Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heaven on Earth: The San Juan Mountains (and T-Rad!)

Beautiful, yet brutal. That’s the San Juans. That’s the Telluride Mountain Run course.

Actually beautiful is an understatement. I’ll try again.

Heaven. That’s more fitting. As I ran the part of the TMR course, past thousands of wildflowers, a few waterfalls, and breathtaking views I kept on thinking “This is what Heaven must look like.”

Heavenly views do come with a price. The San Juans can put your legs and lungs through hell- at least if you’re attempting to run.

Pictures never do anything justice.

I first encountered the majesty of the San Juan Mountains not quite a year ago when I went down to pace someone at Hardrock. At the time I was living just about at the base of the Sawatch Range and thought the mountains there were great. I didn’t realize the San Juans could be so different. I didn’t know certain mountains could call certain people so deeply. While I had found beauty in other mountain ranges, the beauty of the San Juans captured my heart, almost like a person finding “the one”. When I’m in the San Juans I feel perfectly at home. When I’m away from them I’m often day dreaming about them and thinking of when I can go back. That’s the effect of the heavenly San Juans.

Why don’t I just go and move to one of the towns in the San Juans*? If you’ve been to any of the towns you already know the answer… they’re remote!  There are no major cities or airports anywhere close (Denver is about 7 hours away from Telluride). While there are small airports within a couple hours of driving, they’re of course quite pricey. Perhaps the remoteness is part of the allure of the San Juans. 

The small towns residing in the mountain range are all similar in that it seems like the mountains engulf the towns, yet are very different in character. For example, Silverton is a town for those who can stay tough in winter and enjoy simplicity. The town seems to have held on to the past and you won’t find anyone showing off their cash by unnecessarily large mansions. The only roads going in Silverton are also ridiculous (only drive on the Million Dollar HWY with someone you trust). Then there’s Ouray that’s been dubbed “Little Switzerland”. The town views are quite different than the ones from Silverton or Telluride with its rockier appearance. It is not a good place to eat if you are a vegetarian and eat gluten-free. Then there’s Telluride. It’s a ski town, and I am not a skier, but it’s got a vibe I really enjoy. There are quite a few mansions around but then there are plenty of people like me there who are just trying to get by so they can enjoy the mountains. The town bursts with creativity from musicians to painters which makes the town buzz with energy.(Those are the only 3 towns I’ve been to and thus are the only ones I can talk about)

Rachel in Silverton

Sage checking out a view of Telluride from the gondola.
The towns aren’t far apart in distance but it can take a while driving to each one because there are no roads to easily connect them.
*Sage and I actually might sublet an apartment there for a few months but I won't write about that unless it happens

For those running the Telluride Mountain Run aka T-RAD….

Sage and I ran about 60% of the course and here is a very brief summary:

It will be the hardest 38 mile race you have ever run!

Okay, it’s most likely the only 38 mile race you will have run, but you’re going to finish the race feeling like you ran 50 miles or even a 100k.

The climbs will leave your lungs burning and the descents will tear up your quads. Seriously- the first climb was so long that the descending from the top of the pass back down to town seemed to be never ending.

As I said before, the mountain views are heavenly. However, you’ll also get to see some evidence of the mining that used to take place in Telluride. It’s pretty amazing that so many people worked 8-12 hour days above tree line. I’m in awe (you will be to once you see the roads the traveled up) of how they even got the materials up there to make buildings- even a school.

That’s all I’ll say for now though as it will just be best to see it and run it yourself!

A video from some of the trails will be up within a week.

Run Wild, Run Happy,


Friday, June 28, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some pics I meant to share earlier but forgot :)


Marie, Rach, and Pacer

Never grow up 


New Hampshire's Mountains

That person driving annoyingly slow in front of you...

Today my thoughts revolved on how hard people can be on each other. More specifically, how hard people (including myself at times) can be on each other for silly things and without knowing what is happening in the other person’s life.

