I think the decision to aim for the Olympic qualifiers was never really made but was always with me since my early days in a boat. I can't explain it, it's just the way it is; to compete at my best at the highest level. So, around September 2008 I made a decision to do something about it; to concentrate all my efforts into slalom training for the next while with the only aim being "to be able to look back and say I did my best"

This blog is the story of my journey

Summer 2010 roadtrip

I will be competing in three World Cup Races, Czech Republic, Spain and Germany. After five weeks is the Pre Worlds in Slovakia, with the Slovak open the following week.

Depending on my results at the World Cups I also hope to qualify for the World Championships in Slovenia.

Having never competed at this level before, it's going to be a steep learning curve, but thats what I'm here for.

19 August 2010

Final Post

The pressure of never being at home has been the main reason for me deciding that I am no longer training for slalom. This has been a decision I have made on my own. There are other reasons, including costs, but another big one is never having an answer when I'm asked so many times "who will be compete in your place" when I'm not allowed to race.

It has been nearly two years of full time training and I have been improving all along. Now, after my first world cup circuit it feels like I am just starting. We think I could make it to the 2012 games but I don't want to just "get there" I want to have a real go at competing. With this in mind we think 2016 is the more realistic goal, but the effort is already out weighing an possible outcome. If I was to start again knowing what I know now, I would do things differently.
I will really miss competing at this level as I was in my element. The buzz of a big competition and the calmness at the start line was everything I expected it to be. I have never experienced anything like it before but hope to find it again, on the water, somewhere else.
I have learnt so much about paddling which could help in most other disciplines, so if anyone wants to contact me for some advice, please do.

I would like to thank everyone who helped along the way, there are too many to name for fear of forgetting someone.
I would like to be able to say something positive about the ICU, but .......................

As this has been such a big part of my life for so long, it is going to be hard to get back to normal. I'm putting up this final blog post and asking for everyone to read it as I find it very difficult to talk about and would prefer not to have to repeat the story over and over.

Some highlights of the trip

10 July 2010


Moved from 264 up to 118

05 July 2010


First run; A great start, as far as gate 8, then disaster. I caught an edge and struggled to roll in the surging water. When I did manage to right myself I was caught in a strange position between the eddy and the main flow. I had to back out of the corner and then missed the next three gates, and didn't get the rhythm going properly after that. Another missed gate later on and a slow time.

Second run; Again a great start, this seems to be turning into my standard race routine. I managed to get past gate 8 but spun out in the eddy, missing gate 9. The rest of the run was OK but slow.

Placed 55 out of 58 wasn't how I hoped to finish off the World Cup. A break now and decide on the next step.

01 July 2010


Opening ceremony

In the three races, and the training at each site, I've found everything tough going with some moves I've never tried and others I just haven't practiced. Everything has been easy so far when now compared to the course set for tomorrow's heats. The forerunners all had difficulty, missing many gates an hitting many others.

I'll be trying to get down with no major mistakes and then for the second run try to go a little faster.

http://123result.com/ for live results


This morning's session started off a bit rough but I soon got into the swing of things, driving the boat hard into gates when it was necessary, and keeping it flowing most of the time. Feeling positive about tomorrow, happy that I spent more time on the water over the last few days.

So that's it, nearly three weeks training finished. To say it's been a roller coaster would be an understatement. I've gone from getting trashed and feeling miserable to powering down a course and being delighted and then right back to the start again.

For a change I'm racing tomorrow afternoon at 2:04 and 4:13 Irish time.

30 June 2010

Second session of the day was far better than previous, hopefully I can keep it going that way for another few days


Paddled on the course in Augsburg for the first time yesterday. As usual I found the first session hard going, struggling to keep the boat moving and under control at the same time. I'm finding the water in these artificial courses very difficult to read, you come into an eddy so fast, its easy to miss the eddy but easier to come in above the gate.
I had another session last night which was better then another this morning which wasn't so good.

