Parkinson’s Disease didn’t stop Lowe Johnston, 74, of Austin from finishing the Tough Mudder

Lowe Johnston, center, with John Hester, left, and his nephew Grant, right, after the Tough Mudder obstacle race earlier this month.
Lowe Johnston, center, with John Hester, left, and his nephew Grant, right, after the Tough Mudder obstacle race earlier this month.

Think your adventure racing days are behind you? Maybe not.

Meet Lowe Johnston of Austin.

Johnston, age 74, competed in and finished his very first Tough Mudder race on May 2. Not only is he well above the average age of 29 for competitors in the event, a 10.2-mile course with obstacles scattered along the way, he’s got Parkinson’s Disease.

“It’s a great test of general physical condition,” Johnston says. “You need balanced overall strength.”

Johnston was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a progressive disease of the nervous system, in 2001, just after his wife died. He takes medication to control his symptoms, which include tremors and problems with fine motor control. He says his symptoms didn’t bother him much during the race.

“I’ve been very very lucky. I’m doing really well,” he says.

Johnston is among the oldest participants to do the race, according to Jodi Kovacs of Tough Mudder. An 82-year-old competed a few years ago, and a 71-year-old recently raced in England.

Obstacles include crossing muddy pits, scaling walls, climbing ropes and leaping over fire. The hardest for Johnston? Something called Everest, a metal slide about 20 feet tall.

“It’s at the end of race and I was tired and cramping. You run up the slide and people at the top grab you and help you over. It took me about 10 times to get up that,” he says.

It took him about 4 hours to finish the Tough Mudder, including wait time at some of the obstacles. He says he walked away from the race with no ill effects other than a few scratches on his knees. He’s planning to do it again next year, and will prepare specifically for the race.

“I want to strengthen my hands to grip bars and vertical ropes, and will hang a rope back of my house to train pulling myself up using only my arms,” he says.

Johnston says he stays in shape by running and exercising. He completed the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans in 2010 and the Cap10K this year. “You’ve got to eat right, exercise and get sleep,” he says. “I hope to use the Tough Mudder as an indicator that I’m still doing OK health-wise.”

About 1.3 million people have participated in a Tough Mudder race. Seventy percent of competitors are male, according to the race website.

Bike to Work Day is Friday!

Friday is Bike to Work Day, with free breakfast for bicycle commuters. File photo by Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman
Friday is Bike to Work Day, with free breakfast for bicycle commuters. File photo by Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman

Rejoice, fellow bike commuters!

Bike to Work Day is upon us – and that means free breakfast and afternoon treats for folks on two wheels.

Stop by any of the following fueling stations between 7 and 9:30 a.m. for a little sustenance:

  • B Cycle, 11th and Congress
  • Bikealot, 4418 Pack Saddle Pass
  • Bouldin Creek Cafe, 1990 S. First St.
  • Cafe Ruckus, 409 W. Second Street
  • Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, south side
  • City Hall, 301 W. Second Street
  • Enviromedia, 2021 E. Fifth Street Street
  • Wheatsville Co-op and Performance Bikes, 4001 South Lamar Boulevard
  • Whole Foods, 525 North Lamar Boulevard
  • YMCA of Austin, 1100 W. Cesar Chavez Street
  • Castle Hill Bicycles, 1112 North Lamar Boulevard
  • Juiceland, 1900 A. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, 2601 Cesar Chavez Street, 12226 FM 620 North
  • Mellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces Street
  • Michael F. Adams Station at Mueller
  • Thunderbird Coffee, 1401 Koenig Lane
  • Wheatsville Co-op, 3101 Guadalupe Street
  • Fourth Street/Interstate 35 underpass
  • Jack & Adams, 300 South Lamar Boulevard

Stop by these stations between 4 and 6:30 p.m. for afternoon treats:

  • Bikealot, 4418 Pack Saddle Pass
  • Nelo’s Cycles, 8108 Mesa Drive
  • REI, 601 N. Lamar Boulevard
  • Whole Foods, 525 N. Lamar Boulevard

For more details, go here.

