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24 Stunden Schwimmen 2008. A New Dream.

posted November 27, 2008 @ 11:39 PM  |  Meets, Open Water, and Other Events category

Judi-112208.gif~By Judi Rich, Dynoswimmer

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." ~ C.S. Lewis

I remember when Dean first mentioned the 24H relay back in June of 2006. My immediate reaction was "I'm in!" I didn't give it much thought. I didn't think of the preparations involved or how I would break the news to my family. It was something so off-the-wall, a little crazy, if you will, and it immediately sparked my interest. I had always been an extremely spontaneous individual who, once I set my mind to something, there was absolutely no stopping me. No obstacle could stand in my way. The more challenging and crazier, the better!

Several people asked, "Why are you going to do it again? Swim for 24 hours! Are you insane? Why?" My reply, "Why not?"

When we're young we feel invincible. We feel that we can do anything and that life will last forever. Lets face it, we're young and we believe we'll stay that way. Nothing can get in the way of our dreams. Then things begin to change. We finish school, begin our careers, take on more responsibilities and, for some, start a family. We're not as free as we once were. Time seems to fly by. Slowly our dreams begin to fade. The sad part is that most of us don't even realize it's happening. We allow obstacles to hold us back, people to influence our decisions, and we begin to doubt our true capabilities. So many of us lose our individuality and forget the very things that shaped us. We sacrifice so much of ourselves to our other commitments that we sometimes forget to leave time for us - ourselves. Don't get me wrong, having a successful career, a family, and children are all wonderful and fulfilling in their own ways as long as we also hold on to who we are - our individuality, and our dreams. And for me, doing something as off-the-wall and challenging as a 24H relay was my way of setting new goals, a new dream and holding on to something so vitally important in my life - that shaped me into the person I am today, swimming. (And an offbeat race.)

So here I was back in Liechtenstein for another 24H race. I felt more comfortable since I had swum this race two years prior and was familiar with the facility and the structure of the race. I had also met several of our teammates from Germany and was looking forward to seeing them again. As I walked into the pool area and studied the other swimmers, I began wondering if I was prepared. They seemed so young, so fit. At this point, it was too late to worry about my training - or lack thereof. It was time to stay positive knowing that I felt great, trained hard, the best I could, and now it was time to swim - and swim well.

One thing I did differently this year was strength training. Back in 2006, I was struggling with a shoulder injury that even after physical therapy and a six-week break from swimming would continued to haunt me. At the gym my personal trainer, Mike, recommended that I focus on strengthening my shoulder (and my entire body) along with my swim training and endurance building. I figured that not only would this help my swimming, but also my dives, turns and pulling myself up out of the pool. Getting out of the pool was almost as exhausting as the swim itself. After a few months of strength training, I realized my shoulder wouldn't fatigue as quickly at practice. This was progress. However the real test would be if I could complete the relay without shoulder pain and over the next 24-hours I would know.

The countdown began and the race started. Dean was first up, Sharon second, and I was third. For the first hour every team member (all eight swimmers) would swim. Then we split into groups of three. Five swimmers resting alternating one at a time every 10, 15, 20 or 40 minutes with shifts getting longer into the night giving those on break more time to sleep. The relay order was: Dean, Sharon, me, Benny, Karsten, Lars, Hans-Joerg and Thorsten. My first shift was two hours and I was getting a little anxious to take my first break. I felt strong and was incredibly happy I had improved my technique, streamlines, and dives. However, there is always room for improvement. And in this race, the better your starts and turns, the less swimming overall. 24-hours is a lot of swimming.

As the day progressed you got to know each swimmer's strengths and weaknesses. You could quickly distinguish between the lifelong swimmers from the triathletes, masters, and lifeguards from the beginners. When you swam against someone your own speed, it motivated you to swim stronger to try and overtake him or her, which would quickly get tiresome. Yes, it's a race but you also don't want to burn yourself out too soon. You had to find your rhythm and stick with it. Long and strong. The challenge was finding that rhythm in such a short distance. Swimming 50s isn't the same as finding your rhythm in a longer swim event such as a 5K or more. You needed to find the strategy that worked best for you.

Everything was going well. I felt better prepared this year but 3-1/2 hours into the race I began to feel burning in my triceps and shoulders. I broke out the Biofreeze and my tennis ball to use to self-massage my shoulder, arms and lats. I had a foam roller packed but had to leave it behind. Many of the other teams had their own sport therapists, but unfortunately, we didn't have that option. Recovering between sets was totally up to our own doing and sleep was rough. I only napped once for approximately 40 minutes. I may have dozed off every now and then but nothing I could consider sleep. So hot showers followed by a massage by my tennis ball was my way to relax my sore shoulder and hope it was, in fact, muscle and not joint pain.

Swimming during the night wasn't as long as I remembered. The extended breaks made it bearable. I focused on each 50 or small block of time to remain focused. During a 45-minute set, I knew that when Dean went for his break, I had a half hour remaining. After Sharon, 15 minutes remaining and when Lars came walking up smiling, I knew my break was only moments away. After 45 minutes of sprinting with burning arms and shoulders - a break was always something to look forward to. The morning hours, however, seemed to stand still. Every hour felt like two. The breaks passed by quickly. My muscles would begin burning sooner into the swim and all I could think of was, "Did I train hard enough?" and "Will I re-injure my shoulder?" I made it a point to get myself out of the pool by different methods, using the ladder, pulling myself up backwards, forwards then eventually just by hopping out without using my arms at all. The less I used my arm and shoulder muscles getting myself out of the pool, the more energy was reserved for swimming. And every little bit mattered!

Finally, the last 30 minutes and the entire team was swimming together again. We were all worn out. You could tell by everyone's body movements and facial expressions. Little words were spoken at this point. However, the feeling of accomplishment was shared by each of us along with that feeling of total exhaustion. This was truly a team effort. It was another race complete and although I was totally drained and sore - it was well worth every moment. To my surprise, although I was two years older, I recovered much more quickly and didn't have the muscle aches for several days following the race as I did the previous time. But most important, I had fun; met some new lifelong friends and my shoulder sustained the torture. I made it through another 24 Stunden Schwimmen and fulfilled a new dream!

Read more about the 24 H Schwimmen (2008) by visiting Dynoswim's Meets, Open Water, and Other Events category.

You can also see details of the race in action, and tidbits of our post race travels by visiting Dynoswim's YouTube Channel.


Congratulations, Judi and Dean! And you are so right, Judi, we all have to find some time to do the thing or things that make us happy and define our idividuality. If you do, you find that you are a happier person all around and it is like stress relief - allowing you to enjoy and sometimes just get through the rest of your life. It also rubs off on everyone else............. Life is just too short to be unhappy even some of the time.

Posted by sheryl on November 28, 2008 @ 6:20 PM


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