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.

Ironman Western Australia Busselton Race Report – Part 1

On December 8th, 2013 I completed my first Ironman at Ironman Western Australia in Busselton in 13 hours 2 minutes. The following is a detailed race report on the entire experience covering pre-race packing and preparation, a day-by-day log of activities, nutrition and packing tips and thank yous to the people who helped make this unforgettable experience possible.

Race Week:

My race week taper included more than just reduced training but also sleeping earlier and adjusting all my toilet routines to that of race day. Hence starting with my usual Monday fast I started waking up at 3AM and eating my dinner around 4/5PM. (I also had to adjust for the 1 hour time difference between Jakarta and Western Australia). With the hard work now done to quote my MBA classmate and also fellow Ironman Geoff “Now wrap yourself in cotton wool and be ready for race day” I did my best to ensure that I slept well, ate well and avoided anyone who looked remotely sick! However to my horror, during taper week I began to *feel* strange aches and pains in my legs just from walking around! I then made sure that I wore my trainers everywhere, bought a roll of KT tape and taped up my knees and wore compression socks too. Later my Ironman high school friend Ross explained this was part of the normal pre-race nerves “creating” fictitious aches!

The week rolled by and I managed to avoid any nasty bugs but also made sure I drank airborne and additional vitamin C each day. Now I just had to make sure I didn’t miss anything out from the extensive packing list I had found online and that my bike Z3D was on absolutely top form for the race!


Equipment and packing:

Z3D was stripped down by a bike mechanic and both tubes changed (wasn’t taking any risks with a flat). I practiced changing the tires a few times and also used a couple of CO2 cartridges to inflate the tires to check that I knew how to use them well. I did pack an extra road bike front wheel as I had heard reports of strong gusty winds just in case I had to swap out my HED Jet 6”. – TIP make sure you’ve double checked the weight allowance on your ticket because all airlines are different! Fortunately for me Garuda provided extra allowance for sports equipment – up to 23KGs so I was fine. My friend Ross however making the trip from the UK was told he would be charged excess baggage for his totaling over US$1,000! Which resulted in him leaving his bike and picking up a rental for race day!

Tip! The last thing you need is to be hunting around for things you forgot. Make sure you tick off all your items against a packing list 2 days before so that you have time to pick up anything you don’t have. Check out the packing list I used Ironman Checklists


We arrived in Perth on Thursday and drove down to Busselton on the same day. Online, Hertz had the best rates and we got upgraded to a Kluger (from a Rav 4) ensuring we had plenty of space in the car for both my buddy Tevis’ bike and mine. The drive down to Busselton took about 3 hours due to the evening rush hour traffic but it was an easy and pleasant drive and so we arrived at our hotel Abbey beach Resort around 8PM that evening. The hotel was about 10 minutes drive from the race start and was a very spacious serviced apartment. However no wifi made it a little frustrating to stay in touch (which may be a good thing to help focus on the race preparations!). There did not appear to be a lot of accommodation options at Busselton and there was no official race hotel. However Abbey was affordable and with a 2 bedroom serviced apartment there was plenty of room and we could cook our last few meals in the kitchen. Overall I was quite satisfied with this choice. I did see a small hotel actually on the race course itself called Esplanade hotel – this could have been a little more convenient on race day however the rooms are likely to be much smaller I think.



We were up bright and early on Friday at around 5AM (the plan was to wake up an hour earlier each day before the race). There was a swim practice on at the Jetty from 6AM – 8AM so around 7:30AM we headed off. However, by the time we arrived they said they were closing the practice! We realized soon after that we could still swim “at our own risk” – fair enough, and as there were still a few people in the sea we went off for a quick 15 minute swim. The sea was surprisingly unclear perhaps due to the wind but getting a few strokes in was a good confidence booster.

Something we didn’t anticipate and had not heard about were the flies! Dec- January is apparently fly season and literally there are dozens of flies buzzing around you wherever you are! Try and get a fly net for your head to make walking around more pleasant!

We then headed over to check in – a relatively straightforward and smooth process – Check! Straight on over then to the Ironman expo where I ended up picking up a CO2 bolt, additional mini bag (into which I put inner tubes and tools) and finally some IM stash including an IMWA branded visor. (I’d recently learned from Macca’s biography that visors allowed more heat escape during hot IMs so decided to pick one up.)


Finally we rounded the day off with a quick cycle (40 mins) and a 10 minute run to keep the legs loose and double check that all was functioning on the bike. On the ride we had our first real taste of the 25-30KMH winds we heard about. However I didn’t experience anything that would threaten to blow me off the bike so I stuck to my HED JET 6/9 combination for the wheels. As evening approached it was off to the race briefing for IMWA’s 10th anniversary welcome dinner. On the way over we bumped into Chris Huang a seasoned ultra marathoner and 2nd time Ironman – like Ross he also described his “gastric shutdown” on his first IM experience adding to my fears of an under practiced nutrition strategy for race day so make sure you don’t make my mistake of forgetting about nutrition plans! Fortunately everything turned out okay for me – and you’ll see a detailed breakdown of what I did later.