Luke’s Locker unveils new summer race series at The Driveway

Luke's Locker will kick off a new running race series at The Driveway this month. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman staff
Luke’s Locker will kick off a new running race series at The Driveway this month. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman staff

First came cars. Then bicycles. Now runners will race at The Driveway track in East Austin.

The inaugural Luke’s Locker Driveway Summer Series will kick off May 20, with chip-timed races at 7 p.m. every Wednesday through Aug. 19.

Runners will make two laps of the twisting, rolling course for a total of 3.2 miles. The races will be fully supported, with live announcing, music, and post-event refreshments. At the end of the summer, racers who accrue the most points in the series will win awards.

Registration is online or at The Driveway, home of the Driveway Criterium series, the largest bike racing series in the country.

The Driveway is the home of a popular summer bike race series, too. AMERICAN-STATESMAN/Rodolfo  Gonzalez
The Driveway is the home of a popular summer bike race series, too. AMERICAN-STATESMAN/Rodolfo Gonzalez

“Our desire is to provide an opportunity for runners and walkers to maintain their fitness level during the summer months in a fun, social environment,” Rod Newlin, manager of Luke’s Locker Austin, said in a press release.

Cadence Sports will produce the weekly event.

“We have long wondered why there is not a fun, weekly series in our running crazed city. The Driveway series will be a great place to meet new people, start getting in shape, or test your fitness against your longer-term race goals,” said Gary Metcalf, president of Cadence Sports.

For more information, go here lukeslocker.com or contact Cadence Sports at info@cadencesports.com.

Casting call for NBC’s new fitness reality show set for Saturday in Austin

NBC is looking for contestants for an upcoming fitness series.
NBC is looking for contestants for an upcoming fitness series.

Want to get your butt whipped into shape on national television?

NBC will hold a casting call for contestants on its newest fitness-focused reality series this weekend in Austin.

The show, “S.T.R.O.N.G.,” from the creators of “The Biggest Loser,” will pair 12 contestants and 12 fitness trainers. They’ll train together and the team that makes the most impressive transformation will win a cash prize.

NBC officials say they are looking for people from all different walks of life. People who are overcoming personal struggles and want to become their best selves are especially encouraged to apply.

Open calls will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 16 at Aloft, 11601 Domain Drive in Austin. Casting calls will also take place in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.

For more information go here.

How did Texas rank in list of bike friendliest states?

Pam LeBlanc navigates traffic on Congress Avenue in this 2012 file photo. (Austin American-Statesman/Rodolfo Gonzalez)
Pam LeBlanc navigates traffic on Congress Avenue in this 2012 file photo. (Austin American-Statesman/Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Just as we were celebrating Austin’s ranking as 14th most bike-friendly city in the country on BetterDoctor’s list of bike-friendly cities comes news of Texas’ dismal state-wide performance on another list.

The League of American Bicyclists’ this week released its annual list of Bicycle Friendly States, and Texas came in 30th out of 50. (See the whole list here.)

Not good, but not surprising, either. Have you tried to ride a bike through Houston, El Paso or Dallas lately?

Texas’ 2015 rank is actually up a wee bit from 2014, when it ranked 33rd in the country. But it’s significantly down from 2013, when it was 22nd.

At the top of the League of American Bicyclists’ 2015 list are Washington, Minnesota, Delaware, Massachusetts and Utah. (Utah?) Bringing up the bottom are Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky and Alabama.

States received scores between 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) in five areas. Texas scored a 3 in legislation and enforcement, 3 in policies and programs, 1 in infrastructure and funding, 4 in education and encouragement, and 1 in evaluation and planning.

The study did note Texas’ adoption of a safe passing law, our active state advocacy group (thank you Bike Texas!) and our Share the Road campaign. Statewide, about 1 percent of people in Texas commute to work by bike. In Austin, that number is 1.57 percent.

