Doc Sander: ‘Prayers kept me going’

Dr. Sander Ugalino is a member of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP). He joined the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race last August — and was the last runner allowed to complete the race!

Barely making the cutoff time for the 90K bike portion, he was, at that point, “so physically drained by the time I started running and was getting slower by the minute.” Still, he ran. “Prayers,” said Dr. Ugalino, “kept me going.”

To the many people who know him, you would not expect Doc Sander to be the typical super-slim-type triathlete. Over six feet tall, he has actually finished three (42K) marathons and considers exercise as a way to unwind and recharge. “With sports, I’m healthy and mentally fit to be able to live up to the demands of my stressful job. Lately, after I started training for Triathlon, I’ve been able to encourage my wife and son to try swimming and biking. Now, our training sessions have become quality family time as well.”

A surgeon by profession, his work schedule was full; thus, it was difficult to train. But he prioritized: God, family, work, sports/community.

RACE DAY. Sander explained in detail what happened on Aug. 4…

“The bad weather the night before the race added more tension and anxieties to all the triathletes. Good thing, Kuya Kim was there to pacify our nerves. Just like your first marathon, sleep was difficult; this time, with triple the excitement. A couple of hours before race start it was still drizzling but our prayers would not be denied…

“Swim was difficult. Current was strong and by the time our group was released the waves had swollen and it was getting more difficult to swim by the minute. At about 1.5 kms., I started having leg cramps. I rested for a few seconds, made a quick prayer and finished the swim with minimal kicks enough to make the cut-off time.

“The bike for me was most difficult. I’m not a biker and I was undertrained, having bought my road bike less than three months before. The headwind going back from Talisay to CICC was terrible and made things worst. The climb going back up to Fernan Bridge after almost 90 kms. was most difficult. I kept praying that the Lord will pedal for me and I will have enough strength to make it back to Shangri-La. I was already resigned to the fact that I might not make it in the bike cut-off time.

“However, they told me I barely made it and was the last triathlete allowed to run. The route was flat and well-shaded. It took some time before I could get my second wind and with about 4 kms. to go they told me it was already cut-off time. By God’s providence, I was allowed to finish the race and was escorted by the Ironman marshals. I finished the race with a smile on my face.”

SPIRITUAL. Doc Sander believes that apart from being mentally and physically ready, an athlete should also be prepared spiritually. “My family always included the safety and success of my Ironman race in our prayers,” he said. “With the whole BCBP community praying for me and the other brother-triathletes it wasn’t a surprise that we succeeded — all for the glory of God.”

Sander’s wife, Dr. Mai, and their son Josh were his inspiration. “They have kept me strong all throughout training and race day. Mai, Josh and I had this favorite prayer throughout training and during race day. We asked the Lord.. ‘To swim with me, to pedal for me and to run beside me.’

LEARNINGS. “Mr. (Fred) Uytensu once said that Triathlon is not just an event but a lifestyle and I completely agree with him,” he added “It has been a good learning experience as an athlete, a father, a husband and as a surgeon. It was humbling yet very fulfilling… physically-draining yet invigorating… intimidating yet very exciting.

“As they always say, pain is constant but suffering is optional. Since joining the BCBP, I have learned to lift up everything to the Lord and He has always been my source of strength. My Ironman experience further proved that ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).’”

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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