AFTER a tough couple of months of injury and illness, reaching the start line at 70.3 Vineman this past weekend was a victory in itself.

I absolutely loved this race last year, so when planning this season I earmarked it as a “special” one – and it would become special for very different reasons than those I’d originally intended.

Under my original 2014 plans – let’s call this ‘Plan A’ – Vineman was a race that my coach and I set aside as one of three or four races this year where I would really be looking to perform and have a stellar day.

Unfortunately, like the rest of us, we did not have a crystal ball, so had no clue about how the year might change – and how Plan A might become Plan B or Plan C.

At the start of the year I was on fire in training and feeling so strong. I would be unstoppable this year. Watch out world, I’m coming through. In the space of a few short weeks, though, things changed drastically.

After logging some of my finest training runs yet, I was soon sidelined and hugely frustrated when an old foot injury reared its ugly head.

To add insult to injury, some routine blood tests returned showing I had a nasty stomach infection that was going to require strong medication and a radical dietary overhaul.

What I thought was going to be a red hot summer of racing actually became a seriously challenging time of adversity.

Like every other pro athlete out there, I learned that these tough times are actually little tests. Hey you, do you really want this? Do you really want to do it? Because none of this is going to be easy. So if you want it, then saddle up and learn. Learn the art of resilience. Learn how to stay focused and keep believing in yourself. Learn that you are only as good as the support network around you.

The 70.3 Vineman was a celebration of all of that.

It was a celebration of me learning perhaps one of the biggest lessons of my professional career so far – and arguably the most important.

Resilience is everything. It seems so odd now to say that I was delighted to simply be at Vineman when the ‘old’ me was looking to knock it out of the park there. When I reached the final mile of the race on Sunday I felt a huge wave of emotion and relief.

It was great to be back, but be back as a newer, better, stronger version of me. I placed fifth in a quality field and am excited to be back in the game.

Huge thanks to my aforementioned support network and all of my sponsors, without whom I simply would not have reached that start line. Special mention to my coaches Matt Dixon and Gerry Rodrigues and Osmo Nutrition’s Dr Stacy Sims, whose help with nutrition over the past few months has been extraordinary.