UPDATE: After 63 hours of swimming, Diana Nyad’s fourth attempt to complete the Cuba to Florida swim was called off early Tuesday morning. Although Nyad was suffering from exhaustion, she was determined to continue. But Mother Nature made the call as a fierce storm cell came through, and her support team pulled her out of the water for the safety of Nyad herself along with her team. More to follow.
SAN DIEGO, August 21, 2012 – When you are in rough seas, you look for signs that eventually you will emerge from the waves, current and tide, all the forces challenging you.
Monday afternoon, fifty hours into her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida, distance swimmer Diana Nyad found herself surrounded by a large pod of dolphins. Her support crew aboard the boat Voyager shot video of the inspiring visit.
Crewmember Candice Hogan wrote on Diana Nyad’s website: “If there was ever a moment during the Nyad swim when Diana was grateful to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC is a sponsor of Nyad’s swim) and all organizations that support pristine waters—and there have been many of those moments during this 2012 expedition—the best one came at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern) today (Monday) when she was visited by dolphins!”
Hogan continued, “There were scores of them; around our boat alone one team member counted 50 playing in the wake, while another looked up to see dozens more leaping above the water. We could even hear them breathing all around us. (They sounded like The Nyad swimming).
“Dolphins have swum with Diana many times over the years, especially in the 1960s and ’70s when the openwaters of the world, both fresh and ocean, were cleaner than now.”
Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is close to the halfway point of realizing her long held “Xtreme Dream” of breaking the open-water swimming record at age 63, swimming 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. As of 1 a.m. Eastern Time, she was 59.9 miles toward her goal, Key West, Florida.
VIDEO: Dolphins visit Diana Nyad
After braving an overnight storm, the seas were calm and Nyad entered the gulf stream today, which is helping her catch up. Nyad’s support team estimated the overnight storm system delayed her progress by approximately six hours, but she made up some time today.
The challenge at this stage of the swim becomes hypothermia. It may not seem like a person could get cold in 85-degree water working hard like Nyad, but the body’s temperate of 98.6 degrees cannot maintain itself easily exposed over time to an atmosphere colder than the body’s natural temperature.
So the Xtreme Dream team put their McGyver hats on, improvising ways to prevent hypothermia (the body’s core temperature lowering to dangerous levels), as well as further swelling of Nyads’s lips and tongue. Since they can only use the materials they have at hand, they had to get creative.
Team member Candice Hogan posted the following report on DianaNyad.com: “Years ago, marathon swimmers smeared themselves with axel grease, which is black, to attract the sun in an attempt to hold the heat of the day against their skin during the cooler night. Diana’s team brought lanolin for Diana to smear under her bathing suit straps, etc., to reduce the inevitable friction of repetitive arm strokes. “Monday afternoon, Diana’s team got an idea: they put black food coloring into that jar of lanolin to turn it into the “axel grease” of old, and are having Diana apply it to her bare skin while the sun is out, so it stores the heat and she can enter into the evening hours with a body temperature warmer than it is now. It’s like, a car painted black with the sun beating down on it becomes hotter inside than a car painted white; darker colors absorb the heat.”
Hogan also noted that someone with a strong will and mental toughness like Nyad will push past the limits of the human body; the crew and a medical team onboard the support boat Voyager will be watching Nyad closely for signs that she is endangering herself by pushing past her physical limits despite her superb conditioning. “What no one knows is where that line is drawn in Diana Nyad,” wrote Hogan.
Besides hypothermia, overnight the risk of being confronted with the toxic stings of jellyfish remains the greatest concern. Repeated jellyfish stings forced Nyad to abandon her third attempt at the 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida after 89 miles a year ago. She says she knew she would have made it if not for the stings. But this year, Nyad believes her team of experts found adequate protection from the deadly jellyfish.
If Nyad was to complete her swim on Tuesday, she will be 62 years old. If she doesn’t finish until Wednesday, she will be 63 years old. Either way, it will be a birthday celebration of epic, memorable proportions for Nyad and her admirers around the world, including me.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She writes on professional cycling and covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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