Hafiza Othman, 32 year-old mother of two will be attempting her maiden IRONMAN at Langkawi on Nov 12th. (Kam Kasturie)

Hafiza Othman, 32 year-old mother of two will be attempting her maiden IRONMAN at Langkawi on Nov 12th. (Kam Kasturie)

Deemed the second toughest IRONMAN race in the world, Ironman Malaysia based in Langkawi summons the best triathletes and inspires new ones to cross the finish line to the words, ‘You are an Ironman’.

While the general public may think that triathlons attract men only, women around the world are stepping up to the challenge. 32 year-old, Hafiza Othman will be taking on her first full IRONMAN distance after having completed three half-IRONMAN events. The full distance entails at 3.9km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run around the legendary island of Langkawi known for its strong winds and undulating hills.

Fell in love with triathlon without knowing how to swim

The Malaysian mother of two decided to take up duathlon and triathlon as running only, wasn’t enough of a challenge. She fell in love with the IRONMAN triathlon when she went in support of a friend who was competing in IRONMAN 70.3 Putrajaya 2014, although she didn’t know how to swim.

Strong winds and undulating hills await Hafiza Othman on the 180km cycling route in Langkawi. (Kam Kasturie)

Strong winds and undulating hills await Hafiza Othman on the 180km cycling route in Langkawi. (Kam Kasturie)

“In early 2015, I learnt how to swim. Only 3 months after my first swimming lesson, I took part in a Swimathon event (Open water swimming from Kapas Island to Pantai Marang, 6.5km). It was my dream then to do a triathlon,” said Hafiza.

She bravely ventured into her first triathlon at the Olympic distance triathlon, Kenyir Lake International in 2015. From then on, she has completed 3 half-distance triathlons in 6 months and recently competed in the 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 Putrajaya.

The family support and sacrifice

“It takes hard work, determination, planning, and sacrifice. Training for IRONMAN is taxing, and takes a toll, especially on personal relationships with my children, family and friends.”

“I’m away during weekends, on long rides or runs, and by the time I reach home, I’m too exhausted to do anything enjoyable with them. Some of us are lucky to have partners we can take along for the training or to drive the support car,” continued Hafiza.

Training affects Hafiza’s relationship with her family, and this has been her biggest struggle. IRONMAN is much more than an individual endeavour, as family support is a key component. Occasionally, she incorporates her kids into her short swims or runs, as she gets to spend time with them and they slowly understand what she does as a triathlete.

Occasionally Hafiza's kids join her on short swims or runs to better understand triathlon. (Kam Kasturie)

Occasionally Hafiza’s kids join her on short swims or runs to better understand triathlon. (Kam Kasturie)

Planning is key

“Planning is key – make sure you plan your schedule a day before. I balance caring for my two school-age children and my training. Other than that, you have to put in the time. IRONMAN is a serious commitment, and I plan to do well,” said Hafiza.

“For beginners, start with a shorter distance and slower running pace. Do not compete with others but yourself. The effort and occasional pain is worth the achievement and beauty at the end. I think about that when I envision crossing the IRONMAN finishing line,” said Hafiza as her advise to anyone who wants to dabble into triathlon.