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 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!

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.

2 Weeks to Busselton Ironman!!

Just two more – yes 2 more weeks!! and completed my last big build cycle before tapering down to the Busselton Ironman. The key sessions of the week were my 5 hour bike ride on Saturday and then the 3 hour run on Sunday. Unfortunately a 90 minute swim to complete the tri was missed. However a 75 minute swim earlier in the week in my wet suit served as a good confidence booster. That + the salt water buoyancy should give me a good boost on the day.

The 5 hour bike ride on Saturday was a new first – clocking 141KM and a faster 2nd split. They’ve put a lot of new speed bumps at BSD especially at Icon making the loops there totally unattractive. However a new extended outer loop makes almost at 30KM loop. Based on my bike i think I should still be able to make an avg. 30KM/H on the cycle leg putting me at an estimated 6Hr bike.

My 1KM post ride run on the day felt good and I felt strong on a 6:30-7 minute pace for the real deal.

Crazy IM swim start!

On Sunday I did a late morning 26KM run for 2 hours 57 minutes. A couple of loops of sudirman on CFD – this run was again a good confidence booster I also decided to run in my Mizunos and despite lower water drainage capacity i feel that they are the right shoes for the day.

Now for the remaining 2 weeks its time to taper and make sure i’m fully glycogened up and rested for the race – it’s now the final count down!!

Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
18-Nov Mon
19-Nov Tue 60 75 Mins Swim
20-Nov Wed 90
21-Nov Thu 30
22-Nov Fri 45
23-Nov Sat  90 No Swim 300
24-Nov Sun 180
Totals 90 390 225  11.75

3 Weeks to Busselton Ironman

3 Weeks remaining till Busselton Ironman and the 2nd week of my last build cycle. This was a reasonable week and managed to recover from my cold the previous week by about Wednesday. With the increasing load and busy schedule at work it has been getting more difficult to squeeze all the work outs in. However I prioritized the long slow sessions and worked around the weather, traffic and did a 4.5 hour turbo session – thank goodness for Apple TV!


Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
11-Nov Mon
12-Nov Tue
13-Nov Wed 75 Did 60 Mins
14-Nov Thu 60 2KM swim/45 mins 30 Not Complete
15-Nov Fri
16-Nov Sat No Swim 270 Completed 4.5 Hr Bike
17-Nov Sun Did 45 min Bike 150
Totals 90 345 180  10.25

T-4 Weeks Ironman Busselton Training update

Unfortunately the first week of my last build cycle has not gone well. For a total of around 7 hours training this week due to catching a slight cold.

An Ironman Swim Start

After doing some extensive reading online I decided that it was best to lay off training for a few days to try and recuperate. That said I’ve tried to get back into the training earlier than what some sites have recommended (taking off as many days after symptoms have disappeared as you were ill). I also decided to go ahead with my 4 hour turbo – mainly because I see the key work outs in the upcoming weeks to be the long slow rides. I woke up at 3:30AM to have breakfast and then got on my turbo watching 2 movies back to back to complete the 4 hour ride. Didn’t feel great after that ride and so had a nap later.

I couldn’t resist taking my new giro helmet out for another spin the next day and did a short 45 min. ride on Surdirman cooling down with a 15 minute run. Battled with a headache all morning and now only just have got over it.

I’m hoping that i’m fully recovered by tomorrow (or that my usual Monday fast and cleansing will remove the last of this bug) and so that I can have a good 2 week stretch of training before the final taper to the Ironman.

5 Weeks Swim Bike Run  Totals
Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
4-Nov Mon Yes
5-Nov Tue 90 15 Yes
6-Nov Wed 60 No (Sick)
7-Nov Thu 30 30 No (Sick)
8-Nov Fri No (Sick)
9-Nov Sat 60  No Swim 240 Only Turbo Yes/
10-Nov Sun 135 Biked 45Mins/ Run 15mins Yes/

T-6W Training Update Ironman Busselton

With 6 Weeks to go this was a recovery week with a greatly reduced volume and a much needed chance let the muscles to rebuild. I also brought back my replacement aerobase bar which was broken from my crash 3 weeks prior. It was great to have Z3D back in action!

To celebrate a return to the roads and also because of being unable to source a Specialized Evade in time for training I picked up a Giro Air Attack Shield. A perfect blend between a normal road helmet and an aero helmet the Giro AA gains much of the aero advantage from the more traditional styled bullet helmets while maintaining a semblance of acceptability for the fashion conscious! That aside for most age groupers the effect of pure aero helmets is typically negated because of inability to stay in aero position for the entire race and also because the lower ventilation can cause over heating as age groupers spend more time on the bike. The giro AA was what Leanda Cave had worn to Ironman victory in 2012 so it has certainly proven its worth!


Anyway – next week’s training returns to double digits peaking at 13 hours in 3 weeks time. Then it’s a 2 week taper down to the race!

