With several Ironman wins under his belt Luke McKenzie is looking to step up a few spots in Kona this year from his 15th place in 2009. The Aussie has been in Kona for about a week now and has settled in nicely.
Slowtwitch: How are you adjusting to Kona?
Luke: We arrived in Hawaii about a little over week ago straight from Cancun. Cancun was very steamy, so it made arriving in Kona a lot more bearable. We had a cold snap in Oregon just before I was about to leave and I was worried I wasn’t getting the heat acclimatization I needed, but now I am here in Kona I feel like I have adjusted really well. I love the heat.
Kona itself, well Amanda and I love every minute we spend here and never have a problem adjusting to the Aloha life.
ST: Is it any different from before?
Luke: We spent a lot less time here in the build up to Ironman than last year where we were out here a good month before the race. Because I wanted to get one last tune up race in Cancun that delayed getting here until three weeks out. There were already a big bunch of guys out here well before me this year, some as long as seven weeks before the race!
Earlier in the year Amanda and I based in Kona for a month preparing for Ironman Brazil. We have done the same camp leading into the Hawaii 70.3 each year and we thought we may as well follow the same formula and make the stopover on the way to Florianopolis. I think the hard time trialing on the Queen K set me up well for a strong bike in Brazil.
ST: Your frequent flyer account should look quite dandy.
Luke: Yes, this year has probably been our biggest travel year to date. That is definitely the part of the job I don’t enjoy at all. In and out of airports and planes lugging bikes and bags, but having said that we have been extremely lucky to race and train in some incredible places in 2010. We really enjoyed a change this season with the trip to Europe. The original plan was to do some racing but after Ironman Brazil the body and mind wanted a rest so it was good to spend six weeks just enjoying training without the pressure of a race looming. We have to thank all our friends in Italy and Spain for making that trip possible.
ST: After all this time there, does Lava Java still have its lure and fascination?
Luke: Funny you ask because I find myself going there less and less. It’s no doubt an icon and a great location but I tend to gravitate towards the more low key places these days. I have found several other great coffee shops around Kona so I am not always at Lava Java.
ST: Your season has been going quite well again. How do you think it compares to the years before?
Luke: This year has been a good one, although I am not sure it was as good as 2009? (yet). My win at Ironman Brazil was my best ever race over the distance but last season I had strong wins at Ironman Malaysia and Ironman Japan, then got pipped at the post at Ironman Louisville by just 30 seconds and finished with a top 15 in Kona. It’s always going to be hard to top a year like that. I feel better for not having had that mid season Ironman in July or August and I am going into Kona a lot fresher this year, so if I can get myself a top ten placing I would say this would be my best season to date.
ST: What is realistic for you this year in Kona?
Luke: Realistically I need to improve my marathon by 10 minutes here to be a factor at the very front of the race. I feel I have been working hard on it and only race day will tell. I really want to finish in the top ten this year. It’s been my goal for the past two attempts and I felt I should have been there last year but I ran terribly from the energy lab to the finish line and dropped several positions. An improvement on my 15th from last year at the very least has to be the goal.
ST: You have been spending time with Crowie and some other top ranked pros in Kona. What have you learned?
Luke: I have been lucky enough to train with some of the best athletes in the sport since I started triathlon way back in the mid 90’s. In 2003 I made my first trip to San Diego to base for the summer and that’s when I first lived and trained with Crowie. He has always been very helpful since then with his advice and even in the past week or two when we go out for rides and runs around Kona we are constantly talking about the race and tactics. I think the one thing I can take away from training with him is that the only person you can control is yourself. No doubt a lot of guys are going to employ different tactics to try and blow the race apart this year but if you can remain confident in yourself and run your race then that’s going to produce your best result.
ST: Anyone particularly who has put you in the hurt box? Or vice versa?
Luke: Just last weekend we did a solid brick session where we did some hard TT’s on the bike followed by a run out to the energy lab. I was strong on the bike and riding well but Crowie, Terenzo and Tyler Butterfield laid it down on the run. The pace they were running was very impressive and in the end it left me groveling to the finish. Those boys had me in the box that day!
One of my training partners and sponsor Guy Crawford of BlueSeventy is someone I enjoy putting in the hurt box. He is a good swimmer and we both enjoy smashing each other in swim sets!
ST: How is that new Plasma 3 working out for you?
Luke: Absolutely loving my new ride. Scott has produced yet another masterpiece with this new bike and I am sure there are going to be some fast bike splits made on this bike between the Commerzbank team, Linsey Corbin and myself over the coming year. We have it really dialed in to suit triathletes now, given it was initially designed between Scott and the HTC Columbia TechDev department for pure Time Trials.
In my first race aboard the Plasma 3 I managed the fastest bike split in Cancun against some strong cyclists, so hopefully she allows me to ride somewhere near the front out here in Kona.
ST: Any other new gadgets and toys we should know about?
Luke: Yes! Keep you eye out for an announcement on Monday for a new edition to my website www.lukemckenzie.com. I have been working with a group from California that is going to be doing some very cool things for the race (and race week) through my site. It’s going to be very interactive and hopefully give you a great Hawaii Ironman experience from anywhere around the world. There are going to be plenty of prizes from my sponsors too so it’s worth a visit! Follow me on twitter. www.twitter.com/lukemckenzie to be in the loop!
ST: When is the rest of the McKenzie clan arriving?
Luke: Team McKenzie arrives in just 5 days. Mum and Dad make it their annual vacation each year. My dad lives and breathes triathlon and wouldn’t miss it for the world. Amanda and I are getting married three days after the race so this year we have over 60 people making the trip to Hawaii to see the race and celebrate the wedding. My mum has organized Team McKenzie T-Shirts for all of them, so check out Palani hill on race day, hopefully we will have most of it covered.
ST: Final words?
Luke: I am just looking forward to being part of this whole event that gets the triathlon world buzzing each year. This race is everything I love about our sport!