He does not possess the lean physique of an Antonio San Juan nor has he finished the New York City Marathon and numerous other 42-K races like Vicente Verallo. But what this fellow doctor of Tony and Vic possesses, like the two, is a determination and willpower that cannot be bought or taught in Med School.
Dr. Ronald Navaja Eullaran joined the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race. I call him “Partner” because, together with Dr. Ronnie Medalle, we are the best of friends. Two Sundays ago, we left our homes at Ma. Luisa at 4 a.m. and did a convoy towards Shangri-La.
Our journey towards swimming 1.9 kms., biking 90-K and running a half-marathon began 12 months ago. After we joined the IM70.3 relay event (with Rap Sios-e as swimmer, Ron as biker and myself as runner), we vowed to join again in 2015; this time, as individual participants.
Ron and I trained. We’d bike the hills of Ma. Luisa. Often, we’d swim in Casino Español on early evenings. Ron has no problems biking. (It was him, many years back during one of our Rotary Club of Cebu West meetings, who invited me to go mountain-biking.) So, of the three sports, biking was his strength. Last year, given only a few weeks’ notice since we registered late, he finished the 90K distance in 3:40.
Running? This was a concern. Swimming? An even bigger concern.
With running, he was convinced by his wife, my childhood friend Raycia Patuasi Eullaran — a many-time half-marathoner and a 42K finisher of the Cebu Marathon — to join the Sunday fun runs. From 5K to 10K to 21K, he ran. Never mind if his time was not the fastest (3 hours, 10+ minutes for the 21K), he endured the leg pains — all for the bigger goal to be an Ironman.
His two main challenges were his workload and his body weight. Working all day and night, often past 9 p.m., he didn’t have extra time to train, not even on Saturdays. Worse, because he loved to eat (who doesn’t?), despite the increasing hours that he spent on exercising, he wasn’t losing 10 or 20 lbs. like the other triathletes. Undeterred, he pressed on.
With the swim, although he came from Gen. Santos City and grew up near the sea and swam often as a child, he wasn’t a fast swimmer. In the numerous occasions when we swam — often at the Costabella Tropical Beach Resort — though he was unafraid to swim in deep waters and swam steady, his only problem was he was a slow swimmer.
For the Ironman 70.3 race, this posed a problem. There was a cutoff time of 70 minutes. No matter how well-trained you are for the bike, you won’t be allowed to mount your Cervelo if you exceed the time limit.
Ron was deeply concerned with missing the swim cutoff. The Thursday before the race, we practiced in Shangri-La together with Melbourne Ironman Meyrick Jacalan and Jojo Veloso and while the three of us had long finished, he was still on the water, toiling hard with his freestyle.
But mental strength can often work wonders. As one saying goes, “The river cuts through rock not because of its power but its persistence.”
Ron, like a rock, is persistent. He showed this last May when we joined the 8080 race in Sogod. Having slept a total of one hour (he was called at midnight to rush to Chong Hua Hospital and attend to a patient), he could have called me early morning to say he won’t join. He joined. He finished last in the swim (taking over an hour to complete 1.8-K) and, as darkness fell and everybody else was having dinner and drinking San Mig Light, he arrived as the last finisher. Downtrodden? Not Ron, never. All-smiling and accompanied by his two legs named grit and tenacity, he crossed the finish to thunderous applause as Steve and Maricel Maniquis and Quinito Moras of the Cornerstone Group ignited the fireworks. Amazing determination to complete 80.8 kms. (1.8K swim, 65K bike and 14K run) — despite an hour of sleep.
But that was just the preliminary bout because the main event happened last Aug. 2. With the swim, given the current, I thought my best friend would be cutoff. But, I saw him on the bike. I knew he was a good cyclist but I was worried with his running. With the sun so hot, he’d be cooked. But, ever the fighter like his fellow GenSan native Pacquiao, Ron ran. With doggedness, he crossed the finish line and a medal was hung on his shoulders, finishing 10 minutes before the cutoff to become the country’s only “Ironman Rheumatologist.” Fitting because his name is embedded with the celebrated word: I-Ron-man.