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

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Part III: Bintan Race Day

Race Day!

Morning and checking in:

Bintan is an unusual race in that it starts in the afternoon at 1:45PM. This was the first race i’ve done which doesn’t have a early morning start so the early dinner preparations and bathroom strategy was not as important. That said, we were all slightly confused as to what and how much to eat for breakfast/ lunch  for the day of the race. I ended up eating half of a leftover sandwich and a couple of bananas for a late breakfast/ brunch. Weather conditions for the race were near perfect. We had an overcast day which blocked most of the sun but it was still warm enough to dry up the rain that had fallen earlier in the morning. So we headed to the transition area at around 10:30AM to set up. Transition area was quite spacious – in total there were supposed to be 600 competitors but apparently only around 500 competitors turned up for the race which is always comforting to know with the mass swim start. During the transition we practiced the the T1 exit. After picking up the bicycle from T1, competitors face a steep uphill climb of around 100 meters to get out of the resort area. In fact, you mount on a slight incline so you have to make sure that your bike is already in a low gear. Speaking to past participants we heard that spectators often gathered at the exit of T1 because cyclists often fell over in this area when struggling up the hill – especially if they were not in the right gear! So practicing this segment was a priority on race day to avoid embarrassment!

Checking out the swim start

Checking out the swim start

Race Start: Swim: 1.5K – 28+mins

In my past triathlons I had always started on the outside at the back of the swim. The swim start of a triathlon is a melee of arms and legs thrashing in the water. It’s the only part of the triathlon I always get nervous at and so before i’d always start at the back to try and get my own space. This time with the increasing “friendly” rivalry with my friends Tevis and Casey and newcomer to our trigroup Dave I decided I would try starting midpack to get more of a head start. The strategy paid off as I emerged first out of the group (although I did not know it at the time) but this definitely resulted in a tougher swim. Instead of having a clear lane when starting out at the back I was fighting my way with and through swimmers all around me for at the first  3/4 of the 1.5KM swim. Several times I swallowed sea water but fortunately my goggles did not come off. Later I learnt an important swim draft fact – that the best place to draft is off the the side of a swimmer by their waist – NOT right behind them as I had been doing and getting kicked in the face!

'doh! Casey's water bottle springs a leak!

‘doh! Casey’s water bottle springs a leak!

Bike: 40K – 1hr 11+mins

Coming out of the swim I knew I was in the top 1/3 from looking back out on the people still out on the swim course – this boosted my confidence and a friend standing by the T1 entrance, Eng Kim , told me I had a sub 30min swim time confirmed this. So running through T1 I quickly slipped on my shoes (no socks), helmet, glasses and wheeled my bike onto the course. I quickly settled into the bike and aimed to keep my avg. speed around 32-33KM/H. Since my bike refitting I was a lot more comfortable in aero position and this was perfect for the rolling course. I didn’t see any of my competition during the entire cycle and was beginning to think may be I had the lead. But turning my focus on my own race and knowing that hydration was key to a being able to maintain my pace during the run; I ensured I kept drinking during the bike every 10 minutes. In all I estimated an intake of around 2.5 litres of Accelerade during the bike.

Run: 10K – 50+mins

The run course follows a path around the resort with short hill climbs, forest runs and beachside paths. There were a number of turn arounds that let’s you see the pack of competitors up to 100m behind you. In all it is a two lap course ending at the transition area so plenty of spectators to cheer you on. My legs felt okay coming out of the bike and I immediately went into a 12KM/H pace for the run. However watching my HR creep to 180 (it had been around 175 for the bike) I wondered if I could keep it up. At the same time checking my watch I saw total elapsed time of 1hr 41′ out of T2 and although I fancied a shot at a sub 2:30 time; I was already on course for a PB (previous PB was 2:48) by a wide margin which I would be happy with. Then my inspiration came – during the first turnaround I saw Tevis coming up behind me looking strong. He’d clearly done a lot of work on his running with his “Macca sets” and was less than 10 seconds behind. I resolved to run faster and tried to increase the distance between us. Each lap there were 2 turn arounds and each one I estimated that I had may be gained a second or so. As we came out of the second turnaround on the second lap and with 2KM left I felt that I probably had him as I could no longer see him. I was wrong. in the last kilometer I decided I would do a quick check and there I saw him – he’d massively increased his pace and had strategically saved up to sprint the last 400m! By then it was too late at around 200m to go he flew past me to finish just 5 secs ahead.

