Firm Racing News
March 2009

Table of Contents

Message from Bill and Wendy: Are You Ready for the Races?

Tri Living: Learning Experiences of Three Elite Athletes

Coach’s Corner—Power Meters, Part One

FIRM Is Going Green!

Tri This: Free Training Software

Gee Whiz: Custom Carbon Parts

Helping your Financial Fitness: Three Simple Training Tips

Upcoming FIRM Events

Special Offers from Our Sponsors


Message from Bill and Wendy: Are You Ready for the Races?

New England’s multisport season opener, the Wrentham Duathlon, is just weeks away. Whether you have been training diligently over the past few months or just now are trying to locate the running shoes, tri shorts, and swim goggles that you put away so many months ago, there is something for you on the 2009 FIRM race calendar.

All your favorite FIRM races and the popular FIRM Grand Prix Race Series are returning for 2009. For you landlubbers, we have added a duathlon to the Sheriff’s Sprint Pool Triathlon; and in response to numerous requests from our athletes with gills, we have added an aquabike division to our Olympic distance triathlons (Ashland Triathlon, Old Colony YMCA Triathlon, and the Lowell YMCA Triathlon) and half ironman distance events (FirmMan Massachusetts and FirmMan Rhode Island).  We are pleased to announce that the Bayside YMCA Triathlon is a qualifying race for the Best of the U.S. Amateur Triathlete Competition. And we have changed the Five Star Triathlon to the TDD Triathlon.  It’s the same great race course and venue, but starting in 2009, it will be a memorial race for Tyrus, Dante, and Daniel Vescio and a fundraiser for the UMass Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Be sure to add the TDD Triathlon to your race schedule, and bring your family as there will be lots of entertainment for the whole family.  

FIRM is making a number of changes to make your race experience with us even better. We are working with Bruce Rayner from A Fit Planet to help green our events; we are moving our online registration to; and we are launching a new website. Plus you’ll notice quite a few other changes on race day. 

We are pleased that some things are remaining the same.  Once again, Quadmultisport is the official bicycle mechanic and support for the FIRM series. Tom Newton and his crew will be available at the race venue for minor repairs and will provide support on the bicycle course for all FIRM events. Vescio Multisport Performance Services is the official triathlon coaching service for the FIRM series—ready, willing, and able to provide you with professional coaching to help you reach your triathlon goals in 2009. Other returning sponsors include FuelBelt, Quintana Roo, Zoot, Hammer Nutrition, TYR,, and Marathon Physical Therapy. We are excited to welcome a new sponsor, Tri-2-Excel. This is a race video production company that will offer you the opportunity to have a personal video of your races.

We are looking forward to seeing you at the races.  Click here to check out the 2009 FIRM race schedule. Contact us at with any questions.  

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Tri Living: Learning Experiences of Three Elite Athletes

In his captivating “Last Lecture”, Randy Pausch inspired millions with his words of wisdom--wisdom that is applicable in many aspects of life, including triathlon. FIRM decided to ask three elite athletes to provide us with a training or race story that reflected the following principle from Randy Pausch: “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”. Read on to learn from the experiences of Jarrod Shoemaker (Olympian and professional triathlete), Alicia Kaye (professional triathlete and former Canadian Junior National Champion), and Mike Ross (current holder of 16 masters swimming world records).


 Jarrod Shoemaker: I think that you can gain experience from everything that you do. Every time you start a training session or race there is a distinct series of events that led to getting you to that point, and I believe that you can look back at each of these series of events and learn something.

A recent “experience is what you get when you don't get what you want” is my race story from the 2008 World Championships in Vancouver. Going into the race in Vancouver I knew that it was going to be cold and water temperatures were predicted to be in the low 50s, but I did not expect that the weather would be in the low 50s as well. Basically it was as cold as you ever would want to race in. Prior to the race I had swam in Walden Pond on several occasions in the early spring so I felt ready for the cold water. There is no real way to prepare for the cold temperatures except to wear warm clothes--so that was my plan for that.

