As we get older some of us look for different ways to celebrate our birthdays. I know when I was young birthdays were a big deal and would be memorialized with much fanfare.
Once we start getting into our graying years the fanfare pretty much disappears and we look for other ways to honor another year of life.
Hilo’s Jim Phillips wanted to celebrating his 73rd birthday by doing something he has always loved doing – hiking. So this senior citizen decided to do something special that he would truly bring him pleasure.
Phillips decided that in the weeks prior to his 73rd he would hike from sea level, in increments, all the way to the summit of Mauna Loa.
“Hiking to the summit of Mauna Loa is something that I had first started on my birthday, December 17, 1997,” Phillips said. “I hadn’t done it for the past three years due to health issues and I decided to make this a December ’09 birthday present to myself.”
Since ’97 Phillips has done the summit trek in ’98, 2000, ’03, ’04, ’05 and ’06 and in Dec 2009 decided to do it again.
To accomplish what Phillips wanted to do at his advanced age requires that he be in top physical shape. Walking from sea level in your early 70’s, even in increments, requires a healthy body and good conditioning, something that Phillips began working on during his youth.
Phillips had an early start on physical activity, growing up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
“I had always been involved in playing sports,” Phillips said. “Touch football in the street in Mt. Lebanon. Baseball, football, high school track, cross-country and hockey were all things I did as a kid.”
At Ohio University Phillips stayed active with baseball, tennis and fraternity basketball. Following college Phillips became an Air Force pilot, retiring as a Command Pilot with 101 combat missions over North Vietnam. In March 2009 he received the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award earned by documented safe and incident free aviating for over 50 years.
“The toughest activity during my Air Force career was getting in shape and earning my US Army parachute badge at age 36 while having to compete with 18 to 20 year olds,” he said.
Phillips fell in love with the Big Island during his military stint when he was stationed at Pohakuloa Training Area.
“Having worked at Pohakuloa, in the shadow of Mauna Loa during the 1970’s, we hiked the mountains and were often found scuba diving the Kona coast,” Phillips said.
In 1978 he purchased a home in Hilo, but was not a permanent resident until 1994 when he began to slow down from traveling the globe.
“I traveled the planet in my 36 foot sailboat and was just a part time Hilo resident, until I decided to slow down a bit,” Phillips said.
“I met and married my wife Drenna in Alaska in 2001 and since then we fly our single engine airplane from California to Anchorage where we take off the wheels and install floats and fly around Alaska camping in Forestry cabins,” Phillips said.
Phillips was a member of the Hawaii’s Sierra Club and became a hike leader on the Big Island where he enjoyed leading groups on Hawaii’s trails.
“I can still remember having to push a couple backpackers up the trail to the Mauna Loa Cabin after carrying their pack to the cabin,” he said.
Phillips tried, over the years, to become a Volcano National Park back country volunteer, but says that the program never took off.
Today Phillips serves as a board member of E Mau Na Ala Hele. He hiked many of the weekly treks that E Mau members did documenting the 175 mile Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.
“We were successful in having the Ala Kahakai Trail designated a National Historic Trail,” he said.
Phillips love for trail hiking also led to his working with DNLR to help re-construct and identify the historic Pu U O’o Trail on the Mauna Kea side of saddle road.
“The project, which would have extended the Pu U O’o trail, was abandoned when the state Department of Natural Resources took over the cabin a few years ago,” Phillips said. “The cabin now sits awaiting repairs that hopefully will make it accessible to the public along with an already completed wheelchair accessible composting toilet and a sign the reads, handicapped parking only.”
Phillips began his sea to summit hike on Nov. 5 and his plan was to hike twice per week so that he could finish the entire distance on his birthday.
“I came up with a plan that if I hiked two days a week doing 1250 ft. elevation each of the two days, I would have covered 10,000 ft. of elevation in route to the summit of 13,681 ft.,” he said.
Phillips marked each place where he stopped for the day and returned to it for the next leg of his journey. After 15 days of hiking, often joined by his twice weekly hiking buddy, Lesley Sears, between Nov 5 and Dec 14 Phillips covered 56.9 miles while climbing 13,143 feet of altitude. Not bad for a fellow who was just turning 73 years of age.
