Midshipman has iron will that won't quit

Stuhlmacher: In between classes and studying, Navy's Nathan Stuhlmacher has been busy training for tomorrow's Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships.


October 18, 2002|By Tommy Ventre | Tommy Ventre,SUN STAFF

It's noon on Monday as the sun glistens high above the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy. Morning classes are over, and midshipmen are converging from every end of the campus to the dining area at King Hall for lunch.

Nathan Stuhlmacher isn't joining them. About to start the toughest part of his day, he's walking in another direction, toward the pool at Lejeune Hall for a 4,000-meter lunchtime swim. From there, he'll do a quick three- or four-mile run, then hop on his bike and do a 50-plus mile ride that might take him out to Crofton, down through Davidsonville and then back home.

Once there, he'll bear down for a full night of reading, studying and a few hours of sleep before he does it all again the next day. And every day of the week after that until Saturday and Sunday, when he doesn't have class but instead gets in workouts nearly twice the length of his weekday routines.

It's a schedule that might create doubts and reservations in the minds of lesser men, but as he prepares for tomorrow's Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships, Stuhlmacher doesn't have time to be a lesser man.

"No regrets at all," Stuhlmacher, 22, said about the madman schedule that has come to define his life. "All the time I've been doing this, there's never been a moment where I thought about stopping."

Stuhlmacher, from Terre Haute, Ind., has been pushing himself to one degree or another since he first hopped into a pool at age 5 and began swimming competitively. In middle school he picked up running and almost immediately began thinking about triathlons.

He was a high school junior when he competed in his first triathlon, the 1997 Escape from Alcatraz race in California. Three years later he came to Annapolis, where he became active with the academy's triathlon club team as a competitor and with the varsity swim team as a manager.

He qualified for the Ironman after being selected in a lottery at this year's collegiate nationals in Memphis. Ever since, he has been working toward tomorrow's race and its 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile ride and 26.2-mile run.

"He's quite an athlete," said Bill Kvetkas, 40, an Annapolis resident and fellow Hawaii Ironman entrant who trains with Stuhlmacher on the weekends. "Nathan had never done the distances we do, but now he's doing quite well at that."

Kvetkas finished second in his age group at last year's Ironman and enters this year's competition with a top-five national ranking. It's a level Stuhlmacher said he'd like to reach at some point, but his goal for tomorrow isn't much different than any Ironman athlete's on race day: He just wants to finish.

"I'm a little apprehensive, but it's nothing that's going to slow me down," Stuhlmacher said. "It's all about what you put your mind to. You've got to keep the ultimate goal in focus.

"I'm ready to do it."

Maryland competitors at Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships:

Mary Lou Dinardo, 47, Timonium

Frank Gafford, 33, Baltimore

Todd Hesel, 23, Cockeysville

Ed Jablonski, 41, Cockeysville

Eric Kapitulik, 30, Annapolis

Bill Kvetkas, 40, Annapolis

Ray Plotecia, 55, Ruxton

Nathan Stuhlmacher, 22, Annapolis

Paul Wetzel, 43, Silver Spring

Robert Williams, 60, Severna Park

Joanna Zeiger, 31, Baltimore

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