I must have fallen back asleep because the alarm clock sounds abruptly at 1am. I can hardly believe this is the morning of my swim. Without hesitation, I turn on my bedside light and sit upright. The twilight of the early morning is so beautiful and serene, I take a moment for myself. Listening for wind, I hear nothing. It is so calm. And for this small miracle, I am truly grateful.
Mum and I ready ourselves for the task ahead. Yielding to the last of my pre-swim superstitions, I put on the same swimsuit I wore for my Molokai Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Catalina and English Channel swims. With comfortable thick straps and a high waist it is not the most glamorous suit. Yet there is immense personal history and emotion woven into that Lyrca. Still covered in remnants of lanolin oil and a little baggy, I think it may be time to retire this special suit. But not yet. Inhaling the now noticeable stench of my swimsuit, I laugh. I must be mad.
On the list of concerns and challenges for Tsugaru, jellyfish encounters feature prominently. Before going to bed last night I lathered myself in a jellyfish repellent lotion. Now in my swimsuit, I apply another thick layer covering every inch of my body. I catch a glimpse in the mirror of my carb-loaded, bloated mass now covered in this bright white lotion wearing my almost worn-out swim suit. I stop and examine that which is reflected back to me. Sometimes, my physical transformation for this sport catches me off guard. This is one of those moments. Though self-conscious I am very proud. Not the least of which because I know that my body – this ocean vessel - is ready.
I slip on my Ugg boots and cover myself with my swim jacket. Having taken careful note of my recommendations for crewing for the swim, my Mum is wearing plenty of warm layers. For a first time crew member, she certainly looks the part. And she is so happy. I double-check and triple-check all my gear one last time. Everything is ready. Wasting no time, Mum and I quickly carry all the gear out of the room to the lobby of the Hotel Tappi. As planned, my friends Tomo, Akira and Aya are waiting outside in the car.
A short drive down the winding road to the harbor and we come upon the slip where the two boats are located. Bright lights cut through the darkness and I can see Captain Mizushima readying the main boat with his crew. I greet everyone good morning. The Japanese news crew who interviewed me days earlier are here also. In this moment, I am struck by the number of people who have committed their time to support my swim. Emotions stir.
It is 2:30am and time to go. As we all gather near the boat one last time, Captain Mizushima looks at me with a massive smile. He leans towards me and says very quietly “I think the dragon is sleeping.” Nodding my head with an even bigger smile, I reply just as quietly. “Yes, I think you’re right. The dragon is sleeping.”