Here’s a short story that helped change how I see things. (This is summarizing a story I read a few years ago from my favorite columnist, Connie Schultz)

A woman was driving her friend who had cancer back home from a chemo session. This particular chemo session left her friend terribly sick. The bumps, turns, and hills from the drive were causing her friend to become sicker and so she started driving very slowly in hopes of not making the chemo symptoms worse.

The following week the woman was driving her friend to a chemo session and they were running late. To make up time the woman was trying to drive fast. She got stuck behind a car that was going slow and became frustrated with the driver of the slow car. Her friend with cancer put her hand on top of hers and said “We don’t know why they are driving slow, do we?”

Most of us aren’t mind readers. We don’t know what’s going on with the people around us. Maybe we (again, this includes me too) should all try to consider the possibilities of what could be going on in the lives of people around us before we get mad at them.

Run Wild, Run Happy,


Check out, and please “like”, my new Facebook page for I Believe Art:

Also, I added two new tabs to my blog. In the Towns tab you can find places and trails I have explored and maybe get some helpful info if you ever plan on going to one of the places. For my Most Popular Posts tab you can check out my most read blog posts.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

If I Go Broke

A while ago I read a book where the author stated something that made me think. I don’t remember her words exactly but it went something like this….

 “Many people wish and pray for things and then are presented with the opportunity to get what they want. However they don’t take it because they aren’t getting it in the way they imagined."

(Seems a little silly to pray, have the chance to get what you prayed for and then not take it, right?)

I have recently been presented with this situation.

My biggest passions are running and exploring new places. Perhaps I should just say “passion” (singular) because I absolutely love combining those two things. I have wished and prayed to be able to do that more for a long time.

I have already been extremely lucky in that regard this year by visiting Washington, Moab, Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, and Boston. Traveling to and running in these places has confirmed even more that it is what I love to do.

Now, I really need to get a job and it has been A LOT harder than I thought. Perhaps I limit myself because it seems like there are tons of jobs open in the food and retail industry but I don’t apply for them because I know I would be miserable (for multiple reasons). After coming back from the East side of the U.S., my plan was to put all my focus on finding a job.

Then, for my 25th birthday, Sage proposed a long road trip. We would end at his home in Oregon but check out the Speedgoat 50k course, Boise, Idaho, and Bend, Oregon along the way. Of course I wanted to go! The past few years I have treated my birthday like a normal day and that was okay. But I realized the other day that maybe it’s okay to celebrate being alive and turning a quarter of a century old. I made it this far, and every year I seem to be a little happier and wiser. I shouldn’t feel like it’s wrong to celebrate myself for one day. Thus, I could not think of a better way to celebrate (unless of course my twin could be with me)!

Then it hit me. I shouldn’t go! Going would be silly. “I need to suck it up and get a job.” “Sacrifices have to be made in life.”

Then I remembered the words from the author above. I have wished and prayed to be able to run and travel to new places for so long. Maybe the silly thing to do would be passing it up. I’d be happy on the trip and unhappy if I didn’t go. Sure, people will think I need to “grow up” and be more realistic, but that’s okay. Plus, do I really do any good to anyone being unhappy? The past few years have taught me to believe that things happen for a reason and that things will work out. And honestly, for only turning 25, I feel like I have already done plenty of sacrificing and sucking it up.

In the words of my wise friend Star:

“We are who we are, Sandi, and we don't owe anyone any explanations, excuses or rationalizations. Each of us, in our own lives, has to figure out what it is we need to do to live more fully into the people we were created to be. It isn't always easy, and the world at large often has plenty to say about it, but we always know the answers in our hearts. And if we aren't following our hearts, then what are we doing with the blessing of our lives?”

With that said, I leave on Wednesday for a great adventure. I will dedicate a part of each day to looking and applying for jobs and hope for the best. Things will work out. I truly believe that (even when I’m completely worried).

So I might go completely broke for a bit, but at least I’ll go broke doing what I love.

