By Cyndy Slovak-Barton
Training for the Ironman race takes commitment.
Add medical school on top of that, and you get an idea of the passion that drives Kyle physician Matthew McCurdy.
McCurdy works as a radiation oncologist with the Austin Cancer Center. But when you Google his name, you might also find him listed as “Matthew McCurdy ironman.”
That’s because McCurdy qualified for the Ironman World Championship in 2006. In addition, he’s also placed as one the top 100 runners in the 2014 Boston Marathon.
McCurdy was always a runner, even during his days at Clear Lake High School near Houston.
But track wasn’t his thing in college. It wasn’t until he had a “what to do with my life” moment during a two-day ice storm while at Texas A&M University when he started to figure things out.
McCurdy said he was wondering what he was going to do. Becoming an astronaut or perhaps training for the Olympics were areas of interest that crossed his mind.
But when he talked with his father, they crafted the idea to form a team to train for triathlons.
McCurdy says his wife laughs at the photos of him and his father. At the time, McCurdy was 20 years old; his father was 55. They had matching bikes and matching helmets.
And they committed to training.
McCurdy said he would workout, doing “sprint” distances, anywhere from three miles and more. He swam and did time trials in the pool in 500 meter and 800 meter swims. He biked anywhere from 10 to 22 miles at a time.
McCurdy held a wistful look as he remembered training with his dad for triathlons and doing all of the work.
But his goals eventually became serious and in 2006, McCurdy, who was sponsored by Trivantage Fitness Loft, set his sights on the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
At the time, McCurdy was also an MD/PhD student at Rice University and the Baylor College of Medicine.
What was his training like? McCurdy laughed thinking about it.
McCurdy was in medical school at the time and needed a lot of time to study.
He said his bike was on a training stand in his apartment and he would prop his book up and “take off” for a two-hour ride, all the while studying.
McCurdy then got on a treadmill – with his textbooks propped in front of him – and ran for several hours.
Then, to finish, he would take a swim in his apartment’s heated swimming pool, swimming around and around in the oval space.
“Doing the half ironman race … it’s a very significant hobby,” McCurdy laughed.
McCurdy also did other races leading up to the Ironman World Championship. In June 2006, he finished the Half Ironman in Lubbock with a time of 4:23:58, finishing 8th of 1,071 participants.
McCurdy eventually made his way to Kona to participate in the World Championships. Once he got to Hawaii, McCurdy finished with a time of 10:21:41 at the World Championships. He finished the race despite having to fix two flat tires during the bike section of the race.
McCurdy has put Ironman races behind him now that he has a full-time practice, is married and has two children.
While his life has changed, it doesn’t mean he has given up on running.
McCurdy has been “doing marathons only” since his daughter was born eight years ago.
He then got a gleeful look in his eyes.
“I might do sprints again,” McCurdy says, putting his hands on each side of his face. “Oh, I love the half ironman.”
One reason for his passion is that he sees sports in general changing. McCurdy said he hopes the changes that are occurring in society continue.
It used to be that such races and events were a macho thing, he said.
But now running is opening up. There are 5Ks all the time, he said.
“When I started in 1997, it was almost all guys who had something to prove,” McCurdy said.
But now, people are running all the time. It’s good for you, good for your body, he said.
“It’s become more for everyone,” he said. “That’s what I love and that’s what I hope will continue to happen.”
While for some people, the running and exercise movement is more social, it is still good because it gets people outside exercising, he said.
I hope people take one thing away from this, and that is that they should exercise and enjoy it, McCurdy concluded.