Joe Barger, 89, collects six medals at National Senior Games

Joe Barger, 89, collected six medals at the National Senior Games, including this silver medal in the 10K.
Joe Barger, 89, collected six medals at the National Senior Games, including this silver medal in the 10K.

Congrats to Joe Barger, who just returned from the National Senior Games in Minneapolis, where he scooped up an impressive six medals.

Barger, 89, nabbed gold medals in the 5K and 1,500 meters, silver medals in the 10K and 800 meters, and bronze medals in the 200 and 400 meters. He also collected a bronze medal in the 50 meters – because, as he says, “it was too short and I couldn’t get started.”

That’s six medals in seven events, an almost Michael Phelps-esque performance.

To qualify for the National Senior Games, athletes must first qualify at the state level. The 2015 games marked Barger’s fourth trip to the national competition. He competed, in accordance with official rules, in the 90-94-year-old age group, because he turns 90 later this season.

Relatively speaking, he hasn’t been running long. He started about 25 years ago, when he was 64.

“The fact is my daughter got on me about my big belly. She said, ‘You’ve got to do something,’ so I’ve got to thank her for pushing me to running,” Barger says.

Barger’s daughter, wife and granddaughter traveled to Minneapolis to cheer him on at the competition. He’s modest about his accomplishments.

“The older you get the slower you get, but there’s less competition,” he says. His secret to success? “I just keep doing it.”

Barger stays in running shape by participating in numerous road races around Austin. Among his favorites are the Statesman Capitol 10,000 and the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot. He does longer events too. In 2014, he completed the 3M Half Marathon in 2:59:15.4. This year he clocked a 3:04:09.

“(Running) takes your mind off everything else,” he says. “You’re your own person and really competing against the clock and yourself. It’s a good way to clear your mind.”

He runs in thin-soled New Balance shoes and trains with coach Valerie Hunt, who teaches what is called the “pose” method of running. “I started to quit a couple years ago then found out I could use a little less energy and still run,” he says. “She’s an inspiration.”

He didn’t participate in sports growing up in Tennessee. He served in the Navy during World War II, then earned a degree in engineering. He worked for IBM for almost 30 years.

The Senior Games are held every other year, and Barger already is planning to compete in 2017. To compete, athletes must be at least 50 years old.

In past years, his older brother and sister competed with him at the Games. They were unable to participate this year.

“They got me started in it,” he says.

Andy Coulbeck completes ‘Everesting’ attempt on Big View Drive

Andy Coulbeck rode up and down Big View Drive 70 times, climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest on his bicycle.
Andy Coulbeck rode up and down Big View Drive 70 times, climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest on his bicycle.

If you live in the River Place neighborhood, you may have seen a cyclist pedaling up and down the bike-swallowing hill on Big View Drive last weekend.

That was Andy Coulbeck, a 51-year-old software developer originally from Leicester, England, in the midst of an “Everesting” attempt.

For the uninformed: To properly “Everest,” a cyclist must bike up and down a single hill until he or she has climbed 29,000 feet – the same as the famous mountain. A strict set of rules developed by a group of guys from Australia governs each attempt.

For Coulbeck, that meant 70 trips up and 70 trips down Big View Drive. He began at just after 5 p.m. last Saturday, rode through the night and finished about 26 hours later – at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Andy Coulbeck celebrates his successful Everesting attempt last weekend.
Andy Coulbeck celebrates his successful Everesting attempt last weekend.

Coulbeck says he’s not really an athlete, although he does play soccer. He started cycling after having surgery and prepared for his assault on Big View Drive by biking up and down hills around West Austin during the heat of the afternoon. He rides a basic, entry-level aluminum road bike made by Raleigh.

The hardest point came at 3 or 4 a.m., when he was about halfway done. “I was slowing down really significantly and I was alone,” he says. Happily, a trio of cyclists he rides with turned up unexpectedly and gave him a burst of motivation.

The feat was more mentally than physically daunting, he says. “Physically I knew it was possible, but it’s just persuading yourself to go,” he says.

He took breaks along the way, and fueled himself, he confesses, with a burger, fries and a milkshake from P. Terry’s, plus a frappuccino from Starbucks, delivered by a friend. “Other than that it was Powerade and all sorts of junk food.”

That last loop, he says, was brilliant. “I had a burst of energy on that final lap,” he says.

He recorded his ride via Strava and submitted the data to the folks who compile the Hall of Fame for Everesting. His name is officially on the list. You can see it here.

Coulbeck says he felt pretty good after the ride, despite a sore rear end. He’s glad he did it, although he also says, “Never again.”

Worldwide, about 600 people have completed the feat, including about 50 in the United States.

