Athlete Journal: Valerie Worthington, Entry 1 – Off to an Inauspicious Start

What do they say – behind every silver lining is a dark cloud? They lived happily ever after, until the honeymoon period wore off? My first Athlete Journal entry.


Welcome to the Athlete Journal of world-class grappler Valerie Worthington. Follow Valerie as she trains and competes in various events over the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition season. Val’s journal will be posted every Thursday.

You can catch up by reading her previous journal entries!

What do they say – behind every silver lining is a dark cloud? They lived happily ever after, until the honeymoon period wore off?

As you might be able to tell, I’m a little cranky in my first Athlete Journal entry. I was excited about the prospect of contributing to this feature, and I was still riding the high of having competed well in a tournament a few days prior. So I felt like I had built some momentum that would help me really focus my training, which would then of course give me lots to write about. And then, the day after I submitted the story announcing I’d be writing for the Athlete Journals, I got sick. Sick like I hadn’t been in about four years. (Actually, I recently wrote about that time four years ago. This time was not quite as bad, but was pretty ding-dang bad.)

Imagine a ball of concrete in your stomach that shoots fingers of nauseating misery up under your ribcage, around toward your kidneys, and down toward your unmentionables, like a giant, angry starktopus (half starfish, half octopus. Not to be confused with Sharktopus, which is a B-movie starring Eric Roberts). And every now and then, it wiggles around to make its presence known, and you experience that as a distant rumble portending nothing good. And then the rumble comes closer and closer, which causes the situation to become, shall we say, dire.

Got the picture? So, in a nutshell, my training for the 5 days I was down for the count went something like this:

Day 1: As many rounds as possible in 24 hours: Assume the fetal position. Sleep. Moan/groan. Underestimate how sick I am and try to get some things done. Stop in the middle to rethink my folly. Return to bed.

Day 2: Repeat of Day 1. Now, I realize it’s important to mix up one’s workouts, so that day I really focused on the underestimation factor and left the house to run a couple errands. Bad idea, though I think I entertained some people in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube when I folded myself in half like a pair of pants on a hanger because my Starktopus was waking up. (You’re welcome.) After I got home, I picked up from “return to bed.”

Day 3: Shower (I aimed high!) Insist to myself I am better and go to the academy to hang out because I am climbing the walls when I’m not hoping to die or at least to pass out. Demonstrate enough smarts to refrain from training. Eat too much, where “too much” = about a quarter cup of rice and two pieces of bread. (I know; it wasn’t paleo, and I thought about that when I ate it. And I said, “Tough darts.”) Pay dearly later (though I think I would have paid even if I had eaten something with a face and a soul).

Day 4: Enjoy a fairly normal day, with the Starktopus occasionally making his presence known but generally hibernating (this word provides some foreshadowing.). Become increasingly brazen vis-à-vis what I eat, adding some eggs and a little meat to the mix. Take another rest day, just in case, but become smug that I am better.

Day 5: Relapse. Hard. Rail, weakly, against my god, who has apparently forsaken me.

As of this writing, I have been back to a normal schedule for one day. This puts me behind where I wanted to be, of course, but I realized two things. First, I actually do this on a regular basis before upcoming tournaments: I get sick, injured, or otherwise sidelined for about a week. It’s kind of like my body is resetting itself, rebooting (pun sort of intended). So, maybe this is an important part of my training after all, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. Second, I’m sure I’ll be able to channel my annoyance into any upcoming matches. I’ll be powered by spleen, so to speak.

This is not exactly the inspirational, meaningful post I was hoping to share, but maybe there is a takeaway here, namely that we always have to deal with the unexpected; it’s the nature of competition. So while I didn’t handle this setback with the most aplomb or dignity, I handled it. I really had no choice. And now I will get back to changing the things I can, accepting the things I can’t, and being too stupid/stubborn to know the difference.