Shedding a moon boot a couple of weeks before his title defence has hardly been an ideal preparation for Ali Day’s pursuit of a second consecutive Coolangatta Gold crown.
Regarded as surf lifesaving’s ultimate endurance test, a 41.5-kilometre swelter through the surf and on the sand along the Gold Coast’s beaches, the Gold is designed to torture even the fittest of athletes.
Resolve between the ears, just as much as physical prowess, is what sorts the boys from the men in the near four-hour ordeal.
And a massaging of the mind throughout an interrupted 2013 has Day lining up on the start line with a ‘‘no excuses’’ mantra.
‘‘There were times where I just wanted to pull the pin and get away from it all not train,’’ said Kiama-raised Day, who now calls the Sunshine Coast home.
‘‘I owe a lot to [Mooloolaba coach] Kingy [Michael King] and he’s like a psychologist. Being able to talk to him every day [about the foot injury] has been a huge help.
‘‘And to be able to talk to my parents and girlfriend has also been huge. They’re massive supporters of what I want to do and what I want to achieve.
‘‘I’ve sort of said before it hasn’t been the easiest of years, but to be able to race in one of the three iconic races in surf lifesaving will be awesome. I only started running a week ago, which is a bit scary ... but I’m not going to be making any excuses.’’
A revised Coolangatta Gold course will send the long-course competitors scrambling from Coolangatta to Burleigh and back on Sunday.
The ski leg will span 23km before entrants are forced to run 1.8km, swim 3.5km, paddle 6.1km on the board before a gruelling 7.1km trek on the sand for the final leg.
‘‘It was probably the best, but most painful, 10km run of my life,’’ Day said of last year’s final leg, which has been shaved under a revised course.
‘‘I saw my parents about 400m from the finish line and they ran down the beach and I got to see Kingy about 100m down the beach.
‘‘You do get pretty emotional when those things fall into place and I just love the history behind this race.’’
It’s also why the amateurs prepare for months in the unsuitable winter conditions, just hoping to master the sport’s version of Mount Everest.
Wollongong City captain Tim Jennett will follow in the footsteps of older brother Michael in taking on the Gold with a host of other Illawarra-based athletes.
Tobias Lunney, James Haigh, Adam Coble and Graham Miller will tackle the short-course event (33.4km) on Saturday.
Scott Lunney, Steve Hanlon, Mitch Fagerstrom, Jacob Helson and Mackenzie Hynard will brave Sunday’s long-course event.
But just how do they all master the inherent mind games?
‘‘There’s been a lot of time in training where your mind wanders off and you’ve got to switch it back into gear,’’ Jennett said.
‘‘I think once the race starts on Sunday, I don’t think there’ll be too much of an opportunity to let your mind wander.
‘‘As soon as you do that you might fall off your ski or board or might trip over a pothole in the sand. The smallest little thing could completely stuff up your race.’’
Jennett prepared for his debut Gold race with a trial run of the course with ironman legend Dean Mercer, but will only have one primary goal in mind at the start line.
‘‘Personally, it’s just to cross the finish line,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s like any race, as soon as the gun goes you’ll be hoping for the best result possible and I’ll be treating it like any other race.’’