The tiger pounces

Hanging out with my swim partner Rafa is always fun. There is always a beer, there is always a plate of jamón, there is always laughter. Rafa is one of those guys that knows everybody, after just a few months in Vejer he knew the names of all the street cleaners, the guy who delivers the ‘bombonas’ (gas bottles) and even the the bakers wife’s grandmother. Just crossing the street with Rafa takes about 15 minutes because he’ll chat to everyone he knows (which is everyone), ask them how they are and tell a joke or two. Such a good guy. 

El Tigre de Córdoba

As Rafa says his love of the good life is also his perdition, all that beer and jamón plays havoc with his weight and the challenge of the Africa swim is his chance to focus again on training and sport, his great love (after beer and jamón that is!).

Rafa loved sports at school, he played all the team sports but his great friend and mentor Antonio Camino Olea (one of Spain’s foremost martial arts experts and National trainer) persuaded him to try Taekwando and Hapkido where he reached a very high level. When Antonio died at only 38 Rafa left martial arts, “They no longer made any sense to me, I lost my motivation”. 

Rafa’s dad…

Cycling was Rafa’s next ambition, his father was a successful amateur rider (Masters) so Rafa jumped on a bike, discovered he was good at it and started competing eventually taking him to a level where he was training at a regional and national level. Unfortunately for Rafa’s cycling career his business took off. Unable to dedicate his time to training with its huge physical demands he developed his jewellery business and fell in to a trap of work, eating, drinking and living the famous Andalucia social life to its maximum. 

One day though he realised his health was seriously damaged, he’d put on so much weight that if he didn’t make a substantial change to his life he would never get back to sport again. He started running but at 120kg. “even granny’s were overtaking me” he says. He decided to focus on training and giving up the good life in exchange for mastering yet another new sport for him, trail running. The body has a good memory and within a few months he was combining cycling and running. His wife Lola entered him in to a triathlon which required mastering yet another sport, swimming. But a triathlon is a big challenge, three sports where both technique and fitness are needed to get good results. In Rafa’s first triathlon he got very good results and decided to get a professional trainer to help push his results up. From then on he was competing regularly at national events and endurance trials, happy with his life and his results.

But once again another chapter opened up in Rafa’s life. After a holiday in Vejer he and his family decided to swap Córdoba for Vejer to improve their quality of life. They opened a jewellery shop in the Plaza de España just up the road from my business, the Califa. Old habits die hard and once again Rafa slipped into the easy life of great bars, good beer and first class jamón. With the sun always shining and the shade of an orange tree to slumber under living the good life in Vejer seemed pretty easy. For the second time Rafa’s health took a nose dive. This time his saviour was an old training partner of his Javier Flores, ‘Javi’ who gave Rafa an unexpected call. 

Triathlon 2017

“Rafa – are you feeling fit?” 

“No” he replied. 

“Have you been swimming lately?”

“Not for a couple of years”

“Are you feeling motivated to do some sport”

“Not really”

“Well get off your ass and come and swim to Africa with me!”

Rafa and Javi in 2016