Originally, from Mullingar, I grew up on the shores of Lough Ennell.
I attended All Saints National School, in Mullingar and, then, Loreto College Mullingar for Secondary School. Next, I moved on to the University of Limerick (UL), in 2003, to study a BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences, and then, a MSc in Exercise Physiology. My current PhD research, at UL, deals with Optimising Talent Development Systems, while I am also working as Athlete Support and Sport Scholarships Officer, with Team Bath, at the University of Bath.
At one time, there was an opportunity for me to pursue a full-time career as an elite athlete.
Although, things did not work out, I have competed for Ireland, in the Modern Pentathlon (MP). MP is made up of five disciplines, namely, running, swimming, fencing, horse-riding, and pistol shooting. At that time, MP was not highly recognised in Ireland. Indeed, I did not really have a coach until I was taken under the wing of the British Women’s head coach, Istvan Nemeth, who wrote me a training programme, to allow me to train away on my own at home. Occasionally, I would travel to the British Training Centre, in Bath, for one-on-one work. However, I never enjoyed the sport, it wasn’t for me and I found the training and travelling to be much too lonely. More recently, Ireland has had great success in building a High Performance MP system for athletes who are focusing on making the Olympic standard.
Many novice athletes have an overly rosy picture of high performance sport as being a luxurious career path.
For a minority it is, but for the vast majority of athletes high performance sport is cut-throat, tough, painful, in some cases unhealthy and lonely. The career path of a talented developing athlete is not easy, and is turbulent, both emotionally and physically. However, the challenges and the rewards that come from hard-work are massively satisfying. Currently, I am committed to promoting sport in Ireland. We have some world class facilities and raw landscapes which are ideal for sport. It takes nothing but motivation to get involved.
In 2009, I began coaching with Triathlon Ireland.
Typically, every year, I will coach on numerous Triathlon Club training camps. I was initially introduced to coaching by Chris Jones, who brought me in to work as a physical therapist, at an altitude camp in Switzerland with the Irish Elite Triathlon Squad. By the end of the camp Chris suggested that I consider completing a coaching qualification. From that point on Triathlon Ireland invested in me through the International Triathlon Union, and Coaching Ireland.
Exercise is still very much part of my daily life.
Since moving to Bath, on average, I go to the pool three times per week, at lunchtime, which is preceded by 10 minutes of strength and mobility work, on the deck. Each session lasts about an hour and I do at least 20 minutes of Yoga every morning, before work. I also do a strength session in the gym and run three times a week. In addition, I like to surf and have taken to open water swimming. I grew up beside a lake, so I have adapted well to the sport’s variable conditions. I recently took part in the Galway Bay Swim in aid of Cancer Care West. It is a 13km swim across the bay, and was probably the most memorable sporting experience of my life. Ireland has some of the most beautiful places for swimming, for example, Rosses Point, Galway Bay, Gougane Barra, and Lough Derg, to name but a few.
Since taking on my current role in Bath, I have come to realise how much I love coaching.
I find it hugely challenging but equally rewarding. I have travelled a lot to various competitions and to important training camps. Whilst in Bath, I want to learn and experience as much as I can about the process of developing high performance athletes. I want to take that knowledge, experience and skill set back home with me and apply it to coaching, athlete support services, and education.
I love Ireland and am happiest spending time on the coast attempting to surf or doing some open water swimming or trail runs.
My current PhD supervisor, Dr Aine MacNamara, is from Limerick, and has just published an article called The Rocky Road To The Top, which details the difficult life of elite athletes. Chris Jones works for Athletics Ireland as its National Endurance Coach. He also spent four or five years working with Triathlon Ireland, as their high performance director and head coach. I was fortunate to have him as my mentor for much of that time. Chris opened a lot of doors for me, he challenged me a lot, and as a result, I am very grateful for his support.
Horse-riding was my favourite sporting discipline but you can have some funny moments.
In the horse-riding phase of the MP there is a pool of horses, mostly top quality ex-show jumpers. Your choice of horse is drawn out of a hat and you have 20 minutes to warm-up and familiarise yourself with that horse’s characteristics and movements. At my last MP event, I was drawn with a beautiful horse, but another competitor, drawn on the same ride, destroyed every fence on the course and terrified the animal in the process. By the time that my turn came around, the horse was still shaking from the experience, and I spent all my time trying to calm it down. Nevertheless, I had a decent round, suffering only four faults. In sport, as in life, it seems, things could have been so much worse!