Diana Nyad swam a ceremonial final leg to shore in Key West Tuesday afternoon after ending her latest attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida earlier in the day.
As soon as she walked onto the sand, a welcoming committee gathered on the beach sang "Happy Birthday" to Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday.
She expressed a bit of disappointment about failing to make her complete, ambitious journey, but said she got a life lesson out of it.
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“I’ve cried already a couple of times, I’m sure more tears will flow. As I said, when you’ve got something as large as history, and maybe it’s ego, it’s hard to let it go by," Nyad said.
She left a boat and swam a few hundred yards for the last leg. Nyad swam at least 50 miles and spent almost 42 hours in the water in her latest attempt to cross the Straits of Florida.
According to an update on Nyad's website, she was pulled from the water around 7 a.m. Tuesday. Angie Sollinger, a senior crew member of Nyad's team, told NBC News they made a collective decision to pull out Nyad, who was suffering from extreme exhaustion.
Nyad was making her third attempt since last summer to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
She also made a failed try with a cage in 1978.
Dozens of supporters had gathered in Key West for Nyad, who had been expected to arrive somewhere in the Keys early Tuesday but was slowed by stormy weather Monday.
Nyad's team had tweeted Monday evening that she lost six hours progress in overnight storms Sunday which had blown her off course.
In addition to the storms, Nyad faced numerous jellyfish stings. Stings had forced her to cut short her second of two attempts last year as toxins built up in her system.
“I’m not a quitter," she said Tuesday when asked if she would make a fifth attempt. "But the sport and this particular ocean are different than they used to be. These jellyfish are prolific."
Nyad has been training for three years for the feat. She is accompanied by a support team in boats, and a kayak-borne apparatus shadowing Nyad helps keep sharks at bay by generating a faint electric field that is not noticeable to humans. A team of handlers is always on alert to dive in and distract any sharks that make it through.
She takes periodic short breaks to rest, hydrate and eat high-energy foods such as peanut butter.
Below: Nyad's crew members came out of the water as she swam the final ceremonial leg.