Sabrina Stanley Post-Nolan’s 14 Women’s Overall Fastest Known Time #2 Interview

For the second time this year and from October 1 through 3, Sabrina Stanley set the women’s overall fastest known time (FKT) on the Nolan’s 14 line in the Sawatch Range of Colorado in 48 hours and 49 minutes. Her effort bettered the women’s overall FKT of 50:32 set by Meghan Hicks in September of 2020. Sabrina completed the attempt in supported style, and this follows up on her first successful FKT attempt in August, where she ran 51:15.

The Nolan’s 14 line is a link-up of 14 mountains in excess of 14,000 feet in elevation. Athletes can connect the summits by whatever routes they choose, but routes commonly add up to about 95 miles in length, about 44,000 feet of climbing, and about half off trail.

The following is a written Q-and-A with Sabrina about a week after her finish. In this interview, Sabrina talks about why she chose to make a second FKT attempt and how she pursued it in business-like fashion.

Sabrina Stanley on her second successful Nolan’s 14 fastest known time attempt. Photo: Rabbitwolf Creative

iRunFar: Okay, so two successful Nolan’s 14 attempts and a boat load of training on the Nolan’s course and at high altitude all in one summer, are you officially tired now? Please tell me you’re sitting on the couch!

Sabrina Stanley: I am tired, but not too tired to go back and do it a third time if necessary.

iRunFar: What made you decide to give Nolan’s a second attempt at all, let alone in the same year?

Stanley: I set out saying I was going to get the Nolan’s FKT. I never said I wanted to do Nolan’s purely to do Nolan’s. It is never about the route for me, I can explore and appreciate the route in training. I wanted the FKT. To hold it for only a month was a slap in the face for everything I had sacrificed to hold it, so I decided to go back and get it again.

iRunFar: How did you turn things around both physically and mentally between the two attempts? I think it’s fair to say Nolan’s has a huge impact on one’s body and brain, and most people who get through it take quite a long time to recover.

Stanley: My desire to reclaim the FKT was stronger than my physical exhaustion. Mentally, I never felt beat down by Nolan’s. If anything, the first and now the second attempt have shown me again that I have the power to tune out my body and push through. I keep looking for a mountainous challenge that halts me in my tracks. There is a lot of hype around Nolan’s. It’s tough, but not impossible.

iRunFar: What pieces of the Nolan’s puzzle, be it your route, nutrition, hydration, or other logistics, did you focus on evolving and improving for your second attempt?

Stanley: I returned to the course for seven days in mid-September to revisit some sections I struggled with during my first attempt. I was much more strategic with my second attempt and aware of my pace every step of the way. In my first attempt, I ran and hiked by feel, loosely paying attention to pace.

iRunFar: Could you share some thoughts about how the experience was out there? Maybe bring us onto a mountain or two with you?

Stanley: It was a determined, constant, steady progress. There was a steadiness to it that surpassed time. I methodically checked one mountain off at a time, and then focused on the next. Huron Peak was a blast, Cordis Hall paced me and we flew. Cordis also paced me for La Plata Peak, which was insanely windy and by far the coldest mountain.

iRunFar: I am interested in the night and the cold! An October attempt meant between 11 and 12 hours of headlamp time and some cold temperatures up high. Can you share what those elements were like for you?

Stanley: I knew it was going to be cold and windy. I honestly just turned my brain off to everything and focused on making forward progress. I didn’t feel anything but the drive to get to the finish.

iRunFar: Funny or fascinating stories, we need stories! Wildlife encounters, hallucinations, best and worst things you ate, best and worst jokes your pacers told you, do you have a couple good stories?

Stanley: My team and I were on a mission. We were doing Nolan’s not for the adventure or the experience, we were there to get the job done. Cordis and I came across one porcupine heading up La Plata, and then my pacer Devo Derby and I spotted 10 mountain goats three quarters of the way up Mount Massive. Unfortunately, my good stories are in short supply since this was purely a business trip.

iRunFar: You seemed pretty hungry after your first attempt to do more and better on Nolan’s. Do you now feel satisfied? Will you head into the winter feeling like you did what you wanted this year?

