While most of us are fast asleep, Heath Eskalyo is diving into a pool for a 90-minute swim.
It’s just past 5 a.m., and he swims with two goals in mind: Beat his previous time and make it home for breakfast.
The Plantation attorney with Kelley Kronenberg is training for the 2017 Ironman World Championship, a grueling triathlon that tests the limits of endurance athletes from around the world. The 140.6-mile journey held in Hawaii combines three of the state’s toughest long-distance races, including a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race and the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon.
Eskalyo, 49, will follow a strict regimen leading up to the October race.
His morning swim is followed by a full day’s work at the law firm, where he’s risen to principal partner and chief financial officer over the past 22 years. After that, it’s dinner with the family, followed by a 9-mile run.
“Greatness happens in the dark,” Eskalyo said, echoing a similar message from an Under Armour commercial that shows Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps training in the dark. “You train when your family is sleeping in the morning, and you train when your family is sleeping at night. So they don’t know you’re gone.”
Eskalyo’s love for triathlons came before his legal career, but the two go hand in hand.
The civil litigator directs Kelley Kronenberg’s philanthropic efforts, and the law firm actively sponsors and participates in South Florida charity races. He created Kelley Kronenberg Cares, a program that encourages attorneys to work together to support local charities. Eskalyo deems the program one of his greatest professional accomplishments from a nonfinancial perspective.
Two years ago, Eskalyo founded TriSharks Inc., a nonprofit organization in Weston that brings together triathletes for the common purpose of doing business together and fundraising. Just shy of 40 members, the group includes British triathlete Leanda Cave and Manuel Huerta, once a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
“He is the greatest time manager I’ve ever met,” said Stewart Martin, a longtime friend and executive with insurance group Marsh & McLennan Agency.
Martin met Eskalyo about 19 years ago during a deposition, where he was impressed by the young lawyer’s dedication to his client. Years of sharing clients blossomed into a friendship — and triathlons followed.
“He got me into that,” Martin said. “He’s a great role model for people. He’s competitive but thoughtful.”
It was through his charity work that Eskalyo landed a chance to compete in Hawaii.
Eskalyo said only the top 1 percent of athletes in their age group make the cut.
He’s not quite there yet but was invited by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which funds research for neurofibromatosis, to join its endurance team as part of a $40,000 fundraiser. So far, Eskalyo has helped raise $34,613 for a 9-year-old girl named Bella who suffers from the genetic disorder.
“This is an opportunity that I would have never had, and it’s just incredible for me and incredible for the family I’m involved with,” he said.
Bella and her family will cheer on Eskalyo in the Ironman competition this fall.
The Hawaiian Ironman won’t be his first.
Eskalyo began competing in his mid-20s, starting with the sprint-distance triathlon, a scaled-down version of the full Ironman. By his early 30s, he tackled Half Ironman races, also known as 70.3.
“The sport of triathlon always intrigued me, but the fear was swimming back then,” he said. “Ironman is the Super Bowl, so to speak, of the triathlon sport. I was always in awe of how these guys could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 and run a full marathon, 26.2 miles. I just thought that was insane.”
Married with two children, Eskalyo thought his first full Ironman would be his last.
“It pretty much consumes you,” he said, adding he trained twice a day, six days a week to prepare for the Florida Ironman.
Yet he hasn’t stopped competing, thanks to a bulletproof support system — at home and at work. Today that support has grown to include three coaches and a nutritionist.
Eskalyo, who described himself as a disciplined, structured person, has nailed the work-life-triathlon balance.
“If I didn’t have triathlons, I couldn’t sit and watch TV all day,” he said.
As Eskalyo evolved as an athlete, he also grew as a lawyer.
He joined Kelley Kronenberg as an associate when the boutique litigation firm focused solely on workers’ compensation law. He’s helped diversify the firm to over 25 practice areas, which he translates to security and financial growth.
The full-service firm has grown to 115 lawyers in Florida and Chicago. Eskalyo gained his CFO title in 2010, joining CEO Michael Fichtel and COO Howard Wander.
“Although we’re lawyers, we’re businesspeople,” he said, adding the trio has a close relationship. “That’s what makes this firm very unique and different from other firms. We run it like a business.”
Eskalyo said Kelley Kronenberg continues to grow, largely by acquisitions. The firm plans to move its headquarters into a new 40,000-square-foot building in Broward County, where the firm will be the sole tenant. Construction is expected to begin at the end of the year.
In the meantime, Eskalyo will keep up his six-day-a-week training regimen, represent clients and make it home in time for dinner.
In April, he ran his fastest time ever, completing a Half Ironman race in 5 hours and 39 minutes.
“Every year I get older, but every year I’m getting faster,” he said.
His goal for Hawaii? To finish.