Friday, October 28, 2016

Pete Lamonica, Inspirational Runner

I first met Pete at the Seattle Green Lake Running Group, Tuesday evening run several months ago. I knew he was still new to running but I had no idea how new or how much he has changed his life. I heard him say in passing that he'd recently lost a bit of weight. I didn't think too much of it but then I noticed that Pete was getting faster and faster during his runs. I'm not talking just few seconds here and there, Pete has dropped minutes off his average pace! He has completely transformed over this year. I have really enjoyed watching him fall in love with running and be naturally awesome at it! Finally one day I decided I needed to know his story. 
When did you realize that you needed to make a change in your life?
I had just finished running a 1km leg of a 5km relay. I'd never run a race before, but when a friend invited me to participate in the Fremont Briefcase Relay, I thought that would be fun. I figured that even though I'd never run more than a mile in my life and it'd probably been 10 years since I'd run more than a couple hundred feet, I could certainly run for one kilometer. After all, it was barely more than half a mile.
So when the race started I sprinted along for 100 yards or so, then started to slow, then jogged to the side of the road, and finally walked shamefully most of the rest of the leg. After the hand-off, I sat down on the ground and spent 10 minutes catching my breath. I was exhausted, nauseous, and embarrassed. At 30 years old, I should have been in my physical prime. But here I was, barely able to stand after just a few minutes of exercise.

How much weight did you lose so far and how long did it take you? 
When I graduated high school, I was the same height I am now and weighed about 175lbs. Then I went to college and put on over 100lbs. I'm not actually sure what I weighed at my heaviest. I know I was at least 285. I probably topped out at close to 300 around 2008 or 2009.
I've been up and down ever since. Giving up regular (non-diet) soda made a big difference. By the time I moved to Seattle 3 years ago, I was down to about 250lbs. My driver’s license from the time incredulously pronounces me as "245lbs."
My move to Seattle also brought another helping hand: A walking commute. Just getting out and walking a couple miles a day helped me drop a few more pounds. By the time I ran the Briefcase Relay I was down in the low 230s for the first time in years. That's why I was so sure I'd be able to run that kilometer. Part of what made for such a rude awakening that day came from the realization that even if you lose 70lbs, you can still be a fitness train wreck.
When I got into running, the weight dropped off like I'd never seen before. By New Year’s I was down to 200lbs. I finally settled around 180lbs this summer and I've been within about 5 pounds of that ever since. I took up weight lifting a couple months ago and have put on about 5lbs of (hopefully) muscle since then.
So, long story short, I've lost about 110lbs over around 7-8 years, with about 50lbs of that coming off since I started running last year.
What do you feel like your biggest success is?
It'd be easy to say that it was completing my first marathon just a year after the Briefcase Relay. But that's the obvious answer and I don't think it's the correct one. Instead, I feel like every day I get out there and run is my biggest success
I went water skiing once about a decade ago (yes, I know this is a running blog, but bear with me here). I remember working very hard to get upright. The boat would start to move and I would either drop the rope or flip right over. After several tries, I finally got up on my feet. From that point on, every second was a battle. I knew I could let go at any time and I'd tumble blissfully into the water. But I didn't. I stuck with it until my arms gave out on their own. Every second of that experience was an exhilarating success. It was a success because I didn't give up. I pushed myself to the limit when letting go would have been easy and painless.
That's what running has been like.
Just getting started is one of the hardest parts. The easy thing to do is say home. If I skip a run, no one cares. If I skip a week, friends will tell me that a little rest will do me good. Even once I'm going, I can drop that rope any time and no one will think less of me for it. I don't need to train for speed. Most of my non-running friends don't know how many miles are in a marathon, much less what qualifies as a "good" completion time. I could walk the whole way and people would still congratulate me. My friends and family will love and support me no matter what I chose to do.
So when I got up this morning and set out for a 32km run to celebrate my 32nd birthday, it was my biggest success. But my next run will be, too. And the run after that. They'll each earn that title because I'll be sticking with it. I'll keep at it until I find my limits. I haven't reached them yet and I plan to hold on tight until I do. What then? I'm not sure.

