January 1, 2008
Don't Mess With Texas
Last week I took a trip to The Woodlands, TX to visit my close friend and Timex Teammate, Kim Hager. Triathlon has brought some wonderful things to my life. Namely, some amazing friendships I have made along the way that will likely be permanent. Hager ranks among the top of that list. This pic above is Kim's daughters: Lauren, doing my hair, and Hanna, preparing the makeup.
I first met Hager in 2003 at the California ½. I was still an age grouper and still trying to qualify for Kona. I was leading the race in the 30-34 AG through mile 3 of the run until a petite cheetah flew by as if I was standing still. I noticed the “31” on her calf and felt my heart drop knowing I had just lost the one slot to Kona… but I also was so impressed by what I had just witnessed that part of me was too much in awe to care about Hawaii. Whoever that chick was, she was amazing. I ended up in 2nd and the “31 calf” beat me by TEN MINUTES. In about 9 miles of running she put 10 minutes on me. I couldn’t even be mad, I was too impressed.
At the awards I introduced myself, told her how amazing she was and that I was now a huge fan. Her name was Kim Hager. I said I was going to be her stalker (!) … She laughed (though probably did think I was a lunatic). I am sure neither of us knew how true my stalker-status would one day be.
She remembers that race and our conversation, and is quick to point out that thanks to her kicking my butt that day, I was forced to race Ironman Lake Placid four months later in my pursuit of the Kona spot. It ended up being the race of my life with a 4th overall finish, and changed my triathlon life forever. Kim still takes credit for the serendipity. :)
We continued to run into one another at future races, but it wasn’t until Timex Team Camp this season that our deep friendship was seared.
My roommate Paolina Allan, Kim and I were inseparable throughout those 4 days. Each morning before the sun rose we three would wander to the local Starbucks a mile away, chatting our mouths off and giggling like school girls. I’m not sure which of us got more air-time but we each fought for it. Those morning trips became our cherished girl time before the team events took over. In the later hours of the day, Kim and I sat together at all the sponsor in-services, team dinners and outings. We continued to giggle constantly, play practical jokes on teammates, and basically behave like a couple of adolescents – it was awesome! Our team manager, Ben Harper, would later write, “Those two were joined at the hip! Anytime you saw Kim you would hear her laughing, and you’d look to see Sharpie right there!”
Hager and I have kept in close contact ever since Camp, and have become true confidants. We decided a visit was in order not too long ago. She sent me a plane ticket as a Christmas present so off I went.
While I wasn’t able to do more than 30:00 runs, Miss Cheetah is trying to qualify for Oly Trials for the marathon …. one of the days she did her 20-mile long run and warmed up at a pedestrian 7:00-7:15 pace (hello!) before she picked things up to race pace: 6:17/mile.
MOTHER OF GOD! I’m sure to most of my readers who are pure runners this pace sounds rational. To someone like me, a non-runner, I can only shake my head in awe. I have never held a 6:17 pace even for a 10k. I don’t think a 5k! That is her marathon pace??? Man, that is awesome. I am really proud of her.
One night I joined the weekly track night for the athletes she coaches. Most of her crew was training for the upcoming Houston Marathon. They did a series of 800m repeats, and they all dusted me. I managed to do 4 of them before puttering out, but I was happy to have done 4. I was so far behind them that I was afraid they were going to laugh at me and ask Kim, “Your friend is a Professional? They’ll take anyone, won’t they?” They were all super nice and tolerated my joking, and they looked really fit, too! Good job, Coach Hager!
But the biggest in-my-face moment was spending time with Kim’s 13-year old daughter, Lauren. I had to take more than a few moments to center myself. Being around Lauren was, in many ways, almost déjà vu. She is beautiful and wise, text messaged her friends non-stop, is confident she knows everything (didn’t we all at 13?), and shouldering some serious elite swimmer burnout. Watching her felt like I was in some time warp and was watching myself almost 25-years ago. She isn't quite yet at the swim ability I was at 13, but she isn't far from it. It was very, very surreal.
One day Kim had to force (literally) Lauren to get her swim in. God, this totally reminded me of my father making me swim. Ugggg! She rolled her eyes, argued and was so pissed off at her mom – GOD, I completely understood her!!!! On this day there was no practice so she had to swim on her own; I decided it would be fun to join her. I was determined to show this half-my-age chick who really ‘wore the speedo’ in this pool (ha!) – but holy shit she kicked my ass! Granted, I haven’t been swimming in months and am completely out of shape, but to Lauren’s credit I reminded myself the type of swimming shape I was in when her age. No way I would’ve kept up with her now regardless of my fitness. One of our sets was 6 x 200IM and my only objective was to keep her from lapping me. I had to cheat to make this happen, too! :) I am pathetic. She handed me my pride on a paper plate. It was really fun to swim with her, though, and I appreciated her letting this old woman join her.
There were several times over the days I just sat and stared at her, observing her every move and gesture, remembering myself at her age. Many times I would feel a lump in my throat as I stared at her, thinking, “You are so young. You really are. And your entire life is about to explode. Next year your mother is going to get cancer and die. This whole life you know now is going to change forever. You have no idea what is about to happen. You’ll never be the same…” Of course, I was speaking to my 13-year old self who was in Lauren’s body.
These moments were very bizarre for me, and… surreal. That’s the only word for it. I wasn’t prepared to spend 5 days with the mirror of myself.
I came back to continued work with my back, and its related pain. JZ has been worried about my lack of progress and has suggested I come out to let her work with me a bit on some exercises, etc., so she can see what is going on herself. What a friend she is. I mean, seriously. She has enough on her own plate. If things don’t improve, I may consider heading to see her for a few days. This lingering ache in my back is affecting my daily living. I awaken at night to an ache that makes me draw my knees to my chest to try to relieve pressure. This isn’t normal.
But I am determined to solve the puzzle. This back issue picked the wrong person to mess with. I can handle anything and will gut out whatever I have to. Think this is going to stop me? I am used to having to defeat odds, slam through obstacles that would cripple most people. So bring it on. I have people who really believe in me and want me to overcome. I will not let them down.