When I was growing up, the “infrastructure” for competitive sports' activities was already laid down. My father, tío Pepe (uncle Jose) “Txitxibu”, my brothers (some of them olimpians), cousins and the numerous keen town followers, made up an excellent environment for sport practice and challenge.
On Sundays we held the cross-country races, the soccer and team handball matches. We also regularly held cycling races; in summer time, swimming in the Urumea river, in Elorrabi (at 3 km running) where we spent long hours swimming, diving and then pinching apples from the nearby orchards-- under the constant threat of a salt cartridge shot) to reload our depleted glycogen stores.
And of course, we celebrated the San Juan festivities, where you could not miss the “carrera pedestre” (cross-country race) the cycling race, and the many other organized games. And like my brothers and cousins I participated in everything, including the sokamuturra* and the maskuri-dantza (axeri-dantza)**.
And like them I cycled to school, in San Sebastian (at10 km) every day, returning home fore lunch. This meant we cycled 40 km daily and if you make the calculations, you will find that, in the seven years of the Baccalaureate, we made the equivalent of twice around the world riding. And it wasn’t always an easy ride. We were always in a rush to get in time to school and we were challenging each other on the way back home.
"Pelota" (Basque handball) And let’s not forget, the fronton Eskerpareta, and later our own private fronton in the chocolate factory, where we played pelota during the summer holidays. We would sweat anything up to 3 hours a day and some times more, often under a blistering hot summer sun. I remember getting home (we had no plastic bottles, not invented as yet. Nor a tap in hand. We suffered our thirst as much as we could), after one of this sessions, filling the liter jug with water from the tap (fridge’s had no been invented yet) and drinking it in a gulp despite father’s advice: wet generously your wrists and face and then drink slowly in little sips.
Mountain excursions. I also have to add to our sporting upbringing, the excursions to Adarra, Ernio, Peñas the Aya and others mountains, organized by the school or the family and took the whole day and had to dig deep in our physical reserves. Also the hunting, and mushroom picking and you start to get an idea of the intensive sport based life we lived. Add to it, that we inherited the good genes from Don Luis (father) and Doña Benita (mother) and you start to comprehend the success of the Adarraga-Elizaran athletes.
While in Hernani I competed successfully in school pelota, soccer and athletics and handball with the Club Deportivo Hernani (CDH) When I moved to Madrid, I continued playing handball, soccer and athletics but had to drop pelota (striking the ball with my hands made them swollen and they shook a lot, to the point of making it difficult to perform well in industrial drawing) I switched to “pala-corta” but I had the same trouble. And I learnt to play rugby instead.
“Los Ases en Zapatillas” (the “aces in sport shoes”) I like to stress a point here. I think I’ll make it better with an anecdote. When I was living in Saragossa, the local newspaper started a new series under the title “Los Ases en Zapatillas” (The Aces in Sports Shoes) and the reporter interview me for the inaugural story. When I read the published story, it looked impressive. I felt so proud.
When I went to the Veterinary School (in Spanish, “Facultad de Veterinaria”) for the days work, Dr Luke, the physiopathology professor (catedratico in Spanish) called me aside and congratulated me for the story. I appreciated his attention but then he looked me straight in my eyes and asked me, Mr Adarraga, do you ever sleep? The question felt on me like a cold shower and I could not wait to read the paper again. When I eventually did and added up all the hours I declared I spent training…? Dr Luke was right.
I learnt the lesson well and I never ever made the same mistake again. It is true that we performed all the sports I mentioned above but not all of them all the time. Logically, most sports were seasonal and only occasionally did I play more than one sport in a day. I remember one exceptional case. I played handball (11 players) at 9:00 am. Half way through the second half (we were winning comfortably) I escaped to get make it in time, to play a soccer match. And at 6:00, I played Olympic handball. After that effort I felt very hungry, tired, and sore for several days but recovered in time for the weekend activities.
first wedding in the family