Stanley: I can still run Nolan’s faster. I knew this second attempt wasn’t going to be my best work. From the start of my first attempt to the finish of my second attempt it was only 54 days, and there was going to be a lot of running in the dark and the temperatures would slow me down. At the same time, I was confident that I could show up, do Nolan’s again, and regain the FKT, so I figured I would. I won’t be satisfied until I do Nolan’s properly, meaning on fresh legs and at the right time of year. There is still time before the winter hits, so time will tell if I get out of this year what I set out to do.

Photo: Rabbitwolf Creative

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 34 comments

  1. Sarah W

    Wow! So, so, so inspiring that she did Nolans twice in one season. I’m sure she will throw down an amazing time on her 3rd attempt. But please take some time off! If only to make the rest of us not feel like slackers.

  2. David Leeke

    It makes me a little sad to read that something so epic was done with seeming so little joy. I hope with some rest a few good stories surface rather than just the date and time of completion

  3. Paul A Chapman

    ditto to what David Leeke wrote – these epic adventures are Like life itself – full of all kinds of feelings good and not so great. That’s why I run – discovery, adventure, fitness. Seems like there was none of that, rather a quest for numbers. You’re going to get some of that with FKT’s I guess.

  4. Sarah H

    It makes me a little sad that seeing another woman be successful on a line like that would be considered a slap in the face.I am so damn proud of Andrea and Meghan for their amazing runs as well as being impressed with Sabrina’s two incredible times. Let’s all just lift each other up and keep this ball rolling with some awesome positive energy. I consider the Nolan’s line to be magical; the more women that get to experience something like that the better. And if they happen to experience it a little bit faster than someone else, then let’s just celebrate it and cheer on the next person. Those mountains have a lot to give, and trust me there’s more than enough to go around.

    1. Basit Mustafa

      Yeah, I’m really struggling to follow the logic about how this is a “slap in the face”. Meghan is a nice, kind human, I don’t think she went to do Nolan’s out of spite. But maybe there’s something I’m missing here. Always possible.

    2. Clare Gallagher

      Hell yeah Sarah! To all the women who’ve had amazing (and wicked fast) outings out on Nolan’s and to Megan for setting the bar even higher: you rock! Positive girl power energy is out there! Let’s keep spreading it and love for those spectacular mountains.

      1. Abby Levene

        Amen!!! Records are meant to be broken, and enjoying the process while lifting others up along the way is how we grow and find joy in life. Thank you, Meghan, for embodying this spirit!

  5. Will

    I think it is so cool that she is open about her drive to win. Let’s be frank, I think most people who set FKTs on classic routes are hyper competitive, wether they admit it or not. However, not everyone would run Nolan’s again in the same season to reclaim their FKT. The single minded focus and drive she showed over a 2 day period is very inspiring, at least to me. So in my book, she is a VERY worthy FKT holder. But ultimately worthy or unworthy is irrelevant, she holds the damn FKT.

  6. Jim

    “To hold it for only a month was a slap in the face for everything I had sacrificed to hold it”, said to the person who took her record.

  7. j.p.

    interesting to see that people have such strong reactions to a woman with a strong desire to win. i doubt if a male made comments like sabrina’s they would be questioned on their intent. i am a male with two young daughters, and i hope they grow up with a competitive fire in their bellies….not just in sport…but in life.

    1. Basit Mustafa

      I can only speak for myself, but if a guy said something like that I’d think “damn, he’s fast, but shit, toxic masculinity, anyone?”. Pretty much the same thing I’m feeling here. She’s fast, fit, and determined. No two things around that. I also puke in my mouth a bit every time someone talks like this, but that’s just me, people should be as they want to, and that includes those of us who want to push back against the kind of sportsmanship that people being competitive is a “slap in the face”. That just reeks of entitlement. I hope we don’t confuse competitive fire with entitlement.

