Meet the mind-blowing awards nominees!

Meet the mind-blowing awards nominees!


Helen Vaughan



adventure, awards, outdoor, outsider, people, poty, readers, the, year

Badass, bold and downright ballsy! We put the call out in the last issue of Outsider for you, our readers, to let us know about the most amazing people from the Irish outdoor and adventure scene in 2016! And you didn’t let us down.

We were bowled over by both the quality and quantity of the stories you sent us. In fact, there were so many amazing ones we had to add 16 pages to our latest magazine! We share them with you here. So sit down, make yourself comfortable and read the spine- tingling and inspirational stories of these extraordinary men, women and children who are now officially on the long list of nominees for the #OutsiderAwards2016. 

If you’re a nominee, consider yourself cordially invited
 to our fifth annual awards ceremony on the evening of Thursday 2 February 2017 in the Sugar Club, Dublin. We are thrilled skinny to announce that our fab sponsors Just Eat, Columbia and Great Outdoors are on board to help us celebrate all that is great and good about the Irish adventure scene, so it’s guaranteed to be a good party. 

On the night, and with the help of a panel of expert judges, we will announce the overall winners of the #OutsiderAwards2016 in the following categories: 

1. Outsider Woman of the Year 

2. Outsider Man of the Year 

3. Most Inspiring Person – the Olly O’Neill award 

4. Best Newcomer or Breakthrough Achievement 

5. Youth Award
6. Masters Award

7. Most Devoted to the Outdoor Scene Award
8. Audience Choice Award 

But that’s not the end of the accolades. We’ll also announce winners in the categories below. But this time the winners will be chosen by you, our readers, via voting. Our polls will open by 19 December 2016 and will run throughout January 2017. We’ll announce details on how you can vote via, Facebook/Outsidermag, and in our email newsletter over the coming period, so be sure to sign up/follow us. 

9. Just Eat Fit Food Award – NEW!

10. Best Outdoor Adventure Event

11. Best Outdoor Escape

12. Leave No Trace Most Sustainable Escape – NEW!
13. Best Outdoor Adventure Film 
14. Best Outdoor Adventure Photo

15. Celebrity Adventurer of the Year – NEW! 

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by our #OutsiderAwards16 long list. We think you’ll agree, they’re a fine bunch! 


Our award night will take place on Thursday 2 February 2017 in the Sugar Club, Dublin. If you’d like to be in with a chance of getting tickets, please email with #OutsiderAwards16 in the subject.

Nikki Bradley

Climber & runner

Nikki Bradley, climber & runner

Every second counts. That’s a mantra that Nikki Bradley lives by, and for very good reason. This year, the 30-year-old Donegal native missed setting a Guinness World record for the fastest 5km run on crutches – by one second. And the worst part? She thought she had broken the record but she missed out because Guinness hadn’t updated their records with a new time by a woman in the US that was one second faster than Nikki’s.
Nikki uses crutches because she’s lost most of the use of one leg having been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at 16. She’s had two unsuccessful hip replacements.
During her years of treatment, Nikki has found that being physically active and training helps her body to deal better with pain and recover better. She wants to spread that message.
Nikki ran the 5km record attempt in Holland in March. “The paperwork is unbelievable, and actually off-putting,” she recalls. “To jump through all of those hoops and then miss out by one second was heartbreaking. The most sickening part is that I slowed for my final lap to make sure my weak leg didn’t touch the ground. If I had gone two seconds faster, I’d have done it.”
In 2016, Nikki also became the first woman to abseil off the Fanad Lighthouse, scaled a glacier in Iceland with crampons on her crutches and abseiled into a 45- foot ice cave.
Nikki now faces amputation of her weaker leg. “When it was cold in Iceland, it got really weak and as it gets weaker it gets heavier and becomes a bit of a nuisance. Then the pain gets worse. I almost look forward to when I don’t have to worry about it anymore. It would just be gone.”
As we go to press, Nikki is hoping to tackle the ‘Fan Dance UK’, a gruelling mountain race for the Special Forces carrying heavy loads. “I hope to do the 10km mountain version. I’m just waiting to hear from the consultants about when I’m going to get my leg amputated, but I’d love to do the Fan Dance first.”


Ultra runner

Tom Reynolds, ultra runner

“I was running nearly 90km a day on average during the first four weeks. That’s two marathons a day. Then I picked up an injury and cut it back to 54km a day. I ran, walked and crawled 2,896km in the end, over 34 days,” says 46-year-old Tom Reynolds from Leitrim.
That’s the entire Wild Atlantic Way which Tom ran this summer to raise money for Pieta House.
Ultra runner Tom has previously done 10 marathons in 10 days and also attempted the 431km UK Spine race before being forced to pull out.
He says the hardest part of the 34-
day challenge was being alone for long periods. “The lows in the day came if there were no people around. I might find it hard and have to dig deep to go on.
“But the scenery was incredible. Achill surprised me because I hadn’t been there before and parts of the Donegal mountains looking out to sea. You see a
lot more when you’re running. You can feel every change in the weather, and how quickly severe wind or rain would set in. I wasn’t expecting that.
“Another lovely part was meeting people along the way. I would call into houses along the road to refill my water bottles. I’d get chatting to them and one woman had lost a family member to suicide so she appreciated what I was doing to raise money.”
Tom started the run with his friend Lillian (also nominated) but, due to an injury she picked up, they separated early and he ran the rest alone, but with friends and family running along with him for some of the time.
“That was great. It really gave me energy to have someone with me. I was inclined to run a bit faster. I was always managing my speed, distance and time.”



Gary (Ted) Sargent, sailor

A Laser dinghy is a tiny boat not much bigger than a bathtub with no cabin. But that’s the vessel that Dubliner Gary (Ted) Sargent (42) chose for his single-handed, 1,750km round-Ireland odyssey this summer.
“Mentally, this challenge was as hard as anything I’ll ever do in my life,” he recalls. “It was so tough sailing alone day after day, but sometimes just seeing a dolphin, or a minke whale or a bird, would make my day. I’d always say thank you to them. I know that sounds silly, but they became like friends that kept me going.”
Gary’s support crew were in a RIB that stayed roughly with him, but he sailed solo for an average of eight hours every day covering around 50-70km a day.
His longest day was 13 hours, sailing a whopping 90km!
Months after finishing the epic journey his back still hurts. But his overriding sentiment is one of gratitude and joy.
“What a wonderful way to see the country! And the experience of coming ashore every day to locals offering us somewhere to stay, or donating to Child Vision was incredible.” (The team raised around €33,000 during the 42-day trip.)
Gary sums up how special the whole trip was with their experience when the support boat broke down off Dunmore East in Waterford. “It was a Sunday. It
was blowing a gale and lashing rain. We phoned around to find a mechanic and a guy came down to the jetty and sat there for four or five hours pulling the engine apart. He changed the fuel filter. Put in new leads. Everything. And when he finished he went into his van to write an invoice I assumed. Instead, he just got a business card and said, ‘There’s no charge; just tell people what I do’.”The kind man was Jerry Lenane from Nautic Inflatable Services in Dungarvan. Look them up if you’re in need of mechanical help in the southeast!


Ultra runner


Lillian Deegan, ultra runner

“I remember the hardest day I’ve ever
had running. I battled and battled. I was doing an out and back from Carrowteige in north Mayo and the wind was literally blowing me sideways. The rain was pelting down. It was horrendous. At least 14 different cars on their way back from mass stopped to ask me if I needed a lift. I was like a drowned rat. But it hardened me. It was never that difficult again.”
Lillian (41) from Wicklow is describing one of the 42 days she spent running the Wild Atlantic Way this summer. She set out to do the challenge with her friend Tom Reynolds (also nominated), but she busted her left quad on day two. “I’ve never had the kind of pain before. My quad decided it couldn’t do 90-110km a day and within three days, the right one went too.”
So Tom ran on alone, and Lillian took some rest. But soon she set off again. “I was always disappointed if I couldn’t do 60-80km a day. I knew from planning that I needed 60km odd each day to get
to Kinsale within a decent timeframe. In the storm in Carrowteige that day, I only did around 30km, which was annoying. But the huge bonus was that I’ve never experienced crap weather like that since, and I went out and did nearly 130km the next day to make up for it.”
As Lillian ran the nearly 3000km of the Wild Atlantic Way she touched all 200 ‘discovery points’ (those bronze signs with beaches or sights named on them) along the way. She took five days of rest to deal with her injuries, and also took some time to visit landmarks along the way, like Yeats’s graveyard in Co Sligo.
And she’s keen to do it all again!
“I want to do it in under 40 days, which is what we planned. “I was ecstatic when I finished. My little sister crewed for me, and my brother flew in from Australia to lend a hand. But I was annoyed it took me so long. I was out way longer than I expected and I’m keen to do it again in 30-something days.” Fair play.



