January, 2008





In this issue:

A Message from Wendy and Bill Looking Forward to 2008

Ask the Race Director

Coach’s Corner: Data That Matters: Information to Track and Improve Performance, Part One

Gee Whiz: Aero or Die

Tri-Living: It’s a Balancing Act

Tri This!: Two for One—Cadence and Explosive Power

Local Highlight: Comprehensive Racing Team—Combining Fun and Camaraderie with Endurance Sports

Notable Quotable

Special Offers From Our Sponsors

A Message from Wendy and Bill: 2008 Grand Prix Series

The FIRM Grand Prix is a series of 10 F.I.R.M.  races. All races were selected by the multisport teams of New England at the annual awards banquet.


To be part of the Grand Prix series, you must be a member of a local multisport team. Teams may register with FIRM for the series by April 1st, 2008. Once your team has registered, all members of your team must go onto Active.com and register for your roster at the 2008 FIRM Grand Prix Roster (no charge to do this)




Benefits of the Grand Prix. FIRM will put $$$ from each of the 10 events into the grand prix fund along with $$ from the entries of team members registered for each event. Points are awarded to teams as noted below. At the end of the season prize dollars are awarded to teams for points earned during the season.


Dollars and Age Group awards are awarded to the teams annually. Funds are to be used as your team see’s fit. Some clubs in the past have used their funds for team parties, others to help reduce traveling fee’s, others for uniforms.


Prize value’s change year to year, based on the amount of athletes participating in the series. Cash value are approx. $1500.00 for first place to $100 for last place…


Age group awards are not monitary but prize selected.


To be included in the series. You must have 3  members of your team compete in 5 events to be considered for payouts. Fewer than 3 people will still be considered for individual points but not monetary value. 


Points are awarded for 1-5 place in your age category. (Note: points awarded to only pertaining to grand prix members of multisport teams)


Individual Category points:


1st  place gets 8 points, 2nd place gets 5 points, 3rd place gets 3 points

4th place gets 2 points, 5th place gets 1 point


Grand Prix will be 10 races out of the entire FIRM schedule:


1.    Wrentham Duathlon

2.    U.S. Coast Guard Duathlon

3.    Ludlow Boys & Girls Club Triathlon

4.    FirmMan Massachusetts Triathlon

5.    Webster Lake Triathlon

6.    Old Colony YMCA Triathlon 

7.    Lowell Triathlon & Wild Cat   Triathlon

8.    Witch City Triathlon

9.    Journey for Sight Triathlon

10.  FirmMan Rhode Island 


Ask the Race Director
Question: Why were there so many time penalties at the 2007 Wrentham Halloween Duathlon. Did the strong winds tempt more riders into drafting?  Was their increased marshalling at this race? from D.V. Grafton, MA.

Response: The penalties at the Halloween Du were actually ALL, ready for this....  ipods on the bike. Plus there were a few more on the run course. For safety reasons, USAT prohibits the use of music players during USAT sanctioned events.

Email your questions for the Race Director: billf@firm-racing.com


Coach’s Corner: Data That Matters: Information to Track and Improve Performance, Part One
By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

There is a tremendous range of data available for today’s multisport athlete and it can be daunting to figure out what values are of most use in improving performance.  VO2, lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, heart rate zones, critical power, normalized power, pace--what do these terms mean, what are their predictive value, and how should we use them?  

What follows is the first of a two-part series that will help you make sense of data collection and analysis for performance athletes. 

Data That’s Interesting, But Not Useful
There is a lot of data available to athletes that are interesting, but not necessarily useful in improving personal performance.  For endurance athletes, the “gold standard” data point is one’s VO2 max, which is a measure of the body’s ability to process oxygen during exercise.  A high VO2 max value normally is associated with superior endurance performance; world class cyclists, runners, and swimmers generally will have VO2 max values in excess of 80 ml/kg/min.  (To put this in perspective, Greg Lemond reportedly had a VO2 value of 92.5.)

The problem with VO2 max, however, is that it is largely genetically determined; in other words, a trained individual’s VO2 value will not vary significantly throughout the training year.  As an indicator of athletic potential, VO2 data has some predicative value, but it has limited use as a means of establishing workouts and tracking performance.  Values like max heart rate also function like VO2—while interesting, it has no real utility for day-to-day training and performance assessment.

Data That’s Interesting and Useful
Useful data is data that can be collected easily and consistently and has value for both assessing past performance and predicting future activity.  A good example of useful data is one’s lactate threshold, which is a measure of when lactate begins to accumulate in the body during exercise.  As lactate accumulates in the body, muscle contraction is impacted, power output decreases, perceived effort increases, and discomfort is experienced.  An easy way to understand lactate threshold is the highest level of exertion one can sustained for a period of approximately 30 minutes.

