When Lewis Ryan crossed the Xterra Taiwan finish line in first place and lifted the tape, he felt invincible.
After months of training and hours of swimming, biking and running, the Rotorua athlete outraced some classy opposition to finish first at the event, held last month.
He finished the 1.5km swim, 26km bike and 10km run in 2h 37m 32s, ahead of Australia's Ben Allen (2h 44m 5s) and Great Britain's Doug Hall (2h 47m 55s).
An accomplished mountain biker, Ryan is a familiar face at many local events.
However, since competing in Xterra Rotorua in April he has knuckled down and worked on his weaknesses in an attempt to become a more well-rounded athlete.
"I've spent the last six months training at home with specific intentions to improve key aspects of my swim and run performance. It's actually been a super fun time at home and I'm so glad I did it," Ryan says.
"Spending more time with the people I love and settling into a consistent routine has undoubtedly allowed me to evolve as an athlete and a person, which I'm hoping will set a strong foundation for my career going forward into next year and beyond.
"It's no secret that the most pressing issue holding my performance back was my run. There have been plenty of occasions in recent times where I had set myself up for good results after solid swims and strong rides, only to be let down by a weak run."
The first leg was the 1.5km ocean swim which comprised two 750m laps and he was up against one of the best swimmers in the game, Ben Allen.
"I can't think of any race he's done where he hasn't dominated the swim and led out of the water, especially in rough ocean conditions. I see him as a real benchmark in the swim so it was a great challenge to try to compete with him.
"After a strong start and settling into my work smoothly, it was a massive confidence boost to find myself looking into his eyes and going stroke for stroke with him as we finished the first lap."
The pair opened up a significant lead over the chasing pack going into the second lap, during which Allen began to push the pace. Ryan decided not to redline and focused on efficiency and not losing too much time.
"[On the bike] I never felt like I was over-reaching which allowed me the opportunity to spend most of my time five metres behind Ben. Judging my pace off his effort, but more importantly watching his lines and adjusting mine accordingly.
"Transitioning to the run I thought I had opened up a small gap on the final descent and maybe had a 10 second lead to work with, little did I know that Ben had suffered a mega crash behind me."
There were a number of strong runners in the field, so it was time to see if the six months Ryan had spent training would pay off. Entering the final 3km, he was still out front on his own.
"Obviously, it's hard to relax because you have no idea how much a "big gap" actually is and you're trying your best just to make it to the damn finish line that doesn't seem to be
getting any closer.
"But man, let me tell you, it's an unbelievable feeling to hit that final kilometre knowing that you're going to lift the tape. It truly was a spectacular feeling and one that I'll cherish forever.
"Cruising down the finish chute in front of all the Taiwanese people, you would've thought I'd just won my home race. The atmosphere was electric and you could feel the pure happiness in the air.
"I vividly remember running down the chute and thinking 'oh man, what am I meant to do with this tape'. I'm a total rookie at lifting the tape, which definitely showed when I got it stuck on my face for a while. But, once I finally managed to lift it over my head, I felt in that one moment like I was invincible."