Tevis with his 5 sec lead!

Tevis with his 5 sec lead!

Super fun race, beautiful course, well organized (great marshalls!) will be back again next year!

All in all it was a great race – made even better when we found out later in the race results that Tevis had received a 2 min. draft penalty bringing me back on top! Both Casey and Dave finished sub 3 which was remarkable given it was Dave’s first ever triathlon. Casey – clearly resting on the laurels of his Phuket victory has work to do for Cebu! (or significant upgrades to his bike!).

Tevis after 2min penalty!

Tevis after 2min penalty!

The best post race nutrition - beer n burgerts!

The best post race nutrition – beer n burgerts!

Part II: Bintan Triathlon – Race Preparation

Part II: Bintan Triathlon



Bintan triathlon an international triathlon run by Metaman on the island of Bintan, Indonesia. The island is an hour’s ferry ride from Singapore and set in the Niwana resort. Overall it is a very well organized triathlon now in its 9th year running (as of 2013) and draws a good list of age groupers. There were approximately 600 age groupers in the Olympic distance. The course starts with a beach start for a sea swim in calm waters, a long single loop rolling hills course and a double loop resort run. The course itself presents a good PB destination however this can be weather dependent. Men’s position leaders come in around the 2+ hour mark and with some training age groupers can hit a sub 3 hour OD on this course. The race starts in the afternoon as the organizers say that this presents cooler weather than a morning start. When the sun is out temperatures can soar into high 30 deg. C and humidity can make for a tough race as well.

Accommodation/ logistics:

The race is set in the resort complex of Niwana which makes for the logical place to stay. However this comes at a price with rooms easily being more than SG$300/ night. Rooms are also booked out very early due to the level of interest in this event. We chose to stay at Bintan lodge which was significantly cheaper and still close enough to the resort complex (about 8km) however the rooms are very very basic. In terms of food – resort food comes at resort prices with “special menus” only available during the event. Staying at Bintan lodge we walked down to the hawker center where we could get nasi goreng/ soto ayam for about $1/ dish. There was also a reasonable Chinese restaurant near the hawker center. Nearby convenience stores have very limited supplies and would recommend that athletes bring their own breakfasts and snacks.


Race Preparation:

In preparation for the race we arrived the morning before in order to check the bike course. Taking advice from a blog we rented motorbikes to ride around the bike course. This was especially beneficial to give an idea of the latter part of the course which had a series of short climbs and downhills. As well as some preparation for the various speed bumps and sharp turns that were on the course. Arriving the day before was also helpful in getting to the bike mechanic early and avoiding any last minute glitches with our bikes.

This was the first race that I had done that had an planned afternoon start. Hence the usual early dinners were not as important. However we did start hydrating from late afternoon. Even whizzing around on the motorbikes had left us parched and dehydrated and with the afternoon sun some major tan lines as well. All we could do was to hope that the weather the next day would be more conducive to the race!

Ignoring “signs”

Bintan Race Report Part I: The signs are NOT to race….

If there were such things as signs for me to not participate in the Bintan International olympic distance race then I certainly received a lot of them. It started just 6 days before the race when after my Sunday morning training session I felt my left ear seemed “blocked” as if there was some water stuck inside. I decided that it would probably go away by the next day. However when it persisted I thought it would be wise to see the doctor. Upon examination the doctor said you have a throat infection which has spread to your inner ear causing inflammation and therefore partial deafness. I was stunned, just 5 days before my race! However I reflected on the previous week’s training where i had done a 5 hour brick session far over what was on my plan and feeling incredibly tired as a result. I had probably caught something during my weakened post training state. So the doctor prescribed 7 days of antibiotics but said that if my ear returned to normal by Friday then I would be able to participate.

