This is a very interesting post which I have read from the Facebook page of Baguio Running Wall.
Credits to the owner.
They christened him “Ironmike” after he finnished his first full distance triathlon. Michael Gonda is from Baler, Aurora and also grew up in Mabini, Batangas. He now serves as a Fillipino Health Care Assistant Coordinator at St. James Hospital Theater Department (OR) in Dublin, Ireland. Before he became a triathlete, he was into basketball a popular sport in his native Philippines. He played as a shooting guard in an all Fillipino basketball leauge in Ireland. It was in 2013 when a team mate tried to convince Michael to venture into running.
Michael hated running so much that whenever their basketball training would require them to run, he wouldn’t show up. One time, another basketball player he was chatting up with in the web prompted him to try running. He realized he moves faster than this guy in their ball game. If he can run a marathon so could I, thought Mike.
Mike started to run 3k loops around his neighborhood. He had a hard time and concluded that a half marathon would be unreachable. But in March 1, 2014, he finished his first 21k and two weeks later ran a marathon. Michael learned a vaulable lesson that time. A marathon is not a piece of cake. And vowed to never compare himself to others because they have their own talents and strengths. At the year’s end, he brought home 12 marathon medals.
As of this writing Mike competed in a staggering 69 marathons. Four of which were ultra marathons, 50kms. A couple were back to back 42ks and an astounding four 26milers in four days. He ran in the UK, Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, Berlin, Milan, California, Nevada, Macao, in the Philippines and the rest were in Ireland. Mike also ran as a pacer in many races. He has a marathon personal best of 3:17:41.
Mike’s wife, Yvonne, was delighted when he switched into running. There were no more drinking sprees and getting drunk at the end of the ball games. And they were visiting new places every weekends. The couple met at St. James hospital where they both work.
At the end of every long hard race there was always his number one supporter- Mike’s daughter, Michaela Clare Gonda, who would always be there to see his dad at the finish line. Mike says the medals excite her Chaela and now she wants to be an endurance athlete like him.
Michaela is the center of the universe of Mike and Yvonne. She is kind-hearted, cheerful, sweet and bubbly. She loves to sing and she excels in Spelling and English but she hates Math. One day, with a condition that they were not going to buy anything, Mike drove her at the toy shop. When Mike reminded her that her 5minutes were up, Chaela saw something she liked and said, “Dad buy me that on my birthday please?” While on their way out, Mike thought of the many gears he buys himself. In the end Michaela brought home the plaything she wanted.
In September of 2015, Chaela was wheeled into the operating room of the Our Lady’s Children’s hospital in Crumlin, Dublin for the second time. Michael’s daughter has a heart defect. Her condition Tetralogy of Fallot was defined in the mayoclinic.org as a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects. These defects, which affect the structure of the heart, cause oxygen-poor blood to flow out of the heart and to the rest of the body.
Dee O’Connor, an Irish nurse, related her little chat with Chaela while she transfered her from the ICU to the ward. Chaela proudly talked about her father mentioning her dad was into this and that. Nurse O’Connor, a triathlete, became acquainted with Mike and persuaded Mike to pursue triathlon and join their group, the Pulse Tri Club. Michael was tempted, but there was one big problem, he didn’t know how to swim. Nurse O’Connor assured him that they have good and friendly coaches and they will be happy to teach and guide him.
From there on Michael became a triathlete. In 2016 he accomplished his first triathlon, a super sprint that consist of a 400meter swim, 20k bike and 5k run. He followed that up with 2 sprint distances and then leaped into the half distance of 1.900swim, 90km bike and a half marathon with a time of 6hours and 27minutes. Two weeks later he slashed that time to 5:39:51 in an Ironman brand 70.3 race. He also won 1st place in a back to back 70.3s in two days. As of today he performed 1 super sprint, 3 sprints, 8 olympic distances, 12 half ironmans and 6 Ironmans. Last year he also got gold in the Ironman All World Athlete representing the Philippines.
According to the report of Allan O’Keeffe of the Independent. ie, one ordinary Friday evening in May 2016, Yvonne and Mike were at the pool side watching their daughter swim. Chaela was taking swimming lessons at the Tallaght Community School Sports Complex. In the pool, Chaela called out to her parents and said, “watch me swim!” A little while later Chaela dissappeared in the pool. Mike franticly dove in the water and lifted her daughter out the water. He struggled to revive her until the ambulance arrived to rush her to the hospital where later she was pronounced dead. She was nine.
“Our hearts are broken….a bright light, Michaela, was taken from us and our world became a darker place,” Fr. Aidan Kieran said during the funeral service.
Mike recalled, “Nung nawala si Chaela halos laman ako ng dyaryo at tv dito sa Ireland. Napakasakit pero wala na talaga ako magagawa.” (When Chaela died, I was the topic of almost every paper and broadcast here in Ireland. It hurts but there is nothing I could do).
After Chaela was laid to rest, Ironmike turned to the bottle and got drunk everyday. When Yvonne eventually got fed up and confronted him, “Our daughter would be much happier seeing you racing and not like this dead drunk every day.” Mike came to his senses and heeded to his wife’s plea. He signed up for the Gauntlet 70.3 in the UK. As he had not any training, Ironmike found himself drowning during the swim leg. Everything that happened came back to him. He wanted to quit. It was at this instant he called out for help. “Anak tulungan mo ako rito. (My child help me out here),” he cried out to his departed daughter. He pushed on and with every stroke mingled with tears, Mike managed to get out the water finishing the 1900 meter swim. For the rest of the bike and run course Mike continued to talk to Chaela. When he crossed the finish line, Mike felt the sadness and joy. “Sana nandito ka anak (I wish you are here my child),” he thought. He clocked in 6:21:20.
At the start of 2020, Ironmike registered in 3 ironman events and one 70.3. However, all were canceled due to the pandemic. As an alternative he joined Zwift, the virtual training platform for cycling and running.
In May Filippino triathletes from Barcellona cajoled him into an everesting event in Zwift. Since it was going to be Michaela’s death anniversary, he signed up to commemorate the life of his daughter. Climbing on a bike to the height of Mt. Everest is no easy feat. He got onto it and went live via Facebook. When Mike reached 8,848 meters, he didn’t stop. Ironmike pushed further to reach 10,000 meters. His 13 hours, 46 minutes and 13 seconds on the saddle, raised 1000 euros, surpassing the 700 euros he intended to achieve. In honor of his daughter, Ironmike dedicated the amount to the children suffering from the same heart ailment as his beloved Chaela. Just recently the Heart Children Ireland took a check with the amount of 10,605.21 euros from Mike, Yvonne and the Pulse Triathlon Club. The charity event was held in memory of Chaela.
“I will continue to race as long as I am able to. It’s where Chaela is happy. And out there on the course she is always with me, guiding me.” Ironmike