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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently I was on the Keaau High School track instructing middle school athletes how to read passing zone markings so that they could understand the rules for a successful relay team.
During the two hours that I was helping I noticed a woman walking laps on the grassy infield, wearing a Big Island Marathon 5K finisher’s tee shirt.
On the second week of my tutorial the same woman appeared again walking laps on the infield but this time I decided to strike up a conversation.
The woman turned out to be 73 years young, Diana Kahler.
“I’m actually 73 and a half,” Kahler said with a wide grin. “I walk everyday no matter where I’m at and since I had to drop off my great granddaughter for track practice I thought I’d do a few laps.”
Kahler is a mother of 6, a grandmother of 11 and a great grandmother of 11.
Born and raised in Marquette, Michigan Kahler grew up playing a lot of different sports.
“My childhood home was a half block from the shores of Lake Superior and summer vacations were spent swimming, playing sandlot baseball and kickball,” Kahler said. “Television was not invented yet and in the winter I would go downhill skiing and sledding, but ice skating was my favorite activity.”
Kahler had chilling memories, no pun intended, of outdoor skating rinks and fire fed warming shacks.
Walking had always been a part of her life, so doing laps around the track for two hours was a piece of cake for her.
“I walked eight blocks to and from school four times a day during the school months,” Kahler said. “Sometimes there were snowdrifts five feet tall and that never stopped me from walking to school.”
Kahler started walking to school in the first grade and it continued through high school.
“I believe those walks to and from school is where I got my love for walking which continues now,” she said.
It was during high school that Kahler joined the Girls Athletic Association and played volleyball, basketball and softball for all four years.
“I received the school letter in athletics in my junior year,” Kahler said.
While growing up Kahler listened to the radio and one of her favorite programs was ‘Hawaii Calls.’
“While listening to Hawaii Calls I would dream of living someplace where the skies were often blue and the weather always warm,” she said. “When the opportunity presented itself 35 years ago I took it.”
Once here Kahler took advantage of our beautiful weather and began walking everyday without the snow drifts.
“I found walking to be a marvelous method of managing my stress as I was working fulltime and completing my degree at the University of Hawaii,” Kahler said.
Her enthusiasm with fitness and tropical weather saw her complete her first half marathon on Oahu I 1999 and six weeks later she became a finisher in the Honolulu Marathon.
“I participated in the Great Aloha Run in 2000 and then began walking less,” she said. “In 2001
I rarely exercised and became overly absorbed in work and volunteering. I began eating as a method of managing my stress.”
The following three years following Kahler’s decision to stop walking was a disaster as she gained 40 pounds, developed aching joints and saw her cholesterol and blood pressure shoot up.
Motivated by two of her friends who had joined Weight Watchers and lost 100 pounds Kahler joined the Hilo group and lost those 40 pounds within a six month period.
“I returned to walking regularly and eating healthy, with the help of Weight Watchers I remain at my goal weight to this day,” Kahler said.
Retired from a lifetime of work, primarily in the Early Childhood Field, Kahler works a few hours a week in Hilo helping others take better care of themselves and keep their weight off.
“I find retirement a bit stressful due to the reduced social interaction,” she said. “But now I have more time to be involved with my Hawaii family and I find it a delightful benefit.”
Today Kahler walks three miles, six days a week, either at the Hilo High Track or around her neighborhood in Naauao.
“I plan to increase my mileage to four while adding in some hills and to increase the intensity in February,” Kahler said.
To maintain her upper body strength Kahler will work with hand weights and resistance cords daily.
“My goal is to stay healthy and injury free and mitigate some of the disabilities that so frequently impact the independence of the elderly,” she said.
Kahler’s infectious enthusiasm for walking has spread to family and friends.
“Walking is a great family event and it is free, you can do it almost anytime and anyplace,” she said.
Kahler has gotten her great granddaughter, Tawnee Respicio and her grandson Treysin Brugman to participate in the New Years Day Resolution Run/Walk. All three walked and finished the 5K of the Big Island International Marathon on March 18, 2012.
“Several members of Weight Watchers came out to do the Resolution Walk with us,” Kahler said.
Kahler continues on her healthy diet which includes a daily intake of five servings each of fruits and vegetables, power foods, non fat dairy and whole grains.
We can all learn from this healthy 73 and a half year old!
