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June 9, 2017

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Pacific Quest to Donate a Portion of Profits to PQ Foundation

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Quest will now be donating a minimum of 1% of our profits annually to the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to support the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

Pacific Quest was founded in 2004 and over the years we have developed relationships with more than 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. With the generous support and donations from alumni, families, community members and businesses, we are excited to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Martha Bouchard, PQ Foundation Director, reflected on this decision to donate profits to the foundation, “It is essential to our mission to both be sustainable and in right relationship with the community in which we work and in which Pacific Quest has built such life changing programming for students. This has to go beyond the community service that our staff and students do. For us, being able to increase our capacity to give back to the island by helping to fund organizations that are the heart and soul of our local communities is a direct reflection of that commitment.” Donations to the foundation help to fund the organizations that sustain our island’s diverse communities, which benefit both residents and visitors alike.

Pacific Quest Foundation will begin accepting applications in Fall 2017. Requests will be considered from Hawaii Island based non-profit organizations in four general categories, including:

  • community or public service
  • environmental issues
  • health and education
  • youth and senior citizens

For more information on how to help support the Pacific Quest Foundation, please visit:

http://pqfoundation.org/donate-now/

April 17, 2017

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PQ Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit

By: Katie Strong, Program Guide

“Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!” That’s Hawaiʻian for “love the land, love the ocean.” We take these phrases to heart at Pacific Quest. As a horticultural therapy program, we’re well known for caring for the land, but we’re also really into the ocean. PQ students learn about the importance of caring for our ocean during weekly water outings and beach cleanups and frequent swims in Reeds Bay. And we recently upped our marine stewardship game by installing two Beach Clean Up Stations, with two more on the way!

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean Up

We installed one of the Stations at our Reeds Bay campus and another at Richardson Beach. The other two Stations will soon be installed at Carlsmith Beach Park. These Stations will enable both Hilo beachgoers and PQ students to divert 80,000 pieces of trash a year from our ocean and waterways, improving the lives of sea and land creatures, including humans. Beach Clean Up Stations are permanently mounted wooden boxes containing repurposed, reusable bags for collecting beach trash. Each Station features children’s marine-themed art and signage showing how to use the Station, the impact of marine debris and how to reduce trash.

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean UpPQ students will use the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations during their beach cleanup outings, and the Reeds Bay Station several times a week. Students will use these Stations to pick up 26,000 pieces of trash a year. We expect that the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations will educate 3,240 beachgoers a year about the harm human-generated trash causes to sea and land creatures and teach them how to reduce this waste. Each year, these Stations will enable 1,080 beachgoers to remove 54,000 pieces of trash – which is definitely “Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!”

— — —

Pacific Quest built and installed these Beach Clean Up Stations in partnership with All One Ocean and the County of Hawaii. All One Ocean, a local nonprofit, has installed 37 Beach Clean Up Stations and four School Clean Up Stations, in Hawaii, California, Iowa and Alabama.

April 8, 2017

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Community Service at Punalu’u Pond

By: Nikki Robinson, Adolescent Program Master Guide

A group of Pacific Quest adolescent students recently joined the community at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to participate in removing invasive plant species.  The pond at Punalu’u is a unique and rare ecosystem – an anchialine pool, it is connected to the ocean by an underground fissure, consists of brackish water, and the water level changes with the tides. Of all the anchialine pools on the planet, more than half of them can be found on the island of Hawai’i!  These ponds are home to a plethora of endemic plants and animals. Water hyacinth, an introduced and invasive species, thrives in this pond, crowding out native plants and animals, blocks sunlight into the pond, acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and threatens the existence of many species that only exist in this rare ecosystem.  Our job, pulling water hyacinth out of the pond, ensures the survival of endemic species to the island.

