Clifford Hoeft was powering through the hills and gliding through the straights of his ninth Ironman in Port Macquarie.
A 3.8km swim in the Hastings River was long behind him and a 42.2km run was waiting as he completed three quarters of the 180km cycle on May 6, 2018.
The Port Macquarie athlete was accustomed to the physical nature of triathlons and ultra marathons but this time he felt something was inexplicably wrong.
"I didn't know what was happening. I was having trouble with my balance and also the peripheral pain was becoming overwhelming," he said.
"I became very, very ill quite quickly and ended up on the side of the road.
"I was completely incapacitated in a situation that I'd never been in before.
"I got to the point where I couldn't continue and I ended up in hospital from the stress of it."
The health scare would spur a number of medical inquires including a spine MRI on May 31, brain MRI on June 26 and June 28, and lumbar puncture on July 16.
The tests revealed spinal and brain lesions.
Mr Hoeft consulted with a neurologist and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on August 29, 2018.
The disease affects the central nervous system, disrupting the communication between the brain and the body. Symptoms include vision loss, pain, fatigue and impaired coordination.
In Mr Hoeft's case the nerve disruption meant his hands and feet became hyper-sensitive to pressure. He would grapple with chronic pain, blurred and double vision, chronic fatigue and muscle spasticity.
It ended a lifetime dream of finishing 10 Ironman events in Port Macquarie.
"It was heart breaking to be honest. It was quite crushing to see the end (of Ironman) and my self-confidence," he said.
"I have chronic pain from the condition and it's exacerbated if I'm holding anything in my hands for too long. This means gripping the handlebars becomes problematic.
"I did find ways to relax and manage that pain through a type of meditation. You get comfortable being uncomfortable.
"I have to deal with muscle spasticity constantly, the muscles are active continuously and shorten which creates tension. It makes running quite difficult and it can make it difficult to actually walk.
"I'm not able to work because one of the symptoms is a consistent state of fatigue."
Despite the diagnosis Mr Hoeft maintains involvement with Indigenous Marathon Foundation running group, Port Macquarie Parkrun, Hastings Orienteering Club, The League of Kilted Athletes and the Port Pacers Running Club.
"I certainly do have feelings of loss about it but by the same token I can rationalise there are some things out of my control and keep adapting," he said.
"I've made peace with myself and accepted that completing my initial goal is out of reach for me.
"I'd like to think I can jump on the other side of the fence now and be part of the volunteering side for Ironman.
"I'm content doing marathons but I can see a point in the future where that will be out of reach as well.
"For now I am just trying to adapt and keep those goal posts moving, so that I'm content with whatever level I'm able to be functional."
Mr Hoeft will ride 82kms in the MS Sydney to Wollongong Charity Bike Ride on November 3.
The ride is on to support people living with the illness. Mr Hoeft has already fundraised more than $2100.
"I'll just adjust my expectations in line with my condition and I think that's a positive way to think about it," he said.
"Sometimes your race doesn't go to plan, but that doesn't mean you throw in the towel."
You can support Mr Hoeft's MS Sydney to the Gong journey HERE.
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