Daily Archives: July 21, 2011

The Heat Dome and Swimming With the Sharks

OK. I’ll admit it. I can’t swim. Well, that’s not totally true. If I fell into the shallow end of a pool I could probably tread water long enough for my feet to find the bottom. So I won’t be heading to the beach or pool like millions of others to get some relief from the heat dome that has settled over the nation.

And at 5 a.m. it’s already hot and humid enough that I figure I might as well just go to the gym and chase the treadmill belt. Might as well sweat in the relative comfort of air conditioning.

I’m sure Diana Nyad would consider me a wuss.

She’s a marathon swimmer who is planning to swim from Cuba to Key West without any real protection from the sharks that apparently consider this to be their pool. Here’s from the NYT, “Ready to Swim 103 Miles With the Sharks“:

KEY WEST, Fla. — Any day now, Diana Nyad will set out to do something no athlete has ever done: swim all day and all night, then all day and all night, then all day again.

She will swim about 60 hours in the churning sea, 103 miles across the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West. Every hour and a half, she will stop to tread water for a few minutes as she swallows a liquid mixture of predigested protein and eats an occasional bit of banana or dollop of peanut butter. She will most likely hallucinate and endure the stings of countless jellyfish. Along the way, sea salt will swell her tongue to cartoonish proportions and rub her skin raw.

“She is up against the most outlandish, outrageous, unbelievable physical endurance activity of, certainly, my lifetime,” said Steven Munatones, a champion open-water swimmer who runs the organization Open Water Source and will serve as an independent observer during Ms. Nyad’s swim. “I can’t imagine being in the ocean for 60 hours. I can’t imagine doing anything for 60 hours. It is inconceivable. It simply is.”

“Especially,” he added, “at her age.”

Her age is 61. Ms. Nyad attempted this swim once before, unsuccessfully, in 1978 at the age of 28. She swam inside a shark cage for 41 hours 49 minutes until the raucous weather and powerful current pushed her far off course and she was forced to give up. She had traveled only 50 miles. (One year later, she swam 102 miles from Bimini, in the Bahamas, to Jupiter, Fla., without a shark cage. She still holds the record for the world’s longest ocean swim.)

And about the sharks:

If Ms. Nyad makes it from Cuba to Key West, she will be the first person to have done so without a shark cage. In 1997, an Australian woman completed the swim inside a shark cage. But with a boat pulling the cage, the swim is easier and faster; the woman completed it in less than 24 hours.

“I’m in uncharted territory,” Ms. Nyad said.

Well, I guess I better stop carping about the heat and humidity and just go run.

And I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to swim from Cuba to Key West — with or without sharks tagging along. So good luck to Nyad on that.

But if something happens that she has to postpone or call off the swim, maybe she could head to D.C. this weekend as some real sharks hover under the hot air dome on Capitol Hill trying to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling and government spending.