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Sarah Hansel snaps a selfie on her way up Mount Princeton during her record-setting mission to complete the challenge known as Nolan’s 14.

With races off due to COVID-19, it has been a busy summer of obscure, independent record-setting in Colorado's mountains.

Sarah Hansel has set herself apart.

She raced to a class of her own this month when she completed the cult classic challenge known as Nolan's 14. Only one other woman, Silverton's Meghan Hicks, has been known to achieve the route gaining 80-plus miles and 40,000-plus vertical feet over 14 fourteeners in one foot-powered push of 60 hours or less.

Trailhead to trailhead in the Sawatch Range, Hansel's Strava results showed 57 hours, 43 minutes. That bested Hicks' mark of 59:36.

Even more impressive: Hansel, 38, reported going solo and unsupported, unlike Hicks, who in 2016 had a crew to help pace her and supply her on the course over rugged, often trail-less terrain. Hansel is the first known woman to claim Nolan's unsupported.

It's worth nothing that Hansel isn't exactly used to the altitude. She trains horses for a living in South Carolina.

"I guess I felt like I came in as a bit of an underdog from the East Coast who didn't grow up with mountains," she said from the Jeep she rented to drive to Colorado. "I don't know. I just sort of figured out what the obstacles were and somehow I pulled it off."

Hicks was on hand to congratulate a bruised, bloodied and blistered Hansel at the finish near Leadville. A bottle of champagne was popped among fellow women who've been trying for Nolan's.

"This is Sarah's (fourth) summer of spending time on the route and working toward this goal," Hicks wrote on her Facebook page, "and she's an amazing ambassador for such a special place on Earth. Yessssss, woman, I am so happy for you!"

The first time, in 2017, Hansel got sick on Mount Yale. The next summer the cold got the best of her on Mount Princeton. Last year, she found the snow and ice to be too much on Huron Peak.

"It's like one of those things," she said. "'I know I can finish this, I know I can finish this.' It just ate at me." 

On this fourth attempt, Hansel found ideal, dry conditions. She added Nolan's to her short list of fastest known times; she holds the quickest ascents on a pair of summits back East, and in May, she notched an FKT over the Great Smoky Mountains, traversing the national park unsupported in 19 hours, 47 minutes, 27 seconds.

"I'm desperately trying to figure out what my next project is," Hansel said.

The week prior to her Nolan's celebration, the men's counterpart record was broken. In 41 hours and 33 seconds, Utah's Joey Campanelli crushed Andrew Hamilton's best time that stood for five years: 53 hours, 39 minutes.

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