MADEIRA BEACH — Vince Tenaglia started his athletic career like so many other American youngsters, lifting weights and knocking heads on the gridiron.
"I was your typical gym rat," said the 30-year-old triathlete. "I played varsity football in high school."
But it wasn't until he went off to study at Miami (Ohio) that he first ventured into the arena of endurance sports.
"That's when I met my wife, Kristen, and I really started putting things together athletically," Tenaglia said. "She's a gifted runner who competed in college. She was my motivation."
Today, after nine years in the sport, Tenaglia is one of the standout amateur triathletes in the Tampa Bay area, a weekend warrior who frequently finishes in the top 10 of most local athletes.
"I think Vince is typical of those triathletes who work a day job but really take their racing seriously," said Fred Rzymek, the promoter of this weekend's Madeira Beach Triathlon. "This race is the kind of event where the serious triathletes really get to see how they stack up."
Rzymek, who also organizes the popular Top Gun Triathlon in July, has been around the triathlon scene for more than 30 years.
He thinks "sprint" triathlons (½-mile swim, 10-mile bike and 5K run) are a great way for elite amateurs such as Tenaglia to get ready for longer races, such as those featured on the Olympic Distance circuit.
"We expect to have nearly 1,000 people out there," Rzymek said. "I think this triathlon will just keep getting bigger and bigger every year."
Tenaglia, like many triathletes, is a professional who tries to squeeze in workouts whenever he can. After college, he went to graduate school at Cleveland State and got a master's degree in public administration.
"I first became interested in local government when I was in high school," said Tenaglia, who now works as the finance director for the city of Madeira Beach. "My history teacher gave us extra credit for attending City Council meetings and I had my first internship with the Canton mayor's office when I was 19."
After graduation, Tenaglia moved to Florida to take a job with a local city government.
"At the time, I knew no one in the state of Florida," he said. "I eventually met most of my friends through triathlon."
Tenaglia also considered himself a swimmer first, triathlete second, so he joined an ad hoc master's swim team, a.k.a., Team Windfall, which practiced in the mornings at the Belleair County Club.
"They became like a second family to me," he said. "It really has given me a great base."
Over the years, Tenaglia has racked up a collection of second-place medals but he's still chasing an overall win. His proudest accomplishment: qualifying for Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
"This year so far, I've raced at St. Anthony's (2:08, personal best) and FIT Triathlon the following week (fourth overall)," he said. "Last year I did nine triathlons and finished fourth at Mad Beach. Hopefully I will do a little better this year."
Tenaglia said he loves working for Madeira Beach. "It's a great time to be working for the city," he said. "We have development taking place all over town and we're offering new services."
As for the Mad Beach Triathlon, "Hopefully it will be around another 29 years," he said.