Xtreme Dream. The mission Diana Nyad has undertaken. At 61 years old she has a BIG challenge ahead of her. Nyad’s preparing to swim non-stop from Cuba to Key West. Her first attempt at this record breaking 103 mile swim through shark infested, treacherous water was in 1978, more that 30 years ago. This time she plans to do it without a shark cage.
So why now? Diana realized time was passing her by. It was now or never. So Diana stepped up to the challenge, beginning to train. Diana dove into her challenge feet first, committing to do whatever was necessary. In fact when she was prepared to do the swim in 2010 and the visas for Cuba did not arrive in time she committed to an additional year of training.
As a long distance endurance swimmer, Diana has carefully developed her game plan to take her the full distance. Although the swim will take longer, about 60 hours, she feels better prepared for the swim this time than at 29y/o.
Nyad claims the secret to successfully completing her swim is remaining in control, no matter what. Her strategy includes maintaining mental focus. Imagine swimming stroke after stroke with nothing on the horizon but more water. For long distance swimming Nyad does not look ahead. Never. Instead she looks at the safety boat alongside her to maintain her course.
Remaining time or distance is not a concern to Diana while swimming. Her team has strict orders not to tell her the time. While swimming she’ll visualize herself approaching the palm trees and sandy shores of Key West. Visualization has been a primary tool in her training regimen.
Delirium is a very real concern. To stay alert and focused Nyad will pick a song, singing to herself repeatedly. “I do sing all kinds of songs. Like I’ll take a Neil Young song and sing it two thousand times,” claims Nyad. Her strokes follow the cadence of the beat.
The mission to swim this course requires resiliency. Physically she is capable of doing the swim. There is no doubt in her mind. Being able to endure the physical challenges of being bitten by poisonous jellyfish, dehydration, starvation and sleep deprivation are understood. Her strong determination to reach the Florida shore provides momentum to override the physical discomforts.
Developing a game plan to overcome physical and mental exhaustion was crucial. Diana relies on her team of 22 members to watch out for sharks, keeping her on course and providing nourishment every 90 minutes while treading water. While swimming Diana continues to sing over and over to keep her mind focused, battling monotony and possibly hallucinations. Strong, powerful visualizations keep her focused on the goal. Regardless of the challenges she faces along the way, remaining calm is the key to success.
In spite of her age, Nyad believes she is better positioned for successfully completing her swim this time around. Aside from improved technology during the past three decades, her primary change is her mindset. Her first attempt at the swim in 1978 was driven by anger as a result of sexual abuse through her teenage years. Acceptance has transitioned her anger to love. Her love is a source of strength.
During an interview with Marlo Thomas, Nyad states she “worked through a lot and found a lot of acceptance and are now just trying to appreciate life.”
Diana plans to walk away from swimming once she achieves this milestone. She takes away the satisfaction of throwing herself into something with passion. Personal challenges to reach new heights, stretching her comfort zone, is something she plans to continue doing for the rest of her life. It is the challenge which gives her life meaning.