The week rushed by and my ear improved. Yes, i was back on track! So Thursday evening i packed my bags and was all ready to go first thing 5AM Friday morning. I was flying Mandala Airlines (but on a Tiger codeshare) but my ticket did not indicate which terminal so we headed to terminal 1 because Mandala flights typically leave from there. Wrong! That was domestic. So off we went to terminal 2. Wrong again! Terminal 3! Arriving finally at the correct terminal i rushed inside with less than an hour to take off. Bags checked in i was at least on the flight – at least that’s what i thought… Coming up the escalator i was confronted with a mile long queue for immigration with just 10 minutes to boarding I’ll never make it I thought – so i walked up to the front and asked the immigration officer if i could skip. He looked surprised and told me to go to the back. Fortunately, an Air Asia flight had a group of travelers who had yet to board as well and they called for all passengers to come up and cut through. I followed the crowd and again fluked an entry.

However my last and final sign was upon race registration. Looking through the list I couldn’t find my name in the race list so i thought there must be some mistake. So i looked through my emails but yet failed to find any race registration! I suddenly thought could it be possible that I had convinced my group of 3 other friends to all sign up for the race and yet forget to register myself?! I could think of only one option – plead to the race directors! Fortunately they had some spare entries and allowed me to do an on spot entry.

So despite these multiple signs to NOT race I managed to muddle my way through them. What was my lesson? Well, firstly if you want something enough then you’ll find all and any ways to get there. and 2? Be a lot more organized!! A good race starts with good prep! – which in this case all materialized from my training preparation not my organizational preparation – read on to part II for my overview of the race:

First ever double brick

As I prepare for the Bintan Olympic triathlon next week my training this Sunday changed to introduce a double brick versus the usual long bike and run. This was an interesting mix and helped me focus on the transition from bike to run.

Unfortunately continued rain from the night before changed my outdoor cycle plans to an indoor turbo session. However there i discovered the pleasure of watching videos on the official IM youtube channel while on my turbo.

Overall it was a good session with reasonable energy levels. Easier than my last week 5 hour long session but probably more helpful to prepare for the Olympic next week!

Stage One: Warm up

10 mins | zone1 

Gradually build the intensity through the warm up


Stage Two: Drills


Stage Three: Main Set

2 hr 40 min | zone1 & zone21 hour bike, 20min run x 2

Stage Four: Cooldown

5 mins | zone1Gradually reduce the intensity through the cool down

First century ride, a good dose of endorphines and confidence booster!

Today’s plan originally was a 4 hour brick as follows:

Brick     Print the session card - preview

Date: Sun, 05 May 13 Total duration: 4 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

10 mins | zone1


Warm up on the bike for 10 mins, gradually increasing the intensity


Stage Two: Drills


Stage Three: Main Set

3 hr 15 min | zone1 & zone2

Bike – Maintain your heart rate within target zone

30 mins | zone1 & zone2

Run – Maintain your heart rate within target zone

Stage Four: Cooldown

5 mins | zone1

Gradually reduce the intensity through the cool down

So after a 3 hour 35 min bike which my GPS counted as 106KM and my Polar 97KM (so I counted a century)  I headed to the gym for my 30 minute z2 run. However after 30 mins I felt so good I decided to go on – and as I hit the 4 hour 30 min. mark I experienced a massive endorphine rush. I couldn’t help smiling ear to ear and had a sense that I could just keep going.

Fortunately my Ironman playlist ended after 1.5 hrs running providing me with a perfect excuse to stop.

They say train like a horse (don’t question the plan!) but today it just felt right. I’ll be going into my usual Monday rest + fast so hope that will help my body recover fully for the next week’s of training. 2 weeks now till Bintan!