Why Diana Nyad quit midway through swim from Cuba to Florida Keys

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Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via Getty Images

KEY WEST, FL - AUGUST 9: In this handout provided by Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad reacts as she speaks to reporters and fans after arriving back in Florida, following the 61-year-old marathon swimmer's failed attempt to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys August 9, 2011 in Key West, Florida. Nyad's second attempt in 33 years to swim from Cuba to Florida ended after 29 hours because of wind, currents and health problems.

Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad tried this week to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys. At 61, she had trained extensively at the Pasadena Aquatic Center and in the Caribbean Ocean, but halfway through the choppy 103-mile swim, she called it quits.

It wasn't the rough seas or the excruciating pain in her shoulder, Nyad says, but the toll of an 11-hour asthma attack that forced her out of the water. "It was so darn frustrating not to be the swimmer that I am."

Nyad had tried the swim once before in 1978, but stopped because rough waves pounded her against her shark cage. So this time she ditched the cage, even though the warm Caribbean waters are infested with sharks.

Nyad is sure that on a different day with no asthma or shoulder pain, she would have finished the swim. But she doesn't doubt that she made the right call. "I'm very much at peace with the fact that I gave everything I could. The effort was, if you will, you know, heroic. But I would not have made it."

She said she’s not sure whether she’ll resume the swim anytime soon.

Audio: Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad spoke to KPCC's Steve Julian.

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