HAVANA - U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad told the press this morning that she will set off from Havana today at 6 p.m., on her second attempt in less than two months to swim across the Florida Straits without a shark cage.
Nyad, who marked her 62nd birthday at the end of August just weeks after giving up nearly half-way through the 103-mile swim, is spending the day preparing with her support team, packing in the carbohydrates and hitting the pool to keep her muscles loose.
"I think at the age of 62, I honestly believe, I'm in the best shape of my whole life," Nyad told the media at a marina named for Ernest Hemingway on the outskirts of the Cuban capital.
The endurance athlete believes she has a "magical window" this weekend to make the crossing before the sea begins to cool down, and before October's easterly winds begin to blow. Nyad expects the calm waters will be even calmer going into the evening, and "even better this weekend." The trip is expected to take around 60 hours.
Nyad described herself as "a dying floundering fish" by the time she gave up her attempt last month.
"First I had tremendous shoulder pain that would not have kept me from doing it. Second, the waves came up that we didn't expect. It was nasty out there, and choppy. That wouldn't have kept me from doing it. But eleven hours of asthma, I was just absolutely desperate for air, it sucked the lifeblood out of my muscles."
Nyad blamed the asthma attack on a French-produced medicine she took for the shoulder pain.
This time, Nyad said, "We're ready with the right injection of medicines if I go through an asthma attack again, ready if the shoulder pain comes. We're just ready for everything that could come our way this time."
The swimmer, who has dreamt of achieving this feat for 33 years, said she's downscaled the project this time around with a support team of just 30 people - some 20 fewer than in August.
"You know it's a big expedition. You don't do these things alone. You can see all the people here - the shark diving experts, navigation experts, food and nutrition experts. It's just a lot of people, [and] nobody gets paid. It's a lot of love and labor to try to do something of adventure, and friendship and something that's never been done before," she said.
She said reports that she was blown off course last time were incorrect. The goal, she pointed out, is not to swim from Havana to Key West but from Havana to Florida.
Her failure last time has done little to dim Nyad's enthusiasm. "I just can't imagine any ending other than the ending that I want," she told journalists before going off to meet with her support team.