Saturday, April 18, 2015

Andrew Kalley: Full Throttle On & Off The Course

Andrew Kalley is an elite triathlete and coach with NYC-based Full Throttle Endurance. Following stellar performances at both USAT Nationals in Milwaukee and ITU Worlds in Edmonton last year, Andrew was diagnosed with cancer in December 2014. However, as you might expect from a triathlete, he's battling like a true champion... attacking this thing with everything he's got.

Thanks for the time, Andrew, and best of luck with your continued recovery!!

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and around ‘06 I was kind of looking for something new to change things up. I thought I’d do a triathlon as a one-time thing, just for something to do. I was doing spin classes and swimming on my own despite no prior experience. I was a decent runner but had only run for conditioning and had never done races. I then met Scott Berlinger (in a prior life the American Gladiator known as “Viper”) with the Full Throttle Endurance team, and I started going to practices. By placing and winning my AG at some races that first season, it was clear that there was some potential there. I quickly got hooked on the competition and the training, and the rest is history. I got more and more involved with Full Throttle and eventually became a coach with the team in addition to what I was doing as a trainer. It’s an added niche to the strength and weight loss training that I do.

What can you tell us about the Full Throttle Endurance Team?

We have a very unique program in which we’re able to train at a facility (Chelsea Piers) in New York under one roof, with a pool, indoor track, CompuTrainers, a cycling studio with 40 bikes, treadmills, strength training, etc. Essentially it’s ~100 athletes training together under one roof. All ages and fitness levels are represented, from elite athletes competing at the World Champs to average people doing it just for fitness. It’s great to see so many different people pushing to their own potential at any given workout. We have a very good group and a great coaching staff with five full-time coaches.

Sounds like a great set up. Are there any drawbacks you face by training in NYC?

Chelsea Piers definitely helps a lot, and from a running standpoint there’s the Hudson river path and Central Park, which are great. For outdoor rides crossing the George Washington bridge into Jersey provides the best riding for us. In the past we’ve ridden in Central Park, but due to some issues with accidents the city has gotten more strict. Teams including ourselves are worried how police with radars will impact weekly bike training! Thankfully we have the CompuTrainers and indoor bikes, but we may be between a rock and a hard place. We’ll have to play that by ear, as it’s our first year experiencing this issue.

Your win at the NYC Triathlon a few years back has to be considered the highlight of your career so far. What do you remember from that race?

That’s definitely my most prestigious career win. Fortunately, the conditions really played to my favor. The weather was ominous and raining that morning. I came out of the water in a good position and hammered the bike despite the slick roads. I didn’t hold back, and passed many people who were playing it a little more safe, giving me a good lead off the bike. I ran hard and was able to hold my position. The funny thing is the next year (2012) and shaved 3 min off and went sub 2:00, but placed 4th.

Of the three disciplines, what’s your biggest strength and weakness?

My bike and run are pretty much a toss up in terms of strength. I typically will average 24-26 mph over a 40k Olympic distance course, and run 33-35 min off the bike for 10K (mid 5-min. mile pace). My swim isn’t terrible, but I’ve come out of the water 4 min behind guys at times. Some days I can make it up and other days I run out of real estate.

What are your plans for this season?

Well, it’s an interesting story but unfortunately I was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. In January I had surgery, and I’m technically cancer free, but still on chemo. So far my body has responded really well. I would love to still be able to race later in the season, but no big plans for this year. My goals for this year will be more altruistic… I want to tell my story and hopefully give back by raising money on behalf of Sloan-Kettering, the hospital that’s treating me. If you have a minute, please take a look at this website to read about my progress and learn more about these efforts.

photo shoot for Chelsea Piers - Dec. '14,
the same month Andrew was diagnosed
Wow, so sorry to hear that, but glad to hear of your progress… what events led to your diagnosis?

The cancer diagnosis came less than 3 months after the World Champs when I was in peak form. There’s also no family history that I’m aware of, so it was basically really bad luck. I developed some symptoms that troubled me and decided it was time for a physical. Luckily I went when I did it, as the cancer was stage 3, so still treatable. Guys tend to be more hardheaded about getting checked, ignoring symptoms and being less likely to go to doctor when we should. Regardless of age and health these things can affect anybody. Fortunately I went when I did, but I wish I had gone sooner.

How has triathlon helped you thus far in your recovery?

Well, for example I just rode for 75 min, trying to get my base back. For my own mental sanity it’s been great. I’m really grateful. In the grand scheme of things I’ve responded well. Triathlon gives me something to keep me focused. I’m confident I’ll get back to full health, as there are lots of examples of others who have recovered fully. I’m just trying to turn a negative into a positive and hope to inspire other people. 

