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Paul Buccieri is no ordinary weekend warrior.
The president of A+E Networks and A+E Studios, 50, will participate in his first Ironman World Championship this Saturday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It’s the premier triathlon event, one that sees more than 2,400 athletes take on the daunting 140.6-mile course — comprised of a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike race topped by, oh, just a 26.2-mile marathon.
Buccieri, a longtime TV viewer of the race, did his first Ironman in Louisville, Ky., last October, where he finished 109th out of more than 250 participants in the males 50–54 age division, completing the entire course in 12 hours, 47 minutes and 50 seconds.
“I felt great coming out of the swim and was 1.5 hours into the cycling leg when the chain fell off my bike and I crashed,” Buccieri tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding that he later crashed again, with his bike chain ultimately falling off four times. “After all the months of training, it’s so disheartening when something like this happens on race day. Thankfully, I wasn’t seriously hurt. I was forced to think on the fly about how to solve the problem and overcome the challenge.”
Those troubleshooting and quick-thinking skills also benefit Buccieri’s day job, where he oversees all aspects of A+E Studios (History’s Six and Roots, Lifetime’s UnREAL) as well as all business aspects of the company’s portfolio of networks: A&E, History, Lifetime, FYI and LMN. “My training and racing has taught me discipline and focus and has reinforced that I can overcome obstacles, be they mental or physical,” he says. “I often come back from a run, swim or bike ride with a different approach to a problem I’ve been trying to solve. A five-hour bike ride gives you a lot of time to reflect.”
But where did he find the time to train? Anywhere he could. For the past four months, the Connecticut-based executive, who works in New York, could be found swimming in the Long Island Sound at 4 a.m. or 10:30 p.m. When on the road, he tried to book hotels near oceans (or with pools) and scouted running routes in the vicinity ahead of time. But “the key to balancing my work and training schedule is flexibility,” says Buccieri, who schedules his long training days on the weekends. “If I miss a training day for some reason, I try not to get too stressed out about it. Ultimately, my family is my priority, and I always make sure to carve out time to spend with them.”
The married father of two has been training with Sugarland guitarist and certified trainer Thad Beaty, who runs Music That Moves, a Nashville-based nonprofit that trains artists to take on athletic challenges for social causes. Beaty and business partner Nicole Serraiocco started Buccieri off with a 12-week strength program, then a daily focus on one of the three disciplines (with one rest day a week), ramped up to two disciplines a day as the world championship approaches.
Buccieri is running the Ironman World Championship to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. The executive, whose parents both passed away from cancer, has so far raised $6,800 from family and friends via his CrowdRise page.
“There are athletes racing in Kailua-Kona who face incredible obstacles in their lives, from physical challenges to personal tragedies,” Buccieri says. “Somehow they find it within themselves to train and compete in what is arguably one of the most physically and mentally challenging sports. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to race in Kona and expect it will be a day I remember for the rest of my life.”
Oct. 10, 5:51 p.m. A previous version of the story mistakenly stated that Ironman Louisville was a qualifying event for Buccieri. He was given a media slot to participate in the Ironman World Championship.
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