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Cuba-to-Florida swimmer says she is 'through with the ocean'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Michael Haskins

KEY WEST, Florida (Reuters) - Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old American woman who swam from Cuba to Florida, vowed on Tuesday to raise money for victims of terrorism and natural disasters with endurance swims in a pool, saying "I am through with the ocean."

Nyad said she would undertake long-distance swims in a portable pool to be installed in New York. She pledged to swim 48 hours on October 8-10 to raise money for people left homeless last year by Hurricane Sandy.

"No waves, no jellyfish, no seasickness," Nyad said on CNN, referring to the pool.

She also plans to take the pool to Boston to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing tied to the anniversary of the April 15 attack and later to Moore, Oklahoma, to raise money for victims of a tornado that devastated that town in May.

"This is going to be my thing for the next two years, to not forget people who have had their lives damaged so badly in natural and terrorist disasters," she told MSNBC.

Nyad hinted she may also be planning a one-woman stage show.

Nyad became the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba without a shark cage, coming ashore on Monday after covering the 110 miles in 53 hours.

She set a record for the longest ocean swim without a shark cage or flippers, according to her crew.

After four previous attempts over 35 years, Nyad credited a lack of box jellyfish, which she called the most deadly animals in the ocean, with allowing her to make it this time.

She wore a prosthetic mask to protect her from jellyfish, although it allowed sea water into her mouth and created sores.

Her first night in the water after departing from the Cuban capital of Havana on Saturday was "hell on earth," she told a press conference on Tuesday in Key West.

She swallowed "tremendous volumes of sea water" and was vomiting constantly, she said.

But on Sunday, Nyad said she got a big emotional boost when her crew members said she would soon benefit from a strong current flowing north toward Key West.

Still, the swim quickly began to take its toll. "I was in a state of delusion on Sunday night. I was seeing the Taj Mahal."

At times, Nyad said she sang songs to keep her mental strength. "I've got this song list in my brain of 85 songs," she said. "Neil Young is a favorite."

She also stayed focused by counting in French, Spanish and German and going over in her mind book she recently read.

Nyad said she got another lift as she closed in on Key West and saw a large crowd gathered at the beach to greet her.

Her record-setting swim drew intense attention on social media, with people sending Twitter and Facebook messages congratulating her, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

In one tweet, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Nyad. "Flying to 112 counties is a lot until you consider swimming between 2," it read. "Feels like I swim with sharks - but you actually did it!"

Nyad offered inspiration to the post-World War Two Baby boomer generation.

"The truth is I don't wake thinking about age or that I am a woman, a gay woman or 64 years old. I think I am in the prime of my life. I'm a Baby Boomer and I'm just coming into my own."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Susan Heavey, David Adams and Kevin Gray; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Maureen Bavdek and Cynthia Osterman)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130902/us-swimmer-nyad-more-three-quarters-through-cuba-florida-swim