Stories about the final preparation for the world’s most famous triathlon
“Noosa is everything that I like about Australia. This is where I feel really comfortable and at home,” says Luke McKenzie who set up his primary training base in Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. It is no coincidence that Noosa is the training base of many short and long course triathletes during the European winter. The little town on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia has everything a triathlete is looking for: great facilities for training, a beautiful beach for open water swimming, swim squads, group rides and miles of scenic dirt roads for run training. Restaurants, Cafés, nice weather and a very active and friendly community make this place the perfect spot for training and hanging out.
“I think you can only train hard if you enjoy the environment you’re in. I like it if it’s not too busy and I can get out in the countryside to get my sessions done.”
“The good riding here in Noosa is definitely in-land. We call it the “Hinterland” and it offers some great climbs and nice country towns.”
Noosa is known for its legendary bunch rides on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. “I integrate the Noosa bunch rides into my schedule at times to get some shorter intensity. It's great to ride in a group over 60-90 minutes doing some hard efforts and then continuing with a longer ride up to 3-4hrs in total. Although I do most of my riding alone or with 1-2 people I enjoy the group dynamic at times to mix it up. We often have a great range of athletes from professional cyclists, professional triathletes and local recreational cyclists.”
A closer look at Luke’s SCOTT Plasma 5: he’s running SRAM’s new eTAP wireless groupset. The 175mm cranks with a 55-42 gearing combination allows for some serious speed. For key races, Luke opts for a special chain with anti-friction treatment. In order to have a repair kit at hand when needed and to further improve the aerodynamics of the bike, he runs a prototype storage box behind the aero bottle on the downtube. It was developed together with aerodynamics engineer Simon Smart who also contributed to the frame design of the SCOTT Plasma 5.
Aerodynamic engineer Simon Smart has not only worked on the SCOTT Plasma 5 frame with its revolutionary integration of fuel and spare kit storage but has also spent countless hours with Luke in the wind tunnel to optimize his position on the bike. “I have had a lot of input from Simon Smart with my position over the last three years and he is constantly passing on things he is learning in the wind tunnel or in the field that he thinks can benefit me with my position. We not only look at my body position but often look at materials in my racing suits, wheel choices and hydration placement. I am very lucky to have his advice and knowledge to help me find those small performance gains,” Luke says.
“My other training base is San Diego, California. I have a strong link to the ocean and I really love the vibe of coastal towns.”
“My usual open water swim is on Sunday afternoons and is either a total recovery session at an easy and enjoyable pace or at a harder effort. Most of the time we build the pace to a fixed point then turn around and swim a race pace effort on the return which results in 2-3km in total normally. Sometimes I do an open water swim with the local surf lifesavers and we set up a short course of 300-400m and we do multiple hard efforts in and out of the water. That can be very tough!”
Noosa has some stunning views to offer. Hell’s Gate is one of them. It is located on a break of rock at the most eastward point of Noosa National Park.
“Some swimmers have swum around Hells Gate from Noosa main beach but I try to stay away from swimming out there- I’m too chicken.”
Luke says with a smile. The area is known for strong currents and fish you prefer not to encounter.
“Here in Noosa I often train at the Noosa Aquatic Center. We have a great 50m pool and a very good swim squad. JR is a bit of a local legend here and he trains a lot of surf life savers, elite swimmers and triathletes who join his squad.”
Sometimes it’s hard to find motivation for these sessions on top of all the swimming, riding and running, still they are essential. “I have found that as I get older I need to be more diligent on my strength training and I will be in the gym two-three times a week on average. I rarely lift weights but I do a lot of plyometric work, dynamic movement, core stability focused work and resistance exercises. These sessions last anywhere from 45-60 minutes in duration.”
“My favorite run in the world is still here in Noosa National Park towards Hell’s Gate out there along the ocean. The scenery is just amazing.”
“Out the back of Noosa we have quite a few country dirt roads which are really good for running as well. That’s where I’m used to doing my efforts.”
You can have the best training area and climate conditions but some sessions are better done inside. Luke during a hard run on the treadmill in his garage. The treadmill allows for a different stimulus in running training and can nicely complement the effects of running outside when done right. “I like to run on the treadmill for some of my harder workouts to keep good leg turnover and I can be in a more controlled environment. I will do sessions I often do on the track on the treadmill as well to avoid the harder impact and body breakdown. I will do progression runs that start at an easier pace and build to a threshold effort. I will do longer tempo intervals of up to 15-20 minutes at a time and I will do some race pace specific efforts sometimes 90-120 minutes in duration,” Luke explains his treadmill workouts.
“The good coffee is what I appreciate the most when I come home to Noosa. Of course it’s not just that- it’s a very small and friendly community here and I’ve a lot of good friends around. It just feels very home.”
“Probably half the reason why I do live here is actually not because of training. I can go out and do my surfing or go to the beach with my daughter. These are things that get me out of that daily grind which I guess we call work.”
“I know on my day out there I have what it takes to be competitive in Kona. I’ve been there 11 times now and I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience in that particular race. I’ve been through a lot of different situations out there. I had some great and some not so great results in Hawaii and I’m using a DNF last year as big fuel on the fire to go back there and prove to myself that I’m able to compete with the best guys and I would love to be back there on the podium.”
“I’ve been through a lot of different situations in Kona and I know on my day out there I have what it takes to be competitive.”