Rachael Lee, swimmer

This summer, Dubliner Rachael Lee (37) became the fastest Irish person to swim the 34km English Channel in a time of nine hours and 40 minutes.
One of the biggest challenges was working away solitarily in the water for hours with her team in a support boat right beside her that she couldn’t touch. Even when she was feeding from a plastic bottle on a rope thrown to her, she didn’t chat. “You stop for longer than 20 seconds each time, and that all adds up to another hour in the water,” she says.
And then there were the jellyfish. “I got stung on the face about five times. I was swimming straight through them. I was just relieved I didn’t see any lion’s manes, which are the most painful.”
Rachael trained for nearly three years to make the crossing, juggling the needs of her three-year-old twin boys, her partner, her job with the Dublin Fire Brigade and the gruelling training schedule. She got up at 4am to swim 16km in the pool. She
swam on her own in lakes and the sea to prepare, in sessions that lasted up to six hours.
The toughest physical part of the swim was during the last 6km to the French shore. The current kept pushing Rachael sideways along the coastline, preventing her from reaching it.
“I knew my Channel swim started at eight hours. That’s what I trained for, and that’s what I did. I just had to work harder; 90% of swims fail a few miles from France. But I totally enjoyed it.”
Rachael was thrilled with her achievement. “It’s brilliant and I’m so proud of myself and relieved that I don’t have to get up tomorrow and swim 16km in the pool!”
Would Rachael do it again? “No way!” she says. “It cost me €8,000! I’d like to coach people and maybe go back to running marathons.”
Rachael is currently starting a training club called Ocean Breakers, to share her open-water swimming skills.


Rob Mortell, mountaineer

“The way down the summit of Everest was really awful. My oxygen tank broke. I was stumbling and I took a tumble. Thankfully on a gentle slope, not a vertical drop. I lay down and thought that a break would really rejuvenate me. Then I saw a dead body lying near me. He was all there. His hands and everything. And I thought maybe he fell over too and wanted a break and didn’t wake up. So I got up, and continued down the mountain.”
Limerick man Rob Mortell (26) became the youngest Irish person to climb Mount Everest on 23 May 2016 and he says he took the dead climber as a positive sign in the darkest of situations. “It’s the saddest thing that he didn’t see the end of that night or day, but for all I know, that person saved me. Maybe if I hadn’t seen that body, I wouldn’t have thought I need to get up. I could have just drifted away.”
Rob chose to take the colder, windier northern route up Everest because he thought the Khumbu icefall was too risky. “I trusted my own ability and judgement to survive the difficult conditions on the northern side, but only fate would decide if the icefall would collapse on me,” he recalls.
It was a four-year build up for Rob to tackle Everest. He climbed the Matterhorn, Switzerland, spent a month on Denali in Alaska, and also climbed Nepal’s Alma Dablam.
The keys to his success are planning and attitude, says Rob. “I want to know every route, every option, every variable, every risk, how they’ve impacted every person in the last few years, how they’ll impact me, and how to minimise them.
“I’d be described as a sunny-side-up kind of person naturally. A lot of my outlook is a choice. Do you want to enjoy it or be miserable? It’s not always easy, but if you can control the parts of your mindset that are controllable, you’re half way there.”
And the summit? “You know, it’s not a moment of fireworks. I just sat down. My legs were destroyed. I’m kneeling in all the photos. The real moment of elation was when we were leaving basecamp. Then I knew that the entire team was safe. Some people had lost fingers and toes, and I got frostbite, but we all got out alive.”


Photo: Roscommon Civil Defence

The Climb with John team,
mountain climbers

John Tobin (29) became the first wheelchair user to climb Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo. It was a long-held dream of the Galway man and his mother, Ann, who’s been up the mountain many times and wanted her son to come too. John has cerebral palsy so this was a complicated challenge, but he did it on 10 September 2016 with the help of an army of people.
His carer Clive Guthrie says, “Anyone who heard what we were planning wanted to help and we ended up with
a massive gang of people. We had paramedics waiting at the base of the mountain, people from Roscommon Civil Defence and others pulling him up, and locals acting as guides.
“The real unsung hero was a man called Basil Finan who invented ‘The Dream Machine’ that carried John up the mountain.” It was a structure on wheels using oil and gas suspension with John suspended upright in a cradle inside and
facing in the right direction going up the mountain.
Clive says, “At the steep, rocky slope to the summit, a team of 50 to 60 people were pulling the 300-foot ropes. They had to do it sitting down so their feet wouldn’t go from under them as they pulled the rope through their hands. They then moved up the mountain, sat down, and pulled him up again.
The team made it to the top in just over three hours and raised around €20,000 for local charities.
Clive says, “This wasn’t really about raising money but inspiring people to take on something that’s difficult. Anything is achievable if you have the courage and the faith to do it. John doesn’t usually show his emotions, but he was crying tears of joy at the top because of the enormity of the situation. All of the people involved went home feeling wrecked that day, but they knew they’d been a part of something wonderful. Of helping John to realise his dream.”


Mary Scannell, mountaineer

Mary Scannell (42) completed the incredibly challenging Seven Summits challenge after summiting Mount Everest in May this year. That means she’s climbed the highest mountain in each of the seven continents of the world. But Mary did it quite by accident, saying she didn’t set out to climb them all. “It just happened,” she says.
Mary is from Annascaul in Co Kerry, the same town as the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, but she didn’t grow up climbing mountains. She says she got into mountaineering after climbing Kilimanjaro while travelling in Africa 10 years ago. She really fell in love with it when exploring the Rockies in Canada, and became hooked.
“I’ve been up plenty of big mountains, but the sheer scale of Everest blew
me away. It was my first time in the Himalayas. Staying at base camp, I could hear avalanches all around us, and the
ice cracking underneath. It was scary but
I got used to it. We took the first weather window to get up the mountain in May, so we were very lucky."
She did six months of training for Everest in Wales and the highlands of Scotland. “Scotland is the best training ground for Everest in my opinion. Scottish winter climbing can be quite harsh, and there are really difficult routes on the ridges and buttresses around the back of Ben Nevis.
On Everest, she says, “I spent 45 minutes at the summit, just sitting there. There were no crowds at the time. It was amazing though. I could see into Tibet on the north side and could look around at all of the other 8000m peaks. We spent two months coming up that mountain and it was incredible to be sitting there. Just the scale of it is so huge. It’s the sexy mountain, the celebrity climb. Everybody knows about it, and although it’s not the most technically difficult, it is huge.”




Sabrina Wiedmer, swimmer

“I swim with my eyes closed. I never look into the water because I’m scared of seeing what’s in the sea. Jellyfish, sharks, whales, anything. So I just close my eyes.” Sabrina Wiedmer (28) used this technique to get her through the Dál Riata swim from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland to Cushendun in Antrim in Northern Ireland – a narrow, extremely difficult channel with a fast flowing current. She’s only the second person, and first woman, ever to have made it across.
Originally from Switzerland and now based in Dublin, Sabrina had never swum in the sea before moving to Ireland three years ago. She’s done loads of sea swimming since, but says the Dál Riata was the toughest, “The distance was OK (17km) but it was mainly the cold that made it so hard. The water was 10.5°C degrees at the end of June. I had no wetsuit, so I was very cold after 8.5 hours in the water.
“The hardest part was the last two or three kilometres, when I could see the shore at Cushendun, but the tide was so strong it was pushing me sideways and washing me along the coast. The guys on the boat said I had to pick up the pace or I wouldn’t make it. I was getting slower because I was so cold and had been in the water for six or seven hours.
“Then the tide turned, and stopped rushing along the coast. I felt like I was sprinting for the last two hours or so, and eventually I was getting closer, flying into the shore. The last 500m felt absolutely great. I kept going until I hit a rock, and there I was.
“I sat there for a long time, just the relief of it being over, and I was crying which is unusual for me. I just sat in the seaweed, happy to be there. The first thing I said when I got back on the boat was to remind me to cancel my Loch Lomand swim six weeks later. I did not want to do
that swim.”
In August, Sabrina successfully swam the 35km length of Loch Lomand in
Scotland in 10.39 hours. Of course!