6 Weeks Swim Bike Run  Totals
Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
28-Oct Mon
29-Oct Tue
30-Oct Wed 60
31-Oct Thu 60
1-Nov Fri
2-Nov Sat 70 3KM – last 1K@20mins
3-Nov Sun 90 First ride with Giro AA (45K) 45 9KM (fast but easy run)
Totals 70 150 105  5.42

Training update for Ironman IMWA Busselton 6 Weeks to go

It was a tough week to squeeze in training with a trip to HK over the weekend for my son’s 100th day celebration and also my father’s Bauhina Star award. However after moving around some of the sessions I managed to stay on target.

One of the highlights was my first 4 hour training ride – on a turbo trainer! 2 movies and South Park at the end really helped get me through that. I’ve also become somewhat addicted to the Ironman Race videos – they are really inspiring – especially when you hear the stories of the people who have overcome enormous physical challenges – Cancer, amputees for example and are still attempting this race.

6 Weeks to go and next week is a recovery week before my final build cycle to the event.

7 Weeks Swim Bike Run  Totals
Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
21-Oct Mon
22-Oct Tue 75 30 Yes
23-Oct Wed 60 60 Yes
24-Oct Thu 240 4HR Turbo Ride Yes
25-Oct Fri Yes
26-Oct Sat 70 Tempo Run 12 KM Yes
27-Oct Sun 210 30KM Run Yes
Totals 60 315 370  12.42

Training update Week 8 for Ironman Busselton IMWA

This was my first full week back into training after my injury and the first week of my adapted training sub 13 in 13 plan. In general i’m liking the style of the plan which is minimal and well suited for first time age groupers who are juggling family and work to complete their first Ironman.

The highlight of the week was my Saturday long training which I changed into a full brick. I was with my usual training buddies Doli and Adrian however I couldn’t quite keep up with them on the bike – could be the actual effect of riding a road bike vs. my tri bike as I seemed to be averaging about 15% lower speeds compared to riding Z3D.

However the 100/10/1 cycle/ run/ swim combo on the saturday was a great confidence booster so things are looking like they are on track!

8 Weeks Swim Bike Run Complete?  Totals
Date Day Time Notes Time Notes Time Notes
14-Oct Mon
15-Oct Tue 60 Yes
16-Oct Wed 75 Yes
17-Oct Thu 45 Yes
18-Oct Fri 60 No
19-Oct Sat 30 210 70 Yes
20-Oct Sun 150 Yes
Totals 150 285 265  11.67

Last 8 Weeks Training Plan – adapted from Gale’s sub 13IM in 13

I’m now in my most important 8 week training to build up to my race distance. Searching online I found a famous 13 hr Ironman in under 13 hours training per week and plan to use this to guide my remaining training.

After a week off from my injury I jumped right back in last weekend with 2.5Hr turbo trainer ride on Saturday followed by a 2 hour 40 minute run on Sunday. Probably not the most sensible way to get back into training and ended up with a painful right hip and a sore left knee afterwards. This could be a result of my banged up knee from the crash the prior week.

Decided therefore to stick to the plan and fully rest on Monday and get back into the plan for the remaining time I have up to the race. The unadapted plan is below:

13 Weeks to a 13-Hour Ironman

8 Weeks Swim Bike Run  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
14-Oct Mon
15-Oct Tue 60
16-Oct Wed 75
17-Oct Thu 60 45
18-Oct Fri
19-Oct Sat 75 210
20-Oct Sun 150
Totals 195 285 195  11.25
7 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
21-Oct Mon
22-Oct Tue 60 15
23-Oct Wed 75
24-Oct Thu 60 60
25-Oct Fri
26-Oct Sat 75 240
27-Oct Sun 165
Totals 195 315 240  12.50
6 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
28-Oct Mon
29-Oct Tue 60
30-Oct Wed 60
31-Oct Thu 60
1-Nov Fri 60
2-Nov Sat 90 45
3-Nov Sun
Totals 120 150 105  6.25
5 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
4-Nov Mon
5-Nov Tue 60 30
6-Nov Wed 15
7-Nov Thu 30 30
8-Nov Fri
9-Nov Sat 60 240
10-Nov Sun 135
Totals 120 300 180  10.00
4 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
11-Nov Mon
12-Nov Tue 60
13-Nov Wed 60
14-Nov Thu 60 30
15-Nov Fri
16-Nov Sat 90 270
17-Nov Sun 150
Totals 210 330 180  12.00
3 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
18-Nov Mon
19-Nov Tue 60 30
20-Nov Wed 60
21-Nov Thu 30 45
22-Nov Fri
23-Nov Sat 90 300
24-Nov Sun 180
Totals 180 360 255  13.25
2 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
25-Nov Mon
26-Nov Tue 60
27-Nov Wed 60
28-Nov Thu 60
29-Nov Fri 60
30-Nov Sat 60 30
1-Dec Sun 45
Totals 120 165 90  6.25
1 Weeks  Totals
Date Day Time Time Time
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  2.25

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