The anticipation of an aquatic adventure is one of my favorite dimensions of the entire journey. It is during this time, usually one month from the next swim, that an awareness of the impending physical and mental demands begin to materialize. Fueled by the speeding up of time, this perception – my reality – comes barreling towards me at an unstoppable pace. Once engulfed by this powerful and electrifying vortex, I feel my mind and my body tingle with both fear and delight. It is tremendously exciting.
Transfixed by the force of this mental cyclone, countless scenarios swirl intensely around me. At times disorienting, I wonder how on earth I might emerge. Unconsciously I give equal attention to both positive and negative outcomes. Piece by piece I play out my entire adventure - from arriving in Japan, meeting my Mum at the airport, taking the bullet train north to Aomori, to preparing myself in the hotel, the long drive to the starting point for my swim and lastly jumping off the boat - alone - into the inky dark pre–dawn water. Next I imagine the highs and lows that will consume me as I cross Tsugaru Strait. Finally, I visualize as best as possible finishing the swim; that glorious and sweet sense of accomplishment enveloping my cold and worn out body.
Yet, as much as I try desperately to hold on to this positive depiction, this scenario seems too good to be true. It is far too satisfying. Instinctively, my mind flirts dangerously with the antithesis; I imagine the possibility of not even getting the chance to swim due to bad weather. I also imagine being pulled from the water mid–swim due to deteriorating weather conditions, hypothermia, and even a “wildlife” encounter. So terribly morbid and not entirely helpful, my mind bolts. Changing direction towards the glimmer of light peaking through the dark and ominous clouds, I am sheltered from the storm. Once again I visualize a safe and successful journey across the sea. A tiny respite in this storm, my breath labors and my heart rate slows.
Again the clouds close in. As the wind picks up, I try to buttress my body against the next onslaught. Crouching to the ground, I smile. I just feel so intensely alive.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” — Haruki Murakami