Two years ago I was captivated by a woman who was doing something I couldn't even imagine attempting. That woman was Diana Nyad. I had never heard of her but "somehow" (remember that there are NO accidents" in the Universe) I found out about this attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. The reason it's strange that I even found out about it is that I never watch the news and really only scan CNN.com to see if the world ended the previous day. I'm not into all the negativity spread by the news. Regardless of the reason I am so glad I found out about her swim. I followed her intensely following her every stroke and reading about her endurance training. At this point I had not started running again so I was living vicariously through her - I was trying to live vicariously through her anyway - but what she was attempting was way beyond my comprehension at that point in my life. I didn't understand how you could swim or be in the water (not touching anything) and stay awake for about 63 hours. At that point in my life I only knew of 100 mile races, not the 24, 48, 72 hour or longer runs. But even on land you can sit down and take a "power nap" (whatever that is) - in the water you might drown. I think I was focused on that fact so I wanted her to succeed for a couple of reasons - she's 1 year younger than me, she's a woman, and this was an amazing feat - but also because she was so passionate about achieving her dream and she had trained for it - boy had she trained for it.
The "gun" went off so to speak as she dove into the Ocean and began her trek. There weren't enough updates on Facebook or Twitter to make me happy. It was difficult going to bed - I felt like I was abandoning her - isn't it interesting what feelings and thoughts heroes can generate in us. Anyway, I remember waking up several times during the night and checking my ipad for updates. I remember experiencing the ups and downs of her journey as she battled problems almost from the very beginning - from her shoulder pain to then the asthma attacks from the medication for the shoulder pain. But despite being depleted from that experience she persevered (I think that Diana Nyad personifies that word in its total meaning) and swam on. But then the dreaded "Box" jellyfish which I (and many others) had never heard of attacked her. Once more, though, despite the excruciating pain she continued on until she was attacked by them again. I can't imagine going through all that and still staying in the ocean and trying to continue to swim. She won my heart then and never lost it after that. I'm pretty loyal to my heroes and I felt so badly for her when she had to abandon her dream. Everyone could tell she was crushed and even though you knew deep in your heart that she was going to rise above that disappointment, it still hurt to the quick at the time. She didn't even get her 15 minutes of fame. I was so impressed that she was not only upset at not achieving her dream but also because she felt she let all of us and her crew down. How could she possibly think that we all wondered. But I can definitely understand it because when people support you so completely, you do not want to do anything that will keep them from reaching their goal too - and the goal of everyone else had been to help her succeed. I imagine that people were disappointed FOR Diana, not because of her. And I'm sure she eventually came to realize that because she's a champion.
Time passed and nothing heard - I thought she had "retired" from that dream and was now living a "normal" life - whatever that is.
Then one day a year later I saw that the Swim was on again. At this point I was running again and training for New York so I had a tiny idea of what working to achieve a goal was like. So I began to follow her with even greater fervor.
She was more determined that year and had spent a great amount of effort trying to come up with something that would combat the Box Jellyfish if not prevent them. She had her personal Jellyfish expert there with her.
Finally she jumped in the water again and we all thought this was the year! She was doing so well and was able to deal with the stings the first night but then they began to take their toll on her body and other factors came into play - weather dangers to be exact. So, you take the medical issues (and inability to hold onto anything while still being treated - can you imagine visiting your doctor in the water?) and then the horrible weather issues and there's no way anyone could help but admire this woman's courage and tenacity. She was very determined to show the world that older people can do things without the world being shocked. Age is only a frame of reference and it's in your mind (as an aside, I think this is why I get bothered or surprised when everyone says something about my age or thinks that I'm too old to be walking let alone running the marathon) - Diana was standing up for millions of people in her attempt. But the fact that she continued despite all the adversity even if she didn't complete the swim was testimony enough to her abilities and to the fact that you can do anything you want at any age.
No, she didn't finish the swim to Florida - they pulled her out for her safety and for the safety of the crew but she gave everything she had to that attempt. How can anyone help but admire Diana Nyad for her two attempts to conquer the Jellyfish - it had really become a battle of the jellyfish not a battle of the elements or battle of fatigue or anything else. It was Diana vs the Box - and unfortunately mother nature won that part of the battle. The rest of the battle and the entire journey had been real and inspiring and had given all the rest of us mere mortals something to think about and try to emulate on our own personal level. I know that some of my friends endure this type of thing daily and weekly and I admire them more than they ever know but Diana so far is the one person who has attempted something that would actually scare the dickens out of me.
Thank you, Diana Nyad for these two attempts and two ventures that inspired me and give me courage and determination to continue on in whatever I'm attempting. You've given everyone - not just old folks - a new look on life and we are indebted to you.