During the first week of senior year, the coach from University of San Myshuno called me.
“J.D.,” she said, “I hear you’ve been ill. Mono is no laughing matter. But I also hear that your doctor has given you the go-ahead to return to training. But here’s the deal: We’re providing your trainer.”
I didn’t really want it going around that my illness had been mononucleosis. I already got grief from Donnie about that. It’s “the kissing disease,” and, of course, I’ve never been kissed.
“At least I never acted on my impulse,” Donnie said, “or I’d have got sick, too, and have to take time out of training, and that’s one thing I won’t ever risk for kissing a girl who looks like boy.”
Ugh. But the good news was that nobody else at YOTO got it. I guess it was a really good thing that I was at Ted’s when the illness hit–and that he was gone when I was at my sickest. He and Deon haven’t caught it, fortunately.
But now I’m looking at the long process of rebuilding.
Turns out that all the coaches agree I’ve got to skip cross country this fall. If I had my normal energy back, I’d be so disappointed.
But the USM coach and my high school coach both believe that with a careful return to training, and with keeping the stress down and getting lots of rest, I’ll be able to compete this spring with my school track team and to run with USM next year.
“We’re still hoping to sign you,” the USM coach said. “Work with Tracy, our training specialist, and when she gives the green-light, we’ll sign you in fall, just like we committed.”
So, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons, I meet Tracy at the San Myshuno gym.
I like her. She’s a shot-putter, so she’s super strong.
And she never pushes me. In fact, she teaches me.
“Now, honey,” she said when I was working on the weight machine, “I want you to learn to feel your muscles. Feel your tendons, baby! That’s right!”
She spends a lot of time talking about angles and fulcrums and stuff like that.
“Don’t push it, baby! Don’t over-extend! Stay within your limits, sweet-heart!”
She makes me stop after thirty minutes, even when I’m feeling great and hitting my stride.
“Ok, doll,” she says. “Time’s up. Ease down now. We’ll do some nice slow stretching to cool down. Little yoga, honey?”
I try not to get frustrated. I really want to push it. I feel like I know my own strength, and I know how far I can push it. And sometimes I feel like I’ll never get back to where I need to be unless I start stretching myself.
But Tracy has told me a lot about other athletes she’s worked with. I’ve heard the horror stories of the ones who returned too fast, too hard, and ended up with relapses and ruptured spleens. And I’ve heard the inspiration stories of those who’ve taken it nice and slow, with steady, easy practices, a focus on form, a solid nutritional base, and lots of rest. They’ve come back stronger.
“It’s the whole break-down, rebuild thing, darling,” Tracy said. “Those cells have to reform, and if you do it smart and easy, they reform stronger than ever. And that’s how champions are made.”
The other day, I was training on the treadmill, and this woman I’d seen before in the gym came over to watch. I really like this other woman. She’s so strong. She’s got muscle tone to envy.
Tracy was working on my stride.
“Keep your back straight, sweet-heart!” she called. “Relax your shoulders! Don’t worry about lengthening the stride. Just let it flow!”
The other woman said, “I know you. I’ve seen you race before. You’re Jenny Trevalyn. You were fast last spring, but look at you now. Now you’re strong, and you’ve got form.”
“Oh, that’s right!” said Tracy. “That’s my baby! And my baby is a champion!”
And then our thirty minutes were up, and I had to stop.