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Swimmer Nyad steady in Cuba-Fla. record attempt

By 69 News & Associated Press, (follow: @69news), news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 30 2012 03:36:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 20 2012 09:51:26 AM CDT
Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad forged ahead in her pursuit of a record 103-mile unassisted swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys.

HAVANA -

Swimmer Diana Nyad was back on track and doing well Monday after a night of storms and jellyfish stings roughed up her bid for a record swim from Cuba to Florida.

Nyad, who turns 63 Wednesday, is making her third attempt since last summer to become the first person to swim across the Straits of Florida without a shark cage. She also made a failed try with a cage in 1978.

Nyad's operations manager Mark Sollinger told the NBC "Today" show that things couldn't be better after the sun rose on her third day in the water. She left Havana on Saturday headed for the Florida Keys.

She's accompanied by a support team in boats. They tweeted Sunday night that a storm blew Nyad off course temporarily and that "all hell broke loose" in the squall. Nyad also suffered jellyfish stings.

But by morning, Nyad was swimming a strong 50 strokes per minute, Sollinger said on NBC by phone from a boat shadowing Nyad.

"Her stroke looks good and we're moving in the right direction," he said.

Australian Susie Maroney successfully swam the Straits in 1997, but she used a cage. This June another Australian, Penny Palfrey, made it 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to abandon the attempt.

Nyad has already endured jellyfish stings on the current attempt. Stings forced her to cut short her second of two attempts last year as toxins built up in her system.

A kayak-borne apparatus shadowing Nyad helps keep sharks at bay by generating a faint electric field that is not noticeable to humans. A team of handlers is always on alert to dive in and distract any sharks that make it through.

Nyad has been training for three years and is in peak shape, according to friend and trainer Bonnie Stoll.

The team expects Nyad will take at least 60 hours to complete the swim, meaning she is scheduled to arrive in the Florida Keys sometime Tuesday.

She takes periodic short breaks to rest, hydrate and eat high-energy foods like peanut butter.

Besides sharks, jellyfish, the elements and the limits of human endurance, Nyad must contend with the monotony and sensory deprivation inevitable in marathon swimming.

To help, she sings silently from a mental playlist of about 65 songs, mostly "from my generation." They include classics from the likes of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Neil Young, plus Janis Joplin's chart-topping version of "Me and Bobby McGee."

"If I sing that 2,000 times in a row, the whole song, I will get through five hours and 15 minutes," Nyad said in a video posted on her website.

"It's kind of stupid," she added, "but it gets me through."