Triathlon, Cycling, Running, and Casual Apparel

Talks with T: Bridget Haga, a TeamSFQ Healthcare Hero

Bridget is a long-time Team SFQ member who possess an unwavering gentle grit that supports both her own ambitious goals, and provides a steady foundation for her family, friends, and teammates to lean on when they need support, too. I believe Bridget is an outstanding example of what to esteem to be as a teammate, an athlete, and a courageous woman in the world consistently stepping up to, and exceeding expectations. Bridget inspires me daily, and after reading about three sentences of her story, I believe she will inspire you, too. 

How did you discover triathlon?

Years ago I was strictly a runner but I kept getting stress fractures. The doctor encouraged me to cross train and suggested I swim and bike. That led me to naturally conclude that triathlons would be the way to go. Since that time I have had other injuries but never stress fractures!  

What is your all-time favorite race experience?


I think my all-time favorite experience was Ironman Ireland. I say this because since I did my first Ironman in 2007 I dreamt of racing in Europe and the Ireland race was a culmination of this dream. While the race itself wasn’t what I hoped for (cancelled swim, torrential rain all day), the experience was incredibly meaningful. Michele Landry designed the most amazing kit for the race and I was so proud to wear it knowing I had the support of the entire Team SFQ on that day. I have also NEVER seen a community like the one in Ireland turn out for a race. Supporters lined the course and cheered all day, and half the night.


I know firsthand that you have a lot of balls in the air, how do you manage training and traveling to races all around the globe with a demanding full-time job as a nurse, and lead a household with twin teenage boys, two dogs, one husband, as well as pursuing a pediatric nurse practitioner degree at UCLA?

 
This question kind of makes me laugh because I find myself saying a lot that I do a lot of things and none of then particularly well, but that is probably selling myself a bit short. I think the key for me is that I compartmentalize a lot. When I am at work I try to just focus on work, then when I leave I think about what workouts I need to get done and what homework I have. As my children have grown I have also been able to take on more because they don’t need me for as many smaller things. I have also been lucky that I usually work part time while I am going to school. Absolutely none of this would be possible without the amazing support of my family. The first time I told my husband I was thinking about tackling an ironman he matter of factly replied, “I know.” Somehow he knew I wanted to try one and he offered me his unwavering support. While my husband and sons have come to most of my races, we have rarely tried to combine races and family vacations. I am a “teeny bit” of a stress-case race weekend and that doesn’t always make for fun family times. So, I normally pick my races and they decide if they can/want to come. Then we also do separate family vacations that don’t revolve around my events. I have learned that if I really want them there, I should look for an awesome location!! I am also really grateful for support of other family members, including my mom and sister who have come to countless events!


What was the experience training for and racing the first Otillo Swim/Run event in the US held on Catalina island in late February?

 
I found that I loved the training for the Otillo Catalina swim-run more than I expected. I think I was ready for a little break from the standard endurance triathlon training and it was really fun to take on something new. My partner was not local, but we communicated well and we were both on similar pages for the race. I trained really hard for the race and I have no regrets about my preparation, but frankly we DNF’d at the long course event. Otillo puts on an amazing event with a “casual vibe,” but one of the most challenging courses I could ever imagine.  Despite chasing the cuts-off times all day, I felt nothing but support from the event organizers and true compassion when we were pulled from the course. I think this was just a matter of not being good enough on race day. I don’t regret anything because I had an awesome time with my partner Auddie and a really great time hanging out with other SFQ teammates and my Coach Leslie Miller all weekend.

Do you reflect differently on that event now considering it was one of the last endurance events held before the onslaught of COVID-19, and possibly one of the few events to be held in all of 2020?


Given how California started the quarantine shortly after the event, I have mixed feelings. I am so grateful I had a last “fun weekend,” but I am also sad it is possible my 2020 race season ended on a DNF.


Since you are a nurse on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, have you tapped into any attributes you've gained as a triathlete to face the stress of working daily in a strained healthcare environment?

The first few weeks of the pandemic were incredibly stressful in my job. I do not provide direct patient care, but I am in the ED helping to training others and I was involved in a lot of the ever changing preparations for the strain on our healthcare system. I cannot say enough about the people at my hospital who are doing the direct patient care and I want to make sure I don’t take away any of their credit. But those first few weeks were very tough and took a lot out of me! After the first couple of weeks, my training as an endurance athlete kicked in and I was able to compartmentalize more. Just as I try not to think about the bike on the swim, I try not to think about work when I am doing school or vice versa.


Do you believe your point of view as a triathlete, or the importance of fitness in general, has been affected by what you have experienced throughout this crisis?

Honestly, this time has been tough on me as an endurance athlete. I see a lot of my friends and teammates participating and excelling in major challenges that I would love to be part of, but I frankly just don’t have the time or energy at this point. I struggled, especially the first few weeks, to even get in a few workouts a week. Now, thanks in a large part to Coach Leslie Miller, I am getting in more regular workouts, but they are nothing like I used to do. I am proud if I can get in 5-6 one hour workouts a week, which is a far cry from the 10-14 hours I had been doing. I think I experienced a perspective shift of just trying to be healthy right now and not a super strong endurance athlete. This is a hard shift for me and I am trying to be nice to myself and accept that I am doing what I can. My local beach has closed, and I miss runs and swims there, but I am also willing to give those workouts up for the greater good. My hospital has done a great job managing the strain and we have never been overwhelmed, but I can say we have caught of glimpse of how bad it can be and I don’t want to get to that point. I am willing to give up my favorite workout locations to keep others safe at this point. I have also moved all my bike rides inside, despite the awesome weather we now have, because I don’t want to be in a bike accident and strain the healthcare system further. I truly believe this is temporary and the more we can all do to keep each other safe, the sooner we can return to the activities we love.

Many of us who know you well, or follow you on Social media, know that you have a deep connection to Disneyland, what is the story behind your pull to the Happiest Place On Earth?

I do love my Disney magic! Since I was a young child I always had a great time going to Disneyland and I have been lucky enough to share this love with my sons who are now 18. I feel like Disney has provided a lot of escapism for us and is one of the few things I share with my teenage sons. (I am not into DND or Warhammer like they are!) But I have also even been known to go by myself where I get lost people watching, ride my favorite rides and just relax. One of the secrets for me that people probably don’t realize is that I actually enjoy going to Disneyland for just a few hours at a time. I like to go for about five hours, ride a few rides, eat some snacks, take a zillion pictures and go home. I can definitely race triathlons for a lot longer than I can spend at Disneyland. But I enjoy getting lost in a “pretend” environment where we can forget about real world concerns for a bit.


Next year you will have a much quieter house as both of your sons are headed off to college, do you have any races or other adventures that you're itching to pursue?  

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it is that I really cannot wait to miss my boys in the fall. I mean that kind of tongue in cheek, but they have already given up so many great moments of their senior year that I will be so grateful if they can actually go away to college as planned. I will (hopefully) be graduating from the UCLA Pediatric NP program in June 2021 and had planned to race in Kona 2021 as a legacy athlete. This was going to be my big athletic focus, but I have already been informed my slot is now pushed to 2022. I am completely understanding of the reasons, but need to come up with a new pursuit. I am open to suggestions! Given that we will be paying for three College tuitions for one year, I will most likely be staying pretty local, but I heard Ironman Ireland has moved to August 2021 and I am so tempted…I would love to return to Otillo Catalina, but unless I am able to drastically change my training, I will be doing the short course next time!

We look forward to cheering on Bridget's everyday adventures as a healthcare hero, a soon-to-be "Empty-Nester," and steadfast endurance athlete taking on events over land and sea all over the globe. 





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