For many who first get exposed to sports, their parent becomes their greatest influence. Such is the case with John Kai whose father was a huge influence on him and his siblings.
“Dad was a star athlete at St. Joseph High School and excelled in baseball and basketball and his love of sports rubbed off on all of us,” Kai said.
Kai Sr. was a multi talented athlete and coach who taught and coached at a variety of schools throughout the Big Island.
“He coached many youth teams, he also coached high school baseball and won the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Title for the Honokaa Dragons in 1977” Kai said. “In 1975-76 he coached the Kau Trojans High School baseball team and basically rebuilt that program from scratch, a real life ‘Bad News Bears’ story.”
As was common in most sporting families the Kai kids were always hanging around the gym, the baseball dugouts, attending practices and games.
“It gave us opportunities to watch the big kids play,” Kai said.
In high school, at Honokaa, Kai was active playing baseball and basketball and running cross country and he graduated in 1983.
“I played Varsity baseball as a freshman, but that’s not saying much because I could barely make the throw from 3rd base to 1st base during tryouts, so the coach, Rodney Botelho, placed me at 2nd base and I grew to become a decent baseball player. I made the BIIF All-Star team my Junior and Senior year,” Kai said.
“I could field, I was fast on the bases and I was part of the pitching rotation,” he said.
Kai went onto play varsity basketball in his junior year for the Dragons.
“I was thrilled when Coach Sunday Marcellino asked him to come out for the team.”
It was during one preseason tournament on Maui that the young Kai showed his value to the team.
“During our pre-season tournament I came off the bench and scored 25 points for the team. I didn’t follow any of the scripted plays, I just played and scored,” he said.
“Coaches weren’t happy but we won and I did make the all-tournament team,” Kai said.
Kai till this day admits to playing pickup games in Hilo in the 35 and older Men’s League where he is still a shooter.
“Funny thing is that all the older guys in the Big Island hoops community know that I won’t go left, never been confident or proficient with dribbling or shooting with my left hand but that doesn’t matter, I’ll keep going to my right, my strength till the day I die,” Kai said.
Kai uses the above as one of his life philosophies.
“Why bother working on a weakness when you can perfect strength?” he said. “You can always surround yourself with teammates, co-workers or employees who can complement you. If everybody works to their strengths there is never a downside.”
Kai became a financial advisor and has been in that profession since 1991 with Merrill Lynch and later moved to Paine Weber in 1999. Currently Kai works at Pinnacle Investment Group where today he manages $40 million of assets for numerous clients.
“The stress is tremendous due to the single fact that I’m working with intangibles like retirement planning, investing for growth or income and using instruments that are not even close to being within the realm of my control.” Kai said.
Kai has been married for 25 years to Lori, and together they have three children. Lori’s daughter Monique is 32 years old and played basketball and graduated from Hilo High in 1998.
Their son, Ian is 25 and a 2007 graduate of Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii where he played junior varsity basketball, volleyball, and baseball. Ian also ran cross country said a proud Kai in his freshman and sophomore years.
Today Kai stays active by playing in the basketball league for men over 35 where he is known as a shooter.
“It is known as pure play and the pickup games are great for instant cardio,” he said.
“It is also a great stress reliever for most. When you are on the court playing at game speed there is no time for day dreaming unless you want to get hit in the head with the basketball,” Kai said.
“It is pure play and since a score is being kept it brings out my competitive juices, I just love it,” Kai said.
At home Kai continues his exercise program using both the P90X and Insanity, not religiously, just when he feels sluggish and finds the need to get the blood flowing.
“On Thursday evenings and Sundays afternoon he plays basketball usually for about 1 to 2 hour depending on the length of the games. The rest of the time he does 2 to 3 days on the Insanity,” Kai said.
Kai does watch he eats.
“I try to stay away from carbs with very little rice and I’ll juice in the morning when I have the stuff available,” he said. “But every now and again I’ll pig out on a McDonald’s Big Mac meal with that special sauce.”
Kai still has exercise related goals today at age 47.