Don’t forget, Friday is Bike to Work Day!

How does Austin rank on the latest bike-friendliness list?

Pam LeBlanc leaves her home on her way to the Austin American-Statesman offices in this 2014 file photo. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Pam LeBlanc leaves her home on her way to the Austin American-Statesman offices in this 2014 file photo. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Time for another list of America’s most bike-friendly cities, class.

The latest study, from BetterDoctor, uses three values – the percentage of commuters who bike to work, the number of bicycle fatalities, and the amount of federal funds spent on pedestrian/bicycle projects – to determine each city’s score. It used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A bike and pedestrian path is under construction on the east side of the frontage road of MoPac north of Loop 360. Photo by Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A bike and pedestrian path is under construction on the east side of the frontage road of MoPac north of Loop 360. Photo by Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin came in 14th out of 52 cities on the list, making it the highest-ranking Texas city. No surprise there. We ranked well above Dallas, 24th, San Antonio, 30th, Houston, 35th, El Paso, 37th, and Fort Worth, 52nd.

According to the study, 1.57 percent of the Austin population rides a bike to work, our fatality rate is 2.4 per 10,0000, and we devote $4.18 in funding per person to bike/pedestrian projects.

Divya Raghaven, senior analyst at BetterDoctor and author of the study, said Austin’s percentage of bike commuters is higher than many other large cities.

Portland, where bike commuters stream across bridges and downtown streets and a whopping $8.35 per person in federal transportation funds go to bike/pedestrian projects, topped the list. (Of course. Yawn.)

“Austin has a long way to go before it can compete with Portland’s 6.14 percent of commuters who commute by bike, but city initiatives like Bike Buddy – a cooperation between The City of Austin and Open Austin – are pushing for the commuter rates to go up,” said Divya Raghavan, senior analyst at BetterDoctor and author of the study.

I’ve been commuting by bike for seven or eight years. I see more other cyclists now than I did when I started. We’ve also got more bike lanes – and bike boxes, cycle tracks, separated pathways and bike racks. More is coming, too, including a bike/pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek.

But we need so much more to get most folks to feel safe enough to pedal to work.

In general, big cities scored higher on the list. They’re more walkable and have a younger population. Cities with temperate climates also did well. (No, we don’t have snow. But anyone besides me dread that slog up Lamar Boulevard on a bike come August?)

To see the complete list, go here. http://bit.ly/1C5ERr1

Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend set for June 12-14

Cooking Light and Health magazine's Fit Foodies 5K Weekend includes a 5K race, cooking demonstrations, food tastings and exercise classes.
Cooking Light and Health magazine’s Fit Foodies 5K Weekend includes a 5K race, cooking demonstrations, food tastings and exercise classes.

For those who run so they can eat (more), may I present the Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend.

The event, brought to you by Cooking Light and Health magazines, features a bunch of cooking events and tastings wrapped around a 5K race, some yoga and a Pure Barre session.

Sound tasty?

The three-day event is scheduled for June 12-14 at Mueller Lake Park, 4550 Mueller Boulevard.

The weekend starts with a VIP party with the editors of both magazines on Friday night. The actual race takes place Saturday morning (dogs invited.) After crossing the finish line, runners enter the Fit Foodie Finisher’s Village Celebration, where they’ll find food and drink, plus fitness and culinary demonstrations. The weekend wraps up the next day with the choice of a yoga session or a Sunday Sweat Session, followed by brunch prepared by a celebrity chef.

Organizers call it “the most delicious 5K ever,” and race producer Michelle Metter says that it shows that “a fit and healthy lifestyle can co-exist with a love for great epicurean experiences.”

No word on whether you’ll need larger running shorts when everything is over.

Registration is $55 per day, or $150 for all three days. To sign up go here. A portion of proceeds from race entries and T-shirt sales will benefit The American Diabetes Association.

