Diana Nyad prepares to jump in the water and begin her attempt to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys in this screen grab from the documentary “The Other Side.”

I met Diana Nyad in 2013, when she came to Austin for the SXSW film festival premiere of the documentary “The Other Shore,” about her failed attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida.

Pam LeBlanc met Diana Nyad in 2013, a few months before she finally swam 111 miles from Cuba to Key West, Fla.

She chatted with a small group of fans, who met her for a morning walk around downtown Austin. She made a point to talk with each of us, encouraging us to try something in our life that seemed impossible.

“Never give up,” she said, pumping a black, sweatsuit-clad fist in the air. “Onward!”

She didn’t give up. A few months after her Austin visit, at age 64, she successfully accomplished that 111-mile swim in just under 53 hours – although some controversy swirled about her methods.

Nyad walked through downtown Austin with fans during her 2013 visit. Pam LeBlanc photo

Now Nyad’s written a book about her life and that awe-inspiring swim. “Find a Way” ($26.95, Knopf) gives a little insight into the mind of someone driven to endure ripping currents, near-fatal jellyfish stings and extreme fatigue to reach a goal.

Diana Nyad’s book, “Find a Way,” recounts her attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida. Photo courtesy Knopf

Nyad attempted the swim in 2011 but pulled out half-way through because of asthma attacks and blasting currents. She tried again six weeks later, only to be turned back after repeated stings from a box jellyfish. In 2012, she began once more, but her crew pulled her from the water during a lightning storm.

Preparing for such a long swim takes stamina. It also involves tons of calories, a mental fortitude that few possess and, it turns out, plenty of vomiting. Nyad spent countless hours in pools and the ocean, swimming for eight, 12 and even 24 hours at a time, with a stroke as regular as a metronome. She’s not afraid of a dark, bottomless ocean, or the thought of sharks that might be circling underneath her at any moment.

It’s fascinating stuff, and it’ll put your laps across Barton Springs in perspective