  8. Eric

    It’s very motivating to me that she wants it so bad. If everyone is allowed to run for their own reasons, to be the best is an incredibly worthy reason to get your ass kicked in the mountains.

  9. Basit Mustafa

    We all have our differing views on what Nolan’s means, the reasons we go do things, what our bodies can do, what they can take, differing views on what we think they can, and why we engage in sport.

    I’ll be honest, Ms. Stanley’s views in each one of these differs vastly from mine, and neither mine nor hers are right or correct, bad or wrong. And, frankly, for the community to sit in judgment of those is a bit awkward to me.

    That being said, I think what the community SHOULD be concerned about is the very idea that somehow Ms. Hicks’ besting of her original record was a “slap in the face” to Ms. Stanley.

    Those words suggest a very toxic view of competition, of community, and of accomplishment.

    Her drive, her discipline, and her demonstrated fitness are remarkable. However, her humility, spirit of competition, sportsmanship, and sense of entitlement are quite the opposite.

    I’m unsure if this is Adidas’ idea of sportsmanship, but taking it so personally that someone ran something faster than you that it’s a “slap in the face for everything I had sacrificed to hold it” rather than respecting that person’s accomplishment & sacrifice as well is certainly not a value I hope people revere or allow to permeate into our community.

    Ms. Stanley is a fast, talented runner without a doubt. She has earned that and seems like it is deeply seated in her psyche that we all know and respect that, and right now, she’s earning that. I also think she is earning the “wow, that’s toxic and gross” reaction a lot of folks seem to be having.

    Lastly, JP’s comment above has a good thought exercise, too: what if a man said this? I’d, personally, probably feel like it’s a display of toxic masculinity, and are we willing to accept that and do we respect that no matter how fast he ran. I find myself thinking and feeling the same here.

  10. Will

    You would have to ask Sabrina exactly what she meant by slap in the face, but I don’t think it implies that she was hostile to Meghan for breaking her time. I read it more as she put in a lot of time and effort into training into her first attempt, and the fact that it only lasted for a few weeks felt like a slap in the face. I don’t think there is anything unsportsmanlike about wanting to be the best or wanting to have your records stand. Sabrina didn’t lash out at Meghan after she set the FKT. She went out and got it done.

  11. Brian Metzler

    I think Sabrina’s thoughts are sincere, raw and honest. And bravo for her being true to herself. Keep in mind, she had to do the massive physical work to be able to answers those questions a second time around, so I find her nothing but authentic and inspring. I love that Meghan went out and broke the FKT after Sabrina did it, but all of this online bickering is BS. The fact that she took it as an affront that someone took back the FKT shortly after she did is brash, but the fact that she put her money where her mouth is and went back out for it is the stuff of legends. (Keep in mind, she could have gone back and finished SLOWER or she could have DNF’ed, but she actually surpassed the mark — AGAIN!) I applaud both of them and will also applaud whoever comes along and breaks it next year. Sabrina was amazing and can probably run faster, but there’s always someone else who can too. We ought to support the strong efforts (and thoughts!) of those at the razor’s edge of our sport for the sake of progress and excellence because that’s the reality of where things are. This isn’t soul-sucking, this is the soul of the state of the sport that we have all played a role in creating, but only a few can actually carry the flag off the front. Both Meghan and Sabrina were inspiring crushers this year, but so were Sarah and Joey too. 99 percent of us aren’t setting the bar in this sport, but hopefully we can each pull something positive from this and leave any negative ill feelings behind.

    1. Basit Mustafa

      I think that is a good way of looking at it, and as I suggested in my comment, we all have differing reasons and values for doing what we’re doing and being “here”. If I put on a perspective of “pushing the number is what matters more”, I can’t really disagree with your characterization that “this online bickering is BS”. But is that perspective *actually* what this sport is to everyone? For some, sure, but for most it’s a relative mix I think.

