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Monday, September 9, 2013

Inspiration and Motivation from Diana Nyad

"It's Not Too Late. I Can Still Live My Dreams."
For ten years (from 1969-1979), Diana Nyad was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world.
In 1979, after setting a world record for distance swimming (both men and women) over open water by swimming 102.5 miles from North Bimini Island, Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida (without the use of protective shark cage), she retired from swimming and became a sports journalist and speaker and she authored 3 books.
Then in 2010, at the age of 60, she decided to attempt a new record: swimming the 110-miles (166km) from Cuba to Florida, a task she had failed to finish thirty years previously.
On September 2, 2013, on her 5th attempt the Cuba/Florida swim, 53 hours after leaving Havana, Cuba, Nyad climbed onto the beach in Key West Florida; at age 64, the first person to make the swim (without the assistance a shark cage or swim fins).

The Return to Swimming

30 years after retiring, Nyad said she was motivated to return to the water by her 60th birthday saying, "When I turned 60, I thought, ‘Am I going to do this another 22, 25, 30 years, and that’s going to be it? I’m sick of it. I’m going to stop it.’” She also said that she was motivated by the death of her mother, saying, "I am stunned, at age 61, at how fast it all flies by;" and, “My mom just died. We blink and another decade passes. I don’t want to reach the end of my life and regret not having given my days everything in me to make them worthwhile.”

Nyad's return to swimming was focused on the Cuba to Florida swim that she had been unable to complete in 1978.

Second Attempt: She started on August 7, 2011 but fell short of her goal after 29 hours in the water due to a flare-up of asthma most likely triggered by stings by box jellyfish on her right forearm and neck.

Third Attempt: In September 2011 her next attempt was cut short by box jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings.  But Nyad said  she would attempt the swim again in 2012

Fourth Attempt: Saying that she had been inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games and Michael Phelp's performance at the games, on August 18, 2012, Nyad set out to reach her goal again, but on August 21, she had to end the attempt because a lightning storm had pushed off course and she was again suffering from debilitating jellyfish stings.

Fifth Attempt: Starting from Havana, Cuba on August 31, 2013, accompanied by a 35-person support team, Nyad started swimming without a shark cage but with a full body suit, gloves, booties and a special silicone mask to protect her from jellyfish stings. About 53 hours 53 later on September 2, 2013, she climbed onto the beach in Key West Florida; the first person to make the 110 mile swim (without the assistance a shark cage or swim fins).

What She Said BEFORE Her Record-setting Cuba/Florida Swim:

“When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP [American Association of Retired Persons] sisters and brothers to look at me and say, ‘I’m going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I’m going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I’m going to adopt a child. It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams.’ “

What She Said AFTER Her Record-setting Cuba/Florida Swim:

"I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you're never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team," she said on the beach.

Other Quotes from Diana Nyad:

"If you want to touch the other shore badly enough, barring an impossible situation, you will. If your desire is diluted for any ...reason, you'll never make it."

"This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues."

"I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often-painful process."
"There's so much boldness in living life this way, and we did it all, and no one can take it away from us."

"... the reason I keep doing it is for the tremendous rush I get at the end of any great swim.... there is ... nothing greater than ... touching the shore after crossing some great body of water knowing that I've done it with my own two arms and legs.... I'm overwhelmed by the strength of my body and the power of my mind. For one moment, just one second, I feel immortal."

"... the most extreme conditions require the most extreme response, and for some individuals, the call to that response is vitality ... itself.... The integrity and self-esteem gained from winning the battle against extremity are the richest treasures in my life."

"... marathon swimming is the most difficult physical, intellectual and emotional battleground I have encountered, and each time I ... win, each time I touch the other shore, I feel worthy of any other challenge life has to offer."

"But for each of us, isn't life about determining your own finish line?"

The following gives insight into Nyad's desire to complete
the Cuba/Florida swim decades after retiring from
long-distance swimming:

"None of us can go back in our lives and relive periods we think we could have done better. And no athlete, especially, can go back and capture that one moment he or she always dreamed of achieving.

I broke many records in my prime as a long-distance swimmer back in the 1970’s, in my twenties. For my world record—102.5 continuous miles from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979—and other swims, such as breaking the 50-year-old mark for circling Manhattan Island, many Halls of Fame have honored me. I had a stellar athletic career and achieved my dream of swimming the farthest openwater swim in history. Yet my dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida was dashed in 1978, after fighting stiff winds and huge seas for 41hrs, 49 mins, and still not reaching the Florida coast.

The Earth is four-fifths water. I could plan a 100-mile swim just about anywhere. But I’ve already swum 100 miles. What I didn’t do was the swim I invented, Cuba to Florida.

Until a year ago, I hadn’t swum a stroke for 31 years. Swimmer’s burnout gripped me to the point that I could have sworn I would never, ever swim a lap again in my life. But approaching 60 last year threw me into the existential angst of wondering what I had done with my life. I felt choked by how little time seemed left. I started swimming a few laps, just to take some pressure off the knees from all the other activities I enjoy.

My workouts escalated. My motivation started to burn like a fire in my soul. One day I was driving, after a long swim, and I stopped and looked hard in the rearview mirror. And I said to myself: This is one dream I actually could go back and achieve. At 60, I could swim from Cuba to Florida. This time, without a shark cage.

I was experiencing what millions my age are feeling these days. Disenfranchised, no longer valued, terribly worried that my best days were behind me. Yet the business of life is to live large and you can dream at any age. To me the phrase '60 is the new 40' is not a joke. We baby boomers can put truth into those words. We are far from irrelevant at 60. We’re now emotionally mature, brimming with wisdom and calm, still physically strong. This should be the prime of our lives. Training for this swim has filled me with the heartening, empowering conviction that it’s never too late to chase your dream."

When asked if she thought about how she'd feel if
she didn't succeed in her 5th attempt at the Cuba/Florida swim,
she responded:

"Yes, and I just won't go there. The whole visualization I do is seeing the Florida shore. There's a cardinal rule if you're doing a really long swim – you never look up. You don't look forward and look for the shore because you're going to see depressing horizon time after time. Another cardinal rule is I don't allow any of the people on the team ever to tell me what time it is. Some CNN person might come over and say, Diana, you're halfway there, this is great. Well, they have no idea if I'm halfway there. You know, the weather may change. I may vomit my guts up and not have anything left. I don't want to know. I just put my head down, I breathe to the left toward the boat to see, track the boat and try to go straight. I just picture the Florida shore in my mind. I picture the palm trees. I picture lights at night. And so I don't picture not making it and getting out on the boat. I picture making it."

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