Thus far your best results have been at the Olympic distance… do you foresee yourself taking a run at long-course racing after you’ve officially kicked cancer to the curb?

I love the intensity of short-course racing, and at the end of day I feel Olympic is my sweet spot where I do best. That said, I have also wanted the challenge of moving to long-course and hopefully having similar success. I would love to potentially win my AG and qualify for Kona, and I’m already setting my sights on a full Ironman in the future. I’ve done a few 70.3s, and would like to add more to my schedule in future years. I still need to figure out that 13 mile run off the bike at the level I want to do it at.

Our team is pretty split on short-course versus long-course, but we do have a lot who have caught the bug of going long.

Anything else to add?

I just want to say thanks to Sloan-Kettering, as well as Full Throttle for being a very supportive group!

Stay up to date on Andrew's fight and cause 

Personal Site:


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Triathlon Trash Talk

I stumbled on this gem the other day (circa 1989). I was bored, so I took a few minutes to tweak the lyrics.... no one talks trash funnier than old school rappers did, but if a pro or elite age group triathlete took a shot at it, it might go something like this. 

Well excuse me, take a few minutes, to mellow out the tri daddy's on the mic and I'ma tell you bout
My maximum strength, at any race length, and power
So listen to the man of the hour
I flow and roll to a fast tempo while, you know, you swim slow, bike slow, run slow fo sho
I go strong, as I perform, transformin on race day like a Decepticon

But I'm not animated like a cartoon I'm for real, kick the swim off like a harpoon
Across the crowd, competitors, the spectators 
So let's groove with the smooth operator

I tri so smooth...

The B-I-G  T-R-I-A-T-H-L-E-T-E        
I'm good and plenty, servin many and any
Competition, yo I'm in top condition
I'm straight up dissin and dismissin, listen
Others have big smiles, Facebook profile
They try hard but can't hang in the last mile 

I give nightmares to those who compete
I'm like Freddy Kreuger, walkin down your street
Confused, you lose while I abuse and bruise the fools
who choose to play the game wrong, they pay dues
Destruction from the exterminator
But in a calm manner, cause I'm a smooth operator

I tri so smooth...

Macca is never shy around the mic
Now ya'll step up to this
One simple diss, and it's over miss
Ya'll are big dreamers, but in reality
My friend, you've been scooped like ice cream
So I'll bring my ring as the gathering tries to cling...
Cuz it's a Tri Daddy thing
And I'm smokin'em right word is bond
Sing the national anthem then Let's Get It On
My pace is real good yet I feel real good
Makin' sure that my point is understood
That when it comes to this there's none greater
Sincerely yours... the smooth operator

I tri so smooth...

rap to us, Meredith

Now ain't that the pot callin the kettle black
Sayin I'm just a hack, you need to be smacked
The smooth way I play'em & the way that I spray'em
God made me different in a way, I'm gifted
Just sayin' makin sure every race is done fine
I make like a bee line, future bright as the sunshine
Attack you like Robatussin on a cough
If you can't go like I go -- step off!
Competition, I'ma get rid of
You can't get a bit of, so just consider
A break or rest, vacation, hibernation
And make way for my smooth operation 
I'm a smooth operator

I tri so smooth...

Ahhhhh yeahhh, I don't stop
Genuine in rain or shine
And I'm never half-steppin


Original post: June 2013

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Get Off Me!! - Taming the Untamable

Last week my fam and I spent some time in the city of St. George, where my in-laws live. One of the days, my mother-in-law (a principal and former teacher) hired a former student to help with some stuff on their property. Long story short, before he left he went to his van and pulled out a huge bird known as a Red-tailed Hawk to show my kids. This thing clearly had a chip on its shoulder, was a master of the “stink eye,” and looked like it could claw and/or peck you apart in no time. Evidently the hawk is this guy’s pet, and he described how he hunts with her, has trained her to listen to his commands, etc. He did, however, lament that he hasn’t been as consistent as he should with training her, and that he’s “probably lost some ground” in terms of taming her over the last several months.

As my wife and I attempted to tame the wild stallion that is the Ironman 70.3 St. George course, I felt the same way. Based on how roughly the course treated us after an 11-month absence, we’ve probably lost some ground in terms of taming her.

Due to the family connection (and being within driving distance) I’ve done the Ironman races in St. George the last three years. From 2010-2012 it was Ironman St. George, and I caught the last year of the full. IMSG was notorious for being one of, if not the hardest, course on the Ironman circuit, and failed to sell out that last year largely due to people being scared away. For 2013 the race was changed to a 70.3, and has been the US Pro Championships race at that distance since.