On race day, I warmed up for the race feeling like I had done a good job of preparing and was ready to give racing in the cold weather a shot. As we were standing in the tent, one of the USAT coaches said, "Put some Vaseline on your face to help insulate you; it worked for me when I raced." So I went to the start with some Vaseline on my face, ran into the water, and was in solid position at the back of the first pack. After about 400 meters I noticed that my goggles were fogging up, nothing new but I had trouble seeing so I tried to let some water into them to clear them out. When I let water in I realized that is was not water fogging up my goggles, but instead it was Vaseline that was inside my goggles. Basically I swam the rest of the race in a panic as I could not see anything. I was trying to follow bubbles and orange caps, but for all I knew I could have been swimming out to sea. My swim ended up being a disaster and I learned an important lesson: Do not try anything on race day that you have not tried in practice!


 Alicia Kaye: I’d like to write about an experience that took place over eight years ago.  It was 2002 and I was at my fourth Junior National Championships.  I had won the year before by over two minutes. Kathy Tremblay, my major competition in 2001, had aged up, so I was the favorite to win.  2002 was the first year that the junior race had been shortened to a sprint triathlon which would make for closer racing. Going into this race I was confident. I had trained extremely hard at the National Triathlon Training Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, and felt that this was my race to win. 

Despite my excellent preparation, many things went wrong in the race.  As we were about to enter the water, officials warned us that they had changed the flow from the transition area for T2 but not to worry because they would ensure it would be extremely clear.  Everything in the race went smoothly until T2.  One of the officials was not aware of the last minute change to the exit and I wasted many valuable seconds being directed in two different directions.  Finally I started the run and tried to refocus, but I was wondering who now might be right behind me.  My misfortune continued when I reached the first water station. I paused for water but the volunteers were not aware that I was approaching and were several yards away.  So I headed off again, very thirsty.  A little further on, an elderly woman drove her car through the race barriers, cut me off, and nearly hit me-- things were not going my way.

I ended up finishing second, losing the national title.  I was extremely disappointed.  However, I learned on that unfortunate day to be prepared to deal with adversity. I had allowed the stressors to negatively affect my race. While I couldn’t control what happened, I could control how I reacted to the situations. After this race I created a mental plan for how I would cope with unforeseen stressors. I realized that I train too hard to allow stressors during a race to negatively impact my performance.  Throughout my career I’ve continued to have things to go wrong during races. That’s just the way it is. But I have changed my perspective, and my experience has allowed me to race more consistently, regardless of race day conditions and stressors. 

 Mike Ross: In preparation for the 1992 Olympic Trials for swimming, I was convinced to swim with a coach named Chris Martin who was known for working his team very hard -- much harder than I had ever experienced -- and getting great results.  As that training progressed, I frequently found myself doubting the training as I began to fatigue to the point of poor performance at meet after meet.  I felt that my technique was suffering due to this fatigue, but I was not confident enough to change my training.

With about six months to go, I approached Chris and expressed my concerns.  After listening to my worries, he offered a compromise: I would continue to train as he was prescribing until four months prior to the Trials.  After that, he suggested, I would be free to do whatever I wanted.  I held my end of the bargain and so did Chris.  With four months to go, I dramatically reduced my training volume and significantly increased the time that I focused on technique. 

Under this new plan, I would drive four hours north on weekends to work on technique with two coaches who had coached me before college.  Although it was my intention to make the Olympics in the 200 freestyle, these two coaches convinced me to also direct some of my focus on the 100 butterfly, an event that I had only swum on a handful of occasions.  As the weeks and months progressed, my technique was improving in both strokes and my energy levels were returning to normal.

When I arrived at the Trials, I was completely focused on the 200 freestyle.  I felt like all of my training was finally paying off.  Since I had put in so much work with Chris Martin, I rationalized that I could take my race out much harder than ever before without fear fatigue.  When the 200 free came, I swam just as I had intended.  I was out much faster than I had ever been and was on my way to making the team.  With 15 meters left in my race, my theory about my super human stamina was dashed and so were my chances of making the team.

After the race, I was crushed.  How could I have been so stupid?  Even though I had several more races, I reasoned that I had missed my chance and was ready to quit.  Thankfully, my wife was at the meet and she reasoned with me.  She pointed out that I had been working on more than just the 200 freestyle.  As I thought about it, I finally recognized that she was absolutely right.  The 100 butterfly was in two days.

I used those next two days to revisit my last four months of training.  I reflected on the technique work that I had done in that time and prepared myself mentally to swim the 100 butterfly maintaining proper stroke technique throughout the race.  My preliminary swim was a complete surprise.  I qualified for the finals of the 1992 Olympic Trials in an event that I had rarely competed in.  Although I didn't make the Olympics, I performed better than I could have imagined and this experience taught me several valuable lessons. 

