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

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Ironman Western Australia Busselton – Race Day Report Part II

Sunday 8th December: RACE DAY!

As expected the night before the race I only slept about 4 hours as I was restless and up thinking about the race. I got out of bed at 3:15AM (later than planned) to set about trying to get some breakfast in. Problem no.1! For some reason after my peanut butter sandwich (~250 Cal) I felt nauseous! So I couldn’t get my cliff bar, porridge or banana down (~700 Cal). This could have been because I was rushing my breakfast due to waking up 30 mins late anyway – lesson learned! (This I believe contributed to my mini “bonk” 10K into the marathon). I managed to finish my Accelerade sports drink and after a successful toilet routine headed off the lobby to catch the 4:15AM cab to the race start.

Straight into T1 to do a final bike check: gears, nutrition, tires, I pulled on my wet suit sent in my street gear bag and headed down to the jetty to do a quick swim warm up and then over to see the pro’s start. It’s also important that you have your wetsuit pulled up comfortably. Lift your arm up and back down to make sure there isn’t too much tightness. Also my wetsuit has a velcro strap at the back of the neck. Make sure that this is strapped down such that it will not expose the velcro to your neck. Mine worked its way up around half way and I had a nasty strap burn on the back of my neck by the time I finished.

This year with 1,500 competitors instead of a deep-water start we had a beach start. I decided to start mid pack – neither with the guys racing to the water at the front, nor the guys standing back. I also quickly checked for whoever was immediately behind me – no overly zealous or ambitious people or gigantic aussies ready to step over me – check! Now just minutes and seconds away I calmed my mind and prepared for the race.

Tip! I was actually surprisingly calm at race start. Something I did almost every night in the week running up to the race was to imagine myself at the start line looking out towards the jetty getting ready to start. Pro athletes focus a lot on proper visioning and mental preparation for a race and this can help make sure that you don’t waste valuable energy being nervous/ stressed on race day as well as give you an edge in performance.  

The race gun fires…

3.8KM Swim around Busselton Jetty:

Adrian Li at T1

In the midst of an immediate flurry of splashing and arms I quickly found myself a spot behind a similar paced swimmer and tried to get into a good rhythm. The swim is one loop around the jetty so it’s relatively easy to stay on course by sighting the jetty to the left. Despite there being 1,500+ swimmers everyone was well spaced out so after about 400 meters it was quite easy to find my own space in the middle of the pack. I ended up being more comfortable swimming in my own space vs. drafting another swimmer so that is something I will have to work on going forward. The swim proceeded well and at the half way mark I checked my watch and with a quick calculation was on course for a 1hr 10-15 min swim. Great – I thought to myself I’m ahead of my budgeted 1:30 estimate! Every now and then I would wonder if looking out to my left or right I’d see a shark but in fact I didn’t even see any fish swim by! Coming around the turn around we had a chance to look back to shore – all 1.8KM away but I was feeling good so attempted to pick up my pace to get back home. Eventually the black inflated IM gate came into view and a few more strokes later the swim was finished.

  • Swim: 1Hr 15Mins

180KM Bike on 3 loop course:


Getting out of the water I ran up to transition where I grabbed my bag and found a spot to settle myself down for the change to bike. Transition was fairly smooth and in just under 10 minutes I was out onto the bike course. Wary of over expending too early I kept my HR under 150 bpm during the entire bike course. Early on I did feel a slight twinge in my left calf and so I popped a couple of salt tabs and the feeling went away by the last loop of the course. The course was a 3 loop 60KM course that took riders on out and back legs around Busselton. The ride was mostly straight and flat – which was good and bad. Good in that there were no tiring climbs or technical turns but it did mean that you had to be pedaling all the time. There were a few sections with strong cross and head/tail winds but what you got in head winds you took back in tail winds so it was fair. We had a mostly overcast day which helped with the temperature – however used to training in humid and hot temperatures I found myself needing the the toilet many more times than I planned for. In all I needed 3 pit stops on the course official porta-loos accounting for around 5-6 minutes.


