A few words with Joe Maloy

Joe Maloy, the 2009 USAT Age Group Champion, is quickly making his name known in triathlon circles. He already has three top 10 finishes this year on the Continental Cup circuit and is quickly ascending the ITU Points List.

Slowtwitch: So you started your race season in February. Where are you at in your training now?

Joe: Yep, I started my season at the end of February with a Continental Cup race in Salinas, Ecuador. From there I raced at three more Continental Cups in Clermont, Florida, Valparaiso, Chile, and in Lima, Peru. I returned from Lima on April 5th, and since then I’ve just been building some more fitness to prepare for the bigger summer races.

ST: You recorded a top 10 finish in all 3 of your races in South America. That's something to be really proud of. Do you like racing in South America with the travel, eccentric race directors, language barrier and all that?

Joe: Thanks. With the way you worded that question, it sounds like you've heard your share of South American race stories! I'm a pretty laid back guy, so most of that stuff really doesn't bother me too much. At the end of the day I just consider myself really lucky to have the opportunity to compete--no matter where the race is.

ST: Reflecting on this season so far, how do you think its going?

Joe: Overall, I’m pleased with the way my season has started. I was happy with my 9th place finish in Salinas, Ecuador, and after my 3rd place podium spot in Lima, Peru. I was so excited that I didn’t sleep properly for 2 days! That being said, I’m most encouraged by the way my body’s been responding to the training. I still have an awful lot of work to do, but I like where I’m headed.

ST: What's it like to be on a pro podium for the first time?

Joe: Addicting! I want to get back on one the next time I race.

ST: Did you expect going in that you were ready for such a strong performance or did it come as more of a welcome surprise

Joe: I'm sure my performance in Lima came as a surprise to some people in the triathlon community, but honestly I did feel ready for a performance like that. I know that nothing's impossible when you believe in yourself and you put in the hard work necessary to make it happen.

ST: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Joe: In the big picture, I really don’t think triathlons themselves are all that important when you stop to consider everything else that goes on in the world. Keeping that in perspective, my goals in the sport are pretty simple—in the short-term and in the long-term, I want to continue to have fun with this stuff. I love the day-in, day-out training and discipline that our sport demands, and I’ve met some incredible people as I’ve made this journey so far. Because of my involvement in triathlons over the past couple of years, I’ve grown tremendously as both an athlete and as a person. I’ll be happy as long as I can keep having fun and enjoying the challenges the sport presents me with.

ST: What will you be racing in 2011?

Joe: That’s a great question. I kid with my coaches at Cadence, Brian Walton and Holden Comeau that they know more about my plans than I do and that is probably true! I’d like to continue to focus on the ITU stuff for now, though.

ST: Why ITU? Is it chasing the Olympic dream, or do you think it suits your abilities better, or is it something else…?

Joe: Hmmm...maybe a combination of both? I think most athletes, regardless of sport, would be lying if they said they didn't dream about competing in the Olympics when they were young. I'm no different.

ST: I think if you could get a World Cup start this season it would be a fantastic accomplishment.

Joe: Thanks!

ST: Have you and your coaches selected an "A" race for you?

Joe: No, we haven't just yet. We're kind of taking my race schedule one step at a time. My focus right now is to just work on getting faster and to try not to look far ahead. If I can do that then figuring which will be my "A" race will hopefully take care of itself.

ST: Once you won age group nationals in 2009 where did you go from there? Were there any coaches or any USAT representatives urging you to join their squads, or did you have to go at it on your own?

Joe: After I won Age Group Nationals in 2009, I went to drink a few beers with my dad and Bob Pugh, a training partner and friend from the Philly area! From there, a couple of USAT representatives reached out to me and let me know that they were there for support if I wanted it, but I’m very blessed to have found an incredible training environment here in Philadelphia. I couldn’t have gotten to Age Group Nationals in 2009 without the guidance of my coaches Brian and Holden, and that victory really just strengthened our relationship. I truly believe that nobody accomplishes anything great without a strong support system, so I certainly didn’t do it all on my own!

ST: So now you're living in Philly. Do you train full time?

Joe: Training is definitely my primary focus, but to make ends meet I’ve also been food running and waiting tables at Winnie’s LeBus Restaurant. The owners, Bob and Winnie Clowry, are family friends and have been incredibly supportive of what I’m trying to do. They’re flexible with my schedule and keep me well fueled, so it’s a win-win!

ST: What type of support from family and friends do you have?