For everyone who voted on my Flora ad: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! 
I made it to the top 10 and submitted my final ad to be judged by Flora. While I realize my chances of winning are small, I'm really grateful for your help and making it this far. I spent hours researching Photoshop and Indesign for my final submission to Flora, so if anything at least I tried my best and learned a little along the way. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Three Years of Adventure

             Three years ago I ran my first 100 miler trail race. I didn’t run a shorter race before that. I just knew I had to do it and that I could do it. I ended up winning and placed 4th overall with a new found hunger to run trails everywhere I could.

3 years ago at the Mohican 100
                A year after I ran my first 100 miler I headed West, quitting a job that other recent college grads fought for. I needed to be outside among the trees and mountains for wherever those things were, I could find a place to call home. I ended up buying a tent and went on a 6 week solo camping trip from the Colorado Rockies to the California coast. That adventure has ended up setting the tone for my life.

                During the past two years I have had adventures consisting of light hearted mountain runs with good friends to moments where I’ve been reduced to tears because I was lonely, lost, tired, and cold. Though I have found a home in my adventures and the beauty that only the wilderness can offer, there are also times I have been reminded of its deadly dangers. When I first started trail running I wrote “my feet are my wings that set me free, taking me places I have always wanted to be.” Little did I know what other places my feet had yet to take me.

CDT Fun Run
                I’ve had to replace a shower with a swim in the cool waters of Lake Tahoe to get clean from my morning run. I watched a bear sprint across my path, 15 feet away from me, as I ran down a mountain. The bear had startled me but it was much better than the bear that circled my tent at night a few days before. Then there were the times that I got away with things that only a girl traveling solo could get away with. That’s when a smile really comes in handy.

                Though I’m a girl who loves trees, I’ve also had my mind calmed by the solitude that only a vast desert can seem to offer. Unless that desert is home to rattlesnakes and I trip and fall into a cactus, then it’s not so calming. But then my eyes land on arches made of sand and rocks from a time period that awes my mind and the wonders of the desert pull me in once again.

                In great contrast to the desert are the forests of the Northwest. There my hunger for trees and thick plant life is satisfied as the canopy of trees I run under keeps the forest dark and cool. The light mist of rain kept me cool during my run but left me shivering when I stopped. The seemingly thick air filled my lungs to let my legs fly beneath me. Then the trails meet the ocean and I find my feet stopping to fully take in the views.

                Most recently I have been reminded of the hidden beauties of the East. Though no mountain there even comes close to the elevation of 8,500 feet I currently live at, the views are no less beautiful. For three miles I ran up a gorge, appreciating each layer of the waterfall that is surrounded by trees which hid its beauty to those who didn’t make the climb. As I ran again on the first trails I have ever ran on, I splashed in the mud happy to get dirty in nature’s playground.

                Then there are the mountains where I have set up a home base. Though I’ve ran thousands of miles of trail in the Colorado Rockies, I still have only explored a small part of its beauties. It’s in this land I started my first big adventure by climbing five 14er’s in a week. On one of those 14er’s I got lost and followed a marmot back to the trail. I learned to love my quickened heart beat as I made my way towards the sky and the rush of adrenaline as I see how fast I can run down on the unstable rocks. My joy of mountains once led me to climbing three 14er’s in a day, a day after a race. The creek at the bottom of the trail provided a nice ice bath to my tired legs.

On top of my first 14er two years ago
                As much as I love the solitude of running alone in wilderness, life is meaningless without others, so perhaps that’s why my fondest memories are when I’m not alone. For one week I lived in a dream as my twin sister, Rachel, joined me in my mountain explorations. We would run after breakfast on trails that left us speechless, sometimes because of the thin air, but mainly due to the views. Then the day was filled with tasty healthy foods, coffee shops, reading, and more exploring. On this trip we took the long way up a 14er and the clouds opened up just for a minute so we could appreciate its beauty. We then went back down so we could run a marathon the next day.

Rachel on Mt. Handies

                Then there was the time my friends and I started a run that would last most of the day in a snowstorm on the continental divide. We laughed like kids as we made our footprints in the land above the trees and then worked together to pull out porcupine needles from a dog, our beloved trail friend. It’s at times like this where I’m reminded happiness is as simple as good friends and a trail.