The welcome dinner was a standard pre-IM feast of pasta, bread and fruits. After this we were treated to some well prepared videos of the history of the IMWA ironman, speeches including an interview of Andreas Raleart – all good fun except it took over 3 hours! Not ideal pre-race preparation. The race briefing didn’t happen till the end so as soon as the course descriptions were done we snuck out to get the Zzzs we surely needed.

Tip! despite being blistering hot during the day the temperature drops as soon as the sun goes down so make sure if you’re still out in the evening to bring a tracksuit top. Also – my personal opinion is that the welcome dinners are not worth the AUD30+ they were charging for the non-competitors. So tell any supporters with you to dine in town while you attend the welcome dinner and briefing.

Nutrition Strategy:

Nutrition was a part of my overall strategy that I had severely over looked during training. However after some last minute research I came up with something that seemed to work well for me as:

  1. I had no stomach upsets during the race
  2. Relied mostly on my own carried nutrition vs. picking anything up at the course
  3. Suffered no cramping.

As described later I attribute my mini “bonk” on the run to my inability to eat my planned breakfast on the day because of feeling nauseous. Depending on the time you take to race (I was targeting 13-14 hours) you’ll be burning about 9,000 – 10,000 calories (35 cheese burgers!). That’s what you may typically burn over 4 days without exercise! So making sure that you are properly fueled throughout the race is a major concern! My strategy was as follows:


  • Breakfast: (~1,000 Cal): peanut butter sandwich (2 slices of bread), 1 banana, 1 instant oat porridge, 1 sports drink 500ml (accelerade – which is a protein/carb drink)
  • Pre-race: (~300 Cal): 1 cliff bar & Gu tab. electrolyte drink (500ml)
  • Bike: (2,800 Cal): bottles of concentrated electrolyte & sports (accelerade) drink (approx. 4 spoonfuls of powder ea. scoop 120 Cal), 8 Gu gels (100 Cal each), 2 cliff bars, salt tabs
  • Run: (1,200 Cal) 2 small bottles of water mixed with 4 Gu’s each (fruit flavored) and 4 chocolate caffeine Gu’s.

During the bike I started out with a bottle of water in addition to my 3 Accelerade bottles. I drank only water for the first 20 mins to rehydrate from the swim and settle my stomach after which I dumped the remaining half bottle to reduce weight. Then every 10 minutes (I set the alarm on my watch at these intervals) I would take about 3 sips of Accelerade planning to finish half a bottle of the Accelerade every hour. I also ate 1 Gu just as I hit 20 minutes (remember to always take Gu with water) and then another at every half hour. I ate my cliff bars on the hours 3-4 and then the second at hours 5-6 finishing my last Gu on the home stretch of the bike.

Tip! for items like Cliff bars take off the wrapper and cut into 1/4 sections to access and eat easily while on the move. I didn’t do this and it was a pain to bite off the wrapper and get equal sizes in my mouth.

During the run again I sipped my Gu mixed drink every 10 minutes and planned on 1 caffeine chocolate Gu each hour. I employed a run/walk strategy between aid stations which allowed me to take a few sips of water every 2.5KM at the aid stations.


After a good night’s sleep we practiced waking up at 4AM but then went back to sleep to get the extra hours in – knowing that we’d likely be restless the night before the race. We spent some time in the morning stretching and carefully packing our race bags. We had lunch at 11AM – home cooked spaghetti bolognese and dinner at 4pm (smaller bowl of the same) – be sure to reduce food intake as you get closer to the race. The biggest meal should be 2 nights before and then gradually reducing portion sizes. The day prior to the event I also like to check out the bike leg of the course so we drove the car on a single loop noting down points of interest, hills etc. Finally once we were all checked in and back home we settled down to watch a video of Kona IM 2009 where both Chrissie and Craig put on stellar Ironman performances to help with our mental preparation.


Run & Bike Bags:

Full IM transitions seem to operate a little differently to other triathlons. All your run and bike gear is checked in the day before and hung on railings which you pick up as you run into transition. Transition itself is in a large tent where you have a helper and also a chair to get everything on. Nothing gets left in the bike transition area – unlike in shorter distances where you leave everything you need in the morning next to your bike. This led for a much more orderly transition. That said, you must be well prepared with each of the bags as only your bike bag is available in T1 and only your run bag is available in T2. Below you’ll see the contents of my bags laid out – this was a pretty complete list here so you can check your list against what you see.

Tip! when you need to dig really deep on the run try bringing something that can help motivate you to keep going. You’re not allowed any electronic equipment but anything small that is light and fits in your run bag could be a valuable mental booster when you are hurting! I brought two small laminated photos of my wife and son with some encouraging words on them – they came in hand at KM 32 as I set out on my last loop!


