Elite Athlete Sandi Nypaver is back to racing at the Black Canyon 100k this weekend. Those who have followed her closely, know that she’s coming off of a tough year personally, and also overcoming a chronic achilles injury. We caught up with Sandi to learn more about her training block going into the race, her race goals, and her mindset strategy.
You’re racing after a very long time – excited & anxious? What are the emotions like in these days leading up to the race!?
A wide range of emotions have certainly come up. There has been plenty of moments this week where I’ve doubted myself, however, I’ve turned negative thoughts into my cue to focus on what I’m grateful for or to tell myself something positive. No bad thought comes to me without it being followed up by a positive thought that serves me better. So while I’ve been feeling a bit of everything, my thoughts and emotions always end on a positive note.
2020 has been an impactful year the World over. You’ve spoke about how it was personally difficult for you, losing a loved one. You are also a big proponent of mental fitness & mindset training. How have you coped with everything that happened, gotten over your long-term achillies injury, and gotten into great shape to make a come back to racing, that too at the 100k distance!? What are some mindset training methods that have worked for you?
I’ll start off by saying that I’m still coping with losing my sister, Amanda, but as she wisely said “life is beautiful even when it isn’t.”
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, I decided life happened for me, not to me. I also learned about neuroplasticity, which helped to realize that I had the power to change how my mind worked. It took some difficult lessons to learn this, but I’m constantly choosing how I want to think. In regards to my Achilles, I used to think “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” Then I realized it was a challenge that I could rise to. I love the challenge of racing, but you know what, staying positive and believing in myself while dealing with a chronic injury proved to be a much better challenge. I’m a better person and a better coach for it. While I can’t predict how the 100k is going to go, I do know it’s not going to be nearly as challenging as other things I’ve been through.
Has this training block been different from previous training leading up to races? What changes have you made and what have some of your key workouts been?
The biggest change for me has actually been running more on roads and multi-use paths. I’m used to doing mountain races or very hilly trail races. While there’s still a decent amount of elevation change in this race, it’s a lot less than I’m used to so I needed to get better at being more efficient on flatter terrain. Key workouts were long runs at a moderate effort and Tempo to 10k Intervals, often ranging from 5 to 10 minutes.
How important is strength & mobility, and how do you incorporate it in your training?
Strength training can be incredibly important for staying strong at the end of the races. I think it’s part of the reason I had some good races even with an Achilles injury. As for mobility, it used to never cross my mind. Why do mobility exercises when I could be building strength? How wrong my thinking was! Now I know proper mobility can allow me to use my muscles more effectively so that it’s easier to get stronger (or stay strong) and that it’s crucial for keeping me moving well. I do a little mobility before every run and I typically have two heavier strength days per week with some easier core work thrown in between. Shout out to my strength coach Kevin Purvis for helping me a ton this past year!
A couple of weeks ago you were unsure about going ahead with the race. What was the decisive factor?
4 weeks ago I was definitely leaning towards not doing Black Canyon. I was in an odd situation where I wasn’t experiencing any pain, but I felt like I couldn’t get my legs to work the same way and it was making me a less efficient runner. I didn’t want to run a 100k feeling like that. Out of desperation, I got a gait analysis done on a treadmill that had a force plate. A force plate can show a few things, including how a person is landing on their feet and where the most pressure is applied. On my left foot, the side I had a long term Achilles issues with, I was landing hard on my forefoot and not using my heel at all. On my right foot, I was landing closer to my heel. Thinking about using my feet the same way immediately helped me significantly. I’m far from perfect, but it put me in a position that gave me a reason to believe that I could run a 100k.
Talk to us about your nutrition plan for the race. What did you practice with during training and how have you planned fuel intake for the race?
Black Canyon is a Golden Ticket race. Is that one of the goals, going into this?
That is the goal. I first ran Western States 100 in 2011 after winning a “ticket” (back then it was the Montrail Cup). I’m normally not one to count the years, but I thought it would be cool to come back to the race 10 years later. My life has changed drastically in those 10 years. I feel like a different person, but that love for running and being outside is as strong as ever. With that said, if it doesn’t happen, the past 10 years have taught me that I’m more than running and the goals I dream up. I can choose to be happy no matter the outcome.
You are one of the head coaches at Higher Running. Are any of your athletes racing Black Canyon? What is the core training philosophy at Higher Running?
Unfortunately, the one athlete I originally had running wasn’t able to make it, though my sister does have an athlete that she coaches running the race. I try and limit the athletes I coach 1 on 1. That way I can truly offer a high-level, personalized coaching experience, so I don’t always get to meet the athletes I coach at races. However, I usually get to meet many people who’ve bought a pre-made made training plan, which is always a wonderful experience.
The core training philosophy is to try and see people for all that they are, to ask the right questions and then listen, and then to apply the best science in a way that’s going to be effective for that person. I’m all for getting runners to be at their highest running potential come race day, but I’m also a huge believer in using running as a tool to make the rest of someone’s life better.
Its only February. What are some other races you’ve planned for 2021?
It all depends on how Black Canyon goes. If I get the ticket, I’ll most likely run Western States 100 (if it even happens). If that doesn’t work out, I have no idea what I’ll do, but I’m sure it will be a good adventure.