You can train like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, even if you’re not one

Update: The classes are at 6 a.m. not at 6 p.m. The press release was initially incorrect.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders head to the start line of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in 2013. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders head to the start line of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in 2013. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

You won’t get your own halter-top-and-hotpants uniform, but the next time you spend the night at the Omni Dallas Hotel, you can train like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

At 6 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, Jay Johnson, official fitness trainer of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, leads a military style workout called “Jay Johnson’s Bootcamp.”

The cost is $10 per guest. Just show up at the gym on the fourth floor of the hotel, 555 South Lamar Street.

And maybe we’ll see you at the next Cowboys game – or in the crowd at next year’s Statesman Capitol 10,000, just like these lovely ladies …

Runners dressed as Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders participate in the Statesman Capitol 10,000 in this file photo by Larry Kolvoord of the American-Statesman.
Runners dressed as Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders participate in the Statesman Capitol 10,000 in this file photo by Larry Kolvoord of the American-Statesman.

Bicyclists to rally at courthouse Thursday at Pedaling for Safer Roads event

Alvaro Bastidas of Please Be Kind to Cyclists places a ghost bike in honor of a fallen bicyclist in this Austin American-Statesman file photo by Ralph Barrera.
Alvaro Bastidas of Please Be Kind to Cyclists helps place a ghost bike in honor of a fallen bicyclist in this Austin American-Statesman file photo by Ralph Barrera.

Heads up, bicyclists.

Pedaling for Safer Roads III, a rally to remind lawmakers and city officials of the need to enforce laws and prosecute motorists who injure or kill cyclists, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

Please Be Kind to Cyclists, a non-profit group that works to foster cooperation between bicyclists and motorists, is organizing the event.

Cyclists are invited to gather in front of the Travis County Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe Street, for a short group ride and rally. In years past, the rally has taken place at the Capitol. This year it will take place at the courthouse.

Law enforcement representatives have been invited to speak.

“People who ride bicycles are frustrated and are looking for answers from law enforcement agencies such as the District Attorney’s office, the Travis County Sheriff’s office and APD on how bike-auto crashes are handled,” said Pat Bastidas, one of the co-founders of Please Be Kind to Cyclists.

“If we can make commuting by bike feel safe and convenient, not only will we alleviate traffic, we can make an impact on health issues, traffic fatalities, road maintenance, the possibilities are endless.”

For more information about the event go here.

Leo Manzano to unveil trail system named for him in Granite Shoals

Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, center, poses with the men's winner Erik Stanley, right, and second place finisher Rory Tunningley, left, at the 2015 Statesman Capitol 10,000.  RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, center, poses with the men’s winner Erik Stanley, right, and second place finisher Rory Tunningley, left, at the 2015 Statesman Capitol 10,000.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Nearly three years ago, former University of Texas track star Leo Manzano stormed down the homestretch, passing all but one runner to claim the silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

This weekend Manzano will unveil a new trail system named after him in Granite Shoals, a small town northwest of Austin on the north shore of Lake LBJ, where he grew up and still has family.

The opening of the Leo Manzano Hike, Bike and Run Trails is set for 9 a.m. Saturday at Quarry Parks, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road. The public is invited to walk or run the trails with Manzano from 10 to 11 a.m. Bicycles will be permitted after 11 a.m.

Grants from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department funded construction of the trails, which are dotted with granite benches, tables, monuments and exercise stations and wind alongside an old quarry. The system includes an outer loop of more than 2 miles called the Manzano Hike, Bike and Run Trail, an inner half-mile called Leo’s Loop around a large quarry pond, and several connecting trails.

The trails are part of 131.6-acre park development that also includes an interpretive pavilion and wildflower garden and the Roddick Youth Tennis Foundation’s Roddick Tennis Center.

The trails are open from dawn to dusk. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Alcohol and glass containers are prohibited, and fishing, swimming and diving are prohibited in the quarry ponds. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.