NYC Marathon 2009

I just found out that I’ve been accepted to the ING New York City Marathon 2009. Since there’s always a very large pool of applicants, there is a lottery system for the entry to this marathon. I submitted my application sometime in May, right after watching the four Biggest Loser semi-finalist complete their first marathon.

If they can do it, maybe I can do it too…

It’s only after I submitted my application that it sort of dawned on me that I’ve entered into a contract that if I am chosen, I’ll be paying $171 for the marathon fee. If I back out, I would have paid $171 for nothing.

Just before the lottery results were announced, I started to doubt this spur of the moment decision. A marathon…6 hours of pain on marathon day, not to mention the discomfort of over 16 weeks of training to run 26.2 miles. I think I was hoping that I would not be chosen.

But I was chosen, so it’s a bittersweet thing. Sort of like “Yayyy!!! Oh no….”

I’m kind of excited that I have the opportunity to participate in the NYC Marathon. If I can endure through 6 years of graduate school in the US (so far) and the chronic stress of dissertation research for the past year and probably another 8 more months to go, I can endure 6 hours of running/walking. It’ll be great that when I finally reach the finish line because then I would have completed something from start to finish this year.

Dissertation research can get very disappointing, especially when it drags on and on and each day only results in one data point. So many more uncertain days to go. It’s also sad when I see friends finishing their research and graduating and I’m still here, struggling through another day for another data point.

I guess I’m trying to run off the frustration!

Anyway, here is my brand new marathon training blog: Run Ailsa Run

I found a hiding place…it’s a library.

Research work routine has slowly solidified:
8-9am – research work with Daniel.
1-2pm – research work with Rob.

Fortunately for me, both participants are located within walking distance of each other and around 25 minutes drive from my home. Unfortunately for me, the 2 sessions are 4 hours apart. I couldn’t imagine driving home and back again in that 4 hours. So thus far, I’ve window shopped and/or hung out at a coffee shop to pass the time. Sometimes I would try to get some work done at the coffee shop but those sessions normally didn’t last more that 1.5 hours. It’s hard to get settled down to some boring work at the coffee shop. I always ended up leaving earlier than planned and I would be off to more window and/or real shopping.

At one point I was even tempted to sign up for a summer only student pass at the gym that’s also within walking distance. It cost $99 but since I’ve already paid for the spinning classes that I’m taking at the university’s gym, I was not eager to spend more money. Then a friend recommended the Whitehall library which is only a very short drive away. That sounded like a good place to hang out.

Today, I made the very first trip to the library (after a short window shopping trip). It’s a small cosy library. I love the parking lot. There are many shady trees that I can park my car underneath to keep my car relatively cooler during the hot summer months. In the library, there are several study carrels and I’m currently typing this while seated at one of them. They also have a rather large DVD collection. I’m considering becoming a member so that I can borrow those. This hiding place is definitely the economical and more productive place to spend 4 hours.

Here are some interesting photos:

The bags I lugged around every day:

1. My handbag: purse, sunglasses, tissues, lip balm, keys, hand sanitizer, etc.

2. My pink research bag: portable DVD player, research DVDs, folder with all the data sheets, 2 clipboards for data collection, flip ultra videocam, digital camera, gorillapod, extra batteries, a copy of my dissertation proposal, dissertation log book, and items for the “practice the skill” instructional session with Daniel (i.e., an empty spray bottle, rags, rubberbands).

3. My messenger bag (with stuff for the 4 hr in between work): Neosmart keyboard, research articles (for the never ending meta-analysis work), and iPod.

4. My cooler lunch bag: 2 freeze paks, a bottle of cold water, breakfast (muesli with vanilla yogurt) and pre-lunch (peanut butter and jam sandwich).

Since I dropped by a grocery store on the way home after research work was done, I came home with 6 bags.

Dissertation Update

June came around so quickly this year. Once upon a time, in March, I promised my first research participant, Daniel, that when we’re done with the research in June, I’ll take him to a nice chinese buffet restaurant for dinner. It’s June now and we’re only somewhat close to 1/3 done. The nice chinese buffet dinner has been postponed to August, possibly even later…

I have almost completed videotaping Daniel for the his second job task. This time around it was much easier. During the videotaping sessions for the first task, it was totally new to him so it was very difficult to get to him to do some things more than once and he got upset when we had him say some sentences more than once. Plus, I was rather tensed up about the whole videotaping business since it was also my first time doing the videotaping and trying to get everything to look as good as possible.

Videotaping the second task took a few more sessions because Daniel was dropped off late and we only had 30 minutes instead of an hour. So far, we have gone through three 30 minutes videotaping sessions and I think that should be enough. I just need one more clip of the store manger thanking Daniel for doing a good job and that has been scheduled for this Wednesday.

I’ve started my research work with my second participant, Rob. Work-wise, Rob is higher functioning so his 3 chosen job tasks are slightly more complex than Daniel’s. The first job task for Rob is cleaning the fitting room. Cleaning the fitting room as in removing all clothing and hangers from the fitting rooms, hanging them up again, matching the size of the item and the correct size hanger, and bring them out to the store and place them in their respective rack according to size.

Sounds simple enough until I tried videotaping him doing that task. Since I was trying to keep him slightly clueless regarding the correct sequence and steps to completing this task, I had to videotape the task out of sequence. We only had a short window of opportunity to do the videotaping, between 9:30 to 10am, and we had to stop the videotaping once the store opens. Those 2 mornings were definitely the craziest research days thus far. So many things to do, so little time, and so many things to keep track. I had to go back to the store another 3 days to do more videotaping of establishing shots that I needed which did not require Rob to be in them.

Because I didn’t foresee the craziness, I wasn’t well prepared and ended up with lots of continuity problems with the videos. Continuity problems? One videotaping session Rob was wearing white pants and the next session, he came in black pants. So in the final edited videos, he’s in white pants while walking out of the fitting room and in the next instant, he’s in black pants while looking for the correct rack. There’s a few more similar errors in the videos.

The cleaning the fitting room task is more dynamic and we had to move all over the store and the fitting room. Because of that, I had to do without the tripod and just held the flip video camera in my hand which resulted in some not so great clips. According to a friend, those shots looked like they were from a haunted movie! I have to agree with her and tried not to use the “haunted movie” clips.

After over 20 hours of video editing, I finally have the 2 videos ready for Rob. Unfortunately for me, Rob picked up on some of the steps during the videotaping session and he’s been demonstrating those steps during the second baseline. Since I’m evaluating the effectiveness of the videos to teach him the skill, if he picks up the skill during the videotaping session, without having the need to watch the videos, then my video intervention has just been proven useless/needless. Anyway, hopefully he does not pick up on all the steps and that he will only perform at 100% after watching the videos.

It has been a crazy applied research experience. With Daniel, apparently the task might be too difficult (or the videos were ineffective 😛 ) since he has not been able to independently complete the task after 2 months of watching the videos. But with Rob, he’s picked up some of parts of the skill even without needing to watch the videos. I guess I have just proven that the videos may not be worth all the trouble and it’s probably easier to just teach the tasks. On the bright side, both Daniel and Ron are excited to get a copy of their videos to show their family and friends. Unfortunately for them, they only get the DVDs at the end of the study.