Sabrina Stanley’s ultra-marathon victory a product of dedication, nomadic lifestyle
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ultra-marathon runner Sabrina Stanley wakes up at 7 a.m. at her campsite in Ouray.
She’ll have a big breakfast with her boyfriend, Avery Collins, before each depart for their own 6 to 8 hour runs through the mountains.
This summer, Stanley, a former Steamboat resident, has run anywhere from 60 to 160 miles per week through the San Juan Mountains, waiting patiently to earn her spot in the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run.
The Hardrock run is a 100.5-mile race through the San Juan Mountains, starting in Silverton, including a total elevation change of 66,100 feet with an average elevation of 11,186 feet. The lowest point is in Ouray at 7,680 feet, while the highest is at Handies Peak at 14,048 feet.
For some people, it takes 5 to 7 years to get into the Hardrock 100, out of the 12,000 applicants, 145 runners are chosen, with 30 making the waitlist. Stanley was at No. 5, but held a secured a spot in the Western States Endurance Run just in case.
“My name slowly started to move down until I was position No. 1 on the list, so I dropped out of the Western States Endurance Run,” Stanley said. “Within 24 hours of dedicating to Hardrock and getting rid of Western, this guy contacted me and asked, ‘Will you promise to represent my spot well?’
“The universe was waiting for me to fully dedicate and I was like, ‘Ok.’”
The dedication would pay off, she’d cross the finish line with a total time of 30 hours, 23 minutes and 36 seconds on July 21 to win the womens division.
“It’s crazy how fast everything’s happened,” Stanley said. “Each year I’ve learned so much and progressed and it’s been pretty surreal in the last week.”
Stanley ran her first ultra-marathon in February 2015, but she’d take an eight-month break and run her second in summer 2016. Since then, she’d take her competition to the next level and fully commit to making a career out of ultra-marathon running.
The story of her start is like most, a road-runner falling in love with trail running through the mountains. But mixed in is a story of willingness to give up material possessions to live in the mountains and become a top competitor in ultra-marathon running.
The Onalaska, Washington native claims that her competitive nature came from growing up with four brothers and a sister. She played basketball at Lower Columbia College before venturing out to the mountains.
She discovered her love for trail running in Breckenridge, where there was more to see off the beaten path.
As she gained interest, she’d join a Facebook page and friend request Collins, who was taking on a 200-mile trail race, thinking he’d have some insight on the local trails.
But the two wouldn’t talk for eight months. Stanley moved to New York City, a blip in the radar on her journey that opened her eyes to what she really wanted.
“I was chasing money and wanted a big-girl job,” Stanley said. “The intention of the beginning, I would be working with the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Breckenridge as manager. I moved to New York for training, then that store ended up closing.
“So after 8 months, I just really wanted to go back to Colorado. I didn’t care if I was making money or not.”
That’s when she’d message Collins to get back into trail running. They’d meet for a beer and a love affair blossomed.
“I tend to want to be a bit nomadic, which, in this day and age, not a lot of people understand,” Collins said. “Just knowing where we are in life, there’s not much reason to be in one place for more than 6 months. We have the opportunity to see the world. It just doesn’t really make sense.”
Stanley’s free-spirited heart stems from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child, but she also admired her mother’s independence and strength as she ran a local coffee and flower shop in Onalaska.
“I’m definitely a black sheep of my family,” Stanley said. “They all live in the same county we grew up in, I’m definitely looked at as this weird gypsy when I go to family reunions. But my mom was a dominant female role model growing up.”
Collins worked as general manager of Twisted Trails in Steamboat for three years, and Stanley joined for a year and a half working as manager of Cruisers Sub Shop. Both quit their jobs for the nomadic life of training for ultra-marathons full-time.
Stanley worked at Yampy’s for a few months to save up extra cash before the summer, then both would head up to Buena Vista to hike 14ers before camping in Ouray for training.
“This is a summer we will remember forever,” Stanley said. “We both walked away from our 9-to-5 jobs, and to not have someone to answer to and do whatever you want, it’s been kind of nice.”
Stanley is resting her legs for two weeks before starting her training up again for a 71-mile trail race in Italy, called the Marathon Trail Lago Di Como at Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy on Sept. 22. Collins will also run a 200-mile ultra race in Northern Italy. The two will spend a month there before planning their next move.
“We’ve got a few different ideas, we’re going to be near mountains no matter what,” Collins said. “It’s just a matter of snow or water near it.”
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