VALPARAISO | At 3:20 p.m. Saturday, Laura Breen was taking a deserved break from competing in the second annual 24-Hour InSWIMniac Challenge at the Valparaiso Family YMCA.
Breen, 27, was the only person entered as an individual in the grueling competition scheduled to last from noon Saturday until noon Sunday. She did the same thing last year in the inaugural event, swimming a total of six miles.
"It's a fun event and I'm seeing if I can do better than last year," Breen said. "I'm trying to double it. That's my plan and we'll see how it goes.
"Right now, I feel great."
Breen's fiance, Chuck Gutzwiller, the Y's Aquatics Director, led his own team of six lifeguards. By 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Breen was no where to be found after having completed 208 laps — nearly seven miles.
"She went home because she was pretty tired," Gutzwiller said.
Gutzwiller and his cohorts transformed the Y pool from standard down-and-back lanes to a circular track, with the "lane markers" made of PVC pipe. Swimmers changed directions every hour, and laps were counted electronically by a system used by TH Timing.
"As far as we know, it's the only 24-hour swim with chip timing," Gutzwiller said. "There's other events out there, but you have to count on your own."
Four teams were entered, down from nine last year. For the second time, the overwhelming winners were the Smiles by Arnold Racing Team.
Organized by Jim Arnold and wearing black shirts with the phrase "Go Hard or Go Home" on the back, the team of nine completed 1,644 laps — 51.4 miles. Last year, the team completed 1,550 laps (48.4 miles). He divided the workload into 48 30-minute shifts, and most of it went according to plan.
"We had a good time," Arnold said. "It's just fun to put together a great team."
Arnold's squad was led by the brother-sister duo of Robert and Brittany Fozkos. Brittany, 23, is a senior at Purdue where she competed on the swim team. She and Robert, 27, are former Chesterton swimmers and had their own little competition to see who could complete more laps.
Brittany was the last one in the water for the team, and handily beat her brother by doing an extra 30-minute shift.
"I think this is awesome," Brittany said. "It's a lot of fun and I hope to do it again next year for sure. I really like swimming in a circle instead of laps because it simulates an open-water swim. We just need to get a couple more teams in here for more competition."
Other members of the winning team included Amber Banning, who swam collegiately at the University of Indianapolis; Chris Kolosiwsky, a former Lake Central swimmer; Christopher Keylor, currently a junior swimmer at L.C. and a Fozkos cousin; Chris Wickard and Sarah Arnold, the two top female triathletes in Northwest Indiana; and David Schmidt, a former Indiana University swimmer.
The event was the brainchild of Valparaiso resident Stacia Yoon, who helped lead her team — Lane Two — to a second-place finish. Yoon also came up with the idea of a 24-Hour run at Sunset Hill Farm. The only person to compete in both events so far is Wickard.
"Stacia approached me about it and I thought it was an interesting idea," Gutzwiller said. "It's unique. We started planning the first one in the fall of 2012 and it took us three or four months.
"It was fun, but I'd love to have more people. We'll see, maybe we'll get more next year."