You can’t? Well I CAN!

Warning…. wee rant coming on.

I am a wee bit tired of hearing that phrase. Whether you can or you can’t, it is a mind set. It is not limited by anything physical, it is just a mind set and nothing more. That injury, that ache or pain that is stopping you, let me tell you, it isn’t. It’s YOU that is stopping you.

Things I was told I would not be able to do:

  • Get on to team GB
  • Get to the start line of the Beijing world champs, having suffered a head injury just 8 weeks beforehand
  • Get a top ten finish
  • Get to the start line (and the finish line) of my last race for GB, while carrying a severe knee injury.
  • Ride my Time Trial bike again, after a total knee replacement
  • Race again in multisport after a total knee replacement
  • Continue to ride my time trial bike despite severe pain and nerve damage in my left leg.
  • Get back to top level multisport competition with a knee replacement.

As you might imagine, I have smashed almost all the above can’ts completely.

When I called my mum the first time I was selected for team GB, I had not told anyone I was even trying to get selected. She thought I was joking!

I only had 6 weeks notice and the race was on the other side of the world. I sold my motorbike so that both myself and my husband could go to that race. To this day it remains one of my proudest moments.

ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships 2009, Australia

Fast forward to 2011. I was out on a training ride close to home. I approached a roundabout in a small village – then bang, I cannot remember anything else. I was found on the ground on the roundabout by a passing motorist. We can only assume it was a hit and run, but I have no memory and there were no witnesses. I was severely affected by that bang on the head, could not stand up straight or walk in straight lines for over 8 weeks. I was seeing a psychologist for rehab. I had already booked and paid for my flights to China prior to this accident. The flight was in 8 weeks. I was told that I should not fly. That is should not even consider racing.

I went to Beijing, I did that race and I achieved a top 20 finish for the first (and only) time in my racing career at a world champs.

ITU Sprint triathlon World Champs, 2011. Beijing.

I was never a natural athlete. I had to work hard at it and every single GB qualification was a major triumph for me. So a top ten finish seemed almost impossible. I continued to work hard, but so did the girls I was racing against.

I went to Eilat It was quite a local story because there was a lot of unrest in the area at the time. My husband chose not to go with me on this occasion due to the location of the race. He did not consider it to be worthy of a holiday. So I simply went, raced and came home.

I raced my ass off. I had not encountered such heat before, so I did not hydrate properly. It was not apparent to me till I got half way through the run and ran out of steam. But, there was a GB girl on my tail and I knew that if I stayed ahead of her, I could make top 3 GB placings which meant an automatic qualification for next year. Beyond my wildest dreams! So I busted my ass, I beat her then I collapsed on the other side of the finish tape! You can read my race report here. Two more ticked off that list of things I supposedly cannot do.

My last World champs was in New Zealand. Although I did not know at the the that it would be my last. This was around the time that I started to have real trouble with the knee that eventually ended up being replaced. I was struggling to run on it at the pace needed to stay in the hunt as part of team GB. I had surgery, which was supposedly going to put off the need for more major surgery but I was advised to stop racing. I really wanted to race in New Zealand, so I ignored the advice from my surgeon and went to see a physio to learn about kinesio taping. This really helped my knee and helped me to keep pushing the boundaries and run on it faster than I would otherwise be able to. When I told my surgeon I was going to NZ, he told me not to. He then added, that if I did decide to race, I should accept the fact that I might not get to the end. I told him he really didn’t get it did he..!!!

I did actually know that my days were now numbered but I was not going out without a fight.

I not only completed the race in New Zealand, but I did so with pride, determination, and most importantly was not last in my age group as I expected to be! I sat down after the finish line thinking wow, those girls couldn’t even beat me when I was injured!

ITU World Sprint champs, 2012, New Zealand

From here my journey takes quite a different road. Because for 8-9 years I carried that knee injury that had started before the 2012 world champs and had to stop racing completely. In 2018 I eventually had that knee replacement after years of waiting in the public health system.

Now I was fighting a different battle. A battle to get back everything that I had lost after a knee replacement, both mental and physical. Getting 9 years back was going to take a while. Actually much longer than I ever anticipated.

The first step was to be able to ride my time trial bike. I was told this would never be possible because of the fact that it has such a severe and aerodynamic riding position. Telling me I can’t fuels my fire. So I got those pedals going round at just 11 weeks post op.

I am continuing to ride this bike despite the development of my new issue – nerve damage in my lower back and left leg. This started around 6 months post total knee replacement and I have always been told it is not related, but I simply do not agree.

Recently a locum doctor I was speaking to said that back issues after a knee replacement is relatively common and tends to be related to the fact that a joint replacement means your whole alignment has been tampered with. Now THIS makes a lot more sense to me. Still, it does not change, or cure my problem. I am currently waiting for the lock down restrictions to be lifted so I can get on with booking my appointment with a back surgeon. Meanwhile I have severely lost power and muscle mass in my left leg, meaning the right (TKR) suddenly becomes my ‘good leg’! It also means I am back on massive doses of medication just to keep the worst of the symptoms at bay.

Once again I was told not to ride my bike. I am bloody determined though, because I have only just got it back for goodness sake! So, I continue anyway, mostly indoors, because being bent over so much was hurting too much, meaning riding outside would be impractical. So, I am on the trainer and I can unclip my left leg when the pain becomes too much and can continue to pedal with the right for a while. Recently I have started to notice that my right leg is actually stronger and more powerful than when I am trying to pedal with both!! So, that is my solution – pedal with one if two is too painful!

Today I participated in a criterium race on Zwift. I have never done this type of race before and my nerve damaged leg was hurting… a lot, so I did not know how it would go. Anyway, here is the race.

Crit City Slam Zwift Women’s race

If you do not want to watch it all, fast forward to the last 2:05 mins. I am just starting lap 8/8 and the next rider ahead of my is ten seconds down the road. Can I catch her before the finish line?

One left…

So, if we go back to the list, you will notice I have now ticked off all but one. Being back at top level racing. I was right on track with that, until this nerve thing started. Now, I have been back racing in multisport, but not quite as I had hoped, and nowhere near fast enough for New Zealand selection.

But you know me…. I NEVER give up.

So, I am guessing that this wee goal has been delayed a bit by both coronavirus and most likely back surgery some time in the future. Once that is all done, I will be back, with knobs on and ready to rock that last item on my to-do list.

What did you say… you can’t??

Well, I am quite simply not interested. Because, as I said right at the beginning, I cannot is a mind set. It simply means you are choosing not to, you have allowed your mind to take over and have decided something rather stupid.

Why not get up off that couch and go see what is actually and really possible….?


Published by Melanie Magowan

I am a personal trainer, massage therapist and small business owner.

3 thoughts on “You can’t? Well I CAN!

  1. Back surgery
    Hi Mel
    My husband had spinal decompression and fusion on Tuesday. All went well until last night when sciatic pain on side started, so now not coming home today. Just keeping you in the loop in case you or I have this op in future and I’ve recorded recovery time and progress.
    How have you been?

    Sent from my iPhone J Pilch



    1. Thank you Judy! I hope he gets over his wee blip smoothly. THey talked of that but the Ortho says my lumbar spine is not the cause of the issue. The thing is, no one has yet figured out what the cause actually is. Frustrated because I can’t ride my bike (unless I only use one leg), so I am glad the pool has opened up again! Ironic that the TKR leg is now my ‘good’ leg!


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