Special Field Exam
One week. One paper. One focus. As an athlete, I work on maintaining mental focus all the time for the duration of my races. But, for some reason, I have an uncanny inability to single-task when it comes to ANYTHING school or work related. Anybody who has sat in classes with me, or who knows me, can attest to this. It is perfectly normal for me to have 2 web browsers open, each with about 2-3 open windows and anywhere from 8-10 tabs in each. And then there’s the other programs running too. (This is why I use a mac.). This is the image of Anjali in class: I sit there in class, participating and engaging in dialogue, while answering emails, updating websites, grading papers, reading/writing other assignments while taking notes and occasionally been guilty of also watching Paralympic.tv coverage too. But, my grades reflect that this approach works for me, and to be honest, I come back to the fact that I have an inability to just go to class and do that one thing. Which brings me to my next point… what do you do in life when you are forced to focus on just one thing at an intense level for a specified duration? My general field exam was an example of this, and now my latest example, the special field exam.
Anyway, this second qualifying exam for PhD school is a synthesis of the literature and it involves diving right into the main variables and figuring out all the research that has been done on that topic, categorizing it all for themes, but more importantly, connecting it to the topic at hand and making it relevant. Piece of cake, right? Honestly, I think it sounds worse than it is. Time is not in my favor, but when is it ever? And, it’s more my own inability to just focus and get it done. So, after spending the first 4 days organizing, flipcharting, thinking, it was time to take matters into my own hands.
Go with what you know.
What do I know? I know sports. I know racing. I know how to focus in that context. Just like racing, I can’t focus for the duration of a marathon. I am a sprinter. So anytime I do a marathon, it’s 422 hundred-meter sprints. Anytime I do any distance over the 800m, my coach breaks it down for me into 100m increments. Even my 100m, we break down to 10m sections. But, that lesson tells me a lot about myself and how my brain works. It is easy to get overwhelmed by a monumental task at hand, such as a marathon, or a special field exam. So, how do you not let it? Break it down into manageable chunks, set a timer, and start the race. That has been my new-found approach. It seems to be working so far. This mentality has also helped me to manage the other (extremely welcomed) distractions. Despite what anybody may try, I am convinced that there is no such thing as “clearing your schedule” for the week. I tried, and still managed to have a couple meetings, a couple classes to teach, a few fires to put out. But, just like in racing, these are the things that are beyond your control --- like the weather, your competitors, the starter of a race. You just have to go with it.
Though, at day 4, I’m at the point in the race when all you want to do is just quit, throw in the towel and retire. But, I know that if I were to do that, it would go against everything I stand for. Dream. Drive. Do. This is where the Drive comes in, to find that inner drive and motivation to just make it happen.
Stay tuned for some other very exciting news that is starting to unfold on the coloring book front! For now, back to the “race” for me!
I fell a bit behind on the blog updating... my bad. So the latest and greatest is as follows:
Cedartown, GA is one of my favorite places to visit. I know that sounds strange, but it is an amazing community filled with people who genuinely care about each other and about us coming to visit. It is always a fantastic trip filled with ridiculous stories and memories. The race itself was a success for me, I finished 6th, narrowly missing out on 5th place with a super close finish (less than a second apart). We raced. We karaoked. We sat poolside. We BBQed. We had fun.
Well, Peachtree is always a challenging race for me. I simply don't weigh enough to keep up on the rolling Atlanta hills! But it was a decent race for me. I was happy that I didn't die on the climb by the Shepherd Center. And even more happy to have people to play chase with going back and forth.
Illinois Wheelchair Track Camp
Yep. We did that. It was exciting to meet some new faces, some of whom we will see in the Fall. A special shoutout goes to my new friend Ethan who is from Newton, MA--- a mere 30 minutes from my hometown!! It's always a blast--- long days, but a blast. We try to mix things up with training sessions, some dodgeball, sadly, I missed the rock climbing this year...How did it go?
