Muhd Hafiz ‘Apete’ has made the best of Langkawi’s sea, road and hills in his triathlon journey. (Fiz Said)

Imagine watching an IRONMAN Malaysia race and getting inspired to take up triathlon. Next, to race the full IRONMAN distance and to complete it with a very respectable timing of 12:11:57hrs. And furthermore, to improve it to 11:37:15 hours next time round.

Say hello to 34-year old Muhd Hafiz “Apete” Bin Md Yusup, a radiographer at the district clinic in Langkawi. Hailing from Sungei Petani in Kedah, he is married with two children. Based on the island blessed with the second toughest IRONMAN race in the world, Apete has made top-notch efforts to get into the three discipline sport.

ToughASIA: What inspired you to take up triathlon?

Apete: Myself! I used to be fat and lazy. In 2016, I started working out and brought my weight down from 80kg to 63kg. IRONMAN Malaysia was the trigger. I watched it for the first time. Before that, I never knew anything about triathlon.

I asked myself “What if I do triathlon, and achieve something in life that I could never dream of ?”.

Continuing into 2017, I started to learn how to swim, and joined my first open water swim within 2 months. It was only in 2018, that I started cycling. Back then, I would never have imagined that I would sign up for IRONMAN someday.

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A weight loss journey took Apete to the IRONMAN finishing carpet.

ToughASIA: What keeps you motivated to train now, even when there are no races?

Apete: I have learnt a lot from triathlon. It teaches me about “discipline”. This has become my habit from the start until today. I just cannot stop doing it. I train about five times a week, either in the mornings or evenings.

ToughASIA: Where are your favourite running and cycling locations?

Apete: I am fortunate to stay in Langkawi, surrounded by the beautiful scenery and the sea. My favourite running routes are Pantai Cenang road and around the paddy fields. Usually, I will run with the ‘Langkawi Runners’ running group twice a week on hilly routes in Ulu Melaka.

For cycling, I train at Bukit Datai and Bukit Malut. For strength training, I will climb Gunung Raya once a month!

ToughASIA: What is the most memorable race you have competed in?

Apete: It was a dream come true to complete my first ever triathlon – the full distance IRONMAN Malaysia in Langkawi and to finish in 12:11:57 hours!

I could not believe myself with that that timing as I had only started cycling 3 months prior to the race and had targeted to finish within 15 hours.

ToughASIA: What is your proudest moment in triathlon?

Apete: It was the IRONMAN Malaysia 2019. I was second Best Malaysian and Best Langkawi Athlete with a time of 11:37:15 hours.

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ToughASIA: How do you manage between training and family?

Apete: My training on weekdays are done before I start work. My wife and I work from 8am to 5pm. After work, I will squeeze at least another hour of training. I am thankful to my wife for her understanding of my passion and taking care of the kids while I train. I spend my weekends with the kids.

ToughASIA: What is the most difficult part about triathlon for you?

Apete: It is the running leg! A war zone for me.

To overcome it, I always tell myself that “I choose to do this, and I have to finish what I start. Whatever it takes. Never surrender!”.

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ToughASIA: What keeps you going into 2021 and beyond as a triathlete?

Apete: Even in this pandemic period, as an athlete, I have to always maintain my fitness level; it has become a part of my life. I look forward to Powerman duathlon and IRONMAN triathlon races when they are allowed to happen. These keep me motivated.

Apete builds his strength and hones his cycling skills on the hills. (Fiz Said)

Running amidst the majestic hills of the Langkawi island. (Fiz Said)