Unlike VO2, one’s lactate threshold does respond to training.  As fitness increases through a structured program of intervals and rides near threshold, one is able to raise the point at which lactate accumulates, which means that the same athlete will be able to exercise longer and at a higher intensity.  Lactate threshold can be measured in a number of ways, including ramp tests on a treadmill or ergometer, or through blood sampling by an experienced exercise physiologist or other trained professional.  (Interestingly, multisport athletes should establish their lactate thresholds for each event, as it does assume a sport-specific component.)

Putting Data in Context
Imagine the profiles of two hypothetical athletes: Gabriella and Chloe.  Gabriella is a genetically gifted triathlete who has a high—82 ml/kg/min—VO2; unfortunately, Gabriella does not train on a regular basis, so her lactate threshold is relatively low.  Chloe does not have similar genetic potential—her VO2 is 70 ml/kg/min—but she is conscientious in her training and has a very high lactate threshold.  Assuming that Gabriella and Chloe are approximately the same age, height, and weight, chances are excellent that Chloe will beat Gabriella when racing side-by-side.

When collecting data, it is important to recognize that one cannot rely on a single type of data when developing an effective training program.  A cyclist, for instance, has perhaps the greatest opportunity to collect all kinds of data: speed, distance, heart rate, power, etc.  Focusing on heart rate or perceived effort alone does not necessarily mean that one will be exercising at an optimal level (for instance,  a cyclist could spinning at a very high rpm in a very small gear, which would result in a high heart rate, but low power output and low average speed), similarly, focusing on power alone does not measure the impact that the effort has on one’s effort (it is possible that an individual may experience vastly different heart rates/perceived efforts for intervals at the same power).  The goal in data collection and use is that values should be collected that reflect both bodily stress (e.g., lactate threshold) and actual performance (e.g., average power) both for the duration of specific exercise sessions and for extended periods of time.

What’s Next?
This installment only has touched the very basics of data collection and analysis.  The next installment will focus on tracking specific types of data over time as a way to assess overall training.


Gee Whiz: Aero or Die
By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

There are  four strategies that a cyclist can use to go faster: 1)train smart and harder; 2)optimize body position on the bike to increase biomechanical and aerodynamic efficiencies; 3)draft someone faster; 4) minimize the aerodynamic drag of the bicycle and its components.

Minimizing the drag of a bicycle and its components mostly is a matter of spending money or developing creative engineering solutions.   The goal is to minimize the aspect of the bicycle that must travel through the wind; one way to do this is to make this aspect as narrow as possible, or even to eliminate items altogether.

As the front of the bicycle sees the most wind, the greatest returns can be gained in this area.  While one can spend over $500 to purchase narrow profile aerobars, another—and not recommended—option might be to go as minimal as possible. 

Think of it this way: if a rider is going to spend most of his/her time on the aerobars, then why not eliminate the base bars altogether?


Eliminating the base bars reduces aerodynamic drag, which should result in a faster ride.  Below is a photo from the 2007 season that shows Graham Obree (former world record holder) using the “Aero or Die” position:


Why is it called the “Aero or Die” position?  Simple—turning, braking, and climbing become extremely difficult, if not at times dangerous.  And not unimportantly, some sports federations set a minimum handlebar width, usually 36cm, that effectively eliminates the removal of aero base bars.

Recommendation: you will see much greater gains by adjusting your training plan and getting a good bike fit that you’ll ever realize by adopting such an extreme equipment option. 


Tri-Living: It’s a Balancing Act
By Tonya Spagnuolo, First Place Female 35-39 2008 FIRM Grand Prix Series

When I was approached to answer the question “how do you balance it all?” family, a full-time job and triathlon training and racing, it took me a few moments to realize that wow I did indeed achieve just that- balance.

My life is so jammed packed that the only way to keep stability is by keeping an organized schedule for each element: family, job, workouts. This allows me to stay focused and achieve the requisite balance. 

Here’s my approach. I jot down my kids’ schedule for school and other activities, my husband’s work and travel schedule, and any special events with family and friends. Then I incorporate my daily workouts into that schedule. My triathlon coach (Elaine Vescio, from Vescio Multisport Performance Services) provides me with a training schedule that specifies what workouts to do each day in each discipline. Since I share my coach’s philosophy of intensity over volume, this helps me to fit a strenuous, but effective training program into my life.