26 June 2010


I was thinking that getting all the gates was going to be difficult when watching the demo runs last night. Some technical moves on some very physical water.

Run 1; I lost speed a couple of times and spun out twice which left me very slow. Feeling disappointed at the finish I was cheeed up realising I made all of the gates and then confirming only 1 touch. 46th out of 49 I knew I could do better.

I walked the course after with Ettore and we found some places to make up some time.

Run 2; The top half of the course went better than I could have dreamed, pefect, then I rolled through the stopper I'd been having trouble with all week. I took a touch on gate 17 and apart from the roll I was delighted to be over 13 seconds faster. But the results showed my first run to be better. When I hit gate 17 it looked like I pushed the pole out of the way to go aound, so I got a 50 sec penalty. Back to 47th

I know I've learnt alot here and I'm a much better paddler now but it's hard to be positive at the minuite.

25 June 2010


Gear check; boats being measured (length and width) and weighed. Bouyancy aids put in water with a weight and a visual check on everything including helmets.

Short session this morning, over all much better than earlier in the week so feeling confident about tomorrow.

I'm no. 3, on at 7:32 and 10:47 Irish time (one hour ahead here). 50 paddlers this time and being 3rd to start (two non ranked paddlers) I will be more relaxed on at the start area.

Live timing and results http://www.123result.com

Other race info http://canoeslalomseu.parcolimpic.com

The usual easy paddle this evening and ready for action

24 June 2010


Attempted four full runs in training today. The last was the best, if you don't count missing a breakout (and gate) completely. Two runs were broken somewhere in the middle when I caught up on someone, this is what I'm finding the hardest; training with over 30 others on the same course. One run included a roll, again not reading the water properly and aiming only for the gate.




View from Hotel Transit.

Yesterday's session was far better than the previous two. Much more in controll and confident enough to try some of the harder more technical moves. Still a long way to go but I'm going in the right direction. So glad I have the two boats, still paddling the training boat here to save the good one for racing, there has been some serious damage done to some boats.

23 June 2010


Arrived here on Sunday evening, as usuall a flat paddle to loosen up. First session on Monday was very tough, getting stuck in stoppers, spinning out of control, rolling and bouncing off rocks.

Tuesday's session was a bit better, much more in controll but still a long way to go. The course is very fast and physical with a few good drops along the way.

18 June 2010

I'm really over the moon, even though it hasn't fully sunk in yet, considering only a few days ago, staying upright and not missing gates was my only concern. Enjoying the paddling, both the challange and the learning.
I was interviewed by ICF after my second run and I was more nervous for that than the race. I waffled on a bit so don't think it will be used.
Think when I get on the road later it will start to sink in.

Second Run

With a clearer picture of what lay ahead, I started much stronger. One touch again on gate 6 and a 'silly' touch on gate17, the usual trap of watching the left pole which was the difficulty and hitting the right one. Overall faster on nearly all the split times, I moved up to 48th.

Really happy that I'm able to push hard all the way and improve from one run to the next.

A short drive now to Spain where I hope to make a few more improvements.

First Run

As I thought it would be, I was a bit unsettled at the start line, inexperience led to a rushed but slow top section. Two touches on a tough move on gates 6 + 7, lost some time on a slight mistake on 11 into 12 and another penalty on 19. I made up some time on the long sprint to the finish. Started in 52nd position and finished in 50th. Very very happy.

Watched the video footage with coach Ettore and found some room for improvement for the second run. Much more relaxed and confident.

17 June 2010


I'm on at 8:18 and 10:13 irish time

Link to live feed at http://www.slalomtroja.cz/

16 June 2010

Getting better on the course yesterday with some help from team manager/coach Ettore Ivaldi. Today a full run was set, first I paddled it in two halves, then two full runs, then practiced some of the more difficult sections. I found the full runs difficult, getting tired at the end.