Nothing like an impromptu trip to NY for less than 24 hours. No big deal. I got bumped up to first class on the way out and made friends. That was pretty fun. The downside was that I didn't arrive in Utica until late Saturday night and was up at the crack of dawn for the 15k race. Well worth it, however. I won the women's division and got to meet the governor of NY, David Paterson...twice. It was a great event, so fun to be a part of.
And now, the end of my epic travels? Nope, try again. A marked brief hiatus from my epic travels. I flew to Denver for the AHEAD Conference to present my early research project at this huge disability conference. The presentation was today, it went very very well. And now, I am gearing up for the second round of my qualifying exams for PhD school. Wish me luck!!
Until next time...
US Paralympic Nationals Recap
I'm back from hot hot hot southern FL from an amazing weekend of competition. The summary of results is as follows:
- 800m: 4th place
- 200m: 1st place and PR and American Record
- 100m: 2nd place and PR
- 400m: 1st place
- 4x400m Relay Team A: 1st place and American Record
For complete results, please see this link.
I couldn't be happier with my performances. It was challenging competition conditions with the heat not to mention the thunderstorms and rain. To read more about the days events, US Paralympics had some recap blurbs that can be found below.
As I mentioned, I couldn't be happier. I was concerned going into the competition that I wasn't rested enough and that I was feeling burnt out, and my coach kept telling me to trust him and that it would all come together. Luckily, he can now tell me, "told you so"! It's exciting for any athlete to be able to see the hard days of training pay off, and to literally witness inching closer to personal goals. The USA Team for World Championships will not be announced until September, so stay tuned for that. Thanks to everybody for their support through this incredible journey!
We arrived in FL on Wednesday, had some adventures getting from the airport to the hotel, but eventually we all made it. We sweet talked the receptionist to let us into our hotel room even though our whole party had not arrived yet. I logged online, co-taught the last class session for the term. And then I shifted gears to get ready for the races.
On Thursday, I went with one of my teammates, Tatyana McFadden and another fellow US Teammate, Kortney Clemons to visit some kids at summer camps and to talk about our experiences and answer questions. This was arranged by the City of Miramar. The kids were great--such fun questions!! We got the traditional, "how do you sleep?". It is very rewarding to be able to answer kids' innocent questions and to see that lightbulb go on when they realize that just because we use a wheelchair or a prosthetic leg we aren't that much different from you!
After that, we headed over to the Ansin Sports Complex for registration and some training. The track is smooth and it feels fast! We'll see how the times look.
As expected, there were some small changes to the competition schedule. My schedule is now as follows:
- Friday June 18th, 6:10 PM: 800m final
- Friday June 18th, 7:40 PM: 200m final
- Saturday June 19th, 6:15 PM: 100m final
- Sunday June 20th, 10:40 AM: 400m final
To follow the latest up-to-the-minute results, please check here:
Gearing Up for US Nationals – Miramar Here We Come!
The big competition of the season is finally here. Tomorrow morning we head out for US Paralympic Track Field Nationals in Miramar, FL. I'm feeling pretty good and excited for what the weekend has in store! I will be racing in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. Competition begins on Friday and goes through Sunday. My tentative schedule is as follows:
- Friday June 18th, 9:00AM: 200m prelim
- Friday June 18th, 6:10 PM: 800m final
- Friday June 18th, 7:40 PM: 200m final
- Saturday June 19th, 10:33 AM: 100m prelim
- Saturday June 19th, 6:15 PM: 100m final
- Saturday June 19th, 8:28 PM: 400m prelim
- Sunday June 20th, 10:49 AM: 400m final
- Sunday June 20th, 11:50 AM: 4x400m relay
Please check back for more updates!
Gearing up for Nationals has been challenging, which is partially why I have not updated in a while. Our training the past few weeks has been tough, juggling two-a-days and trying to maintain focus and precision on our training in the time after our last trip until now. I had a bout with the athlete's worst nightmare...a.k.a. being burnt out. But, I am happy to report that with a week of a lot of napping and taking the rest that I needed, I am feeling strong and ready again. Bring it on Miramar!!