Jim Phillips serves as a good example of how getting older can be a positive thing if we just take the time to care of our bodies. Phillips had found something that he loves to do and has spent a lifetime doing it.
Getting older might slow us down a bit, but it shouldn’t stop us from continuing to do the things that we love to do.
Volcano resident, Bill McMahon, has never let difficult challenges pass him by and on Oct. 25 the head cross country and track coach from Hilo High took on one of the toughest triathlons of them all, XTERRA.
Hawaii played host to two major World Championship triathlons this past October, the well known Ironman held in Kailua-Kona and XTERRA, which was held two weeks following Ironman, in Makena, Maui.
XTERRA is best known for its difficult terrain as a portion of the course goes through the dusty slops of Haleakala in which world class athletes compete.
During the bike portion of the race mountain bike riders will climb uphill some 1,400 feet in just one mile before making a rapid descent.
Grueling is the best word that comes to mind when summarizing XTERRA and only a hand full of qualifiers are allowed on the course.
Eneko Llanos of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain was the overall male champion and Julie Dibens from Bath, England the overall female champion. For winning the 2009 race each received the $20,000 first place prize money that goes with the XTERRA champion title, but the real applause goes to the few hundred amateurs that took on the event just for the challenge.
For McMahon, this was his fifth XTERRA and this year he had his highest finish as he managed to slip into the world’s top ten in his 50 to 54 year age group.
“This is the most difficult race I’ve ever done and every year I say to myself that I’m not going to run it again, but I keep coming back,” McMahon said.
XTERRA begins with a 1.5 kilometer swim, followed by a 30K bike and finishes with an 11K trail run. Although the distances are much shorter than the Kona Ironman the terrain is extremely difficult leaving athletes wondering why they do it and causing them to dig deep into their motivational reservoirs.
McMahon’s training for XTERRA begins months in advance and he gives much of the credit for his success to his training partner, Todd Marohnic.
“This race was always a team effort,” McMahon said. “If one of us does good we both win. Todd would have probably beaten me at XTERRA this year, but his bike’s chain broke and it took him 10 minutes to repair it.”
McMahon finished the race in 3 hours 52 minutes, good enough for 9th in his age division, while Marohnic crossed the line five minutes later, 3:57, and finished 13th in the world in the same age division which had 35 competitors and 30 finishers.
“We were 1-2 for Hawaii finishers and we’re proud of that fact,” McMahon said. “We were actually hoping to do better, but we’ll take what we can get.”
The Volcano residents train together on a regular bases and often ride their bikes to and from work just to get the necessary workouts needed to take on XTERRA.
“Todd will often ride his bike from his land in Laupahoehoe to his home in Volcano or vice versa as transportation,” McMahon said. “I have been caught using my bike as transportation to and from work in Volcano to Hilo High and back.”
Three to five hour bike rides are not uncommon for the duo and they are often regular members with a late Friday afternoon group that meets in Kulani at the Waiakea Forest Reserve.
“Our Friday group can have as many as 40 riders or as few at 10,” McMahon said. “The Kulani ride can be from one to two hours, but it is full on anaerobic, the entire time. It is a real hammer session that keeps us in a competitive mode. Besides being competitive the group is also very technology savvy and we have great fun.”
McMahon and Marohnic met each other 10 years ago and both believe that if they had never met that they would not be doing and entering the races that they do today.
“Todd and I will often do off beat workouts like riding up to Mauna Kea or into Waimanu Valley on our bikes or running at those locations,” McMahan said. “Todd and I train according to how we feel, not on a real set schedule. We often end up doing some pretty hard stuff.”
In the past the duo have gone to Oahu to compete at the Kualoa Ranch XTERRA Qualifier to earn a slot into XTERRA World Championships, but this year they were lucky enough to get their slots by winning one of the 60 lottery awards.
