My mind is overflowing with excitement and gratitude. The last month has been a whirlwind and I am coming out on the other side of some amazing accomplishments. In the last week I have become both a PhD candidate and a certified mountain bike instructor. Amazing!
The last two months I have been crunching away and studying for my qualifying exam. For those of you who don’t know (meaning most people) a qualifying exam is the barrier between being a PhD student and a PhD candidate. Each school and department does things a little bit differently. For my department (Botany and Plant Pathology at OSU) we have to write a 20-page research proposal that is NOT our dissertation topic and complete a 2-hour oral exam. The oral exam can cover questions on anything that your committee thinks that you should know from previous classes, experiences, etc. to continue in your field of study. It was terrifying. However, I still needed to get out and have some fun.
And I did! Zamora was able to come down to participate in this year’s Mudslinger with me. The Mudslinger is always my favorite season opener. My riding style has changed a bit, but I couldn’t resist chasing Zamora around for 22 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing. Of course, I wanted to have the maximum amount of fun so I rocked it on the Megatrail. Perhaps the Megatrail wasn’t built with this course in mind, but I have to say, it did really well! It left me with a smile on my face the whole time! I had stopped early on in the race to help a group of people with flats. After that, I put down the suffer trying to catch up to Zamora. I kept hearing updates about where my pump was the entire race, but I never did catch Zamora. She was like a hallucination in the distance. Her bright jersey made it so I could see her most of the race but she gained a good 3 minutes on me by the end of the race. After destroying the Sport class last year (haha), we both decided to race as Expert this year. We came in 4th and 5th out of 7. There was a good 20 minutes between me and the first place winner. Good goals for next year!
And just to keep things interesting, the weekend before my oral exam I went out to the Cascadia Dirt Cup She Spoke pre-ride in Hood River. Because why not? Michelle said it was a good idea! It is important to have a group that makes sure you have fun at even the most stressful times. It did not disappoint. An amazing group of women came out! The weather was perfect! The Dirty Harlots did such an amazing job of showing us around. I finally got a good tour of the Post Canyon trails. Before the pre-ride, I had only played around in skills area. There were some pretty amazing trails. There were some nice chunky rock drops that I rode into blind on a less-than-amazing line (so that is what everyone was checking out before riding). I did a front wheel land on a mandatory drop (totally did that on purpose to add style) and got to practice lots of tight berms. And did I mention the awesome group of ladies? Seriously awesome.
And then the qualifying exam! I just kept imagining it like a drop at Black Rock that I had recently ridden for the first time. I had the skills, but it looked scary as hell riding into it. That is exactly what the oral exam was like. Except it felt like an awkward landing that I managed to ride out. The entire exam felt pretty unpleasant and uncomfortable. The entire time, I felt confused and was trying to figure out how best to showcase my knowledge while decoding what I was being asked. I just kept moving forward. After the exam, I was asked to leave the room and I sat outside for what seemed like an eternity while my committee discussed the end result. And after that 5-minute eternity, I was invited back in and was told that I passed! So stoked! I certainly could have done better, but I am so happy to have this behind me. So I move forward. The reality of actually having a PhD some day is starting to sink in. Crazy times.
To celebrate (one way or the other) I had signed myself up for a PMBIA training class the weekend after the exam. To make things even better, Kerstin was able to sign up at the last minute. Kerstin and I completed their Level 1 certification, which gives you the tools to teach beginning to intermediate mountain bikers. I decided to sign up for certification though PMBIA for two main reasons: 1. I wanted to go through a different training than Michelle had completed to allow for diversity in our instruction. 2. I was impressed by their organization and set up, which closely follows instructor certification in the ski and snowboard industry. In person, I was even more impressed with the program. I may have spent the whole weekend overloaded with information and a little worried that I wasn’t gonna hack it, but it was so worth it. I feel that it gave me a lot of new tools to use in my own riding and in teaching. I really loved their expectation that instructors should always be looking for ways to improve and learn more about riding and teaching. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get certified and would be happy to chat about more (see contact tab for our email). It was a little hard to spend the weekend in Bend and not be able to ride Funner, but somehow we survived.
And now summer is almost upon us and the adventures are rolling in. I’m excited about this season and can’t wait to do a lot of riding and a little racing. We are planning some end of the season events (a skills clinic in Newport and a Women’s Weekend of shredding), so keep an eye out for those! Until then, I’m going to be analyzing a bunch of fungal RNAseq data and riding as much as possible.