MicroProfile: Domenico Ponziano – Ultrarunning Teacher and SuperDad
Domenico is relatively new to running, and only started hitting the trails in 2016. Stressed out at his previous job, Domenico was out of shape and drinking more than he wanted.
So, his wife gifted him a pair of running shoes and encouraged him to try something new.
In 2017, he dabbled in road half-marathons before jumping into his first trail race that temporarily sidelined him with an injury. While resting his injury, one of Domenico’s friends showed him a video featuring trail running’s favorite long-haired philosopher, Anton Krupicka.
“It was an epiphany,” says Domenico. “His philosophical approach, his true passion for running and mountains was so inspiring.”
That week, he signed up for his first ultra-marathon. And that really ignited Domenico’s passion.
During the week, Domenico teaches Italian language and culture in a public middle and high school in Glendale, CA. Domenico is an early morning runner who logs his miles before heading into the classroom. Getting out the door a little earlier lets him be back in time to have breakfast with his family and spend the afternoons with his nine-year-old daughter, Viola. Domenico says communicating with his family and making compromises are the keys to his consistent training.
“My wife and my daughter know how important these runs are for me. They are beneficial not only for my training routine but also because they are a big part of my social life. I am part of an incredible running community with many friends and the weekends are when we get together and share miles and miles in the mountains,” says Domenico. “Of course I always have to compromise with my husband and dad duties and again an early start gives me the opportunity to be back with my family sooner than later.”
Domenico loves longer races in the mountains near his California home. Last year, Domenico toed the line at the Angeles Crest 100. After a hard-fought battle with heat and GI issues, Domenico was forced to DNF at mile 70.
“I was devastated because I couldn’t finish, the days after the race I was quite depressed but then I decided to honestly analyze my race with no filters,” says Domenico. “ I realized that of course I made some mistakes during my training, during the race but I did my best, I gave absolutely the best of myself. In life, in sport when you do the best of yourself you should be proud and work in order to improve, to raise up that “best of yourself” level.”
Need For Speed
That DNF brought Domenico to Microcosm, where he’s been working on developing speed and economy geared towards longer races.
“Economy is key, this is why I value my recovery and easy runs so much. The importance of running easy 80% of the time is priceless for the longevity of your running career/experience. It avoids injuries and burnouts. You just need a little speed in your training schedule and you will become a faster and better runner,” says Domenico.
In the past year, Domenico has shifted his perspective to include more self-care and stretching, and he never misses an opportunity to do a little core strength. As a plant-based athlete, Domenico knows you can’t skimp on carbs. His favorite Italian dish is risotto with porcini mushrooms, accompanied by a glass of Edi Kante Sauvignon Blanc. “In my opinion, the best vineyard in Trieste, the city where I grew up in Italy,” says Domenico.
Domenico recommends that athletes who are considering a 100-mile race get ready to put in lots of hard work.
“The training to be ready for a 100 miler requires a lot of dedication, you will have great days and quite a few bad days in the mountains. Doing your long runs with some friends can definitely motivate you more and help you get through some rough patches during the process,” says Domenico.
He says the mental preparation for a 100 is as important as the physical training. When he goes into a longer ultra, Domenico spends a lot of time planning his gear, hydration, fuel and sleep strategy. Often, he’ll have a plan B and C in place when the going gets inevitably rough during an ultra.
He recommends working with a coach on a plan and sticking to it.
Domenico’s strategy and flexibility help him as a parent and teacher. During the pandemic, he’s pulling double duty as a teacher for his students while making sure his own kiddo learns too. His advice to parents with kids at home during the pandemic is to empower their kids to take control of their learning.
“We created a sort of routine with clear expectations, practices, procedures and goals and we gave her the necessary knowledge to independently meet the expectations, embrace the practices and procedures and achieve her academic goals,” says Domenico.
When he’s not teaching or being a SuperDad, Domenico can be found exploring in the mountains on long, self-supported adventures. He says the key to a good adventure is preparation.
“Ask yourself some simple questions. How long is it going to take me? How much water do I need? How much food should I carry? Is there any accessible source of water along the route? How is it going to be the weather? Should I bring an extra layer? I think at the beginning it is better to overthink and overpack. When I was doing my first long runs I was bringing with me so much food. Way too much!! I could feed three hungry runners,” says Domenico.
We look forward to following Domenico on many more adventures!