The first was to trust in myself.  The second was to value technique over brute force.  The third was to always trust my wife.  Oh, I have forgotten and relearned each of these lessons over time (as my wife will kindly remind me), but when I do return to these standards I return to the best of me.

Year after year, these three athletes continue to add great athletic accomplishments to their race resumes--the synergistic result of intense training, good genes, and a willingness to learn from experience. So when things don’t go quite the way you hope in a race this season, remember: “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”.

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Coach’s Corner—Power Meters, Part One

By Don Vescio, Vescio Multisport Performance Services

Power meters have been the big buzz for the past five years or so in cycling, replacing in the minds of some coaches and athletes the use of a heart rate monitor.  Essentially, what a power meter does is to measure that amount of work being done on the bike, usually in units called "watts."  The more watts produced, the more work that is being done; unlike heart rate, which can be influenced by a number of outside factors (fatigue, weather, hydration, etc.), watts are remarkably stable--300 watts of effort is 300 watts of effort, whether you are tired, rested, going up hill, or pounding into a headwind.

It's important to understand that while power meters measure the work done on the bike, heart rate monitors measure stress placed on the body. While an athlete can be very successful relying exclusively on either technology, it is our belief that both power and heart rate data collected in tandem offer the most complete performance picture.  There are a number of excellent power meter guides available for novice and expert cyclists, perhaps most notably Allen and Coggan's book, Training with Power.  But unless you are willing to make a commitment to review and analyze your data on an ongoing basis, a power meter becomes little more than a remarkably expensive speedometer for your bike.

What follows is a summary of our thoughts and recommendations regarding bicycle power meters.  In part two of this series, we will outline some specific ways in which power meter data can be used to optimize your training and aerodynamic performance.  We have extensively used five of the major power meters available on today’s market; the sixth, Quarq, is new to the market and hasn’t been tested as of yet.

Power meter data has two primary uses: tracking performance over time; setting a target pace goal when racing or training.  Of the two, we find that tracking data over time is most useful, as it helps quantify whether you are improving or not.  An important collateral use for power meter data, assuming that the meter is consistent (see below) is that it’s an excellent tool for optimizing on the bike aerodynamics.

Power data can be correlated to physiological stress over time; on the other hand, TRIMPS also does this, too, based on HR. It's important not to discount HR and perceived effort when training and racing--power data only provides part of the information that's critical for assessment (you will hear others argue to the contrary).

 If I race with a power meter, it's only to collect data for later review--I don't actually view the data during the ride (most of the time, I stick the power meter head under my seat).  Power meter data can be used for pacing--e.g., "I will ride for one hour at 400w," but PE/HR can provide roughly equivalent pacing feedback. 

There is a huge difference between accuracy and consistency. A power meter might give an accurate reading at any given moment, but not be consistent over time (drift in values, etc.).  A power meter might not be all that accurate (am I really putting out 300w?), but it can be remarkably consistent over time (in which case you're comparing relative values).  If I can’t have both accuracy and consistency, then I’d opt for consistency every time.

Personally, I value consistency rather than accuracy, except for very limited applications, such as training for match sprints on the track:  "What is my absolute peak power and five second power data for the next six efforts?"

Regarding power meters…

The SRM professional model is perceived to be the gold standard of power meters, but it costs ~$3K.  It is a crankset-based power meter; this means you can use any wheel that you want.  The newer versions can be swapped between bikes relatively easily.  SRM power meters do require periodic vendor maintenance; they can be user calibrated.

Powertap—This is just as accurate, by most counts, as SRM, though users are locked into a specific rear wheel, as this is a hub-based system.   It is very easy to use and install; for racing, just put a cover over your training wheel, and you'll have a setup as fast as any disk. (There are lots of studies on this).

Polar--I really like this power meter, though its initial setup is a little fussy.  Once it is setup properly, though, it is as accurate as a Powertap.  Go with the CS600 version--it's a lot easier to install than the first generation version, and there are fewer problems with data drops (which all power meters have, at times).  Also, you can use the computer head as a watch for your run.

iBike--actually my favorite, as it is low-cost and bomb-proof. Some claim that iBike is only a power estimator, and not a power meter, but all power meters estimate power in their own ways.  iBike is easy to install and to move from bike to bike; remarkably consistent (and even accurate) if calibration is done with some care.  The only issue is that it can be challenging to mount it on some aerobar combinations. 

