Mazama part-time resident Heidi Durham and Jessie Diggins — the first ever American to win an Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing in 2018 — have many things in common.
They both grew up in Minnesota. They both participated in competitive sports from an early age — Heidi in soccer and Jessie in cross-country skiing. They both have the inner drive to push themselves in adrenaline-filled adventures: Heidi in mountain biking, trail running and alpine climbing; Jessie in cliff jumping, bungee jumping and skydiving.
Heidi pursued her sport to the collegiate level, earning a full scholarship to Duke University playing on its soccer team. Jessie deferred her scholarship to spend a year racing on an elite team and found that being a professional athlete was her dream job. Fiercely competitive, Heidi and Jessie both do what they do with a luminously joyful spirit.
Heidi has looked to Jessie as an inspiration in her newfound push to be the best she can be in cross country skiing, a sport that is fairly new to her; at least, in its competitive form. She had never competed in any kind of loppet, in cross-country parlance. She decided to train for the Methow Trails Ski to the Sun Marathon & Relay, which took place on Saturday (Feb. 8), and has spent the last couple of months learning everything she could from the buffet of helpful experts in the valley.
Her partner Leslie Garrard described Heidi’s plan to compete as more than about the race. “It was a whole life and wellness experience,” Leslie explains, “to include nutrition, hydration, gym, rest and recovery.”
The most important takeaway Heidi shares from her training is how helpful and supportive so many people in the valley have been with her journey. First, she participated in the Methow Valley Nordic Ski Camp for adults at Sun Mountain Lodge in December. There she learned from top-level instructors that she had picked up some less-than-proper techniques in the few times a year she had skied in the past. She credits Tulie, Sam and Grace with giving her useful tips to perfect her technique.
Then, gear, oh, gear! Heidi realized hers was “very tired.” Off she went to Winthrop Mountain Sports to glean from owner Rita what she could do to upgrade her equipment as well as learn about the science of waxing her skis from Brenden. Rita said, “You are an athlete. New equipment will raise you into a different stratosphere.” Heidi headed out the door with her new skis, boots and poles and Rita’s advice, “You’ve got this race!”
With her intense competitive spirit kicking in, Heidi learned everything she could through studying, observing, questioning and taking lessons. She visualized the takeaways from each coach: from Methow Valley Ski School — John for his explosive energy and knowledge base to conquer hill-climbing and Grace for her light hop, hop, hop crushing hills and from her Sun Mountain ski instructor Tulie for her encouragement to have a quieter body.
Then came the grind mode: Heidi’s deliberate practice on segments of the course and the course in its entirety, keeping a diary, looking at times and mile splits. Seeing progress and minutes shaved off miles elicited excitement.
Not having experienced a “flow state” in a long time, Heidi is psyched with being entirely absorbed in her skiing, the snow and the beauty around her. Out on the course, she is hyper-focused; thinking of nothing except the pure joy the sport brings her body, heart, and mind. Her inspiration — Jessie Diggins — would be super proud of her.
After interviewing Heidi before race day, my husband and I went to the finish line of the race last Saturday. Heidi came in smiling 15 minutes under her target goal.
She spoke with enthusiasm about the beautiful day, cheerful people at the support stations, being in the flow, thinking about Jessie, and saying out loud, “You got this, Heidi!”
Heidi’s partner Leslie was waiting at the final turn and seeing her gave Heidi an emotional burst up the last hill. They are both so appreciative of the amazing people in the valley who helped Heidi achieve her goal. They look forward to becoming an integral part of the community that they love.
Of note: The Hardy Girls relay team (Dee, Midge, Cheryl, Heather and Boo) won the female relay team division. Congrats to them!
Valentine’s Day reminders: Open Mic at Methow Valley Ciderhouse with Edelweiss resident Jerome Bowler hosting on Friday (Feb. 14). Soy Luscious Valentine’s Sale on Intertwined Design website — Made in Mazama clothing.