You Made it Weird: Nicole Hanson

Share the trail love:
Ellie Pell

By: Ellie Pell

Ellie is an equal opportunity DMer with no shame in a cold call. She ran fast once and will remind you that it was before supershoes. Recently she set the FKT from her kitchen table to the fridge. Record pending drug test results.

The first time I heard Nicole’s name I was staying at the home of Aaron Barber, Race Director of Aravaipa Running’s McDowell Mt. Frenzy, the night before we both competed in the 50-mile race distance. I was told she “starts out hot and tends to burn out before the race finishes”, which is where I should catch and pass her. What ended up happening was the exact opposite. I took the race out feeling pretty fresh and she caught me with 8 miles to go and she never looked back. She finished strong, broke the course record, and reminded me what it means to run an ultra marathon. Though Nicole only entered the trail running world a few years ago, she is utilizing her track background to light up the trails all over Arizona. She has her sights on this month’s Black Canyon race and who knows, she might sprint past the competition to claim a golden ticket for the big dance [Western States] in June. 

Find Nicole on Strava, UltraSignUp & Instagram.

Nicole Hanson

Who are you and what do you do?

The spirit of adventure and an overly curious personality has guided many of my life decisions. I’ve spent most of my younger years running barefoot through the woods pretending to be a Lord of the Rings character and imagining grand adventures. During most of my 20s, you could find me traveling around the world seeking new experiences, finding connections across culture, and learning about life outside of the small rural Wisconsin town I grew up in. These meaningful travels and many of the lessons I’ve learned through running have inspired me to write a series of short quirky philosophical essays that I hope to someday turn into a book. I view myself as an ever curious learner who is going back to school (for the third time!) to get a second master’s degree, this time in Psychology. I want to eventually contribute to the psychological body of research on students who have gone through trauma and how to best support them in the classroom. I’m a huge science nerd who absolutely loves psychology, human biology, and neuroscience. I’ve worked in K-12 schools as a teacher and currently work at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with their public health team supporting student health through education and programming. I have an adrenaline seeking personality that constantly desires to go on adventures and live life outside the normal confines of what most people consider a typical life. I believe in investing wholeheartedly in connection with others, unhesitatingly saying yes to opportunity, asking way too many questions about the world, and being vulnerably your true self in each and every moment (as running brings out in all of us). I also believe in long winded answers to all questions. 

Do any of your group chats have names? If so, what are you willing to share? How did they get that name? What is a major topic of discussion in them?

My favorite group chat is entitled “The Jolly Llamas”. This is the name of my Phoenix based friend group. We have T-shirts. We like to talk about philosophy, bodily functions, and only speak in fluent runner language. This sometimes ostracizes outsiders when we venture into the real world together. It’s glorious. The name originated from our positive psychology spin on “The Dalai Lama” as we fancy ourselves philosophers.

If you could change one thing about your favorite social media platform, what would it be?

Strava is king. I love Strava. I would change nothing about Strava. I connected with my partner by subtly kudos-ing all his runs and then silently vowing to run faster than him on my next runs. This is love. 

What is a book of fiction that you really enjoyed, for no other reason than you liked it?

I listen to about 2-3 audiobooks a week, some of which are fiction. Give me some Elizabeth Gilbert (semi-fictional?), Colleen Hoover, and Pam Jenoff anytime where I can psychoanalyze the different characters and learn life’s great wisdoms beyond my own years and experiences. Also, can we all just give an ode to Harry Potter always and forever.  

What is one song you’ve been listening to on repeat recently?

I like Caamp and all their songs. I listen to them on the car ride before every big race and lately my key to early pacing has been listening to their songs in the first part of the race. I even listened to the same album for 4 hours straight while running a 50-kilometer race. 

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you love?

No makeup and dress down virtual meetings. Also, normalizing wearing masks when you are sick! (I work in public health)

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you hate?

Less face to face interactions with others. Everything became more automated and digital. 

What are the last three emojis you used?


What is the last thing you bought online?

Extra long bobby pins, a food processor, and 180 magnetic building blocks. Christmas presents for my siblings and nieces. I come from a very practical bunch of midwest country folks and have nieces that are future engineers. 

What is your most controversial food opinion?

Expiration dates are just suggestions and encouragement to make a clean-out-the-fridge monstrosity. Everything needs a dipping sauce. All foods deserve the opportunity to be tried at least once.

What three videos are at the top of your YouTube recommended homepage?