      Something that is less relative, I think, is what we can kind of universally recognize (if there is such a thing): the awesome power of the athlete (or business person, or lawyer, or whatever) who is an absolute crusher that does it and lifts up everyone they touch and encounter along the way.

      It’s certainly valid to have the view that the sport is just about the raw numbers put out and that is what should curry respect, admiration, and legend.

      But I’m not sure that those who aren’t nearly as inspired by her words/attitude as her clearly incredible athletic performance, ability, and grit (perhaps even turned off by those words, actually) are merely engaged in “online bickering” or “BS”.

      Personally, I don’t really know Ms. Stanley, and I think it’s probably worth saying it’s actually not her alone here which strikes the chord as much as the context in which it lives and is yet-another-higher-profile example of certain values (like most discussions that seem like “bickering” or “BS”). While it is human and totally understandable to laud those who are the “fastest”, is that what we celebrate as a community? Is that what we want? You said it well when you said “this is the soul of the state of the sport we have all played a role in creating”.

      If the sport is going in the direction of it being a personal attack/affront when someone runs something faster than you, uh, I guess it’s time for me to take up ultra curling or something, because, uh, gross.

  12. Natasha Sankovitch

    I would not characterize the discussion above as bickering. It seems to me everyone has done a good job of expressing their opinion without being offensive. It’s interesting how much discussion the interview stimulated, and I have learned from the discussion. So thank you – all of you.

  13. Ryan

    Sabrina is total badass. Nolan’s 14 in October!? And ‘I’d be willing to do it again before winter if I have to’! Wtf! That’s awesome. We have to remember that FKTs in the year of Covid are RACE’S! Awesome determination, drive and mental toughness. And really, a slap in the face should probably be interpreted as a wake up call in this context, not some weird vindictive angle. Bravo to both Sabrina and Megan.

  14. Jeff Rome

    Toxic is a pretty strong adjective. Sabrina just has a different outlook than most of the community, and it’s probably pretty rough on her to get so much criticism. She doesn’t have the kind of spirit I want to see sponsored and representative of our community, but if she wants to be all business there’s nothing wrong with that. I just hope that Sabrina can have more fun on her next outing. As Alex Lowe said, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.” I feel the same applies to running, but who can say that Alex Lowe is more right or wrong than Sabrina Stanley. She might be the best, after all. We all have our own idea of best.

    1. Basit Mustafa

      Well, it is strong and I picked it intentionally in the context of “toxic masculinity” if that helps contextualize it, because that’s really what I observe (one does not need to be male to be toxically masculine).

      And you’re certainly correct, if she wants to be all business there is *nothing* wrong with that. More power to her for doing what she wants and how she wants it.

      Much like Brian pointed out, our community’s values are what they are and shaped by all of us, and we choose what we celebrate, what we define as “inspiring”, and the like.

      There is no objective right or wrong or deciding body of these things. But zeitgeist is a thing, and Ms. Stanley’s attitude there is just one more data point in a sport that’s constantly evolving (like anything else), but has seen a growth in popularity in the last ten years (not saying that is good or bad, it just is), and change will happen (again, no value judgement on it), and by what we choose to laud, consider inspiring, etc, I think we directly and indirectly influence it.

      I just hope that those who are quick to be “star struck” by such performances are also seeing the implication that has on the values of a relatively small community.

      Brian seems to think it is bickering or BS, but this is exactly how community cultures are shaped.

      Ms. Stanley is hardly the only event to define it, in fact, this is a mere fraction of a blip in the larger thing that is the community, so it may sound petty to hyper analyze this, and it might very well be, but there’s a broader question of what “best” and “inspiring” means going on in ultra running I think this exists in the context of that is hard to ignore, IMO.

      I’ve seen a lot of people be able to crush it at sport and keep a really positive, encouraging, and inspiring vibe, and I hope that’s where we see our sport & community go, rather than the “battle of egos, talk shit, make things personal” kind of ethos this reeks of you see in many other (more popular) sports.

