Danelle Ballengee says that she lives, sleeps and breathes endurance.
Whether she’s setting new speed records climbing Colorado’s highest peaks or surviving a near-death accident on a local trail, the professional athlete and local event organizer has shown that she’s in it for the long haul.
For her latest challenge, Ballengee persevered over several years to organize the first-ever Moab Off-Road Duathlon and Spring Trail Run, which is coming to the Moab area on Saturday, March 7.
The duathlon combines running and mountain biking activities, while the trail run was designed to include a range of easy to more difficult options. The top finishers in various categories will receive prizes, although Ballengee said the chance to win something isn’t necessarily the main focus of either event.
“For this year, it’s all about fun, and it’s a good early-season event to kick off the year,” she said.
Ballengee said that she and others first came up with the idea for the event about three years ago.
“At the time, there was no other multi-sport event in Moab,” she said.
Although there was strong interest in a local duathlon, Ballengee said they couldn’t quite pull it off back then.
But after working with Grand County Trail Mix and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), organizers finally set up this year’s inaugural event. The routes they came up with follow a combination of slickrock and red dirt trails in the North Klondike Bluffs area near Arches National Park, and pass by unique scenery in every direction.
“We found a course that is just awesome,” Ballengee said. “Going out on those trails just makes me smile.”
Trail Mix volunteers, as well as members of the local Sierra Club and Utah Friends of Paleontology chapters, built many of the trails, which pass by thousands of dinosaur tracks.
“This is one of those spots where the evidence of dinosaurs is so clear,” Ballengee said. “When you actually see this track, you think, ‘Wow. That’s pretty real.’ It really gets the imagination going.”
A 4.8-mile runners’ course follows the Dinosaur Stomping Ground foot trail to an overlook along the Mega Steps. From there, the course heads to Little Valley Road, which marks the transition between the runners’ route and a 7.8-mile bike course.
Participants can choose to run and bike the entire event on their own, or they can split up into two-member teams that are divided between runners and bikers.
As an alternative, runners can join the Spring Trail Run, which offers them a choice between a 4.8-mile, 8K course, or a 13-mile, 21K course.
Other event highlights include a nature lovers’ scavenger hunt along the trails. Participants will be asked to take photos of 15 things, ranging from dinosaur tracks to pinyon pine trees; scavenger hunt winners will receive prizes at the end of the day.
“It might be fun for people who aren’t super-competitive,” Ballengee said.
As for those who are competitive, Ballengee urges them not to pass others on sections of untracked, fragile desert soils. There will be plenty of passing opportunities on other stretches along the way, she said.
This year’s events include room for up to 300 participants. A few people from Moab have signed up so far, although most racers will be coming from the Salt Lake City area and Colorado’s Western Slope.
“March hits and it’s that spring fever,” Ballengee said. “Moab is on their minds.”
Forecasters predict that highs on March 7 will reach 59 degrees Fahrenheit. If that doesn’t sound quite as nice as temperatures were back in mid-February, Ballengee still thinks it’s a welcome improvement on the more recent spate of cold, wet weather.
“It should be perfect for racing, actually,” she said.
Two new events come to Moab area this weekend
“We found a course that is just awesome … Going out on those trails just makes me smile.”
When: Saturday, March 7; start times vary
Where: North Klondike Bluffs Trails; event routes vary
Cost: The duathlon costs $55 per person, or $70 per team of one runner and one biker; non-USA Triathlon members will need to purchase a $12 day pass to cover sanctioning and insurance. Late registration for the Spring Trail Run costs $60 per person. Online registration is no longer available, but participants can still register at Milt’s Stop & Eat between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 6, or at the race on the morning of the event.