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October 05, 2022

AEP Employee Heads to Hawaii for Ironman World Championship

Dirk Pauley is 53 years old and a grandfather. He’s worked for AEP since 1987. He has bad knees and while he played some sports in his youth, he says he’s an average athlete at best, and was “not a runner.”

So, of course, on Sept. 30 Pauley leaves for Hawaii to participate in the 2022 Ironman World Championship where he will swim 2.4 miles in the open ocean, bike 112 miles, then run a full marathon: 26.2 miles.

At some point in the past decade or so Pauley, a constructability lead for Energy Delivery in Ft. Wayne, Ind., transformed himself from a suburban dad who huffed and puffed just carrying laundry upstairs into one of the best triathletes in his age range thanks to unflagging tenacity and a well of grit deep enough to let him push through miles of pain.

“I’m blessed with something I don’t understand,” Pauley said, “but I never thought I would qualify for the Ironman World Championship.”

Pauley doesn’t expect to win in Hawaii, that’s not even really what he’s aiming for, but he admits that he’s very competitive by nature.

“I’m going to finish,” he said. “That’s goal number one.”

Pauley’s other goal is to raise awareness of and money for Pinky Swear, a foundation that supports families with children being treated for cancer. Pinky Swear helps families across the country by paying bills, buying groceries, and other means of financial support for families in need. He’s dedicated his race in Hawaii to two kids battling cancer, Autumn and Max.

Pauley credits his association with Pinky Swear for getting his results to the next level. There is a point in every Ironman competition, Pauley said, when quitting is the sane, rational thing to do.

“After a while on the bike (112 miles) you start questioning your life decisions and all you want to do is get off that bike,” Pauley said. “And when you do, all you have to do is then run a marathon. That’s when the mental game really starts. Once you hit that wall, you have to figure out how to finish.

“Those kids (the ones Pinky Swear supports) don’t get to quit, so I don’t quit. I can’t leave it undone.”

The Ironman World Championship is Oct. 6 and Oct. 8 in Kona, Hawaii, the western coast of the big island – AEP owns a wind farm on Maui, the next island to the northwest.

Pauley participates in the event on Oct. 6 in the men’s age 50-54 bracket. It will be the first time he will swim in the open ocean, which isn’t something he can simulate at home.

“The race is easy,” Pauley said, noting that the training leading up to the race is the real grind. “By the time you get to race day it is about executing a plan.”

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