It was part of a quest to swim for 48 hours straight, not easy even for an extreme athlete like Diana Nyad, the woman who recently completed a swim through shark and jellyfish-infested waters from Cuba to Florida.
But on Thursday morning, Nyad emerged from the pool having raised more than $100,000 for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
"It honestly was tougher than I ever imagined it to be," the 64-year-old Nyad said as she emerged from the pool at 8:48 a.m. Her words were drowned out by the crowd's whooping, claps and cheers.
Minutes later, looking well but bundled up in a blanket, she told "Good Morning America" that her shoulders hurt and she felt nauseated but was otherwise happy. Her effort raised $103,001.
Meteorologist Amy Freeze was among dozens of New Yorkers invited to join her as she took on the new challenge.
Nyad was born in New York City and wanted Sandy victims to know she hasn't forgotten about them.
"I could say I'm from New York, and I feel for anything these people go through," she said. "Whether it be terrorists or a natural disaster."
Nyad said that after Sandy, everyone wanted to help. But as time passes, many storm victims are left to struggle behind lost headlines.
After spending half her life to achieve the goal of her historic Cuba-to-Florida swim, which included several failed attempts, she never gave up. And that is the message she offers to Sandy victims and anyone struggling.
"I don't care if you are a child having trouble at school or a person getting a divorce, you have cancer - if you have the vision to get to the other side you can find a way," Nyad said.
She went back and forth, Lap after lap, inside the custom-built two-lane pool set to 82 degrees. Yet, she had no sleep and only took brief bathroom and food breaks.
"Sandy was a year ago," she said. "You know better than I do that there are people still struggling, people still homeless, and even though I want to remind people they aren't making the front pages, we haven't forgotten."
Thousands of onlookers and many guest swimmers came and went, including celebrities like radio personality Greg T and Perez Hilton, GMA's Lara Spencer, "Twilight" actress Nikki Reed and Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte and Nastia Liukin. But it was Nyad alone who overcame the challenges, one stroke at a time. And so it is with life, she says - find a way.
"Even here in this pool, I'm having trouble," she said. "I was suffering. I can't quit. Hurricane Sandy victims are waiting...We found a way to get through it."