The triumph of Diana Nyad

Sep 4, 2013 By Chris Peck

What did you do over the Labor Day weekend?

Should a grown man admit to tearing up when listening to the epic swim of Diana Nyad?

Probably not.

Better to talk football, or the weather, or bite down on a big chaw of tobacco and spit it out.

Real men don't get all water-eyed about a swimmer.

Or do they?

Monday morning I couldn't help following Diana Nyad's last, painfully slow, amazingly powerful hours of trying to swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla.

Now, my memories of swimming go back to high school and the iron hand of Ivan Jones at Riverton High.

He made us dive off backward from the side of old Riverton High School pool.

That, or get an F in P.E.

To this day I'll often swim with a life jacket -- just to be sure I don't go to a watery end.

So it wasn't the swimming, per se, that riveted me to Diana Nyad's fifth try to do what no human being has ever done before -- swim freestyle 110 miles from Cuba to Key West without the protection of a shark cage around her.

It was the whole idea of a fifth try at something that seems impossible.

By a 64-year-old woman!

That's what it was that got to me.

The fact that Diana Nyad has been trying for 30 years to conquer this stretch of sea.

Tried, and failed. Tried again, failed again. And somehow, kept at it.

She'd been stung by big box jellyfish to a point that she once said, ``It's like having boiling oil poured over your whole body -- then you burst into flames.''

For most people, that would have been it.

Once stung, forever looking for a new life's passion.

Knitting would seem to be fine alternative.

Knitting a big map that shows Cuba and Florida with nice blue and green yarns.

That's what most of us would do.

You know the adage: If at first you don't succeed, give up. No use being a damn fool about things.

But not Diana Nyad.

Instead, she kept going back to the drawing board -- at 64. Figure out how to design a full-body suit so the jellyfish can't get her. Put on 15 more pounds of muscle so she wouldn't get so tired and wasted after hours in the water.

And then, after four failed attempts to do something in the water that nobody has ever done, get out there on a pier in Cuba -- and jump in again.

I was puttering around the back yard on that Saturday morning.

My big challenge was finishing up a covered entrance to the back door of my garage.

I was swearing at the ladder for letting me spill a big container of paint.

That was my weekend.

Meanwhile, Diana Nyad was in the Atlantic ocean.

She was swimming in that uncomfortable body suit to keep out the stinging jelly fish.

A boat in front of her was watching for sharks.

Then the sun went down.

And she kept swimming -- for 53 hours.

By Monday morning of this week she had swum farther than any human being ever had.

She was three miles from Key West. Her lips swollen so badly that her doctor thought she might not be able to breathe.

But she did breathe. Like we all did this past weekend.

Only she was in the open ocean, out of sight from land -- tired, sore, and still making headway at 2 miles per hour.

Shortly after noon, Wyoming time, on Monday, she staggered ashore on the Florida island.

Stumbling, dazed, barely able to talk.

But she made it.

And she said this when she knew she had made history. ``Never, ever give up your dream.''

How many of us have given up the dream?

How many times have we tried, and failed, and simply said, well, time for something else.

Maybe that's best for most.

Not every human beinghas that uncommon grit and mental toughness that propelled Diana Nyad to push on against odds that most of humanity would deem too daunting.

But on Sept. 2, 2013, that grit made her place in history.

At 64.After four failed tries. The human drive to overcome all odds -- and sometimes do it.

That's what got to me.

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