Swimming is usually one of the segments included in a triathlon, a nonstop endurance competition that typically also has running and cycling segments.
A group of triathletes from Mooresville is training for their swimming segment. They’ve continued even though their Mooresville coach moved to Asheville.
But via Facebook, the group still follows the training schedule their coach, Sarah Andrews, 23, of Asheville posts on the YMCA Master Swim Group Facebook page.
Andrews swam at the 2008 Olympic trials and was ranked 25th in the world. She coaches this group separately from her full-time job as an auditor.
The swimmers in the group are Mark DiPietro, 45, of Mooresville; Cameron Rinker, 50, of Mooresville; J.P. Riou, 52, of Mooresville; Wayne Wilson, 50, of Statesville; and the only woman, Jean Hargett, 57, of Mooresville.
Everyone competes in triathlons except Wilson, who does Masters Swimming events and is strictly a swimmer, Hargett said. They don’t necessarily compete in the same events, but they train together.
“(Andrews) has been gone eight months, and it’s extremely impressive. We get a detailed workout every Sunday,” DiPietro said.
In the early morning during the warmer months, they swim together in Lake Norman to prepare for the open-water swimming in a triathlon.
They encourage and motivate each other, keeping an eye out for each other when it’s dark in the early morning. They wrap glow sticks onto swim caps at 6 a.m. so no one gets lost.
The cold months move the swimmers indoors to the Lowes YMCA pool.
What leg of a triathlon do they dread the most?
“Getting up in the morning,” Rinker joked. Then he answered, “The hardest part for me is the run. It’s not necessarily the distance. It’s just the pounding. Swimming and biking is a nice smooth motion. I’m 50 now. (Running is) hard on the joints.”
Hargett said she dreads the cycling part. So next May, she, her husband and her brother will compete as a team at the Challenge Knoxville Triathlon: her husband will bike, she will swim and her brother will run.
“It’s a family thing,” Hargett said.
Swimming is the part of the triathlon DiPietro dreads most. “I couldn’t swim 2 1/2 years ago. I could swim two laps and that was it. Swimming open water was terrifying.”
Each competitor has superstitions involving what to wear for an event.
Hargett wears the same outfit, right down to her flip-flops, and always uses a pink towel to place by her bike so she can find it quickly.
Rinker wears a cycling shirt his daughter bought him in Italy.
DiPietro, who has twin sons Michael and Matthew, said, “I have a ‘Thomas the Tank’ engine towel that belonged to the boys. I put it down on the ground next to my bike.”
Eating before, during and after a triathlon is critical. Rinker has a couple of fried eggs before the race, and Hargett eats a cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter.
For his half-Ironman, DiPietro’s son Matthew, who has completed five triathlons himself, said his dad ate Cheez-Its crackers along with two red Powerades and water.
When his dad finished, Matthew said, “I’m guessing you’re going to get water.” His dad replied, “No, I’m sick of water. I’m getting a Pepsi.”
After the race, Hargett and DiPietro both crave hamburgers.
“I’m not out there to beat anyone in my age group,” Rinker said. “I’m out there to do it for fun and have a good time, literally, to try to keep my weight where it should be.
“But after the triathlon, I’m hitting Subway. Footlong!”
Of the relaxed, good-natured fun the group has together and why they compete, DiPietro said, “One of the things that Sarah is great at – and I find important about triathlons in general – is the positive attitude people have. And they’re so encouraging.”