Heidi Caldwell comes from a family of Olympic cross-country skiers, but this Vermont native struck out on her own athletically, excelling at track in high school and then at Brown University. Now embracing her role of Running Director at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Heidi is headed to Atlanta this weekend for the marathon Olympic trials.
Atlanta is right around the corner and you’re taking the somewhat atypical approach by coming from winter here in Vermont. We love it! What have you been doing to prepare for this race?
For this training cycle I’ve been experimenting with a hearty mix of running and cross country skiing. While it varied a bit week to week depending on snow and road conditions, I generally focused on getting one long workout and one long run in on foot every week, with a lot of my recovery days on skis. At first I was a bit wary of marathon training through a Vermont winter, but I think the time on skis has kept my body feeling fresh and injury-free. I also tried doing some brick workouts — stacking a long ski on a long run or vice versa. It’s been a great way to boost training hours while maintaining a manageable mileage.
Besides incredible scenery here in the Green Mountains, are there any advantages over the competition coming from this neck of the woods?
Hills hills hills! The Trials course has almost 1400’ of elevation gain, which is a lot for a road marathon. You can’t go for a non-hilly run up here in Craftsbury. The rolling hills in Atlanta will make me feel right at home!
Speaking of which, you’re the Running Director at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. This is often thought of as adult play camp for endurance athletes. How are you enjoying the job and how’s the balance of work and play?
I absolutely love my job. I feel so lucky to get to work with people of all ages and athletic experience, in both running and skiing. Being able to facilitate people setting goals and achieving goals, or just getting outside and moving more is so rewarding. Like you said, we’re all living and working in the endurance athlete’s playground! Outdoor playtime is definitely a perk of the job. It can be busy, so it’s been important for me to be flexible with my training schedule. For example, every weekend in January I was busy either leading a ski camp or helping organize a ski race. Event days are long and difficult to fit training in, but you can sandwich those busy low training days with high training days.
Endurance sports are in your family genes. How has the mix of cross-country skiing and running been part of your history to bring you to this point?
I ran cross country and ski raced through high school before deciding to focus on running in college. It’s been fun working at the Outdoor Center and getting back to my skiing roots! My family has always loved getting outside and being active. We spent our weekends hiking or skiing throughout my childhood, and we still do now on family vacations. I think this is a huge part of why I continue to love endurance training — it’s all rooted in my love for outdoor adventuring.
Have you experienced the Olympic Trials before? What would you consider a success coming out of this weekend?
This is my first Olympic Trials! My big goal was to get to the starting line feeling fit and healthy so I could enjoy the experience to the fullest. I want to race this race like a race, not a time trial — spend less time looking at my splits and more time trying to run down as many people as I can in this speedy field!
That’s an incredible perspective and wish you the very best. Lastly, we’re curious how do you fuel your training and races and if you have any particular philosophies on nutrition?
The more the better, the simpler the better! As a native Vermonter who digs whole foods, I’m a huge UnTapped fan… naturally. The maple syrup packets, particularly the Coffee UnTapped, have given me the motivation to get out the door on many a cold workout day. I am also obsessed with the new Salted Raspberry UnTapped packets — they bring me so much joy when I’m hitting the wall on long skis! And, of course, the Ginger Mapleaid is just straight-up amazing in any situation.
Thanks so much for the time Heidi. We wish you nothing but speedy legs and an amazing race this weekend.