After recently being promoted to the AFL’s boundary umpires panel, you’d think Matt McKenzie would be after a well-earned break in the off-season.
Instead, he took on the toughest endurance test possible an Ironman triathlon.
The decision to compete in the gruelling event was fuelled by Matt’s brother Travis (30) who used the race as motivation to overcome an injury.
After breaking his leg playing AFL in Canada last November, Travis set himself the goal of completing the Arizona Ironman, a race just over a year later.
Decision made Travis, convinced brother Matt (29) and dad Garry (61 – and already an 8-race Ironman veteran) to compete alongside him.
“I’ve always wanted to complete an ironman with my dad and brother, it was at a stage when the time was right for all of us, I don’t think it will happen again for a long time,” Travis said.
All three of the McKenzie clan have been involved with playing, coaching and umpiring Australian Football (Travis even sat on the AFL Canada board for a while) but the Ironman presented a new challenge.
“It’s a very physical event, but you also have to be mentally strong because your mind is trying to trick your body into stopping, you have to ignore those thoughts and push through the pain barrier,” Matt said of his first ironman experience.
For Garry, the pain barrier was something literal, rather than something just in his head.
“I’d broken my little toe about 6 weeks before the race,” Garry said.
“And the 400 meter run on the concrete between the swim and the bike broke it again.”
Despite leading his age group into the run leg, Garry was forced to walk to final 34km of the course, resulting in his slowest Ironman time ever of 13 and a half hours.
“The pain was just too much so I had to walk, I was always going to finish though,” he said.
Oldest brother Travis claimed McKenzie line honours finishing in 9 hours and 57 minutes ahead of brother Matt who finished in just over 11 hours.
But the battle will continue for bragging rights with both Garry and Travis having already signed up for races in 2013.
And while Matt has said he might compete in some shorter triathlons in the off-season, for the moment his focus is on umpiring.
“I want to try and qualify for the Ironman World Championships one day, but for 2013 I’ll be focussing 100% on my umpiring.”
“I’m hoping to do well in the AFL and learn as much as I can so I can push to umpire finals in the next 2 or 3 years.”
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You can also read more about Travis’s Ironman journey here.