ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Over 2,000 athletes from all over the country took to the water, the mountains, and the streets of Virginia’s Blue Ridge for the first-ever Ironman 70.3 triathlon.
The day started before sunrise at Carvins Cove and ended at Rivers Edge Park in Roanoke.
The athletes stepped off the shuttle and arrived at a scenic setting at Carvins Cove Reservoir. And after some last minute tire pumps and stretches, it was time to jump in.
“Water? I had no idea what to expect because no one can ever swim in Carvins Cove,” Blacksburg-native Kathryn Buss said. “But the water was great. Perfect temperature.”
After swimming over a mile in the water, it was time to transition to the bike course for 56 miles of pedaling.
“The bike was not something to take lightly but it was absolutely beautiful,” Boston-based triathlete Matt Schafer said. “I highly recommend coming here if you want to really challenge yourself and see some fantastic views.”
Nearly three and a half hours after the first swimmer entered Carvins Cove, the bulk of the riders started to come through at Rivers Edge Park. After enduring a long journey through the Blue Ridge mountains, they dismounted their bikes and went on a 13.1-mile run on the Roanoke River Greenway en route to the finish line.
And Schafer crossed it first, completing the Ironman 70.3 in 4:10:38 after building up a huge lead after the bike portion of the race.
“I was fairly confident that I could have a really good day. That being said, you never know what’s going to happen. So I was pretty pleasantly surprised, it’s really cool,” Schafer said. “I’m gonna have to come back next year and defend my title.”
Buss was the fastest female athlete of the race, completing the course in 5:00:12. She was proud to win a race held in her own backyard.
“It’s pretty awesome especially being from Blacksburg,” Buss said. “This is as close to a hometown race as you can get so really excited.”
Along the way, there was plenty of support from friends, family and volunteers as a world class event brought people together after a year apart.
“Training through a pandemic finding a place to swim, biking through all weather, finding an area and an opportunity to run, it’s just remarkable,” said Carilion Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrice M. Weiss.
Carilion was the title sponsor of the inaugural event.
Weiss said: “I think we’ve all got goosebumps. It’s what, 90 degrees? But we all have goosebumps.”