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!