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Against All Odds

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Against All Odds

It’s 5AM and I’m awake thanks to jetlag. So, I thought what a good time to update my blog! A lot has happened, including my breaking the World Record in the 200m! Let’s take a step back, and I’ll fill in some of the gaps.

A few weeks ago, I was living the Anjali-life and hitting up four states in one weekend, a pretty typical weekend for me during our season. One of the events was the Purple Shoes Challenge out in Newton, MA as part of the Katie Lynch Foundation. It was a super fun event where I got to meet some incredible kids with disabilities and get them excited about track and running! Ironically, I knew many of the kids from my former days working at Camp Arrowhead! Events such as this rejuvenate me and provide a really nice reminder about why I do what I do. I met one young kid named Niko, and boy is he a little spitfire! I let him sit in my racing chair and I’m not kidding you, he had a huge smile ear to ear, the type of smile that just melts your heart. He became my little shadow for most of the event, and I told him I cannot wait for the day that I see him at the Paralympic Games too. It’s in moments like this that I just sort of sit and laugh a bit to myself about how much I’ve really come full circle. I once was that kid. It’s kind of cool if you ask me.

After this event, I actually changed my flight to stay an extra night home in Massachusetts. I’d been having some back problems and thought it was a good idea to get it checked out, for peace of mind you know? One of the hardest things as an athlete, I believe, is to listen to your body. Especially when you are in the throws of the season, or in a pre-Paralympic/Olympic year as we are, the last thing anybody wants is an injury let alone something serious. The tough-guy mentality sets in, and we’re all guilty of powering through the pain and pushing on simply to defeat all odds. The truth is, there are times when that is heroic, yes, but there are also times when it’s stupid. All the signs were indicating something was wrong—my training had been less than ideal for about a month, I was in pain nearly everyday and noticed that I was avoiding picking things up if I dropped them and counting the number of transfers in my head each morning and then minimizing unnecessary transfers to try and reduce the pain. Since this was clearly hampering my everyday life, it was time to listen to my body and get things checked out. I rationalized that it was best to go back to the ortho doctor at Boston Children’s who did my last major surgery, because if it was serious, I’d want him to be in the loop. I also rationalized that I didn’t have the time to mess around with going to a new doctor and having to build rapport and provide my medical history. When you have had your disability for nearly your entire life, there is no concise medical history. It just doesn’t exist.

So, I was luckily able to get in with this doctor—we had a few email exchanges and phone conversations and decided it might be a smart idea to get things checked out, so I changed my flight to make it happen. Sure enough, there is significant disc degeneration, severe arthritis and some definite problems in the L4/L5 area as well. All of the news was bad news, but at the same time, it was reassuring that I do actually know my body, and that it wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. The downer though, is the “what to do about it?” question still was left largely unanswered. When I asked about what this will look like in a year, in 5 years, in 10 years, or 25 years—I got the deer-in-headlights look. Not very ideal. The answer was kind of, wait until you’re in so much pain that you can’t function, then maybe we’ll know what to do. How frustrating is that? What happened to being pro-active? I found out that for the most part, nothing I was doing with my training would further injure my back, and that I just needed to use my best judgment knowing now what was going on.

With all of this going on, I went into a track meet the end of that week not feeling overly confident or anything, and probably still trying to process everything that was going on. Somehow, I managed to run some season best times and even a PR in the 400m! I’m not sure where it came from, but it sure helped my mindset going into Switzerland. Overseas in Switzerland, we had two different track meets.

The thing about these competitions in Switzerland is, the whole world goes. But it’s truly an athlete’s meet. For you spectators, this might be hard to understand what I mean by this. The entire series is designed with the athletes in mind. There is not a lot of hooplah and extra “stuff” that wears athletes out, you are there to race fast and to just race. For the foreigners, it is a chance to get on some of the fastest tracks in the world alongside the best competition in the world and to just race. And so, the entire world was there --- for my own events, there was representation from the United States, Italy, Russia, Australia, Great Britain and of course Switzerland. The only main country not present was China, in terms of my own competitors. The first meet was split across two days, and it went very well for me. I put up a season best in the 100m, a very fast time for me! I’m finally reaching the point of consistency in my 400m performances. The next day, I had the 200m and 800m. Honestly, I woke up feeling stronger than ever, relaxed and ready to lay it all out there on the track. After my 200m, I had a number in my head of the time I thought I ran, but the best feeling was afer the race, not knowing the outcome, there was not a single thing I would have changed about how I ran that race. Whatever the time result, I was thrilled with my performance. As an athlete at this level, it is rare that you have that race where it all just clicks and feels right and where you don’t have some sort of critical comment about it. But, that was my race—and the time showed it—I earned the World Record in the 200m! I had been chasing the record previously set by the Chinese back in 2008 at the Games, and captured it!! I ran a 29.16 and could not have been happier when I heard the announcement in German that there were two new world records set (one in the race before mine, and then mine).

Here's a picture from just following my race:

The rest of the competition also went well for me, and based on the overall performances I’m proud to say that us three American women plus one Aussie were the top finishers across the entire Swiss Series! Given the psychological and physical challenges I had been dealing with going into this meet, I was truly proud of myself for going against all odds and coming out on top. This seems to be a trend in my life…

And now, I am on a plane once again. Even though I started writing this at 5am while struggling with jetlag, I had to put it down to get settled and organized to head out of town again. Next on the list, US Nationals, where ¾ of the world will be there, haha! It should be another very high level of competition over the next three days—many of the same players will be there! Here we go again, I hope you’ll continue to follow me on this journey, London 2012 will be here before we know it!!

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