                Some days running comes easy. Running up a mountain doesn’t seem so hard. Other days I start running and feel like I have already run for hours. Yet each day on a trail I get reminded how blessed I am to be able to experience so much beauty. Sometimes the beauty comes from my mind, when it allows me to keep on pushing when breathing gets hard. Other days the beauty can come from a moose or mountain goat crossing the trail. The beauty sometimes comes from my running partner’s smile. As an athlete I realize the joy that can come from a great race, but as a person I realize the joy I get from the beauty in training for races. My trail running adventures, the joyous adventures and the ones I get lost, have helped my body get stronger and my mind find peace. The climb can get tough, but the view is worth it.

The smile from a running partner...

Run Wild, Run Happy

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ohio is for Runners (Video and Pics)

              Two years ago I left the greenery and flowers of Ohio for the mountains of Colorado. When I left Ohio, part of me was running hard, away from things that left me unhappy. Another part of me was holding on to beautiful Ohio trails, trails that made me find a little bit of a place I could call home in Ohio.

           The trails roll on for miles. Some go past waterfalls, some fields of flowers, others run right through creeks. I have even passed a turtle walking down the trail and a coyote in the early morning fog.

            Some people may say the trails aren't hard enough in Ohio. Those people haven't run up and down some of the trails continuous hills at the end of a long run. Nor have they experienced the summer's hot weather mixed with high humidity or the mud that leaves your muscles aching in the spring. For some, those things may seem unpleasant, but the local runners welcome the conditions with open arms (unless the mud or snow stays a little too long).

           Then there is the running community itself. Do a few trail races and soon you'll know most of Ohio's trail runners. It's not that there are few trail runners, it's that everyone loves to get together for races. I miss the group runs of familiar faces. On special group runs, there could even be over a 100 people. Ohio even has some great talent, from people winning marathons, ultras, and some even previously possessed American and world records. I should also had that the local running store(s), Vertical Runner, has made itself almost the heart of the running community from it's presence all over the Ohio trail and ultra scene. It's just as much a place to meet other runners as it is a running store. I'm extremely excited that this July Vertical Runner will have it's first non-Ohio store not too far away from me in Breckenridge, CO!

           It was great to run a little bit of the trails where I found my first home. Best of all, I got to be accompanied by Rachel and Sage. Happiness at it's best.

           Here are some picks of the Plateau Trail. Admittedly, it's not the most scenic Ohio trail but I really needed an easy run. However, below the pictures is a video of Pine Lane, a trail that I really miss out here in Colorado.

Hanging out at Vertical Runner after a run.

Video of Pine Lane featuring Pacer (aka Supergirl) and my twin, Rachel Nypaver

More posts to come this week!

Run Wild, Run Happy

Monday, June 10, 2013

Behind the Run: Cayuga Trails 50

8:48:37,  2nd Place

For most people, that’s the only thing they will know about my race at Cayuga Trails 50 miler this past Saturday.

As I ran I thought about what my situation was going into the race and as I saw other runners I started thinking about what their past week(s) were like.

Did someone lose their job? Was someone running while sick? Did someone have a 60 hour work week? Was someone’s personal life a wreck?

The possibilities were endless.

I realized some people came into the race under much worse circumstances than I and so on I ran, far past the 25 miles I planned on stopping at.

Three weeks ago I secretly contemplated not starting the race. My recent blood tests came back showing my iron was lower than ever even after taking an iron pill 3 times a day while doing other recommended things to get my iron up. As I talked to my doctor she explained to me that in order to be at my best, my iron should be 3x higher than what it was. There was also a high chance I was deficient in other main minerals and vitamins. Since I had unsuccessfully been trying to get my iron back up for well over a year and I was tired with being tired, my doctor sent to a hematologist and gastroenterologist.

All of this led me to having an upper and lower endoscopy a few days before the race. The day before I couldn’t eat and had to take some not so wonderful medicine. I went to the hospital hungry, thirsty, and worrying about the race. As I waited to be given anesthesia I watched my pulse go from the low 40s to mid-80s as I thought about running.