There were quite a few technical marshals on the course however despite the 12M drafting rule and many riders in groups I didn’t see any penalties handed out. I figured that they were less concerned about the age groupers and with an IM distance were just letting people do their race. One thing that I had to be wary of were the bottles, CO2 canisters and other items that were occasionally found strewn across the road – definitely something to watch out for! Each lap took me through the town where the streets were lined with spectators. One thing I can’t say enough about are the spectators who really get into the atmosphere of the race helping all the riders along. Even out halfway through the lap there was an outpost with people ringing bells and shouting cheers to help everyone along. As I came into the final stretch of the 3rd lap I finally spotted my family and a gorgeous poster of my son welcoming me into T2. Amazing – 2 parts down now only a marathon to go! I was still feeling great but checking my watch at 6 hours 14+ minutes the bike had taken me 15 minutes longer than I had anticipated – most likely from the wind and toilet stops I had not planned for. But also – continually in my mind was the fear of “blowing up” and as this was my first IM the over arching goal would be to just finish in a respectable time.

  • Bike: 6Hrs 14Mins
  • Avg. HR: 147
  • Avg. Speed: 29KM/H


42.2KM Run on a 4 loop course:


T2 required a massive application of sun block and also filling up my running bottles with the Gu infused mixture. Once done I was out with a total transition time of 8 minutes. The marathon part of the IMWA is one of the most fun parts of the race. Running along the coast and passing the IM finish line twice on every lap is a constant reminder to get to the finish line. With bands playing, the paths lined with spectators and the hundreds of other participants you are never alone in the last leg of the race.

I started out strong in the run – I completed my first 10K in just over an hour. However at KM 12 I suddenly hit a wall and all I could think of was getting something to eat and some nutrition in. My thoughts wandered back to my breakfast and whether this was the result of not getting the full breakfast in! Arriving at an aid station I grabbed a banana, two slices of watermelon and a vegemite sandwich which I stuffed into my running belt.

I then decided to start a run/ walk strategy which meant doing a fast walk through each aid station allowing me to drink some water and recover before the next section. At the half way mark I also started seeing many other people walking – even those on their last lap with just a few KMs to go.


With a slightly overcast sky and occasional ocean breeze the run turned out not to be to hot, this was quite a blessing compared to the previous year. On my 3rd lap my younger brother Andrew spotted me from the side line and ran a couple of kilometers with me – this was a massive boost and he was a welcome sight to see. As I turned into the final lap most people I saw were moving at a slow shuffle – but with the finish line just another 10KM away I tried to shut out the soreness in my legs and reached for the the photos of my wife and kid in my running belt. Slowly but surely I started down the last 2KM – where my youngest brother Alex spotted me and supported me with words of encouragement and got me racing to the finish line. The last few hundred meters became a blur as I swung into the finish chute between a sea of spectators towards the IM arch. Under my sunglasses my eyes immediately welled up as hundreds of images flashed in front of me from the past years worth of training to get to this finish line.

“Adrian Li You – Are An Ironman” I heard as I crossed the Ironman arch to a time of 13 hours 2 minutes.


  • Run: 5Hrs 11Mins
  • Avg. HR 142
  • Best lap: 1Hr 4 mins

Tip!: If you are not racing for a specific time try NOT to sprint into the finish line arch. Take your time to soak in the crowd and savor the moment as you complete one of the toughest one day events in the world. Also this allows for your friends and family to take videos/ pictures of you as you come in – finally it probably isn’t the safest time to push your max HR at the finale of an Ironman!

Post Race: Thoughts, plans and future

So what’s next? For at least 24 hours after the event I would continue to say that the Ironman was a once in a lifetime bucket list experience. Now just 7 days later I’m researching how to get into Kona (lottery chances are about 1% or qualify by doing an Ironman in just over 9 hours). Certainly an Ironman is not a once a year undertaking for me – the amount of time, sacrifice and support from my family and friends is too demanding to do that often – at least at this stage of my life. However the spirit and learnings I have from the Ironman experience will definitely have me coming back in the future. May be one day I will even get to race side by side my son Aaron in his first Ironman.

The completion of the Ironman was a culmination of a year’s long preparation and support from my family, friends, donors and colleagues. It is a hugely empowering experience and all manner of benefits from physical fitness, to more mental discipline and about what is possible when one is determined enough. However most of all it has also filled me with gratitude for life, the opportunity to even experience this and all the people who helped me make this goal possible.

