Back at the Hotel Tappi, final preparations for my swim begin. Excited nerves give way to an intense unease that swirls chaotically in my stomach. Transfixed with an imagined speeding up of time, I check my watch obsessively. 7:02pm. I observe in parallel an accelerated loss of control over all that I have presided up to this point.
This is the juncture - the beginning of the final chapter of my journey. And it now rests firmly in the hands of fate. In a final effort to rein in these last fleeting moments, I grasp onto any last remnant of control. I tally a mental checklist of everything yet to be completed. The list expands and contracts with each nervous breath. I feel the pressure of my heart throbbing persistently against my chest. Quietly wishing for few extra hours within which to compose myself, I know I must move forward. And I need to get as much rest as possible before waking up at 1am.
Mum, Tomo, Aya, and Akira gather in my traditional Japanese room. Unsurprisingly, familiar companions fear and panic also find their way into the room. I can’t help but notice my hands tremble as I try my best to methodically display all the equipment necessary to support my swim. I explain my feeding routine for the swim and other important details, yet my thoughts are scattered. Despite my overwhelming nervousness, I notice with gratitude as each of my crew members patiently listen to my ramblings.
I will feed every 30 minutes. My team will throw me a selection of drink bottles on a long rope. One bottle will contain my carbohydrate mixture, the other bottle will contain mouthwash to help combat the high salinity of the ocean water that will inevitably cause my tongue to swell and make my throat course. Since it is prohibited for me to have any physical contact with my crew or touch the boat at any time during my swim, the rope is extra long. As I tread water during these feedings (and for no longer than 10 seconds) I will also have the option of GU for an extra energy boost if needed. At approximately hour seven, a dose of ibuprofen will be added to my feed. My hope is this dosage will be more proactive than reactive, as I anticipate some discomfort in my shoulders. I explain my swim kit which contains a comprehensive selection of useful equipment: extra goggles, swim caps, blinky lights, and even an EpiPen in case of debilitating jellyfish stings. Finally I ask my crew for two last requests. Please do not tell me the time or how far I have swum; my goal is to swim until I have run out of water. I have no place to be yet right where I am: swimming to Hokkaido. And lastly, even if everything is falling apart, please simply smile and reassure me everything is going great.
I check my watch. 7:28pm. It is time to have a quick meal and get some rest. I hug each of my team members goodnight. Watching them walk away down the hallway, a surge of excitement bubbles within. I cup my hands to my face and smile. I cannot believe my swim is almost here. I call my family in New Zealand and share the news of my confirmed swim time with friends around the world via email and Facebook.
After enjoying a traditional Japanese meal, Mum and I return to our room. For the first time ever, I am able to hug my Mum on the night before a swim. It is both surreal and incredibly special.
Slipping between the sheets of my bed I worry I will not be able to sleep. I check my alarm clock one last time. It is set and ready to wake me at 1am, a mere 4 hours from now.
My heart pounds with such force I open my eyes and look at my watch. 10:33pm. Adrenaline swirls through my body, but it is too soon. Not yet, I tell myself, not yet. As I calm myself and try to fall back asleep, I focus intently on the eery silence of the night. There is not a whisper of wind.