The disappointment at giving up on her dream, though, was as raw as the welts left by the jellyfish-like creatures' long, stinging tentacles
"It's going to hurt my pride so bad when someone swims across that thing, and it wasn't me," the 62-year-old told friends who greeted her boat, Sunluver, at a Key West marina Sunday night.
Nyad quit Sunday morning after 40 hours swimming past sharks, barracudas and men o'war in the waters between Cuba and the Florida Keys. She could have fought through bad weather or medical problems, she said, but her medics said more man o'war stings might have killed her.
"It's such a bitter pill. I am so capable of that swim. That's the end, though" Nyad said.
Wearing a white bathrobe, the 62-year-old pushed up the sleeves to show a long, red, cross-shaped welt on her right forearm.
"Those damned jellyfish," she said.
Nyad said she had been in even better shape than when she attempted the same swim last month. She received oxygen and a steroid shot from her doctors while treading water as she recovered from the stings. She tried to fend off more stings by wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a full facial mask, with just her hands, feet and lips exposed.
Her lips were stung, and Nyad joked that her swollen mouth rivaled actress Angelina Jolie's famous pout.
The man o'war tentacles swept across her "like something out of a sci-fi movie," she said.
She kept swimming even as she felt paralysis stiffening her back, she said, because visions of Florida kept her going.
"I'm only human and I'm allowed to say I'm mad that it turned out this way, I'm very disappointed," she said.
"When you want something, you picture it, and I pictured seeing that Florida coast. The lights, the palm trees, I pictured it for so long. Go back to 1978, I pictured it a long time," Nyad continued. "It's hard to let go of, but I can, and I will. I'm not going to call you guys and say I'm doing it again. Mainly because of the way it ended."
Join for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner