Bonnie Vona passes out refreshments at the Veterans Adaptive Players Clinic hosted by ThanksUSA at the Montgomery TennisPlex.
From the kayakers to the trail runners at her Lake Anne residence, tennis marathon challenger Bonnie Vona sees workout opportunities abounding. After all, the 61 year old is training for the endeavor of a lifetime.
Over the July 4 weekend she plans to surpass the Guinness World Record number, 36, for most consecutive opponents in tennis singles and reach 44 matches at the Montgomery TennisPlex in Maryland during a daunting three-day continuous event where she could play up to 44 opponents.
“I don’t want to just break the record. I want to really break it,” says Vona, a USTA official and competitive tennis manager.
The bold idea to compete for a straight 72 hours was borne out of Vona’s passion for tennis and military families.
“I care about our military and I care about tennis. Those two things are my passion,” she says. The mother of two women, one of whom is a First Lieutenant in the Army, has pledged to play in support of ThanksUSA, a national charity that provides need-based scholarships for children and spouses of U.S. Armed Forces.
“[The challenge] means more to me if it brings attention to military families, their needs, and tennis. If it were just for me, I wouldn’t do this,” she says.
Executive Director of ThanksUSA Michele Stork says Vona’s challenge will help highlight the issue of education affordability and provide “a tangible way that the public can say, thank you.”
Technically, Vona began training in February. But that was before she consulted friend and Life Sport Science Institute (LSSI) director at Life University in Georgia, Dr. Mark Kovacs, who kicked her training up a notch this April.
Vona was already in good shape at the time of her assessment at LSSI, “but to prepare for something as unique as 72 hours straight of exercise, that’s another level completely,” said Dr. Kovacs, a renowned sport scientist.
After evaluating her current performance level through in-depth assessments, measuring factors like her body composition, bone density, stability, cardiovascular endurance, and nutritional intake, Dr. Kovacs then designed a rigorous workout regimen and together, came up with 4-6 hours of daily exercise after work and on weekends, building up strength and endurance through activities like kayaking on Lake Anne, running five miles a day, climbing 11 flights of stairs to her apartment, wearing wrist weights, and working the treadmill at the gym. He also made her practice sleep deprivation, which she did over Memorial weekend, staying awake for 48 hours.
“That’s where most individuals struggle [during endurance sports], having enough energy to last the entire time period and making sure that the body holds up,” says Dr. Kovacs. “Just standing for 72 hours is hard enough, let alone being active and moving the entire time.”
Vona will have to exert a combination of physical and mental fortitude says Dr. Kovacs, especially during the last 8-12 hours when blisters and a sore body will likely occur.
But Vona says that’s when she’ll liven up the most. Even though her biggest fears are “letting people down” and not knowing how her body will react, she said seeing the finish line will give her the extra energy boost she needs. So will fans cheering her on, listening to Toby Keith, Aerosmith or the Beetles through her Bluetooth headphones, and seeing new opponents join her at every match.
“Those are things I’m going to need getting through those final hours,” she said.
Vona plays July 1 at 8 a.m. to July 4 to officially kick off the ThanksUSA July 4th Family Festival.
To play or support Vona, visit the events link at ThanksUSA.org. To learn more, go to https://72hrsalute.wordpress.com/author/gobonnie/.