Just when you think you're tough enough


Surgeon Nik Qisti Fathi Focuses On Marginal Gains In Swim, Bike, Run

As a general and colorectal surgeon, and also a medical lecturer, Nik Qisti Fathi Bin Nik Hisyamuddin Fathi indeed wears many hats. Hence, it is no surprise that he chose to pursue triathlon – a ‘busy’ sport requiring three disciplines – swimming, cycling and running.

Based at the teaching hospital of Universiti Putra Malaysia, the 39-year old was born in Kota Bharu, Kelantan but was raised in Klang Valley while studying at Victoria Institution.

Married for 8 years, Nik Qisti shares the inspiration behind his success – his soulmate, his wife who has supported his passion and aspirations for triathlon.

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ToughASIA: How does your wife support your passion for your sport?

Nik Qisti: It is a blessing that my wife and I both share the same passion for sports, and we enjoy running. We travel the world to participate in races and now that we have 2 lovely kids, we also plan overseas vacations around races.

Mind you, my wife is a really good runner, and has a couple of podium finishes under her belt. So this actually makes her a more successful athlete than I am, haha!

Also, I plan my training around my kids’ schedules. Most of the workouts are done early in the morning when they are asleep. We also do workouts together as a family – keeps it all fun and fit.

ToughASIA: What inspired you to take up triathlon?

Nik Qisti: I went to see some colleagues and the professionals racing IRONMAN 70.3 Putrajaya in 2015, and was in awe with what the human body could achieve. This inspired me and kickstarted my journey.

A Malay saying goes “hendak seribu daya, tak hendak seribu dalih” and I think this sport embodies that saying very well. This means, if you want something, you will be willing to go the extra mile.

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

Nik Qisti: I learnt that, for me at least, by breaking down and creating small targets that are achievable helps to keep motivation high.

Setting small aims such as working towards a sub-20min 5k or towards a 4w/kg FTP makes the hours spent working out worthwhile especially when you achieve small personal best targets (PB) along the way.

At the moment, I probably train for about 5 or 6 hours per week, sometimes some strength and conditioning too with the hope that I can be race ready once events are allowed back.

ToughASIA: Where are your favourite running and cycling locations?

Nik Qisti: This answer is probably biased because I live in Putrajaya and I think it is the best training ground for multisports. Putrajaya boasts of nice scenic routes for running and cycling and of course, there are a few public pools too.

For running, my favourite has to be the Putrajaya lakeside IRONMAN 70.3 loop around the core island, especially as it is just outside our doorsteps. It covers the southern part of the island where you pass by the Seri Gemilang Bridge, also overseeing the Herriot Watt Campus and the Marina on the other side of the lake. It takes you through to the majestic Tuanku Mizan Mosque continuing north to Taman Wawasan.

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Another scenic route is the lakeside route at Presinct 16 that heads towards the Alamanda shopping mall, passes through the UNESCO eco-hydrology demonstration site where you can see at least 5 different types of storks and if you are lucky, a family of resident otters as well.

As for cycling, the IRONMAN 70.3 loop around Putrajaya and Cyberjaya, including the famous ‘Bukit Bulu’ segment. The rolling route uses primarily the ring roads of Putrajaya. The roads are wide with smooth tarmac, involves mostly left turns, which makes it relatively safe in my opinion.

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

Nik Qisti: Putrajaya Perdana Triathlon 2017; ended with a top 10 finish in my age group. At the end of the race, I felt like it was an “ok-ok” performance, said my goodbyes to fellow triathletes. As I was about to head home with my wife and daughter, she encouraged me to check results just in case my name made it onto the board. Turned out her prediction was right!

ToughASIA: What is your proudest achievement in triathlon?

Nik Qisti: To be able to inspire and share my passion in triathlon with family and friends by providing guidance and support for them to begin their own journey in triathlon and endurance sports.

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ToughASIA: How do you keep active and fit for your job?

Nik Qisti: Obviously, the active hours spent working out helps to keep the mind and body sharp. This helps me to focus better at work, make sound decisions and withstand the demanding long hours of performing surgery. I have to say that doing surgery is physically demanding and requires a strong core.

ToughASIA: Does your profession influence your training, nutrition or other habits?

Nik Qisti: To be good in our profession, apart from having a good depth of knowledge, we also need to spend long quality hours at doing surgery.

With practice and perseverance, naturally we get better at it.

The same principle applies to triathlon training, I guess. Also, one of the perks of working in the hospital is that we also have a few dietician friends who we can consult. They are not specifically sports nutritionists but it helps a lot.

ToughASIA: What is the most difficult part about triathlon and how do you overcome it?

Nik Qisti: For me, the most difficult part is to gauge how much of an effort to put into the swim and the bike so that I can have a strong run at the end. A lot of trial and error(s) have happened in the past – believe me – have made me learn the hard way!

Some solid guidance from my coach, Aldrian Yeo from the GoGetter Triathlon Squad, has helped me a lot to dial into a stronger race finish. The encouragement from fellow Tritanic triathletes, cycling tips from the South Puchong Cycling Club(SPCC) were also invaluable.

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

Nik Qisti: Looking forward to transitioning back to normalcy where we can sign up for events and physically be there to race.

Any race? Has to be the IRONMAN 70.3 world championship. Not that I can ever qualify, but hey, no harm dreaming about it!