Thats it for now, an easy flat paddle tomorrow and race on Friday morning. Having two runs, with the best one counting, I'm hoping to use the first to settle in and hope to do better in the second.

14 June 2010

Day Off

Second day on the course was much the same, getting a feel for the water. Still finding it hard going but yesterday's session went much better. Rest day today, watching some of the other paddlers and looking forward to the week ahead.

11 June 2010


Home from home PrahaArrived in Prague yesterday feeling very stiff after the long drive. An easy flat paddle sorted that out before a good nights sleep.

Went for an easy paddle on the course today, watching other paddlers and "trying" to do what they were doing. I had a look at one stopper and thought 'I wonder how sticky that is?' With only one way to find out, I had a real fight to get out the far side.

A creek boat in action:

Feeling good and ready for more

08 June 2010

On The Road

Left home today, on a typical day in June, on the way to Prague. A week's training here for my first World Cup race. Really looking forward to it, feeling positive and ready to learn.

15 May 2010

New Section at the S Bend on the Boyne

Big thanks to Shane Curran, Dixie Nugent and Maeve for their help in putting up some more lines to make a new section at the bottom of the S Bend. This gives more options in a stronger flow as well as adding to what was already there meaning we can soon do some full race runs here.

Here's a short clip from training there

27 April 2010

Irish Squad Selection and Irish Open

Saturday Race 1

With being unsure of how my injury would react the plan was to take it easy on the first run and build up the effort over the weekend.
Run 1
My first run was fairly solid, with 1 penalty and I managed to put in a reasonable time. No pain in the ribs but every muscle in my arms was burning as I have not been able to do any strength work for a long time.
Run 2
Feeling good and ready for action, and back into race mode I stepped up a gear and was delighted with my run. 1 penalty again but with a great time I surprised everyone, including myself by making the set percentage needed to make the team. Emotional and excited about the chance of finally making the team I headed home for a good night's rest for the 2 races on Sunday, needing 1 more to qualify.

Sunday Race 2

The course set on Sunday had some harder work on flat water, a C1 paddler's weakness, at the start and finish and a tough offside move which I didn't have the strenght to attack as I would have liked. With some slight pain I keep putting ice on the injury between runs which seemed help.
Run 1
I started a bit too hard on the flat and struggled with the offside move, but knew there was room for improvement. 1 penalty and a bit slow.
Run 2
With a better plan I was doing much better untill I made a mistake on the offside move and ended up in the eddy with no boat speed at all. 1 penalty again. Being 6 seconds outside the time needed I had 2 more chances.

Race 3

The same course was used with 1 change, so I changed my plan for the offside move going for the spin as a safer option.
Run 1
Giving everything I had I put in a great clean run but still 3 seconds too slow.
Run 2
Another clean run but getting tired I was slower the the first run.

Overall feeling really happy with my performance and confirming to myself that the training I have been doing is paying off, I just need to get back to weight training, if the injury stays away, and get back to white water gate work. If I can paddle this well while recovering from a stress fractured rib,I'm sure I can be racing with some top paddlers later this year............................

17 April 2010

New Boat

I tried my new Galasport 64 for the first time today, its a lively one.....

16 April 2010


I paddled last week on moving water (Stackallen Weir) for the first time since the injury and everything went well. Basic moves and surfing at first to see if there were any problems. It was great to feel the boat flowing again in the waves and not just pushing it along on flat water.

Without any incidents I was back to my usuall training spot, the S Bend, for some moving water gate work. I found this hard going on my arms as I have done no weight training since late January, the sudden change in weather was a shock too.

Next was some white water training without gates in Sluice. Again finding the bigger water hard work and feeling very rusty, I had a tough few days here. Some slight pain from the harder work but with today as a rest day I'm ready to start here again tomorrow with some gate work.

01 April 2010

Flat Water Training

Onto the water for the first time in a while last week, all on the flat, gradually building up the sessions untill I was able to start on flat water gates this week.

