Another Kona is in the books. Kona Kona Kona. It’s a word that means very little to people outside the triathlon bubble. Within it, however, this annual event is sacred. It’s one of the things that drew me to the sport, that’s for sure: As a brand-new triathlete, I remember poring over magazine spreads of people suffering through those barren lava fields and unforgiving conditions. Because it was there and people were doing it. That, to me, says a lot not only about endurance sports but about humanity in general.
Then I got a job in the industry and got to go and see the spectacle for myself. With each passing year, Kona—the place and the event—became a little less overwhelming. As I morphed into an athlete myself, the compression-sock clad people started to feel like my “tribe.” I began making friends outside of my coworkers—many of them talented enough to actually qualify.
And just like that, it’s been seven years. Seven years of finding new ways to respond to comments about how tough is must be having to go to Hawaii every year “for work.” Seven years of stepping off the plane into that humidity, that piped Hawaiian music, that smell, that walk back from Huggo’s on any given night. Somehow, the place has started to feel like home. And some of the people like family.
Looking back through my phone, I have maybe 10 photos. Just a few dark selfies from various parties, and a few underwater ones from Go Pro experimenting. Definitely not the usual photo essay of Acai bowls and lattes from Daylight Mind. (If you’re curious what exactly I did, work-wise, visit ironman.com/kona2016)
As is often the case with annual events, I found myself even more reflective than I usually am. (I know, dangerous, right?) Somehow Kona felt different this year, and though I’ve done my best to understand the hows and whys, I still haven’t quite put my finger on it.
I tried—over wine at the Four Seasons with someone I look up to in and beyond triathlon. I tried, over conversations with a friend over 20 years my senior whose life is running, strangely, parallel to mine right now. I tried—with a dear friend on a balcony on race night, both of us exhausted, and looking down at the empty parking lot where the banquets are held. She said something that rang true for me; though I’m not going to share here, it summarized perfectly how Kona felt to me this year—as both a worker bee and an athlete myself. It was just right, for me.
When it was all over, fall welcomed me back to Vancouver with colorful fanfare, celebrating my one year anniversary of moving here, and my third (third!) address. This weekend, a storm dislodged most of the remaining leaves. The incessant rain has returned, asking us whether we’ll choose to cocoon or to play. Whether we’ll feel sequestered or embrace that sense of cozy contentment the Danes call hygge.
On the shoulders of the rain and the cold also come new beginnings, something this season always signifies new to me. Perhaps it’s because of years of back-to-school outfits, new backpacks, and fresh pencil crayons. Fall is where fresh starts paradoxically brush up against endings. I think if nostalgia had a smell it would be autumn leaves.
With both my big work trips over, I am excited to settle into life here in a way that I haven’t had the chance to yet. (Run club! Nesting! Yoga!) I don’t know what’s next: in sport (the easy one, by contrast) or in life. I am becoming more and more aware every day that every day is the only place worth focusing my energy. I am grateful for so many things: things I never earned, but am simply lucky to have. I have made so many mistakes. I have so many questions. I am so full and I am so empty. Life is so short, and so long.
And fall, with its emptiness and foreboding, with its endless cups of tea, seems like a good time as any to get comfortable with all of this.