For those of you who don't know, this meet, US Paralympic Track and Field Nationals will be the primary selection meet for the World Championship Team. Worlds will take place in January 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. While the racing occurs this weekend, the team itself will not be nominated until September. The reason for this is that the International Paralympic Committee will announce in September the number of spots each country gets to fill, but until that number is known, the team cannot be named. So it will be an excercise in patience!
In other news, since I have neglected to update my blog, read about the Desert Challenge Games and Anjali's Latest Endeavor.
The Desert Challenge Games was the event I went to in Phoenix, AZ. It was a super fast track and not too hot! We had some training days over 100 degrees, but for race night it was in the upper 70s, though windy. I was pleased with my performances there. Full results can be found here. One particular highlight from the trip was having Team Bermuda out there competing in three sports. I am continually amazed at how far their program and their athletes have come in such a short period of time. It was truly incredible to have them all out there and to witness them literally making history for their country. Way to go! Other highlights from the trip involved the karaoke night at TGIFridays, where of course there was some Lady Gaga karaoking done on our part!
Africa! That's right folks. I'm fleeing the country!As many of you have followed in my blog, one of my passions is about international disability development and promoting the development of sport programs overseas. In the past few years, I have been actively involved doing this in parts of India as well as in Bermuda. And now, an incredible opportunity has come my way to not only do similar work in Ghana, but to also travel over there with my very own childhood hero, and fellow Illinois alum, Jean Driscoll. It’s one of those surreal opportunities that I am simply giddy about! Jean has been involved in similar work in Ghana over the years and after hearing about my passions and work approached me ten months ago asking if I might be interested in co-teaching wheelchair track clinics with her and building on what she has already started there. I am truly honored by the opportunity.
I will be in Ghana for 9 days, and during that time we have three main objectives: (1) teach two wheelchair track clinics one beginner and one intermediate level, (2) engage in meetings with government officials to help promote considerations for people with disabilities in policies within Ghana, and (3) to interact with the community there to help promote awareness on disability to the general population of Ghana and to serve as a resource for these individuals.
We already have meetings arranged with the Minister of Education and the Minister of Youth and Sport and the Minister of Health in Accra, Ghana. As with any endeavor, there is a cost involved to get there and expenses for lodging and meals while there. If any of you are willing to donate however small or large, it would be very much appreciated. You can donate online through PayPal here. Please don’t hesitate to ask me if you have ANY questions.
En Route to Phoenix
Never a dull moment in the life of Anjali! I am sitting here on the plane, somehow functioning after the past 2 days of very little sleep and two-a-day practices. Remember that paper? I am happy to say that just 3 minutes before boarding the plane I emailed it off to one of my co-workers who graciously agreed to help me out and print it to deliver the hardcopy to my professor. Cars are known for going 0 to 60mph in say 3.9 seconds, this girl went from 0 to 24 pages in less than 24 hours!!
It is so hard to find that ounce of motivation when all your friends are done with school and on summer vacation and you are not. It is so hard to find that motivation when the class itself is not one of your favorites. But, the motivation to not take an incomplete in my last class ever was enough to push me through. Down to the wire, literally! I had to get the paper done to be hand delivered by 5PM today, sounds reasonable enough, right? Well factor in that yesterday I had 0 pages written, I had practice, a few meetings, a leadership panel discussion to participate in from 5-9:30pm, a trip to pack for and this morning practice at 8am, miscellaneous trip preparation and a car ride to the airport to finish writing and some little helpful editing elves who helped from afar via text message! Oh technology! After arriving at the airport, getting through security I booted up the ‘ole laptop to find the two missing references I could not remember on the car ride in, as they announce 5 minutes until boarding I try to email the paper to my friend, and of course I get not only the spinning color wheel of death, but also the infamous, “Still working…” message from Gmail. Not wanting to panic, but also not wanting to allow all the hard work in the past day to go to waste, I frantically opened every other browser I have on the computer, every other email account I have and was finally able to email it off – possibly three times, (sorry about that)!
And now, I’m flying high over the clouds once again headed to the next track meet in Mesa, AZ. I’m not as well rested as I would like to be going into this, but the good part is that I have a couple days before competition on Saturday. Last evening at our traditional wings gathering at BWWs, I was struck by how amazingly lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life who are always there to encourage, laugh, and tell it like it is! I’m so grateful! It is so so so very important to take the time out of a seemingly hectic, chaotic, crazy schedule to spend time with friends, to appreciate each other’s company and to just take a deep breath. Man, it feels good to be officially done with the semester, and with college classes!!! Academically, it’s now on to my next round of qualifying exams sometime in the near future, preparing for my preliminary defense, researching and writing.
One of the most exciting things I’m looking forward to on this trip is my Bermudian friends who will be out in Arizona for their very first competition (well Jessica was at Dixie, but first one for the others!) I am continually amazed by how far and how much progress has been made with Paralympic sport development on the island in the past 11 months alone!! So much excitement, so much to look forward to!!! Can’t wait to see my Bermudian family! Will write an update after the event…
Event website: Desert Challenge Games
I wish I could tell you that Baltimore has also been an incredible event, but it has not been. The school visits themselves have been wonderful. The kids are always so very excited to meet me, as am I. I’m continually impressed by the questions that I get and I can really tell which kids are thinking things through and applying what I talk about to their own lives. It is a rewarding experience getting to meet these kids.
But, the downside is that there have been some lessons learned in life for me. The organization I am here for is going through a lot of changes, which has left the a lot of things in disarray. Change is never easy, and oftentimes is not a smooth transition, I recognize that. However, it has caused unnecessary stress and frustration for me and for the Olympic guest who is also here to speak to the kids. Without getting into too many details, I will say that it is hard to juggle school, work, racing, public speaking and being your own manager. It’s also hard to be pressured into making a decision when you have competing ethical issues pulling you in two opposing directions. Ethics can be a double-edged sword. I felt like either way I decided I was being unethical in some way, which is disconcerting.
Oh what a learning experience these past couple days have been. Sometimes I forget how draining these learning experiences in life can be. I know we all need them, and that they make us stronger and better people for it in the long run, but it sure is hard to see that when you are going through it. The other downside is that my semester will not be fully behind me come tomorrow as I had originally planned. Because of all of this, my last paper for my last college class ever, sadly, will not be done.
I am grateful, however, for my friends and family who have been an exceptional support for me through these past couple of days and who are helping me to see the silver lining and to focus on the positive.
Up Next: Desert Challenge Games in Arizona next week!
I've been on the road a lot lately, so got a bit behind on updating. Here is a recap of my adventures in the past 2 weeks. More to come soon!
I was invited to participate in and speak at the MidAmerica Games this year. What an incredible opportunity!! There is so much young talent there across many different sports. I met boccia athletes, swimmers, track and field athletes and had a blast! I also met several local KC folks who are enthusiastic and willing to help to promote disabled sports and the Paralympic movement beyond this annual event. It is so exciting to be a part of something larger than you. I know that sounds funny, but numerous times throughout the weekend, I could just sense the energy and the positivity. When you can sense that you are a part of something bigger, it is a very cool feeling. It is hard to describe, but for me it is like this out-of-mind-out-of-body experience where I just pause for a moment and think, “wow, this is cool!”
Pictures from the event can be seen: Here
After my whirlwind Kansas City visit, I left the track to zoom off to the airport to catch my flight to Spokane for Bloomsday.
My crazy weekend would not have been complete without a couple of flight hang ups. I finally left Kansas City, with a bit of a flight delay. While sitting on the tarmac in KC, I called to find out what my other flight options were into Spokane, since I already only had about an hour ten minute layover. The agent told me that there was one other flight, but it only left 4 minutes after mine. I told her it may sound ridiculous, but since I use a wheelchair and am the last off the plane, I would actually like to be put on standby for that flight. Then she told me the bad news. My original flight was scheduled to land around 8:30pm. If I took the flight that left 4 minutes later, I would not land until 12:30am!! Bear in mind that race day starts early at Bloomsday, so this was certainly not an ideal situation. Confused, I found out it was not a direct flight, which is why it was so much longer. Forget that! I decided it was worth the gamble to try to make my original flight, and if I missed it, I would just hang out in Denver with all my fellow colleagues and professors who were there anyway for the AERA conference! A legitimate Plan B. I landed in CO, and by the time the wheels touched the ground I had 20 minutes to make it to my next flight into Spokane. Of course, the flight attendants come on and request that any passenger going to Spokane and some other city be let off the plane first, as they had the tightest connections. The underlying message to the other passengers, though, was you can just take your time and be as slow as you want. This does NOT bode well when you have to wait for all the passengers to get off!!! I made my way to the front of the plane to try to get my wheelchair and to get the heck off the plane. Got into a fight with them because they wanted me to use an aisle chair, even though my chair fits on board the plane, and I was already sitting right by the door of the plane and could see my wheelchair. The aisle chair person comes on the plane, with my wheelchair, and goes, “oh!? You’re going to Spokane?! Uh-oh, you only have 8 minutes!” Great.
