Sport high performance in the mountains of Spain

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Our host, Julian Pena, welcomes Bob to Hotel El Ciervo in Xares, Spain

I just got back from Spain, where I had the opportunity to work with an international skeet-shooting client in the mountains of Galicia.  He had invited me to Spain to conduct a high performance clinic for Spanish shooters and coaches.  To get there, my wife and I wended our way straight up thousands of nail-biting feet to Xares.  For the faint of heart, Julian also has a helicopter pad!

Just a short walk from the hotel is the village of Xares with an interesting mix of old and a smattering of the new. By old, I mean a church dating back to the year 1010 A.D. and immovable houses of slate and stone some 400 plus years old.

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A hidden gem in the countryside dating back to 1010 A.D.

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Ancient walls and narrow streets of Xares

By new I mean houses of modern brick and concrete interspersed amongst the old, and with shiny Volvos out front on streets barely wide enough for a horse and cart.

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Ancient houses and modern additions co-exist in Xares

At the far side of the village, smack on the edge of the hunting grounds and surrounded by mountains and a rushing stream, stands the Hotel el Ciervo de Xares, our home base for the next few days.   The owner and our host, International Skeet Shooter, Julian Peña has organized this clinic at his wonderful location.

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Hotel El Ciervo de Xares owner, Julian Pena, welcomes Bob to Xares, Spain

He met us in a town at the base of the plateau and led our parade of two vehicles all the way up mountain face and into the village.  His goal, and the reason for my trip, is the 2020 Olympics.  We’ve worked together for two years and are introducing the program to his coach and colleagues in a clinic that will be taught in English with on-going Spanish translations.

Our stay begins with a trip to the hunting grounds via an all-wheel-drive Jeep.  I’m told to expect to see only beautiful mountain scenery and vistas, as the deer are likely in the trees during the midday.

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Magnificent scenery surrounding Hotel El Ciervo

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Wild horses roam the fertile mountain slopes

That is not the case, as the deer are everywhere, as are wild horses and other animals, including a fox and a couple of immature vultures.  A dozen migrating eagles circle high above in the thermals, and that, perhaps coincidentally, raises a raucous chorus of frogs in one of the small lakes as the eagles’ shadows cross the water.  Julian is stunned and delighted by the nature show provided.

The night before the clinic we stand out on the terrace under a full moon that is so bright it makes your eyes squint.  No wonder, as the area is designated as an international star watching site because of the rarefied air.  Mosses grow beards on the tree bark of the small trees, an indicator of the air’s clarity.  The pollutants have yet to reach this refuge from modernity. It is both breathtaking and peaceful.

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Moss-laden trees are an indicator of the clarity of the air in this area

The next day, we wait several hours and will need to start the clinic late, as one of the coaches was delayed leaving Madrid.  Oh, well, having come several thousand miles, I’m a captive audience.  We wait.  And eat.  And the food makes the wait all the more worthwhile!

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Enjoying a special Galician meal with our host, Julian

The Galician cuisine in this part of Spain is a mix of traditional and modern foods, as much as possible accessed and grown locally.  Over the course of our stay, we sample tapas of pig’s feet and delectable potato-based squares, deer and wild boar sausage, as well as locally grown vegetables, steaks and pork chops.  The food is exquisite, the local wine terrific, and the coffee is strong and rich.   Julian has sourced his suppliers carefully to ensure top quality in everything he serves.  (If you want a vegetarian, vegan or fish diet you may have to call ahead and I’m sure Julian will be most accommodating.)

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Kudos to Julian’s chef!

Julian’s coach finally arrives at 6 pm, and the clinic begins.  Julian and I build up steam and synergy with the back and forth, on-the-fly translation.  But it works well and gets better and better as the evening progresses.  We end the first night at eleven and the coaches celebrate in the hotel bar until late into the night.  I go to bed and sleep soundly, never better.

The next morning starts on time with all bodies present.   The work on the Zone of the first evening has already built some incredible momentum.  We progress through several strategies for maintaining the Zone, and the coach and athletes buy into it big time.  Julian is a master with both English and Spanish and his stories support the material.

I can only smile and stay in the Zone; and, judging by the Zone of the participants, he is intensifying their experience and their understanding.   It is a good sign as they laugh easily and are quick to smile.  And that is good, as we are 300 kilometers from the closest skeet field and their desire to try out their new skills will be a huge exercise in delayed gratification.

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Some clinic attendees who came from various regions of Spain

We finish the clinic and feast again on local tapas dishes and a prime-rib steak dinner.  The participants have been stuffed with all manner of new and exciting strategies during the day and it is fitting that they are finishing the day by being stuffed with tasty examples of gourmet Galician cooking.  We end the evening on the terrace and once again squint at the brilliant moon.  Unbelievable.

The following day Caron and I pack up our car for our trip to Madrid and our flight to our daughter’s wedding in Holland.  We take group pictures and say our goodbyes and I promise the participants that I’ll learn Spanish so that I can understand their questions in the next seminar.  They promise to stay in the Zone and to keep me abreast of their accomplishments.   (And true to form, one of the young skeet shooters from the clinic just won a local trap shooting event, and made a lot of “enemigos” according to Julian.)

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Julian, Bob and Julian’s coach

The key thing I learned from conducting a high performance clinic in another country is that the Zone is the Zone is the Zone, in any language.  And no matter where you live and perform on this great planet, the Zone can transform you, get you beaming like a Xares’ moon in the rarefied air and give you the means to be a champion.  Thanks for the opportunity, Julian.

Adios my friend, until next time.

 

Addendum…Presenting my daughter, Anna and her new husband, Jelmer Stegink with their officiate in Naarden, Holland.  It was a wonderful wedding and I am a proud father and father-in-law!

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