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Colorado hiker mountaineer Andrea Sansone has set numerous Fastest Known Times since 2017, but she’s typically done them entirely alone with minimal crew support or in tandem with partner Andrew Hamilton in a self-supported style.
But on September 12, when Sansone set a new women’s supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Nolan’s 14 route, she had a talented and committed crew of trail runners and mountaineers helping her the entire way.
With the support of pacers and crew, Sansone, a 33-year-old nurse from Golden, Colorado, turned in a prodigious effort on the arduous Nolan’s route, completing it in an astonishing 45 hours, 52 minutes. Her time shaved almost three hours off the previous women’s supported mark (set by runner Sabrina Stanley in October of 2020) and ranks as the second-fastest time ever on the route behind the still almost-unfathomable 41-hour, 33-second unsupported effort by Utah’s Joey Campanelli in 2020.
Sansone’s achievement was chosen as the 2022 Women’s FKT of the Year by the Fastest Known Time voting panel. Jack Kuenzle’s new supported FKT on the Bob Graham Round in the UK was selected as the Men’s FKT of the Year. A non-binary award was planned for 2022, but a lack of nominations this year pushed the introduction of the new category to the future.
“I am so honored and super-humbled by that,” Sansone said. “It was really the work of my whole team that allowed this to come together. I had people working for me on every mountain, every leg. It was a group effort and I didn’t want to let them down.”
Nolan’s 14 links up 14 peaks over 14,000 feet in central Colorado’s Sawatch Range. There is no set route and much of the line is off trail, which means that those who attempt it must navigate their own line to connect the peaks. That often entails carefully maneuvering over technical, high-altitude traverses on rocky terrain. Most of the athletes who complete Nolan’s rack up 95 to 102 miles and almost 44,000 total feet of climbing and descending.
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 ultrarunner Sabrina Stanley tackled the route five days later and bested the time. Shortly after, ultrarunner Meghan Hicks set a new FKT, which was promptly broken again by Stanley.
Originally, Sansone didn’t plan to go after the Nolan’s 14 effort by herself, partially because she said she had fallen off her training a bit after setting a new FKT of reaching 12 Colorado 14er summits in under 24 hours on August 1 and an another one in late May by lapping the the steep Manitou Incline route for 24 hours.
As summer was starting to wind down, she suggested to Hamilton that they do another attempt on Nolan’s together in co-ed, self-supported style. But when Hamilton encountered some temporary health issues, he encouraged Sansone to attempt it as a solo, supported effort. Sansone agreed and they assembled an all-star group of pacers and support crew to make it happen.
Campanelli chipped in by pacing Sansone over Mount Shavano, Tabeguache Peak, Mount Antero and Mount Elbert. Dan Hobbs, who earlier in the summer set a new FKT by covering all 58 Colorado 14ers in 14 days, 17 hours and 33 minutes, paced her over Mount Princeton and Mount Yale.
Hamilton guided her over the long middle section over Mount Columbia, Mount Harvard, Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, Missouri Mountain and Huron Peak, then took a break and paced her over the final ascent and descent of Mount. Massive. Jaime Bakeman, a strong ultrarunner from Colorado, took her over La Plata Peak (with Evan Paul, who met them on top), while Josh Pater and T.J. Pitts, both strong mountain runners, helped pace her on Mount Massive with Hamilton.
Coming off of the top of Mount Massive, Sansone and Hamilton realized if she ran the last 5 miles hard, she could push her time under 46 hours. With Hamilton, Pater and Pitts leading the way, Sansone buzzed the final 5 miles with a 3,900 feet of descending in 45:52 — roughly 9:10 pace per mile — to reach the northern terminus of the route at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery in the second-fastest time ever recorded on the Nolan’s 14 route.
“Andrew didn’t think I would ever forgive him, but in the end I was so thankful by how much we all wanted this together,” Sansone said. “I had never used pacers before, and it’s a magical thing. I have never been pushed so hard by a group of men in my entire life.”
While she knew most of the crew, she only met Bakeman and Pater in the days before the record-setting Nolan’s 14 attempt. Forrest Hobbs chipped in as a valuable member of the support crew, while Riley Hanlon took photos at numerous points along the way.
“What was really cool is that my crew wanted this for me almost more than I wanted it myself,” she said. “It was nothing like I had ever experienced because usually it’s just Andrew supporting me. For it all to come together, it was pretty spectacular. It really took a village.”
The Top 5 Women’s FKTs of 2022
The FKT of the Year voting panel was asked to select the top five women’s FKTs of 2022 (from a pool of 22 finalists culled by the Fastest Known Time staff) and rank them in order from first to fifth. Sansone received 16 first-place votes, four second-place votes and three third-place votes, for a total of 105 points.
Katie Brown’s Arizona Trail FKT was second with 60 points, followed by Courtney Dauwalter’s Collegiate Loop mark with 59 points, while Alyssa Godesky’s New Hampshire 4,000 Footers mark (50 points) and Liz Derstine’s Long Trail record (40 points) rounded out the top five.
Brown obliterated the self-supported FKT on the 790-mile Arizona Trail by running and hiking the length of the Grand Canyon State (with 113,537 vertical feet) in 17 days, 19 hours, 52 minutes and 54 seconds. She took two days off the previous mark and came within 8 hours of the supported record.
Dauwalter, one of the world’s top ultrarunners from Leadville, Colorado, set a new supported FKT on the 167-mile Collegiate Loop — which is formed by the East and West Collegiate Peaks options of the Colorado Trail — and covered 34,000 vertical feet in 40 hours, 14 minutes, 20 seconds. In doing so, she broke the men’s FKT by six hours and the previous women’s mark by a full day.
Godesky, a Virginia-based endurance athlete, set a new supported FKT for New Hampshire’s 4,000 Footers, covering 48 peaks via a 175-mile route with 71,000 feet of vert in three days, 8 hours, 56 minutes and 30 seconds. That lowered the women’s previous mark by 24 hours and sliced four hours off the men’s mark that was set two weeks earlier.
Grad student Liz “Mercury” Derstine covered the length of Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail with 66,000 feet of vertical gain in six days, 8 hours and 12 minutes, slicing a full day off the self-supported FKT and three hours off of the unsupported FKT.
“That is so cool, what an awesome group of women,” Sansone said. “I’m just mind-blown by all of the FKTs that are being set. And they’re hard FKTs; they’re not easy. Some of the mileage that these athletes can put down is mind-blowing to me. It’s pretty darn incredible.”