Some people don’t swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles – the equivalent of an Ironman – in their entire lifetime. Owensboro’s Dylan Hammons did it twice in eight days in back-to-back weekends. But that’s not the most amazing thing about it. The really crazy thing is that Dylan did his first “Ironman” solo – starting and ending at the HealthPark.
To accomplish the required 140.6 miles, Dylan spent his Saturday morning swimming laps at the HealthPark, then spent his afternoon riding his bike from the HealthPark to his house in the county and back. After that, he spent his evening running nearly the entire greenbelt.
There’s a fine line between crazy and brave. For triathletes, Ironman competitors and ultramarathoners, which side of that line you end up on is determined by your level of determination and persistence, which is what makes Hammons’ solo Ironman so remarkable. Endurance athletes commonly say that part of the fun is the community that is built among the participants when training and competing. It’s like a brotherhood (or sisterhood, as the case may be). Along the route, there’s built-in motivation in the shared experience of the other participants overcoming the same obstacles shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
So to think that Dylan spent 12 hours swimming, biking and running alone makes it even more admirable.
But he wasn’t really by himself. His wife, Shelly, served as Dylan’s support team. He had friends and training partners accompany him for portions of the route. And a welcoming party of nearly 40 friends and family cheered him on at the finish.
Here is the story of Owensboro’s Solo Ironman.
A dream and a goal
The dream of becoming an Ironman began when Dylan was young. “I remember seeing it on TV when I was 12 years old and I always thought I would like to do something like that one day.”
But then a traumatic experience in the ocean as a teen left Dylan skeptical and cautious around water. He was never really a confident swimmer after that.
Running was his thing, which eventually grew into ultramarathons. As the calendar flipped to 2015, Dylan was training for a 100-mile trail run in April. After recovering from that run, Dylan set his sights on the Maryland Ironman in an attempt to finally accomplish his long-term dream of becoming an Ironman, and leave his fear of open water in his wake. He got a swim coach and added swimming and fatigued-bike rides to his training schedule.
“But, I really didn’t spend as much time training as most people do for this because I didn’t want to sacrifice too much time with my kids and my wife,” Hammons said. “I also really wanted to enjoy the whole process and not burn myself out or be tired all the time.”
Change of plans
That plan was working out just fine until Hurricane Joaquin started turning toward the New England coast. Ironman organizers postponed Maryland Ironman because of impending flooding issues along the route. The rescheduled date didn’t work for Hammons, which left him completely out of luck and way short of his goal.
“I don’t want to live my life with ‘what-ifs.’ And I didn’t want to always wonder. So I just thought to myself, I have to do this now! I was talking with my wife, and she said there’s always the HealthPark.”
That’s all it took. Done and done.
And so it was that Dylan reported to the HealthPark at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, October 3, to attempt his solo Owensboro Ironman.
The finish line
Throughout the day, several friends and family monitored his progress via Shelly’s updates on Facebook.
“I couldn’t have done this without her,” Dylan said, giving his wife full credit. Not only did she support him throughout his training period, but the day of his solo Ironman, Shelly sat by the pool and counted off laps with a watch, checked on him along the bike route in her car, drove ahead to prepare for the refueling pit stop and rode her bike along with him as he ran an out-and-back on the Greenbelt.
As word about Hammons’ solo Ironman spread on social media, supporters showed up along the route and began making plans for a celebration at the finish line to congratulate him.
By the time Dylan’s estimated finish time rolled around, a crowd of nearly 40 people had gathered in the HealthPark parking lot. There were homemade t-shirts, signs, cell phone cameras at the ready, and lit sparklers for everyone to hold as Dylan ran past.
At 7:30 p.m., twelve hours and twenty-nine minutes after beginning his solo Owensboro Ironman, and in the presence of family and friends, Dylan accomplished his dream of becoming an Ironman.
But the most precious “congratulations” of them all were Dylan’s two kids announcing as he crossed: “Daddy… you ARE an IRONMAN!!!”
To accommodate Ironman Maryland registrants who could not make the rescheduled date, Ironman Louisville opened 100 slots.
After a few days, Dylan felt recovered enough to consider giving Ironman Louisville a shot, and put his name in the lottery draw for one of the 100 spots. On Thursday, he was notified that he was indeed one of the lucky ones chosen, so he drove to Louisville to pick up his packet.
“I felt no pressure,” Dylan said about anticipating a repeat Ironman eight days after his solo. “There was no anxiety, because I had already done one.”
Ten others from Owensboro competed in Louisville Ironman, as well. “The Owensboro running and triathlon community is amazing,” Hammons said. “It’s a great group of people to be a part of.”
So Louisville was in no way a solo. But what did it feel like to attempt an Ironman in back-to-back weekends? “I really enjoyed the experience more than I thought I would, especially riding 112 miles through such a beautiful part of Kentucky on a gorgeous day. For the running leg, I was still in good spirits and just really enjoyed the whole experience.”
Consider it two checks off the bucket list. And some much-deserved time off from long-distance training.
As for future Ironman triathlons?
“Not at this time,” he says. “But I wouldn’t say no.”