Redhead's Daniel Collins will keep expectations low when he makes a challenging return to the national ironman series next month at the Coolangatta Gold.
Collins, 23 next month, starred at trials for the new-look series at Coolum over the weekend, winning the pointscore in heats on Saturday and top-20 finals on Sunday.
The 2018 NSW ironman champion secured one of six spots on offer in the 20-man series, which returns as a standalone circuit featuring five stops.
Ironman and ironwoman series included events at Newcastle up until 2015 but they have since been held in conjunction with Summer of Surf and Ocean6 rounds, at times with a standalone finals weekend.
Collins qualified for the 2017 finals, where he finished seventh. He was the first Hunter ironman to make the major stage since Josh Blair in 2010.
With a fully fledged series back, Collins returned to training in recent weeks in the hope of securing a spot. He had trained and raced sparingly since his sister, Jessica Collins, was left a quadriplegic after a surfing accident on the Gold Coast in May last year.
"I jumped back in the pool in July and I started to get moving again, but it's only been about six, seven weeks of proper training," he said.
"Just trying to build a bit of a base and get fit again. Obviously last year wasn't a huge racing year for me with everything going on with the family, so I took a bit of time away.
"I went to state and Aussies and a couple of Ocean6 races but there was no real commitment to racing. There were bigger priorities and bigger things going on at home."
Despite the limited preparation, Collins showed his speed in the flat conditions at the trials to easily qualify.
However, he expects a much tougher task when the series starts at the Coolangatta Gold on October 13. The iconic endurance race has been made part of the series and is a far cry from the usual short-course formats on the ironman circuit.
The opening round will also be Collins' first attempt at the Gold. More traditional rounds then follow at Burleigh Heads (November 17), Bulli (December 1), Surfers Paradise (December 15) and North Cronulla (January 19).
"That has its own set of challenges, a four-hour race over 40 kilometres of the Gold Coast," Collins said of the first round.
"With the short prep into this trial and even shorter prep going into the Gold, it's going to be a round where I'll be looking to just tick it off. It won't be a pointscoring opportunity for me.
"People do a 20-week program to get ready for a race like that and I've got four weeks. The other guys who trialled will be in a similar boat.
"You're expected to do a four-hour race then turn around in a month and go back to short-course racing. There's challenges associated with that but I'm in the series now, I've ticked that box, and whatever results come, just to be part of it again will be a great experience."
Collins said the Coolangatta Gold, held early in the surf season, was more difficult for athletes based in the southern states to prepare for and he would working on his ski and run legs over the next four weeks.
"It's definitely an event that's been on my radar in years gone by, but it does require that time commitment," he said.
"And it's a hard race to prepare for out of Newcastle because we don't have the best conditions to train for it through the winter, not like they have up on the Gold Coast.
"For those in Newcastle, it takes a lot of guts and determination to get out there on the weekends in the cold mornings to slog it out and be able to put your foot on the starting line at the Gold."
Collins was excited to be among the sport's elite for the return to a marquee series.
"It's definitely a different direction than the last couple of years," he said.
"The last couple of years has created a lot more depth in the sport, by giving everyone the opportunity to race those guys, which I think is great, but it's really nice to have those standalone weekends where you turn up against those guys who are really established in the series.
"It's definitely a different experience. Last time I was in it, we just turned up for the finals weekend, so it's going to be a new set of challenges associated with chasing five rounds up and down the east coast, but I'm really looking forward to getting in there and mixing it with those guys."