“My goal was to be first in Texas to do that and I was,” he says. “Somebody will do it faster, but no one can take that away from me.”

One other record he holds? His is the hottest successful Everesting accomplishment ever. The average temperature was 86 degrees, which was fine for Coulbeck, who says, “I would rather be hot and uncomfortable than cold and uncomfortable.”

Clearly, he chose the right way to summit Everest.

Austin ranks No. 5 on list of America’s top swimming cities

Austin ranks No. 5 in a list of America's best swim cities. Olympian Brendan Hansen lives here. PAM LEBLANC/Austin American-Statesman
Austin ranks No. 5 in a list of America’s best swim cities. Olympian Brendan Hansen lives here. PAM LEBLANC/Austin American-Statesman

Austin climbed three notches to the No. 5 spot on a list of the best swim cities in America.

The study, by USA Swimming and Speedo, ranked cities based on statistics including the number of fitness swimmers, swimming clubs and pools.

I credit the University of Texas, along with iconic swimming holes like Barton Springs and Lake Travis, for our high ranking. A bunch of former Olympians, including Brendan Hansen, who now heads the swimming program at Austin Aquatics & Sports Center, live here. We’ve got plenty of organized swim programs for adults and children, too. (I swim with the U.S. Masters program at Western Hills Athletic Club, also known as Rollingwood Pool.)

Ann Arbor topped the list. Also in the Top 10 were San Jose-Santa Clara, San Francisco-Oakland; Durham, North Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Washington, D.C.; and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut.

“Something special is happening in and around Austin with our propensity for active lifestyles,” Mike Koleber, head coach of Nitro Swim, said in a press release. “In turn, that promotes active families who know the benefits of swimming. We’re doing our part to show as many kids as we can how to have fun and swim fast.”

Researchers looked at the number of USA Swimming and U.S. Masters swimmers, the number of USA Swimming clubs, and the number of swimmers who qualified for high level competitions like the Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games. It also tallied the numbers of competitive and fitness swimmers and the number of swim facilities open to the public.

To see the complete list, go here.

To find a nearby swim club, go here.

Bike Austin’s Hottest Day of the Year Ride set for Aug. 8

Bike Austin's sixth annual Hottest Day of the Year Ride is set for Aug. 8.  LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Bike Austin’s sixth annual Hottest Day of the Year Ride is set for Aug. 8. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Looks like it’s going to get hot this summer after all, so we might as well embrace the heat by pedaling around Austin on a bicycle and jumping into as many swimming holes as possible.

Join Bike Austin for its scorching annual Hottest Day of the Year Ride on Saturday, Aug. 8. The ride begins at 2 p.m. at three separate locations – Wheatsville South, 4001 South Lamar Boulevard; Performance Bike, 2900 West Anderson Lane; and in.gredients, 2610 Manor Road. Routes vary from 6 to 11 miles.

Participants in this year's Hottest Day of the Year Ride will stop by local swimming pools to cool off.  LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Participants in this year’s Hottest Day of the Year Ride will stop by local swimming pools to cool off.
LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The point? To remind people that if you dress right, hydrate and keep an open mind, biking to the park, pool, cafe or ice cream shop is doable and fun for all ages and abilities.

Ride participants will get free snacks and beverages from Wheatsville Co-Op and Royal Blue Grocery, 10 cool swimming spots and a custom bandana. Proceeds will benefit Bike Austin’s Education Fund.

Tickets are $5 for members or $10 for non-members and include access to the post-ride party at 5 p.m. at Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Boulevard. There will be live music and Bike Austin president Erick Benz will give an update on future plans.

Register here.

Wear sunscreen. Bring water, swimwear, a spare bike tube, lock, cash for food and lights for the ride home afterward. Helmets are recommended.

Taking a Moots bicycle for a spin in Steamboat Springs

Gretch Sanders and Pam LeBlanc take a couple of Moots bicycles for a spin in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last week. Photo by Cathy Wiedemer
Gretch Sanders and Pam LeBlanc take a couple of Moots bicycles for a spin in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last week. Photo by Cathy Wiedemer

I’ve got a crush on a new bicycle (again).

While in Steamboat Springs last week, I swung by the Moots factory on the outskirts of town to see how the hand-crafted, custom-made bikes are built.

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Welders assemble frames at the Moots factory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

After meeting the five dogs that work there with their owners (!), and watching the welders putting together the all-titanium frames, I borrowed a bike and set out with marketing guru Cathy Wiedemer for a test ride.

We pedaled up a paved road, then ducked onto a packed dirt road for a spin on what Moots’ employees call “the airport loop,” a 20-mile circuit that’s perfect for a nooner ride.

