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Just Try One More

From Openwaterpedia
Just Try One More, autobiography of Penny Lee Dean

Just Try One More is an autobiography of Penny Lee Dean, Ph.D., the record holder in the English Channel and Catalina Channel.

Amazon Review[edit]

Just Try One More is an autobiography of the challenging life of open water swimming champion, Penny Lee Dean. From ages two to twenty-four, she overcame physical, family, and life adversities to go forth and conquer the Catalina Channel and English Channel.

Behind the swimming story was a deep struggle of the relationship with her mother, Frances Dean. The intensity of this relationship is part of what drove Penny to achieve her goals.

Early in her life, Dean discovered that she had a talent and passion for open water swimming. After a setback when she was ten years old, she set her sights on the Olympics of open water swimming—the English Channel. After college, she traveled to Europe on a Watson Scholarship that allowed her to study with the national teams in nine countries and train for her attempt to break the record for the English Channel.

Part of the reason Dean wrote this book was the hope that she could help others tackle any of their life challenges and realize their own dream.

Penny Lee Dean[edit]

Dean is one of history's greatest marathon swimmers. She dreams big. With her two most cherished world records - one in the Catalina Channel and one in the English Channel - she realized her dreams. She did not merely swim across the channels - she attacked them like a world champion open water swimmer sprinting in one-mile segments. Her training regimens were renowned - triple workouts, 36,000-meter non-stop swims in the pool maintaining faster than a 1:20 per 100-meter pace.


Dean was deservedly inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1980 and in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1996 as a result of her record-setting channel swims, her success on the world professional marathon swimming circuit and the legacy she left behind as an administrator and coach with USA Swimming.

She coaches and has influenced several world champions and world record holders as well as a number of marathon swimmers of all ages, abilities and background. She also authored one of the most influential marathon swimming books in history, entitled Open Water Swimming.


Dean is an inductee in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.


  • English Channel - fastest solo crossing in 7 hours 40 minutes set in July, 1978
  • Catalina Channel - fastest solo swimming in 7 hours 15 minutes 55 seconds set in September 1976
  • Catalina Channel - fastest double crossing (Catalina-Mainland-Catalina) in 20 hours 3 minutes 1 second September 1977

Penny Lee Dean on Open Water Wednesday[edit]

International Swimming Hall of Fame Biography[edit]

FOR THE RECORD: 1978 Established English Channel crossing record (England to France, 7 hrs. 40 min.); 1979 Professional Marathon Swimming Circuit (Women's World Champion); four Catalina Channel crossings (1976-1977); 12 WORLD RECORDS; Head Coach: U.S. National Long Distance team (1984-1988); Head Women's Swimming and Water Polo Coach: Pomona College since 1979.

When she was ten years old, she came within 400 meters of swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. But tired and with the water a frigid 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the escort boat an arms reach away, Penny Dean made a decision that would determine the course of her life for the next thirteen years and make Marathon swimming history - she got out. It was an understandable decision for a ten year old, but once on shore she mistook her mother's look of guilt that she had pushed her daughter too hard and into failure, as a look of disappointment. She had let pain and fatigue distract her from her goal, and she vowed never to let that happen again. From that summer day in 1965, Penny Dean embarked on a challenging course that thirteen years later would lead to one of the greatest marathon swims in history.

She had a head start - she had been swimming since the age of 20 months in both San Francisco and Santa Clara - hot beds for swimming in California. She competed in AAU swimming for seventeen years in both pool Nationals and Long Distance Open Water Nationals, winning the Three Mile National Championship in 1971. As a swimmer for Pomona College, she was a six-time All-American. By 1976, she swam from the mainland of California to Catalina Island in the overall world record of 7 hours, 15 minutes 55 seconds - 1 and 1/2 hours under the former record. The next year she set the world record from the island to the mainland on her way to a 50 mile double crossing of the Catalina Channel in 20 hours and 3 minutes. These swims set the stage for her greatest challenge.

Tennis players have Wimbledon; runners have the Boston Marathon; swimmers have the English Channel. Penny not only wanted to be amongst the successful eighteen percent of swimmers who actually complete the English Channel, she wanted to break all the records. The water was 55 degrees, the tides were challenging and the channel is vast to the lone swimmer. A core of inner toughness kept her swimming, and a remarkable 7 hours, 40 minutes after she left England, her toes scraped against the sand of the French coast with a greeting committee of a few shocked shell hunters. Her time broke the world record by 1 hour and 5 minutes and was so impressive that it took another sixteen years before Chad Hundeby broke her record in September of 1995. Penny proved once again that women can swim faster and longer than men in Marathon Swimming.

She continued her long distance swimming career for another three years, winning at Windermere in England, Lake St. John, LaTugue, Lakes Memphremagog and Paspebiac in Quebec, and Atlantic City in New Jersey, setting women's world records in most of them. She was Women's World Professional Champion in 1979 accumulating 1,000 points over her next rival.

Penny became a Professor of Education and Head Swimming Coach at Pomona College, but not before serving as the U.S. National Team Coach of Open Water Swimming from 1988 through 1991, Head Coach of U.S. teams to the 1991 Pan Pacific Championships, 1991 World Championships, 1982 and 1990 Windermere Championships, 1990 English Channel Race, 1984 and 1989 Catalina Channel Race and coach of nine solo Catalina Channel crossers. She was president of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America from 1985 to 1987 and served on the NCAA Swimming Committee. She has presented numerous international clinics on marathon and open water swimming, written articles for swimming publications and authored "How to Swim a Marathon," with printings in 1985, 1988 and 1992, and "History of the Catalina Swims," revised four times since 1985.

Penny has been a pathfinder in her swimming career. Studying law, she receives her Ph.D. in 1996. She stands as the tallest and proudest five-foot-two inch, 125 pound marathon swimmer the world has known. What the world did not know was that she swam her way to victory with no anterior artery blood supply to her left arm. She used the other part of her body for that - her guts.


  • Ed.D. Education, Sports management at US Sports Academy 1996, honors "An Analysis of Pomona College Women's Intercollegiate Athletics, May 1996, University of Michigan"
  • Red Cross Certifications: Coaches Safety Training, WSI, First Aid, CPR for Professional Rescuers, Life guarding and AEP
  • ASCA Level 4 Coaching Certification
  • USA Water Polo Level 3 Coaching Certification
  • M.S., Physical Education, Cal Poly Pomona, 1980, honors
  • B.A., History, Pomona College, 1977, cum laude

External links[edit]