A China Man's Ironman – Adrian Li's Journey to an Ironman An Ironman Training Diary for Ironman Western Australia

Monthly Archives: April 2013

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Fit for a Race – My Retul fitting session

Retul Fitting

Last week had the opportunity to do a Retul Fitting for my bicycles. I was originally fitted on my P2C when I bought it at the Bike Boutique 5 years ago however after multiple disassemblies and changing of parts the original measurements and settings have long been lost. Given both a planned century ride on my R3 and the Ironman at the end of the year I thought it would be wise to invest into a proper fitting.


Adrian @ a Retul fitting with ChoonWei

Adrian @ a Retul fitting with ChoonWei

What is a Retul Fitting?

Bicycle fittings have come a long way from simply measuring the extended knee angle when seated on a bike. Retul is the cutting edge of bicycle fitting and they employ a data backed approach along with the skill and experience of the fitter to provide a fit that optimizes power, comfort and efficiency. Essentially, through the use of motion capture of sensors attached to key points on the rider’s body the Retul program captures multiple data points as you cycle for about 3 minutes. By comparing this data to optimal riding positions the fitter then makes adjustments to your bicycle to help achieve the best position. The whole process took about 2.5 hours for fitting both my bikes which included:

- A comprehensive history of my experience
- My goals for the fitting
- Stretch test
- Pre-fit monitoring
- Post-fit monitoring

What were the results and was it worth it?

Aside from the cool gadgetry, professional fitters bring experience and qualifications that can at a minimum help you with a more comfortable and efficient ride. However a bad fitting bike can also be a source for injury ending months of training in disappointment so in my opinion it is important that you are fitted properly if you regularly train on a bicycle.

However side from the adjustments to fitting the monitoring tools also provide an interesting insight into the efficiency of your cycling. For example I discovered that I have a tendency to lift my heels which puts undue strain on the calf muscles. This could be caused by a previously ill fitting bike (for example with a seat post too high). An additional monitor also shows a horizontal trace of your knee movement. lateral movement of the knee is also inefficient and was some tangible evidence that I need to work on improving my pedal stroke mechanics.

Given my plans for a full Ironman at the end of the year and that I’ll be spending anywhere from 5-10 hours on my bike each week. I think that the fitting was worth it. I fit both my bikes for about US$450 and a single bike fit would have cost US$300. Also once you have done the fitting you have a comprehensive report with every measurement on the bike that you need to ensure a proper fitting every time you assemble the bike.


With Choon Wei & Tim Professional Retul fitters!

Below is an except from my fitting notes!


Changes during fit: Neutral cleat position.


  1. (1)  Saddle moved down 8mm.
  2. (2)  Saddle moved forward 1mm.
  3. (3)  Handlebars moved down 7mm.


  1. (1)  Saddle moved down 8mm.
  2. (2)  Saddle moved forward 15mm
  3. (3)  Armrest pad from up to level.



1) Change to straight seatpost and move setback forward by 5mm.

1) Change aerobar extension to allow arms to rest properly on armrest pad, and have a ski bend extension for more natural wrist position. 2) Swap crankset between R3 and P2, 165mm on P2 and 170mm on R3.

Stretching that hamstring and hip flexors. Relax ankles and drop heels.

Increase your speed with Interval run training

Interval Run for increasing speed

This week I had an interval run training on the plan as well as a threshold bike. I’ve swapped in some higher intensity work outs in the run up to the Bintan Olympic distance triathlon on May 18th. With a goal to do a sub-3 hour time on the course I’ll need to focus both on increasing my Bike and Run segments.

During the main set I averaged a low Zone three for the 4×4 mins and then a mid Zone 4 for the 4 x1 mins sets. It was a satisfying work out which I performed on a treadmill with a 1% incline.

In total I completed about 8.8KM in distance over the work out.

My friend also recommended “Macca sets” which I tried a while back but was not at a fitness level ready to complete. I’ll plan on doing the Macca Sets next week and report how it went.

Courtesy of: www.triathloncoaching.uk.com

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 13 Total duration: 1 hr
Your heart rate zone:     Zone 1: 112 – 131     Zone 2: 132 – 150  
      Zone 3: 151 – 168     Zone 4: 169 – 187
Stage One: Warm up
20 mins | zone1 & zone2


Gradually increase your heart rate through the first 10mins (zone 1)

5 x 20sec tempo bursts with 40sec recovery (zone 1-2)

5mins moderate pace (zone 2)



Stage Two: Drills
Stage Three: Main Set
24 mins| zone3

4 x 4mins with 2mins recovery

8 mins | zone4

4 x 1min 30sec with 30sec recovery



Stage Four: Cooldown
8 mins | zone1

Gradually reduce the intensity through the cool dow

Threshold Run

Somehow treadmill training – even with an ipad in front seems interminably more difficult than running outside. So after some lackluster treadmill sessions in the past few weeks I decided to take the time in the morning to go to a nearby stadium to run.

