01/18/2013 06:38 EST | Updated 03/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Blind N.S. Cyclist Training For Cross-Country Bike Trip

A Pictou County man is training to do what no other blind Canadian has attempted before, to bike across the country.

Craig Aucoin was born with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.

"But up until the age of 15, I was pretty active in hockey and soccer and drove motor bikes and all that," said Aucoin, "But at 15 years old, my sight, I started to notice it starting to go down hill."

The incurable genetic disease strikes one in 3,500 people and often causes blindness as it attacks the eye's photoreceptor cells — also called rods and cones — that register light and colour.

Aucoin said when a doctor told him he'd never drive a car, he became depressed. That depression lasted about 7 years.

"I was pretty much a couch potato, just ate everything in sight," he said.

At the age of 23, Aucoin said his attitude changed. He started working out, and eventually started competing in triathalons. Then, his friend, Lloyd McLean, convinced Aucoin to really kick it into high gear.

"I had always planned on a bike trip across Canada, and then I asked Craig if he'd be interested in doing it and he did so that's how it all began," said McLean.

Before the pair hits the open road this summer, they're already "virtually" cycling across the country. Each week, they spend five hours on the bike and clock in anywhere from 145 to 160 kilometres.

They figure by the end of this month, they'll virtually be in Thunder Bay, Ontario — the halfway mark.

All proceeds raised by their cross-country trek will go to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the YMCA and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Aucoin said these three organizations changed his life.