As we reflect on 2022, there may be no better way to do so than through the eyes of Andrea Sansone. Smashing records on Nolan’s 14, 24 hours of Colorado 14ers, and the Manitou Incline—on paper, Sansone’s year could not have gone better.
But 2022 did not start auspiciously for the Golden, Colorado, based athlete.
Sansone spent most of the winter focusing on high-intensity cardio. She proceeded to break her foot early in the spring. Instead of ramping up the running miles, Sansone was forced to take a month off.
“It was a huge disappointment because I just feel like when I get injured, it's never good,” Sansone says. “I always kind of lose my fitness, lose my cardio, gain some weight. And the spring is just not the time to be injured.”
But Sansone didn’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, she focused on the controllables. Sansone says she “cleaned up” her diet and double-downed on strength training. It paid off. As she returned to training on foot, Sansone asked her partner, Andrew Hamilton of Colorado 14ers renown, if he thought she could complete 16 laps of the Manitou Incline—those infamous 2,744 steps that gain 2,000 feet in less than a mile—in under 24 hours.
Hamilton didn’t hesitate: “easy.”
Three and a half weeks later, Sansone blew her goal out of the water. She completed 19 Incline laps in 23 hours and 36 minutes, setting the supported 24-hour record and the “Inclinathon” (13 inclines) record en route.
Climbing legs and altitude lungs well seasoned, Sansone set her eyes on another challenge. Colorado boasts 58 peaks above 14,000 feet, known as the Colorado 14ers. People keep track of numerous records involving the 14ers, including how many peaks an individual can tag in 24 hours. With many 14ers practically in her backyard, and with a partner who may know the 14ers better than anyone alive, Sansone and Hamilton devised a logistical plan.
On August 1, Sansone set the FKT. And she was just getting started.
Sansone admits she tends to hide behind a fear of failure. In the past, she’s worked around that obstacle by attempting FKTs with Hamilton.
“I feel like sometimes I do fall back to Andrew,” Sansone explains. “I’ll be like, ‘well, let's just do this together.’ I feel more confident with him.”
The two planned to try and break their own mixed-gender team record on Nolan’s 14, a roughly 100-mile, mostly off-trail trek across 14 14ers in Colorado’s Sawatch range. But then Hamilton got kidney stones, sending him to the hospital. Buoyed by a belief that Sansone could break the elusive 48 mark, Hamilton encouraged Sansone to make a solo Nolan’s attempt.
“I had this massive wave of anxiety,” Sansone recalls. “I felt like I wasn't prepared because after the 24 hour record, I kind of fell off my workout routine. I was still working out, but not super hard. I was past my peak and I didn't feel like I was ready to do Nolan's when I should be doing Nolan's at my peak fitness. Also, I know the Nolan’s route really well, but I still lacked confidence. That is my complete downfall. I don't have the confidence that I should have out there with the experience that I have in the mountains.”
Telling herself and those around her she would just start and see what happens, Sansone set out for a “solo” Nolan’s attempt. But once she left the start at Blank’s Cabin, Sansone knew she couldn’t get her team down. Going after for the record in a supported style, Sansone actually had people with her nearly the whole time—including Hamilton and overall record holder Joey Campanelli.
Fueled by lingering fitness, a deep understanding of the landscape, and her team, Sansone broke the coveted Nolan’s supported record by three hours—becoming the first woman to go under 48 hours in the process, and recording the second fastest time by anyone of any gender.
“I think I really shocked myself this year,” Sansone says. “I went into this year not knowing what I was training for. I know now I can do it. Even when I don’t have the confidence in myself, I know that if the right people have confidence in me that I can be successful. Just go out and try, and you can shock yourself.”
Tune into the FKT Podcast to Sansone’s full insight into her 2022 FKTs, including how she battled through some deep lows during Nolan’s. Read her FKT write-ups on fastestknowntime.com, and follow her and Hamilton’s adventures on their joint Instagram account.