Pacific Quest community service pond clean up at Punalu'u

Removing water hyacinth from pond

Upon our arrival to the beach park, most students were eager to jump into the murky pond and work together with members of the community to eradicate the water hyacinth from an area of the pond.  As the rest of the group eased into the pond, students broke into groups.  Some students pushed clumps of hyacinth in towards the shore, while others threw the plants onto and away from the shore. The students spent time pausing to investigate the life forms in the pond. They discovered crayfish, tadpoles ducks, and the endangered nene. As they cleared the pond, they shared stories with community members; some of whom have lived in the region all of their lives. After some time working, the students were satisfied with the large area of cleared pond and ready to eat lunch.

Before lunch, we all jumped into the ocean to clean off. The cool water felt great after all the hard work we had done. The group circled up, had a round of thanks, and ate lunch over fun conversation topics. We enjoyed lunch and a view of palm trees, black sand, sea turtles, and beautiful blue waves. The weather was perfect for a day at the beach. After digesting for a while, the group decided to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean. Some choose to swim while others chose to float and chat.

Punalu’u was once a major residence for ancient Hawaiians. Hawaiians used this land for fishing and as a major source of fresh water. Punalu’u means “diving spring”, and sits on top of thousands of tons of fresh water flowing underground. During periods of drought, ancient Hawaiians would dive to the bottom of the ocean and fill “ipu” (gourds) with fresh water. Punalu’u is also home to endangered hawksbill sea turtles known as Honu’ea. Tourists come from far away to admire the fascinating creatures, but are warned: “do not touch or ride the turtles”. Students watched as turtles basked in the sun. They were awed by the turtles’ size and gentle nature, but made sure to give the turtles plenty of space.

After taking a nice swim, the students took some time to relax on the beach. The group played an organized bonding game and shared stories over the experience afterwards while loading up the van. We then headed back to Pacific Quest with about an hour to relax before it was time to hop into the gardens and kitchen to prepare dinner.

February 22, 2017

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PQ Offers First Annual Free CE Workshop for Hilo Community

By: Kristen Sutton, Therapist, & Lauren Meyer, Field Coordinator

Over 80 people attended a recent continuing education (CE) event offered by Pacific Quest (PQ). Community service and the ability to “give back” are essential cornerstones of the program, therefore, PQ offered this CE event free of charge to Big Island mental health professionals.  Attendees included psychologists, play/sandplay therapists, school counselors, social workers and other mental health professionals who had the opportunity to earn three continuing education credits through APA and NASW- Hawai`i Chapter.

Pacific Quest offers free continuing education event

Dr. Freedle presenting at CE Event in Hilo

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, PQ’s Clinical Director, presented “After the Towers Fell:  Healing Trauma with Sandplay Therapy, A Neuropsychological Perspective”. Dr. Freedle shared her expertise and passion for both Sandplay Therapy and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT). The presentation focused on the case study of Jimmy (pseudonym), who as a young boy lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.  At age 22, Jimmy was overwhelmed with OCD, alcohol abuse, guilt and shame and was unable to meet the demands of college.  As a result, he sought treatment at Pacific Quest where he engaged in sandplay therapy as part of a comprehensive, holistic treatment approach.

Workshop participants explored a neuropsychological perspective on how sandplay heals trauma and took a journey through Jimmy’s treatment process. They walked away with an understanding of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and a better awareness of the Sustainable Growth model utilized at Pacific Quest. The attendees were also touched by Jimmy’s story and created artwork to express how his story connected with their own experiences.

Lauren Meyer, PQ Field Coordinator, who was in attendance, comments, “Dr. Freedle took her audience through a journey of images Jimmy created in the sand. There were tears throughout the room, as well as in my own eyes, when we saw an image of ‘that fateful day’ through the eyes of an eight year old child.”  An intimate look at how Jimmy, as a young adult, accessed healing resources through meditation, horticultural activities and sandplay therapy followed.

“Multiple attendees spoke about feeling moved and inspired by the presentation and Dr. Freedle’s work,” noted Kristen Sutton, PQ Therapist. “One therapist in private practice shared her gratitude for being able to gather together with other professionals to discuss her passion – Sandplay. I left feeling grateful and privileged to do the work that we do.”

January 19, 2017

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Successful Collaboration with Sky’s the Limit Fund!