“I try to maintain a weight of 165 pounds and a BMI under 26,” he said. “I always pay attention when the size 33 pants starts getting a little to snug and when my head looks large than normal when I’m brushing me teeth in the morning.”
Here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and someday should you see a slow moving man coming down 22nd Street in HPP remember to say ‘woof’ and “Never to Shy away from Running with the Big Dog.”
Keeping moving is the goal of any successful person and the secret to maintaining current weight and size according to Elizebeth Truesdell.
“I basically want to maintain my current size and shape like many women my age,” Truesdell said. “I wouldn’t mind losing some pounds and inches.”
“This is my 30th year in the classroom, 26th at Kamehameha,” she said. “I taught for 17 years at KS Kapalama and am my ninth year here at KS Hawaii.”
Truesdell finds that the workload can be overwhelming and stressful at times and that is why she needs to exercise to combat that stress.
“The paper load for English teachers is notoriously high,” Truesdell said. “It definitely contributes to the stress at work.”
The solution is simple for her students.
“Of course the students always say that I would have to work less if I assigned less work to them, but well that’s just crazy talk isn’t it?” she said with a wide grin.
She and Joel, her husband of 22 years, met in 1987 as new full time teachers at the Kapalama campus and they don’t have any children of their own.
“We enjoy borrowing our students and our cross country runners for the years we have them,”
Truesdell serves as an assistant coach for Kamehameha Hawaii girls cross country team and she will run with the team beginning with summer practice and through the season.
“As I age I am slowing down and experiencing more aches and pains,” she said. “Generally I can say to the girls, I’m middle aged, if you’re behind me you need to pick it up!”
While growing up Truesdell was not competitive in sports preferring to study ballet and jazz dance in upper elementary and middle school according to her.
“I took lots of swimming classes including long distance swimming,” Truesdell said. “I was so far down the volleyball squad in ninth grade that I don’t even think I had a uniform.”
Truesdell never considered herself an athlete while growing up.
“My younger brother was the competitive athlete in the family,” she said. “Many of my close friends from high school in Tacoma, Washington know that I was a late arrival to regular exercise.”
“It was a huge surprise to them that I got into running and eventually cross country coaching.”
During cross country season Truesdell will train with the team up to six days a week, but when out of season her exercise varies to some running, walking and some swimming.
“I will do aqua jogging and some turbo-kickboxing,” Truesdell said. “Maybe just hauling laundry up and down stairs.”
Truesdell suffer from a chronic Achilles problem and prefers to aqua jog for cross training while not working out with the cross country team.
“When out of season, I may be inclined to skip more days of exercise to grade papers after school, but I have more opportunity to get into the pool or participate in the various exercise offered to staff members at Kamehameha,” Truesdell said.
For diet Truesdell watches what she eats.
“I try to be wise in eating and in portion sizes,” she said. “But I love my sweets of all kinds.”
Truesdell believes that she was fortunate as a child because she was slim and remained that way as a teen and young adult.
“I could focus more on maintenance of a healthy size and weight,” she said. “I’m not snobbish about food and probably eat entirely too much of what is bad for me, but I enjoy fruits and vegetables and other healthy choices.”
Her favorite running distance as she gets older is the 10K (6.2 miles).
“As I slow down, longer distances are probably better, but what I mean by longer is up to the 10K,” she said. “I have no interest in doing a milestone distances like marathons or half marathons.”
Truesdell considers her racing days over.
“In fact, I’d say my racing days are long over,” she said. “I don’t do speed work when the cross country work out requires it. That is a bridge or two too far for me.”
Her favorite race was the old Volcano 5 mile and some of the 10K’s she did on Oahu adding:
“I was younger, fitter and faster,” she said. “Those were different days.”
Truesdell has never considered herself a competitive athlete but it hasn’t stopped her from make significant contributions to this island’s community
Elizebeth Truesdell serves as a welcomed addition to the Warrior Ohana and as a true role model to her girls cross country team… We should all be pleased that she selected the Big Island as a place to teach and coach.
