|Competing at 10,000 Feet: A Q&A with Pete LoBianco '00
In August 2013, Pete LoBianco ’00 competed in the Leadville 100, an extraordinarily difficult 100-mile mountain bike race that takes place entirely above 10,000 feet in elevation. “I would say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says LoBianco, who placed in the top third of the field. “One climb is 10 miles long with more than 3,000 feet of vertical gain—it goes above 12,000 feet and feels as if there’s no oxygen. I’ve done other 100-mile mountain bike races and I’ve done a half-Ironman, so to do that type of climbing isn’t that bad—it’s the elevation that makes it really hard.”
LoBianco has always been a competitive athlete. The business administration major wrestled and ran track and cross country at LVC. “I actually did all three sports all four years—when I graduated I had 12 varsity letters,” he says.
After graduation, he worked in his dad’s trucking business, but eventually found himself at a crossroads. “My dad sold the company and I had to decide whether I was going to find a job with the degree I had or do something else,” he says. “I decided to get into teaching because I wanted to coach.” While pursuing his teaching certificate and a master’s degree in educational leadership at Shippensburg University, LoBianco, who had used all of his NCAA eligibility while earning those 12 varsity letters at LVC, also ran track and cross country as an unattached athlete and competed on the cycling team. He ultimately took a job teaching kindergarten in the Northeastern School District in York County, where he also serves as assistant coach of the high school boys’ cross country team and looks forward to volunteering this spring as a coaching assistant for the school’s track team.
Meanwhile, he “just kept competing,” LoBianco says. “I ran two marathons, qualified for the Boston Marathon, ran the Boston Marathon, and just kept doing things with running. Then I injured myself, so I picked up the bike to keep the competition going while I healed. I thought, ‘Well, if I’m riding this bike I might as well race it,’” which is when he joined Shippensburg’s cycling team. From there, it was just a matter of time before he qualified for the Leadville race.
How did you acquire your competitive spirit?
I started wrestling competitively in sixth grade. In ninth grade, I went out for cross country to get in shape for wrestling, and it just went from there, it was a natural progression. I kept doing things and getting better, and as I was getting better, I kept pushing myself to do more.
What motivates you?
I never quit because it would hurt more to quit. You can kind of take the pain and just block everything out. It’s hard to explain—you just keep going because to stop would be worse.
What activities, people, or courses at LVC helped you prepare for success?
Coach [Joel] Hoffsmith was an assistant running coach when I was a student. He pushed all of us to get out and do our Sunday long runs and make goals, and if we made a goal he encouraged us to try to stick to it and not get sidetracked. Coach Hoffsmith was the one who took us from just participating to being competitive.
In wrestling, Larry Larthey ’72 was the coach my freshman year. He was instrumental in getting me to go out for the team. He was very supportive and helped me stay with it in the beginning.
How do you prepare physically and mentally for competition?
I don’t really do anything special—it’s just a part of who I am. I don’t have any routine or any superstitions. I just train every day.
What is your favorite book about competition?
I just read “Running with the Buffaloes,” by Chris Lear, but it wasn’t because I was motivated by those people. It was just an interesting book to read.
Who is your favorite competitive role model?
It was Lance Armstrong when I was younger and before recent events became public. I find that once you get to a certain level, most people are motivated intrinsically. Somebody might help you get there, but after that, you’re just doing it for yourself.
Do you have a guiding philosophy about competition?
No regrets—just give it your all. As long as you give it everything, there’s nothing to regret. I may not win or be who I want to be that day, but I don’t want to be done and think I should have gone harder. So I try to make sure I do the best I can on that given day.
What makes LVC competitive?
Lebanon Valley was the place I needed to be at that time in my life. It felt like home—everyone was supportive, I was involved in sports, I had a group of friends, and my professors challenged me. The whole package brought me along to the next stage of my life in the four years that I was there; especially during my freshman and sophomore years. I was competing in three sports and taking a full course load. I was forced to get my act together and budget my time to get my assignments done.
What advice would you give to current LVC students?
Have high personal expectations and don’t be afraid of those expectations. A lot of times you can set goals and then say, “I’ll never be able to do that.” Don’t be afraid of what you say you want to be. You may not regret it now, but 10, 20, 30 years from now, you’re going to regret it.