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Challenge Accepted: At Hughes Marino, Exceeding Limits is Part of the DNA

Cultivating a High-Performing Team Mindset

Even coming face-to-face with a moose on a wooded trail while out on a winter run in Park City didn’t deter Owen Rice, executive vice president at Hughes Marino, from planning even more challenging and remote adventures.

He’ll soon head to north central Washington to traverse 30 miles, summit two peaks within a 24-hour span and ride 50 miles with a friend to Mt. Timpanogos, for a 12,000-foot climb followed by another 50-mile bike ride home.

Rice is an experienced mountain climber and an ultra-endurance trail runner. He typically places among the top 10 for races like the recent Sawtooth Ridge 50 miler in Washington, where he ran up 16,000 feet of elevation gain in over 90-degree heat.

“It was insanely remote,” notes Rice, who is based in the company’s Seattle office. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I don’t listen to music when I run,” he says. “I get out in the mountains—I love being on a trail in the Cascades totally off the grid. That’s where I de-stress.”

challenge accepted owen rice
Executive vice president, Owen Rice, pushing himself to the extremes while competing in the Sawtooth Ridge 50 miler in North Cascades in Washington State.

For Rice, ultra runs on difficult mountain trails has nothing to do with collecting “likes” on social media or tracking his stats, and everything to do with pushing himself beyond his limits. It is about building his physical and mental resilience so he’s able to withstand any challenge.

It’s a mindset he shares with numerous team members at Hughes Marino, who say that pushing their physical limits makes them a more focused and driven team. In fact, there are so many Hughes Marino super athletes, it has become an intrinsic part of the company’s DNA.

They include among their ranks several world-class skiers; a former pro golfer and football player; several former collegiate baseball, football, basketball and tennis players and an all-American swimmer; ultra marathoners; triathletes and Ironman competitors; and a race car driver.

The Mental Toughness Mindset

“There’s definitely an association,” says Shay Hughes, president and COO of Hughes Marino. “Our team is high performing. They really thrive on extreme challenges and mental toughness.”

“Whenever you’re doing hard things, part of your brain wants to quit,” says Rice. “It’s easy to say ‘I’m done.’ Once you’ve completed it, the feeling of accomplishment transcends to the following weeks, months and years. Anytime you are faced with challenges, you can draw on these experiences, and say ‘I did that 50 miler or 100 miler, I can certainly do this.’”

Working alongside Rice in Hughes Marino’s Seattle office, senior vice president Derek Pedersen shares a similar desire to push himself to new physical feats. He is drawn to ultra competitive challenges—activities that, as he describes, “few people can or will do” and trains seven days a week, as much as 20 hours a week.

As with Rice, Pedersen says that his ability to endure challenges—which have included a 100-mile run over 25 non-stop hours, three 50K races with two top-five finishes and a full Ironman (140.6 miles) where he placed 274th out of 1,171—has given him incredible focus and a winning mindset. “An easy life fashions a mind that can only handle ease,” Pedersen says. “A challenging life builds a mind that can handle challenge. Sometimes you have to force the suffering to create a hardened mind.”

Inspiration Creates Motivation

Anna Quattlebaum, vice president of Hughes Marino in the Denver office, is a lifetime athlete and soccer player. In addition to competing in three different co-ed soccer leagues, she’s ran a marathon, a 10K, two Spartan obstacle races and is training for a half marathon in Moab, Utah, this fall with friends and coworkers. “Staying active and feeling physically strong is really important to me,” Quattlebaum says. She says the Hughes Marino team’s commitment to health and fitness contributes to a culture driven toward personal and professional success.

“It’s inspiring to be around a group of people who genuinely want to continue to be even just 1% better in every aspect of their lives,” she says. “I think having my own fitness goals, whether that’s through soccer, summiting a new tough hike or completing a race or obstacle competition, always feeds into my desire to be better in my professional role. Being surrounded by people who want to achieve only motivates me more.”

challenge accepted anna quattlebaum spartan race
Hughes Marino vice president, Anna Quattlebaum, leaps over a fire obstacle at a Spartan race.

All that collective energy among offices, teams and cities at Hughes Marino is a constant motivator, agrees Greg Paugh, a senior advisor in Hughes Marino’s Denver office. “It’s something you can’t fake,” he says. “It’s ingrained in our company culture, and you can see that all the way down to our core values.”

Those ten core values are: always do the right thing, deliver excellence in everything we do, enjoy the journey, embrace the family spirit, build lasting relationships built on trust, nurture your personal and professional life, pursue growth and learning, generously give to others, proactively communicate and be authentic, grateful and humble. “I’ve never been a part of such a collaborative and encouraging group of people and that energy is contagious,” he says.