In summary, setting realistic training and racing goals, following a schedule, and keeping open  communication with the spouse & kids are essential to making this balancing act work. 


Tri This!  Two for One—Cadence and Explosive Power
By Elaine Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

Here is one of my favorite cycling workouts.  It includes cadence work and explosive power. If possible, do this workout on an indoor trainer or spinning bike so that traffic, intersections, or balancing the bike doesn’t interfere with the intensity needed during the explosive power intervals.

Warm up for 10 minutes.  Then do 3 x 7 minute interval with a cadence of 100 to 110 RPMs.  Recover for 4 minutes between intervals. Use a medium size gear or moderate wattage on a Computrainer. The focus is on keeping a fast, smooth cadence throughout the interval. Ride for about 10 minutes after completing the third cadence interval.  Then get ready to do the explosive power intervals.

There’s a big learning curve to these explosive power intervals, so be patient when trying to figure out the appropriate gearing or wattage to use.  The workout is 5 x 20 seconds with 40 seconds recovery in between. Use a big gear, start with a cadence of about 10 RPMs and gradually increase your cadence until you reach a maximum cadence of 90 to 100 RPMs near the end of the 20 seconds.  If your cadence is faster than 100, you need a bigger gear or more watts; if you cadence is below 90, you need a smaller gear or less watts.

Each week increase each cadence interval by one minute, and add one more explosive power interval to each set.  After about six weeks, you should notice improvements in your ability to hold a strong cadence while riding and in your ability to power up hills.


Local Highlight: Comprehensive Racing Team—Combining Fun and Camaraderie with Endurance Sports
By Kurt Maw, Co-founder of Comprehensive Racing Comprehensive Racing is a multi-sport and cycling team focused in the north shore and central MA, and southern New Hampshire.  Comprehensive Racing, originally known as Comprehensive Training Systems, was started in 2001 by Todd Crumb, Kurt Maw and Wayne Maw.  What started out as a group of 3 individuals trying to interest more people in the sport of triathlon and its healthy lifestyle has since grown into one of the most welcoming and successful teams in New England with over 50 members.  We are a group of athletes working toward common team goals of:

*Having fun and meeting new people

*Balancing the sports of triathlon and cycling, with the demands of life, family and friends

*Educating the communities that we live in about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle balancing both sport and life

*Introducing the sports of triathlon and cycling to our friends and family

*Competing in local, regional, national and international events to showcase our talent and commitment

We represent beginner through advanced athletes competing at all levels in triathlon and cycling.  We are Ironman veterans, athletes who have competed in the 2007 World Long Course Championships, beginner and intermediate athletes, and everyday people racing just to have fun and meet new people.  In order to support our athletes with the most convenient and best training options, Comprehensive Racing has partnerships with two training companies: Comprehensive Training Systems and Vescio Multisport Performance Services. 

In addition to our training partners, we offer our athletes the sponsorship of Salem Cycle, Felt Bicycles, Rudy Project USA, Accelerade and New England Running Company.  Also Comprehensive Racing gains support from cycling friendly companies like Dynacept Corporation, and Essential, Inc. In addition to helping people in their sporting endeavors, Comprehensive Racing is proud of its athletes’ charitable contributions. All members of Comprehensive Racing are asked to donate to their charity of choice for every mile they race, or to complete at least one charity event per season.  In 2007, Comprehensive Racing raised over $4000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and had more than a half dozen athletes of all levels ride to benefit the Brain Tumor Society.  

Our athletes have access to cross train and experience other sports such as trail running and adventure racing through affiliations we have established.  This past year, Comprehensive Racing also worked with Salem Cycle to revive the revered Witches Cup Criterium in Salem, MA.  As a proud sponsor and with a strong volunteer force, we look forward to another successful event in August 2008, showcasing bicycle racing at its finest.

At Comprehensive Racing, we pride ourselves on our friendly nature and desire to get involved and help people. All of us were beginners at one point and know what it means to be overwhelmed. A few of us have evolved into expert resources and are always willing to share what we've learned through experience and what others have taught us. We always welcome your questions so please don't hesitate to ask us... It's why we're here!!!  Visit us online at www.comprehensive-racing.com.

See you in ’08!  We’ll be the team in the Black and Orange!

Notable Quotable
“At least on a bike you could roll down those hills. Come to think of it, my running pace was so slow that it would have been faster if I fell and rolled down those hills."
Kurt Maw, Salem, MA, regarding his run at FirmMan 2007.


Special Offers From Our Sponsors

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.


PR Running

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!