I am not in Kona, and that's OK.

The social media feeds of triathletes everywhere are being inundated with pictures of six-pack abs, lava fields, and the crystal blue waters of Kailua Bay. It can feel like watching ESPN around the holidays with the endless commercials for luxury cars and diamond jewelry that leave you thinking to yourself, “Haven’t I seen this a million times already?”  With new episodes of Breakfast with Bob coming out every single day and those scenic Korupt Vison photos and videos, for those of us who are not actually there it is easy to feel a little bit of jealousy and FOMO.

Despite being bombarded with scenes of the big island and news of all the happenings at Dig-Me-Beach and the crazy winds on the Queen K, I can honestly say I do not feel a longing to be there. In fact, I am actually kind of thankful I am not in Kona, racing or otherwise. I would be lying if I told you that I actually had fun in Kona and enjoyed race week; to this day the first thing I say to anyone who asks me about my time there is “It was soooooo stressful.” In the days leading up to the race, I was often feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and doubt, mostly due to some external pressures put on me that made me feel as if I was not preparing the way I should be.

My sentiments might sound shocking to many people, but I am just genuinely content with where I am right now, living in my moment, and making progress towards achieving a list of goals that does not include a finish on Ali’i Drive, at least not for now. There would be no sense in disturbing my peace by longing for something that was not even on the radar for this year.

Instead of being envious, I can look back on my days in Kona last year and reflect upon how proud I felt finishing on the podium at the World Championships in my first-ever Ironman. This did not come without a cost though, as I feel completing an Ironman largely contributed to the knee injury I suffered through for 8 months after I brought home the Umeke Bowl. Of course, I am happy to say that I did “the one in Hawaii,” but was it worth enduring some tough and dark times this past year? The jury is still out, but strongly leading towards a big fat NO.

My decision to go for Kona in 2014 was rather near sighted on my part. After coming off a successful 2013 season, I felt that same urge that so many triathletes feel, I had to get that KQ. I was going to be graduating from medical school, my plans at the time were uncertain, but with residency looming I had the notion of “it is now or never.” I had to get to Kona before it would be too late. Once in residency, I felt I could not be in the hospital on a Sunday, smack in the middle of a 30 hour call, wishing I was out on a long ride. The stakes are too high.

While there is no doubt I could continue to balance medicine and triathlon as a physician. In the future I do not want my athletic aspirations to detract from my ability to care for patients; unlike being a medical student what you do really does matter as a resident. So the goal for 2014 became Kona or bust. The reality I failed to recognize was that Kona would still be there for year to come, and I would have other opportunities to return to the Big Island and cross that iconic finish line on Ali’i Drive.

This year, I am enjoying taking in Kona week from afar and am excited to be able to watch the live stream and see the race unfold.