Triathlons push athletes' bodies to the limit, especially competing internationally. Add the chance of suffering an epileptic seizure and the task seems almost impossible.

But former half-ironman champion Michael Poole refuses to let the condition, which he's had since he was 18, hold him back.

Poole is back in the saddle after suffering a grand mal seizure during Chicago's Life Time Tri Series triathlon in August last year.

The incident shot the 24-year-old's confidence and made him question his future in the gruelling sport.


"It took me quite a while to get my confidence back and want to push my body, I was quite fearful," he said.

"I took almost six months off and then it takes so long to get your fitness back. Only now am I starting to get back where I was this time last year."

Poole, who studies chemical engineering at the University of Tampa in Florida, is an ambassador for the Epilepsy Foundation in New Zealand.

The foundation is organising an awareness-raising cycling tour for next January.

Former All Black Ian Jones, another Epilepsy Foundation ambassador, will cycle the length of New Zealand with three other triathletes whose lives have been affected by epilepsy. Jones' son, Noah, is epileptic.

Poole said it was great the foundation was using an athletic event to raise awareness about the condition.

"From my perspective as an athlete you really want to encourage people to not be held back by the epilepsy."

Unfortunately study in the United States will prevent Poole from taking part in the ride himself.


The common thread in all his seizures is "high stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition". But the determined athlete refuses to let epilepsy define his life.

"Epilepsy definitely shouldn't hold someone back from doing what they want but I always want people to be aware I'm really sensible, I plan everything, I let race organisers know, let all the medical staff know, I wear a different swim cap, I wear a different number.

"Epilepsy shouldn't hold anybody back but it's about managing it, being sensible and really respecting it."