TWO points were all that separated Matt Poole from Kellogg's Nutri-Grain ironman glory this year.
It was a case of so close yet so far for the Mooloolaba surf club member as he chased his first title in the iconic annual series.
In an attempt to go one step further and dethrone reigning six-time champion Shannon Eckstein in the 2011-12 series, which gets under way at Surfers Paradise on December 18, Poole has taken a different approach to off-season training.
That has included a one-week training camp in Austria - organised through his sponsor, Red Bull - and doing a 55km paddleboard race in Hawaii with his father, Ian.
Poole said yesterday that the new training routine was needed because an extra race had been added to the series this season and the turnaround time between events was so short.
He also had an extended off-season to deal with.
"I've tried to vary it up and change a few things for this year's series," he said yesterday.
"I knew it was going to be a long off-season. I didn't have to do the Kellogg's trial early in September.
"I knew that if I spent the whole time in Australia training non-stop, I'd become quite stale.
"The idea is to keep excited and fresh."
Poole said he was not allowed to detail what transpired in Austria, but he was looking forward to travelling back there.
Mixing up his training, he said, had given him a positive outlook leading into the six-race series.
"I'm very motivated and determined at the moment. I'm looking to go one step further," he said.
"Only the fittest and the strongest will prevail in the way this series has been designed."
Poole, who has been buoyed by securing Garry Crick Auto Group as a new sponsor, admitted that missing out on being crowned champion last season by such a small margin was hard to take.
However, he said that his overall performance had given him a lot of confidence going into this season.
"I was happy and excited over the result," he said.
"But at the same time, to come so close and just fall short at the finish line (was tough)."
Poole nominated Eckstein, of the Gold Coast, and good friend and Mooloolaba clubmate Ali Day as two of his main threats this season, but was hopeful of being able to see off all challengers.
"I'm going to do all the things I can to ensure that when December 18 comes, I'm ready to put my foot on the line and be at my best physically and mentally," he said, adding that consistency would be the key to landing the title.
The Sunshine Coast round of the series will be held at Coolum Beach on February 12.
BACK TO BUSINESS
The six-round 2011-12 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman series starts at Surfers Paradise on December 18
The series comes to Coolum Beach on February 12
Defending champion Shannon Eckstein will be gunning for title No.7
Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club member Matt Poole is aiming to go one step further this year after missing out on the title by only two points last season
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