26 year old Australian Luke McKenzie ended 2006 on a sour note and bounced back in 2007 with a great finish in Kona. We managed to get a hold of Luke as he is getting ready for the 2008 Ironman New Zealand.
ST: Luke, you were injured late in 2006/early 2007 but closed out the season nicely in Kona. Would you tell our readers about it?
Luke: My 2007 season started off very slowly. I raced Kona 2006 with a stress fracture in my knee (I didn't realize at the time) and it forced me out of riding and running till March, 2007. There were times when I thought 2007 might be a write off and that was definitely my low. Amanda (my girlfriend) has been an amazing support and inspiration to me. She pushes me every single day and keeps my eye on the prize! One day when I was coming back from injury two old ladies on beach cruisers went flying past me while we were riding in the Park and she made me laugh about it.
The running was the thing that took so long to build back up. I was still only averaging about 15 – 20 miles a week leading into Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June. My goal there was to try and establish a good lead going into the marathon as I didn't have the running in my legs yet. Holding on for 6th in that race was a breakthrough for me as I had to get through that 26 miles totally on mental power.
The highlight of my season was Hawaii. Even though I blew to pieces in the final 10km of the race I was happy with that top 20 result. I raced with the leaders and in the top ten for most of the day and that is encouraging for the future.
ST: Can you describe a typical mid season training week for you?
Luke: My main goal in a build up to an Ironman is consistency. My training doesn't vary too much from week to week. In the peak of my training I would be doing between 30 - 35 hours of training. My training involves a lot of running off the bike after my longer rides and I even have days where I will swim, ride and run back to back over several hours.
ST: Recovery from longer races is a tricky issue for many. How do you recover from an Ironman race?
Luke: I try to get out on my bike the next day for a very light spin, which usually involves stopping at the coffee shop. If the race is close to the ocean, I would be diving in for a splash the day after the race. Part of the recovery for me is enjoying the post race party, having a beer and breaking that disciplined lifestyle for just those few days to enjoy myself.
ST: What is on schedule for you for 2008?
Luke: I have an early season Ironman planned in New Zealand. I look forward to going there and testing myself against guys like Cam Brown, Bryan Rhodes and Kieran Doe. Then I will head back over to the USA in April to race some of the Ironman 70.3 series. The second half of the summer I will be working towards Kona, Hawaii.
ST: Is there anyone you train with on a regular basis?
Luke: These past two seasons I have been training with good friend and fierce rival Mathias Hecht from Switzerland. He comes out to Australia each summer to train and race. He is one of the most disciplined and motivated athletes in our sport and I enjoy training with him. We always joke one day we will be having a sprint finish down Alii Drive for the title!
ST: Do you consider yourself disciplined in terms of training and nutrition?
Luke: I consider myself a disciplined trainer. I really enjoy pushing myself and trying to take myself to that next level. Living with guys like Craig Alexander and Luke Bell in the past definitely taught me what it takes to be a top performer in this sport. Michellie Jones is another athlete I have been lucky enough to learn a thing or two from over the past few years. She is the ultimate professional in our sport.
The nutrition is where I need to pick up my game. I have the amazing support of PowerBar and managing my nutrition is something I am currently really working hard on to improve. I have been happy with my nutrition in my Half Ironman racing but I have made a few mistakes in the past in Ironman that has cost me. So in 2008 one of my number one goals is to improve my race nutrition.
ST: How do you typically spend the off-season?
Luke: Usually it involves catching up on my surfing. The beach has been a big part of my life since I was young and I miss it when I am away traveling and living in places like Bend, OR, or Boulder, CO. I live close to the beach on Queensland’s Gold Coast so when I am home after a 6 month stint in America I am glad to be back in the ocean and on my board. Surfing is such a great release for me.
ST: What or who inspired you to race triathlons?
Luke: Growing up near Foster, where Ironman Australia was held, was a big factor. My family would be out on the course or on aid stations during my childhood. I remember being so stoked when I swam in the same lane as Pauli Kuiru one year before the race. I thought the guy was a god!