As luck would have it, my gate was right next door, and they held the plane for me. Got on board and made it safely to Spokane. I met up with the rest of my team at our traditional Mexican food restaurant.
The race itself was not as fast as I would have hoped. I got scared on the downhills for some reason this year. I always brake on the first downhill, because of the hairpin turn at the bottom and given my track record it just seems like the safest idea especially since the alternative is a giant cliff… The second downhill also scared me though. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I value my life differently. I still clocked in at 32.4 mph, even with riding my brake the whole way.
Even though I was not as pleased with my indvidual performance, I am happy to report that our team won the Collegiate Trophy! It is a competition set up based on the finishers from University of Illinois and University of Arizona. And so, the 60 lb granite trophy will remain in IL for another year!
By the time the weekend was said and done, I managed to make it to 7 states. Ridiculous. IL-MO-KS-CO-WA-UT-IN. Even though CO and UT were just for a layover, it’s still pretty impressive, even for me.
No rest for the weary! After returning from WA late Monday night, I attempted to wrap up some of my semester and left again on Friday for Tampa. Lucky for me, I had a final presentation to give on Thursday in class, and one on Friday that I wasn’t actually there for. Story of my life.
I travel, a lot. And quite honestly, these Friday classes just aren’t ideal for me. I knew this going into the semester, but as a graduate student you don’t have the luxury of just picking a different section. I always joked about being the masters student who mastered not being there. And now the doctorate student who doesn’t go to class. As funny as it is, it’s this time of the semester when it truthfully becomes challenging. I pulled together a narrated powerpoint for that presentation and luckily my friend Justin was able to take some notes for me and make sure it all played in class just fine while I was en route to Tampa.
The Dixie Games was an awesome event. It was HOT down there. I got to see Jessica Lewis, my Bermudian friend who came to compete in her very first track meet!! And, I’m so happy to report that she qualified in both of her races for Junior Nationals! Congrats to Jessica! I was happy with how I raced. I hit A qualification times in the 100m and 200m, and B qualification times in the 400m and 800m. A funny thing about our 200m, I’m not sure who won the race!!! My teammate Tatyana and I TIED in the 200m!! The posted times only went out to the tenths, but presumably when we get the electronic timing report it will go out to the hundredths so we will find out who won. It is so fun having a fellow passionate sprinter to race with!
This is a term of endearment that our coach uses in various forms when we have a particularly difficult training session, race day or the like. It is used to embrace the challenging conditions, perhaps wind, rain, or all of those other things that are out of an athlete’s control. Because, that which does not kill you makes you stronger, or builds character.
That about sums up the weekend! We road tripped on our Midwest Tour 2010, went from Champaign, IL to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa for the Drake Relays and then from there to St. Louis for the Gateway Games and then back to Champaign. What a whirlwind! And then I will tell you what is up next!
We ran a 1500m at Drake. It was the first time the Drake Relays included Paralympic participants. The crowd was very enthusiastic and welcoming. The times were slower in comparison to last week at Mt. SAC Relays, but the conditions were wet. By the end of the 1500m I had sand and grit in my mouth/teeth and my face was covered in track dirt…character building at it’s finest, especially for this sprinter over here!