Great to be back in the boat.

Here's a video from a four minute on four minute off type sesion.


We used the new head cam from I-CANOE and Adrian edited the video.

17 March 2010

Working on the Basics

I'm in my 4th week of recovery training. Which means twice a week on a bike and every day on a paddling machine. Not very exciting but I'm making the most of it. Using two mirrors and a camera I'm concentrating on getting the basics right; posture, body rotation, reach, arms straight at the right times, all the small points which can add up to more powerful paddling.
Thanks to Keith from the club for the use of his paddling machine.

Hoping to get onto flat water soon and see if the many hours on the machine have paid off.

20 February 2010

19 Feb 2010

Received my new Galasport boats this week. I decided to buy two; 1 Diolen for training and 1 Carbon for the bigger races. Big thanks to Colm and I-CANOE.
Now, due to a recurring injury, I have four to six weeks off the water training. Then six weeks starting on flat water and building up to moving water with gates. After that I can start training again.

12 February 2010

Some training at home December 2009

Training at my local 'slalom course' on the Boyne

Week 6

With one win still needed, I stay in HPP for five more days training before another Div 1 double next weekend.

18th July Washburn - Fast first run with one touch, could make a small improvement on time and can go clean. First place so far. With wanting the third win and wanting to go home a day earlier, I put as much pressure on myself as possible and paddle as hard and fast as I can. Managing to clear the gate I touched in the first run I touch another trying to make a faster line, just over one second faster at the end and still in first place.

I get on the road later that evening heading for the 2am ferry home delighted to have achieved one of my goals for the year. I am now a Premier Division paddler. I arrive at Holyhead early and spend the three hours dancing non-stop in a niteclub, happy with my achievements and to be going home.

Week 5 Holme Pierrepont Nottingham

On my second trip to HPP I find the water much easier than the last time. I train here for four days with some different paddlers including the welsh and their coaches again before a Div One double at the weekend.

11th July - Race One: First run was slow with two touches, finishing second. I watched some video after and picked out where I could make some improvements. I was very happy with my second run which was clean and much faster. My second win, leaving one more needed for promotion - hopefully tomorrow!

12th July - Race Two: My first run was clean but seemed slow on the top section with some minor mistakes on the bottom. I went out too hard and fast on the second run giving me a much faster time but getting tired towards the end I made some mistakes, taking two touches leaving me in second place.

Life on the Road

I had been having some trouble for the last few days in France, with limited english from some french mechanics and no french from me, we figured out it was the starter motor.

Half way between Dover and Nottingnam after just filling with diesel, it refused to start.

Luckily I was in the AA and I was back on the road the following
morning after a night in a hotel was arranged by the friendly
AA man.

European Road Trip June - July 2009

The Plan: leave home for over six weeks for one Class C Internation Race, three World Cup Races, training on five differenct courses and to finish off, two Div 1 races in the UK.

Week 1 - strange feeling as I'm leaving not knowing what's really ahead but really excited about doing something I have always wanted to do.

Arrive in Foix, French Pyrennes in time for four days training before the race. I find it tough going as the water is much faster and stronger than anything I have trained on before. As the training went on I felt I was improving both technique and confidence but as usual training on my own I find myself setting courses that are either too easy or too hard.

Race runs - missed two gates in both runs, finishing second last out of 42 paddlers.

Week 2 - training in Bourg St Maurice, French Alps.

Apparently one of the toughest courses to paddle on and you can see why when you are on the water, just like creeking, you can't see over the horizon line on some of the drops. With back loops, missing eddies-never mind gates, getting stuck in stoppers and plenty of rolling, some of the added obstacles. I paddle most days with Yann, one of the clubs instructors who happened to be a C1 slalom paddler. Yann and everyone else I met on or near the river were all very friendly offering tips and advise on paddling, helping me repair my boat and also dinner on a few occassions. Everyone I met over there is welcome to come and stay here sometime.

