Lying in his hospital bed with five fractured vertebrae, Auckland multi-sportsman Ross Lockey thought his Ironman days were over.
In November 2015, Lockey, 55, had been knocked off his bike in a training accident, suffering a fractured neck and back. For four days, he was unable to move or walk.
But the Takapuna grandfather is now back in the saddle, putting the finishing touches to preparation for his seventh swim/cycle/run endurance event at Ironman New Zealand in Taupo on March 4.
And his perseverance has seen him selected as the 2017 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Unstoppable Champion, receiving a support and training package.
"Mental attitude, my high degree of previous health and fitness, and support from both the whanau and my sporting network all played major roles in getting me back on the Ironman track," reflects Lockey.
"Before the incident, I was pretty fit. I had good core strength, so I could use my stomach as a lever, without putting weight on my back, shoulders or right-hand side.
"With good muscle memory, I seemed to quickly bounce back."
But mental strength was perhaps the biggest contributor to Lockey's full recovery. Opting for non-surgical treatment, he faced a long, painful road to recovery.
He was locked into a halo device that would keep the spine immobile for nine weeks. The first morning, Lockey embarked on a recovery programme, rather than lying around feeling sorry for himself.
"I got up at 6am and took a selfie," he recalls. "Then I took myself to the toilet, instead of lying in bed, feeling down and counting on everyone else to help me."
Within two weeks of being discharged, Lockey was back on a training bike. Within three months, he was running and three months after that, he resumed swimming.
Less than a fortnight out from race day, he has logged up to 22-hour training weeks, depending on the season.
"Ross embodies everything we were looking for in this year's 'Unstoppable Champion' and his road to recovery is truly remarkable," says Kellogg's Nutri-Grain senior brand manager Nick Cheong.
"His grit and sheer resolve not to let adversity triumph are what the Ironman spirit is all about."
Lockey's outlook for the 3.8km swim/180km cycle/42.2km run event is as positive as his determination to make the start-line.
"I love making my family proud and personally just want to be the best I can.
"Try and keep a positive outlook on everything. You don't have to look too far to see the positives in life.
Look and move forward ..."