We noticed dark clouds skudding on the horizon, but figured they’d get hung up on the Continental Divide and we’d stay dry. That’s not quite how it worked out – after 15 miles the president of the company had to come pick us up when we got caught in a lightening storm – but I was so mesmerized by the creamy, almost springy ride I was getting from the Moots Routt I was riding I almost didn’t notice.

The Routt, billed as a long-haul dirt and gravel rides-cyclocross-light touring frame, sells for about $3,300, but fully decked out with top-notch components, it can cost three times that. (The one I rode would retail for about $6,900.) I’d never ridden such an expensive bike, and now I’m spoiled.

Moots started making bikes in 1981 in Steamboat Springs. Today they make only titanium road, mountain and cyclocross bike frames, plus some components. In Austin, you can buy a Moots bicycle at Mellow Johnny’s or Pro Cycle Works.

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The Moots logo features an alligator riding a bicycle. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

The Moots logo, which features an alligator riding a bicycle, traces its roots to the founder’s childhood.

“His favorite pencil-top eraser was a lovable, smiling alligator character that accompanied him throughout his school days,” reads a company bio. “One day, while sitting a little bored in class, he squeezed together the alligator’s cheeks as if encouraging him to speak. Lo and behold, out of his mouth came the faint cry of Moots, Moots, Moots…”

The pencil-top eraser became Mr. Moots, and the founder began sketching him doing all kinds of outdoor adventures, from skiing and hiking to bicycling. When he began building and selling bikes, he had to call the company Moots.

Moots offers free factory tours at 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at their headquarters, at 2545 Copper Ridge Drive on the outskirts of town.

If you drop by, say hi to the pups, give the ‘gator a salute, and maybe stuff one of those bikes in your suitcase and bring it back to Austin for me.

Getting a natural farm workout at the Horse & Hen in Hayden, Colo.

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Things I learned staying at the Horse & Hen in Hayden, Colorado, earlier this week:

  • Farmers don’t need to go to the gym. They get plenty of exercise taking care of their goats, pigs, horses, chickens and gardens.
  • Goats can stand on a rounded metal building.
    Goats can stand on a rounded metal building.

    Milking a cow is a zen experience. You get into a rhythm of squeezing the udder, and hearing that zinging noise as a fine stream of milk squirts into a metal bucket.

  • Pigs are piggy. They grunt a lot, their hair is really wiry and they like to bite your shoes. The pink ones also get sunburned, so black or gray pigs would work best in Texas.
  • Goats love to play. And they’re coordinated. They’ll spend all day jumping on and off a slick metal shed with a rounded roof. How do they do that without sliding off?
  • Different kinds of chickens lay different colored eggs.
  • Voles look like chubby little mice with short stubby tails. And they hang out in cow pastures.
  • When you separate a mama cow from its calf, it will sometimes cry for a week.
  • Farm-fresh eggs are the best!
    Farm-fresh eggs are the best!Home-grown sausage is the best

    Kids today think food comes from the grocery store. Stay at a farm stay bed and breakfast and you’ll learn where it really comes from. This is a good thing.

Spartan offers free workout at Mylo Obstacle Fitness this Saturday

A free workout Saturday will help prepare athletes for the Spartan obstacle race series. Photo courtesy Spartan
A free workout Saturday will help prepare athletes for the Spartan obstacle race series. Photo courtesy Spartan

Ever wonder what it would be like to compete in a Spartan obstacle race?

The Spartan workout tour will stop in Austin this Saturday. Certified coaches will lead a free workout open to the general public from 9-11 a.m. at Mylo Obstacle Fitness, 5415 McKinney Falls Parkway.

The workout will cover training techniques to prepare athletes to compete in the Spartan race.  Participants will work out alongside pro Spartan elite athletes, and will receive an “I’m Training for a Spartan Race” T-shirt.

Spartan offers three different races – the Sprint, a 3-mile course with about 20 obstacles, done at your own pace; the Super, an 8-mile course with more than two dozen obstacles, on tougher terrain; and the Beast, a 12-mile course with 30 or more obstacles.

To participate in the workout, bring a completed, signed waiver, a water bottle and towel. For more information go here.

To participate in the workout, bring a completed, signed waiver, a water bottle and towel. For more information go here.

http://www.spartan.com/en/training/workout-tour/workout-tour

‘The Cyclist’s Bucket List’ celebrates 75 of the world’s best cycling experiences

Ian Dille's new book, "The Cyclist's Bucket List," celebrates the best bike rides, shops and events. Photo courtesy Rodale.
Ian Dille’s new book, “The Cyclist’s Bucket List,” celebrates the best bike rides, shops and events. Photo courtesy Rodale.

