WASHINGTON (June 21, 2000)—Steve Teslik is an Ironman. No brag, just fact.
For nearly 20 years, Mr. Teslik—vice president of management information services for the Washington-based Rubber Manufacturers Association since January 1999—has been a dedicated triathlete. The triathlon, one of the most grueling contests the sports world has to offer, is a race consisting of swimming, cycling and running, in that order.
"They must be in that order, because you don´t want to swim when your legs are cramped from running and cycling," he said.
There are three different styles of triathlons, in all of which Mr. Teslik has competed. In ascending order of difficulty, they are the:
*Sprint triathlon, which features a ½-mile swim, 15 miles of cycling and a five-kilometer run;
*Olympic-length triathlon, consisting of a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run; and
*Ironman triathlon, a veritable feast for masochists: a swim of 2.4 miles, 112 miles of cycling and a full, 26.2-mile marathon, all of which must be completed in one day.
This July, Mr. Teslik plans to enter the Ironman Europe competition in Roth, Germany. Up for grabs are 12 spots in his age group in the World Championship Iron Man triathlon in Hawaii at the end of October. Mr. Teslik will be one of 180 competing for those places.
"I know that to have a chance at one of those spots, I have to make it in under 10 hours, 20 minutes," he said. "My last one was over 11 hours, but I know why that was—I was just extremely cautious."
In local triathlon competitions, Mr. Teslik said, he usually can win his age group. (When asked what his age group is, Mr. Teslik laughed and quipped, "Seventy to eighty.")
In high school, according to Mr. Teslik, he was "the world´s worst athlete." He started running to unwind from his studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and had become a dedicated runner by the time he took his first job at GA Technologies in San Diego.
This move landed him, in the early 1980s, in the very spot where the triathlon was burgeoning into a major sport. Several legendary Iron Man competitors—Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Tinsley—made their homes in San Diego and served as inspirations to any number of aspiring triathletes.
"I used to swim with Mark Allen," Mr. Teslik said. "That experience was humiliating and inspiring."
Mr. Teslik brought his passion for the triathlon to the Washington/Baltimore area when he moved there in 1990 as technical resource manager for the American Plastics Council. It was there he met Donald B. Shea, then president of the council; Mr. Shea was president of the RMA by the time Mr. Teslik applied for the vice presidency of management information services there.
The harsh physical demands of competing in triathons require Mr. Teslik to train seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Every morning before going to work, he gets in an hour of swimming and running, and he does the same after coming home at night. Weekends mean either competing in triathlons or taxing multi-hour training sessions.
"It´s really a way of life," Mr. Teslik said of his passion. "It´s so ingrained in my lifestyle that when we had that three-day blizzard this winter, I almost went crazy. Johns Hopkins (Teslik lives across the way from the Baltimore university, where he was a visiting scholar from 1996 to 1999) finally cleared off one lane of its running track, and that saved me."
Of all the triathons he´s run, Mr. Teslik remembers best one that took place in Chicago, with his brother among the spectators.
"The swimming portion of the competition was in Lake Michigan, and as I swam I noticed my brother running along the seawall, jumping up and down," he said. "I had no idea why he was so excited until I came out of the water, and he ran up to me and said, `You´re leading!´"Unfortunately, Mr. Teslik´s lead was destroyed toward the beginning of the cycling portion, when a grating on a bridge blew out his tire. He changed the tire quickly and got back in the race, but finished far back.
What Mr. Teslik remembers best about that triathlon, however, is that it was the last one his brother—who died soon after—ever saw.
"Ever since then, I´ve always felt I have to finish the race," he said. "There´s always to need to win, but even more, I just need to know I´ve done the best I can. If I can finish the race, I know I´ve accomplished something."