And someday should you happen to see a retired teacher come meandering up Shower Drive remember to smile say “woof” and “Never Shy away from “Running with the Big Dog”.
Email the big dog at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Competiveness in looks and not looking ‘fat’ can be hard on teenagers in school, especially as they try to fit in.
One such former teen explains her pain while putting on the weight in both middle and high school as a battle of being excluded by all the ‘pretty’ girls at school.
“I gained a lot of weight from ages 8 to about 12 years old and I think a lot of it had to do with what was going on within my family personally,” Wittney Soares said. “When I hit junior high school it took a toll on me.”
Soares confidence level dropped ‘big time’ as she saw all the attractive girls at school excluding her and so weight control became an obsession.
“I never ate school lunch, joined the junior varsity soccer team and tried my hardest to maintain my 118 pound frail figure,” she said. “My eating habits were horrible.”
Soares would practice soccer 3 hours and then run to the gym to lift weights or do more cardio for another 2 hours on little to no food in her system.
“I was weak and my body was in starvation mode,” Soares said. “I needed to change and quickly.”
Soares as a child played AYSO soccer and enjoyed ocean activities along with family outdoor play which included a variety of sports.
It was during her freshman year at Hilo High School that Soares became very self conscious about everything, especially her weight.
“I met my very first boyfriend, who is now my fiancé after being together and he really helped me put things into perspective,” Soares said. “I was trying to fit into this mold that truly wasn’t me.”
Soares realized, with the help of her fiancé, that she was comparing herself to other girls instead of embracing the assets she had within herself.
“My fiancé, Irvin, is extremely athletic,” she said. “He’s trained in ju jitsu and boxing/kickboxing his entire life,” Soares said. “He introduced me to fitness and healthy habits rather than the idea of wanting to be skinny.”
The results have been remarkable for Soares has transformed her body into a solid muscle mass as she runs daily, surfs regularly and lifts weights ‘correctly’.
“Irvin also introduced me into cooking well balanced meals to feed my body with energy in order to keep it adequately functioning,” Soares said.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 2006Soares gave birth to a son named Mikolas is almost 6 years old now and wanted to be a stay at home mom.
“But I still wanted an income so we created a jewelry company called ‘Sunkissed Vahinez in partnership with my cousin in 2007,” Soares said. “Since then we’ve expanded our online customer base and continue to grow towards our future.”
Soares has come a long way since those school days of weight obsession.
“These days my perspective on fitness and health greatly differ than my teen years,” she said. “I’ve grown into my womanhood and have accepted and grown to love my strong natural body stature.”
Although heavier than high school Soares is also healthier and stronger than she ever was back then.
“I run at least three miles every other day and at home I have a little gym with weights, stability balls, medicine balls, where I zone out the world, blast my music and sweat,” she said.
Soares likes to do a lot of cardio activities like interval training and circuits mixed with weights and variety.
During her free time you can find her swimming, surfing, and hiking around the many beautiful trails that our island has to offer, often doing it with her son.
“I’ve also been going to this amazing free class in Hilo called Urban Training,” Soares said. “This class is run by a trainer every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Coconut Island and Bayfront at 6 p.m.”
By going to an experienced trainer Soares is encourages to push herself further than her usual comfort zone and take her fitness to the next level.
Looking ahead her goals are modest as she would one day like to race in a 5K (3.1 mile race).
“For the future I’d like to one day run a 5K,” Soares said. “That would be really cool. “I’ve also had an interest is fitness modeling as well.”
Soares new found confidence is unlimited as she sweeps away the scars that teens impose on themselves.
“The sky’s the limit really,” she said. “My real goal is to just gain awareness on what we put in our bodies as food, and how important it is to live healthy.”
And being a role model for a son plays an important part of her life.
“Being a healthy example for my son and other woman out there is my platform,” She said.
Soares and her fiancé hope to marry in the near future and will make a welcomed addition to our East Hawaii community.
And someday should you happen to see a happily married man doing laps in the back roads of Hawaiian Paradise Park remember to ‘smile’ say ‘woof’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
When I used to coach, both cross country and track & field for more than two decades here on the island I had a reputation as being strict but fair.
