Big Dog: Not your garden variety athlete


By WAYNE JOSEPH

Tribune-Herald correspondent

A little sibling rivalry can be a good thing and a healthy way of getting into better shape. This worked well for Dawn Velasquez while she was growing up with her younger brother, and it helped turn her into a lifelong runner.

Velasquez ran her first race in 1991, a 4-miler sponsored by the American Lung Association.

“I had spent the last couple of years dealing with a mild but developing asthmatic condition, and I was hoping that running would strengthen my lungs,” Velasquez said.

The race was called Superkids, and many other races would follow as a result of the positive outcome.

“My brother Ke‘o was also entered in Superkids and although four years my junior he was always markedly faster,” she said. “It was also the only race where we came in within 50 feet of each other, and it got me hooked on running.”

Velasquez was always an active child and can’t remember a time when she was not interested in sports activity.

“Playing in the outdoors was a huge part of my childhood,” she said. “Nothing serious or intensely competitive, mind you, just unstructured, informal, fun types of sports.”

It also meant playing baseball with rubber slippers for bases, skateboarding, volleyball, mountain biking and horseback riding.

When she was 11 years old the family got a tiny little 8-inch color television, and Velasquez developed a love for watching ice skating.

Velasquez was home-schooled from first through 11th grade and graduated a year early.

“My lack of traditional education meant that I did not participate in the standard sports,” she said. “Instead, I started hula classes, continued trail riding and formed my own roller hockey team called the Acres Bladers.”

These days, Velasquez is an office manager for a real estate appraisal company in Kona.

“It is quite a change from my past, which included eight years on an organic farm and another six years in the construction and landscaping industry.

Working normal business hours, Velasquez finds it easy to do structured workouts.

Monday through Friday she does farm work from 6 to 8 a.m., “before my real job begins,” she explains with a wide grin. Mondays and Wednesdays are dedicated to paddling practice; Tuesday evening its hula practice; Thursday evening a run “if I’m not working in the Master Gardener demonstration garden or taking care of landscaping events;” Saturdays are canoe racing or distance training, plus usually landscaping work; and Sunday’s “I ride my horse if at all possible.”

And, of course, it all starts off with the right fuel to get this busy professional started and to keep her going throughout the day.

“My diet is not terribly strict, but I am conscious of what I eat, since I’m not always a meat eater. I consciously try to get enough protein through multiple sources,” she said. “I really like fresh salads with a variety of toppings.”

Velasquez would prefer organic or at least natural foods. She also does indulge in the normal vices but believes in everything in moderation.

“I might have coffee a couple of days a week, have an alcoholic drink on the weekend, generally opt for water instead of soda and indulge in my sweet tooth here and there, and I don’t smoke,” she said.

If she approaches a competitive event the rules change and she gets stricter with her intake.

“If I have a competition approaching I am extra careful to get my nutrition and fluids,” she said. “If I train too hard and don’t eat properly, my body is quick to let me know.”

And Velasquez reflects on having a younger brother to help push her through those difficult times.

“My running career started off rather haphazardly due to medical reasons and the desire to do what my friends did. My brother helped me a lot as I was never unusually talented; but I held my own in local races,” she said. “I think it helps a lot to have a sibling to train with.”

Ke‘o and his sister tried to motivate each other and from that they would enter every 5K race that came along.

As the brother and sister matured, so did their goals, and both entered their first marathon in 1988. It became the springboard for a great sibling relationship and a love for running.

Dawn Velasquez did the Volcano Wilderness Run’s 10-miler 10 years in a row before the national park closed it down.

Velasquez accomplished another goal by paddling through the Molokai Channel.

She is a determined person who sets her sites on something then goes out and achieves it. What’s up next for this young woman?

“I want to haul a backpack all around the summit of Haleakala, now that I have been to every main peak around the Big Island,” she said. “I would also like to go back to taking yoga class once a week. It feels so beneficial after a tense day.”

And, yes, Ironman may be in her future.

Who knows, nothing can stop this determined woman!

And someday should you happen to pass a retired public school teacher jogging around Hilo, remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com

 

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