live Infotainment Factory: Why TV star's taking sport's most gruelling test

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Thursday, 29 August 2019

Why TV star's taking sport's most gruelling test


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Quinn Darragh is about to undertake one of the most gruelling tests in sport. While some may run from the brutal physical punishment he is set to experience this weekend at the Red Bull Defiance in Queensland, Darragh is keen to push himself to the limit because he says he's "lucky" just to be alive.

Darragh is best known today as one of the internationally renowned 'Bondi Rescue' lifeguards, but he's recently been taking on endurance sport.

He's done the Melbourne Ironman, next year he'll be swimming the English Channel to raise $60,000 for charity, and this weekend he'll take on the Red Bull Defiance. Alongside fellow 'Bondi Rescue' lifeguard Andy Reid, Darragh will be in Mission Beach for a two-day adventure race over 150km involving running, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, ropes and canoeing.

Reid had the experience of having done the Red Bull Defiance in New Zealand earlier this year and invited his mate to take part, an opportunity that Darragh didn't hesitate to take on.

"It just sounded like a great test of endurance and one of those bucket list things. He said I'd absolutely love it, so I thought I'd do it," Darragh told Wide World of Sports.

But what is driving Darragh is more than the quest for top of the podium at the Red Bull Defiance – he's out to prove the incredible resilience of the human body, because he knows better than most just how much punishment it can take.

"The real reason I started to pick these kinds of events was because of what I've experienced," Darragh said.

"Since I was 10 years old I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and I was always trying to manage it the best way I could growing up. In the years that followed the doctor told my mum I had to be as fit and healthy as possible to hold it off, and I tried to manage it.

"But I got to a point when I was married and my wife was pregnant when the Crohn's in my large bowel had gotten so bad it caused high grade dysplasia (HGD). It's essentially pre-cancerous cells throughout the large intestine.

"I was told by the surgeon that I had to have my whole large bowel out. I was a bit terrified and I tried all alternative medicine and went back for second and third opinions, and they all said the same thing – the chance of it turning cancerous is 100 per cent and if I didn't have this operation now I was going to have these cells turn cancerous, they flick off into the liver and then you're down a very different track.

"I asked what was involved in the operation and they said I might have a colostomy bag for life, but they might be able to reverse it."

On the brink of raising a young family, it was news that rocked him to his core. Not least because of the heartbreaking, but necessary honesty of his doctor.

"I was just thinking this is the worst news ever," Darragh said.

"The surgeon said it's not the worst news ever; that would be it turning cancerous and spreading to my liver and then I'm going to have a widow and a young son."

Darragh asked if he could wait three months for his son to be born before the operation and they agreed, and he got to be there for his wife and the birth of their first child.

The path did not get any easier, though it was in those turbulent moments of his life that Darragh had his 'uh-huh moment'.

"A few weeks after my son was born in 2012 I then was just in a really bad place post-op," Darragh said.

"Having all these complications that were really horrendous and super painful, I was lying in the hospital bed thinking, 'What's my story going to be? What am I going to do from here and what lessons can I teach my son?'

"So I entered an Ironman. It was 11 months after that second operation. I'd never been a bike-rider before, I'm not a runner, I'm a swimmer, but I entered the Melbourne Ironman.

"Other than having children, to complete that Ironman was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. That then sparked something in me that made me realise with these events I should just say, 'Yes'. You figure everything else out afterwards."

And so today Darragh is in his final preparations in Queensland, readying himself for an intense challenge in the Red Bull Defiance starting Saturday, competing alongside professional sportspeople like triathletes Courtney Atkinson, Matt Poole and Clint Kimmons.

"When I saw this course I was scared," Darragh said.

"But all of the most memorable things that I've done have terrified me.

"I know it's going to test me mentally and physically. Everybody is going to be in these challenging situations.

"There's going to be a climb that seems like it goes forever, and you know that's only two hours into that four-hour run session. Then you have to get on a bike, and the elites will do it in maybe two to three hours and the novices will be back in four to five hours, and the elevation I think over the whole course is about 4000m. For comparison, around Bronte the elevation is 150m in climbing.

"I'm privileged to be able to still enter these races.

"I was very lucky. I do appreciate what I've got."

To get his body in peak condition Darragh says he has been tirelessly "cramming" in training, despite there clearly not being enough days in the week to do it all.

"I swim 5km sessions, three times a week. I was trying to run three times a week and I'm on the bike whenever I can in between once or twice a week," Darragh said.

These past few months he's also been adding a 2,000 calorie smoothie to his otherwise super-healthy diet.

"I saw this lunatic guy called Timmy Garrett. He's done these insanely long triathlons and the English Channel, and I asked him how to put on weight and he gave me a recipe for a 2,000 calorie shake to have in the morning," Darragh said.

"It's a cup of coconut oil or bran oil, half an avocado, a banana, two scoops of protein powder; I put a bit of vital greens in there, some bloodberries or blueberries, some almond milk or cow's milk, half a cup of oats and I blend all that.

"It's a concoction that was put together by that guy because you burn so much weight doing the training, so it allows me to maintain my weight. It's a really nice smoothie."

As for the mental side of the challenge Red Bull Defiance presents, Darragh said it's his family, particularly his uncle that has allowed him to keep pushing through the setbacks he's experienced and do it all with a smile on his face.

"My uncle was 26 when he had a melanoma and died, and mum said he never asked 'Why me?' And I always remembered that and I tried to remind myself of that," Darragh said,

"There's good people who get sick. There's others that have a perfect run of life. Life is not fair. Nobody owes you anything. When things go wrong, just find a way to get through it because through adversity you become stronger as a person.

"The Red Bull Defiance course looks phenomenal. They say it's a real test but I'm hoping getting to the finishing line will be a similar feeling to the Ironman when I was getting out of that dark place."