“We’ve always qualified prior to this year for XTERRA and we would have qualified again this year, but prior to the Oahu trip we found out that we were selected in the lottery,” McMahon said.
The XTERRA World Championships places a cap of 550 non professional competitors on Maui which makes entry into the race very selective and difficult to secure.
“XTERRA is challenging because it simple never lets you rest. There is not a part of the course that isn’t challenging,” McMahon said.
So why does he keep returning? “I keep coming back to Maui because, as Todd puts it, when you are competitive sometimes you never really feel like you’ve put something to bed. We still have that desire to keep challenging ourselves,” McMahon said.
McMahon finished the 2009 race with blisters on his feet and needed to throw away his shoes insoles.
“We really are just a bunch of old guys that haven’t yet figured out that we’re supposed to ride our bikes like sane people by the time we’re our age,” he said.
In my quest to find healthy/fit individuals to feature in this column I stumbled upon a very unique person with an interesting history of conditioning.
Bill Hubbard is not a difficult person to stumble upon, standing six foot eight inches tall and weighing in at 238 pounds; he’d be hard to miss at a party.
This was the case when I first met Hubbard at Joe Wedemann’s birthday party in Keaau. Wedemann, who stands 6’4” and weighs just under 200 pounds, was dwarfed by Hubbard which made me feel like a smaller than average person.
And Hubbard has an unusual occupation as he repairs underwater pipelines. Traveling all over the world Hubbard has repaired pipelines in the North Sea, Central America, Mexico and California.
“The work involved using very large cranes mounted on construction barges to install and repair offshore oil platforms and pipelines,” he said.
“Often the job included welding to repair damage to pipelines caused by a ships anchor being dragged during one of the truly monstrous storms that rage in the North Sea.”
Diving bells are used as elevators to put divers at the work site and hot water is circulated inside the bell. The divers are provided with specially designed suits due to the severe cold.
“I have worked at jobs as deep as 800 feet,” Hubbard said. “The deepest company performed work was at 1200 feet, in the Norwegian trench, which set a world record for deepest underwater pipeline welding.”
To perform his duties Hubbard must keep himself in top physical condition to meet the demands made upon his body at extreme depths.
“I have always kept myself in top condition for diving work as it is critically important for me to reduce the chance of decompression sickness and ultimately to prevent injury,” he said.
Born in Missouri, Hubbard moved to West Kentucky when he was nine. “My father was a game warden and an expert hunter and fisherman,” he said. “My dad had a small boat and I learned to water ski at age six.”
At age 12 Hubbard attend an all sports camp at the University of Tennessee where he was mentored in the triple jump by legendary coach, Ralph Boston. Boston was the gold medalist in the long jump in the 1960 Olympics and went on to win a silver medal in 1964 and bronze medal in the 1968 Olympics.
During his youth Hubbard hauled hay and did heavy farm work to earn money and the rest of his time was spent playing football and basketball.
In high school he received all state honors as an offensive tackle in football and made all district as a center in basketball.
Hubbard was so good that he received a scholarship to play football for the Kentucky Wildcats and was on the punt team. “I really had to use speed and quickness just to stay in one piece at that level, so I left school to pursue a career as a professional deep sea diver,” he said.
On New Years Day, 1996, Hubbard moved to Hawaii to remodel hi mother-in-laws house. “That was it, I couldn’t go back,” he said.
“My wife, Lorraine, is from Hilo and after we married in 1992 it was an easy decision to move to paradise,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard went onto build his own home in 1997 which includes a custom wood shop which keeps him busy with a variety of projects.
This 52 year old continues to seek new adventures in his very accomplished life. Hubbard has already climbed Mount Lyell, 13,114 feet, in Yosemite National Park; he has climbed the Grand Teton in Wyoming, 13.770 feet, and has done numerous other hikes including the Grand Canyon.
“I have no excuse not to exercise,” he says. Today’s regimen includes calisthenics in the morning followed by either a five mile run or a 26 mile bike ride. Then he will swim for 30 to 60 minutes and in the evening he, his wife and two dogs will go for a 30 walk/jog.
