FLORIDA STRAITS (CBSMiami) – Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad braved schools of jellyfish Saturday while testing the limits of human endurance on a quest to break her own 3-decade-old distance record, in her third attempt at swimming from Havana to Florida, with a possible landing in the middle Keys.
“Diana has been stung by what we believe is a moon jelly. She is trying to clear herself of tentacles and continue the swim,” a Twitter message said.
Her team reported she had been stung on both arms, her side and her face. After untangling herself, she took a half-hour off to tread water, rehydrate, change suits and don a new shirt before resuming in favorable sea conditions.
“‘It was scary’ said (chief handler and close friend Bonnie) Stoll,” a subsequent tweet said. “But Diana is happy that this happened early while she is still at her strongest.”
Nyad set out Friday evening on her second attempt in as many months to traverse the 103 miles of sea between Cuba and Florida, waving goodbye to well-wishers before jumping feet first into the still water at a Havana marina, then swimming toward the horizon.
Unlike her past attempts, when she seat Key West as her target, her team has alerted officials in Islamorada to be prepared for her arrival, according to Keys officials.
If she succeeds, the 62-year-old Los Angeles woman would set a new record for open-water swimming without a shark cage. Nyad holds the previous record from a 102.5-mile (165-kilometer) swim from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979.
Her last attempt at the Cuba-to-Florida crossing failed Aug. 9 due to a crippling asthma attack that forced her gasping from the water after 29 hours.
Just before she set off from Hemingway Marina this time, assistants smeared grease on her shoulders to prevent chafing during the planned 60-hour journey. She pumped her fists in the air as her support team blew horns and cheered from waiting boats, and vowed to give everything she had to pursue what has been a lifelong dream.
“I know I’m going to be cold,” Nyad said. “I know I’m going to run into all kinds of jellyfish and the nights are going to be long.”
She acknowledged being a little more subdued than the last time she departed from this same marina.
“Not that I was ever cocky, but having been through this now and been so deeply, emotionally disappointed, I don’t want to take anything for granted,” Nyad said.
“It’s not that I don’t want to enjoy every moment and savor it, but it doesn’t do any good to act like, ‘Hey I’ve got this in the bag, this is going to be easy.“’
As darkness fell, about an hour and a half into the swim, Nyad’s team sent a Twitter message that she was “going strong.”
Before jumping in, Nyad weighed herself, tipping the scales at 146 pounds. She said she expected to lose about 15 pounds over the course of the journey. Her schedule called for to reach Florida early Monday morning.
She hoped to take advantage of what she called a “magical window” of calm seas and favorable weather forecast to last through the weekend.
Last month after her previous attempt failed, Nyad had vowed there would be no repeat, but she joked earlier Friday that nobody should have believed her.
“Don’t listen to athletes when they say it’s over,” she said.
She first tried to cross the Florida Straits as a 28-year-old back in 1978, when she swam inside a steel shark cage for about 42 hours before ending the attempt.
FLORIDA STRAITS (CBS4/AP) —
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