Quinn Darragh is about to undertake one of the most gruelling tests in sport. While some may run from the brutal physical punishment he is set to experience this weekend at the Red Bull Defiance in Queensland, Darragh is keen to push himself to the limit because he says he's "lucky" just to be alive.

Darragh is best known today as one of the internationally renowned 'Bondi Rescue' lifeguards, but he's recently been taking on endurance sport.

He's done the Melbourne Ironman, next year he'll be swimming the English Channel to raise $60,000 for charity, and this weekend he'll take on the Red Bull Defiance. Alongside fellow 'Bondi Rescue' lifeguard Andy Reid, Darragh will be in Mission Beach for a two-day adventure race over 150km involving running, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, ropes and canoeing.

Reid had the experience of having done the Red Bull Defiance in New Zealand earlier this year and invited his mate to take part, an opportunity that Darragh didn't hesitate to take on.

"It just sounded like a great test of endurance and one of those bucket list things. He said I'd absolutely love it, so I thought I'd do it," Darragh told Wide World of Sports.

But what is driving Darragh is more than the quest for top of the podium at the Red Bull Defiance – he's out to prove the incredible resilience of the human body, because he knows better than most just how much punishment it can take.

"The real reason I started to pick these kinds of events was because of what I've experienced," Darragh said.

"Since I was 10 years old I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and I was always trying to manage it the best way I could growing up. In the years that followed the doctor told my mum I had to be as fit and healthy as possible to hold it off, and I tried to manage it.

"But I got to a point when I was married and my wife was pregnant when the Crohn's in my large bowel had gotten so bad it caused high grade dysplasia (HGD). It's essentially pre-cancerous cells throughout the large intestine.

"I was told by the surgeon that I had to have my whole large bowel out. I was a bit terrified and I tried all alternative medicine and went back for second and third opinions, and they all said the same thing – the chance of it turning cancerous is 100 per cent and if I didn't have this operation now I was going to have these cells turn cancerous, they flick off into the liver and then you're down a very different track.

"I asked what was involved in the operation and they said I might have a colostomy bag for life, but they might be able to reverse it."

On the brink of raising a young family, it was news that rocked him to his core. Not least because of the heartbreaking, but necessary honesty of his doctor.

"I was just thinking this is the worst news ever," Darragh said.

"The surgeon said it's not the worst news ever; that would be it turning cancerous and spreading to my liver and then I'm going to have a widow and a young son."

Darragh asked if he could wait three months for his son to be born before the operation and they agreed, and he got to be there for his wife and the birth of their first child.

The path did not get any easier, though it was in those turbulent moments of his life that Darragh had his 'uh-huh moment'.

"A few weeks after my son was born in 2012 I then was just in a really bad place post-op," Darragh said.

"Having all these complications that were really horrendous and super painful, I was lying in the hospital bed thinking, 'What's my story going to be? What am I going to do from here and what lessons can I teach my son?'

"So I entered an Ironman. It was 11 months after that second operation. I'd never been a bike-rider before, I'm not a runner, I'm a swimmer, but I entered the Melbourne Ironman.

"Other than having children, to complete that Ironman was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. That then sparked something in me that made me realise with these events I should just say, 'Yes'. You figure everything else out afterwards."

And so today Darragh is in his final preparations in Queensland, readying himself for an intense challenge in the Red Bull Defiance starting Saturday, competing alongside professional sportspeople like triathletes Courtney Atkinson, Matt Poole and Clint Kimmons.

"When I saw this course I was scared," Darragh said.

"But all of the most memorable things that I've done have terrified me.

"I know it's going to test me mentally and physically. Everybody is going to be in these challenging situations.

"There's going to be a climb that seems like it goes forever, and you know that's only two hours into that four-hour run session. Then you have to get on a bike, and the elites will do it in maybe two to three hours and the novices will be back in four to five hours, and the elevation I think over the whole course is about 4000m. For comparison, around Bronte the elevation is 150m in climbing.

"I'm privileged to be able to still enter these races.

"I was very lucky. I do appreciate what I've got."

To get his body in peak condition Darragh says he has been tirelessly "cramming" in training, despite there clearly not being enough days in the week to do it all.

"I swim 5km sessions, three times a week. I was trying to run three times a week and I'm on the bike whenever I can in between once or twice a week," Darragh said.

These past few months he's also been adding a 2,000 calorie smoothie to his otherwise super-healthy diet.

"I saw this lunatic guy called Timmy Garrett. He's done these insanely long triathlons and the English Channel, and I asked him how to put on weight and he gave me a recipe for a 2,000 calorie shake to have in the morning," Darragh said.

"It's a cup of coconut oil or bran oil, half an avocado, a banana, two scoops of protein powder; I put a bit of vital greens in there, some bloodberries or blueberries, some almond milk or cow's milk, half a cup of oats and I blend all that.

"It's a concoction that was put together by that guy because you burn so much weight doing the training, so it allows me to maintain my weight. It's a really nice smoothie."

As for the mental side of the challenge Red Bull Defiance presents, Darragh said it's his family, particularly his uncle that has allowed him to keep pushing through the setbacks he's experienced and do it all with a smile on his face.

"My uncle was 26 when he had a melanoma and died, and mum said he never asked 'Why me?' And I always remembered that and I tried to remind myself of that," Darragh said,

"There's good people who get sick. There's others that have a perfect run of life. Life is not fair. Nobody owes you anything. When things go wrong, just find a way to get through it because through adversity you become stronger as a person.

"The Red Bull Defiance course looks phenomenal. They say it's a real test but I'm hoping getting to the finishing line will be a similar feeling to the Ironman when I was getting out of that dark place."

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