For some reason it seems like both the old and new course do not like to be conquered, whether it’s race day or just a training day, similar to an irate, bucking bull doing everything in its power to eject a cowboy off its back. I’m not doing the race (held May 2) this year, but my wife is for the 2nd consecutive year. We set out to ride the course, which starts in a town appropriately called Hurricane. It was extremely windy, and as we started out circling Sand Hollow Reservoir, we were pelted with a stinging sandstorm. Once passed that, the wind continued to howl through Hurricane before slightly mellowing out. About 2/3 into our ride the course then threw a flat at Lindsay, which we fixed as a curious lizard watched on three feet away. It wasn’t pretty, but we ultimately finished the ride.

get off me!!

Our last day in St. George I set out to solo ride a loop of the old IM course (~44 miles). St. George in general gets an A+ for scenery, but this loop is especially amazing. That helps make up for some killer hills on this loop, including an infamous climb known as “The Wall.” I had what felt to me to be a slight headwind on the way out, but once I crested The Wall, I was pounded with a far nastier headwind on the more exposed highway that leads back to town. It seemed to defy the laws of physics, leading me to believe it was just the course once again messing with me for old time’s sake.

You may never ride a bull, nor tame a Red-tailed Hawk, but if you get the chance I encourage you to do this race and/or tackle other challenging courses sometime. You probably won’t PR, but the reward for taming the untamable is pretty sweet!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Nick Hetro - Washington

Nick Hetro is fast. He won the Maryland Triathlon Series before moving to the Pacific Northwest, is a threat to win most races he enters outright, and, according to multiple sources, recently outran a black pepper snake on a training run. With speed like that, we're obviously stoked to have him on the Triple Threat Triathlon team, representing the great state of Washington!

What's your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I started my endurance sports career running track and cross-country through middle and high school. In college, I was first turned onto triathlons by taking the run leg of a triathlon relay team. I then challenged myself to race one on my own. Sure enough, I raced my first triathlon in 2008 and won it (it was an indoor triathlon with only a handful of competitors, but hey! I’ll take what I can get.)

How would you sum up your 2014 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight?

2014 was lackluster compared to 2013. In 2013, I totaled three overall wins (including my 1st Olympic-distance win). I never placed below 7th overall in a race/ triathlon. With solid performances, I had accumulated enough points to win the 2013 Maryland Triathlon Series. However, in 2014 I hit a funk. I was cranking out great numbers on the bike in terms of FTP, but I didn’t have the same fitness in the swim and run.

Then the project I was working on in Maryland fell through. Luckily, I found another project in Washington State with the same company. This turnaround was a highlight. I fell back on to the training plan I followed in 2013 with some minor tweaks. I was able to close out with the rest of the season better in the second half.

What's on tap for 2015 and what are your goals?

I am pursuing a local Washington State triathlon series to become more acquainted with the area and the locals. The series involves six varied *gasp* offroad and onroad, sprint and Olympic distance, triathlons and duathlons. *sigh*

I also have a fun Memorial Day holiday planned. The Friday and Saturday of the holiday, I’ll be camping out at a 4-day music festival at the Gorge in Washington State. Sunday, I’ll be heading back to get the bike ready, then racing Monday morning (Memorial Day) in a town holding a weekend spring festival. After the race, I’m heading back to the music festival. The next day, Tuesday, I’ll be on a flight with my girlfriend to Cabo San Lucas for a week-long vacation. My Fall A-race is the Portland Triathlon. My realistic goal is to only have the best season to date. My early fitness so far has been equal or better than my 2013 season. I’m ready to race.

On your personal site,, you say your philosophy is "to take the easy days easy and the hard days hard." Sounds obvious, but most don't follow this approach in practice. Can you elaborate on that as it relates to a typical training week for you?

I stole this motto from my high school cross country and track coach. He was a world class coach. He coached our girls team to states three times with two wins. [Side note: I owe my life to him. I don’t know what I would be doing with my time if I didn’t stick with endurance sports. If I had to guess, I would see myself sitting on the couch playing video games. To me, that is a disturbing picture. I can’t thank my high school coach enough for getting me hooked into endurance sports.]

Anyways, my coach invoked the best of us by reining us in on the easy days to ensure we were fresh to push ourselves in our hardest workouts. And in those hardest workouts, I have never dug deeper in my life.

With that being said, here’s a typical build week for me:

My focus is on two hard blocks in the week. Tuesday morning through Thursday morning. Then Saturday and Sunday. Monday and Friday, I take it very easy with some active recovery.

From what I gather, you train as hard as anybody on our team. What motivates you to put in the work that you do?

