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TF360: Nicole Schappert Eyes Healthy Season Ahead

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/RoadRacing   Apr 21st 2014, 7:12pm

NJ*NY TC Star Set to Compete in the USA 1 Mile Road Champs

By Scott Bush - Click Here for all TF360 Archives

In 2012, former Villanova All-American Nicole Schappert was on a roll. After finishing tenth in the Olympic Trials 1,500m final, the Florida native headed to Europe and ran a couple big PRs of 2:02.86 for 800m and 4:06.87 for 1,500m. Her 1,500m mark ranked her US#8 in the event for the year. At this point, the arrow was pointed upward for Schappert and her blossoming pro career. 

2013 was a different story. Despite qualifying for the World University Games, where she finished eighth overall in the 1,500m, Schappert dealt with injury for much of the year. That hardship, along with tasting some success, has left the current NJ*NY Track Club member with high hopes for the 2014 season. Schappert got a good start to her season indoors, running to a 4:32.37 mile performance and a 9:00.84 3k eighth place finish at the Millrose Games.

Schappert resumes her season Tuesday at the USA 1 Mile Road Championships. We caught up with the 27-year old recently, chatting about her current fitness, dealing with injury and so much more.

Follow Nicole: Twitter | NJ*NY TC Bio

Scott Bush (SB): You've had a solid start to your 2014 racing season. How did you feel about your indoor campaign and what are you most excited about with outdoors starting to ramp up?

Nicole Schappert (NS): My indoor campaign was decent. I only raced twice and ran a strong mile and strong 3k, but I was still running a bit out of shape. My fall training was great, but my plantar flared up around Christmas. So I took all of January off and cross trained which meant my Indoor races were a little bit more painful than I would have liked ;-) So they were good efforts off of limited training. I ran them mostly off strength, and still PR’d in the indoor mile and 3k. So based on that, I’m excited for Outdoor season now that I have more training in!

SB: The USA 1 Mile Roads Championships are this Tuesday. With such a strong field, what's it going to take to pull off the win?

NS: To be honest, I haven’t even looked at the field yet. But I assume based on your question that it’s going to be a strong field! That makes it fun. I LOVE road miles. There’s more room to run so you don’t have to worry about the strategy as much or getting boxed in. I think it will take a really strong last 200 to pull off the win. 

SB: You dealt with injury in 2013, which couldn't have been any fun, especially after your exceptional 2012 season. What exactly were you struggling with and you're 100% healthy now, right?

NS: My teammates call me “the delicate flower” because I am injury prone. But it’s something I’ve dealt with throughout my entire career. It was really disappointing to be hurt for most of 2013 after running my personal bests in every event in 2012. I had a neuroma in my right foot which flared up during the outdoor season in 2012. I made it through that season and the following summer thanks to my good friend, the cortisone shot. Unfortunately, that only works a few times and the nerve was not improving. So I had surgery to remove it in December. I still have problems with my feet, but what runner doesn’t? I am happy to say I’m healthy now!

SB: What was your training progression like coming back from injury up until now? Was it a long, slow gradual build or once healthy were you able to get back after right away?

NS: Coming back from surgery took a lot longer than expected. I spent about 3 months only being able to run 20 minutes every-other day. I was finally able to start running and training in April. From there it was a bit of a “get rich quick” scheme. I was able to run 4:11 off of about 5 weeks of training, but I had no base. So it was a humbling season. Still, I was happy to be racing.

SB: You're sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE, who seems to be really putting their stamp on the sport by sponsoring yourself, Leo Manzano and Mike Rutt. What's it been like being part of team HOKA ONE ONE and what's it like training as a professional athlete in maximalist shoes?

NS: Running in HOKAs is really what brought me back from injury last year. I could hardly get through 3-4 mile runs. My dad is friends with the guys at HOKA and he sent me a pair to try. It was amazing. The first day I wore them I ran 7 miles with less pain than I’d been doing 3 in. I’ve been hooked since then. So it was AWESOME when they offered me a sponsorship this year. It’s really cool to be sponsored by a company who generally wants to support its athletes. The CEO was an All American in track and cross country back in the 70’s and the President was an alternate on the US National Cross Country team for the World XC Championships in 1979. So these guys are really legit and huge supporters of our sport. They get what we’re doing and want to help us go places in the sport.

HOKA was founded by Ultra Runners and that running community first adopted the brand, but the brand is rapidly gaining acceptance from runners at all levels. You can see that now with the crop of elite distance runners starting to wear the shoe. Now I have all of the new models and they are – AMAZING. When you look at the shoes you don’t think their made for mid-distance runners. But I did eight 200s on the track the other day in my Kailua Tarmacs and averaged 28-29 for all of them. So I was able to run fast without beating up my feet and legs. That’s HUGE for me. They’re working on developing racing flats and spikes so it will be cool to see what they come out with.

SB: Obviously a lot of questions are always about the running part of training, but what about the additional work you put in (core, weights, etc.). What does that look like for you and your day-to-day training with the NJ*NY TC?

NS: If you haven’t already figured it out – I’m injury prone. So I run really low mileage… about 40-45 miles per week. My mom was an All-American swimmer so I am blessed with being able to swim to cross train. I supplement my low mileage with 2-3 swim workouts per week. Due to my work schedule I do most of my core and lifting alone, but I’ve found an increased focus on strength training has helped me get so much stronger than I was in college, and it’s showing in my racing.

SB: What is the best part of being a professional runner? What's the worst part?

NS: Worst part about professional running is definitely dealing with injuries. There were times last year when I was cross training so much I constantly smelled like chlorine. To the point that if I biked, I would sweat out chlorine.

But the best part seeing all of the work come to fruition. After finishing the final of the Olympic Trials, I took a moment to look around and take in the setting. I remember thinking, this was worth it. Being a professional runner is not a normal life path. We all give up so much to keep training and competing at such a high level. But there’s no better feeling than reaching, or even exceeding, your own expectations.

Those moments are the best part and are what keep you going through the day-to-day training and low points. Every time I think maybe I should go into “the real world” I remind myself that how many other people can say they actively train for a spot on an Olympic Team or get to travel to other countries to race? Not very many people can. So it may not be a normal life path, but it’s certainly a cool one.

SB: You mentioned in some of our correspondence that you were traveling for work. What job is that? How is it balancing being a full-time athlete and someone in the more traditional workforce?

NS: I work full time – which I guess is abnormal in the world of professional running. I manage Marketing Communications for Canon Solutions America. So it’s a full time job with a lot of responsibility – but I love it. Luckily, my manager and the Vice President of my department understand what I do, running-wise, and are incredibly supportive. I work remotely from home and have a more flexible work schedule. I still get everything done – just not in the typical 9-5 office format.

There are definite days where it’s tough to balance both. For example, last week I had to travel to Chicago for all day meetings and ended up doing my runs on a treadmill at 9:00 pm. So those days aren’t ideal, but I manage to balance everything 90% of the time. I have to be really disciplined to stick to a schedule that allows for running, workouts, cross training, weights, massages, race travel etc. and also allows me to get my work done, call into conference calls, travel for meetings and tradeshows, etc. It’s not easy, but it’s good to know that when running is over, I will have a thriving career. Plus, having something else to do which prevents me from thinking about running 24/7. 

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