Wensley’s Cycles winter duathlon series Race 1: race report

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster at best. The PTSD has been off the charts meaning the slightest little thing has been knocking me off that precipice.

Remember this visual analogy?

I have had a lot of personal difficulties to deal with, many of which I don’t have complete control of. So it has been a case of trying to manage the damage and keep me in a safe place.

Also many of these challenges have themselves been PTSD triggers which has compounded everything. I have had days where I don’t want to get up, days where I cry at the slightest thing.

Positives that I have achieved

Dealing with mental health issues is a challenge, all the time. It makes me constantly doubt everything I do, knock myself down at every turn see the negatives in everything by default and always want to just quit and give up.

But I am bigger than that. I am not my mental health issues. They wont beat me.

Training the last few weeks.

I am currently nursing a foot injury (the right one the ACTUAL foot). I am, not allowed to walk too much or run at all while I get assessed and have a new orthotic made. Everything is talking longer than ever here in NZ with broken supply chains, staff shortages and a recession starting to bite.

My Sports wheelchair is also out of action at the moment too and has been for a few weeks. We are trying to find a way to make it some side guards so my legs and my forearms don’t rub on the wheels and I dont keep getting friction injuries. In the meanwhile I cant use it.

This leaves me with another conflicting issue. Exercise is both my solution and also my problem. Too much stuff that relies on two feet is waaay too much of a trigger for me right now. That is why I use the sports chair. With it out of action, I am either back on two feet on back in my day chair (with its own set of limitations).

Swimming itself is ok, but the action of getting there is fraught with barriers for me. I have hardly been swimming at all for the last 6 weeks or so… in fact since St Clair pool closed for the winter.

And then we have the running. I am finding it so so hard to even get myself out the door at all, despite all the support mechanisms my partner Peter is offering me that it almost was a non starter.

What am I doing about it all?

I got a treadmill. If getting out the door is a barrier, then Let’s do it inside. It is working well for me on the cycling front.

At first my goal was to walk 1km a day. I thought this was a tiny achievable goal, but as it turns out, it was not at all. Walking is so damned hard that it is a fitness session on its own. So instead walking 1km forms part of my training schedule. I am currently aiming to to 3 days of exercise a week. If I manage 4 thats a bonus. 1 swim, 1 walk, 1 bike and one other as and what fits.

I got a swim fin. It took almost 7 months to sort because I’m the first in NZ to have one from this particular American supplier.

The goal for this was always meant to help me strengthen my quad by allowing me to do kick drills. None of the weight bearing traditional exercises have worked due to the fact that I have a very short lever below the knee.

And then there’s my partner Peter. Ever encouraging, always there, supporting, picking me up when I fall, putting me back together when I come apart and he represents my biggest cheerleader. Without him there’s a lot of things that would simply get the better of me.

Wensley’s Cycles winter duathlon series round 1

The run up week

I was intending to do this on the bike and in the sports wheelchair. A race track would be the perfect surface for it. But that plan was written off around the middle of this week. My first reaction to this was well fuck it. I’m not going the stupid race then.

Then I had a word with myself. After Peter and I had a conversation (and a few more tears were shed) we decided that I might MIGHT be able to do it on the blade. But… I had only walked on it a couple of times, and that was on a treadmill. Could I really do it?

I truthfully didn’t decide whether I was going to until Saturday evening.

The race

I HATE duathlons. I always have. Even when I had two feet, i hated them. I never was a strong runner and I hate the dash off the start line leaving me for dead. This is only amplified when I am on a blade and the only person actually walking.

Run 1

I walked this on the blade. This was always going to be a challenge because the blade length is set up for running. Therefore there’s a leg length discrepancy that hurts my back the further I travel.

That said. I managed to walk the whole km non stop (the first time I have achieved this on the blade, I had to stop or lean on the machine both times I did it on the treadmill.)

And… it was a 1km PB on two feet: 13:46mins.


All my many hours on zwift (on the TT bike that gives me no assistance) are starting to pay off. The bike leg by far was easier (as expected to a certain degree). The first 1/2 was done with the battery turned off. Average speed here was around the 25kmph mark. This is a first with this bike battery being off. (Don’t forget its a lot heavier due to the battery). I only turned the assistance on for the second half because I knew that the last 1km walk would be bloody hard work already so decided I had better save something in my legs for that.

Run 2

Every bit as hard as I imagined. The blade seriously works my left quad because of the different action, which was already fatigued from earlier. I was in serious pain and just couldn’t get through this one without crutches for assistance and a few stops along the way.

There were tears. But with it a significant mind set shift when I really felt like the wheels were coming off.

Peter came to meet me and walked the last half with me. I was holding back the tears (and not doing a good job). He asked what was wrong.

Instead of saying what I know would have previously been my default – this should not be so hard – I stopped myself.

I thought of all those hours till now with the psychologist and the work we have done to try and shift my mind set.

Who said it SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be hard. That is a mind reading failure on my part.

So, instead I said Í wish it was not this hard.’

This is a significant mind shift on my part. Ok, it didn’t come naturally, I had to think my way out of the hole, but I said it. I didn’t say the other one.

Things I am proud of

  • I did not allow myself to fall into my previous trap of comparing myself to things I used to be able to do. I took today on face value and can see the definite positives.
  • I walked 1km on the blade. I couldn’t have done that a few weeks ago. I definitely feel encouraged by the role the swim fin can play in my training and rehab
  • I am so pleased I got that treadmill. It is allowing me to strip things right back to basics and remove any barriers I might have formed stopping me from getting outside. I can go right back to looking at left and right stride pattern and muscle building, the exact same way I tackled how to learn to walk.
  • I am so excited by how much stronger I felt on the bike than I expected. I am so stoked that the new focus on zwift training is paying off.

Massive thanks also to Peter, for giving up his sunday morning to stand and freeze his ass off to be my handler, cheer squad and all round great supportive partner.

Author: Melanie Magowan

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete

One thought on “Wensley’s Cycles winter duathlon series Race 1: race report”

  1. I don’t know much about PTSD so thank you so much for sharing and helping me to understand it more. Also, even though you say that things have been tough, I love how you listed out lots of things you were still proud of yourself for achieving anyway. The treadmill was a great idea. For exercise, I usually follow a Caroline Jordan or Donovan Green seated sexercise. That way, the weight is completely off of my feet but I’m still getting a really hard and fulfilling work-out regardless.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: