Ironman on post  Fort Meade inspector general completes endurance challenge
Triathlete Lt. Col Michael Matney trains at Fort Meade, Md. for his next endurance competition.

Michael Matney has many titles. Son, brother, husband, father, lieutenant colonel. He's earned all of them, and on Sept. 13 he gained one more: Ironman.

Matney, who serves as Fort Meade's inspector general, completed the Ford Ironman Wisconsin in Madison.

The challenge took the 40-year-old through a tour of the Wisconsin city, starting with a 2.4-mile swim through Lake Monona before transitioning to a 112-mile bike ride across the city and ending with a 26.2-mile race.

"It's up there with the top things I've accomplished, [just behind] getting married and having children," Matney said. "I had a phenomenal day."

He began the race in a crowd of hundreds of competitors, which created a difficult situation to start with as they all began swimming simultaneously at the race's start.

"I got hit in the back of the head," Matney joked. "I was beaten alive out there."

Completing the entire event took Matney 11 hours and 26 minutes.

"At the start, I watched the sun rise," said the native of Richlands, Va. "At the end of the run, you're watching the sun set."

Matney's finish time is competitive for the triathlon, where even professional athletes usually finish between eight and nine hours, said Helen Manning, a spokeswoman for the World Triathlon Corporation, which hosts the Ironman.

"That's pretty good," she said.

The Ironman competition is considered to be one of the most grueling tests of endurance. Of the 2,400 people who started the race, about 2,200 crossed the finish line.

"When you look at any of these as an individual event, it's a challenge," Matney said. "When you put them together, it becomes a significant challenge."

But when the resident of Meuse Forest crossed the finish line he didn't have the look of a man who had been beaten by the miles.

"He was smiling," said Matney's wife, Christine. "I've seen him cross some races where he was done, but he crossed the finish line for this race in better shape and better spirits than he ever has been."

Of course, completing the Ironman came after months of training for the event and years of competing in triathlons. That training involved various workouts seven days a week, including eight-hour bike rides.

"Sometimes, I would swim during lunch or do a run," he said.

Training, though, wasn't only Matney's challenge. His family, including his wife and daughters Brooke, 5, and Samantha, 7, worked with Matney to make time for him to train and also be with his family.

"It was a family effort," Christine Matney said. "You have to support a triathlete."

An experienced runner who competed in high school, Matney started training for triathlons after some prodding from co-workers while serving in 2006 at Camp Humphreys in Korea.

This year, Matney made the transition from triathlete to coach. He currently coaches two local triathletes as they prepare for area competitions.

"They're great," Matney said. "They're doing really well."

For Mike D'Angelo, Matney's training helped prepare the criminal investigator from Columbia for the hills and challenges of the Brierman Sprint Triathlon held Oct. 4 in Boonsboro.

"He's a great coach, very scientific," D'Angelo said. "He knows exactly the right workouts to get you ready for a race."

Competing in triathlons pays off dividends in life, Matney said.

"I used to weigh over 200 pounds with 23 percent body fat about 10 years ago," he said. "Now, I weigh about 160 pounds with 10 or 11 percent body fat."

In his military career, training for the triathlon has helped both his focus and fitness.

"My last [physical training] test in March, I did the fastest PT two miles of my military career -- just over 12 minutes in wind and rain," he said. "I think I could have done [it in] under 12 minutes, if the conditions had been right."

But even after completing one of the hardest tasks an athlete can face, Matney's interest in the sport hasn't begun to wane. Competing in the premier Ironman competition in Hawaii is a new goal he has set for himself.

"There are so many aspects to this sport," Matney said. "I don't think I could ever lose interest in this."

Page last updated Thu October 15th, 2009 at 13:15