank you to our print sponsor, Wing Press in Framingham, MA, for printing the 2008 FIRM Race Calendar posters. Please support this generous sponsor by visiting Wing Press for all your printing needs. Also, if you want to hang some of the 2008 FIRM Race Calendar posters near your home or work, please contact us at:


Fuel Belt
In 2007, Fuel Belt was selected by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the USA.  That is quite an accomplishment for any business but it speaks volumes to the incredible growth in running, multisport and endurance sports as a category.  As the pioneer of innovative hydration belt designs, we are in the right place at the right time.  Our fast track is simply the result of hard work, great timing and being completely relevant to the end goals of endurance athletes.  

We are very excited about our involvement in the FIRM series for 2008. We look forward to supporting the FIRM team, as well as, all the athletes that come out to compete in these great events.  

To thank you for your continued support of the FIRM Series and help you gear up for the season, we are glad to offer you a 20% discount. To take advantage of this offer, log on to our website www.fuelbelt.com, select your desired products, and use the discount code “firm” at checkout! This offer is valid for all products on our site through March 31st.   Good luck to all competitors in 2008!   Stay Hydrated!  

Vinu Malik President & CEO Fuel Belt, Inc. & Xtri.com
401.289.0724 x 112  
5-Time Hawaii Ironman Finisher
25-Time Ironman Distance Finisher

Vescio Multisport Performance Services
Vescio Multisport Performance Services is thrilled to be the official coaching organization for FIRM in 2008. To help FIRM athletes get ready for the upcoming triathlon season, we’re offering a 10% discount on the Vescio MPS 12 Week Swim Prescription Program. This innovative program combines two group sessions of in-person swim instruction (including underwater videotaping of swim form) with twelve weeks of individualized online professional swim coaching. The next session begins soon. To receive the discount, enter “FIRM” in the appropriate space on the sign-up form.


QuadMultisport is a full service multisport shop located at 1341 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, Massachusetts. We’re excited to be the official bicycle repair shop and support vehicle for almost all the FIRM races in 2008.  We offer:

  • Triathlon specific gear

  • Foot & Biomechanical analysis

  • VO2 Max Testing

  • F.I.S.T. Certified bike fitting

  • Full bicycle repair and service center available

  • USAT Certified Coaching

  • Wetsuit and race wheel rentals

  • Swim, bike, run apparel

As a special offer to FIRM racers, we are offering a 15% discount on all merchandise (except for bicycles) through February 28, 2008. To receive this discount just mention FIRM when you are checking out. See you at the races!   


Quad Multisports/Quintana Roo
Bring the following coupon to Quad Multsport by April 31, 2008 and receive a 20% discount on any Quintana Roo bicycle and/or a 25% discount on any Quintana Roo wetsuit.  This coupon is good for in-shop purchases at Quad Multisport only .