‘Never say never’
PV interim principal finishes Ironman triathlon
February 10, 2020
In the Puccio household, they believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
John Puccio finished his first full Ironman Triathlon in 13 hours and 59 minutes on Sept. 28 in Cambridge, Maryland. Leading up to this accomplishment, he credits his family in playing a major role for his success.
“We always talk about not regretting things in life at home,” said Puccio, who recently became Pascack Valley’s interim principal. “My kids turned to me and said ‘You have to do this’ and ‘You are going to regret not doing it.’”
Puccio’s motto held true when he decided to become an administrator after originally beginning his career as an athletic trainer and physical education teacher at Leonia and Old Tappan. While teaching, he completed his graduate work in order to become a supervising principal.
“I’ve always worked in the office and volunteered time to help out to make sure I was ready for the next step,” Puccio said. “When it came time, I left where I was teaching and then I went for a [vice principal] position.”
Puccio has been PV’s assistant principal for the past 12 years, and following the retirement of former Principal Tom DeMaio, he filled in as the interim principal. He is applying to be the permanent principal following the 2019-2020 school year, but has the option to return as assistant principal if not given the position.
“[I want] to just give back and help out the kids and educational needs,” Puccio said. “I enjoy this community. I live in River Vale and it’s a great community. Anything I can do to help out is important.”
Puccio has been a member of the River Vale Board of Education and the joint planning board. He is also the president of the River Vale Educational Fund, which helps run before and after care programs and has donated over $1.4 million to the River Vale school district in the last nine years.
“As parents, we need to be role models — I hope I’m a role model for my kids,” Puccio said.
PV sophomore and Puccio’s daughter Mia said that during her track career, there were times when she felt as if it was not worth it to continue trying, but he served as motivation.
“He really pushed me to not give up,” Mia said. “I kept myself motivated because I want it as badly as he wants it. Not a lot of people would wake up at 5 a.m. and go run and do workouts before work.”
Puccio served as an inspiration to Mia when he chose to participate in the Ironman Triathlon to challenge himself. Previously, he ran three half Ironman Triathlons and a marathon. He completed a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 6-mile marathon.
“My primary goal was to finish,” Puccio said. “Never say never. I never thought I would start doing this and it was an amazing experience.”
A group of more than 300 athletes had 16 hours to complete the three components, the best time being in the nine-hour mark.
“Everyone comes out with a different story of why they are doing it,” Puccio said. “Some of these athletes out there are just phenomenal. You really meet good people.”
In preparation for the full triathlon, Puccio followed a workout plan, which he called “Zone 2,” to ensure that he would have a sufficient amount of energy to finish the race. Puccio’s workout plan was based on cardiovascular exercise, which focused on his heart rate.
“The more liquids your diet is, the easier it is to absorb and provide energy faster,” Puccio said. “Whatever you plan to do the day of the event, you should be mimicking during workouts. [It was a] nice plan and it worked well for me.”
Puccio completed eight workouts every six days: Mondays he rested, Tuesdays and Thursdays he biked in the morning and swam in the afternoon, Wednesdays he biked, and Fridays he ran, and Saturdays and Sundays he completed long bike rides and runs. From late spring up until the triathlon, he would also go for runs on the weekends, before school, and after school. However, he changed his workouts depending on his work schedule for the week or if any plans interfered.
“My longest bike ride was 6 hours,” Puccio said. “My longest run on a Sunday was basically a 21-mile run.”
Leading up to the event, Puccio’s mind started to “play games” and he had to try and stay positive. As he neared the end of the second portion, he said he was fortunate to be accompanied by his wife and kids.
Puccio’s family carried a tracker of his whereabouts during the run using his bib number.
“Watching other people run the whole time and seeing them struggle and then not seeing where my dad was — it was really nerve-racking,” Mia said, “but I was really proud that he finished. He was definitely very motivated and he was very inspiring to watch. It’s something we can talk about and we have in common.”