By: Mike Sullivan, Alumni and Family Services Director

Happy new year!  We are diving into another great year of collaboration with Sky’s the Limit Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of at-risk youth by providing grants, support and hope through outdoor therapy programs and beyond. Sky’s the Limit Fund has provided financial assistance to a large number of families over the years, and as a partner program, we have matched them dollar for dollar.  We enjoy giving back and catalyzing life changing experiences for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access the amazing benefits of outdoor therapy.

Pacific Quest's collaboration with Sky's the Limit Fund is a Success

Mike Sullivan and colleagues at STLF event

2016 was a powerful year.  As a Sky’s the Limit Fund grant recipient said: “Outdoor therapy saved my son’s life.  I don’t know where we would be without Sky’s the Limit Fund and Pacific Quest.”  That young man arrived at Pacific Quest in a depressed and anxious state, and emerged with confidence and charisma.  The combination of evidence based therapy, whole person wellness, and this particular young man’s decision to grab life by the horns were all pivotal in his growth.  This is not an isolated story. Having attended several STLF fundraisers throughout 2016, I was able to witness grant recipients share their success stories in front of large crowds. These are tear jerking personal accounts of suffering and healing.  Thank you to Sky’s the Limit for making such things possible!

Looking Ahead

2017 is shaping up to be another great year.  Nancy Moore has completely transitioned into her new role as Executive Director, allowing STLF founder Rochelle Bochner to step away and focus her energy on her grandchildren.  Pacific Quest is excited to host Nancy and an STLF Chairperson on campus for a site tour later this spring, continuing to showcase the unique horticultural and wellness platform that makes PQ so powerfully therapeutic.

December 14, 2016

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Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest

By:  Janna Pate, Academic Coordinator

Makahiki is a holiday season that marks the end and new beginning of the yearly farming cycle in Hawaii. It is similar in timing and purpose to Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest, and other harvest celebrations. At Pacific Quest, we celebrate Makahiki throughout the month of November.

Our celebrations culminate in a day of cultural lessons, including storytelling, games, crafts, chants, and dancing. At the end of it all, there is a Makahiki feast that we cook in a traditional Hawaiian imu, or underground oven.

Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

Hand painted garden sign

During the days that lead up to our culminating celebration, students at Pacific Quest turn their attentions to harvesting fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden. Some of this bounty goes toward our meal preparations for the Pacific Quest community, and some is donated to the local farmer’s market.  During Makahiki season, Pacific Quest students make a special effort to donate to the farmer’s market in abundance. Our donations may include handmade bundles of fresh herbs, greens, or flowers; seedlings and shoots from our nursery; hand-painted gourds and garden signs; hand-picked avocados and citrus fruits from our fruiting trees; a wide-array of organic vegetables; and more.

Traditionally, once tributes like these were collected from around the island, communities gathered to celebrate Makahiki with feasts and games. Both men and women and everyone from chiefs to commoners competed. Pacific Quest students celebrate in a similar way.  Throughout the month of November, we teach our students traditional Makahiki games. In ancient Hawaii, the main purpose of these games was to train warriors. As such, Makahiki games tend to focus on building strength, stamina, and agility. We focus on building those skills with our students as well by facilitating traditional Hawaiian games like ikaika (lifting of stones), moa pahe’e (sliding of wooden darts or, at Pacific Quest, lengths of bamboo), and foot races.

In addition to physical challenges, we also teach Makahiki games that challenge the mind. For example, we teach konane, or Hawaiian checkers. Traditionally, konane is played on a board with 64 playing pieces made of black lava stone and white coral. At Pacific Quest, we use black lava stone and red cinder from the paths of our gardens.

Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

Traditional Hawaiian craft-making, Lauhala weaving

We teach traditional Hawaiian craft-making as well. One such practice is lauhala weaving, or weaving with the leaves of the hala tree. Lauhala weaving has been a part of Hawaiian culture for thousands of years. In ancient times, weavers transformed hala leaves into everything from floor mats to pillows and sails. At Pacific Quest, we teach our students how to craft lauhala bracelets and headbands using hala leaves from the trees in our camps.

