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

Ironman 70.3 2013, Cebu, Philippines Race Report Part 2: Race Day

Ironman 70.3 2013, Cebu, Philippines Race Report

Part 2: Race Day


4:00AM our alarms went off and after a surprisingly good night’s sleep I was feeling good for the race. As anticipated it was still raining  but no surprises there. We made our way down to breakfast which started at 4:30.

For breakfast I had a selection of bakery items, some corned beef hash, fried rice and a good sized coffee. Items I had tried and tested 2 days prior so also no surprises there. From there I made my way back to the room to test my pre-race toilet strategy. Thankfully everything went to plan and feeling a couple pounds lighter, I collected my remaining items which were all packed the day before to await the bus.  A deja-vu of Phuket and Bintan appeared as Tevis, Casey and I stepped onto the bus to take us to transition – we all wondered “who had done the most secret training this time!”

When we arrived the transition area was already buzzing with many of the participants checking their bikes. It had been raining all night so bike seats were soaked – perhaps a good lesson to learn here is to always bring some bin liners to cover the bikes in case of rain overnight!

Pete & Macca's bikes in transition

Pete & Macca’s bikes in transition

Nutrition & Hydration Plan:

From the last few Olympic + distance triathlons I have participated in I have learnt that nutrition is key in maintaining good form throughout the race. A couple of the big mistakes i’ve made in the past:

- Only bringing one flavor of Gel/ too many caffeinated Gels! – Gels can taste horrible when you are on your 6th one so mixing it up helps. Also make sure you don’t take all caffeinated ones

-  Not drinking enough. I’ve realized that I typically need about 500mls/hour during the race. And considering you can’t drink during the swim that means over the bike leg i’m drinking almost 2 litres of liquid. Now, you have to be careful not to over hydrate so find out what works best for you during training but being properly hydrated is imperative. During IM 70.3 China I was severely dehydrated (lack of drinking during bike) and barely finished the run clocking in over 2 hours 45 mins.

So what did I bring? For Cebu I brought 5 gels  for the bike which I taped to the top tube for easy access. I decided to bring all my water bottles (3) which I placed on my torpedo mount and double tail mount. My thinking here was that I would go through my first bottle quickly to make up for the swim. I’d then dispose of that and have my remaining two bottles for the race and a spare cage for an additional bottle that I would pick up during the race. For the run I brought 4 additional gels and a pack of gel cubes – the course had plenty of water and Gatorade available so I did not bring a water bottle.

Race Start!

Swim – Sea Swells, Jelly fish and kicking!

The Cebu swim is beautiful. Perhaps one of the only races in South East Asia with clear visibility in the water. You literally are swimming with the fish! It was the first deep water start that I’d done so I decided to start in the middle of the pack. I’m an average swimmer with approximately 1:50-2:00 min./100m pace – this was a mistake. As the gun went off I was caught in quite a surge of legs and arms as athletes fought to secure a clear spot. The pack did not clear up for about 1KM and several times I had to stop to try and get to clearer water. The swim felt like it took an eternity  sea swells hindered regular bilateral breathing and a couple stings on the neck by invisible jelly fish made it a less “enjoyable” swim leg. However 39 minutes later (definitely one of my slower swims) I emerged to head to T1. T1 was quite a long run I took 4 minutes in T1 and probably around 2 minutes of that was running to my bike. Coming to my bike I noticed Tevis  leaving his bike station and it appeared that Casey  had already come and gone. Knowing I had a stronger bike this time round I knew I had to use this to catch up!

Race Day was raining!

Race Day was raining!

Bike –  Cross winds, drafting and rain!

The bike course takes you over the Cebu bridge onto a long highway which you double back on for 4 lengths before returning back to T2. For the most part the course is fairly narrow – this meant that in many instances it was impossible to not be illegally drafting as packs of 10-20 bikes were moving at constant speeds. Marshalls however were unforgiving and broke up backs by penalizing randomly people in the packs. Strong cross winds and occasional head winds also made parts of the course more difficult – especially for those with deep rimmed aero wheels and less experience in handling such winds. As my usual training ride in Jakarta often has cross winds I was  fortunately adequately prepared for this.

Upping my pace on the ride I decided to go above my planned speed to around 34KM/H to try and catch Casey and Tevis. However given the narrow roads I didn’t manage to make much ground until the highway – fortunately because of the turn arounds I knew that unless they had a big margin I would have the opportunity to see them. I saw them at the first turn around and this motivated me increase the pace further. Passing Casey at around KM 30 I moved ahead to catch Tevis. I soon reached Tevis and we rode together for about 3 Kilometers but as we neared the 2nd turn around I decided to use the outward bound leg and tail wind to make some ground. I accelerated to a avg. speed of around 35-36KM/H to overtake him. Tevis, with his “Macca Set” training, was a strong runner so I needed to get any advantage I could. The combination of focus on the bike in training and pushing to get more lead time on the run helped me proceed to a PB on my bike finishing in 2 hours 41 mins.

With Caroline Steffen winner of Female Pro's

With Caroline Steffen winner of Female Pro’s

Run – cool, amazing support, hitting a wall at KM 17!

The run takes you right out of the hotel (vs. left which was the bike) towards the tip of the peninsula. The roads are lined with supporters  the entire way with plenty of hydration and cooling stations. Coming out of the run I checked my watch and saw I was running a pace of 6:00/KM. Switching to my combined time on my Polar it looked like even with a 2 hour 10 minute run I could be on for a sub 5:30 – could this be true? This spurred me on but on every turn-around I was on the look-out for Tevis who had caught me with a devastating sprint finish at Bintan. At the large turn around on the peninsula I saw him – I figured he was probably about 800M behind – I thought I was safe.

The run takes you on two loops and the race marshalls hand you a red arm band on the first and a black one for the second. Much of the run was without shade so we were VERY fortunate it was mostly overcast on the day. Things all seemed to be going well until I got to around KM 17. Suddenly my legs felt like lead and daggers stabbed my hips at each step. My pace slowed to around 6:30 but based on my watch I estimated that was still on for a sub 5:30. Then to my surprise Tevis sprinted by – he looked like he was doing around 4:30-5:00 on the last 4 kilometers! Crazy?! I didn’t try to follow and instead focused on trying to keep things together for a sub 5:30.

Coming close to the finish – every spectator and marshall seemed to say it’s just round the corner but zig zagging around the hotel grounds to the finish line seemed to take forever. I finally crossed the line at 5:40 on the official  race clock and 5:35 on my official time. Only then did i realize that the combined time on my watch did not include my transition times when i stopped my watch!! (doh!).


Tevis finished 5 minutes ahead of me and Casey with a very respectable sub 6 so a great race for all of us.


Overall Cebu was a fantastic race – my only regret was to not stay an extra day and enjoy the resort more. The combination of the professional preparation, the “star” value with pro’s and celebrities and amazing support throughout the race make it a go-to event for Ironman in South East Asia. Next year is bound to sell out even more quickly (Fred predicts 3 days!) and will open registration in October. It’s already on my race calendar for next year but for now it’s all about Busselton at the end of the year.

Feel free to contact  me if you have any questions about the race – i’d love to share more!



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