Swimmer, Adventurer

Gavan Hennigan, adventurer

“I’m not going out there believing I’m going to destroy the Atlantic. There are elements of fear and anxiety, but I have to believe I can do it and I have the tools to do so,” says Gavan Hennigan about his latest adventure It’s his toughest yet. He plans to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean island of Antigua in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. That’s 5000km by himself in a carbon fibre boat. And he’s hoping to win the race to boot.
Rowing the Atlantic is known as one of the most difficult challenges on the planet. More people have landed on the moon, climbed Everest or been to the North Pole.
“It will take 1.5 million strokes to cross the Atlantic, but I won’t exactly be counting them. I can’t really think of the end. I just need to take it day to
day. One stroke at a time. As a surfer and commercial diver, it really appeals to me. I have a healthy fear of the sea having spent years working in stormy waters building oilrigs. I know the sea is the boss and it will dictate what happens.” Already this year, the 35-year-old Galwegian came second in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon, ran 700km across frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia in 17 days and came second in the Western Way Ultra in the west of Ireland. He’s completely transformed his life as an adventurer having being addicted to alcohol and drugs, and going into rehab at 21.
On his Atlantic mission, Gavan will carry all of the safety equipment and food he needs for the trip. He’ll be burning up to 9,000 calories a day, working in rowing shifts of 2/3 hours and then sleeping for an hour or making food, desalinating water, navigating or doing odd jobs around the boat. He will carry enough freeze dried meals and snacks to cover 90 days, even though he hopes the trip will take him around half that time. He sets off from the Canaries on 15 December 2016.
“I can’t really think of the end of the race. I have to take it day to day, one stroke at a time. I don’t think of the bigger picture too much. I meditate for five or 10 minutes every morning so I’ll try and do that and stay present, in the moment, becoming a bit of a robot and just moving forward and getting the job done.”


Bryan Keane, triathlete

“I didn’t want to be the nearly guy,” says Bryan Keane of his Olympic dream being realised in Rio this year. “I didn’t want to be the guy that could have been to the Olympics but didn’t make it.” The 36-year-old Cork man competed in the men’s triathlon at Rio 2016, having come back from a major injury in 2010 that led doctors to warn him that he’d never race again.
Bryan was training to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games when he was hit by a car in 2010, a collision that shattered his kneecap and his Olympic
dream along with it. He spent 14 weeks in a leg brace, lost all of his muscle mass on that leg and was told his sporting career was over.
“But I was dogged and determined enough not to let that accident define me. I didn’t know if I could do it again and get up to that level of fitness, but I kept tipping away. I did the training. I got back to competing at a high level and I qualified for Rio. I’ve always had a good work ethic and I worked my ass off for it and there’s huge satisfaction in that, for me and for the people that helped me get there.” Bryan came 40th in the men’s triathlon race, after a technical problem with his helmet cost him a few places. He says, “Yes, that’s frustrating, but I’ll get over
it and move on. To my family, I’m still a hero for getting to the start line of the Olympics. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of going to the games. I got there after
coming back from two knee surgeries and I’ll always be an Olympian.”


Eoghan Clifford, cyclist

Eoghan Clifford believes it’s the fear of losing rather than the glory of winning that motivates the Galway man to win races. He won gold in the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 in the C3 time trial cycling event, which is for people with limb disabilities. He finished the 30km race
in 38 minutes and 21 seconds.
“Time trials are all about suffering. My disability just adds another thing to that suffering. What motivates me? It might not be the motivation of winning. The fear of losing can be a bigger thing. You forget about winning very quickly but you don’t forget about losing. Once I had won one or two world championships, I found the elation wasn’t as high. So my motivation comes from what could be lost, rather than the thought of winning it.” 
Eoghan (36), who’s an engineering lecturer at NUIG, has a genetic condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease that has caused his muscles to waste in his lower limbs. It affects both his legs and arms. He says his calf muscles are like match sticks, but he has a good engine for endurance sport and solid aerobic ability.
He’s raced able-bodied cyclists competitively for the last 16 years and has won the Connaught Championship twice in a row. He’s also won gold multiple times in the C3 division at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships for road, track and time trial races. Eoghan also won a bronze medal in the individual pursuit on the track in the Paralympics in Rio 2016.
Next he plans to take a break from racing to spend time with his partner and their one-year-old daughter.


Adventurer and cyclist

Mark Pollock, adventurer and cyclist

“Doing a 57km cycle is no South Pole. I was cycling around and it was sunny and loads of my mates were there. It was enjoyable! I’m really struggling to square it in my mind. Most of the stuff I do is hard and miserable and I was actually having fun. It felt like I was cheating.”
Mark Pollock (40) who hails from Belfast is humble with a touch of self-deprecation while describing his fi rst sports event post-paralysis. Mark was paralysed in a fall in 2010, having gone blind at the age of 22. He cycled the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive on 10 September 2016 on a tandem with his training buddy, Simon O’Donnell, as pilot. Mark used his hands to cycle while Simon used his legs. 
They did the 57km option (not the longest course as Mark points out) having been approached by a production company from CBS in the US. They were making a programme about people who’ve had diffi culty getting back into sport and they had a sponsor, Arrow Electronics, who would provide the bike and gear. All Mark had to do was pick the
The sportive took Mark and Simon three hours, and he says, “The event was
still a big deal for me. There’s a funny disconnect. It was a big deal because it was my first time out, but on the day, it was still the shortest. But I didn’t go to the South Pole on my first day out. I’ve had to
take a step back to take a step forward.”
Mark is also working with scientists all over the world to try to fi nd a cure for paralysis. As part of this, he has a demanding training regime using robotic legs, called an exoskeleton, to test the effects of walking on his paralysed body.
Mark says he trained properly for 20 weeks for the sportive, he lost 6kg, he got fit again and he loved it. “The reason it was fun was because I’d done the proper work and I was really fi t. I’d like to move from the shortest to the longest course option and we’ll keep refining the bike to make it
lighter and faster, and more comparable with a single person on a bike so that we’re actually racing.”

Paramotor adventurer

Oisín Creagh, paramotor adventurer

This is quite an unusual entry for the #outsiderawards2016 given that a paramotor has an engine, but the challenge Oisín took on was massive and
involved a complex understanding of the outdoors. In 2016, he piloted a paramotor more than 3000km from Ireland to Africa, with 100km of sea crossings and mountain ranges like the Pyrenees to navigate.
A paramotor is basically like a paraglider with a motor attached to the person flying it. The 52-year-old Cork man says, “While you’re flying, you’re constantly calculating to see how high you need to be, checking the wind and any turbulence, looking for spots to land if you need to, and also avoiding controlled airspace so you have to stay below certain heights.”
Oisín used his journey, which took two-and-a-half weeks, to raise funds for Gorta Self-help Africa and to highlight the connection between Ireland and those he was trying to help. He fl ew an average of 200km a day at a speed of 60/70km an hour.
Oisín drew on his experience as a yacht master and off shore sailor to navigate across the English Channel and other sea crossings. He’s been a pilot for around 10 years, and is also an experienced climber and hillwalker.
So what if there's a mechanical problem? “If the engine stops, you don’t just drop. I can safely glide to the ground to land. For every 100m you go up, you
can glide a distance of around 600m. I also have a reserve parachute if both the engine and the ‘wing’ fail for some reason.
I did plenty of research into water landings and wore a survival suit. I knew I had to land outside shipping lanes for safety, but I could come down near a smaller fishing boat for example if I was in trouble.” Oisin fl ew an Ozone Spyder 26m, which is quite lightweight, and used an Air Conception Nitro 200 motor.


Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, cyclists

“It was incredibly hard. Time trials are relentless. Mentally and physically they’re so tough. Your body is screaming at youvto stop from the very start, but you can’t give up because tandem is a team sport,” says Katie-George Dunlevy, reflecting on her gold medal win in the time trial cycling event at the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.
Katie-George (38) is visually impaired and she races on a tandem with able bodied cyclist Eve McCrystal (38) from Co Louth, who’s the pilot. The two have been training and racing together since 2014. “When we got together, it was something special straight away. We’re both very driven and very competitive. We love cycling. And racing.”
The pair also won a silver medal in the Paralympic tandem road race. Katie-
George says, “That was the toughest course I’d ever done. The descents and ascents were the steepest I’d ever ridden on a tandem.
“Trust is a massive thing when you work so closely on a tandem with someone.
I’m not steering or in control. I can’t see where we’re going. I have complete trust in Eve. I can feel what she’s doing through the pedals and we’re working as one. If she changes the gears or her position, I feel what she’s doing so I’m with her in every move she makes. If she’s out of the saddle, I’m out. And if she leans in around a corner, I move with her.”
Katie-George, who was born and lives in the UK but has an Irish father, was previously a rowing champion and competed internationally as a youth in swimming and athletics. Eve is a former long-distance triathlete, swimmer and
footballer. The pair also won two gold medals in the 2016 UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cup in Ostend in Belgium.
Katie-George and Eve will carry on racing together next year and are aiming to win the world time trial championships in South Africa.

Ultra runner

Richard Donovan, ultra runner

“You’re not winning a race. It’s just you and a continent. You don’t really look at it as a victory. More that you survived that thing.” Galway man Richard Donovan (50) spent 62 days running 3000km across the entire continent of Europe during summer 2016, having “not really trained” since he ran across the US last year (5,000km).
Describing what motivates him for these challenges, he says “It gives you perspective as a comparison with yourself if you hadn’t done it. You answer
questions about yourself, discover your weaknesses and you have to accept them.” Richard’s route took him from Istanbul at the end of June, across Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and he finished in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Richard is also the race organiser of the North Pole marathon every year and the World Marathon Challenge, which involves people doing seven marathons in seven continents in seven days.
The hardest part? “The dangerous roads through parts of Serbia and Bulgaria. They drive so fast and there’s no margin on the roads for me. Traffic overtaking from behind would just miss me. The cars were like bullets going off beside my head the whole time, and I was within an inch of getting whacked. It was draining.” To cope with the scale of the challenges he takes on he says, “I don’t look at the big picture. If you look at a map, you’ll see that you won’t make a dent in it for a long time. Just take it day by day and become a prisoner to what you’re doing is the best way to describe it. You get very good at dealing with the day and getting rid of things that don’t matter from your head. 
“You learn to appreciate things more, like having a drink of water somewhere.
You’re more in tune with yourself as a human and the basics of survival, and you worry less about the nonsense.”


Mountain biker

Colin Ross, mountain biker

Mountain biker Colin Ross (33) is nominated for the awards for a race that’s just six minutes long. But it’s no ordinary race. To win the Foxhunt in October 2016, he had to outpace 400 other mountain bikers on a single-track downhill course straight down a mountain in Rostrevor, Co Down. The Lisburn man was among 400 ‘hounds’ in the race being chased by the ‘fox’, former world cup downhill champion, British cyclist Gee Atherton.
“The start is like a scene out of Braveheart. It’s very daunting. It’s like a full-on battle with 400 people in a line pitched against each other. You have to have a lot of nerve. There aren’t many races in the world where you have something like that. It’s scary. “Everyone just charges, all pushing so hard to get the best result possible. They won’t back off if you have a spill or a crash, they’ll just ride over the top of you. You need the skills of good downhill racing and to be fi t, because there are some physical sections where you have to pedal hard. I was a bit of a target this year because I’d already won it twice.”
As well as his third Foxhunt win, Colin has won the Irish national downhill championships eight times, and was ranked 55th in the Enduro World Series in 2015 before retiring from the international scene. He’s recently been coaching children and adults, both beginners and experts, through his company Rosco Lines in the North.
Colin also reveals that he’s been asked to be a fox at next year’s Foxhunt, so beware if you’re training for the race. “It was a real privilege to be asked. I’ll be a fox next year with Gee, so we’ll be racing each other head to head as foxes, as well as the 400 hounds.” Watch out!

DAVID O CAOIMH Wakeboarder

David O Caoimh, wakeboarder

At just 22, Dubliner David O Caoimh became the European wakeboarding champion for the second time in August 2016. He beat the current world champion, Italian Massimiliano Piff aretti, to win the event in Coleraine in Northern Ireland.
“It was a combination of my stamina and I was better at dealing with the cold conditions, which made it more difficult for the Italian. There’s also a fl ow in the water on the River Bann in Coleraine of around two miles an hour, which can make quite a lot of diff erence too. I was there about a week ahead of the event, so I got used to that.”
David had a real set back this year though, when his lead sponsor Monster Energy drinks pulled their sponsorship after deciding to get out of wakeboarding. “Initially it was a massive blow and I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue boarding. They were a huge financial sponsor and I couldn’t have left university to turn professional in 2013 without them. But I’m not bitter at all. They supported me for four-and-a-half years.
“I’ve just signed a deal with a new clothing company called Wake Fury. For me, that’s brilliant. It’s a huge relief and now I can look forward and focus my energy on the future instead of dwelling on what’s happened.” David is now eyeing up the World Championships next year and also the World Games in Poland in July 2017, which he says are like the Olympics for wakeboarders. He’ll also be defending his European title.


Annalise Murphy, sailor

Annalise Murphy became our darling of the Olympic Games 2016 when she won a silver medal in the Laser Radial sailing event. The podium was a long time coming for the Dun Laoghaire sailor who narrowly missed out on a medal when she came fourth in London 2012.
“I was heartbroken after London. I was afraid that was my chance to win an Olympic medal and I’d thrown it away.” Spurred on by the loss, the 26-year old spent the four-year build-up to summer 2016 solely focused on the Olympic Games, with a gruelling training schedule including physical and mental
“I worked hard every day for the last four years thinking about these Olympics and what I could do. I never really knew if I’d be able to do it. I completely lost the belief that I was good enough to get an Olympic medal many times. It was an emotional rollercoaster.”
At the Rio games, there were 11 races in the Laser Radial class and the key was to have consistently good results throughout the week to remain in a medal position. “Every day, I was chipping away. I tried my best to go out and learn something new or improve something every day.”
She did what she needed to and came second after a nail-biting final race. “It was a pretty great feeling. I went out and raced to the best of my ability. I felt I had a very different experience to the other girls. I had finished fourth in an Olympics. I knew what not to do. They didn’t have
that heartbreaking feeling. I felt quite confident going into that last race.”
And the welcome she got returning to Ireland from Rio? “I was overwhelmed by the whole thing. I just wasn’t expecting that at all. I didn’t expect everyone to be so excited about it. The number of people that wished me well was amazing. It was so strange, but it was something I never imagined.”


Jim Duffy, skier

In 2016, Jim Duffy (54) skied by himself down a slope in Italy. Now that may not seem remarkable or worthy of a nomination at first, until you find out that
he became paralysed at the age of 25. “It’s hard to explain what a nice feeling it was. I was skiing totally on my own. It was a fantastic feeling. I hadn’t done anything like that in nearly 30 years!” he recounts Jim lost all movement over a couple of days when he was 25 because of a condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome. It caused his immune system to attack his nerves so they no longer carried messages to his brain and he was paralysed.
Since then, Jim has had a long recovery as some movement slowly returned, and he progressed from the hospital bed to using a wheelchair to get around. He then moved to a walking frame, crutches and eventually the walking sticks he uses now.
When his sister suggested he come skiing with her and the family, he didn’t take it seriously at first. But he decided to give it a go along with his wife and daughter. He went equipped with ‘outriggers’, which are like crutches with a small ski tip fixed to the bottom. He managed to ski a short distance with his instructor holding onto him. Jim spent the next year doing lessons at the indoor revolving slopes at the Ski Centre in Sandyford in south Dublin and worked incredibly hard to get to ski on his own on his second ski holiday in Madonnadi Campiglio in Italy. He’s still training at the Ski Centre and aims to keep improving in 2017.


