optimism at the start of the attempt—8/7/11

exhaustion at the end—8/9/11

Wind conditions, shoulder pain and “less than ideal currents” prompted marathon swimmer Diana Nyad to end her second bid to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys about halfway through her journey early today. Yet she deserves enormous credit just for making the attempt and staying with it as long as she did.
Before the swim, Nyad, age 61, told journalists she hoped her swim would inspire others her age to live active lives. She said she also hoped it could help improve understanding between Cold War rivals Cuba and the United States, even if just symbolically.

Nyad was pulled from the water after 29 hours. The swim was expected to take 60 hours to cover at least 103 miles (166 kilometers).

Nyad said that as early as the third hour of her journey she began experiencing pain in her right shoulder. By hour 15, asthma was a problem. As hour 28 approached, the pain was so great that Diana had to rest every three or four freestlye strokes, rolling onto her back to breathe. She was also nauseous early on.

“I’m hurting, I’m hurting,” Nyad told her doctor, clutching the shoulder and looking to the stars. Then, she’d turn back into the water, struggling through another stroke or two, pushing and pushing and pushing.

“It felt like this was my moment,” Nyad said. “I don’t feel like a failure at all. But we needed a little more luck.”

In her second attempt, Nyad tried to accomplish at 61 years old what she failed to do at 28 in 1978. This time, she even attempted the swim without a shark cage, relying instead on an electrical field from equipment towed by kayakers to keep them at bay.

In her first attempt in 1978, she quit after being in the water for 41 hours and 49 minutes due to strong currents and rough weather that banged her around in the shark cage.

Had the latest attempt been successful, Nyad would have broken her own record of 102.5 miles (165 kilometers) for a cageless, open-sea swim, set in 1979 when she stroked from the Bahamas to Florida.

Here is another article detailing the swim and its premature finish. I like some of her thoughts mentioned in it:

“I’m almost 62 years old,” she declared. “I’m standing here at the prime of my life; I think this is the prime, when one reaches this age. You still have a body that’s strong, but now you have a better mind.”

On Tuesday morning, she said that her goal had been to demonstrate to people in their 60s that “life is not over” and that the age of “60 is the new 40.”

She added that she hopes her quest might inspire others her age to begin energizing their lives with exercise. “Life goes by so quickly and, at my age, you really feel the passage of time,” she said. “People my age must try to live vital, energetic lives. We’re still young. We’re not our mothers’ generation at 60.”

For people over 60, she said, the goal should be “to live a life with no regrets and no worries about what you are going to do with your time. Fill it with passion. Be your best self.”