THE 2019/20 ironman season was shaping up to be Ali Day's best to date.
The Kiama product had just won his second ironman series crown and appeared ready to take his performances to unseen heights.
But just before he attempted to win his record seventh Coolangatta Gold title, disaster struck at training, with Day breaking both his wrists in a training accident - ruling him out for the entire 2019/20 season.
"It was really tough watching from the sidelines, especially as it was the second full season I'd missed through injury (after sickness saw him withdraw from the 2012/13 campaign) - it's relatively unheard of that someone my age misses two full seasons during the peak of their career," Day, 29, said.
"The difference between the two missed seasons was I at least got to race in the Gold that first year, while I didn't even get a chance to step on the start line this time around."
When he first got injured in September, Day thought he'd be back racing in no time.
But after coming out of surgery, he went through many different phases on his road to recovery.
"I definitely didn't appreciate how hard the rehab was going to be - I just thought they'd throw the casts on my arms and I'd still be able to swim and drive," he said.
"But when I woke up from surgery and had casts on, I had a pain I'd never felt before - I'd broken bones when I was younger but doing when you're older is much different.
"At this point, I thought to myself 'it's going to be a long way back to where I was'.
"The second phase after surgery was coping with being alone up here on the Gold Coast.
"My family is still down on the South Coast and with my wife [Kel] still going to work, I spent a lot of time alone at home - I couldn't drive anywhere, cook myself food or even dress myself, as those simple tasks quickly became impossible."
This saw the St Joseph's Catholic High School alumnus fall into what he called a 'dark time' in his life.
"I started seeing my sports psychologist once again - the same one I saw back in 2012/13," he said.
"Just seeing her once a week helped me connect with my friends and family - simple things such as letting them know how I'm feeling and not sugarcoating it.
"I also started listening to a podcast called The Imperfects, where The Resilience Project's Hugh van Cuylenburg chats with athletes and teams about dealing with adversity - it instantly resonated with me.
"The podcast isn't for everyone but it's stuck with me and I'll keep listening to it forever - it's made that big of an impact of my life."
The other tool Day used to get through his down days was a journal.
"I'd been given many diaries over the years but never used them until now," he said.
"Now I just spend 10 minutes a day writing down aspects like what went well for me today, things I'm looking forward to or what I'm grateful for.
"With the extra time to focus, it really allowed me time to reflect on the positives in my life and give me perspective on what is really important.
"I've now done it for 160 days straight - while it doesn't sound like much, it's played a big role in my life the past few months."
Being the active person he is, once Day could start to resume exercise and routine, it also helped him get back into a positive frame of mind.
"I'm big on routine in my life, as it really helps give me a sense of purpose," the Surfers Paradise SLSC talent said.
"To the credit of my coaches, surgeons and hand therapists, they've been amazing ever since I restarted training.
"They didn't rush me on any exercise and let me ease my way into it because there's got to be a balance between pushing it and playing it smart - I'm blessed to have them in my corner.
"They let me enjoy the simple things like being back in the water, which I missed greatly.
"At first, there's obviously that sense of frustration I couldn't do things I'm usually capable of and that doubt weighs on you.
"But I've been ticking all the right boxes and am now at about 80 per cent of the way back to full health and strength.
"I'm confident the final 20 per cent will return very soon."
To ensure that happens, Day has had to alter his training routine due to the coronavirus lockdown laws.
"The pools have been closed for close to four weeks now, so I'm trying to do one or two pieces of training each day - for my physical and mental health," Day, who only leaves the house to train or go grocery shopping during this 'crazy' time, said.
"I'm lucky I still have access to our ACTV Strength Co Gym [which Day runs with his business partner Anthony and who are still running online classes] as well as a little home gym.
"Plus I have plenty of boards and skis at home, so if I want to duck across to the ocean and train I can - not to mention the channels are nearby too.
"I mix up those sessions with running too, to ensure I come back in excellent shape and the body is ready to handle the heavy workload, whenever we are allowed to resume training.
"I've obviously lost a lot of muscle mass and fitness but I'm determined to get that aerobic base back and build up those muscles and tendons through long paddling stints.
"Apart from not being able to use the pool or train in a group, my program is still busy, thanks to my coach - who's emphasised the fact I can only control what I can control."
When he does return to competition, there's only one event he wants to re-announce himself at.
"There are 30 weeks until the proposed date for the Coolangatta Gold," Day, who was inspired to do the event by Caine Eckstein, said.
"It may sound like a mountain of time but I know it'll go quick.
"Obviously the goal, like an event I compete in, is to win it, but I'm realistic, as it'll be my first event back in more than 12 months.
"With the batteries being recharged after a year off, I'm confident I can put myself in the best shape of my life - especially with me being smarter to my approach to racing and recovery."
Looking further ahead, Day wants to add another ironman series title to his collection.
"There's nothing better than that feeling of winning a race - I've been thinking about it for months," he said.
"As much as I love the Gold, I don't want to be known as a distance racer - I want to be an ironman who can handle all conditions.
"All this hard work will be worth it but until then, I'll just continue chipping away and gradually getting better each and every day."