Welcome to our website and to my story...
I grew up on a small farm in the West of Ireland with Mum & Dad, one brother and two sisters. I am the eldest. There was always lots to do growing up - work and play on the farm. I remember harvesting the crops; oats, barley, hay and silage. We grew lots of potatoes (of course) and all of our own vegetables. We cut turf at the bog every Summer, then worked it to get it dry to bring home for fuel throughout the Winter. I got to drive our tractor at a young age - this was great fun for a young lad!
I also remember lots of adventures with my brother in the surrounding hills, lakes and rivers. Playing football also consumed a fair bit of time - myself and my brother, Paul, would move all of the kitchen furniture to play inside during the Winter months when the weather was wet and cold outside.
I would walk the three miles to National school every day, meeting up with friends along the way and walk home again after school. Later I would cycle about three miles to secondary school in the main town. School itself wasn't that exciting for me but playing sports was! I played soccer and Gaelic football (a National Irish game).
After passing my exams at 17 years old I decided to work at a joinery workshop in Swinford, my local town. Here I learned how to make windows, doors and stairs, as well as glazing and spraying. Not knowing what I wanted to study at college, I continued to work here for nearly three years. It was, of course, a great experience to gain for my future building career.
Also around this time I had money, I became interested in girls, alcohol, cigarettes, body piercings, tattoos etc, much to my parents dismay.
Music became a big part of my life, it was the grunge era so I was into Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. These bands were the soundtracks to my teens and early twenties. I would go to many gigs in Dublin and around the country, even travelling to the UK to see bands.
Around this time I met my future wife, Mary Jo, somewhere in the middle of nowhere at a country nightclub. Never would either of us have thought we would be here together many years later in New Zealand after so many journeys and adventures.
Anyway after working at the joinery workshop for three years, living at home and doing the same thing every week I had to move. Jersey, in the Channel Islands, is where I went with a friend, Dave Murray. Jersey was great for me, to gain some independence, meet new people and enjoy better weather. I started off working with builders and carpenters and eventually signed up to get my carpentry qualifications. Football and sports took a back seat over these few years as working, drinking, music and having fun going out became the main thing to do.
Mary Jo came to Jersey a year after me, she ended up staying as we reconnected and got together once again. Myself and Mary Jo started to do some travelling, using Jersey as a base. It was a great place to return to and make some good money reasonably fast for the next adventure. Travelling became very addictive and the yearning to see and experience new places ensured we had some memorable times. For me, without a doubt, India has had the most influence on me and my outlook of life. It's here I learned meditation and yoga. I gained a new perspective on life and learned to really appreciate the little things and everything that I have.
Back in Jersey I started to play football again and signed up for a local team, I did some cycling but did not really experience proper mountain biking until I came to New Zealand. After nearly 10 years in Jersey, exploring the surrounding Islands, travelling around Asia and Australia, we packed up and said our goodbyes. All we knew for our future path was that we were going to New Zealand, via central America.
After three months, travelling from Costa Rica.,through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala to Mexico we arrived in Auckland in February 2008. After going to Coromandel and up to Northland we knew we were in a special land. Four months later we ended up in Hanmer Springs, unplanned, but divinely planned you could say. Mary Jo got a job in the spa, as a massage therapist, we found a place to live and seven years later we are still here in Hanmer Springs.
I absolutely love living here. It's got a great balance of quiet and busy; always with new people coming through, both to visit and work. Until taking over this property, now Vibrant Living Retreat, I was building locally. I've worked for myself and with some of the local builders and have built many houses in the area. Right now , im here at Vibrant Living full time except for the the odd jobs i do for friends or people i know.
Getting into cycling came about mainly because of the lack of opportunities to play football here. I needed something else to do! I bought a Scott Scale hardtail mountain bike and after meeting locals and good friends Fraser Hewett and Mike Dobby I was shown some of the local tracks.
The first race I did was the Molesworth Muster, an 86km race from the Molesworth station back to Hanmer. This was my first ever cycling race I'd ever done and it was hard. I remember it was a beautiful, warm day. I went hard at the beginning, then half way through a long line of riders passed me, shouting out to jump on the back, I was too exhausted to hook on the back of the train so rode to the finish in no mans land on my own. I think I ended up 47th, I remember laying on the grass afterwards absolutely exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I was hooked! It was a great learning curve, from here i absorbed everything about biking and racing and training etc.
Not long after, I completed a 206km charity ride from Hanmer to Blenheim through the Molesworth with Fraser and Mike and 14 others. It was an epic day. Over the years I have done many races all over the country. My results got better and better as I realised I had "good legs" for this sport.
The last few years I've done well at the longer endurance type races, like the 100km plus St James Epic, Rainbow Rage, Conlact Epic races and various 12hr events. Finally winning the Rainbow Rage last year and the local Mt Isobel Challenge have been some highlights in my cycling journey. More recently I've gotten into bike packing events like the Kiwi Brevet, (http://kiwibrevet.blogspot.co.nz/) these are self supported events, where you follow a given course under your own steam without external support. I've done two 1200km Kiwi Brevets, which start and end in Blenheim after a gruelling and amazing adventure through the top of the South Island on the cycle trails and back roads.
Next up is Tour Aotearoa, (http://www.touraotearoa.nz/) in February 2016. This starts at Cape Reinga, the top of the North Island, all the way to Bluff, the bottom of the South Island. This is about 3,000km, an even more epic adventure to satisfy my desire for amazing journeys in this beautiful land. And just to add a few more kms to the mix, I am planning on racing the Tour Divide in America. This is 4,400km and starts in Banff, Canada and finishes in Antelope Wells, on the US/Mexico border.
I love having these massive adventure rides to look forward to; to plan, get the right gear for and, of course, keeping the training up. I've learned, especially from doing the endurance events like the 12 hour solos and 18 hour Brevet days that its even more mental than physical. Of course I have to be fit, but my mental attitude, through the tough times and how I react to adversity is what gets me through. I love the challenge of pushing myself to the limits, to see how long I can go or how far I can ride. I get to learn a lot about myself and my body in these experiences.
I spend many, many hours by myself riding my bike, I am now very good in my own company. I love being out there in nature, in the mountains taking in the beautiful fresh air. Living here in Hanmer Springs is perfect as I have this right on my doorstep. I can ride out of the door and within minutes I'm on the tracks or heading up Jacks Pass to explore the backcountry. I am truly grateful to be here. For me, i am definitely competitive , i love winning but ultimately its about having Fun, taking part and enjoying the glorious outdoors.
Over the years I've had some different bikes. Now I have a nice collection of 4 bikes: a mountain bike for racing, a road bike, a bike packing brevet bike and a fat bike.
My intention is to attract fellow cyclists here to Vibrant Living Retreat, as its a perfect place to relax and unwind after many days on the bike. A lot of touring cyclists come through the Rainbow and Molesworth back roads and Hanmer Springs is a perfect start or end point for these amazing rides. I am also available to bring people out to our local trails or further afield into the St James Conservation Area for multi day trips.
Pedal On, Be Happy, Breath. Thank you very much for reading my evolving story. I will, of course, update in the coming years as more adventures unfold and there are stories to be told.
Take Care from Vibrant Living