Nyad pushes through stings on 'critical' 2nd night

AP News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2011 1:03 AM
Nyad pushes through stings on 'critical' 2nd night

Endurance athlete Diana Nyad resumed swimming early Sunday after being treated at sea for a second painful jellyfish sting near the halfway point of her bid to make the 103-mile (166-kilometer) crossing from Cuba to Florida.

Nyad's face and eyes were affected and she received medical treatment on a support vessel late Saturday night, according to online updates posted by her team.

A subsequent post on her website said an observer from the International Swim Federation ruled she could continue the swim if she was only removed from the water for medical treatment and not to rest. It would be classified as a "staged swim" but still be a record if she completes it.

Then her handlers posted: "She's back in! At 12:20am ET, Diana has re-entered the water. She is accompanied by three shark divers and the swim has resumed."

It was the second sting Nyad has experienced more than 24 hours into her attempt to break her own record for an open-water crossing without a shark cage by about a half-mile (1 km). Earlier Saturday, her assistants reported that she had swam 49 miles since setting out from a Havana marina the previous day.

Already she has bested her last attempt at the crossing in August, when a crippling asthma attack that lasted 11 hours forced her to call off the swim, gasping for breath, after 29 hours at sea.

This time around she also got a visit from a curious shark, though her handlers downplayed the afternoon encounter.

"Around 1pm _ and don't everybody get excited here _ an Oceanic white tipped shark was spotted near Diana in the midst of the three boat flotilla. ... Rob MacDonald, one of (her safety) divers, swam towards the shark, where they faced off within 10 feet of one another," read a post on Nyad's website.

"I guess he thought I was more aggressive than him, and he turned in the other direction," MacDonald was quoted as saying.

Earlier Saturday, handlers spotted barracudas in the area.

Without a cage to protect her, Nyad is relying on equipment surrounding her with an electrical field that is harmless but deters most sharks. Her divers are there to gently discourage any who make it through.

Nyad's run-in the previous night with a Portuguese Man o' War, described as "scary," left her with stings on her face, arms and side.

Complaining of difficulty breathing, she received oxygen and a steroid shot from her doctors and tread water while she recovered.

When she resumed swimming her handlers noted that her stroke count had dropped to 48 per minute, down from 52-55, but as the day went on she picked up the pace.

"This afternoon _ it is stunning to actually witness _ Diana is swimming stronger and stronger," her website read. "Her strokes are up to 50 per minute, she is eating pasta, gobbling bananas, bits of peanut butter sandwiches, along with high-carb & high calorie liquid concoctions."

Her website reported that she seemed to revive significantly after consuming blended chicken soup.

The Los Angeles woman pauses every 45 and 90 minutes to rest and refuel on food that her assistants pass to her in the water, but without getting on the boat.

Not all encounters with marine life were unpleasant.

"At 7:10pm, on the crimson horizon of the Straits of Florida, ten pilot whales emerged in the distance just ahead of Diana," said a tweet.

Nyad is making her second attempt in as many months at the Cuba-Florida crossing, a lifelong dream that she first tried as a 28-year-old back in 1978, when she swam inside a steel shark cage for about 42 hours before ending the attempt.

A cageless attempt this August fell short 29 hours in when, gasping for breath, Nyad threw in the towel after an 11-hour asthma attack she blamed on a bad reaction to a new medicine.

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Online:

Nyad's site: http://www.diananyad.com