So on the training plan today was doing a threshold run…. what is a threshold run?

A threshold run is quite simply running at the top of your aerobic zone. This is also known as your lactate threshold which is the pace at which lactate begins to build hence causing you to slow down. These runs typically last from 20-40 minutes can are performed typically up to 80% of Max HR. They are helpful for improving your aerobic capacity and speed.

I did my runs at GBK stadium which is a nice 1KM loop. My results were as follows:

1st 20 mins: AVG HR130 SPD: 8.6KM/H: Distance: 2.94
2nd Threshold 20 mins: AVG HR 158 SPD 10.6KM/H Distance: 3.54

Based on my age my Max HR is calculated as 186. This would mean that my threshold run was performed just over my target zone at 84% of Max HR. I’m still working on calculating my more accurate zone rates but based on PRE (Perceived Rate of Exertion) my estimate is the my aerobic threshold is at HR of 160.



Strategies and golden rules for a virgin Ironman

One of the technical books I am reading for Ironman preparation is “Going Long” by Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn. The book is suited for all levels of triathlete attempting the Ironman distance and is written in a very accessible style. You can find the book on Amazon here. The book approaches all the disciplines separately for technique and training and also covers nutrition, strategy and injury.

In particular I like the way the book separates the goals and training for a first timer, personal best and kona athlete. In particular there were some interesting rules for first timers that I’d like to share (note i have not listed all 8 just the ones i found most interesting)

Rule 1: Don’t have to kill yourself in training to finish
Rule 3: Focus on key sessions and make the key sessions focused
Rule 4: Sleep is more valuable than training!!
Rule 5: Forget about anaerobic endurance and high intensity sessions
Fule 6: Recovery is your friend

I find most fascinating the emphasis on recovery (Rule 1/4/6). The key to a successful first time finish is the consistency in training and focusing on those long core workouts which will help build your base endurance to complete the full Ironman. This makes sense because perhaps one of the largest risks to training is injury/ illness caused by high intensity/ over load of training.

So bear in mind – while training is important you only reap the benefits of training when you are resting!

How PR can help your training

To some – training is a very private affair. How often you train, what you are training for and your goals. However training for a long event can be a very lonely and long journey. So i’ve started to publicize what I do for training and my goals – telling my friends, colleagues, (the world as you can see on this blog) and i’ve found this to help me in a number of ways:

1) Reinforce and support my goal: once people know about my goal they often ask how things are going and about my training. This gives me support and frequent reminders to stay on course with training.

2) Inspiration: to many IM distance is something incredible (it still is to me). the mixture of both surprise and admiration in reactions inspires me and keeps me grounded on just how tough this event will be.

3) Understanding: when the majority of your free time goes into training people start to wonder where you’ve gone! Again by being public about my goal and the training that i’m putting in helps people understand that I haven’t suddenly become unsociable but rather 5AM starts for training simple don’t mix well with late dinners and bar hopping!

- check out my personal email tag – line:



Adrian M. Li

E: adrianmli@gmail.com

S: adrianmli

W: adrianli.me

L: http://www.linkedin.com/in/adrianmli

Read about my Ironman journey this year: http://www.ironchinaman.com/

Can amateurs benefit from a coach?

In one of the numerous books I read on training I often heard about the benefits of having a coach. My first reaction as is probably yours is why would an amateur need a coach? Are they not for professional athletes?

Having completed several marathons I generally consider myself as having a good understanding of endurance training but with triathlons i’ve found the complexity of the training increase a lot. By combining three disciplines and increasing total training days to 6 days a week (~10-15hours) a detailed yet flexible plan has been very beneficial.

So to get back into training i’ve now been working with James at http://www.triathloncoaching.uk.com/ for the past month. The approach is quite straight forward 12.50 GBP/ week for unlimited email support and a week by week review of my training and progress. James has been helpful with all my various questions from nutrition to morale support during my training.

With my sometimes unpredictable schedule with work it was important for me to have a flexible training program that adjusted based on my work out completion and also what disciplines I could do each week. The online system they use allows me to change each day based on what I am able to complete. For example if the original plan had a cycle mid week but i was travelling I can easily shift it to another day. The coaching benefit is that each week my following week program is revised based on my performance and progress thus far.

@12.50GBP a week it is quite an affordable program compared to most other services and so far a worthwhile investment in keeping me on training. It’s an efficient service that suits amateurs who are looking to complete their first long distance event.

Check out their services at http://www.triathloncoaching.uk.com/ if you are interested!