The procedure was done quickly and I was still too drugged up to listen to the doctor as he talked to me. Sage later told me that nothing was serious but the doctor did say my stomach was red and irritated and some abnormal mucus was found, and so he did a biopsy to see what was causing it (results not yet in).
Still happily in La La Land.
Soon after this I asked Sage the same question 3 times.
After the procedure was over all I wanted to do was sleep, but I thought the worst was over. Then I started puking in a random person’s bushes right before I had to get a shot in my butt. I thought it was funny for a moment, and then I puked again.

The next morning I woke up at 4am and boarded a plane to Cleveland with what felt like the worst hangover ever. I said a small prayer not to puke on the plane.

Race morning I woke up and wanted to go right back to bed. I couldn’t shake off my “foggy brain”, similar to many days this past year, and knew it was going to be a rough day. Thankfully, I had Rachel and Sage, the loves of my life, with me at the starting line.

Asking how Rach and Sage were doing.
The race began with Sage leading everyone the wrong way but was otherwise uneventful. As the runners ran up a beautiful gorge I slipped into third place and remained that way for most of the first 25 miles. Around mile 20 I felt a slight burning inside my throat and chest. Apparently the part of my insides that had a camera shoved down it didn’t appreciate me racing. I was already exhausted and knew my situation wasn’t about to get better so I decided I would call it a day at 25 for a decent long run.


I entered the 25 mile aid station and my plan was ruined thanks to the volunteers, supporters, and my sister’s boyfriend, Steve Hawthorne (who amazing crewed for Rach, Sage, and I all day). They didn’t even let me get the words out that I wanted to stop. They just cheered, got me what I needed, and then sent me on my way. Pretty rude, right?

As I ran out of the turnaround I saw how close the rest of the women were to me. First place, Kristina Marie Folcik, was already way ahead. I was actually pretty stoked from Kristina as I knew she was an extremely underrated runner (unless you’ve raced her or talked to people who have) and it was about time more runners who race mainly on the east side of the U.S. get some respect. The rest of the women behind me were alarmingly close. I still wasn’t sure if it was smart for me to keep going, but a big climb was ahead along a stunning waterfall and I knew I had to at least get up that. I know climbing is one of my strengths so I ran just about every step, stairs and all.

One layer of the waterfall. 

From there everything is a blur of fatigue, discomfort, and mud until about mile 38. It was around that time I ran the scariest couple of miles of my life. Out of nowhere I had a sharp pain right above my heart. I’ve never had a pain there before and I wasn’t sure if it was my heart or a muscle causing the shooting pain. I quickly thought of the runner’s I’ve heard of who have passed away during a race and immediately thought of Rachel and Sage. It seems completely ridiculous now, but at that moment I was terrified. I didn’t want to stop so far away from an aid station, so I slowed my pace and focused on my breathing. Finally, about a mile away from the next aid station the pain dulled and I knew I’d be okay to finish.

(After doing some research it looks like I had a bad chest cramp or pulled the muscle over my heart. The spot is still a little sore and a light bruise on my chest reminds me this wasn’t just in my head)

Almost every step of the second 25 miles I had to talk myself through. My mantras changed as I needed them from “light and strong” to words to help me on climbs. Towards the end of the race, when I could no longer muster my usual smile for aid station volunteers, a man told me to just “keep it together” and those words followed me to the finish.

I crossed the finished line with a kiss from Sage and extremely grateful to have finished at all, let alone in second. I lay on the ground, finally letting my soar insides relax. The weeks before the race I said a lot of prayers, attempted some meditation, and even asked others to send me some positive vibes to get me through. I have never believed in the power of those things so much, as I know they carried me across the finish line.

Soon after, my world seemed complete as I had both Rachel and Sage by my side.
       (Rach finished 7th after taking it “easy” so she’d be set for her 100 miler in a couple weeks)

Happy to be back on the trail with Rachel again.

