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Swimming Toward a Lifetime Goal

Diana Nyad, 61, explains her motivation for attempting to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Key West

My workouts escalated. My motivation started to burn like a fire in my soul. One day I was driving, after a long swim, and I stopped and looked hard in the rearview mirror. And I told myself, "This is one dream I actually could go back and achieve. At 60, I could swim from Cuba to Florida … this time, without a shark cage." (The first time around, I used a cage — which certainly made me feel secure from aggressive sharks. But it also dissipates waves and currents; this means you're no longer in open elements and, therefore, you're not competing in the swim fairly and squarely.)

See also: 7 Ways to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last year, I completed the final tough stage of training: a 24-hour swim from about 40 miles off the shores of Key West back to the Florida coast. This was the ultimate confidence builder for the Cuba swim. I felt strong every single stroke of the way. It was heartening to feel so good and to work so hard. I may be a bit slower today, but I can honesty say I believe I have more body endurance now than I did at 30.

Initially, I had planned to do the Cuba swim last summer. Our crew of experts — from navigators to shark divers — had spent countless hours fine-tuning all aspects of the expedition. I was ready to go, and waited day after day for conditions to be right. But strong winds and lowering sea temperatures all conspired to force me to postpone the swim.

Now we're back again, watching and waiting for conditions to be just right so I can undertake this long-awaited challenge. In mid-July, it appears that the moment is imminent, and any day now I'll be diving into the waters to begin my pursuit. Whatever lies ahead, I'm sure of one thing: As I take those strokes en route to Cuba, I will be conquering the fears that I had about growing older.

The process of preparing for this swim has shown me how vital I am at 61. And now, if I can make it all the way across, if I can get to that distant shore, I hope that my fellow baby boomers will be inspired to light the fire themselves — and reach for their dreams, whatever they might be.

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