Australia also had the famous Tooheys Blue and later St. George sprint triathlon series that were nationally televised during the summer. They were exciting 20-30 minute races and Brad Beven was the King. He dominated the series for years but was always fighting a close battle with Greg Welch, Miles Stewart and Chris McCormack. I lived for those Sunday afternoon’s to watch them duke it out!
ST: Do you have a favorite race and if so, what is it?
Luke: It’s hard to go past Hawaii. It’s just an epic event. From the time I got involved in the sport at age 14 I knew it was my destiny to race in the Lava Fields and run down Alii Drive.
The best part about Kona for me is those tense few minutes when you're treading water before the gun. The crowd is lining the shore and the pier, and the helicopters are buzzing above. The "Star Spangled Banner" is sung and the crowd is going nuts. I look around in those few minutes before the race and take it all in and realize why I do this sport … because I love it!
ST: Is there anything new going on for you in terms of sponsorships?
Luke: 2007 has been a good year for me with my sponsorships. I have been working with a really good team of sponsors for the past three years now. Descente Athletic backed me further in 2007 and have shown me great support by getting behind me, as have Litespeed, BlueSeventy and PowerBar. It's made it easier financially to focus on my racing and training.
Lu Elle Palms resort is run by my family on the Gold Coast, Australia. They have been a huge support unofficially for years and it's awesome to be able to race with them on my uniform now.
My major sponsor is Amalgamated Textiles who is a large rug and carpet importing company in Sydney, Australia. Adrian is also a really good friend and has really supported myself and Amanda with our triathlon goals. We love having him there at our races. He traveled to Malaysia and Kona with us last year which was really cool.
ST: Do you follow any other sport?
Luke: I follow the cycling pretty closely when I can. I love watching the big one day classics and of course the tours.
I watch the World Surfing Tour from time to time. I went to school with the current World number 1 Mick Fanning and number 4 Joel Parkinson, so it’s great to see them doing well.
I enjoy watching the NFL, NBA and College Football when I am in the States.
ST: What sports did you take part in when you grew up?
Luke: I played a lot of team sports. I played soccer, rugby league, cricket, basketball and water polo. I started swimming at age 5 and was competitive in that till around 13. Swimming led into Surf Life Saving competition, Cross Country running and ultimately Triathlon.
ST: Would you mind telling our readers what you like and dislike in terms of food?
Luke: My favorite food would have to be BBQ ribs. I can't go past them if they are on the menu. I eat a lot of Mexican when I am over in the USA and Sushi when I am at home in Australia.
My least favorite food would be any kind of "fast food." It is very rare to find me at a McDonalds!
ST: What music do you like?
Luke: My favorite band right now is Muse but I love Bloc Party, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, White Stripes and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I also enjoy the really chilled out stuff like Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and a brilliant Aussie artist Bernard Fanning (of Powerfinger)
ST: Where do you think you'll be in 5 years?
Luke: I will be 31 in 5 years. Hopefully I will be amongst the contenders for the World title in Hawaii. I'd also love to have several other international Ironman titles under my belt.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about?
Luke: My sister Jacque and my girlfriend Amanda both competed in Hawaii last October. It was a really amazing day to have them both out there on the course. It gave me a huge boost every time we crossed paths. It was really special for mum and dad to watch us all race. Both Amanda and Jacque had a tough day and found each other struggling out in the Energy Lab. They finished together which was so exciting for us all to watch. It was just one of those amazing family experiences.
Amanda is going to move up and race pro next year, which is exciting. We really enjoy traveling, training and racing together and I think over the next few years she will just get better and better. I really hope my sister has a go at racing pro one day as she is super talented.
And I am proudly sponsored by:
Amalgamated Textiles, Lu Elle Palms Resort, Descente Athletic, PowerBar, Litespeed, BlueSeventy, Xentis, Full Speed Ahead, Sidi Australia, Fi’zi:k, Smith Optics, FuelBelt