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Swimmer describes epic Cuba-to-Florida trek: ‘I thought I saw the Taj Mahal’

Updated

Less than one day after completing her 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida–through waters filled with jellyfish, sharks, and debilitating salt–Diana Nyad accomplished yet another impressive feat: feeling no pain.

“Today, because of making it, somehow all that physical stuff just has evaporated,” said Nyad on MSNBC Tuesday.

It was the 64-year-old’s fifth attempt in 35 years to conquer the dangerous swim, and she is the first to do so without a shark cage. As recently as last year, she was forced to stop before reaching the beaches of Key West because of painful jellyfish stings to her face, neck, and hands. But those stings were nothing compared to the wounding failure Nyad felt after her earlier attempts.

“I have failed four times before,” said Nyad to MSNBC host Thomas Roberts on Tuesday. “And I remember just last year, about this time, talking to you, and saying how my body was just racked with pain. The abrasions that come from the salt water inside your mouth, they’re so darn painful.”

But for Nyad, fifth time’s the charm. And she knew it would be on Sunday night, when her support crew told her to look up at the lights of Key West appearing on the horizon.

“I’d been hallucinating; I thought I saw the Taj Mahal out there, literally,” said Nyad. But, “that was it,” she realized. “I had 15 more hours to sort of take all the journey, as you call it, in.”

All in all, the swim took Nyad just under 53 hours to complete. She said she’s a far better athlete now than when she was younger, and attributes her long-awaited success to the perspective she’s gained through living a full life.

“I’m stronger, calmer, and in a state of awe, rather than in a state of ego,” said Nyad. “I’m a better athlete all around at this age.”

After completing her dream, Nyad said she now wants to “swim for relief,” raising money for victims of Hurricane Sandy and the Boston bombing. She’s also always wanted to do a one-woman show, she added. “Who hasn’t?”

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Swimmer describes epic Cuba-to-Florida trek: 'I thought I saw the Taj Mahal'

Updated