July 19th, 2011
09:44 PM ET
Editor's note: CNN alone will have live coverage of Diana Nyad's Xtreme Dream from aboard the support boats traveling alongside her. Stay with CNN.com and The Chart for more info on the swim, and to see a live position tracker and live reports from the ocean.
The last year has been full of fits and starts for champion distance swimmer Diana Nyad in her quest to break the world record in open-water swimming, and we've taken you along for the entire ride.
As we shared with you last July, almost a year of intense training – both in a pool and in the ocean – culminated in one final test of her abilities: a 24-hour swim off the coast of Key West. If she could do that, she felt she'd be ready to conquer her "Xtreme Dream," swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, at age 61. Accomplishing that 103-mile swim would mean breaking the 32-year-old record, set by Diana in 1979, when she swam from the Bahamas to Florida.
The July 10, 2010, swim came and went without a hitch. She jumped into the ocean at 8:19 that morning and emerged victorious and confident at 8:19 a.m. the next day.
The plan at that point: recover briefly from that training swim and get ready to head to Cuba for "the big swim."
But bad weather and a lack of Cuban visas dragged the "Xtreme Dream" into an agonizing three-month wait, until Diana finally called it off for the year because of plummeting water and air temperatures.
The base Diana built over a year of training would have to be put on hold for the winter. Fast forward from October to January, and training started again in earnest. She began frequenting local pools for six and eight hours at a time. Come April, twice-monthly trips to the Caribbean for eight-, 10- and 12-hour ocean swims became the norm, and on June 24, she left her home in Los Angeles and again headed for Key West to wait.
Now, just a few short weeks later, tensions are high on the "Xtreme Dream" operations team. Crew members are packing bags, ready for the red alert e-mail from Diana. Boats are rigged. Water temperatures have hit the desired mark. Cuban visas are in hand. The first team of boat drivers and the crew's navigator are heading into Cuba within the next few days.
But Diana continues her wait for the last piece in this 1,000-piece puzzle – the doldrums – the days-long period of calm winds she hopes will keep the waters between Cuba and Florida flat for her swim.
I traded e-mails with Diana just last night, and she says "red alert" could be coming soon. My bags are packed, and our plans are set, too. Two cases of satellite transmission gear have been sitting in my trunk for two weeks, waiting for the call. After working with Team Nyad for countless hours through the last year, watching the ups and downs, the false starts and the agonizing decisions, I'm as eager as anyone to watch Diana take one more crack at her life's dream.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.