Next – Race Day!

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!



Ironman 70.3 2013, Cebu Race Report: Part 1 Pre Race

Ironman 70.3 2013 Cebu Race Report: Part 1

August 4th, 2013

Summary: This post details my experience at Ironman 70.3 Cebu, Philippines, August 4th 2013. It is intended both as a diary of my experience and also to help provide triathletes an overview of this fantastic South East Asia race.

The last 6 weeks prior to Cebu 70.3 Ironman were not optimal for training as my wife and I had our first child. This resulted in lower volume and intensity training than planned and so I entered the race unsure of how I would perform. However a resulting 5 hour 35 minute finish time ultimately served as a great confidence booster for my year end Ironman Western Australia attempt and helped remind me that it IS certainly possible to train for an Ironman and maintain a semblance of a normal life! (You can see my week by week training plans here

Arrival, Hotels, Briefings:

I decided to arrive at Cebu on Thursday – two and a half days before the race. While I was flying from Jakarta and only 1 hour time difference I felt that having an extra couple of days to deal with any technical issues and also allowing for plentiful time to review the course would be beneficial.

We stayed at the Movenpick hotel which was not originally an officially sanctioned race hotel (despite being 5 minutes walk from Shangrila Mactan – the official race venue) but was upgraded as soon as the Shangrila was full. A word of advice here for future participants would be to book a room at this hotel early in advance as once it became an official hotel it was much more expensive.

We booked a 2 bedroom suite for the 3 participants (Tevis Ong, Casey Au and Adrian Li) which was very good value. We had a sea view from which we could see the swim course for the triathlon.

Arriving two days before turned out to be a good move. Tevis’s bike unfortunately had a damaged rear drop out from the plane and hence had to go on the hunt for a spare part. Also – the entire Ironman event at Cebu is like a show and the pasta party on Thursday night was complete with fire dancers, singers and celebrities.

With the Pro’s

Pete JacobsCaroline Steffen










The fun did not stop there. On Saturday the race briefing featured Pete Jacobs giving us advice on how to deal with the heat (although that turned out to not be a problem at all!). During an introduction to the Pro’s Black Eyed Peas Ap.le.dee appeared as the “secret” competitor and sang for everyone and the National weather man provided the weather outlook. During the entire pre-race the event was very professionally organised and provided a very family friendly atmosphere for all the participants.

Race Number


Meeting Fred, CEO of Alaska Milk and Sunrise Events – what started as a hobby (triathlon) has now also turned into a full blown triathlon company – Well Done Fred! Even Race Numbers were temporary tatoos vs. the usual permanent marker!








The race however would not be without its surprises. On Saturday morning we woke to a full blown typhoon storm. In what was later described as a “localised thunderstorm” we experienced a gale force winds, horizontal rain and lightening. It seemed like the much feared heat of the Cebu 70.3 would be the last of our concerns! During the race briefing the national weather man gave us the run down:


National Weatherman









The forecast was for more rain – with strong cross winds and perhaps some sun by noon. Suddenly everyone’s concerns about heat stroke and overheating vanished and were replaced with the prospect of battling cross winds and slippery roads (not to mention sea swells on the swim). The good news however was that the race would go on and that currently cancelling any part of the race were not on the plans.

After the race briefing we were stranded at the hotel as torrential rain continued to batter the hotel. We managed to find some black bin bags to cover ourselves as we walked back to the hotel. That night we ate early at around 6PM and were all in bed by 9 thinking about what the weather would bring the next day. With alarms set for 4:30AM and all our gear laid out and bikes checked we were as ready as we could be for the big day. Next up – Cebu 70.3 Race Day Report!

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:

Tribuddies 1st Year Anniversary Training Race

Tribuddies Anniversary

Sat. January 5th I joined the tri buddies Indonesia 1st year anniversary sprint race. Every time i go to any tri race of any kind there is a feeling of buzz and excitement. The transition zones are always abuzz with kit talk and preparations for the event.

The sprint was slightly shorter than an actual sprint: 400m swim, 21km bike and a 5km run. Despite all the organizers having full time jobs and arranging the event in their spare time it was impeccably well organized and a HUGE thank you goes out to the tri buddies for putting together such a splendid event.

In total around 40 people participated at all levels from the very beginner to the seasoned triathlete. With a shorter distance swim I decided to hit the swim faster than I would usually go and managed to be 2nd out of the pool after an international swim athlete. However I saved time in the transitions by not wearing socks and quickly caught up with her on the bike. From there I managed to hold the lead averaging almost 31KM/H on bike course and averaging 11KM/H on the run.

We’re still waiting for the official results to come out but by my polar the whole race was over in less than an hour – and it was the first time i’d come 1st in any sport (other than judo=p) so a great day out and lots of fun!