Hubbard is also an avid skier, since age 23, and once or twice each year will go to Mount Bachelor in Oregon. “I am constantly thinking of deep powder and steep slopes and enjoy competing in Nastar giant slalom events,” he said.
Hubbard is a remarkable man who has kept himself in great shape with his love for the outdoors and in finding new adventures. “You can achieve anything you want in life if you have the desire to pursue and never give up, never surrender,” Hubbard said.
Coming up on Saturday, March 7 is the “Big Dog 5K” starting in the parking area of Moku Ola (Coconut Island) at 7:30 a.m. and hosted by Big Dog Productions.
The 3.1-mile run, walk or jog is free and open to the public regardless of ability level. Following the event there will be free refreshments and the awarding of the “Dog Perpetual Trophy.”
For more information call the Big Dog @ 969-7400.
“Happiness is not a matter of events, it depends upon the tides of the mind,” Alice Meynell.
And someday should you happen to see a smiling, happy runner/walker come passing along Bayfront remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at email@example.com.
The Kilauea Volcano Marathon, held in July at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, will be no more.
The event, which just celebrated its 26th consecutive year, had been under the criticism from the Kupuna Council (Native Hawaiian elders) advisory group to the National Park.
Park Superintendent, Cindy Orlando, pulled the plug on the annual event due to growing concerns from the Kupuna Council who believed that Kilauea is a sacred mountain to the goddess Pele.
Kupuna Council members lobbied the Park to discontinue the race due to Native Hawaiian cultural concerns in their belief that the 1000 annual runners and walkers were disrespecting their religious culture. (Orlando could not be reached for comment despite phone and email messages being left at her office).
“Our determination that this activity was not appropriate to the park was based on compliance checks which require that the event doesn’t impact the park adversely,” Chief Ranger Talmadge Magno said.
Magno went on to explain that impact to the trails, the bringing into the park of invasive species, the overuse of the trails due to increased visitors and the sacredness of the mountain to the Native population, all played a role in the demise of the race.
Foster, who represents the parks maintenance division on the Kupuna Council, did concede that thre was a vocal voice on the group that wanted the race removed from the park.
The 333,000- acre park includes Mauna Loa which rises 13,677 feet above sea level and also descends eight miles beneath the ocean, making it the earth’s most massive volcano. Legend has it that the goddess Pele makes Mauna Loa her home.
Hawaiian culture also includes “The Legend of Makoa” who for many runners is the direct descendent of many of the worlds cultural tradition of a long distance runners.
Makoa was given the title of “kukini” or foot racer and to this day, when a runner shows great speed, that runner is referred to as “He poki’i no Makoa” or Makoa’s younger brother or sister.
Artist Dietrich Varez created the image of Makoa in his art and the image was placed on finisher medals and T-shirts for all participants to enjoy.
The Kilauea Wilderness Runs, as it was originally called, was created back in 1983 when Chief Park Ranger, Dan Sholly, used the 26.2-mile footrace as a way of keeping his staff of rangers fit by challenging their endurance.
“It wasn’t an easy thing for us to do,” Magno said of canceling the race. “We had to consider many factors, including the eruption of Halema’uma’u.
Due to the emission of gases from Halema’uma’u Crater park officials nearly canceled the race this past May, but allowed race organizers to reroute the marathon and 10-mile course to avoid possible dangers.
Proceeds from the event have gone to benefit the Volcano Art Center and their many Hawaiian cultural programs and VAC Executive Director, Phyllis Segawa, is scrambling to find an alternative course outside the park.
“We’re looking at different options of holding the event up in the Volcano area, but on private land so that we can continue the annual tradition,” Segawa said.
Segawa, who was the race director for the first Kilauea Wilderness Run, remains optimistic that a new marathon course can be found to salvage the race.
The 26.2 mile marathon had been rated by many national magazines, including Runners World and Marathon & Beyond, as one of the 10 most difficult trail marathons in the world.
Due to the “wilderness” nature of the run the park, along with race organizers, limited the marathon field to 225 runners and had set a maximum finish time of 7 ½ hours. Accompanying the marathon was a 10-mile crater rim trail run and a 5-mile run/walk into the crater of Kilauea Iki.