Ergomo—Ergomo’s manufacturer recently has declared bankruptcy and support for their units is very limited.  Ergomo determined power by measuring the amount of twist that occurred in the bottom bracket axle; because of its design, it measured the amount of power generated by the rider’s left leg, and then doubled it to establish total power. For most riders, power is evenly distributed on the leg and right legs; for those with significant muscular imbalances, the power readings could be suspect.  There were reports of problems with the unit’s consistency (see above), and installation was extremely challenging in practice.

Don't forget the software.  Polar has the best native software; third party software that works with any of these meters include CyclingPeaks (~$90) and SportTracks (free open source--very, very good and probably more flexible--and useful for triathlon--than Cycling Peaks).

What do I use?  I mostly train by HR and PE; periodically, I mount a SRM to collect session data to track performance over time.  I like the SRM because I can use it with my race wheels or training wheels; also, I like it because I can tuck the computer head under my seat so that it's out of the way (the iBike requires the computer head to be mounted on the front of the bike to see clean air flow).  I'd use the Polar, but it's hard to set up properly on my Cervelo, which has a combination of really short stays and an overly large chainring.  If I was starting out and wasn't sure that power-based training and racing was for me, then I'd get an iBike or Polar; if I were starting out and had lots of disposable cash, then I'd get a SRM professional, which carries excellent resale value.  If I were looking to spend less than for a SRM and didn't mind using the same rear wheel for racing and training, then I'd consider a Powertap.

Power meters are no magic cure for slow bike splits; used correctly, though, the data that they provide can make your training much more efficient and effective, which is the topic of the next part of this series.

Don Vescio, a cycling coach with Vescio Multisport Performance Services, has set numerous cycling course records in the United States and Canada, and is currently training for a Masters World hour record. You can reach Don at 

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FIRM Is Going Green!

We’re pleased to announce that FIRM is working with Athletes for a Fit Planet to help us be more eco-friendly and do our part for the planet. Here are some of the things you’ll see at our race this year:

Recycling - We’ll have recycling bins set up at all our events in 2009. Look for the signs and do your part to reduce landfill waste. Just look for the recycling signs and our dedicated recycling Green Team.

Share a Ride - FIRM is partnering with PickupPal to offer a quick and easy way for you to arrange a ride. Look for the PickupPal links on our race websites coming soon. You can offer or ask for a ride from a fellow registered athlete. Ride sharing is a great way to reduce greenhouse gases and meet fellow athletes.

Green Tags - FIRM is offering Green Tag carbon offset stickers supplied by Athletes for a Fit Planet in partnership with NativeEnergy. It’s an inexpensive way to offset the emissions from your race-day travel. For just $2.50 you can purchase a Green Tag to offset 300 pounds of CO2, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles of travel. Just look for the Athletes for a Fit Planet booth at our events.

Green Portable Toilets - No more toxic chemicals. All the portable toilets FIRM provides will use natural, biodegradable, non-toxic chemicals, recycled paper and biodegradable hands soap.

Get Involved - Join FIRM and show your commitment for a healthier planet. Stop by the Athletes for a Fit Planet booth at FIRM events to say hello, sign the FitPlanet EcoPledge, and check out all the eco-friendly products.

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Tri This: Free Training Software

Are you interested in a full-featured multisport training software package?  If so, take a look at Zone Five Software's SportTracks, which is a free, open source training software package that is tremendously customizable to meet your specific needs. 

SportTracks is supported by a large community of enthusiastic software developers who have created a substantial library of plug-in modules that will allow you to track literally any aspect of your training that you could imagine. With SportTracks, you can directly download data from your heart rate monitor, bicycle power meter, and personal GPS for post-activity analysis.  Even more exciting, try out one of the modules that enable you to predict future performance based on current and historical data.

Click here for more information.

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Gee Whiz: Custom Carbon Parts

Looking for a way to save grams on your TT bike?  Want the cutting edge in chainring technology?    For those who have everything (or those who have a special application), check out Britain's Fibre-Lyte, makers of custom carbon parts.  Fibre-Lyte makes highly durable full carbon chainrings--including teeth!--for virtually any crank and in any size.  Especially when used in a single ring application, Fibre-Lyte's carbon construction is light, strong, aero, and extremely durable.  For those who use double-chainrings, carbon chainrings with shifting ramps also are available.  Fibre-Lyte sells direct to US customers; custom builds are delivered approximately two weeks after order.

