Dietary changes and a move to Nederland, Colo., have Sandi Nypaver back on track.
A lifelong athlete and former basketball player at Lake Erie College in Ohio, it wasn’t until Sandi Nypaver went on the 2009 Impossible2Possible Baffin Island Expedition, a multi-day trek across the rugged Akshayuk Pass in Canada, with legendary Canadian ultrarunner Ray Zahab as one of her guides, that Nypaver thought about running. Inspired to see where her feet could take her, Nypaver ran the 2010 Mohican 100-miler, in Loudonville, Ohio, and won. Nypaver, then 21, continued to run strong in 2010 with first place women’s finishes at both the Iron Mountain 50-miler in Damascus, Va., and the Grindstone 100-miler in Swoope, Va.
Although she still had a few top finishes in 2011, it was mostly was filled with exhaustion and other health issues, leaving Nypaver unable to train as hard as she wanted. Recent podium finishes at the Run Through Time Marathon in Salida, Colo., where she was second in 4:04, and the Desert R.A.T.S. Double Marathon, last month, in Fruita, Colo., where she was the top female and eighth overall in 8:34, are a good indicator Nypaver, 24, is working her way back to top form.
You started having health issues last year … what was wrong?
About a year and a half ago, I realized I was tired all the time. But I was also running a lot and figured maybe I should be tired. When I finally went to the doctor, they tested my iron and discovered it was really low. I also went on an elimination diet and discovered I was allergic to gluten, which certainly explained why my stomach would bother me, especially on afternoon runs when I had eaten gluten during the day.
So dietary changes and listening to your body have helped you train better?
I’m definitely feeling a lot better now than I did at this time last year. Being gluten-free is critical for me, plus I’m also a vegetarian. To get plenty of nutrients and protein, I eat nuts, beans, veggies, fruit, quinoa, brown rice and brown rice pastas. I’ve been trying to take vitamins that runners normally get deficient in — for example, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and magnesium — and have been doing a lot of research about genetically modified organisms [aka, GMOs] and other food hormones. It has definitely motivated me to buy organic when I can. For more protein, I drink Recoverite and Vegan Protein, both from Hammer Nutrition — one of my sponsors. Everything in my diet is a slow progression to determine what works.
Now that you’re increasing your mileage, how are you maintaining your health and fitness balance?
I’m really trying to realize when to take it easy, and knew I had to rest after the Desert R.A.T.S Double Marathon, so I took a bunch of days off running. Other big changes are that I just quit my job at the Boys & Girls Club of Buena Vista, in Buena Vista, Colo., to move to Nederland, Colo., a few miles up the road from Boulder. I really want to focus on running, writing and art, and probably find a part-time job. Two important factors for me are incorporating speed work and changing my mental mindset.
Otherwise, I did shorter races over the winter, like 10K snowshoe runs and a 5-miler, and they’ve been helpful for working through some weaknesses. They certainly aren’t my best distance, but I like pushing myself at a high intensity. Although, you definitely have to brace yourself for the burst of burn.
I had some great experiences last year, but was also disappointed with my results. Now I’m working on giving myself the tools — good health and solid training — to be successful. This is time to focus on the fun and my enjoyment of running, not regrets or what-ifs. Running lets me spend time with good people and be outside. I’m enjoying life and following my heart.
What do you have scheduled for 2013?
While I have a special place in my heart for the 100-mile distance, I won’t be running 100 miles until, hopefully, the fall in order to continue to focus on some shorter distances. I want to make sure my iron levels and body are a 100 percent before I race that far. Races like the Speedgoat 50K [July 27 in Snowbird, Utah] and the new 38-mile Telluride Mountain Run [Aug. 10 in Telluride, Colo.] are great excuses for me to have tons of fun playing, exploring, and training in the mountains. [Nypaver scored a race entry by winning the race’s “Ultra Art du Mont Sneffels” contest.]
For racing, I’m not doing anything till the Cayuga Trails 50-miler [June 8 in Ithaca, N.Y.] I’m really looking forward to it because it’s allowing for a short visit home and Sage [Nypaver’s boyfriend is ultrarunner Sage Canaday] and my twin sister, Rachel Nypaver [who placed first at the Vigil Crest 100-miler in Cortland, N.Y., last September and second at the Big Foot 50K in Cambridge, Ohio, in December] will both be running it as well.
Your sister started running before you. Do you talk about your training or have similar strengths?
I remember Rachel making me get out of bed at 6 a.m. in sixth grade to run a loop before school to train for basketball. We both played college basketball together, and after our first season we ran a half marathon together. Literally together — we finished side by side. Rachel actually ran some races after that but it wasn’t until the start of our junior year in college that we both decided to really focus on running. When I decided I wanted to run 100 miles, she was the only person who believed in me and didn’t think I was nuts, plus she paced me for 30 miles at Mohican.
I think Rachel and I both have similar strengths in terms of mindset and enjoying hills. Neither of us feels as though we were born with any great athletic ability, but we are both over-determined, which really helps in ultras. We both love to read and learn new things, so naturally we talk about training and things that might help. However, we rarely share actual training plans, and instead just do our own things.