Luke McKenzie and Amanda Balding tie the knot in Kona days after Ironman World Championships.
Written by: Tawnee Prazak
Luke McKenzie was devastated about pulling out of the Ironman World Championships due to injury. However, his time in Hawaii was anything but depressing; McKenzie had something even bigger to celebrate. On October 12, he married his fiancé, pro triathlete Amanda Balding, at a private home overlooking Keauhou Bay. Family and friends from all over the world were in attendance. Between the Aussie crowd and triathletes fresh off Ironman — aka athletes ready to let loose — it was quite a celebration.
Luke and Amanda are one of those couples who are clearly meant to be together; it’s easy to see that after spending just five minutes with them. They’re fun-loving and always full of smiles and laughter. The same can be said of their friends and family. So it’s no surprise that their wedding was as good as weddings get. It was casual but sophisticated and classy – fine food and wine, but shoes optional. An all-star triathlete crowd was in attendance, with guests including Mirinda Carfrae, Craig Alexander, Linsey Corbin, Hilary Biscay and her fiancé Maik Twelsiek, Terenzo Bozzone, Samantha McGlone, Belinda Granger, Ben Hoffman, Matt Lieto, the K-Swiss folks and more.
Triathlete.com talked with Luke about his big day and how his decision not to race played a role in everything…
Triathlete.com: What was it like to pull out of the race and deal with that while still looking forward to your wedding?
McKenzie: That was a tough one for me. I guess it never crossed my mind that something like that could happen having the wedding just three days after the race. As the race got closer and I realized my back wasn’t getting better I started to worry. I was really excited to be racing in front of all of our family and friends that had flown in from all around the world. I even had 70 “Team McKenzie” T-Shirts printed for them to wear on race day. I wanted to have them line Palani hill!
Unfortunately on the Tuesday evening before the race after a week of very limited swim and bike training and a lot of treatment on my back I went for a run to see how it was feeling. I literally couldn’t even run a single step. My heart sank as I knew at that point I had no hope of racing.
I had made my decision not to race and my family and friends began arriving for the wedding and having their support really lifted me. I felt like I was letting them all down by not racing when in the end they had made the trip to see us get married first and foremost. Initially it was hard to let go of the fact I wasn’t racing with everything going on around town but by focusing on having time with our wedding guests it made me look beyond the race and be excited about the wedding.
Triathlete.com: How did Amanda help you get through that low/high?
Mckenzie: Amanda was amazing. We sat down over dinner on that Tuesday night when I knew I wasn’t going to make the start line and talked about all the possible scenarios. I was pretty depressed knowing all the hard work I had put into this race preparation would be for nothing. So I began to think maybe I could still swim and ride as I didn’t have too much pain while doing either. But then what happens if I had myself in a good position off the bike? Maybe I would try and run and do more damage?!
When I told Erik my sponsor at K-Swiss he offered me a seat in the car he was driving on the course and told me that he wanted me there to learn how to win this race. That really struck a chord with me and I knew he was right. I had to make this into an opportunity to see the race from a different angle. I would get the birds eye view and see the dynamics of the race from the luxury of a car rather than on a bike or in running shoes. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after-all?
Triathlete.com: Describe what kind of wedding you planned — the venue, the guests, the style/vibe, etc?
McKenzie: I actually googled “Places to get married in Kona,” and one of the properties that came up was this beautiful house on Keauhou Bay. We went to see the house on a previous visit to Hawaii and knew that was our dream place to have the wedding. It was perfect with several bedrooms for our wedding party, a huge catering kitchen and on a massive block of land that gave us several options to have the ceremony, dinner and the party after. Having the house for three days we got to utilize the property for things like swimming, snorkeling and stand up paddling as well.
Our guests were a great mixture of family from Australia and mostly friends from both Australia and the U.S. We had a few people that came all the way from the U.K., Europe and even a couple from Brazil! We are so blessed to have friends from all corners of the glob and to have them travel all the way to Hawaii we are forever thankful.
The style and vibe of the wedding was Hawaiian, Beach, Luau. Amanda and I are not religious people but definitely spiritual so the ceremony made references to the Hawaiian Islands and then creation of the earth and humanity. We wanted everyone to dress casually, and all of our wedding party went barefoot (as did a lot of our guests). We had an amazing spread of food courtesy of our friend Dhedra that flew in all the way from Miami, Florida! We had fun local Kona band, Leche de Tigre who had us rocking on the dance floor well into the night!
Triathlete.com: Did everything go as planned?
McKenzie: It did! Considering we only met our celebrant 10 minutes prior to the ceremony and we didn’t do a rehearsal, it still went off without a glitch. The only thing that was out of our control was we weren’t allowed to have our awesome band play after 9 p.m.; because of noise restrictions we had to shut them down. I am sure we all would have been dancing till 3 a.m. if it wasn’t for that rule!
Triathlete.com: What was the most memorable moment? What was a particularly funny moment/occurrence?
McKenzie: Too many to list!
1. I think the first would be that I “kissed the bride” before I was suppose to. That was funny and embarrassing at the same time.
2. Ten minutes after the ceremony when we went around all our family and friends getting high fives, hugs and kisses was a very special moment.
3. Justin Granger getting absolutely blotto (Aussie for drunk) well before dinner was hilarious too. I would have had my money on Belinda over Justin any day!
4. My dad, Peter’s, speech was hilarious and had everyone rolling around laughing.
5. Everyone dancing on the lawn as the band rocked away!
Triathlete.com: Despite not racing, it seems like last week was your best week ever…. true? Tell me why?
McKenzie: Without doubt the best week of my life! Like I keep saying to people: There will be plenty more Hawaii Ironman races in the future, but I only plan on having one wedding, and to share it with the our best friends and family in such a beautiful location I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I have married the woman of my dreams. How could it not be the best week ever?!?
I think it’s about having a good balance in your life of not over-obsessing about triathlon ever single second. You have to take the opportunities to let loose every once in a while, enjoy your surroundings and live in the moment. I am not just talking about your wedding day but also after an Ironman or big race you have completed. Don’t let triathlon rule your life; enjoy having triathlon be part of your celebration for life!
Triathlete.com: Now that you’re back home, what’s on the agenda?
McKenzie: We are finally home in Noosa, Australia! It’s been a long six months away living and racing overseas. We are so happy to be in our own apartment in our own bed. Top of our list is to get my back right and then we can make a game plan on what races I can do over the coming months. I really had my heart set on racing the Asia/Pacific Ironman 70.3 Champs in Phuket at the beginning of December, but that might be a little too soon? We will see over the coming weeks. For now besides the injury recovery it will be about enjoying life at home and catching up with friends.