Riddled with stress, doubt and apprehension, and trying very hard to taper properly and not over-exert myself, I found calm in the strangest activity. For some reason, I decided to put all my affairs in order. ALL of them. I cleaned my apartment. Sorted through files. Did my laundry. Organized my closet. Put clean sheets on my bed. I even cleaned my car (inside and out!). I balanced my checkbook. Bills were paid, taxes were filed. Pedicure? Check. Eyebrows waxed? Check. Hair appointment? Oh, yes.
It was strangely ritualistic. I was preparing for the biggest adventure of my life and I didn’t know WHAT would happen. For me, the lure of adventure is unbelievably seductive; a swim in the open ocean is essentially rolling the dice with nature. NOTHING is guaranteed and that is tremendously exciting. But I was scared. Really scared. And what I was scared of was that little 7 letter word: FAILURE.
In my head I played out every single possible outcome. I imagined me finishing. I imagined me getting pulled for hypothermia. I imagined this. I imagined that. And on and on and on. I had followed my training plan to the letter, but doubt CONSUMED me. I actually tried not to focus on imagining the finish. It seemed too good to be true. Silly I know, but what if I jinxed myself?? I desperately wanted to press PAUSE but time was slipping out of my hands like sand and I found myself obsessively counting the days until I flew to New Zealand.
The next thing I know, the plane is touching down in Auckland.
It seemed so strange not to see my Mum or Dad waiting for me in the arrivals area. For 17 years I’ve always come home and been greeted by my family. But this trip was different. I was on my way to Wellington.
Walking outside to the domestic terminal, I breathe in the sweet, soft island air. It’s noticeably different from San Francisco, but oh-so-familiar. It’s GLORIOUS. And, for the briefest of moments, I forget that I’m home to complete a swim. I'm HOME!!!!!!
Boarding the plane for Wellington, it hits me. OMG. OMG. There’s no going back. This is real, and this is really happening. I’m going to Wellington to swim the Cook Strait. THE COOK STRAIT!!!!!
The weather couldn’t have been more different in Wellington. Cool and very, very windy. 100 km/hr (54 knot) winds. How would I ever swim in these conditions??
And so began my 10 day wait. 10 days. 10 days of me saying - EVERY SINGLE DAY - "no, I really think I'm going to swim tomorrow."
Over these 10 days I discovered that I’ve never been so acutely aware of and so completely obsessed with the weather. Gale force winds. Northerlies. Southerlies. Fronts. Rain. Even a Weather Bomb hit the country.
I learned as much as I could about how these variables could change on a dime in the crazy microclimate that is Wellington. Weather was extremely changable. It was crazy to witness. And so, against the advice of my pilot, Philip Rush, I couldn't help it. I watched the weather reports on TV like a dog salivating in front of a juicy bone dangled before him. I grabbed every newspaper I could find and jumped straight to the weather section. I was going mad.
Flights in and out of Wellington were canceled. All ferry service across the Cook Strait was canceled. It was unbelievable. That little piece of water I wanted so desperately to swim in wasn’t even safe for ferries. Oh, and it was one of the coldest Summers on record.
So I prayed. I prayed to Mother Nature. I prayed for a chance. That’s all I needed. I just needed a chance.
Of the 300 different outcomes that I had obsessed over FOR MONTHS, there was only one outcome I hadn’t even imagined. The possibility of me not even getting a chance to swim.
But, no, I really think I'm going to swim tomorrow...