Something like the late Ken Yamase which I emulated as he became a role model for me.
Strict but fair! I was a no nonsense coach and I learned from the best.
That didn’t stop the boys from coming out for cross country at Waiakea. In fact my last year of coaching the Warriors I has 64 boys turn out for the team. That same year we lost the Big Island Interscholastic Championship to the then perennial league champion Hawaii Preparatory Academy by a mere 2 points.
Which brings my thought back to that year, it was 1999, and for coming so close I was named Waiakea’s Coach of the Year.
Every year prior and every year since I had athletes that would quit on the team and it was nothing that I’d take lightly. I figured that if you were a quitter you’d always be a quitter and amount to nothing in life.
One young person proved me wrong and it was from this person that I learned a real lesson on how to coach.
The year was 2004 and during that time I became a real coach.
I saw one of my cross country runners, a kid that had quit the team several times before, at the starting line of the Big Island Marathon, attempting his first 26.2 mile race.
Robert Otsubo I thought, what possibly motivated you to take on such a task? And are you going to quit this too?
During his first three or four miles into the race I found myself actually coaching him, talking with him, getting him to slow down from his adrenaline rush and save himself for what was ahead.
I talked with him the entire way and shared valuable knowledge about the course which I had done myself many times before.
I became a coach that day and Robert Otsubo became a MAN.
At mile 22 I told Otsubo to go ahead and have a strong finish, which he did coming across the finish line in 3 hours 29 minutes and I was two minutes behind.
We both came across that finish line because he came back for me, holding each other’s hands high to signal victory while Otsubo set the new course record for those 18 and under.
It stands today as one of my proudest coaching moments as I believe that is what ‘real coaching’ is all about and I have a new found respect for Otsubo, the MAN.
Later he would write “thank you for teaching me so much about running, motivation, determination and commitment.”
Otsubo is currently in the military and deployed to far off Kyrgyzstan where he recently ran his first half marathon a distance of 13.1 miles.
Otsubo enlisted a year after graduating from college, in 2010 and his current military occupation is ‘Aircraft Hydraulics Specialist’.
“I have a great appreciation for the discipline the military take pride in,” he said. “I rather dislike machines – ironically my MOS (military occupation specialty) – and am trying to cross train, but my learned discipline is what keeps me going.”
“This was a true competitive race,” Otsubo said. “In seven years, I was more than just deciding I was just overdue for a good race.”
Otsubo used his first half marathon as a training gauge of how fit he is because his Air Force career is important to him.
“I haven’t gone more than one week without running since 2003,” he said. “Aside from running, I swim, and when I’m home I love surfing.”
Otsubo short term goals are to score a perfect on his upcoming physical fitness test, which is a requirement for him to enter into Combat Rescue Officer field.
As for diet Otsubo tries to stay clear of processed, high calorie and sugary foods.
“I try to make sure most of my meals consist mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains,” Otsubo said. “I stopped drinking soda in high school and I’ll stick to drinking water 95 percent of the time.”
But deployment also means struggles with what he consumes.
“Depending on where I am and what I have access to, this can take a bit of creativity to eat healthy,” Otsubo said.
It is people like Robert Otsubo that make coaching all that worthwhile and now he serves his country, a noble young man like so many of the others, both men and women who serve.
Otsubo is one of the many reasons I will continue to host the Big Dog Family Veterans Day 5K run/walk on November 11, from Coconut Island starting at 7:30 am. All those in the military are free including those wearing a grey ribbons or pins of HOPE to show their support for brain cancer survivors and their families.
“When I’m having one of those homesick days, I’ll read a running story on line at the Tribune-Herald web site and it takes me back to those days at Waiakea and reminds me of my roots,” Otsubo said.
Someday should you see a grateful American thanking the many service members for their service remember to ‘smile’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at email@example.com.
If anyone out there suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) you would know how painful it is in your joints.
Jodi Kunimoto is one such person who was diagnosed at age 27 and has lived with the disease for almost 2 decades.