Thank you’s and Mentions:


This has been one of the most incredible 12 months of my life from getting married to our first son, to starting a business I am passionate about to the completion of my first Ironman. Like all great challenges in life these are overcome not by individuals but by teams – the Ironman is certainly no exception. I would never have got even to the start line without the incredible support I received.

First and foremost to my wife, Vanessa, who helped me in every way from constant words of support to putting in all the extra time with Aaron as I put in the hours of training. I dedicate my finish of this race to you and Aaron and hope that it proves that I can go to the end of the world for you.

Next to my family, my mum, dad and both my brothers Andrew and Alex. Thank you for the support for coming all the way down to Australia for the race and being there on this event.

My co-founders and business partners Steven and Sean for allowing me to pursue this passion during our busy start up times.

To my Heng Dai Ironman Tevis Ong. We signed up together, trained and suffered together and finished IMWA together – it was great to have a buddy throughout this year’s experience. Next stop Kona!

To the tribuddies family, the guys I train with and who offer their support on chat and in our group – it’s great to have this fantastic community in Jakarta to keep me motivated.

To all my donors who generously donated to CNYTrust to help migrant school children. I’m excited and proud to say that together we also broke through my fund raising goal and that these funds will go a long way to support our next few years of teachers.

7 Days to go! Ironman Busselton Training Plan

Ironman Support

Just 1 week to go before the Busselton Ironman and my taper week has gone well.

Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
25-Nov Mon
26-Nov Tue 90
27-Nov Wed 60
28-Nov Thu 60
29-Nov Fri
30-Nov Sat 10 80 10
1-Dec Sun 30 60
Totals 160 170 70  6.67

Z3D has gone to the shop and been completely cleaned up – i’ve practice the CO2 refilling and tire changes twice and so far things are going to plan. I’ve started reading blogs and other accounts of Busselton Ironman – the result has been to add to the nerves! However i’ve picked up a few tips which i’m incorporating into my last few days of preparation.

These few preparation tips include the following:

1) Sleep adaptation: the event starts at 5:45AM which is my 4:45AM in Jakarta. I’ll have to eat my breakfast about 3 hours prior which means waking up at my equivalent of 1:45AM – ergh! So this week i’ll start adapting my sleep (and eating cycle). Will target waking up at around 3-4AM each day It also means shifting my meals with breakfast at 3-4AM, lunch at around 10AM, dinner at around 4PM and then ready for bed by 8PM.

2) Breakfast: I am going to practice eating the same breakfast each morning and then proceed to a short visualisation of the race. I think doing this for 6 days prior to the race will help calm nerves with the familiarity.

3) Training: minimal training this week! All the hard work is done so no more than about 2 hours total this week – my training outline is below:

Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
2-Dec Mon
3-Dec Tue 30
4-Dec Wed 45
5-Dec Thu 30
6-Dec Fri
7-Dec Sat 20 10
Totals 30 65 40

Finally another thank you to everyone who has donated. The support has been tremendous and will go a long way to helping migrant chinese students have a better future.

Training for Ironman Busselton Week 7 9/30

Week 7 (9/30) Rest week Planned Work out Intensity Zone Actual Work Out
Monday Rest & Fast
Tuesday Swim: 2KM 2,3 Swim 2KM
Wednesday Bike: 1 HR 3,4 Bike 30 mins
Thursday Tempo Run 25 mins @ 5.20 Pace 10min WU/CD 2,3  Off
Friday Swim: Steady swim 2KM 3,4  Off
Saturday Bike: 130KM 2,3  Bike: 75KM 5KM Run: INJURED
Sunday Run 15KM 2,3 REST

Despite my rest week I still felt tired in this week. I think, given the combination of starting an internet company Qraved and Ironman training I had neither time to rest my mind or my body. Although the week started well with a decent 2KM swim – a combination of waking up late and general tiredness again forced me to rest up. I promised that I would make it up with a long weekend.

