A hard-partying lifestyle took its toll on Whareora cyclist Lizita Hale, who has returned to her sport with a passion after earning a clean bill of health.
Ms Hale, 20, started cycling at Whangarei Girls' High School in 2007 when her soccer coach Kevin McKenzie noticed she never ran out of energy.
"He put me on a bike and I came first in the Northland secondary school champs."
In 2008, Ms Hale competed in the Mizone Twin Coast Tour which travelled via Whangarei, Dargaville, Opononi and Russell.
"At the end I swore I'd never ride a bike again."
The throwaway comment took on a reality, though, when Ms Hale went to university in Hamilton to study sport and recreation and started eating and drinking badly - becoming a self-described "party animal".
She briefly got her act together again for the 2009 Mizone Twin Coast Tour by not drinking and training hard for three months - but the health buzz wasn't to last.
"I felt good and tried to stay good but slipped back to my bad habits. I went to Queenstown, partied too much and ended up in a foetal position feeling sorry for myself."
A week later Ms Hale started getting pains in her abdomen and was told by doctors she was suffering from acid stomach - the result of too much alcohol. Convinced it was something else, the young Northlander received an ultra-sound which showed she had gallstones and an infected gallbladder.
Ms Hale had two operations - one in which the end of her bile duct was chopped off, the other in which her gallbladder was removed.
"I felt so awful, I had worked so hard to get fit and it had all gone away," she said.
With the pain finally gone, Ms Hale transformed from being a party girl to taking cycling seriously.
"People always said why are you wasting your talent by drinking and partying and I wanted to show them I would concentrate on it."
Barely a month after surgery Ms Hale was the first female to finish the Northland road cycling championships.
"I had to start at the bottom, but I'm now the fittest and fastest I've ever been."
Despite the pain, she is glad the experience happened.
"It gave me a second chance ... I wouldn't be where I am today if it didn't happen."