CHRIS CUMMING, Mountain biker

Chris Cumming, mountain biker

At just 14, mountain biker Chris Cumming from Co Down has won more competitions than most cyclists. This year alone, he’s had 17 podium finishes out of 17 races! Chris won the Irish Downhill Mountain Bike Series, was on the podium at the International Rookie Championships, won the overall iXS Rookie Cup, the British Downhill Series and the Scottish Downhill Series.
Chris has been part of the Nukeproof Youth Development Team since he was 12, having taken up mountain biking at the age of 10. The team headhunts the best riders in Ireland to help them train, improve and showcase their talent. He’s also been taken on as a tester of the latest mountain bikes for the Nukeproof bike company – a sweet job!
The teenager is clearly an incredibly talented mountain biker who dreams of becoming Ireland’s first world champion. He lives in Warrenpoint in Co Down and has the Rostrevor mountain bike trails not far from his back door, so he has plenty of opportunity to practice. Chris’s parents
own East Coast Adventure which operates bike hire and lessons at the trailhead in
His Dad Mark Cumming says the family were in the Alps five times during summer 2016 going to races with Chris. “It’s a lovely way to spend time and keep the family together. Chris has friends from all over the world now, and we believe he could be a world champion one day." Mum Jennifer says Chris is always on his bike on the trails when he’s not at school, and he plans to make a career out of mountain biking. “We really think he can,” she says. We don’t doubt it for a minute!
NIALL BRESLIN, triathlete

Niall Breslin, triathlete

“When I could see the finish line, I just broke down in tears. A tsunami of emotion overcame me as I crossed the line and saw my family. This was never about the race, this was bigger than that.” Niall Breslin (36) from Westmeath, or Bressie as he’s known, describes crossing the finish line at Ironman Copenhagen.
He spent 10 months training for the race, which involved a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run. For him, sport is more than the actual achievement. He uses physical activity to help him deal with his mental health and he shares much of his learning through his blog.
Bressie has become a campaigner for better mental health facilities and physical fitness in Ireland. He was already a household name for his many talents as a musician, TV presenter, inter-county GAA player and professional rugby player. He’s spoken out about his own struggles with an anxiety disorder, and he founded the ‘A Lust for Life’ social enterprise and website.
Bressie often shares the mental strategies he uses while training or doing a race. These include meditation, visualisation, breathing exercises and repeating key words such as strength or resilience, and they help him focus on his performance. For example, during his180km Ironman cycle he used his breathing to help regulate his pace, and to “breathe in positive energy and breathe out the toxic energy”.
Bressie says, “You find when you repress something for so long, it will come out somewhere and mine came out at the finishing line of an Ironman. Two years previously I watched friends cross that line and I knew it was something I had to do for many different reasons.”

KATHRYN THOMAS Multi-sport athlete & founderof Pure Results Bootcamps

Kathryn Thomas, multi-sport athlete & founder of Pure Results Bootcamps

Kathryn Thomas competed in Quest Killarney during 2016 with 30 clients from her business, Pure Results Bootcamps. She says, “It was brilliant. Many clients were women who had never done any running or cycling before. The sense of achievement was amazing.” The 38-year-old TV presenter from Carlow has always been active and outdoorsy, both on and off the screen. Presenting the travel show, No Frontiers, brought her all over the world doing outdoor adventures like climbing Kilimanjaro, swimming with sharks, sky diving and she’s done every camp you can think of, from yoga to hiking to surfing.
She’s also well known as a presenter on Operation Transformation, and The Voice. Kathryn set up her own fitness business, Pure Results Bootcamps, in 2015 and they’ve had more than 500 clients come through their doors in Co Kerry. Her aim is to take the fear out of fitness by creating camaraderie in groups. “I felt Ireland was about to ride this wave of wellness and people needed guidance and support for it, and an atmosphere that’s a bit of craic, where no one felt insecure.”
Their three- and seven-day courses include fitness classes, nutrition, life coaching, mindfulness and more. “We have a programme where everyone works out together, whether you’ve done five marathons or if you need to lose five stone. They all just push themselves to their own limit.”
Kathryn thinks adventure races like Quest, Gaelforce and others are a great way to get into sport because they have options for shorter distances that are very achievable. “Most of our clients felt they’d never be able to do anything like that, but they did. It shows that it’s possible for everybody, once you break down the distances into a run, kayak and cycle.”

JACK MURPHY Mountain biker

Jack Murphy, mountain biker

At just 16, Killarney teen Jack Murphy won a 24-hour endurance mountain bike race in Hawaii in September 2016. He says, “It was really diff erent. I’d never cycled anything near that length before. The weirdest thing was cycling during the day, then it got dark and turned into night and I was still racing, and then it started to get bright again. I cycled all through the night!”
Jack was competing in the ‘24 Hours of Hell in Paradise’ race, which is based on a nature reserve called the Kualoa Ranch, just outside Honolulu. He beat 27 other racers in the solo men category – not even a junior race! He says he planned to cycle until it was dark and then possibly stop, but when he realised he was doing well, he just kept going.
“The hardest part was trying to stay awake. I was falling asleep on the bike and it was really tough up until around 12.30 at night. I nearly stopped but I didn’t and then the tiredness went away and I was able to keep going.” Jack managed to do 35 laps of the 4.6- mile course, which totalled more than 160
miles or 257km altogether! He says the course was made up of hilly gravel trails that weren’t too technical, but had plenty of ascents and descents.
Jack is spending his transition year of school living in Hawaii with his aunt (Lucky fecker!). When in Kerry, he trains with the Killarney Cycling Club. He has previously won the under-14 Irish National Points Series Cross Country Champs. Jack plans to take on the national champs in Ireland next summer and tackle some races in the UK.

TEENA GATES Triathlete


Teena Gates, triathlete

Teena Gates (50) competed in 10 triathlons during 2016, but despite that she still doesn’t consider herself an athlete. She joined a team of 10 people – mostly beginners – to do 10 triathlons to
fundraise for 10 charities. She took on the challenge to celebrate turning 50. But she
says, “I don’t feel I deserve of an award or anything at all. I was butchering my way
through this thing.”
The ‘thing’ she talks about was the last of her 10 triathlons, an Olympic-distance
event called the Jailbreak triathlon in Cobh, Co Cork, in September. Teena thinks she finished the run last, but says people watching on the street started running along beside her. “The people in Cobh were extraordinary.
People I’ve never met just ran with me. Friends, family and strangers stayed back and waited at the finish line as I crossed it. The main race was well over and here I was, this trotting pony still out on the course. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed to finish my first Olympic triathlon, and within the cut-off time too. It was the most spectacular end to the 10 triathlons.” Teena has transformed her life over recent years, having lost 72kg/12 stone, half her body weight. Since then, she’s fallen in love with adventure, hiking to basecamp on Everest and climbing mountains including Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt Elbrus in Russia and Island Peak in the Himalayas. She’s also a big fan of wild swimming.
Teena says doing 10 triathlons has taught her how accessible the sport could be for everyone. “Myself and two of the girls on the team did a relay for the Hell of the West. I did a really good swim and was chuffed with myself, having got lessons and trained hard for it. It was a 1,500m swim and it was an eye-opening experience making me realise that anyone can get involved and do as little or as much of a triathlon as you like.” Teena’s next plan is to shed some of the kilos she’s regained after getting back into shift work this year and “get 10 times fitter”. She’s keen to take on another triathlon next year, do some longer swims and to climb a mountain in Nepal.

Long-distance walker

Alex Ellis-Roswell, long-distance walker

At the age of 21, Alex Ellis-Rothwell set off on a truly epic walk around the coastlines of Britain and Ireland. So far, he’s been around England’s south coast, through Wales, the Isle of Man, around the whole of Ireland and is currently on the west coast of Scotland.
In two years, the Kent man has walked 5,000 miles or 8,000km. Half way he thinks. He says the time he spent on the west coast of Ireland was, “the defining six months of my life. I changed as a person walking up that west coast. I’ve never been anywhere that the way of life just fits with my personality.
“Jim Kennedy from Atlantic Sea Kayaking was taking me for a drive through the mountains one day and he told me that nobody in West Cork is going to be a millionaire doing what they do. It’s a beautiful melting pot of people, all with big ideas trying to realise their own dreams, yet everyone is happy to help each other out to achieve them. I really like that idea.”
Alex set off having had a “shit year” during which his Dad passed away, with a plan to visit every lifeboat station along the British and Irish coasts and to raise funds for the RNLI along the way. He’s already close to £30,000.
Alex says one of the funniest phrases he frequently hears is, “I can’t believe you’ve given up four years of your life!” He says, “I think about that quite a lot. It’s an alien phrase. I don’t feel like I’ve given up four years. It’s ridiculous. I’ve lived more in the last two years than I did in the previous 20. “It’s the people and the communities I’m meeting that interest me more than any kind of physical challenge. The little quirky stories and characters. And it’s so inspiring to meet the RNLI Lifeboat volunteers. We live in what can be a very self-centred society and to meet people that give up
so much and risk so much for strangers. It’s amazing.”