Joe: It's funny you ask—Bob and Winnie, along with my coach Brian, organized an incredible surprise party for me at the restaurant just the other night. It was an incredible outpouring of support from my family, friends, and the Philadelphia/South Jersey triathlon community. It just sort of reminded me how much of an impact you can have by sharing your passions with other people. I can’t thank everyone enough for being there. Financial support is great, but it was more important for me to see so many people who really cared me about and wanted to invest in what I'm doing.

ST: Do you train with a squad?

Joe: I do. I have a great group of athletes out of Cadence who I enjoy training with. I swim and run with Holden and professional duathlete Jack Braconnier, and I ride regularly with a group of 10-12 of us. It’s a blast, but you have to have thick skin on our rides because there’s a lot of trash talking that goes on! My favorite training partner, though, is probably my brother John. We do some epic ocean swims and beach runs whenever we’re home together during the summer.

ST: Because of the lack of youth cycling opportunities, most American triathletes are usually swim/run college stars and they tend to pick up the bike later in college. What has been your experience?

Joe: Well…I guess I’m guilty here of following that pattern. I grew up Wildwood Crest, NJ, which is a shore town where swimming and running were pretty regular activities. I swam competitively since I was 8 with the Wildwood Crest Dolphins club team under Head Coach John McGrody, and later with Boston College under Head Coach Tom Groden. I began taking spinning classes as cross training for my swimming during my time at BC, and once I graduated I picked up the bike a bit more when I started working with the coaches at Cadence. I still have loads to learn in all three of the disciplines, but I guess that’s what makes it so fun.

ST: How’d you get so talented at running? And please don't tell me you just went out one day and happened to be able to run sub 35…

Joe: Haha, no I didn’t just happen to be able to run sub-35:00 in the 10K! Growing up primarily as a swimmer, swimming as a sport was never all that relaxing to me. I loved it, but at the same time we swam in crowded lanes and went back and forth for 2-3 hours each practice. To me, running was the complete opposite. I started running as an escape, and I found that it was a great way to relax my mind. I had some great coaches in high school, Mike Scythes and Jim Malinowski, and when I picked it up again competitively as part of triathlons, all those miles sort of came back to me.

ST: Do you think your strong swim background gives you the upper hand against those with strong run backgrounds?

Joe: Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I wouldn’t necessarily say my strong swimming background gives me the upper hand over some of the guys with strong running pedigrees. Ultimately, triathlons aren’t about who is the fastest in any single discipline alone. The top competitors are the ones who are best at combining their talents into one race. To that end, I think desire and mental toughness are far more important prerequisites than a strong background in any one discipline.

ST: In non-draft event swims you’ve been in the front pack but in ITU swims you're usually right in the middle. Is that in the plan or are the ITU swimmers just that good?

Joe: I think it’s definitely a testament to the strength of the ITU swim fields. My swim is still very strong, but at times the ITU swims I’ve done have felt like a new discipline entirely

ST: Any crazy ITU swim stories?

Joe: I wish I had something good for you here, but unfortunately nothing's coming to mind. Between traveling to new places, staying in hostels, and experiencing foreign cultures--all while dragging a big bike bag around--for me the race is often the most "familiar" part of the ITU traveling experience.

ST: In the age of social media, where’s your website/blog/twitter?

Joe: If you’re looking for that stuff online, you won’t find it anywhere! I’m just a little slow at getting involved in all the social media stuff that’s out there. A couple of friends have asked me recently to put some of this triathlon stuff online, so I’ll probably be setting up either a website or a blog in the future. I think it’d a great way to stay in touch when you’re on the road. Keep an eye out for it! Until then, I actually just got an iPhone for Easter so I set up a twitter @jerseyjoe3. I’m still trying to figure out how it works, though!

ST: Out of curiosity, what pros do you look up to?

Joe: Here I'd have to go with a couple of local guys who I train with--Holden Comeau and Steve DelMonte. Holden is a pro triathlete and Steve is a top age-group competitor. They're both a little older than I am, and they do a great job balancing triathlon with the other stuff in their lives. Each has done more than he knows to remind me that giving back and sharing my talents goes hand-in-hand with being a pro.

ST: And for all us faux-pros who are looking for a sensational showing at Age Group Nationals, what would be your best advice for them?

Joe: There’s an Abraham Lincoln quote that I think is very applicable here… “Every man/woman is born an original, but sadly, most men/women die copies.” My advice would be to be confident in yourself and in your abilities. Don’t look around and get intimidated by the number of people there or by all of the gear the guy or girl next to you has clipped onto his/her bike. At the end of the day, the race is your challenge, not theirs—so race it your way. And, oh yea, have fun!

Find out more about Joe’s training squad and coaches at cadencecycling.com

Image 3 (VO2 Max test) courtesy and © of Kris Mendoza of krismendoza.com