We are also lucky enough to have staff who are trained in hula dancing and traditional Hawaiian chanting and who graciously bring those lessons to our students with permission and well-wishes from their own kumus, or teachers. Hula and chanting go hand-in-hand, and both were a major part of Makahiki celebrations in ancient Hawaii, especially in the creation of ceremonial spaces. We use them to create ceremonial spaces at Pacific Quest as well.

In ancient Hawaii, it was a processional ceremony that marked the beginning of the Makahiki season. The chief carried a staff topped by a small carved figure and a crossbar supporting a white sheet of kapa, or cloth, around the island in a clockwise direction. Stopping at the boundary of each ahupua’a, or land division, the chief collected gifts and offerings from a stone ahu, or altar.

Hawaiian staff members from across multiple departments at Pacific Quest came together to create a replica of the traditional staff for students in the adolescent program to observe. This replica stood in the dining area where students brought offerings of food from their camps for the community to share. Some camps made organic salads and homemade dressings while others made honey-glazed carrots, stuffing, or mashed potatoes and gravy.

This year, we cooked kalua turkey and pork in the imu at Pacific Quest. For vegetarians, we also prepared a dish called tofu laulau, or tofu wrapped in taro leaf. And of course, there were also desserts: sweet potato haupia pie and kulolo, a sweet taro dish.

Here is a recipe that our logistics team uses for kulolo:

Kulolo (PQ Style)

Ingredients:
4 cups taro
12 oz honey
1 cup coco milk
8 pc ti leaf

Directions:
Grate taro until you have 4 cups.
Put taro in a ziploc bag. Mix in honey and coconut milk.
Line pan with ti leaf, leaving half of the leaf sticking out from the pan.
Add mixture to the pan on top of the ti leaf and flatten out.
Wrap the remainder of the leaf over the flattened kulolo mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 1.5 hours.
Remove foil from tray and cook for another 30 minutes.

Yield 1 half pan

Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

Poi pounding

In addition to this taro-based dessert dish, students in the adolescent program had the opportunity to experience poi, a taro paste that was the main staple of the ancient Hawaiian diet. The Hawaiian cultural liaison at Pacific Quest provided the community with traditional stone poi pounders, and students learned to pound the pa’i ‘ai, or freshly cooked taro, with short, quick strokes and little dabs of water to keep the poi paste moist. This can be a bit of a sticky process, but also a satisfying one, even for students who remain a bit skeptical about the flavor of poi. It’s hard not to enjoy this type of “work.”

Once all of the cultural activities conclude and the food is prepared, therapists at Pacific Quest set the tone for the culminating feast by holding a therapeutic group in each camp on gratitude. Gratitude is culturally significant to the Makahiki season, and, as our therapists teach, it is of great personal significance as well. Gratitude has been shown to improve physical and psychological health, promote healthy relationships, enhance empathy, reduce aggression, promote better sleep, improve self-esteem, and increase mental strength. Whatever our struggles in life, a daily dose of gratitude is surely a part of the cure.

And so, after students bring forward their food offerings and chant the Oli Mahalo, a Hawaiian gratitude chant, the feast at Pacific Quest begins, carrying our Makahiki celebrations to a joyful close. Traditionally, Makahiki begins and ends with the timing of the Makali’i, or Pleiades, in the night sky. At Pacific Quest, students can observe the Makali’i during their nightly meditations, though perhaps it is during the afternoon Makahiki feast when they have the brightest constellation of stars in their eyes.

December 8, 2016

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Thanksgiving Blessings: Gratitude and Grace

As I sat in my dining room with my seven guests for our annual Thanksgiving meal, I recounted what I was grateful for in my life. Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday, not because of what it represents in terms of American history, but because it is a day that I am able to celebrate my friends and family without the messy pressure of gift giving that comes with the Christmas holiday. As I sat down with my family and we exchanged our thoughts of thankfulness, I realized that I am most thankful for grace. The grace that gives me forgiveness when I have screwed up, that has taught me to be a better person, the grace I was given as I learned table etiquette and proper socialization (though I rarely employ those strategies these days), the grace to stumble as a daughter, wife, and mother, and finally the grace to be a human. I realize the amount of grace I have been given as I have navigated the years of my life and think about the students with whom I work and the amount of grace that they need.