The total of three distance races often would attract 1000 athletes from around the world who would marvel at its beauty and charm.
Magno left the door open to possibly starting the race within the park, while having most of the distance run in areas outside of the park.
“I’ve been a runner for most of my life,” Magno said, “and this was a difficult decision for us to make.”
And someday should you happen to see a “kukini” making his way around Hilo Bayfront remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
The Big Dog can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your health has a lot to do with what you eat, how much you exercise and the parents that brought you into this world.
Diet and exercise are within your control, but your genes determine your risk factor for contracting many diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and many types of cancers.
For Adrel Vicente being careful with the foods he consumes and being sure that he exercises regularly is an important factor in his family where there is a history of diabetes and heart problems.
Vicente, who was born and raised in Hilo and attended Saint Joseph High School, got an early introduction into team sports.
“I played baseball and ran cross-country during my high school years, which included one year on the junior varsity basketball team,” he said.
Graduating from St. Joe in 1993 as the class Valedictorian, Vicente went on to attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo where he double majored in Biology and Natural Science and went on to complete a one year teacher program to become a certified science teacher in 1999.
Today Vicente serves as the freshman counselor at Waiakea High School and continues to get his regular exercise by walking around the large Waiakea Campus on a daily basis.
“After school I’ll head down to Liliuokalani Gardens and do a couple of laps around the park,” he said.
On weekends Vicente can be found Honoli’i or Pohoiki with his longboard. “I only started taking up surfing about three years ago,” he said. “I’m not that good, but being in the water helps clear my mind and it’s a lot of fun!”
While at the famous surfing spots Vicente has been seen by his students and will often catch a wave together, surfing side by side.
“I’ve also tried some of the exercises that my family and friends enjoy and I’ve tried golfing, tennis, mountain biking, kayaking, and even ballroom dancing, Vicente said.
“Trying a variety of sports and activities to get exercise id definitely the way to go because the variety keeps exercise from being boring,” he said.
Two to three times per week you can find Vicente walking or jogging around the Waiakea Complex and on the weekends you’ll find him in the water.
Last year Vicente’s mother passed away, “she was a diabetic, had heart problems and high blood pressure,” he said. Vicente’s father is currently a diabetic and keeps it under control with a healthy diet and some medication.
“We have just honored the one year since she has passed with a celebration of life for her. My mother worked as a nurse at Hilo Medical Center and she was a home economics teacher back in the Philippines,” Vicente said.
Vicente’s mother would always try to put a healthy spin when cooking for the family and encouraged them to eat healthy. “One of my favorite dishes she would make is the Filipino vegetable dish called pinakbet.”
“Exercise helps me to relieve stress, helps clear my mind, gives me energy, maintains my health and its fun,” he said. “But my main motivation is to try to stay healthy and to prevent having health problems like some of my family members.”
Vicente has also become an active member of the Big Island Road Runners when he accidentally bumped into the group while surfing at Richardson Beach Park about three years ago.
“I was surfing with my nephews one early Sunday morning in December. When we were done I saw a two of my friends and a lot of people in the parking lot and they told me about the BIRR fun run and that I should join,” Vicente said.
“So I paid my $10 annual dues and started coming every month after that to take part in their fun runs and walks. I did nearly every one since then and I even made a chart in my computer to track all of my times.”
Vicente also continues to enter short distance races of two to three miles and has entered the 2009 Big Island Marathons 3.1-mile race scheduled for March.
“Someday I hope to do the half-marathon (13.1-miles), then maybe the full 26 miler,” he said with a grin.
Vicente continues to get annual check ups and has done the HMSA health pass screening. “I am still health problem free with no high blood pressure and no diabetes,” he said.
“My life long goal is to maintain a reasonable weight and proportion and to use exercise to help give me energy, relieve stress and above all to prevent health problems.”
“I believe in working hard and playing hard as I’ll get back as much as I give and sometimes I might get back even more,” Vicente said.