From wavering confidence a couple of weeks ago to a dazzling four gold medals at the Pan Pacific Championships.
But that's not the complete journey Jessica Hardy of Long Beach was talking about Saturday night in Irvine.
"It's really, really, really, really gratifying," she said. "Being forced to sit for a year and struggling emotionally the past year, I'm really happy to have gotten the confidence and just everything is clicking and I'm loving it."
On a night of bright smiles around the pool, perhaps hers best defined the word incandescent. Hardy had returned to action last year after getting hit with a one-year ban. She tested positive for clenbuterol at the Olympic trials in 2008, and steadfastly maintained it was triggered by a contaminated supplement.
The road back has hardly been easy, and this four-day international meet represented a great leap forward. She leaves Irvine with four gold medals, two in individual events and two more in relays.
She powered her way to two golds on Saturday, winning the 50-meter freestyle in 24.63 seconds and anchoring the U.S. women in the 400 medley relay, which won in 3:55.23.
"I had no clue where I was in that race," Hardy said of the 50. "I even closed my eyes and opened them and saw I was kind of going crooked, so I guess I should have been more aware. But it was really cool to come out on top."
Her wins were among a spate of American victories: Ryan Lochte in the 200 individual medley, Rebecca Soni in the 200 breaststroke, the men's 400 medley relay and Nathan Adrian in the 50 freestyle.
Adrian upset world-record holder Cesar Cielo of Brazil, out-touching him at the wall, winning in 21.55 to Cielo's 21.57.
Michael Phelps turned the momentum in the medley relay in his butterfly leg, taking the lead on the back half and putting the United States in the lead for good.
The relay represented a light night for him.
There are some things that look slightly off at a swim meet, and one of them was a healthy Phelps standing not far from the blocks and offering encouraging words to the 200 IM field.
This was not the expected script as Phelps and Ryan Lochte were supposed to go head-to-head in the event.
Instead, Phelps turned cheerleader, having pulled out of the morning prelims in the 200 IM to conserve energy for the relay.
Lochte had little trouble, winning in 1:54.43, making a determined run at his own world-record time, of 1:54.10. Tyler Clary was second in 1:57.61, meaning Phelps still goes to the world championships next year in the 200 IM.
Here are some other numbers to consider: Lochte won a dazzling six gold medals, taking four individual events and adding two relays. No world record here, but close enough.
"I knew I had it in my sight. I knew I was capable of breaking the world record," Lochte said.
"It was in the back of my mind. It wasn't a fluke from nationals."
That was where he beat Phelps in the 200 IM earlier this month, and Lochte said he "was disappointed" there would be no rematch.
Then there is the goal of becoming the first swimmer to set a world record in the new era of suits.
"Everyone was saying that all the world records are not going to be able to get touched," Lochte said. "I just wanted to prove to everyone that it could happen. I mean, I was just a couple of tenths off…. If I took one or two more dolphin kicks, I could have had it."