In the above picture is a 60t Fibre-Lyte single chainring and FSA aero crankset recently installed on a Cervelo.

Click here for more information on Fibre-Lyte products.  

(Direct link to carbon bicycle parts: )

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Helping your Financial Fitness: Three Simple Training Tips                  

By Paul A. Romano, MBA, the Principal Financial Groupâ 

Do you spend more time planning your training than planning your investments? Well, you are not alone. But if you haven’t given sufficient attention to your financial fitness, a downturn in the market can create additional uncertainty and anxiety for you. Here are three simple training tips for investing to help relieve your jitters and improve your financial fitness: focus on the long-term, invest regularly and diversify. 

Focusing on the long-term – If you watch the ups and downs of the market over a short time period, you’ll often see large fluctuations. But if you watch the markets over a longer time, you’ll find the movements much less dramatic. The key is not to become too overly concerned with the movement of the market in one-or even two-year periods, if your investment time horizon is at least five to seven years. History has shown that the longer you remain invested, the greater your chances for success.

Investing regularly and consistently – Doing so will let you take advantage of swings in stock prices. When stock prices decrease, you purchase more shares and when prices are higher, you purchase fewer shares. Though no investment program can assure a profit or protect against loss, investing consistently can help you ride out market ups and downs. Dollar Cost Averaging involves continuous investing. Investors need to consider their ability and willingness to continue investing through periods of low price levels.

Diversification – Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Instead consider spreading your risk by dividing your money among a variety of asset classes – stocks, bonds, etc. This way, if one investment performs poorly, it only affects part of your total investments. Keep in mind that no investment strategy, such as asset allocation or diversification, can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

While you have no control over how much the value of your investments change, your understanding of these three simple financial training tips could help you improve your financial fitness.

Paul A. Romano is a Financial Representative of Principal National Life Insurance Company and a Registered Representative of Princor Financial Services Corporation. He can be reached at 781-398-1574 or at .  

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Upcoming FIRM Events

Wrentham Duathlon on April 19, 2009

The FIRM season opener, the Wrentham Duathlon is a perennial favorite.  It’s a fun opportunity to gauge your fitness (or lack thereof), reconnect with multisport buddies, and get back into the groove of racing. Click here to register for the Wrentham Duathlon.


The Sheriff’s Sprint Pool Triathlon and Duathlon on May 3, 2009

Get your first triathlon in 2009 under your belt in a fun, low key event. This year, we’ve added a Duathlon to appease you landlubbers. Click here to register for the Sheriff’s Sprint Pool Triathlon and Duathlon.


Sudbury Spring Sprint Triathlon on May 10, 2009

This ultra fast sprint triathlon course attracts triathletes of all abilities from newbies to pros (and even an Olympian). Since there are only a few spots left in this year’s event, register soon if you want in on the fun. Click here to register for the Sudbury Spring Sprint Triathlon.

Remember to check out all twenty-five multisport events on the 2009 FIRM Race Calendar. We offer a variety of fun and competitive events to keep you racing from April through October.  Click here for the complete listing of 2009 FIRM events.  

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Special Offers from Our Sponsors

Vescio Multisport Performance Services
Vescio Multisport Performance Services is thrilled to once again be the official coaching organization for the FIRM Race Series, and we look forward to helping FIRM athletes achieve their athletic goals in 2009.  

Sign up for any Vescio MPS Platinum or Gold Level Program by May 31, 2009 and get 20% off the first month’s coaching fee. To receive the discount, enter “FIRM20” in the appropriate space on the client sign-up form. This offer may not be combined with other offers.  

Bring the following coupon to Quadmultisport by May 31, 2009 and receive a 20% discount on any Quintana Roo bicycle and/or Quintana Roo wetsuit.  This coupon is good for in-shop purchases only and is not applicable for online purchases. is excited to help all FIRM series racers start their 2009 season the right way! We would like to offer you 10% off and free shipping on all orders over $150. Just use promotional code FIRM9-R. All shipping costs will be adjusted manually after you have placed your order with Offer valid until 5/31/09 and is for UPS ground shipping in continental United States only.