What made you decide on running? 
Did I mention how incredibly boring the elliptical is? It was summer at the time and summer in Seattle is unbelievably gorgeous. Its 60-70 degrees for months on end. The sun is out for as much as 16 hours a day. We have rivers, hills, bridges, lakes, parks, and trees everywhere. One day, I decided I'd go for a nice, long walk. I wound up on the Aurora Bridge, which offers stunningly beautiful views of Lake Union and the ship canal. I was inspired to jog partway across. I realized that if I went nice and slow, I didn't get winded. Maybe my time on the elliptical was paying off, but more likely I'd just found my pace.
My pace was so slow it was silly. I almost felt I could have gone faster walking. But I could keep it up. I realized that I didn't need to worry about being fast. I just needed to find a pace I could sustain and stick with it. I could run surprisingly far that way (2-3 miles straight within just a couple weeks). And there's so much to see and appreciate out there in Seattle. Running gave me a new way to experience my city. My only regret is not having found it sooner.

How have you improved as a runner?
I've improved my running by getting out there at least once every couple of days. On a typical week I'm doing 2-3 easy runs of 3-6 miles each, a tempo run of 5-8 miles, and a long run of 10-14 miles. I'm also going to the gym and doing some weight training twice a week to help improve my strength and speed.
But my running has also improved me. I've met tons of new people through Seattle Green Lake Running Group. I've heard so many inspirational stories: People overcoming serious injuries, a soldier who ran her first marathon in Afghanistan, and even a few folks like me that found running recently and haven't yet discovered their limits. Everyone has a story of how they came to running and the obstacles they've overcome and every story is an inspiration to me.

Do you feel like this has improved other areas of your life? If so, how? 
Certainly my weight loss and fitness gains have improved various aspects of my life. I have more energy. My occasional lower back pain has all but disappeared. I even fit in airplane seats a lot better.

Running has also taught me a lot about friendship and teamwork. I've learned that no matter how hard you work, you can get injured or sick. You don't always have your best performance. Sometimes that can be very hard to get through. Having a community of runners there to support you is such a great way to help get back into the game. I've certainly come to understand that providing that support is important to being part of such an excellent group of runners.

Is your long hair and beard PNW inspired?
I've had the beard since before moving to Seattle. The long hair is a recent addition. My last job before moving out west was at a pretty conservative, mid-western investment firm where I wore a suit and tie to work every day. Some of my old coworkers might suggest there was a long-haired west-coast hippie bottled up inside me the whole time. Maybe they're right.

I heard that you had a birthday run, can you explain what that is? 
It's something I've heard others do before: X miles for your X birthday. For me, 32 miles would be a bit much. So I made the switch to the metric system and did 32km (20 miles) instead. I broadcast my run on Facebook beforehand and was lucky enough to have several friends join me for part of the run; one friend even ran the entire 20 miles with me! I wasn't worried about speed. I even took a 10 minute break halfway through to chat with a friend who took a break from work to cheer us on. It was a great chance to just get out there and had a good time hanging out with friends and doing something a bit unusual to celebrate my birthday.

What are your favorite running brands so far?
I definitely have a lot of respect for Brooks. I've bought a couple pairs of their shoes, but I also love how involved they are in the local running community. They're always sponsoring local races (including the relay that got me started running in the first place). They also support the Wednesday evening SGLRG run, which I attend whenever I can sneak out of work early enough. It's great to see a local company giving back in that way. 

What is your favorite recovery food and drink?
After a long run or race, I'm a sucker for some biscuits and gravy. Absent that, a hearty brunch of some sort is usually in order. When I'm out on my long runs, I usually start thinking about food 5-6 miles in. Being one of those people who runs in part so he can still eat good stuff, thoughts of bacon and sausage can be a nice "carrot" to entice me to finish a run.

What are your next goals?
My biggest goal is to one day qualify for Boston. It's a long way off and might never happen, but I'm working towards it all the time. In that spirit, my next big goal is to run a half marathon at or near my BQ pace. Until then, my goals are the same as always: Get out there, support my friends, and run like crazy.


I hope that you have enjoyed reading Pete's story as much as I did. I find Pete completely inspirational and look forward to continuing to watch his fitness journey. During my own journey people like Pete will help get me to my goals whether they know it or not. Seeing great things like what Pete has done are huge motivators for me. Congratulations Pete on your accomplishments before you know it you'll be Boston Bound! ! 

Keep on Running!