“I never expected to have to deal with a chronic pain ailment up until the diagnoses,” Kunimoto said. “I led a pretty active life and I was a leisure jogger and took aerobics classes three to four times per week before the onset of the disease.”
Kunimoto found it difficult to exercise shortly thereafter but made adjustments to deal with the pain.
“It was difficult to exercise for the pain and stiffness was unbearable at times,” Kunimoto said. “It felt like I had it in all my joints of my body, especially my knees, elbows, wrists, neck, shoulders, and even the joints in my jaw would hurt.”
Kunimoto would also have mood swings as a result of RA.
“I also had mild depression due to the physical limitations that I had experienced at the time,” she said. “I had also put on some weight because the steroids doctors prescribed to control the inflammation.”
Kunimoto found that getting out of bed in the morning was difficult and struggled with her normal exercise routine.
“I felt fatigued all day and after work, I’d need to sleep, I felt so tired,” Kunimoto said.
Although never participating in youth sports Kunimoto was active with the Honolulu based YMCA as a youth leader. “Where body mind and spiritual development were emphasized,” she said.
Today Kunimoto works at the University of Hawaii at Hilo as an Academic and Career Advisor.
“I would not consider my job stressful,” she said. “But the balance of working full time and care giving roles can be stressful as times.”
Kunimoto’s brother died last November due to glioblastoma (brain cancer). “When that happened my 84 year old mother, who was living with him had to uproot herself from Honolulu to come to live in Hilo,” Kunimoto said.
Balance of care has been made to consider adjustments for the entire Kunimoto household.
“It has been an adjustment for my daughter, spouse, and my mom,” Kunimoto said. “Balance of marriage, care for myself and full time work can take its toll.”
Exercise has become a stress breaker for Kunimoto.
“As a mom and care-giver I also give myself permission to take care of myself,” Kunimoto said. “During my early morning walk with my shelties I am spending time with my dogs, exercising them and me at the same time.”
After Kunimoto sees the family off for the day she starts her morning at the YWCA swimming pool.
“I head to either to UH pool for lap swimming or the YWCA pool for water aerobics,” she said. “If I head to the UH pool I may just also fit in a little bit of light strength training before diving in, just so I can upkeep/build the muscle around my joints.”
Kunimoto doesn’t allow the wet weather of Hilo to interfere with her workouts.
The weather in Hilo isn’t a barrier to my daily walks outside,” she said. “My family is consistently amazed how I avoid the heavy dose of rain on my walks and bike rides.”
She tells them that God knows that I need a walk so that He holds the rain off until she is done, according to Kunimoto.
“Actually though, I think I’ve learned like any other Hilo person to read the sky, and estimate how much time we have until it may rain and when you’re not sure about it, don’t all of us Hilo people carry umbrellas?”
As for diet Kunimoto is careful what she eats.
“I am careful about what I eat by limiting the amount that I eat,” she said.
“I eat what I like but have learned to put a limit on the amount I take in,” Kunimoto said. “I watch that the scale doesn’t go over the point limit of no return for me.”
Kunimoto has found it easier to maintain than to lose weight for she has had a yoyo affair with dieting.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long term disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissue. It’s cause is unknown and it is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, according to Kunimoto.
“I got to the stage where I finally accepted my fate,” she said. “The disease will not go away and I have to make a choice. I have to get a handle on it and manage it. This takes time and conscious effort, but I’ll get there.”
Kunimoto is making the most of what she has and looking on the positive side while exercising and maintaining a healthy diet.
“Having to face RA like any other chronic illness is probably one of the greatest lessons we will have in life,” Kunimoto said. “It has taught me not to take your good health for granted, so take care of yourself, listen to your body, be patient with yourself and others, slow down if you need to and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Kunimoto can empathize with those going through similar life challenge.
“I can relate to those going through a similar process of their own physical, psychological, and spiritual challenges in life,” she said.
And someday should you happen to see someone facing his own challenges in life remember to smile say “woof” and never shy away from “’’Running with the ‘’Big Dog.”
Email to Big Dog at firstname.lastname@example.org