Now standing alone on this resplendent altar adorned with pebbles and sand, I turn and face the congregation. With the spotlight from the boat blinding my field of vision, my heart begins to thump through my chest. In an ill-timed moment of comic relief distinctly disconnected from the seriousness of the situation, I imagine myself as a cartoon character. My exaggerated heart shape beating – throbbing – from my swimsuit. Except less like a cute heart shape and more like an aggressive fist. 

Unable to see except for the beam of the spotlight and miniature multicolored dots of the glow sticks indicating my kayak, my other senses heighten. The pebbles feel slippery and wet against the bottom of my feet. I curl my toes nervously into the cold damp sand. Instinctively, I take a few steps backwards in search of softer, warm, dry sand. A brief feeling of comfort undulates through my body.

Seconds pass by as long uninterrupted minutes. Inhaling a few deep breaths, the ocean air smells wild yet gloriously familiar with "notes" of salt, seaweed, and fish. 

This is it, I think to myself: my moment of truth. 

As instructed by the official observers moments earlier on the boat, I raise my right arm in the air indicating my readiness to begin my swim. As I lower my arm, I take a few small steps to the edge of the water. As my toes meet the water, tiny ripples emanate out into the dark nothingness. Careful not to twist my ankle on the pebbles, I crouch down onto my knees in the shallow water and push my stomach across the mysterious surface, launching my body into the Channel.