Lots of good food, prize giveaways and a nice crowd were on hand. Click any photo to Enlarge
It’s been more than 20 years since I moved from Honolulu to teach, raise my family and become part of the running community here on the Big Island.
During the 1980’s the Big Island running scene was anchored by several pioneers who brought with them the enthusiasm and commitment to start, maintain and bring to full bloom the competitive spirit of our sport.
One such pioneer that deserves much credit is Robert Hillier who came to Hawaii in 1968 to teach English at Hilo High School after serving two years in the Peace Corps in the Philippines.
“I was recruited by the Hawaii Department of Education who wanted to bring into the school system returning Peace Corp volunteers,” Hillier said. Other former Peace Corps Volunteer who taught school and who enjoyed running included Donald Romero, Patricia Richardson and Rob Banashek.
Hillier was born and raised in Laramie, Wyoming and ran track and cross country in high school. “I ran cross country at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, but stopped running altogether from 1966 to ’74,” he said.
“In the 1960’s six miles was considered a long training run. Running shoes were lightweight canvas shoes with no cushioning or support and the Boston Marathon was open to any male who wanted to enter, but 26 miles seemed like an impossible distance,” Hillier said.
The opportunity to coach the Hilo High girls cross country team, newly formed in 1974 also encouraged Hillier to resume running.
By 1979 Hillier had begun to establish himself as a regular Big Island harrier and during the 1980’s could be found entered in almost every local race.
“My training by the ‘80s exceeded 40 miles per week as I raced almost every month doing 25 marathons and a few shorter ultra-marathons,” Hillier said.
By 1985 Hillier was at the top of his running performance with a personal best 2 hours 38 minutes and 8 seconds for the 1985 Honolulu Marathon.
“I ran marathons in Hilo, Volcano, Kona, Maui, Boston, San Francisco and Cheyenne and had two marathon victories,” he said. Hillier won the 1985 Kona Marathon and the 1986 Big Island Marathon while he coached and trained with the lady Viking harrier squads.
Hillier also helped to promote running through the Big Island Road Runners as he and Alvin Wakayama co-directed the Saddle Road Relay and Ultra-Marathon for four years. Hillier also co-directed the Pepsi Challenge 10K with Calvin Shindo in Hilo for two years and was instrumental as a pioneer in helping to continue the running craze that was sweeping the country during that time period.
When I arrived in Hilo during the 80’s Robert Hillier’s name was well known within the local running community as the Viking teach/coach had established himself as a solid competitive runner and a contributing member of the BIRR.
“Running is the most basic of athletic activities,” Hillier said. “All you have to do is put on your shoes and go. It promotes aerobic fitness more readily than almost any sport. Running can be social when you run with others, or it can be meditative when you run alone on trails.”
One of the most challenging activities that Hillier has ever done is when he decided to hike the Long’s Peak which is a 16 mile round trip to the summit with an elevation gain of almost 5,000 feet.
“The same breathing techniques that helped my marathon pacing also got me to the top of the mountain and back down,” Hillier said.
Today, at age 66, Hillier continues to work full time for the DOE as the State Coordinator for the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
Although not as competitive as he once was Hillier continues to run an occasional fund-raiser event and was last seen in the EMS 5K runs hosted by the County’s Fire Department this past May.
“Now I run mostly for health, but I try to participate each year in an occasional fund-raiser,” he said. “With age and an injury I decreased my mileage to between 10 and 25 miles per week and sometimes the running turns out to be walking.”
Hillier doesn’t let age and a nagging injury deter his drive to stay healthy and fit and has incorporated variety into his fitness plans.
“I follow no special diet, but try to include healthy foods in my meals,” he said. “I like a full range of foods with lean protein, salads, fruits and especially wholegrain carbohydrates. I also cross train a bit, visiting Spencer’s Health and Fitness on weekends and I include light weights and stretching into my regular routine.”
Robert Hillier exemplifies the essence of what we strive for in health and fitness that of achieving balance in our lives.
“Running is a great way of exploring cities,” he said. “Exercise promotes health and contributes to balance in life. Usually a runner can use pacing and mind power to get past “the wall” but there are also times when a runner needs to slow to a walk and if injured to drop out.”
And what’s in store for this super healthy senior citizen? “My exercise goals are to keep active and take pleasure in exercise,” Hillier said. “My health goals are to remain active and productive.”