Thanksgiving Blessings: Gratitude and Grace - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Theresa Hasting, LMHC

I am grateful for the students and families I get to work with and feel honored to have the privilege to help these young people start the process of reworking their lives. It doesn’t always take on the first try, but the courage and bravery that I see when I am working with teens and their parents often amazes me. To allow themselves to be vulnerable about their deepest pains, even if they do in the messiest of ways, earns the right to given the same amount of grace I have been given in my life.

At Pacific Quest, we work hard to provide them with the grace they need to explore their inner experience, their family dynamics, and how they can learn to give themselves graces. Through my own years, I have realized that grace must ultimately come from within. To do this, we have to offer our students a firm but loving hand, working to join with them through creative, fun and meaningful interactions. The work in our gardens offers such a wonderful medium for this relationship to grow in. We are able to destroy and create whatever needs to be for the student to find meaning. At our fingertips is the ultimate metaphor for destruction and creation, death and renewal, loss and rejuvenation; the island itself, formed by the very fertile Pele.

The idea of grace is at the very core of what we do at Pacific Quest. We must give grace to our students having their process and acknowledging that change does not occur because we simply will it or give insight to it. Change happens because someone gave us the grace of their time and energy so that we could then transform our own inner grace into accepting cognitive change.

By: Theresa Hasting, LMHC
Primary Therapist

September 27, 2016

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PQ Students Attend “Embrace” Screening: Documentary on Body Image + Positivity

By: Dr. John Souza, Jr
Primary Therapist

At 7:30 pm on a Monday evening, the movie theater in Hilo, Hawai’i was nearly filled to capacity as over 100 souls gathered to screen the documentary film Embrace: One Women’s Journey to Inspire EveryBODY. Of those souls, nearly 40 were from Pacific Quest and included young adult students, staff, and therapists.

Three months prior my wife (Deepa Ram-Souza, MA) had asked if I would be willing to help her bring a screening of the movie to our local theater. She believed the documentary focusing on what film director Taryn Brumfitt calls the “global epidemic” of poor body image would be well-received on our little Big Island.

At first we struggled to garner interest, selling only a few tickets. Then Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Ph.D., caught wind of the effort, kicking it up to Co-Executive Director Mark Agosto, MBA. Next thing I knew PQ had purchased 40 tickets! This shouldn’t have surprised me, given that the year prior PQ’s leadership had helped champion an effort to take several young adult female students to a showing of The Vagina Monologues at the University of Hilo’s Performing Arts Center.

PQ Students Attend "Embrace": Documentary on Body Image + Positivity

Indeed, the documentary itself was truly eye opening and inspiring. In lucid and compassionate filmmaking, Brumfitt tastefully shared what were sometimes very ugly realities about how women have been influenced to be hyper-focused on “youthfulness” and an “ideal” image of physical appearance. Through compelling interviews with courageous (and beautiful) women (and men), the film offered an assessment of the origins of poor body image and examples of how people have worked through their own personal struggles with body image; taking the viewer to the edge of some uncomfortable (and often extreme) examples of body image issues, but without exploiting the storytellers or losing focus of the larger issue of women’s body image.

After speaking with my wife, our 12-year old daughter (who with her friends, was also in attendance), and several PQ employees who attended the screening, the take away seemed to be that there are no “flawed” bodies because there is no ideal toward which to aspire. That is to say, the “idealized” images we may have about a woman’s (or a man’s) body are simply not real. And even for those idealized images that might actually exist (i.e., are not altered using Photoshop), the hyper-focus on “youthfulness” privileges only a small part of the larger human experience, obscuring the joy and beauty of the diversity of life, including aging and death. This Body Image Movement invites everyone to “redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty.”

