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Andrea Sansone, a nurse and hiker from Golden, Colorado, has set a new women’s supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Nolan’s 14 route, stopping the clock in 45 hours and 52 minutes. Her time shaved almost three hours off the previous women’s supported mark, set by runner Sabrina Stanley in October, 2020
Nolan’s 14 links up 14 peaks over 14,000 feet in central Colorado’s Sawatch Range. There is no set route, and runners must create their own line to link up the peaks, often connecting them via technical, high-altitude traverses on rocky terrain. Most runners who complete Nolan’s rack up about 95 miles and almost 14,000 total feet of climbing and descending.
“I wanted this really bad,” Sansone told Trail Runner. “So I stayed in it and just took it peak by peak.”
Sansone’s time is the second-fastest to ever be recorded on the route, behind runner Joey Campanelli’s 2020 FKT of 41 hours and 33 seconds.
Sansone, 33, started the route on Saturday, September 10, traversing from south to north, summiting each of the peaks, and finishing at the Fish Hatchery trailhead outside of Leadville early Monday morning.
This was not Sansone’s first run on Nolan’s. In 2020 she and her partner, endurance athlete Andrew Hamilton, set the mixed team FKT (during which Sansone also set the supported women’s FKT), before Sabrina Stanley tackled the route five days later and bested the time. Shortly after, Meghan Hicks set a new FKT, which was promptly broken again by Stanley.
During her 2020 trek on Nolan’s 14, Sansone and Hamilton added milage to their journey, traveling north to climb 14,009-foot Mount of the Holy Cross, a variation of the route known as “Holy Nolan’s”.
“We probably lost three hours on that attempt, just making ramen and stuff,” Sansone says. “I knew immediately that I could do it faster.”
Sansone works part-time as a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Denver, which leaves time to train for longer adventures. While she likes to trail run, particularly around Golden’s North Table Mountain, she mostly identifies as a hiker.
“My strength is hiking, and hiking for a long time,” Sansone says. “And I’ve gotten a lot better on the downs. Now I can jog them, but really I just let gravity take me down.”
She fell in love with the route after climbing several of the peaks with Hamilton—who holds the speed record for hiking the state’s fourteeners in succession—and spent much of this summer scouting the line, finding the most efficient path between peaks. Sansone attributes much of her success to the time she spent getting to know the route, figuring out how to shave ten or 20 minutes here and there by finessing her path.
“I probably did Mount Massive five times,” Sansone sahys. “I did it during the day, I did it at night. I did it tired, and then, I’d drive to Mount Elbert and do that. I wanted to know the route in and out, and I didn’t want to depend on anyone for the route-finding.”
This summer, Sansone also set the women’s record for the most Colorado fourteeners climbed in 24 hours, ticking off 12 summits to beat the previous record of eight.
“That record is what really planted the seed to go back and try Nolan’s,” Hamilton says. “I was looking at her splits, and thinking, she’s got to try this again.”
Sansone had a rockstar support squad, and her team was crewed by current overall FKT holder Joey Campanelli, her partner Hamilton (who previously held the unsupported FKT), and friends from around the state. The biggest change Sansonse says she made between her 2020 attempt and 2022 was adopting a support style borrowed from ultrarunning, using pacers to keep her alert and engaged.
“I thrive on that. I’m definitely faster when there’s people around,” Sansone says.
For the first day of the FKT attempt, she felt great, easily beating her splits, before she started to feel fatigued on the summit of 14,077-foot Mount Columbia.
“My body just knows what to do,” Sansone says. “Even when I’m feeling mentally destroyed, I can still move uphill pretty well.”
Night above tree line is frigid, and Sansone had neglected to pick up pants from her crew, running instead in shorts, which led to cramping and lost time.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life,” Sansone says. “I moaned. I cried. I wanted to give up.” Hamilton, who was pacing her at the time, sang songs to cheer her up.
“In those hardest moments, you can’t let your mind get the best of you,” Sansone says.
When she realized she could beat the 46-hour benchmark, Sansone pushed the pace, and she was encouraged by Hamilton and her pacers.
“The last three miles felt like a sprint,” Hamilton says. “In reality, we’re probably talking 12-minute miles. But it felt like a full-on sprint.”
Sansone collapsed in a puddle of cramping muscles and tears at the Fish Hatchery trailhead. She’d gone under the 48-hour mark, a sort of “breaking two” for this long, mountain effort.
“It just felt so good to be done,” Sansone says. “The best part was my crew, growing in these friendships, and sharing such an intense and intimate space.”
Sansone hugged her partner, Hamilton, and shared a sweet moment of accomplishment with her crew, just as the sun rose over the Mosquito Range.
“I wanted to go out there and show the community what I’m capable of,” Sansone says. “My most favorite thing is being out there with Andrew, because he’s my life partner and I love him so much. And these mountains, Nolan’s, is where we thrive together.”
Article first appeared in Outside