Dirt in your skirt blog

The Longest Endurance Race… Graduate School

Posted on May 12, 2016 by Margaret Schlachter


Things have been silent at Dirt in Your Skirt since January. It’s true that my attentions have been on other projects at the moment. The biggest project has been completing graduate school. For those who have followed this website since the beginning you may or may not remember me posting about fitting in workouts around graduate school. Then suddenly in 2011, the chatter stopped.


images-1In 2009, after being laid off from Stratton Mountain School, I decided to enroll at the University of Vermont in the Masters of Education Leadership Program. It seemed like a good idea and a way to advance my then career in education. Things were going along well, and I was admitted into the program and by the end of summer 2011 had only two more classes to complete my program.


THEN…Hurricane Irene Hit


In fall 2011 Hurricane Irene ravaged Vermont and left many places including my then home of Killington, Vermont a virtual island with all roads in and out of town washed out. This happened a week before my last semester of graduate school was to start. So I dropped the classes and quickly life started to take a different direction. That spring I would become a paid OCR athlete, and a couple of months after that quit my job in education to pursue racing full-time.


School got put on the backburner, and then I moved to Utah.  Since that time in 2011 my graduate program as always been in the background. For years I would tell people, “well I am almost done” or “I don’t see the point as I don’t think I will work in education again.” For years, this was my truth I lived with or at least what I told myself. But during that time, something inside of me always felt like a failure for not completing the degree and yet I knew it was stupid to feel that way.


Fall 2015… Something Happened


Last fall something happened a mental shift, a need to finish this lingering “thing” in my life. I sat and meditated on what this “thing” was and realized it was graduate school. Being “almost done” is not the same as being done. I knew deep within myself it was finally time to finish what I started back in 2009. However, at this point, the path to the finish line seemed a little murky.


I immediately began emailing my old advisor in Vermont as well as the administrator for the Education Leadership program to see what I could do and if I could finish the program after a nearly 4.5-year break. After over a dozen emails, a few pleading my case, as well as dropping every project I have worked on since leaving the program, the team in Vermont gave me a window to complete my degree.


Now finding out I could finish my program and pick up where I left off I now had to figure out how living in Utah I could complete a program in Vermont. Over the next couple of months, nearly 100 emails were exchanged between the University of Vermont (UVM) and the University of Utah to figure out how these last six credits could be completed. It was settled I would work independently on one of the required classes at UVM while in Utah and attend four classes throughout the semester in person. The other class I would take in Utah and transfer to UVM at the end of the semester.


One thing the last seven years of obstacle racing has taught me is to be persistent. During those months of trying to figure out these two classes several times I just wanted to crawl in bed and stop the whole process, but that nagging feeling of needing to finish pushed me forward.


As the beginning of the semester drew near I just put my nose to the grindstone and started to work and work and work. Quickly, I realized school had changed some since my last foray into the world and adapted to the expectations and cultures at both schools. As the weeks pressed on I would spend my days working on Mud Run Guide and my weekends working on graduate school at both the U of U and UVM. My work trips had homework time built into my travel and my social life diminished to maybe a coffee once a week with a friend.




IMG_8847Just over a week ago I walked out of my last class of my graduate school career. I was in Vermont finishing up the last two classes in person and making the commute between my parent’s house in upstate New York and Burlington, Vermont. As I walked out of my last class and to my car for the three-hour drive home, the weight of it all hit me. I would finally graduate, finish a journey started nearly seven years earlier, the only emotion I could muster were tears. They weren’t tears of joy or sadness, but just a massive release of emotions.


Next weekend, the journey will finally come to a close as I walk across the stage in what I like to describe as a “wizard suit” and receive my academic hood. When I think about that moment of walking across the stage immediately, I am overcome with emotion. No doubt the actual day will be even more emotional. It is the close of a very long journey.


I share this now, partially as an excuse as to why this site has been lacking. But also, share it because like in racing, we all have our own way to get to the finish line. Some take longer than others to reach it but in the end no matter how our journey turned out the finish line is always a feeling of sweet success, and suddenly all the stress and anguish associated with the task melts away.