TRIATHLON: Hometown favourite Luke McKenzie will be gunning for first place in his maiden Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 tomorrow with the world championships only a month away.
This year McKenzie is following a very similar route to the one he took to the 2013 Kona Ironman World Championships which saw him place second.
Both years he had wins in Cairns and strong placings in the Philippines, but this year he and fiancée Beth Gerdes will race together in their first home ground event since moving only months ago.
McKenzie moved to the Sunshine Coast from 2007 to 2013, but has spent the past two years in California with his soon-to-be American wife, before relocating back home with their 1-year-old Wynne.
McKenzie said they "literally" moved into their new house just months ago with nothing but a mattress.
"Obviously 2013 started really well with a win at Cairns and I've just tried to follow a similar path," he said.
"The only real difference is moving here.
"We moved into an empty house at the beginning of winter and tried to start our ironman training.
"Obviously having a child and training for ironman is very demanding.
"(But) since then it's been fun building our first house together."
With strong results in the build-up to tomorrow's race, 34-year-old McKenzie is in his best form since 2013, but arguably in better form is his fiancé Gerdes.
Gerdes has just come off the back of big results including a 1st place at Ironman Switzerland and a second place at Ironman 70.3 Philippines just over a year after having her first child.
Gerdes said the first six months after Wynne's birth were the most gruelling and satisfying of her career.
"Training was really tough - almost insurmountable," she said.
"But slowly but surely it (fitness) came back and it was so rewarding.
"It's really cool to see such a quick transformation
"It made it more motivating as well.
"And now I have something else to race for - when I go out there to race, I race for my family."
The 35-year-old has used that motivation to somehow find career best form just weeks away from her first Kona World Championships.
"For me I am in best condition in ever," she said.
"Prior to baby I was working full time as a school psychologist, so it's the first time I've been able to focus on training
"My fitness has gone to a new level."
But for now, Gerdes said the "baby making" would have to take a backseat while she focuses on more important things like her eight-year-old pre-race ritual of getting a pedicure and manicure.
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