Dear reader(s) who follow marathon swimming probably have caught the news that Diana Nyad finally swam from Cuba to Florida.
Or did she?
There are skeptics out there, me included. I don’t for a minute doubt that she spent quite a bit of time in the water. Upward of 53 hours vertical. And that’s something to be proud of. But there are some areas of her swim that are questionable, at least in my mind.
So let’s start with the basics. She didn’t do a marathon swim. Even she admits that. A marathon swim means she would have swum in a typical textile suit, cap and goggles. That’s it. Plus, she wouldn’t have touched anything or been touched by anyone/anything. This she did not do, nor do I think she ever stated (for this iteration) that she would be doing a marathon swim. She wore a special jellyfish-proof suit and face mask. So, I have no complaints about that.
She did, however, state that she would be swim non-stop. (Let me insert here this caveat: it is difficult to separate what she said and what her crew/sycophants said.) There is some question on whether or not she swam the entire distance. Her speed increased after 27 hours, doubling her speed of the first 5 hours. Sure, that could be from current. Maybe. Miles 38 to 103 she swam faster than she ever had before. Over 3MPH. Which is very quick.
date time elapsed segment total segment segment of day time time dist dist mph ------------------------------------------------------- 8/31 1415 4:46 4:46 7.05 7.05 1.48 1844 9:01 4:15 11.85 4.8 1.13 9/1 0859 24:00 14:15 38.18 26.33 1.85 1200 27:01 3:01 47.61 9.53 3.16 1600 31:01 4:00 63.25 15.64 3.91 2130 36:31 5:30 80.38 17.13 3.11 9/2 0200 42:01 5:30 93.84 13.46 2.45 0730 47:31 5:30 103.86 10.02 1.82 1606 52:54 5:23 110.36 6.50 1.21
But for me, the most glaring is the fact that after swimming over 24 hours, she swam through the night, for 7.5 hours, without stopping for any food or water. There are many really experienced marathon swimmers out there, and not one of them can imagine having swum that long, then going 7+ hours without replacing lost calories or liquids. Plus, Diana’s crew included doctors. I can’t imagine any of those doctors would agree that she should go without for so long.
Finally, at least one of her observers was anything but independent. Janet Hinkle was one of her two observers. She had made a comment on Nyad’s blog a couple years ago that sounds very, well, sycophantic:
“Diana …we are confident you will channel your dynamic energy into a new Dream…one that will be rewarding in a new way. It was wonderful meeting you in Key West…I pray our paths will cross again…”
OK. If you really want your swim to be respected, you get an observer that is truly independent. For something like Cuba to Florida, which does not have an organization regulating crossings, you want an independent observer knowledgeable about different marathon swimming organizations, so that in the future, no one can call your swim in question. Know what I’m saying?
An incredible marathon swimmer quoted Sagan: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There was a guy back in December that claimed to have swum the North Channel, arguably the most difficult of the Oceans Seven, in December! He was questioned. His observers offered no evidence. He was offered a spot at Ned Denison’s marathon swim camp, which he did not attend. His claim was pretty much proven to be crap.
Diana’s swim is extraordinary. What we, the international marathon swimming community, need is extraordinary evidence. Come on Janet Hinkle and Roger McVeigh (her other observer)! Show us the reports!