Over the past number of years we have undertaken a number of adventures as a way of raising money for our chosen charities and also to fulfil some lifelong ambitions. Despite the extreme nature of the events we participate in all the money raised from each event goes directly to the charities and all the costs of the events are covered by True fitness and on some occasions by sponsors.
In 2009 Diane and I had been looking for a challenge and the one thing that caught our attention was the river Shannon. Little did we know at the time where this journey would lead us, but in June 2009 we set out from Lough Key Co Roscommon in a double sea kayak heading south hoping to cover 70k per day. We had given ourselves three days to reach Kilaloe Co Clare. The conditions were good as we headed out but as usual the winds picked up as the day progressed. After a long day of paddling we reached Lough Ree only to be greeted with rough conditions and a tough crossing to our designated campsite. Safely on shore we patted ourselves on the back on a successful first day. Day 2 opened up with strong winds and rough conditions and finishing our Lough Ree crossing was a battle; we finally reached Athlone where a well-earned rest due. Into a headwind we continued our journey passing Shannon Bridge and finally stopping at Banagher Co Offaly for our second night. The next morning the conditions had improved and going was easier; reaching Portumna Co Galway we took as well earned rest. Our last leg brought us across a very calm Lough Derg and after a further 8 hours paddling we finally reached Killaloe our final destination. Our chosen charity was Gavin Alaman and we raised €1000 from this adventure.
After 10 years kayaking on the rivers of Ireland and only a few months sea kayaking, Diane and I decided to take on the holy grail of Irish sea kayaking and that is to kayak around Ireland. The planning and training started one year out and no stone was left unturned with regards to preparation and planning. With family and friends to wave us off we set out from the Old Head of Kinsale 20th June 2014. Our first week was hard to believe, the sun came out, the temperatures were in the 30’s and the seas were calm. For most of the time we had to pinch ourselves as we could not believe what we were witnessing. Despite numerous committing sections and huge open water crossings we made good progress as we headed North. By the time we reached Slyne Head we had put in some very tough days of up to 17 hours paddling and strong tides. The weather finally broke and we were storm bound for five days with the prospect of losing another seven due to incoming storms. We made the tough decision of travelling to the east coast as we were in danger of not being able to finish due to time restraints. The weather was better on the east coast and it allowed us to travel south for seven days before the weather improved enough to allow us back to the west coast. We started back at Slyne Head and headed all the way around to Cushendun Co Antrim which was the start point of our East coast section of the journey. Despite the temperatures staying warm the winds were relentless and it made for very difficult conditions and constant battles in tough conditions. On a number of occasions we were driven backwards and we had to retreat for the day and allow the conditions to improve. Turning at Carensore Point seemed like a major mile stone as once again we were heading West; despite this the conditions remained tough and we had to fight hard for every kilometre gained. As we came around Knockadoon Head the seas were growing by the minute and the winds were rising and once again we had to retreat to shore. Knowing we were only a day from the finish it was tough to have to sit out another storm. The next morning the conditions were still difficult but we pressed on and as we rounded Ballycotton the winds dropped and the sea calmed and it made for a pleasant journey to the finish. As the Old Head came into view a great sense of achievement came over us and to see our family and friends cheering and waving was a sight we will never forget. Throughout the trip we had kayaked an average of 14 to 17 hours per day covering 1600k in 41 days. During this time, we had to be completely self-sufficient carrying all the food and equipment we needed. At the end of the journey we were very proud to say we had raised €10,000 for Laois Hospice and all the tremendous effort and hard work had been worthwhile.
In preparation for the cycle around Ireland and with a cycle across America coming up in the not too distant future; I decided to take on the cycle from Mizen to Malin in 24 hours. Unfortunately due to work commitments Diane would not be able to do this journey with me. We both knew that there would be a huge demand from the training required and she would not be able to commit to this. So after working my training up to a massive 450k in 18 hours, I was ready to take on this historic journey. Setting off from Mizen Head at 5pm I headed north in bright sunshine with my support team in tow and of course Dr Diane Cooper who was looking after my wellbeing and ensuring I was hydrated and glucose readings were in the appropriate zones. As night closed in the cycling became much tougher but luckily enough I stayed out of the many pothole. As dawn broke my spirits lifted and at twelve hours I had reached the half way point. The weather started to change as we headed north and the wind and rain became a major issue. The miles tick by and I still felt good but I started to loose time with the constant traffic jams in all the cities and large towns we met. As the 24 hour mark passed I was still three hours from the finish, despite the disappointment of missing this window, I just kept pushing on determined to finish this journey. By the time I reached the Inishowen Peninsula the winds were howling and the rain was relentless; the temperatures had dropped and despite working hard I was struggling to stay warm. Finally Malin Head came into view and after 27 hours I reached the most Northely point in Ireland.
Following our epic kayaking journey around Ireland in 2014; in July 2015 Diane and I began our second journey around Ireland, but this time it would be on bikes; on this occasion the chosen charity was Helping Shirley and a total of €3300 was raised. As with the previous events all the preparation work was done months in advance, from planning the route, food, accommodation and of course the training. We wanted to do the trip in seven days and so this meant cycling up to 15 hours and covering 300k per day which would be a mammoth task, but one we were not afraid to face. With everything in place we set off from Portarlington at 6am on the 25th of July with the aim of heading over the Wicklow Gap and down the east coast down to Cork. Day 2 brought us through the relentless hills of Cork, over the Healy Pass, down through Kenmare and finally to Sneem Co Kerry. Day 3 started at 5am as usual and today we headed to Waterville, Killorglin crossing the Shannon at Tarbert through Kilrush and up to Lahinch. Day 4 brought us through the beautiful county of Galway through Clifden, into Westport and on to Ballina. After another tough day it was good to put our heads down and prepare for the next day. The weather thus far had being a mixture of very strong winds, driving rain and the occasional ray of sunshine; day 5 was to be no different. On day 5 we passed through Sligo into Letterkenny and into Donegal finishing at Malin head. It was a mixture of close calls, bad roads and broken chains, it ended in a beautiful house in one of the most picturesque place in Ireland. Day 6 saw us cross Lough Foyle into Northern Ireland and was one of the best days on our journey. The sun came out, the roads were smooth and the miles just seem to slip past. Travelling down the Antrim coast was a very pleasant experience indeed, down to Belfast and on to Downpatrick where we spent another pleasant night. The final day brought us south towards Carlingford Lough and on to Dundalk, Drogheda towards Dublin and finally through Naas and on back to our start point in Portarlington. In a period of 7 days we had covered 2100k none of which would have been possible without our good friend Gillian Coughlan who was the designated support team, driver, navigator and one hell of a cook. We will be forever grateful to her.
In January 2016 we met with all the participants from all our True Transformation programme participants and we challenged them to Climb Carrantuohill as a way of setting a goal and stepping outside their comfort zone. 25 people signed up to the challenge and in January we did our first trek in the Slieve Bloom mountains, in February we climbed Mullacleevaun in Wicklow, in March Lugnaquilla and in May 2016 we successfully brought the group of 25 to the top of Carrantuohill. The charity we chose for this event was the Laois Hospice and as a group we managed to raise almost €3000. Thanks to everyone who participated in this adventure and for having the courage to challenge yourself.