Jessica Ennis-Hill believes the only way is up after returning to the track for the first time in almost two years in Manchester on Saturday.
The Olympic heptathlon champion began the journey she hopes will lead to the defence of her crown in Rio next summer by clocking 13.14 seconds as she finished third in the 100 metres hurdles at the Great CityGames.
The 29-year-old was racing on a purpose-built track on Deansgate in front of her nine-month-old son Reggie and hordes of spectators, who braved the cold to gather outside the city-centre bars and coffee shops to catch a glimpse of the returning golden girl.
She received a huge cheer when introduced to the crowd for the first time in 22 months.
Back on that occasion, at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at the Olympic Stadium, she clocked 13.08secs. Her return performance, in cold conditions and into a headwind, was encouraging.
“It was really good to be back,” said Ennis-Hill, who finished behind Tiffany Porter, who claimed a dominant victory in 12.86s, and Lucy Hatton.
“I feel like it’s a starting point now. I feel like I can build on that.
“I’m always going to be disappointed. I know I am capable of running a lot faster, but I hit a hurdle. I feel like I’m lacking race sharpness.
“I’m happy to come away with that, I can build on it.”
Ennis-Hill, who clipped hurdle six, admitted beforehand she was getting “stuck in at the deep end” against four specialist hurdlers, including European champion Porter and there was a sense of relief at discovering she had been ready.
“Now I can go away, get race sharp and put some more training together and see what I can do in a few weeks’ time,” she said.
“To not have raced for so long since the Anniversary Games, I need to be in more races more often and be lining up against girls like that and be in that environment again.
“That will come with doing more races, so I’m quite happy. I feel really good.”
Ennis-Hill, whose preparation had been disrupted by minor Achilles niggles, is due to make her heptathlon return in Gotzis at the end of the month.
She said she would see how her Achilles recovered from the race, but that Gotzis was “still very much” in her mind.
The event in Austria is set to be Ennis-Hill’s first seven-event competition since London 2012.
And it is due to pit her against Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the 22-year-old who shattered her British record on the way to pentathlon gold at the European Indoor Championships in Prague in March.
Johnson-Thompson has firmly established herself as the new queen of multi-eventing in her illustrious compatriot’s absence and impressed over the straight 200m hurdles in Manchester, her first competition since Prague.
The 22-year-old showed good strength in the latter part of the race to finish second by just 0.03 to Meghan Beesley, a specialist 400m hurdler.
Johnson-Thompson admitted she was stepping into the unknown with the rarely-run distance, but was pleased with her performance.
“I had to pick it up towards the end,” said the Liverpool athlete, whose time was 25.31. “I’m happy with that race.
“I’m just glad I didn’t come to a grinding halt and didn’t hit the hurdles. That was my biggest fear.
“I’ve got really bad eyesight as it is and I couldn’t see the finish line. I was just trying to look for one hurdle at a time.
“It’s just a run out to see where you’re at - and how many hurdles you can get to before you die.”
Elsewhere, Greg Rutherford, who described the conditions as “brutally cold”, sealed victory in the long jump with his first leap, soaring out to 8.01m.
Richard Kilty, the world and European indoor 60m champion, hailed a “promising” display as he clocked 10.29 to finish second to American Mike Rodgers in the 100m.
Nineteen-year-old history student Dina Asher-Smith gained a modicum of revenge on Dafne Schippers, the Dutch sprinter who beat her to 60m gold at the European Indoor Championships in March, by winning their battle over 150m in 16.82.