I just want to see the best performance I can get out of myself. To best describe this, Chrissie Wellington discussed a similar notion in her book A Life Without Limits. I’m going to paraphrase the first part. She reflected on her races – Roth 2010, Roth 2011, and Kona 2011 – and questioned if she ever had a perfect race. She then states: “You can never reach perfection. Your ambition should be directed toward your ability to overcome imperfection, and that is how I want to live my life.” I understand her idea that you really can’t have a perfect race. But how you react to the negatives that happen in racing or training (e.g., dropped chain or illness) shows your true identity. So now I am pursuing to have the best performance I can have. If you aren’t sick of quotes, here’s another that I live by: “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

Can you give us a sense for how much you've improved your swim from where you started (and how you've accomplished it)? Is the swim a relative weakness or have you raised it on par with your bike and run?

I started swimming laps back in 2007. Being determined, I kept my head down and worked hard. I would swim a 2000 yd workout and a 4000yd workout. These workouts would be just to swim that distance and stop whenever I needed to catch my breath. I paid attention to my form, but I was going the wrong way about it.

I have made two changes. First, I swim more often with purpose. So instead of swimming twice a week just for distance, I’m swimming five times. This consists of three hard 2400m workouts and two very easy 1000m workouts. The 2400m workouts are purposeful. For example, a typical workout would be:

  • 800m warm up with drills. Anything longer than 15 minutes is unwarranted.
  • The main set would start with 3x200m fast around 1:28/100m pace with a 1 min recovery.
  • Then 3x350m at a cruising pace around 1:36/100m with a short 20 sec recovery. This is the similar to my Olympic distance race. Get out hard to get a good position. Then follow the pack to T1.
The second change thing I did was to look for outside help with my form. The self-help through the Internet and swim DVDs took me only so far, but I found one-on-one coaching to be the best. Nothing is better than the real time corrections that only a coach can provide.

In terms of improvement, my typical measure is a 1000 yard or meter time trial in the pool. My earliest recording I have was back in January 2011. I went 18:11 for 1000 yds (1:59/100m pace). I recently PRed at 15:22 for 1000 meters (1:32/100m pace). Though I have improved, I haven’t raised my swim to the same level as my bike and run. Once I do that, I will be very happy (I won’t even know what to do with myself).

You clearly have the talent to step up and crush the 70.3 distance. Why have you decided to hold off (at least for now) and focus on short-course? Do you see yourself taking a crack at qualifying for 70.3 Worlds and/or potentially Kona in the future?

So I had plenty of excuses when I first got started:

  • I had a hard time pacing myself especially during an Olympic bike leg, but now I have a powermeter.
  • I had digestive issues of bloating and cramping, but I have refined my nutrition plan with the use of Hammer Nutrition products
  • I worried about injuries with the distance, but I’ve refined my biomechanics. I know my limits on volume and know when I am doing junk miles.

Therefore, I no longer have an excuse. That’s why I have set my sights on Ironman Coeur d’Alene for 2016. I’ve moved out to Washington. IMCDA is only 2.5 hour drive away. Plus, I heard rumors off of that 2016 will be the last year for IMCDA.

Tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I am a nuclear engineer and sleep therapist. And by a sleep therapist, I mean when I start discussing my work, I put the average person to sleep. My specialty is licensing nuclear power plants with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. My new project focuses on regulatory compliance with the DOE at a nuclear waste treatment plant. The perk and con to my company is that I switch projects every 2-3 years which means I could pick up and move every 2-3 years. My only other hobby/commitment is to appease the girlfriend and to give the mom and dad a call once a week.

With that engineering mindset, in what ways do analytics, data, technology, etc. play into your training and racing?

It’s so easy to keep tied up with the numbers. Therefore, I try to limit how much I monitor. On a large scale, I track my CTL, ATL, and TSB from a performance chart created by WKO+. Check out this article for an explanation. Here’s how my current season is shaping up:

I had a solid 4 months of training where I steadily increased my volume then intensity (you can see this in the blue CTL line)­­. I only had a small setback at the end of February. I went on a week-long vacation, but I considered it a rest week. My rest week got extended, because I came back from vacation with food poisoning, then a head cold. Once that was over, I pulled my Achilles heel and was out for a few more days. Once that ordeal was over, I got back it and started to make more gains.

What is your perception of the triathlon scene in Washington state vs. your old homes of MD & PA and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in WA?

The only thing different is the weather. While the East was being pummeled with snow, the winter in the PNW has been very mild. I live in the high-desert of Washington State so we hardly receive any precipitation. I really can’t complain. Nevertheless, I’m very thankful the triathlon community members are the same. They are just as warm and welcoming as they are on the East Coast. We are lucky to participate in a sport where the athletes are brought together. In fact, you can see this in the Triple Threat Team. We have members across the nation that bond over our sport. With that being said, I have advice to any triathlete who relocates and is unsure of making new friends. Just seek out your local triathlon community. I guarantee you’ll find a new friend.