                This week I’m happy to rest in Ohio with my family before Sage and I head to New Hampshire so he can race up Mt. Washington. This is the currently the bright side of not being able to find a job in Colorado. As far as my health goes, it can take more than three months from now to get my iron back up where it should be, but it only takes 3 weeks to make new red blood cells which can help me get some energy back. I’ve been trying to get back to optimal health for so long now it’s challenging to believe it will be different this time. Yet, as I again think about the runners who had more challenging days before the race than I, the will to believe and run on fill my heart.

Run Wild & Believe,


P.S. When I was a kid a teacher told me that if I always gave a small portion of the money I made to someone who needs it I would never be completely broke. Though I've come close to broke, this has always held true for me. Since I did win a little money from the race I was planning on giving a little bit to a women's cause (human trafficking, abuse, equality, etc) charity BUT if you have a great cause that needs a little money let me know!

Friday, June 7, 2013

If the Stars Align

         Tomorrow I still be at the starting line for the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 mile race with some amazing runners from all over the United States, including my twin sister Rachel and my boyfriend Sage. However, I'm not sure how much I'll go past the starting line, but I will start with the intentions of being smart. Smart might mean running a smart race or it might mean smart by saying I shouldn't be putting my body through this today. 

          On Tuesday I had a upper and lower endoscopy and I'm still not feeling quite right. The medicine to put me asleep definitely kicked my butt as I puked before getting a b12 shot in my butt. (B12 shots are completely legal and I got one in hopes to make up for the stress on my body...more on this in another post) The endoscopy told me I had abnormal mucus in my stomach and that my stomach was red and irritated. It's nothing too serious but a biopsy was taken to see what the cause might be.The results aren't in yet but I could see how those things might be why I haven't been able to absorb iron or other vitamins, leaving me feeling tired for well over a year now.

          Honestly, it hasn't been that fun trying to race tired all the time so I don't know what I will end up doing tomorrow, but I do still have some hope that my running stars might align. Also, if you don't mind, I really believe in sending positive energy/thoughts/vibes to a person so if you can send me some for my race tomorrow that would be great and I will do the same for you whenever you need it... just ask me! :

         Lastly, thank you to the man who came up to me after the press conference yesterday saying that this blog has helped him. The happiness that gave me was immense as that is my goal with sharing my stories. Thank you!

Sending positive thoughts to anyone reading this!

Run Wild, Run Happy,


Some great runners from the east, west, and in-between!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Hidden Valley Trail: Video and Simple Hydration Bottle

The (rightly named) Hidden Valley Trail:

            Sure, it's pretty sweet to see the arches at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, but if your a trail runner there are definitely better trails to run on in Moab. There are plenty of trails in the area that aren't crowded with people and are longer than a few miles in distance. One trail is the Porcupine Trail, which you can see in pictures from my previous post, or there is the Hidden Valley Trail which is featured in the video below. It's rightly named Hidden Valley as you would never be able to see it unless you climb up the Moab Rim. The main part of the trail actually sits on a "broad shelf" between the Moab Rim and Spanish Valley. The climb up to the valley is a blast as it's pretty technical and you may even want to use your hands. The view speaks for itself.

Simple Hydration Bottle:

              A few people have already asked me about the bottle I had tucked into my shorts so I'll just give some quick info. The bottle is from my sponsor, Simple Hydration, and has gotten some great reviews like the one by Trail Run Magazine: . It was perfect for the run at Hidden Valley because the run wasn't super long but it was hot so I needed to take water and I wanted my hands free to help me climb some of the rocks. I've also used the bottle as a way to carry extra water on longer runs. To check the bottle out in more detail go to: . Make sure to enter the Promo Code: SANDI at checkout and you'll get a pretty sweet discount. 

Lastly, I really just want to say thanks to everyone who reads my blog. Not to be lame, but I feel honored that so many of you have followed my journeys or have read what I have to say. I hope in some way this blog adds something positive to your life, even if just for the few minutes you take to read it. Please let me know if there is anything else you would like to see on here.

Run Wild, Run Happy,