How Yuko Broke the Record
After a few weeks of recovery time, she shared her thoughts on determination, our swim current, and the sea lions that she hallucinated with Endless Pools' own Mark Lutz.
How do you feel after your amazing 24-hour swim? Has recovery been difficult?
I have been a professional swimmer for 30 years. Currently I swim 2 hours per day; I have completed many long-distance open water swims. Twenty years ago, I swam for 24 hours; my brain knew I could do it, and my muscles were prepared. My recovery time was much longer this time than I had expected, and joint pain was more significant than it has been during my younger years.
Can you describe a difficult moment during the swim, and how you persevered?
[Laughs] It was really hard. It's the mental side that is always the struggle. A younger girl holds the record of 16 hours. Did I ever mentally think. 'All I need to do to break and earn the record was 16 hours and 1 minute?' Yes, but that would have just been OK. It would not have been exceptional.
The previous record I hold for swimming in a pool is 24 hours; that is not just hours, that is a day. I wanted a day-long record, not hours-long. I started at 8:00 AM; when I reached midnight, that was the 16-hour mark, and I realized I was the new record holder.
On the mental side, I have two angels that travel with me, one on each shoulder. The Right Angel is telling me, 'Eight more hours to swim, Yuko.' The Left Angel is telling me, 'Your shoulder is sore; you just broke the world record; you can stop now.' I listened to the Right Angel.
I remember the angels talking to me again at 2 AM. Physically and mentally very, very tired, I just wanted to go to bed. It had been a very long day. I imagined they were my cheerleaders. Same dialogue: The Right Angel is telling me, 'You broke the record by two hours! Six more hours to swim, Yuko.' The Left Angel is telling me, 'You shoulder is sore, you own the world record, you can stop now!' I listened to the Right Angel.
Then during the next hour, as the physical and mental exhaustion peaked, I was hallucinating. It was not my first time experiencing this during a very long endurance swim. Four to five sea lions were in the right corner of the pool smiling at me. I knew they didn’t exist, but I shared that with my friends observing the swim on the dry side of the pool. Shortly other sea creatures and sea coral were visible. I struggled for 3 more hours from 2 AM to 5 AM, the sea creatures, my angels, and myself – it was very difficult. Once 5 AM arrived, I knew I was through the most challenging period, and mentally, I could visualize the completion of the 24-hour swim. Once that mindset shift occurred, all that kept running through my mind was 'I have this!'
Why did you choose an Endless Pools swim spa for this historic achievement?
During my university time in Japan, I swam in an Endless Pools installation. That was my first experience. I remember how awesome and smooth it felt. As I have matured, I've wanted to control my environment; Endless Pools models can be warm – no unpredictable sea creatures, no currents, no waves, no side effects from saltwater. I love the safety, the warmth, the fresh water, and the smooth flow with Endless Pools.
How did the Endless Pools swim current help you during your swim?
The current is straight, steady, constant, and surrounding all of my body, which is much easier. That makes it better and safer on my joints and body. I can swim longer in an Endless Pools current than in a 25-meter pool without having to stress the body. It eliminates the neck and back pain.
What is your message to other swimmers, or those interested in swimming?
It's great training to feel the water. The Endless Pools current feels better on my body than other forms of swimming. I have to limit the amount of time I can swim laps because the frequency of turns in a lap pool will bother my lower back and neck. I swam in the Endless Pools swim spa for 24 hours and never had any lower back pain at all.
Endless Pools makes great tools to practice and work on your feel of the water. I practice the feel of the water with my arm for an improved catch to hold more water. It’s also great to swim against a machine with the steady pace that the Endless Pools current offers; I test different techniques to see if being more efficient pulls me into the grill or if it was not an improvement and I drift back.
I love training to swim straight and analyze balance in an Endless Pools model vs a lap pool, which is almost impossible to analyze. The Endless Pools current was also much easier on my neck as I didn’t have to site and rotate as much.
What’s next for you?
[Laughter] I want to do something fun! I don’t know which direction, but I will accept another challenge. I am so happy that I finally accepted this challenge and achieved it. Your machine also ran for 24 hours straight!