The message many seemed to take from the film is that in life the “beauty” of the body resides in its manifest diversity. This made me think of the garden, made of many plants which themselves are comprised of non-plant elements (e.g., water, soil, sunlight, etc.). When considered this way, no plant is “more” or “less” beautiful anymore than sunlight is more or less beautiful than water or air. All things are interrelated and therefore all things are uniquely beautiful. And this, I believe, is what I am taking from the film: The real beauty in life is not the thing (e.g., the body, the plant, the element, etc.) but the relationship between things. On a personal level, for me the real beauty of life is knowing that I am married to a woman that would care enough to take on such a project; that together we are raising a daughter who has the kind of friends, and who live in a community that cares enough to show up for such events. On a professional level the real beauty is knowing I work for a company that has the kind of leadership that in the spirit of better serving our students and our employees, is open to seizing such an opportunity and has resources to actualize it.

The next day, while visiting students at Reed’s Bay (PQ’s young adult program), one male student asked, “Hey Dr. John, I loved that movie, but what about one for men?!” I passed the message along to my wife, who said she would look into it. Beautiful.

September 22, 2016

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Pacific Quest Announces Formation of PQ Foundation!

By: Sharon Findlay
Admissions and Communications Manager

Pacific Quest is pleased to announce the formation of the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to supporting the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

“After years of working in and contributing to the Hawai’i Island community, we are excited to formalize our efforts and reach the broader community. We can now include PQ alumni families in our efforts to give back by raising awareness and funding for local community programming,” says Suzanne McKinney, Vice President of the PQ Foundation.

Founded in 2004, Pacific Quest works with adolescents and young adults in an outdoor, residential setting on the Big Island of Hawaii. During their stay, our clients develop an intimate relationship with Hawaii and it’s diverse communities as they work outdoors cultivating the land, exploring the island’s natural wonders, and participating in community service projects or events.

Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Over the years, Pacific Quest has developed relationships with and supported over 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. We have created the Pacific Quest Foundation to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.

The Pacific Quest Foundation’s mission is to contribute to existing 501(c)(3) organizations on Hawaii Island that steward a healthy island community. Alumni and supporters of Pacific Quest are encouraged to give back to the Big Island through the Pacific Quest Foundation. Pacific Quest underwrites the Foundation’s leadership and administrative costs.

March 25, 2016

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Preparation and Performance converge: Mike Sullivan qualifies for Boston 2017 Marathon

Pacific Quest is supporting Mike Sullivan on his “2016 Road to Kona.” Yes, you heard correctly, Mike is taking another stab at the World Championship Ironman, assuming he is selected to participate through the Hawaii Resident Lottery on May 5, 2016. Mike will share insights and perspectives throughout his 2016 races and training, and drawing parallels between the mind-body connection and wellness – important themes at Pacific Quest.

In his first post, Mike shared his insights before the Hilo Marathon. With this second installment, Mike reflects on the marathon from this past Sunday:

By Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC
Alumni and Family Services Director

A marathon is a point of convergence.  It is the point where immense preparation meets performance.  Every athlete strives to maximize performance on race day.  In the Hilo International Marathon this past weekend, I drew upon planning, preparation, routines,  strategy, a sense of belonging, and mental toughness. I have honed these skills bothMikeHiloMarathon in my endurance athletics training and my work with youth at Pacific Quest, teaching youth the importance of self discipline, executive functioning, and resilience.  The Hilo Marathon was a powerful convergence of many psychological factors, which I tactfully aligned, landing me in 5th place overall and qualifying me for the 2017 Boston Marathon

The Hilo Marathon was my first race of 2016.  The race itself started long before race day.  In order to arrive in a calm and balanced mental and physical state, developing routine was a critical tool.  Since recovering from the 2015 Kona Ironman last fall, I have incorporated a morning routine that includes a variety of yoga asanas and foam roller techniques.  The routine takes 45 minutes, and aims to minimize physical injury, and conjure a calm and present emotional state.  It is a mindfulness practice that nurtures mental health and creates a solid foundation for the day ahead.

