Stepping Back to Step Forward

Elite Ambassador, Sandi Nypaver, opens up about the struggles she’s faced this year and how she’s come to find sometimes taking a step back is exactly what you need to move forward.

At the start of the year I was given a special opportunity to do one of my “bucket list” races, The Zegama Marathon, in the Basque Country region of Spain. This was my chance to line up with some of the best mountain runners in the world and it provided all the motivation I needed to get outside and run, even as winter weather dragged into May.

A couple of months after I learned I’d gotten this special opportunity, I received some of the worst news of my life. My beautiful and talented older sister, Amanda, was supposed to be at the last leg of some “just in case” breast cancer treatment before reconstruction surgery, when we learned that the cancer had actually spread- everywhere. Her eyesight got blurry, a vocal cord got paralyzed making it hard for her to eat and talk, and she once again started feeling weak. While there was a plan and still lots of hope, it has always been my worst nightmare for something bad to happen to one of my sisters after seeing both of my parent’s lose a piece of their heart when they had lost a sibling to cancer. I’d do anything to take away suffering for either of my sisters and knowing I couldn’t take away my sister’s metastatic cancer left me devastated.

For about two weeks I let myself cut back on training and would spontaneously start crying out of control on some runs. Then I rationalized that throwing myself into training and spending more time on the trails could be good for me. I logged some of my biggest training weeks ever. I ignored pains that came up, told myself that my tired legs would be fine with the taper and that I wasn’t enjoying the training or scenery as much as normal because of the grey skies and late spring snow.

As you may have already guessed, I had a terrible race. I’ve done tons of mental training work over the past years to become a generally positive person, but I learned there’s a dark side to positive thoughts when I use them to push myself too hard. I had used training to try to take away some of my emotional pain, but now I see that the physical stress I induced and the emotional stress was all too much for me to handle.

After the race I was mad at myself and embarrassed to be a running coach. I know very well that I’m an athlete at high risk for overtraining, but normally knowing that is enough for me to hold back just enough to push my edge without crossing over the line. I could have easily asked my partner what he thought of my training, but I stubbornly didn’t. There was one instance where he suggested it was time I scale back, but all I thought was I coached myself to some successful performances on my own and I didn’t need the input. I was blinded by my own pain.

Right after the race I flew to see Amanda, forcing myself to slow down so I could just rest with her and enjoy our time together. It was during this time I forgave myself for what I put my body through and remembered I was damn good coach with countless success stories, in part because my own experiences allow me to see the athletes I coach as whole people, not just as runners.

Instead of being like a kid in a candy store, bagging summits left and right, I’ve taken the first part of the summer to reset and let myself heal by moving slow, often only enjoying the summits from down below. Slowly I’m starting to feel the strength in my stride and the hunger for big mountain adventures coming back.

While I’m admittedly still getting more stressed than normal by obligations popping up left and right, I’m dealing with them better- even finding some gratitude for them, and allowing myself to shorten up a run to get other things done when needed. It’s taking longer to get back on track than originally anticipated, but even now I can see the beauty in the journey once again and how I can use my new knowledge to create a better present and future.

On a final note, I’m incredibly grateful I can end this with a bit of good news. Amanda’s eyesight has improved as well as her voice and the last scan showed that while there was no drastic improvement, the current cancer drug has seemed to help. Any love sent her way is still greatly welcomed and in turn I promise to send my love to anyone who needs it right now.

To follow along with Sandi’s journey, check out her Instagram and YouTube:

https://www.instagram.com/sandinypaver/

https://www.youtube.com/user/RunningWild2Believe