An Adventure Xstream racer rappels near Gemini Bridges. [Courtesy photo]

Adventure Xstream races are 6-to-12 hour, multi-sport endurance races that combine trail running, mountain biking, kayaking, rappeling and more, over unmarked 50-plus-mile courses, traversed by solo, two- person and four-person relay teams using topographical maps to guide them. This will be the 14th running of the Adventure Xstream Series, and Saturday’s race marks the first race of the year.

Local world-champion adventure-racer Danelle Ballengee has won the overall race in the past and has enjoyed competing in more ways than one.

After suffering a broken pelvis during a trail run in which she slipped to the canyon floor on a patch of ice, began bleeding internally and was barely able to move, Ballengee was finally located by Search & Rescue workers three days after she went out for her run, led to the site of her accident by her running partner and loyal dog, Taz. AXS came forward and graciously offered to organize a fundraiser to help Ballengee with her hospital bills.

“Several years ago I won the whole thing,” Ballengee said. “I beat all the guys. It was a lot of fun.

“After my accident, the AXS race held an online auction to raise funds for my hospital bills, which was very helpful.”

Ski mountaineer and world-class marathon mountain-biker Jari Kirkland, of Crested Butte, Colo., has run in the past seven AXS Moab races and is looking forward to beginning the adventure race series season in Moab again on Saturday. What seems at first glance to be quite a trek in itself serves as merely a warmup for Kirkland’s team.

“I started adventure racing in big races (3-to-6 days) and we (as a team) wanted extra training so we started doing the AXS races because they were six hours to two days long. It’s good training for transition and speed work,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland thinks Moab “is the perfect place to start a season.”

“The weather is usually good, and after being in the snow for seven months, even 50 degrees feels warm,” she said. “The scenery is very beautiful and we usually get a good rappel in the race, which makes any adventure race more fun.”

Firefighters and adventure racers Matt Rettmer and Heidi Simon of Castle Rock, Colo., are two of about 300 racers expected, and have been training for their sixth AXS Moab race in Sedona, Ariz. Of particular enjoyment to them are some of the mental challenges involved with adventure racing.

“My inspiration to run the AXS races was the combination of physical and mental challenges as well as having access to running and biking trails that I most likely would not do on my own,” Rettmer said. “The access to the trails and land that AXS provides the racers is incredible and unmatched in Colorado and Utah.”

“It is especially the mental challenge that I look forward to overcoming in each race,” Simon said. “Determination and perseverance were something I wanted to continue to develop in myself, and adventure racing does this while getting to do some great things and see beautiful places.”

The challenges of the Moab terrain, weather and a slow flowing river are unique to Moab, Simon said.

“The amazing rappels and Tyrollean traverses can’t be done anywhere but Moab,” she said. “My favorite part is probably the amazing views during the runs, the geology and the little flowers that pop up almost out of nowhere and say ‘keep going Heidi.’”

The race features over 30 miles of mountain biking, six miles of single-track trail running, eight miles of paddling in the Colorado river and a 300-foot rappel.

14th running of Adventure Xstream Series begins in Moab


“Several years ago I won the whole thing. I beat all the guys. It was a lot of fun,”


When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday, April 5

Where: Race course will be disclosed the day before the race

Cost: $190 per person for solo or two-person teams, $450 for four-person relay teams. Call Gravity Play Sports at 970-403-5320 or visit for more information