Endurance Legend Danelle Ballengee Injured
Posted: Mon, 15 Jan 2007
No, this isn't part 2 of the Beer Mile story - relax, it's coming.
We wanted to take this space to help one of our own.
Have you ever climbed one of the fifty five 14,000-foot+ peaks in Colorado? I have. In fact, I've done it a couple of times. On one of these two occasions I climbed Long's Peak with Mark Allen. This was back in the early '90's and Mark was considered the fittest man in the world at the time. He was in the middle of winning the Hawaii Ironman 6-times. We arrived at the base of the trail in the dark of the morning - maybe 5am - and started up. We made it back down before the late afternoon thunder showers got us but it was a solid 8+ hour effort and we were beat. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't some super human feat but it was hard. Yes, we saw grampa, his grandson and other assorted tourists and outdoor enthusiasts on their way up but make no mistake, this was hard. Afterward, we drove, stopped to eat a lot, drove home, and then slept A LOT. We woke up the next day sore and still tired. Mark was sore and tired. The world's fittest man. Sore. Tired.
Then there's Danelle Ballengee. I first heard the name in the triathlon world back around the time I was heroically scaling Long's Peak with 10-year olds on their family vacation. It didn't register in a big way 'til I heard the name again during the summer of 2000. Withdrawal from all day endurance training had me dabbling in adventure racing and ultra running. When you've "run" 100-miles (actually glorified hiking) and completed a whole 24-hour adventure race, you can begin to think you're the second coming of Ernest Shackleton - especially if you're male and already predisposed to delusions of grandeur which, I suppose, is the definition of being male, right? Anyway, I continue to digress…
That summer, I heard rumors of Danelle's attempt on the impossible - no the ridiculous. After some time in triathlon (she was 13th female pro at the '97 Hawaii Ironman), Danelle had found her true talent in running on high mountain trails and expedition adventure racing. In '99 she was named Mountain Runner of the Year. This was around the time of the Fila Sky Marathons - 26.2-mile jaunts on single track trails at all above 4000meters (13,133feet) - events made for Danelle. Evidently this wasn't all that hard because Danelle decided she was going to try something different. She was finally going to try something that she could classify as hard. Danelle decided she was going to climb all 55 of Colorado's fourteeners - in two weeks. Ok, she didn't know she would bag the final peak (Long's) in a total time of 14-days, 14-hours, and 49-minutes but she did know she wanted to go as fast as she could. That's, uh, pretty fast. That's the female record for those of you who want to give it a go. I think I'll pass. I'm definitely not woman enough. Blew me away then and still does. All I have to do is think about having to go 300 miles and over 150,000 vertical feet on…feet. That's up and down Mt. Everest something like 10-times. Ridiculous.
Anyway, the reason we've bothered to tell you about this incredible member of our endurance sport family is that she needs some help. If you haven't heard or read about her story, you missed a whopper. It's not like she doesn't have enough radical stories of harrowing trips and feats of endurance that she needed another but this one will be THE one. This is the one that will keep anyone who hears it on the edge of their seat. This is the one that grand children will be telling their grand children's children for eons.
The story has been told on numerous websites (listed below). The short version (which will not come close to doing this epic tale justice) is that on the afternoon of December 13th, Danelle decided to drive 5-miles from her home in Moab to a trail head for a little jog on the local trails. Again, this was Danelle's "easy jog" - a loop that she estimated would take 1.5 to 2-hours. She had her best friend and training partner, Taz, a brown German shepherd/golden retriever mix, with her.
Midway through the run while scrambling up a slope, Danelle's foot lost its grip on what she thinks was black ice and she quickly fell 60-feet to a rocky ledge. With a shattered pelvis and sacrum and the internal bleeding that comes with such injuries, Danelle spent the next two+ days painfully shivering through the nights and sucking water from a pothole she'd crawled to, all the while thinking about friends, family, and wanting to live. By the second day, Taz started to run loops - always coming back to check on Danelle. With time running out and, unbeknownst to Dannelle, a snow storm on the way, a neighbor's concern would start a fortuitous chain of events that would result in her rescue. Each link in the chain of communication that led to a rescuer on an ATV following Taz back to a very weak Danelle on the afternoon of the 15th - and there were A LOT of links - was crucial and, in retrospect, a small miracle on the way to the big one. These weren't links of a chain. These were threadlike chances that happened to fit perfectly together to provide a truly wondrous outcome.
Now the hoopla is over. The television cameras are gone. The reporters calls have dwindled. Now Danelle has, perhaps, the toughest training she's ever faced in front of her. The months of rehabilitation that will be required to regain simple independence in day-to-day living, let alone the return to the level of activity that this endurance legend is accustomed to, will be the longest & toughest expedition race of her life. Three weeks have gone by and she's working on sitting up in her wheel chair for as much as an hour each day. While the long term prognosis is good, the cost is already through the roof and, like it seems to be for all independent contractors/small business owners that professional endurance athletes are, the insurance coverage is inadequate.
Should you be inclined to help, you can do so by contributing to a fund set up for Dannelle at any First Bank in Colorado or California.
You can go to: www.efirstbank.com to find a location near you or you can make a check to: Danelle Ballangee Fund
And send it to:
Danelle Ballangee Fund
C/O: First Bank
P.O. Box 347
Silverthorne, CO 80498
Finally, if you're interested in escaping to Moab, Danelle's house is for rent. It's a two bedroom, one bathroom home that rents for $575/month. If you're interested, send an e-mail to Danelle at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm sure Danelle would love to hear from you regardless. Get well Danelle (hey, that rhymed!).
For more on Danelle and the story check out the following links: