One thought ahead. Three sentences behind.


"What's a breast stroke?"

Endurance swimmer Diane Nyad’s third bid to swim the 103 miles between Florida and Cuba came to an unsuccessful close last week.

The first attempt in 1978 was thwarted by bad weather and strong currents.  Her second attempt earlier in August was aborted due to acute pain in her shoulder and complications due to asthma.  Her third attempt went from bad to worse when she received multiple stings from a Portuguese man o’ war.

First of all bravo to Nyad for even making the attempt.  At 62 she demonstrated that age is not a factor when it comes to turning a dip into the ocean into an epic quest.  When I turn 62, an endurance run will involve climbing on my bike and finding the nearest bakery.  I can’t even conceive the drive it takes to swim in an ocean filled with sharks and what’s in this photo.

Because Nyad wanted to become the first person to swim from Florida to Cuba without benefit of a shark cage, she needed a team of divers to get in between her and potential sharks.  (Much like the secret service protects the President of the United States except without earpieces and government sunglasses.)

Nyad and her team were prepared for sharks.  They were not ready for a blob that looks like a combination of a mini-battleship and alien spacecraft.  They weren’t prepared at all for it to wander in front of Nyad’s path and sting her multiple times in the face and arms.

I wonder if the divers responsible for protecting Nyad from sharks looked at this creature and went “Not my job description.”

It wasn’t like a Nyad ran into a typical jellyfish to be tossed aside.  It wasn’t even a jellyfish but a colony of organisms working together.  (Kind of like animal submarine.)  Here are some other interesting facts about the Portuguese man o’ war:

  • Not a big fan of world record holders.
  • Have tendrils that can reach 165 feet in length.
  • Although, their sting is not deadly, it is excruciatingly painful and extremely debilitating.

That’s what Nyad discovered.  She said that it was the most painful event she ever went through and she had kidney stones.  And to be attacked by something named after a country on the other side of the Atlantic.  That seems like adding insult to injury.  The creature that attacked her didn’t even have the decency to be from the Bahamas.  Also, the Portuguese man o’ war doesn’t have a propulsion system.  What does that mean?  Nyad was stung by a creature that doesn’t even swim.  It just floats along the ocean currents and grabs what comes along.  Nyad swimming into a Portuguese man o’ war is like a marathon runner being knocked over by a guy in a recliner. That’s not fair.  A swimmer that dreamed her whole life to set this world record was blocked by a sea creature that didn’t even lift a tendril.

“I trained this hard for this big dream I had for many years, and to think these stupid little Portuguese man o’ war take it down,” Nyad said.

If a do-over is possible when it comes to setting a world record, I think Nyad deserves one.  And if not, I think a Portuguese man o’ war should make a world record attempt by crossing the island of Manhattan.  Hopefully there will be plenty of taxis to thwart the attempt.


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