Many folks may have spent their Saturday morning indoors watching the Royal Wedding on TV. Meanwhile, a few hundred other brave souls gathered in the rain on the beach of Mount Gretna Lake in Lebanon County. They were there to partake in the 15th annual Got the Nerve? Triathlon - a 500-yard swim, 16-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run.
Several competitors eventually emerged from the lake, peeling off their wetsuits to reveal red and black triathlon performance suits with “Yoder Performance” in white letters emblazoned across the chest.
Those with the Yoder Performance suits represented a group of folks mostly from central Pennsylvania, several of them Lancaster County natives, current residents or both. The group, about 20 in all, had been training together over the previous months under the tutelage of Andrew Yoder, a 2008 Hempfield grad and professional triathlon racer who began coaching others for triathlons just three years ago.
It started then with Yoder instructing a handful of elite racers. He has since launched Yoder Performance in order to help others looking to improve in triathlons, with a group now made up of clients ages 22 to 62, some of them on the elite scale and others just looking to stay in shape. It wasn’t until Saturday, however, that most of those clients competed together.
“This is the first really organized team event for us,” Yoder said during the event at Mt. Gretna.
In all, the Yoder group on Saturday accounted for the top-three female finishers, two of the top-three male finishers, and six others that placed in the top-three of their age group.
Among them was former Elizabethtown College runner Charlie Larsen, who came to Yoder in early January because he sought a better-structured training regimen in swimming and biking. Larsen won on the men’s side Saturday.
There was also former Franklin & Marshall College swimmer Katie Schick, who been working with Yoder for about two years. Schick has all the physical tools to succeed in triathlons but admits she sometimes struggles with the mental side in races.
“I find myself falling into the swimming mindset of being hard on myself. And he (Yoder) brings me back from that,” said Schick, who was the first female to cross the finish line Saturday.
Yoder credits this success as a coach from the knowledge he gained from his own ups and downs in triathlons and Ironman races he’s been competing in since high school, in addition to the teachings he’s received along the way from some of the best triathlon coaches in the world.
Yoder, 28, is still a professional triathlon racer himself, though he can’t compete at the moment because he says he’s still recovering from injuries sustained last July when he got hit by a truck while on his bike.
He’s stayed plenty busy as a coach, in addition to completing classes towards a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Millersville University.
“My long-term vision is to always be open to coaching all ability levels,” Yoder said. “But to me it’s about having a very strong, locally-based squad in Lancaster because this is where I want to be. I’m very happy here.”
After the completion of Saturday’s event, those in Yoder’s group dried out underneath a “Yoder Performance” tent, sharing hugs, smiles and stories of their morning on the course. Yoder stood nearby, at one point pausing to observe the moment.
“If I had not formed this group these people wouldn’t know each other,” Yoder said. “To have all these people break through in the sport and have these relationships is very fulfilling for me.”