On day 12 of the trip I got some bad news from the Irish Canoe Union - the selection committee has decided I can not compete in the World Cup Series but only Class C races, I would have no problem with this if I had not already been given the go ahead for these races. With no Class C races on anywhere during my time away - what now?? "C'est le jeu"

With some advice I decide to stay on in Bourg for over two weeks more training. It was mainly survival paddling in Bourg as the water levels started rising. Technique sessions on the nearby Moutiers stadium, one trip to a course in Yenne and a few days easier paddling in L'Argentiere where I met some paddlers from home and got a chance to run one of the local rivers. I also got the chance to enter a regional race, normally only open to local paddlers - on hearing of my situation I was entered as a guest, meaning not ranked, and competed with a mix of paddlers from different divisions. With some familiar faces from my trip so far I have never had so much support at a race. With two clean runs I was happy to finish in the middle of the group.

2nd and 3rd May 2009

Irish Squad Selection, Nottingham.

After training here for a few days I try my best but my injury is really holding me back. My best run of the weekend was slow and messey, my worst sees me missing one gate and rolling past three more.

26th April 2009

Second Div One race, Tryweryn Ski Slope Section.

Joined in with some of the Welsh paddlers and their coach for a few days which was very productive but I am not paddling at my best. A week ago, while hanging lines for gates I fell out of a tree, it didn't hurt at the time but now it's starting to affect my paddling.

Race runs - one of the fastest times but with penalities including a missed gate (50 seconds) I finish at the bottom of the list, the injury affecting my paddling and lack of concentration from this
both working against me.


22nd March 2009

First race counting towards ranking for the year - Tryweryn Graveyard Section.

I made the decision not to take any practice runs as there are no practice runs at the bigger races. So i picked my lines and watched a few paddlers, then I headed away from the river to get focused on my own. First run - clean, flat out and nearly dieing on the finish line, just the way the coach says it should be, could make up a bit of time 1-2 seconds in the next run but very happy with my performance. Even happier when i looked at the times, starting at the bottom of the list as usual and seeing my name at the top.

Second run - improved some of my lines, one touch near the end and pushed hard on the last three gates, 2 seconds faster but the penality cancelled that out given me the same time again.

Winter '08-'09

Each week I would be aiming to do; three gym sessions for strength and aerobic fitness, loads of flat water training including basic paddling techniques and posture in the boat and four paddling sessions on gates, with coaching tips and advice from some old and some newer faces. When I first started training on the Boyne the S bend was almost impassible, once or twice a week I would head down early, do my session, spend the day clearing trees and hanging gates, and then do my second session.

25th October 2008

I headed back to Wales LLangollen, this time for the British Open. High water levels made a tough section in the middle of the course - loved it! Very happy with a clean first run, again a bit slow and again finishing 18th out of 20. Then I noticed some of the officials at the end of the course weighing boats before you could it back up for the second run. i put my boat on the scales and was told it was under weight - all new to me but i had to be disqualified. Everyone was very good about it and I was allowed to race again with my times being recorded but entered at the bottom of the list. A faster second run but with one touch still (would have) put me in 18th place. Just over 28 seconds off first place this time but with much stronger paddlers, must remember to add weight to the boat before the next race.

27 September 2008

With little or no real slalom experience (or boat), I set off for Bala, Wales. I had arranged to get ranked into one of the divisions in the UK, everyone over there has been very friendly and helpful.

1 practice run in a demo boat, plenty of tips from some new and an old friend helped me to 18th place in just over 20 paddlers in Division 1. Similar times in both runs , with two penalties (two seconds each) in both runs I was very happy just to have made it through all of the gates. 30 sec behind first place meant I was slow but I was very happy knowing I could improve.

Looking back now, it would have been very easy just to say its going to be too much hard work to get to where I want to be (Premier Division), being so far off the pace at the bottom of the division 1.