Ballengee: ‘I felt like I wasn’t a human being’
SUMMIT COUNTY – Four months after she walked away from her job as the lone female on the top adventure racing team in the world, Nike ACG-Balance Bar, Dillon local Danelle Ballengee explained why on Wednesday night.”I just wasn’t happy, and I didn’t feel like I was being treated well,” she said. “I wasn’t enjoying it. It got to the point where it was terrible for me, not the racing but the team.”I felt like I wasn’t even part of the team. I felt like I wasn’t even a human being, actually.”Elite adventure racing’s intrinsic team makeup, with just one woman balanced by three men, didn’t help in this particular situation.”It seemed like they just wanted the female on the team to keep up and shut up,” Ballengee said. “That’s what I felt they expected of me. I kept up and shut up for years, but that’s just not my style. I wanted more than that. It wasn’t worth it for me.”I kept trying, I really did. A lot of the time I thought it was something with me. I thought I was just being really sensitive. I got really insecure about the whole thing.”Ballengee had raced with Nike ACG-Balance Bar (formerly Team Go Lite) for the majority of her five-plus years on the elite adventure racing circuit, along with male mainstays Mike Kloser (Edwards), Ian Adamson (Boulder) and Michael Tobin (Idaho).
During their time together (every now and then another racer would sub for one of the four regulars), the Nike foursome won two Primal Quests – the Super Bowl of the sport in those years – and tied for the win in another. They were the favorite in virtually every race they entered.Yet through the later stages of the team’s existence, Ballengee and the other three members began to grow apart. Team unity started to dissolve, specifically between Ballengee and Kloser.The team tried to work it out, but the problems continued. Ballengee said a disturbing series of mistreatments – including some she said were financial discrepancies between herself and the trio of men – led to her decision to cut ties. An e-mail from Kloser in January stating the team would be racing with another woman in an upcoming race helped make Ballengee’s decision that much easier.In a recent interview on the subject, Kloser pointed out that it was not his call, nor that of Adamson or Tobin, for Ballengee to leave.”This was Danelle’s choice, it’s not like we booted her off the team,” Kloser said.Asked about the woman’s role on an adventure racing team, Kloser said: “There’s a lot of stress put on a female competitor in the environment we race in.”
Kloser added that emotions tend to flare up in expedition races – which can last up to a week – regardless of team makeup, but that in Nike ACG-Balance Bar’s case there were rarely any “major flareups.”When asked if the circumstances surrounding Ballengee’s departure made it weird between her and the three men, Kloser said, “A little bit.””It’s a loss, certainly,” he said, “but on the flip side, we need to keep moving forward.”
By walking away from the Nike team, Ballengee has left herself without a major sponsor heading into this season. She said she’s gotten “at least a dozen” requests to join another team, but that she’s going to take it slow until she finds the right situation.She has raced with Boulder athletes Travis Macy and Dave Mackey once, at the Extreme Adventure Hidalgo in Mexico, and plans on racing with them more as the summer goes on.She also said she will make more of a push in solo races, including the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon Series. She has done five Hawaii Ironmans in her multisport career, and is going to compete in this weekend’s XTERRA Western Championship in California. The series’ Central Championship is scheduled to be held at Keystone in August.Nike ACG-Balance Bar is currently in Sweden taking part in the Explore Sweden race. Breckenridge resident Monique Merrill is competing with them. She is one of a number of different women that have joined forces with Nike for at least one race.Although soured by the breakup at first, Ballengee has come to peace with her decision.”I realized I wasn’t having fun, and it’s what I love to do,” she said. “More than anything, it’s just unfortunate, because we had such a good team. But it happens every day in the business world.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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