Lynne & Noel Hanna, climbers

Lynne and Noel Hanna set a new world record this year by becoming the first couple in the world to climb Mount Everest from both the north and south sides of the mountain. But that’s not why they did it. Their real aim was to sprinkle the ashes of their beloved pet dog, Babu.
There’s a lovely symmetry to their story. The couple tackled the northern approach to Everest in 2005, but Noel suffered retinal haemorrhaging in both of his eyes above 7,000m and the threat of permanent blindness meant they had to abandon the climb. He couldn’t drive or use a computer when he got home to Northern Ireland to recover, so Lynne bought him a puppy, a German shepherd.
Noel says, “His name was Babu, which means son in Tibetan, and he went everywhere with us. He’s been to the top of Slieve Donard (Mourne Mountains) in all conditions many times, but he passed away last December and we always said if anything happened to him, we’d take some of his ashes up to the top of Mount Everest.”
Lynne and Noel climbed Everest together in 2009, but had to divert and take the southern route at the last minute because of problems in Tibet. Noel has led many climbing expeditions up the mountain over the years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that they both managed to complete the climb they wanted to do on the north side of Everest. Describing the moment they sprinkled their dog’s ashes, Noel says, “It wasprobably the first time I had tears in my eyes at the top of Everest… We came down around 5m from the top and got a nice wee place. It was hard on both of us, and it was the first time I had kissedmy wife on the summit. It’s a moment I’ll always remember.”

EAMONN KEAVENEY Barefoot walker

Eamonn Keaveney, barefoot walker

“You get more used to it, but you don’t get used to it.” That contradiction is how Eamonn describes long-distance barefoot walking. “I’ve discovered an online barefoot community and they give the impression that eventually you can walk across the most harsh terrain and not feel it. I don’t personally believe that,” he says.
Eamonn Keaveney (24) from Mayo walked barefoot around the entire island of Ireland during summer 2016 to raise money for Pieta House. He chose the charity and challenge after losing a friend to suicide in 2014. “At the start, it was really sore. I had no time to rest my feet up and they got eroded in certain parts. I didn’t get a single blister for the duration of the journey, but just tremendous discomfort and pain under the skin. It would persist even when I stopped walking and put my feet up at the end of the day. My feet were still hurting.”
Eamonn set out to break the Guinness World Record for the longest barefoot walk. He officially recorded 2,080km, blasting the previous record by nearly 500km. He got the idea to go barefoot after climbing Croagh Patrick, Lugnaquilla and walking parts of the Camino in France. He says one of the hardest parts was Glenveagh National Park. “I thought I can walk over anything my feet are so tough, but that place really nabbed me. It was a really chippy road. Chipped asphalt. It was brutal. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m back at square one!’ I practically lost my mind walking through there.” It took Eamonn three-and-a-half months to complete his journey and he raised €29,500 for Pieta House.

Stevey McGeown, ultra runner

“The first day, I got sun stroke and, pardon my language, but I was pissing blood for six days. I was puking for eight days. There was a heat wave in Ireland at the start of June and I got really sick. I
couldn’t sleep either for the first 10 days. I was only getting three-and-a-half-hour’s sleep with the heat stroke. I was really worried.”
Stevey McGeown’s challenge was to run 60 ultra marathons in 60 days during the summer of 2016, and despite the rocky start, he did it. “I ran 63km every day. I marked the routes before starting in Armagh. There were times I was running when someone would have walked past me, but I was doing my best to keep going.”
The previous year, he ran 100 marathons in 100 days, having taken up running three years previously. To keep himself going, he says he would, “Pray, breathe and the people around me would keep me going. I was very clear in my mind about what I was doing, and thankful I had the ability tomove. I still had two legs.”
Stevey (37) who's from Armagh says his wife is 100% supportive of his adventures. The couple has three children together. During his challenge, his grandmother, who he was very close to, passed away. He managed to finish his run in Tipperary, go home to Armagh in time for her wake, and return the next day and run from 7.30pm to 1.30am. He also went home for her funeral and made it back to run from Clonmel to Waterford from 9.30pm to 4.15am.
Stevey raised money for several charities, including Fighting Blindness, Run for Autism H.A.N.D. and Buddy Bench Ireland. For his next challenge, he wants to race a horse. Not horse racing. But to run faster than an actual horse for more than 125km. We’ll definitely come along for that one!


Mountain Meitheal, volunteer group

Mountain Meitheal is nominated in our awards for the group’s incredible commitment to conservation and keeping our mountains beautiful by carrying out maintenance and repairs on trails and walkways. The group is made up entirely of volunteers who do the work for the good of the outdoors so we can spend our spare time enjoying Ireland’s national parks and mountain ranges.
The treasurer of Mountain Meitheal, Shay Walsh, has been on board since it started in 2002. He says, “The group is for people who are interested in giving back to the mountains. I was a hillwalker for many years and I noticed a deterioration in the mountain tracks and trails. I heard the idea put forward to give something back so I got involved.” The group has 67 members who undergo training and carry out work on our mountain trails.
‘Meitheal’ is the Irish word for a group of volunteers working on a project that benefits the community. They have a national organisation that oversees the whole country, and two local branches working on projects in Dublin/Wicklow and the south east of Ireland. They are open to new branches and members coming on board!
Shay says his favourite project was building a stone-pitched trail through the Miners’ Village in Glendalough in Wicklow, which was commissioned by the Wicklow Mountains National Park. “They got us to use local materials that had been shifted down stream in a major flood. It’s a protected site so you can’t move materials around unless they were already there.
Everything just came together and we built a stone track through the village and put in drainage so it doesn’t flood during heavy rain anymore. “The area was getting badly eroded without a trail because people were walking all over the place, and now most people stick to the trail we built. Given the massive footfall in the area, that’s a good thing.”


BAZ AND NANCY ASHMAWY Adventurers and TV presenters


Baz and Nancy Ashmawy, adventurers and TV presenters

“I think it’s bullshit!” says Baz Ashmawy. “That idea of just sitting at home when you’re old. Or thinking someone is not capable of doing something because of their age. We were trekking in Ethiopia and there’s a tribe there that have no sense of time or day. There’s no age. If you didn’t know what age you were, what age would you be? It’s just in your head.” Dubliner Baz (41) and his Mammy, Nancy Ashmawy, have taken the world by storm with their hit show, 50 Ways to Kill your Mammy, which has just finished its third series. In it, he takes his 73-year-old mother all over the world on adventures
like bungee jumping, swimming with sharks, rollercoasters, everything you could think of! In the latest series, four other mammies joined him and Nancy on their adventures.
Baz and Nancy are nominated together for their work inspiring people to get out and be active. Baz says, “One mammy was struggling to explain what was so special about what we were doing. And it was the excitement. There’s very little excitement in life sometimes. It’s just about getting into a car and having an adventure. Finding a bit of fun. It can be anything from going for a walk to see the Cliffs of Moher or driving through Sally Gap. “So many people have been inspired by Nancy and the other mammies. You can’t see what they’re doing and not want to push yourself. If you’re not living, what are you doing? “I believe in those mammies. It’s simply that they need someone to believe in them, to do a stunt with them, and be by their side doing what they’re doing saying, ‘You can do this’. They’ll probably do it on their own in the end, and they do these amazing things.” What’s next for them? “I’m not sure we’ll do any more series. It’s been really popular but I don’t want to hammer it to death.
I’m always looking for bigger, better, other twists out there. Mam on the moon? That’s what I’m itching for.”



