Star pushes reset button

By Kelly Exelby

Michael Poole went out and blitzed his first-ever half ironman race, but the teenaged triathlon prodigy spent the next nine months learning how to do it again.
Poole stunned the triathlon world by winning this year's Port of Tauranga Half, aged just 18. He held off Waiuku's James Bowstead and Australian Tim Berkel with a spirited final run to finish in 3h 56m 33s.
Instead of kicking on, however, the Tauranga-born Aucklander has had a frustrating year, missing qualifying for the world championships and struggling with shin, shoulder, back and calf injuries.
Incredibly, he won January's big race just six days after winning the Contact series event in Whangamata, where he'd developed shin splints running in the soft sand.
"It didn't hurt during the run in the half - I didn't feel anything at all out there at the time - but for weeks after, it was so bad," Poole said. "It really set me back. Looking back, it was definitely too much, too soon, but it was just learning I guess.
"I tried to get straight back into training but I should have had a full week off and then built back into it. I'm doing another half next week on the Gold Coast but I've learned how to recover from them now."
Poole was back in Tauranga last week, on his first speaking engagement to a Rotary group.
Now 19, he admits it took a while for the magnitude of his achievement to sink in.
"It wasn't a big focus of my season and even afterwards, I didn't really realise what I'd done. Everyone in the triathlon circle knows me now, which is weird, and a lot has come of it because it is one of the most well-known races in the country."
Poole's heavy training regime is impressive - he spends nearly 45 hours a week during his endurance phase, split evenly between the three triathlon disciplines.

With more than 500km on the bike, 60km in the pool and 100km running, it's enough to stagger a seasoned campaigner, let alone a fresh-faced rookie.
But Poole has the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics firmly in the back of his mind at all times.
"I'm taking a really long-term approach. I want to do well but I'm really trying to set myself up for later, aiming for 2016."
Making his efforts all the more impressive, he revealed to his audience last week he's been suffering epileptic episodes for the past 18 months. Each seizure leaves his body racked with pain for weeks, and he's not allowed to drive, swim or bike alone.
He's gradually regaining his independence, however, and has a decent race schedule mapped out for the next three months, culminating in a keenly anticipated defence of his half crown.
As well as next week's Gold Coast event, he'll also race the Noosa triathlon festival at the end of October, then compete in the Craigs Investment Partners Tinman in early December back in Pilot Bay.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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