Mind-Body Training

When it came time to plan out the details for race day, I strove to maintain my routine.  While the race itself is drastically different than training days, most coaches and athletes will advise, “Don’t do anything different on race day than you do in training days.” This advice is meant to calm anxiety within the athlete by de-emphasizing the significance of the feat ahead.  Race events impose increased anxiety with the impending performance apex, applying more pressure on the athlete than a regular training day.  Routines reinforce familiarity and ritual, a major combatant to anxiety.  Thus for race day, I planned a 4:00 AM wake up followed by a mini version of my daily routine.  This helped me to manage race anxiety, however, there is a fulcrum point with racing that thrives on a bit of anxiety.  The neurotransmitters emitted from competition and increased pressure heightens focus, and athletes who are able to harness the balance, are able to achieve amazing feats. My routine kept the levels of anxiety in check, allowing me to calibrate my focus appropriately.

The day before the race I focused on mental and physical preparation.  In order to continue to calibrate my anxiety level, decrease chaos, and minimize mental clutter, I prepared my belongings and mentally walked through my morning routine.  I practiced the order of operations several times to ensure I was prepared and had everything accounted for.  It started with setting my yoga mat and foam roller out in the living room, lining up all my breakfast items on the counter, and then arranging my running equipment by the door– shoes, shorts, nutrition, water, etc.  I awoke before my alarm was set to sound and calmly cruised through my morning routine, arriving at the race 45 minutes prior to the start.  Sports psychologists say it is equally important for athletes to be prepared for unknown obstacles to emerge, however, in this instance I didn’t have to navigate any.  Whew!

MarkandMikeHiloMarathonA sense of community and support flourished and created a positive vibe at the starting line.  Surrounded by many friends and Pacific Quest coworkers, encouragement was abounding. Mark Agosto, my boss and mentor, brought great energy and enthusiasm to the starting line, giving me an extra pep talk and champion-like confidence.  The gun sounded marking the start of the race and the 100+ racers jetted off the starting line.  Spectators cheered and athletes hooted and hollered.  A sense of belonging within a community is widely understood to be important for wellbeing and increased self-esteem.  I am grateful for the Big Island community and all the wonderful connections I have developed through athletics. It certainly contributed to a successful race.

Mind-Body Training & Race Strategy

I ran the first half of the race at a moderate pace – roughly 6:50 min/mile.  This was aligned with my race strategy, a plan I created from studying the course and planning for physical and mental challenges.  The beginning of the course, where it gains more elevation than it loses, is where athletes can burn themselves out physically or mentally. I planned to start at a moderate pace and speed up in the second half.  Indeed, my body was feeling strong toward the second half and I was able to increase my pace.  I never hit a “wall” in this race, and was able to stay consistent through the final miles. I finished with a smile in 2:57:29.

Throughout the race I employed mental toughness I established during training.   I completed 20-mile training runs every Sunday in the blistering Hilo heat leading up the race.  This taught me persistence and proved to myself that I could keep going, despite the aches, pains, and self doubts that emerged.  I used my personal mantra of “keep pushing,” and “you can do this all day,” to maintain a fast pace throughout the race.  I also kept it light and positive, smiling and encouraging fellow athletes along the way.

I meditated on the phenomena of peak performance throughout training and the race.  I thought about the parallels racing has with performance in various contexts.  My mind returns to the organic gardens of Pacific Quest. What lessons from racing are similar to gardening, and can be applied to other spheres of performance?  Whether in a race, an organic garden, or at school, youth must learn to manage responsibility in their daily lives- completing tasks, managing anxiety, overcoming self doubt. Utilizing the same tools I drew on in the race can absolutely be applied to a variety of contexts, whether it is school, job, or an array of emotional struggles.  Check out my PEAK Self article on Seven Tools For Peak Performance for more information.

I want to thank Pacific Quest for the support throughout the race.  I also want to thank the amazing Hilo community, Big Island Running Company, and my elaborate family/friend network throughout the world for encouraging my racing habit and interest in sports psychology.  I will continue to  utilize my own experience and research themes related to sports psychology as I hone my PEAK Self and help others to do the same. Bring on Boston 2017!

Congrats to Mike from your PQ ohana! We are so excited for you!