We had a great turn out at our long brick weekend with buddies Adrian, Doli, Eka and Azlan all joining for the long ride. I’d planned a 120K + a 5 K run for the weekend and was feeling good. The first 45KM went down easily – clocking a easy 30KM/H and avg. HR of just 135. So decided to turn it up for the next 45KM. However as we hit 50 the first of our accidents began. Eka hit a spanner on the road and blew his tire. Next just as we were heading off Azlan broke his chain. 2 men down. We decided to head on with our training but decided to train in Icon – a residential area which was likely to be safer.

We decided to stay in here for 3o mins – it was great training head down and in TT picked up speed to avg. 33KM/H + however just as we hit the last lap and were going to head out disaster  struck. Tucked into aero position with my right hand fiddling with my goo gel – a car appeared in a T-Junction without stopping. Panicking I reached for my left break (my only available hand) and propelled myself over my bike head over heels.

It all happened in an instant but my immediate reaction was oh $hit i’ve done it again – a flashback to 2006 when I broke my wrist just 4 weeks before UK ironman. Fortunately I got back up did a quick check – it seemed to be just surface injuries with a banged up knee. Z3D didn’t fare so well the left part of my Aero base bar was ripped and my front wheel had a slight tear.

In the end I have to be thankful both that I have not seriously injured myself and also for the very generous help from Adrian and Doli who helped get the driver, and forego part of their training to get me back on my feet. I’m also very grateful for the kind biking community who helped with the betadine and all their kind words and attention.

It’s a funny way of looking at it but at the same time I am slightly relieved. I felt that I was somewhat due for an accident – I had been relatively accident free for quite a while and believing that good things will always follow bad luck I’m hopefully that this is just a bump along the road to my Ironman.

I’ll be off training for a few days but hopefully back in shape for the upcoming weekend where i’ll be attempting my first 130KM!

Road Rash Road Rash 2 Road Rash 3 Z3D with a broken arm


1 week before Cebu 70.3 tapering triathlon training

It’s just a week away from my Ironman Cebu 70.3 and with the reduced triathlon training in the past month with the arrival of baby Aaron I’m more than a little nervous! But lots of encouragement from my Tribuddies friends and my coach (email below) have kept my hopes up and I felt great during today’s swim (1.6K) and run (15K) brick.

In the week running up to the event I’ll be tapering my training further. The triathlon training plan calls for  3 short brick sets during the week:

Triathlon Training plan tapering

Triathlon Training plan tapering


“Whilst the last few weeks have not been ideal preparation for Cebu, I do think that you can still be confident of having a good race. On the positive side, you are still managing to get some training done on a regular basis, even though the volume is lower than what it would have been ideally. The planned training volume from this point forward is reduced anyway in the lead up to the race. You’ve been training for this race since March and you will not lose the endurance that you have developed quickly, so whilst I know these last few weeks have been a real struggle, you are still well prepared for a 70.3 distance race. I think that you need to go into this race feeling confident and look to enjoy the experience. The important thing with a race of this distance is to ensure that you pace yourself. The biggest mistake is to push too hard early on the bike and to therefore leave yourself struggling for the rest of the race. Ignore any other athletes who come past you, they are either very strong on the bike, or they are working too hard in which case you will most likely see them again later in the race. Keep the intensity as constant as possible and avoid any significant spikes in your heart rate. Use the bike leg as an opportunity to keep hydrated and get in your nutrition. Likewise on the run, keep the intensity under control and avoid the intensity to push too hard early on. If you’re feeling good, then try to pick up the pace during the final 4 miles, but don’t get carried away at the start…..” James Pryke

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:

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/

Ironman Inspiration

In anticipation of a somewhat debaucherous new years evening I decided to get on my turbo trainer while watching the Ironman 2011 championships. While the movie centered on the championship rivalry of the elite the stories that lingered were those of the age groupers who overcame incredible odds to finish an the Kona 2011 Ironman. Sure, inspiration can come in many forms but as New Year resolutions loom and inevitably the numerous “get fit” promises to ourselves get shelved from late nights at work, birthdays and children pause to think of:

.. the 82 year old man who became the oldest ever Ironman finisher

.. the double leg amputee who finished

.. the woman who under went colon cancer treatment while training for her ironman and finished

Old age, lack of legs poor or health didn’t stop any of these heros from finishing and inspiring others to get up, get out and do something.

Amputee Ironman - Scott Rigsby