FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When Dr. Matthew Tatum crossed the finish line in Santa Rosa on May 11, he joined an elite group of athletes.
He finished an Ironman Triathlon in the top 5 of his age group, earning a spot in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
"I'm excited about the experience and the opportunity. It's a humbling thing to get to go to Kona," he said. "So this year will really be about the experience trying to do the best that I can but really just kind of soaking it all in."
Only about 2,300 triathletes reach the championships every year, and Dr. Tatum will be one of just a handful from the Central Valley making the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, plus a full marathon back-to-back-to-back.
"I'm asked that often -- people say 'are you crazy?' about those distances for Ironman," he said. "Or 'How do you fit it all in?' And I feel like I have a pretty good balance in life."
But the clinical psychologist didn't seem destined for this pinnacle of athletic accomplishment.
The Buchanan High graduate played volleyball and could barely finish a mandatory one-mile run in those days.
Now, he finished an Ironman in 9 hours and 24 minutes even after training through a pair of serious injuries -- a car crash when he was bicycling on Auberry Road, and a severe burn from a barbecue accident.
Luckily, he finds training to be therapeutic.
"I was getting discharged from the burn unit at Fresno Community and I asked my nurse, with my wife sitting there intentionally," Tatum said. "I said 'When can I get back on the bike?' I was all bandaged up and she laughed at me and my wife thinks I'm crazy. But my nurse said 'you can get on the bike whenever you're ready.'"
He got back on the next day and qualified for the championships a few weeks later.
Kona is a different beast, though, with temperatures and humidity both usually in the 90s in October.
But after seven years of training, Tatum earned the tropical vacation for his family, and he's hoping to make it a habit.
Clovis man to compete in Ironman World Championship in Hawaii