By Michael Keaveny
Keeping fit and healthy was always one of Des Seepersad's passions. So much so that the Seneschalstown man, who is a qualified engineer, now builds free standing calisthenics rigs. So when RTE announced the were looking for volunteers for their new special forces themed show, "Ultimate Hell Week", he was the perfect fit.
"My sister saw an ad for it and pointed me towards it", he said. "I love being outdoors and tough, physical challenges, so it was the ideal for me."
"There was a long drawn out application process but I was picked at the end of it."
The challenge itself was devised by four former special forces members and was held in the Wicklow Mountains in March, which recieved a heavy downfall of snow just before it started. It consisted of challenges that were designed to push contestants to their limits and beyond. Activities included swimming in open, freezing water as well as activities which tested their physical and mental endurance, such as crawling for hours through streams and mud with a 30 kilo pack on your back and a 5 kilo bar in your hands (in place of a gun), while constantly scraping your arms and knees agaisnt stones, as well as various other gruelling challenges.
"It was really, incredibly tough", Des says, "but I'd be disappointed if it wasn't, it's what i signed up for.They told us this isn't Ireland's Fittest Family". The other contestants were made up of top sports people, from pro athletes, to top amateurs, to people who worked really tough physical jobs such as firemen and elite paramedics. "There were 24 of us in total (Des is number four), but this declined as the event went on as people either quit because it was too hard or were dropped because the co-ordiantors didn't like the cut of their jib."
" I couldn't tell my friends I was going to do it and we had to give up our phones, so i told them I was going visit family and couldn't look at my whatsapps".
"They warned us at the start that some of us might not make it to the end because it's so tough. It's designed for the special forces, so even the army who have years of physical training only have a 10% completion rate. The Navy Seals in America and the SAS in the UK are made out to be very glamourous, but the Irish special forces are just as good as them".
Apart from being physically exhausting, it was also mentally taxing,as Des explains. " Most people found it very stressful, which was nearly harder than the physical element of it. As soon as one task was finished, we only had a few minutes before we started again, if even that. It was really hard to eat, change your clothes or go to the bathroom because the instructors would just announce we were going again. Coupled with two or three hours sleep a night and not exactly home cooking, made it extra tough."
The programme will air tonight at 9.30 on RTE 2 , which Des is understandbly excited about. " I still haven't seen it yet, so I'm looking forward to looking forward to it." The whole experience was amazing and I'd definitely do it again."