Valenze reflects on work for Ironman, marketing hometown

Bethany Valenze (Photo provided)

LAKE PLACID — When an athlete’s heart stopped beating while competing in the Ironman 70.3 in September 2018, local marketing professional Bethany Valenze was working as the volunteer director.

Nuno Neves, 38, of Portugal, suffered cardiac arrest near the end of his 13.1-mile run. Valenze remembers exactly where it happened — in front of aid station six, she said — and the events unfolded in the moments afterward.

“There was a volunteer nurse who assisted the athlete until the EMTs came,” she said.

Neves ultimately survived, in no small part because of the work of that volunteer nurse and the EMS squad who responded to the call. Valenze, alongside Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid Race Director Greg Borzilleri, was behind a ceremony hosted at the Mirror Lake beach house two months later to honor the locals who helped save Neves’ life.

“It was very memorable to be able to thank her and congratulate her,” Valenze said, of the volunteer nurse who provided care at the course. “It was surreal standing up there and thanking everyone involved in that. It just proved we have a very dedicated community full of people who don’t get thanked enough for what they do everyday.”

Valenze — the Lake Placid marketing representative for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism — has been volunteering for Ironman events for at least 15 years. She said that growing up here, volunteering is just something you did.

After graduating from the Lake Placid High School, she decided to stay in the area because she loved it. She loves doing anything outdoorsy — ice fishing, boating, and hiking with her two dogs Bailey and Dax. Valenze said she’s been athletic for her entire life.

It was volunteering at sporting events like Ironman Lake Placid and the Empire State Winter Games — and the fast-paced, energetic nature of working behind the scenes — that made her decide to go into events management.

After graduating high school, Valenze worked for a little while before deciding to go to North Country Community College in 2014, a school she chose after learning it offered a sports and events management degree.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m living here and it’s fitting,'” she said. “I just love Lake Placid and everything that Lake Placid represents. One thing I was always involved in was volunteering for Ironman. Growing up here, I always saw the Empire State Winter Games. I’ve always been an athletic person and love doing things outside. It was just fitting for my life at the time.”

Valenze got a job while she was still in college. In 2014, she started working at the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau, helping visitors.

“While working at (the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism), the opportunity came up to actually start working some events,” she said. “I was working some smaller community events while going to school. It was great to apply what I was learning to what my career was.”

The first event Valenze led was Adirondack Day, an annual event when North Country leaders visit Albany to promote the region and various causes that impact it.

“I remember when Sue Cameron and (ROOST Chief Operating Officer) Mary Jane Lawrence came to me with that event. I was like, ‘Oh, this is great, I got it,'” Valenze said. “Then I noticed that it was at the Legislative Office in Albany. I was so nervous. I messed up so many things. But one thing I definitely took away was that our area has such dedicated people who work here, live here and play here. They make it so much easier, and they’re so supportive, which made the event so awesome.”

Valenze was eventually promoted to event coordinator, as well as volunteer director for Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman 70.3. Usually, that means very busy summers, but with the coronavirus pandemic, this year was different.

“It was very strange to not be up at 3 a.m. on Ironman day, heading to Lake Placid for a 22-hour day,” she said. “And it was strange to not see returning volunteers and staff you only get to see twice per year.”

Without the usual summer events rush, Valenze wasn’t sure how her time would be filled.

“With all the events being canceled, I was a little nervous at first, because that’s what my summers were at ROOST,” she said. “Always diving right into events, one after another after another. After what happened in March, there was a huge pause for me. I took on another role at ROOST.”

Valenze began overseeing the event database, which shifted from telling people what events were happening to what events weren’t happening. There was a discussion about what information the office should push out that would be beneficial to everyone.

For a period, ROOST stopped marketing the area to visitors as lawmakers in Essex and Franklin counties encouraged tourists to stay home, though the office continued to push some messaging to visitors to remind them that when it was safe to travel, this region was an option. When the North Country region was nearing the last phase of reopening, in June, marketing started again — albeit just regionally.

“It was definitely a shift, but I’m used to that very busy, very fast change of pace at a drop of a hat,” she said. “It worked out very well because I was able to dive in wherever someone needed me at ROOST. Then the opportunity came up for a new position.”

Valenze was promoted to Lake Placid representative in June, spearheading the marketing of her hometown and acting as a liaison between ROOST and the community. She has also been on the planning committee for the Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll for a few years. This year, she co-chaired the committee. And she’s still leading the volunteer program for Lake Placid Ironman — the plan is for volunteer registration to open in February for the 2021 event.

“There’s so many things that I love about the region,” she said. “I love being a part of this team that feels the same way. Seeing visitors get to experience what we experience every day, it’s eye-opening almost.”