Diana Nyad won't slow down
Birthplace: New York
Twitter handle: @DianaNyad
Twitter followers: 40,244
15 things you don't know about Diana Nyad:
1. On Sept. 23, 2011, the No.1 Google search in the world had to do with Nyad's attempt to swim the 103 miles between Cuba and Florida. About 1.3 million Twitter fans followed her. Relentless attacks by toxic, convulsion-inducing jellyfish thwarted her efforts.
2. Check out these jellyfish scars.
3. In September 2013, on her fifth attempt, Nyad successfully finished her journey from Cuba to Florida -- the first person to do so sans shark cage -- in 52 hours and 54 minutes. She was vomiting (from swallowing salt water) for a good bit of the swim but had the benefit of box jellyfish expert Dr. Angel Yanagihara monitoring the water, sometimes swimming ahead of her and scooping up jellyfish along Nyad's path.
4. Other things you can do in 53 hours: watch 16 major league baseball games; drive back and forth from Houston to Chicago three times; run 26 marathons at world record pace; survive "Carmageddon," the dreaded 53-hour stretch when the Sepulveda Pass in Los Angeles was closed for renovation; watch the James Franco flick "127 Hours" 34 times.
5. As a guest on "Chelsea Lately" one week later, she said that while her severely chafed mouth was still recovering, she was not sore, and had "not a drop of lactic acid" in her muscles.
6. Me encanta nadar! Nyad is fluent in Spanish and French (her mother was French).
7. No rest for the weary. Next week, less than a month after finishing her historic Cuba-to-Florida aquatic marathon, Nyad is swimming for 48 hours straight in a New York pool to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief (in honor of the catastrophic storm's one-year anniversary).
9. When Nyad was in fifth grade, she wrote an essay titled, "What I Will Do for the Rest of My Life." In it, she said, "My mother says that her father lived to be 79. Her mother is still living. And my father's parents are still living. It would probably be a good guess that I will live to 80 years. Which means I have 70 years left to go. I want to see all the countries of the world and learn all the languages. I want to have thousands of friends, and I want all my friends to be different. I want to play six instruments. I want to be the best in the world at two things. I want to be a great athlete and I want to be a great surgeon. I need to practice very hard every day. I need to sleep as little as possible. I need to read at least one major book every week. And I need to remember that my 70 years are going to go by too quickly." She was 10 years old.
10. A "desperately immoral" father and a "meek" mother prompted the athlete to fight for her own success early on. "My father was...a liar, a professional thief, a polished lowlife," she has said. "He was also gorgeous. Women died when he walked into a restaurant -- and some men. And because my mother was so meek and needed him so badly and took his side in everything, I took charge of myself early on."
11. Her late brother, Shariff Billy Nyad, struggled with mental illness and lived most of his life, from age 18 to 57, on the streets of Boston. His nickname was "The Pied Piper" because he helped his fellow homeless with their health, legal and family problems.
12. When she's not swimming, Nyad is an avid cyclist. An average Friday bike ride takes her from mid-city in Los Angeles to the Malibu coastline and back again, about 87 miles. #nosharkcagerequired
13. Conan O'Brien has retold Nyad's 2011 swim attempt using peanuts. She took it in stride, promoting it on her Facebook page.
14. Nyad has said that a four-year cycle of sexual abuse by her high school swimming coach fuels her anger when she swims. "I was swimming every stroke with anger at that man and that sexual abuse," she has said. "I was so naive. I hated him and loved him and felt humiliated and denigrated and so afraid, so terrified to be the last one left or the first one there in case I might be taken or attacked. At the same time, I felt like the chosen one." She now speaks out about it, telling Out magazine, "It's such an epidemic. It's happening everywhere."
15. She's got a ticket to ride: Nyad sings Beatles tunes in her head as she swims. She actually has been known to stop and serenade her crew, mid-swim.