Physical Therapy and Exercise

Morrello Para-Triathlon 2023

Putting the ‘TRY’ in Triathlon

Back in 2020 when I first start having neuro-physiotherapy at the Morrello Clinic, Allison my physiotherapist asked me if I would like to take part in their annual para-triathlon, which is aimed at pushing patients who attend Morrello, that extra bit further. Before you ask, it’s not expecting patients with conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), Parkinson’s, or Superficial Siderosis to swim 750m, cycle 20km and run 5km. It’s purely about getting patients to push themselves, pledge a distance, and have a bit of fun in the process. Due to the COVID pandemic, the Morrello Triathlon hadn’t taken place for the past three years, so this was my first chance to get involved.

Each patient can have up to two other members on their team, and they can share the three events between them, or take part in whatever events they are able to. The goal is for all teams to collectively reach the distances of a triathlon. For me, I pledged to do 4 miles walking and 4 miles cycling (which I hadn’t done since selling my bike in 2019 because I was no longer able to balance on it). Usually, I find I can walk two miles, give or take. It depends on how my legs hold up, how dizzy I am, or how bad the fatigue is. Pledging double that was ambitious and a bit of a gamble at the same time, as I had no idea how I would feel waking up on the morning of the event. 

Just Before the Event

On 7th September, two days before the event, I got in the car to head to University Hospital of Wales to collect my deferiprone prescription (Iron chelation medication to help remove the iron from the brain and spinal cord), but as I was pulling onto the main road, which was due to be part of the triathlon route, I noticed cars turning around and going back the way they came from, and there was an awful lot of traffic. I didn’t think anything of it really, until I returned from the hospital to find the road closed. Once I parked the car in the driveway, I went over to have a look; and it wasn’t good considering it was to be the route of the para-triathlon.

Just to add to the woes, the water supply had been cut off in the area, and we had no water at home, on what was currently a really hot day, with the hottest day of the year due on the day of the triathlon! It also meant I was unable to shower when I needed to cool down to regulate my body temperature, or because I’d been drenched in sweat from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating in which I sometimes need to change my top up to 5 times a day).

Flooded Triathlon Route

The Big Day

Thankfully, when I woke up on the day of the triathlon, the zapping headache that I get wasn’t as bad as it usually is, the water in the area was back on, and with the start time being at 11 am, it gave me enough time to ‘come around’ and wake up properly. My family/teammates came to the house around half an hour before the start time, and we walked over to Morrello Clinic.


It’s good to be back!

The cycling and running/walking route had been changed due to the flooded road, although the flooding was cleared, the alternative route was kept. First up was the cycling event, where Pedal Power (a local cycling charity) had brought bikes, trikes, and recumbent trikes for everyone taking part. I was nervous, yet hugely excited at the same time, as I used to love cycling before I was unable to balance on two wheels. After getting settled and allocated a recumbent bike with 3 wheels, the nerves disappeared, and the thrill of being on a bike again kicked in.

I had an absolute blast on the bike, but think I slightly overdid it. It was nostalgic, combined with realisation; realisation that I can ride a bike, providing it has 3 wheels. I found it much easier than walking, as I had the frame of the bike to keep me stable, but the one thing I did notice is that my legs were frequently coming off the pedals due to the shaking and clonus I have in my lower limbs. Perhaps some foot straps or stirrups would be good next time?

The new route was 1 kilometre per lap, whereas the previous route was in miles. I kept asking Henry (Morrello Sports Therapist) how many times I’d gone past him, whilst trying to convert kilometres into miles to see how much longer I had left to reach my pledge. Lucky, my aunt had been counting the laps I was doing, as I was enjoying it so much that I completely forgot to keep count. I stopped cycling after I’d done around about 6 miles and had a bit of a rest before we attempted the walking, which I knew would be more difficult for me.

Sophie & Mike


Rhys & Mike

After having a rest and some food, my uncle and I set off for the walk along the same route, and we had now worked out that 7 laps equated to 4 miles. I found walking much more difficult, and my legs were shaking and stiff as usual, so decided to keep to the 4 miles pledge as I was really struggling the longer it went on. It was great to see all the neurological patients pushing themselves, both on the outdoor course and inside the Morrello building using the equipment. Patients of all ages were involved, along with family members and friends.

The Pool/Rowing

By the time we had finished walking, I was absolutely shattered, and being the hottest day of the year didn’t exactly help either. I was planning to attempt the swimming, (which would have been great for cooling down), but my prescription goggles hadn’t arrived, and the waterproof aqua kit for my cochlear implant makes me really dizzy. However, I did decide to do a bit of rowing, before crashing out and having a few chocolate brownies inside the building. Only my uncle and I stayed until the end, where we collected our medals, and the medals for my sister and niece, which we gave to them once we got home. 

Natasha (Morrello Clinic) & Rhys

The ups and downs of superficial siderosis make it so difficult to have consistency with mobility; or anything really. For me, taking part in the Morrello Para-triathlon was a huge personal achievement. Keeping the mobility issues at bay is a difficult task, and I usually do both physical and vestibular exercises every day. It’s a constant battle, and I owe such much to the expertise at the Morrello Clinic, not only for helping me to get back on my feet again, but for teaching me to understand what I need to do to maintain the progress I have made.

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Rhys Holmes

Rhys Holmes is a feature writer at Living with Superficial Siderosis and the U.K Director of the Superficial Siderosis Research Alliance. Rhys is a former musician, data analyst, shop assistant, and childhood footballer. In his spare time, he enjoys watching his favorite football team Liverpool FC. Follow Rhys on Twitter @RhysHolmes

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