Awoken from my dream with some shoulder pain, I kindly request ibuprofen at my next feeding. I am unable to have any physical contact with my crew, so adding a generous dose of liquid children’s ibuprofen to my carbohydrate drink is the easiest method for delivery. As the feeding bottles are tossed over the starboard side of the boat, I pull on the long rope and grab hold of my drink. It appears the blue-raspberry flavored medicine has tainted my drink a bright and very obnoxious glow-in-the-dark green. I cannot help but laugh as I make a mental note for my next swim to acquire flavorless, un-dyed liquid ibuprofen. It is not exactly appetizing, but I am eager for some pain relief and drink it anyway. I watch with gratitude as my crew understand my discomfort and share encouraging messages on the whiteboard as well as the banner from my Adobe Japan colleagues. Patiently waiting for the effects of the ibuprofen to kick in, I settle back into my stroke, while closely observing the support of my crew.
Always curious about the general mood on the boat, especially whether or not my swim is going well, I have paid particular attention to Captain Mizushima. While my crew have cheered and asked me questions during my feedings, Mizushima has not said a word. Over the course of the swim, we have made some comforting eye contact, and at least a couple times he smiled. My attempts to have him reciprocate with an enthusiastic “Woo!” have gone unnoticed. Most of the time he looks ahead with a confident and focused gaze. With the ibuprofen working its magic, I am once again swimming at a productive pace.
Suddenly Mizushima yells my name. Alarmed by this odd behavior, I stop swimming and wait for instructions. The boat captain is always in charge and whenever a swimmer is asked to stop, it must be something very important. Except for Tomo, my crew is now gathered at the port side of the boat. Mizushima gestures with his hands as if to tell me to be very calm. Tomo stands beside him and gestures with his arms stretched out as wide as possible. This can mean only one thing. Mizushima is telling me to calm down because there is a shark nearby and Tomo is informing me as to the approximate size of the animal. Time crawls to a standstill as I am consumed with visualizations of how my encounter with this shark might transpire. Minutes seem to pass by before I notice everyone pointing towards the bow of the boat. A massive cargo ship drifts silently a mere 200 yards away. It seems "my shark" is just a ship too close for comfort crossing the path of my swim. Relieved, I wait for the boat to pass and I am instructed by Mizushima to continue. Looking ahead, I see land for the first time.
Excited by this discovery, and against my better judgment, I peek at land many more times. The anticipation of land during a swim can be intoxicating. With each sneaking glance, I process all that I have seen. A beautiful bluish landscape gives way ever so slowly to luscious greens and deep browns. Buildings and cars come into view. It seems so close. But I know from experience that potential obstacles lay ahead; my swim is not over until I touch land.