  15. Nick Jarvis

    Wow, I can’t believe some of the comments on here. Why are we so quick to judge Sabrina based off of a brief interview?

    This is a small, written interview where we can’t hear her speak to determine her tone of voice or intent. Keeping that in mind, a lot of this could easily be taken out of context. A lot of assumptions are being made based off of minimal information.

    Here’s what we know: Sabrina absolutely crushed it once again at Nolan’s 14.

    Now let’s all take a chill pill and go for a run. :)

  16. Pete

    As hinted to in the interview, this was a calling card by a strong but underrated Team Adidas. Sponsorship objectives quickly push aside any of the feel-good “community” vocabulary often associcated with ultrarunning. What was started by Salamon with the François D’Haene FKT on the John Muir Trail will be continued as these FKTs attract more attention.

  17. Anonymous

    Humble is the adjective we are looking for. This woman is anything but. In a recent interview for another race she called herself “the best in the world” if she wins.
    It’s not good sportsmanship- and not one person is the best- there will always, always be others that come along who are better than thou.

  18. Pete

    LeBron James, John McEnroe, Gabby Douglas, Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, Shaun White, Pele, the list goes on of superstar athletes who lacked something in the humility department. Why do we expect that all elite ultrarunners will be humble? Do you think Ann Trason showed up to each starting line striving to “lift up” and inspire others? A fierce competitive drive and uber confidence is what drives some athletes, like Sabrina Stanley. I know this may sound strange in ultrarunning where it is common to see competitors hugging each other, holding hands crossing the finish line, and chatting socially during races.

  19. Brian Metzler

    Great commentary here, for sure, but I agree with Nick Jarvis here. Sabrina kicked ass on Nolans this summer, as did so many other women. Then Sabrina had the courage and tenacity to go back and do it again in even more impressive fashion. Simply awesome!

    My only point of contention here is people who have admitted to not actually knowing her are calling into question her “humility, spirit of competition, sportsmanship” and suggested she carried a “sense of entitlement” … I find that to be one of the things that’s wrong with social media and online comment boards. Is that community or divisiveness? It’s one thing if she said those things to you directly. Sabrina was asked to respond to a Q&A and she was honest and authentic, not only there but in other post-N14v2 interviews at RunSpirited. And she’s been humble and grateful in her own social media posts. It’s not like she’s calling herself the Wonder Woman of the Sawatch Range.

    Like it or not, great athletes (some of which Pete mentioned) achieve greatness by doing it their own way. No one liked Matt Carpenter much in his prime, but he wasn’t worried what anyone thought. We’re all different and all have different approaches to success and, at the same time, yes, we can all intepre

    1. Basit Mustafa

      No one is doubting that she isn’t authentic or genuine, and I do respect that, if she’s really worked up that this is a “slap in her face” for Meghan to have done it, she should be open about that, and I applaud that openness and the incredible athletic feats thrown down. It’s simply where that is coming from that I won’t applaud or find inspiring.

      I don’t know her, and I call that out because it’s important to separate “these events feel like this” and “this person is this way” when talking about values: one discusses the treatment of a given attitude, event, or approach to a feat(s) and another is characterizing that person.

      So, yes, in the media that’s discussed her time this summer, this “slap in my face” attitude caps off a certain attitude toward Nolan’s and ultrarunning in general (and, Brian, she *DID* say these things *DIRECTLY* to Meghan…better than behind her back, yeah, but you’re claiming she didn’t?).

      Is being open and honest about that community or divisiveness? I think if it starts getting into personal attacks or people saying “it should be my way or the highway” or “this way is better and we should judge and divide the community along these lines”, then sure, I think it’s fair to question if it’s divisive. On the other hand, I think a tenet of any healthy community (and one that is going to remain that way) is the ability to have these discussions in a civil, thoughtful way that is honest and open but not personal or pejorative (I have not seen anyone here cross what I think that line is) where we also don’t dismiss dissent as “BS” and or “online bickering”.

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