Support Comes From Everywhere

In June, Paugh completed the Lead Challenge—a daunting multi-day endurance race performed at 10,000-foot elevation in the Rocky Mountains that covers 282.4 miles and includes a trail marathon, a 50-mile run, a 100-mile mountain bike race, a 10K trail run and a 100-mile trail run. Less than half the participants even finish the race.

Paugh said the intense training and racing logistics— including planning for travel, food and aid stations—made him truly appreciate the importance of a supportive team. “My wife, Schuyler, took on a lot to be crew captain,” he said. “There’s no way I would have been able to do this without her help and support at every step along the way.”

Paugh has a long bucket list of other strenuous races he’d like to tackle, including the Steamboat gravel bike race, Ironman triathlons, the Rut 50K in Montana and the Pikes Peak ascent and marathon combo. But he also takes the time to physically and emotionally shift gears and enjoy backpacking, bike riding and less strenuous hikes before ski season starts.

It’s not about the specific practice, says Rice, but about setting a challenge—maybe even one that seems unattainable—and making a dedicated effort. It could be climbing a mountain, or doing a cold plunge every morning, or reading 100 books.

“Even if you don’t succeed, the fact that you tried is an accomplishment in and of itself,” he says.

Enjoying the Journey

It’s a mindset shared by competitive runner Kevin Hogan, vice president in the Los Angeles office, who says his favorite Hughes Marino core value is “enjoy the journey.”

“Races are exhilarating and an incredible opportunity to test the limits of your physical and mental endurance, but my true love and obsession lies with the daily grind that gets you there,” says Hogan. “From the 4am alarm, to the pitch-black runs, to the empty gym in the morning, to all of the effort and focus around strength training, stretching, recovery, sleep and nutrition—I love it all. Eventually, when I do cross a finish line, I think back to all the workouts and sacrifices I made along the way when nobody was watching, and how the journey was more rewarding than the destination.”

A lifelong athlete, Hogan realized the true potential of his running ability during the pandemic, quickly escalating from eight miles, to half marathons, to marathons. He’s now raced two of the six major world marathons—NYC and Boston—and ran Boston at an impressively fast 2:43, placing 700th out of 30,000 runners. This race was even more memorable as Hogan competed alongside his brother, who placed 70th with a time of 2:27. Being able to share this experience is one he will never forget.

Vice president, Kevin Hogan, seen finishing the 2022 Boston Marathon with an incredible time of 2:43.

There is an ever-present need for improvement, breaking through to the next level and accomplishment. What you see with our team is that success builds momentum—they draft and push each other to great things.

Hogan plans to run the Chicago marathon in October. But with a new baby in the family, Hogan says he’s not sure exactly how he’ll juggle training and sleeping to get prepared. His ability to share these big life moments with his family and the larger Hughes Marino team has been an incredible experience.

“There are a lot of parallels between running and our professional careers,” Hogan says, “and I’m very fortunate to work for a company that recognizes that and celebrates it, and to work alongside colleagues who share the same passion and values.”

John Jarvis, executive vice president in the Hughes Marino San Diego office, recently lived out a lifelong surfing dream with his son—catching a wave that lasted 2km—or 1.2 miles— on a surfing trip in Puerto Malabrigo, Peru, on a famous surf break known as Chicama. Jarvis explains that Chicama is what’s known as a surf point left, which means that he and his son who both ride “goofy foot,” or standing with the left foot back, can face the wave as they ride.

It was the “trip of a lifetime” to experience the ultimate wave with his son, says Jarvis, who adds that surfing also connects him to the broader professional community and offers a way both to unwind and give back.

“The only way to make the kind of hard work we do sustainable is to balance it with an equally intense unplugged experience, which is what surfing does for me,” Jarvis says. “And in Southern California, there are a surprising number of professionals who surf.” He mentions the Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational benefiting Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, which brings together life science executives who surf.

challenge accepted john jarvis surf
Executive vice president, John Jarvis, goes big on an epic recent father-son surf trip in Peru.

While there are a number of athletes looking to test their physical limits at Hughes Marino, there are many others who are just starting their fitness journeys, training for their first 10K race, heading out for their longest bike ride or joining colleagues for a challenging evening mountain hike to see the sunset.

Across the company, colleagues are inspired by their teammates’ stories, and feel supported by a company that celebrates one another for taking steps outside their comfort zone. Regardless of the scale of the physical feat, they feel emboldened to take a risk, to learn something new about themselves and to turn to colleagues for motivation, knowing that it’s not the medal, but the journey and the relationships along the way that really matter.

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