Deric O hArtagáin, triathlete

TV3 weather presenter Deric O hArtagáin set out in 2016 to recruit 10 novices to do 10 triathlons around the country while raising funds for 10 charities. He says he got the group of beginners together because he wanted to share his love for the sport. “For me, it was about the challenge for people, taking them into the sport and opening them up to new disciplines. The Tri 10 team were Joe Keena, Máire Ryle, Chris Donoghue, Teena Gates, Kevin Kiely, Maurice O’Reilly, Kieran Greene, Jayne Orr and Martina Hanna.
“Some of the group couldn’t even swim the length of a pool at the start, let alone swim in a river or in the open sea. One lady had severe depression and was suicidal a couple of years ago. Another had weight
issues. Everyone had their own story and was doing it for different reasons.”
Deric (35) has been racing triathlons for around five years, and wanted to open it up to others. “People see triathlon as an elite sport, or they think they couldn’t do three sports in one, but you just have to mentally break it down into three different components and do them one at a time. “We’d turn up at races and people knew who the team were. They came up to the newcomers and supported them, saying they’d been following them online and thought what we were doing was great.
“Many of us are still training together as a team. We’ve been sea swimming all the way through autumn and into winter. It’s completely changed their attitudes and brought a whole new energy and approach to their lives. Even their mental capacity. They thought they couldn’t swim the length of a pool and now they’re out swimming a kilometre in the sea for fun.
“One lady had gone through a divorce. She had three kids. She didn’t know who to turn to a few years ago. And now she’s making time for herself, which is great.”
BRIAN MCGRATH AND SEAN HOBAN Mountaineers and scouts

Brian McGrath and Sean Hoban,

mountaineers and scouts

“It’s a bit over the top to be honest. We didn’t think it was a big deal, me and Sean. We did what anyone else would do”. Brian McGrath (18) is shocked at the attention he and his 16-year-old friend Sean Hoban have got for rescuing their scout leader, also his father, after a fall in the Austrian Alps.
The two teenagers from Ferrybank Scout Group in Waterford were on their annual camp in Austria in summer 2016. Brian, his friend Sean and his scout leader and Dad, Mick, had gone on a four-day climb up the cliffs and glaciers of Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner (3,798m), when the accident happened. They were roped up and descending when Mick’s foot slipped and got caught between two boulders.
Mick says, “I didn’t realise my right ankle was fractured and I kept thinking ‘I’m grand, I’m grand’, but despite putting ice from the glacier on it and bandaging it up, I couldn’t walk any further.” The teenagers put their years of scout training into practice and decided that Brian would go down the mountain to get help and Sean would stay with Mick. Brian says, “Dad warned me to walk and take my time going down, but as soon as he couldn’t see me, I bolted as fast as I could.”
He had to traverse along a glacier and descend a sheer cliff face alone before he got phone signal.
“I knew the best option was to ring the mother and get her to phone emergency services. She was in Austria too, but was down at the scout camp so I knew she’d know what to do.” Mick says, “Myself and Sean were in a white out at this stage. So he got me to layer up with clothes and he started to build up rocks around me to create a shelter. We heard the rescue helicopter after nearly two hours of waiting, and there was a weird weather window where the clouds cleared and the rescue crew came in and took me away to hospital.”
Brian says he’s learnt, “how things can get bad very fast. Although it’s not going to put me off climbing. It was a little unfair that I didn’t get to go in a helicopter. I got to go for a run and they got a lift in a chopper.”


Lucy Mitchell, climber

Belfast woman Lucy Mitchell (23) is among the best climbers in the country, men and women included. She’s won the Irish Lead Climbing Championships for the past three years and she’s come second in the British Championships twice. When asked what she likes about climbing, she says, “Everything! It’s fun. I loved it from the very start at 16. It’s so different every time. It’s not boring. For me, it’s not about getting to the top or seeing the view. For a lot of people, it’s about the view or the places you visit.”
This year, she ticked off her first 8b/+ in Oliana in Spain. “I’m trying to climb harder every single day. I’ve been trying to win the British Championships for the past two years and I keep coming second. It would be nice to finally manage to win that. Every year, I say that but it’s up to me to train harder next year.”
Lucy is a coach and part of the management team at Boulder World in Belfast. She’d like to see more people getting into climbing in Ireland and is working to boost the number of schools that take students climbing. She hints that she’d love to compete in the Olympics now that climbing has been approved for Tokyo 2020, but feels she’d need the next four years off work to have a “good go at the Olympics”. Her other goals? “I’d like to climb the hardest route in the world. I think it’s a 9b or a 9b/+. I’d like to win the World Championships too. For this year, I’d like to climb an 8c. I planned that last year too, but didn’t have the time and wasn’t fit or strong enough.”


Orla Walsh, triathlete

Dubliner Orla Walsh (17) is a rising star in the triathlon world. She has a background in swimming and has already won the National Junior Aquathlon title, a number of smaller aquathlons (swim/run events) and she won the junior Liffey Swim at 16. Orla swam with the ESB Swimming Club for the past eight years but feels she only found her swimming feet when she started sea swimming. She says, “Open water swimming is definitely my strength. It’s so much more interesting and fun because conditions are never really the same. In the pool, you just swim up and down but in the sea you can go anywhere.”
She was picked up by Triathlon Ireland during a talent identification day that tested her swimming, cycling and running. “Triathlon Ireland have really helped me. I have a coach called Stephen Delaney who guides my training. I find it really helpful, because I wouldn’t know what I was doing otherwise.” In 2016, Orla won the Junior National Aquathlon Championships held at the Mourne Aquathlon in Castlewellan in July 2016. She also claimed the bronze medal in the senior race. It involved a 1km swim and 5km run. She also won the Pulse Beach triathlon in Clogherhead in September 2016.
“I really enjoy doing triathlons. When I’m racing, I’m so focused on it. I just go into the zone and try and do every little bit I can to go fast and not think about anything else. I definitely like it more than swimming, which can be so competitive.” Once she gets her Leaving Cert done, Orla’s aim is to represent Ireland in the European Triathlon Cup in summer 2017, and she’s looking forward to getting her first Irish team suit.

Adventure racer and organiser

Avril Copeland, adventure racer and organiser

Dubliner Avril Copeland is very well known on the Irish and international adventure racing scene, but in 2016 she crossed to the other side and helped organise a race for the first time. She was one of three organisers of the five-day Itera Expedition Race in the west of Ireland in August 2016. She had some experience being one of the founding members of the Darkness into Light event for Pieta House eight years ago.
Despite holding down a day job, she took on co-organising Ireland’s first world series adventure race, which was 600km long, and involved teams running, cycling, kayaking, climbing and coasteering down the west coast of Ireland from 16-23 August 2016. “It was the worst week of the summer for weather. It literally rained for the entire race, and it was really windy and stormy. It was terrible.
“But people really enjoyed it. It was a tough race because of the weather aspect but it’s a great race to bring to Ireland. We were keen to show the beauty of this country and to hit as many of the hot spots as we could along the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Avril (38) started adventure racing in 2001. She has competed four times in the Adventure Racing World Championships, most recently in Ecuador in 2014. She was the first female in the Caveman Trail Run/Mountain Bike Championship in 2012, and won the Beast of Ballyhoura in 2010. She’s been laid up with an injury for the past while.
“Organising was really difficult given I have a fulltime job as well, but I enjoyed it. I met a lot of people in Ireland through it and it was really interesting to see how it all works from the other side.” Would she organise another race? “No, it’s definitely not my thing. It’s given me the inspiration to do another big race now though!”

Ice Swimmer

Nuala Moore, ice swimmer

“I love swimming in 0ºC because it’s the maximum. Swimming 1000m at 0ºC requires you to be 100%. To be at your best at all times. I love to see the ice. To see the extreme and feel the greatness at the same time.”
Forty-something Kerry woman Nuala Moore can be credited with pioneering ice swimming in Ireland. She’s one of our most experienced cold water swimmers and has been nominated in the Woman of the Year category of the World Open Water Swimming Association Awards (WOWSA) 2016 for her achievements. She also educates and trains people on safety around ice swimming and has done much research in this area.
They include coming first in the International Ice Swimming Association’s (IISA) 1000m Championship at 1ºC in the Yenesei River in Krasnoyarsk in Russia.
She was second in the 200m at 0ºC in the World Winter Swimming champs in Tyumen in Siberia. She also did a relay in 3 - 5º across the Beagle Channel between Chile and Argentina. When asked how she copes with cold water, she says, “I get the cold shock the same as anyone would experience. The same feelings, and emotions and stresses.
The difference is that I understand the experience. I can manage it. “What’s vital when swimming 1000m at 0ºC is that you have enough energy to recover properly. The pain is intense when you exit the water and I have a team with me who manage it. We sit in a warm environment and hot towels are placed around my body, which draw the cold out. “But nothing beats that feeling of greatness when you’re half way through an event, and you can feel your strength. It’s like hitting the wall and going beyond it, I suppose, and understanding that you have control over issues that would ordinarily get you out of the water.”



