With Portuguese egg tarts and pizza in her belly, Dipna Lim-Prasad savoured not just the rewards of a good race in Lisbon, but also the fruits of her labour in recovering from injury in the last few months.
The 25-year-old clocked a 400m personal best, finishing in 55.59sec for third place at the San Antonio International Meet on Sunday.
The result is her best showing since her previous best of 56.23sec more than three years ago. It is also the first time she has dipped below 56sec.
More significantly, it places her second on the all-time list, behind Chee Swee Lee's 1974 mark of 55.08sec, which is the joint-oldest track and field national record (along with the men's 4x400m mark set on the same day).
Lim-Prasad, who has been in Portugal training and competing for the last three weeks, told The Straits Times yesterday: "I've been hovering around my old personal best and my season's best (56.33sec, April 2016).
PUSHING HER OWN LIMITS
Every journey is bumpy. We must brave the lows, be patient during the plateaus and be grateful and humble with the highs. I'm just so grateful to have a great support system behind me.
DIPNA LIM-PRASAD, Singapore sprinter, on what has been a demanding season.
"It's such a breakthrough for me personally to not just finally get a new personal best, but to break the 56sec barrier."
An ankle injury in December kept her out of action for three months as she limped around in an air cast. The layoff also invited the attention of doubters.
She said: "It's been an extremely demanding season for me mentally. There were quite a few naysayers, and it was tough to be written off.
"Every journey is bumpy. We must brave the lows, be patient during the plateaus and be grateful and humble with the highs. I'm just so grateful to have a great support system behind me."
The runner made special mention of her husband and former national sprinter Poh Seng Song, family, coach Luis Cunha, friends and sponsors like Nike for standing by her.
The Athlete Career and Training grant from Sport Singapore which came just before she left for Portugal was also a timely boost.
With every millisecond of improvement having taken years, she is choosing to focus more on her own progress and less on trying to break the national record for now.
She said: "I'm always trying to run faster and push my limits. But it took me a long time to cut my time down to 55.59. I don't want to get ahead of myself."
The meet saw participation from some of Portugal's best athletes, including 2008 Olympic triple jump champion Nelson Evora. Catia Azevedo, who finished first in Lim-Prasad's event in 52.62sec, is Portugal's top 400m runner.
Four other national athletes also competed in Lisbon. Sprinter Timothee Yap, 21, posted a new PB in the 100m, clocking 10.62sec.
Singapore Athletics president Tang Weng Fei said the trip very nearly did not happen due to the ongoing disagreements within the association's executive committee.
He said: "It took my deciding vote just to sanction the athletes to go. To me, you're bound to improve and learn (from) competing with Europe's best. I'm glad the athletes vindicated our decision to let them go."