I did get to meet up with an old friend, Sentwali Bakari who is the Dean of Students at Drake University. I first met Sentwali back in 2005 at LeaderShape, a week long leadership conference for students. He was one of the staff facilitators. It was wonderful not only to see him, but to hear my name as I raced around the track being yelled by him and his co-workers! Thanks for coming to support us!!
We loaded up the mini-van and headed for St Louis on Saturday. Being on the road with the team is always an adventure. Lots of laughter and good times had by all, even if I was relegated to the backseat of the mini-van. It’s okay because I was still able to have a dance party AND write my dissertation from the backseat.
Sidenote: I used to think I was one who did not work well under pressure, and I believe I have to reconsider that statement. I was quite productive with my writing while in the car because it was a race against the battery life!!
For some, it was an epic adventure just to get there. For us, we skinned by just by a hair. Maybe 2 minutes after arriving at our teammates parent’s house, the tornado sirens and hail started coming down. As we were watching the television, we realized that our two other teammates driving in from Champaign were about to be in the middle of the tornado. I called to warn them of this situation, of course trying to remain calm and collected so as not to worry them too much. And then there was Ian, my brother, who was also meeting us for dinner and just moments after hanging up with him to warn him of the tornado and he said he was leaving the West County Mall, the newscaster said, the tornado just hit the West County Mall. Yikes.
Luckily, everybody arrived safe and sound, eventually. We all crashed at Ian’s house—hung out by the fire, played with his dog Penny and then woke up for another character building day.
The weather was cold and windy. Therefore, times were not as fast as we were hoping. But, it was fun to meet some of the young up and coming athletes and their families. Ian brought a whole slew of co-workers and friends to cheer. Afterwards we went back to Rossi’s house for a pizza party before heading back to Champaign.
Next on the list is another whirlwind weekend of Kansas and Washington State. I leave again on Thursday for Kansas for an event with The Hartford and for the Mid-America Games, then fly from Kansas to Spokane, Washington on Saturday evening for Bloomsday 12k which takes place on Sunday. So the laundry is in the dryer, and will promptly be re-packed into the bag.
Also interspersed with all this travel and racing is wrapping up this semester, or at least attempting to. I think I have 2 presentations (one that I’m not actually here for…..yikes…), a final paper and some dissertation chapters left… But, the way I look at it is, the semester ends whether you want it to or not!
The first track meet of the season was a success!! I raced fast, had fun and soaked up some CA sun! The videos of the 800m and the 1500m are posted under "News". I had some technical difficulties and so I could not actually embed them as "Videos" but they are there!
I ran a personal best in the 800m, 1:55.57. I was quite close to hitting my A standard in the 800m, but successfully hit my B standard. For those of you who don't know, to make a national team there are set standards, an A-level standard and a B-level standard. Basically, you want to hit an A standard because that gives you a higher level of support from USP and positions you better athletically in terms of world class competition. I have to hit standards in the events that I want to potentially run at World Championships, but it's also important to hit standards as part of the qualification to GO to World Championships. If this sounds confusing, it is. And I'm trying to write it in layman's terms too. My 1500m was solid for me, I was very happy with the result too -- 3:55.07! For complete results, click here.
My fellow Illini teammates performed well too. We also had several aspiring Paralympians who were invited to compete. We were an eclectic group, and a very fun one! We had a little bit of everything--folks still in high school, college, vets and former Paralympians. These types of exhibition events are always so fun to see the level of excitement on everybody's faces, to get out on the track for an early season meet, and to educate the greater athletic population about the Paralympic movement. Just watch the videos and listen to the commentators, they were literally blown away, as were many of the other athletes and spectators at the event.
And now, it is approaching midnight, and I have to pull my clothes from the dryer and immediately put them back in the bag to hit the road again tomorrow! We are off to Drake University for the Drake Relays on Friday night (1500m) and then driving to St. Louis for the Gateway Games on Sunday morning. Drive drive drive! And if I'm lucky some dissertation writing in the car as well...or at least some of these final papers. It's this time when the season gets underway that it is hard to convince myself that I am still a student who has to do some work, I get so excited with all this racing and traveling! But, I DO want to graduate, May 2011...