ROANOKE, Va. – With the race only a few days away, the countdown is on until thousands of athletes will descend upon the Roanoke Valley for the first-ever 2021 Carilion Clinic Ironman - 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge Triathlon.
The Ironman Village on Rivers Edge Park North will be the hub for the athletes and spectators this weekend, and people are coming from all over the country to participate.
81-year-old Dean Paxson is one of those people, and he’s going to be the oldest participant.
“Yes, I’ve been doing triathlons for many years,” said Paxson, an Arizona man who began his triathlon journey in college.
He started swimming in college, then picked up running and cycling along the way before he decided to combine all three.
More than 40 years later and he’s still going strong. When asked why he still competes, Paxson said, “Why not?”
“Yes, I’d like to finish within the cutoff. Even walk fast as somebody my age, I’d be glad to finish,” said Paxson.
The race on Sunday will be his first visit to the Star City like many other athletes, and Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge President, Landon Howard, is confident visitors will like what they see.
“This is letting everybody know we are open for business,” said Howard.
Meanwhile, Book No Further co-owner Doloris Vest expects to double their business with new folks visiting.
“We definitely see a bump from this kind of event. It’s wonderful,” she says.
For triathlete John Mormando, getting race-ready has been a journey. He first started competing 16 years ago, but in 2018, the 54-year-old was diagnosed with male breast cancer from exposure related to 9/11.
“Turns out I had some lymph nodes affected. 2019 was a nightmare,” said Mormando, who recovered since then and finally returned to compete in 2019.
However, in 2020, he received another tough diagnosis.
“In March, I got COVID, and it was a bad one. I had to go to the hospital. It was pretty severe,” Mormando said.
More than a year later, he’s training for this Sunday’s 70.3-mile journey and hopes to inspire others to overcome whatever life throws their way.
To learn more about the race, click here.