Surgeon General’s Advisory on our Nation’s Loneliness Epidemic, 

Ted Talks on Mental Health

Tibetan flute music. 

Which Allie is your favorite?

Allie.. Alice? Alice in Wonderland. That’s me most of the time. Lost wandering in my own little dream world occasionally meeting whimsical friends along the way.  

What argument in mass media do you not understand or think is a worthless issue?

Basically all of them. Conflict in the black and white makes no sense to me. Everything in life is shades of gray and should be discussed in long empathetic discussions over coffee. But, alas this isn’t the way of the world. 

When you go home for the holidays, what is the food or tradition that it wouldn’t be the holidays without?

My wild and eccentric family enjoys playing murder mystery on the holidays where they often veer off their given character’s scripts to create their own persona just for the sheer joy of confusing everyone further. This year we are competing in our very own home created edition of Chopped (the competitive cooking tv show) that my mother has been planning for months. It wouldn’t be the holidays without my lovely mother’s creative ideas and quirky personality. 

Nicole Hanson

When I say in-seam you say…?

Drop ‘em to the floor! Birthday suits don’t chafe! 

When has your ego caused you to do something you sort of regret but also would describe as wild and worth it?

I spent a lot of time in my early 20s backpacking around the world. By backpacking I mean hostel hopping and riding public buses from place to place mostly in Latin America. I once happened to find myself with a group of interesting people I met in a hostel in Mexico. They invited me to crash an extremely fancy and expensive wedding on the beach. My adrenaline seeking nature said why of course I’ll come along. I ended up meeting some incredible people who I spent half the night gazing at the stars with and discussing the meaning of life. It was all lovely until I realized my ride left and I ended up sprinting 5 miles home at 3am dodging aggressive street dogs. I knew all this running was training for something.

What was your worst running fuel decision? What was the surprising best?

My worst fueling decision involved inhaling as many solid calories as possible in the first 30 miles of my 100-mile debut because I had heard somewhere that eating sweet gels for a 100 miles makes your stomach sick. Turns out eating five hummus sandwiches, a handful of bean roll ups, and chips while hitting your fastest 50 miles ever doesn’t turn out well either. The best fueling decisions have all involved potatoes. Unfortunately, my fueling choices seldom are surprising. I’ve puked too much to be adventurous in this area. I do often eat large meals and go running immediately after though. 

What is your death row meal?

Thai food and Indian food combined in one spectacular buffet! 

Out and back or looped course? Why?

Point to point races. Looped training routes. I love new views all the time! It feels like a long and diverse adventure. 

Barkley or 24H track race? Why?

Barkley or die. (Or maybe Barkley and die?) I ran track for many many years and if I run in one more 400m circle I might not make it. The adventure of Barkley speaks to my soul and is everything I love about the trail running community. 

When I say PTRA you say? 

PTRA? Your guess is as good as mine as to what that is. Maybe People Trail Running Alot? That would include me. I do that a lot. 

What is one thing that absolutely scares you? Why?

AI taking over all creative arts in the world and the ability of students to work through hard critical thinking and problem solving tasks. We then will breed a generation of humans that are reliant on technology to function. Also, tornados and turkeys (traumatic turkey chasings of my youth). 

What is a time you felt you didn’t measure up? How did you get through that?

During the Kauai 50 mile, I made the mistake of going out way too fast in the first 25 miles. The heat and humidity of the day hit and I started throwing up. I had gone into the race with a lot of confidence and had prepared for the heat, or so I thought. I made a beginners mistake and one I had made before that I should have learned from. I ended up walking much of the last 20 miles. This brought up many emotions and was extremely humbling. There was anger and frustration. Coming from Phoenix summer weather (100+ degrees) I felt like I should have understood the heat better. That race was a pivotal moment for me though. I had to let go of any ego driven motivation for racing and the expectation I had for the day and forgive myself. It made me relook at my whole motivation behind competing. I couldn’t be more thankful for that hard day because it developed in me a resilience I’ve drawn on many times. Since then I’ve changed how I pace, how I approach failure, and have a calm instead of panic when things don’t go as planned in a race. Failure and hardship are such gifts if you let them be. 

Who is another runner that flies under the radar that we should all get to know?

Georgia Porter. She is my beastly strong inspirational Flagstaff training friend who doesn’t have social media. Her spiritual mentality and mindset around training and racing is a beautiful thing to witness. 

Keep exploring


Jazmine Lowther is Canadian Nice 


Sam Lewis Was Told She’d Never Run Pain-Free 


Eric LiPuma Loves New Jersey 

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