Papua New Guinea Cave Expedition Team, explorers

“It’s unusual when you’re surveying a cave and you put your hand on the cave wall and there’s a massive tarantula. Some of the caves were spectacular with lakes or rivers running through them. They’re so full of life, which is unusual. I’ve never seen anything like that before. There were cave crickets, snakes, tarantulas, flying foxes and bats.”
Jack Healy was among a team of 14 people, including 11 Irish, who went on an expedition exploring caves in Fogoma’iu in the Kosua region in Papua New Guinea. To put it in perspective, to get there the team took four planes, a long road journey, and a privately chartered flight that landed on a grass strip in a field as there are no roads into the village. The area is populated by the Kosua Tribe.
Once on the ground, the team hiked through dense jungle to explore local caves. Jack says, “The area is completely unexplored really. It’s very tough terrain.
You can’t walk in a straight line. It takes days to get anywhere. We’d move as little as 3km during an eight-hour hike. There’s thick jungle and a dense canopy. And we had to shimmy around massive shake [sink] holes that were hundreds of metres wide with massive drops.”
The team consisted of Séamus Breathnach, Jack Healy, Kayleigh Gilkes, Stephen 'Muh' Macnamara, Claire Dunphy, Stephen 'Jock' Read, Aileen Brown, Éabha Lankford, Nick Edwards, Róisín Lindsay, Eoghan Mullan, Una Donoghue, Brían Mac Coitír and Axel Hack. They spent three weeks on the ground there during December 2015 and January 2016. Some of the group had been to Papua New Guinea on a previous expedition in 2011 and it took 18 months to organise this mission.

Dillon Lynch, hiker

At just nine years of age, Dillon Lynch is the youngest person to hike to the highest point in each of the 32 counties in Ireland. He and his Dad, Pat O’Brien, took on the challenge quite by accident. Once they realised they had hiked all of the highest points in Munster, they just kept going! They live in Kildorrery, just outside Mitchelstown in Cork, which is surrounded by mountain ranges.
Pat says, “We covered off eight mountains in just two days over the June bank holiday. Sligo and Leitrim were so close to each other, it was like two for the price of one. And we did Roscommon that evening. The next day we drove to the shared highest point in Fermanagh/Cavan and went up the outstanding stairway on Cuilcagh mountain. Then we drove to Longford and did Westmeath and Meath on the way home to Cork.”
It took Dillon and his Dad 14 months to complete the challenge, which they fitted in on weekends and around holidays.
Dillon also set up his own website to track his progress and sold ads to local businesses to help fundraise. He raised €3,340 for the Cloyne Diocesan Youth Services in Mallow and the Kildorrery Karate Club. Pat says Dillon has been up mountains since he was three, and “He really enjoyed getting to the end of this challenge. Most of the hikes were really memorable in their own way. We saw some amazing views, especially on the timber boardwalk in Fermanagh. It’s outstanding to look back at our pictures and remember where we were.”

Ultra Runner

Eoin Keith, ultra runner

Not that 48-year-old Eoin Keith needs much introduction, but the ultra runner has had another massive year in 2016. Top of his list of achievements is his first place finish in the gruelling 400km Spine race along the Pennine Way in England, which took place in hellishly cold and snowy conditions. The veteran racer also set a new course record of 95 hours. Eoin says it was his favourite event of the year. “I was aiming to win. I had a plan on how to win it and I executed the plan exactly as I wanted. The plan was not to get left behind in the early stages, and to accelerate away towards the second half. “You need so many attributes to do well in the Spine. Even just to finish.
You need to run at a reasonable speed, navigate well, look after yourself in a harsh environment, and deal with the mental and physical effects of being in bad weather and nasty conditions.” Eoin also competed in the 246km Spartathlon in Greece in September, a race that retraces the route from a 2,500-year-old legend about the courier, Pheidippides. “It’s the opposite of the Spine in terms of weather. It went from extreme cold to extreme heat. It’s hard to be good at both. You need to be able to cope with the heat, while having the right Columbia gear means I can deal with the cold.” The ultra runner also raced in the 600km Itera expedition team race along the west coast of Ireland in August 2016 in appalling weather with torrential rain and strong winds for the entire five-day event. “There were really tough conditions for that race. We weren’t expecting it to be that bad. At least in the Spine, we knew what was coming but we didn’t expect August in Ireland to be like that.”
JADE 0'CONNOR Kite Boarder

Jade O’Connor, kite boarder

Dubliner Jade O’Connor (41) is Ireland’s best kite board racer and competes on the international pro circuit using foil kite boards. She came third in the Kitefoil Goldcup 2016 finale event in Doha in Qatar in November, which placed her second for the overall IKA Kitefoil Gold Cup. That’s based on the best results from two events in Doha and Italy, after the third Turkish leg was cancelled because of political unrest.
“Second on the tour is great! I’ve had a very good year. My best for results. I also came third in the European champs. I’m going well.” Jade works part time as a contractor in IT in Dublin so she’s free around two weeks of every month to train and race. Jade has been sailing since she was five, in Optimists, Mirrors, Hobie 18s and Hobie Formulas, and took up kite boarding in 2001.
When asked what she likes about kiting, she says, “It’s mind-blowing. Intellectually it doesn’t make sense. You’re doing around 55km an hour across the water on a piece of carbon that’s a metre out of the water. It’s completely silent and you’re strapped to a huge kite. It’s all going great, then something goes wrong and you hit the water and it hurts like hell! Still, it’s hypnotic and an incredible experience.”
Jade is eyeing up first place in the world champs next year. “My goal is to win. Is it feasible? In the right circumstance, yes, but I’d need a lot of time on the water and I’d need more funding.”
She’s also keeping an eye on whether kite boarding might be included in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. “We’ll know by June 2017 if we’re in the Olympics or not. If so, I’m around fourth in the world. If kiting goes Olympic, there’ll be massive motivation for me to do that. It would be a three-year campaign, but that would be the dream.”


We value the opinions of our community of readers. So we want you to vote for the winners of the following categories. We’ve already received some really amazing nominations so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Voting will commence soon so please keep an eye on,, and for more details.


We are delighted to announce the new Just Eat Fit Food Award for 2016! We know that in a hectic world, eating well can be a challenge but it’s essential for the outdoor and adventure lover. So this award will recognise a food provider that helps our readers meet that challenge by providing great-tasting healthy food for purchase, takeaway or delivery. That provider may well go above and beyond to inspire a healthy balanced lifestyle, giving away free recipes, organising runs, sponsoring active events etc. This award runs in parallel with our new regular feature on healthy eating (see pages 60 in our mag.)


Which was the best outdoorsy event you took part in during 2016? Which was the most fun? Had the best atmosphere or the best after party? We’ve been at lots of events and have our opinions – but we want to know what you think. Last year, the Best Outdoor Adventure Event went to the Chain Reaction Cycles Emerald Enduro – Enduro World Series mountain biking race. What amazing event should take home the trophy this year?


The Best Outdoor Escape Award is for a provider or destination that allows you to immerse yourself in adventure and forget about the day-to-day grind. So let us know what provider allowed you to have the best craic ever on a day out? Or about the amazing campsite or hotel where the staff really went out of their way to accommodate your mucky outdoor needs? Or the one that introduced you and your kids to the wonders of jumping in a bog. Last year the award went to Extreme Ireland, an Irish company that offers everything from mountain skills courses in the Irish hills to trips to experience the Northern Lights.


From full-scale movie productions to hilarious You Tube clips, we’re open to all types of suggestions for our Best Outdoor Adventure Film – as long as they can be watched online by the public and they inspire you to go out and explore the world’s natural wonders. Last year the award went to amateur photographer and videographer Fiona Madden for ‘When did you last look around you’.


For 2016, we’ve added a Most Sustainable Outdoor Escape Award. We really treasure Ireland’s precious outdoor environment so we want to recognise a company, provider or a destination that goes above and beyond to protect it – all while showing you a great outdoorsy time.


From the pro to the snap-happy amateur who manages to capture an awesome shot on their smart phone,
we want to see your amazing, inspiring have-to-share outdoorsy photos. Last year this honour went to Dermot Sweeney for his stunning shot of a mountain biker in Mournes.


Outsider’s mission is to shout from the rooftops how simply great and transformational taking part in outdoor activity and adventure can be. Public figures – from celebrities to exceptional politicians – can do a huge amount for our cause, giving publicity to the mental and physical benefits of adventure, pushing for funding, taking part in events and talking publicly about them etc. We’d like to recognise them through our new Celebrity Adventurer of the Year award so they’ll keep up their good work. We’ve listed our nominees on the previous pages but you will decide who will be the winner.


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Meet the mind-blowing awards nominees!

Badass, bold and downright ballsy! We put the call out in the last issue of Outsider for you, our readers, to let us know about the most amazing people from the Irish outdoor and adventure scene in 2016! And you didn’t let us down.