Hourglass.

Having been left alone with my thoughts, except for a few phone calls with friends and family, I am excited to meet up with Melissa King, my good friend and the first member of my crew. Checking the time on my wristwatch, I can’t help but notice time is slipping by as seconds give way to minutes.  Closing my eyes just before the minutes give way to another hour, I imagine once again, turning the now empty hourglass and tiny granules of sand filtering effortlessly through the narrow funnel.  As I observe my watch, time just slips away. Lacking a sense of control, I feel an uncomfortable panic stirring within.

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It is 3pm and as I drive up to the Dover Priory Train Station, Melissa is waiting as planned. She is accompanied by an older couple from France whom she met on the train, and explains that they are on their way back home. Trawling the dense corridors of my mind for snippets of high-school French, we converse and engage in an ill-choreographed but impromptu performance of hand signals, nervous laughter and head nodding, and finally decide to drive them to the Dover Ferry Terminal.

With the looming but real possibility of an English Channel swim in less than 12 hours, I forget to put the brake on the rental car. Time slows ever so briefly as I turn to watch the little red Peugeot rolling backwards – towards the French couple and their luggage.  Seconds later I  jump into the driver’s seat and like a stunt actor, I activate the hand brake and assume control of the vehicle. I gasp a huge sigh of relief, and as I turn my attention to our now extremely uncomfortable passengers, I notice they are wisely standing at least 10 yards from the vehicle. “Allons-y!” I say cheerily, with two thumbs up and a big smile. Luggage and passengers fill the tiny car as we head off on our adventure.

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We arrive safely at the ferry terminal with our new friends from France, and bid fond farewells. The English Channel is a swim that ends in France, so I’m hopeful my good deed doesn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be, and this was an optional “bonus points” activity required for my preparation to swim the Channel.

Back at Varne Ridge, Melissa settles into the caravan, and we spend time meeting the other swimmers and their crew. The nervous energy swirling around the caravan park is very palpable. Evelyn, the co-owner of the park, refers to us as her "Water Babies," and is on hand to reassure us, make us smile and ensure we are not wasting precious energy on unimportant activities. “Kimberley, you should be back in your caravan resting!”

I can’t. I’m too nervous. At 6:30pm I receive a phone call from my boat pilot, Andy. As expected, Andy offers me the 12th (tomorrow) with a jump at 3:30am. “I’d grab this day with both hands, Kim. Weather is packing in afterwards.” I understand his concerns with the weather and though I still feel quite jet-lagged (which makes me feel cold), I agree. “Let’s do this,” I reply.

Almost synchronously, time accelerates yet again. The free wifi internet over dinner at a nearby restaurant is all too engrossing and we both lose track of time as we hurriedly send a flurry of emails and Facebook updates to friends. I call my Mum and Dad one last time. Back at the caravan at 8:30pm, I scribble a final checklist of things to do in the morning.

Turning the hourglass one last time, I begin the final countdown. Lying in bed, I set my alarm for 1:45am; we need to meet at the boat at 2:30am. I close my eyes and hope to sleep. Instead I am restless, tossing and turning. I watch with alarm and disbelief as the sand slips effortlessly through the narrow funnel.