Mont Ventoux, Leadville, Moab, Alpe d’Huez – these are the places that make cyclists’ swoon.

For your drooling pleasure, Austin writer and bike racer Ian Dille has compiled “The Cyclist’s Bucket List: A Celebration of 75 Quintessential Cycling Experiences.”

Ian Dille lives in Austin and races for Team Super Squadra. Photo by Don Dille.
Ian Dille lives in Austin and races for Team Super Squadra. Photo by Don Dille.

The book (Rodale, $24.99), isn’t just about spectacular places to ride – it includes epic bike shops and events, like the world’s most famous bicycle industry show, the Bicycle Film Festival and the Cyclocross World Championships (don’t utter those words around Zilker Park, please.)

“I wanted it to not be just the most scenic, beautiful rides, but things that are entrenched in the culture of the sport,” says Dille, a former pro cyclist and two-time collegiate cycling All American who now rides for Team Super Squadra.

Two Austin destinations make the book. Terlingua is fast becoming a destination for mountain bikers who like riding through desert scrub and mesas, and the Hotter’N Hell Hundred, a sweaty, windy slog through the plains of the Panhandle, is famous for grueling conditions.

“Obviously (Wichita Falls is) not the most beautiful place to ride a bicycle, but it is one of the quintessential bike experiences to have – there’s nothing else like that in the world,” Dille says of the Hotter’N Hell Hundred.

Flip through the book and you’ll be plotting your next cycling adventure, too, whether it’s the gut-busting Leadville 100, the historic roads of the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route or some of the most famous climbs of the Tour de France.

It got Dille thinking. On his must-do list? Mountain biking in the Copper Canyon of Mexico, cruising past the emerald water and sunbleached beaches of the Dalmation Coast of Croatia, and pumping up the stony mountains of Majorca.

Me? I’ve only knocked three off my list – a week-long trip through the San Juan Hut Systems of Colorado, Terlingua, and Haleakala Crater in Hawaii (down instead of up). I’m hoping to rectify that next summer – I’m eyeing the rolling party through Iowa known as RAGBRAI.

The book is available locally at Bicycle Sport Shop and BookPeople, and online via Amazon.

MoPac closures tonight as bike/pedestrian bridge moved into place

A new bicycle and pedestrian bridge will be moved into place tonight. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A new bicycle and pedestrian bridge will be moved into place tonight.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Heads up, cyclists and pedestrians. Your bridge swings into place tonight!

The last piece of a 525-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge will be positioned over the Union Pacific railroad tracks south of Duval Road tonight, according to a press release from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

The bridge is part of a shared use path that will run alongside the southbound Loop 1 frontage road from the city of Austin’s Walnut Creek Trail to the Capital of Texas Highway near the Arboretum.

Two southbound lanes of Loop 1 (MoPac) will be closed between Parmer Lane and Braker Lane starting at 8 p.m. The northbound frontage road will be closed at Braker Lane. The southbound frontage road will also be closed and drivers heading south will be forced to enter Loop 1 just south of Duval Road, the release states.

Southbound MoPac between Parmer Lane and Braker Lane will be completely closed sometime between 9 and 11 p.m. so the bridge can be moved from the median Loop 1 near Parmer Lane to the installation site south of Duval Road. The southbound Braker Lane exit will also be closed between 9 and 11 p.m.

Once the bridge has been moved, part of Loop 1 will re-open, but the center and right lanes will stay closed as crews lift the span into place over the railroad tracks. All lanes should reopen no later than 5 a.m. Tuesday.

For more information go here.

Austin Parks Foundation announces recipients of ACL Music Festival Grants

Volunteers dig in at Battle Bend Park on National Public Lands Day in this photo, courtesy Austin Parks Foundation. The park recently received an ACL Music Festival Grant.
Volunteers dig in at Battle Bend Park on National Public Lands Day in this photo, courtesy Austin Parks Foundation. The park recently received an ACL Music Festival Grant.

Six Austin parks groups will receive a total of $150,000 in grant money for improvement projects, courtesy of the Austin Parks Foundation.

Recipients of the foundation’s latest round of ACL Music Festival Grants are the Pease Park Conservancy, Friends of Murchison Pool, Austin YSML Sunshine Camps, North Austin Community Garden, Battle Bend Park and Dove Springs District Park.

A new playscape was installed at Dove Springs Park. Photo courtesy Austin Parks Foundation.
A new playscape was installed at Dove Springs Park. Photo courtesy Austin Parks Foundation.

Since 2010, Austin Parks Foundation has awarded more than $1.25 million in grants for projects like renovations at Ramsey

Park and a new playscape at Ponciana Park. Past park projects have included everything from play equipment to park furnishings, tree plantings, trail construction, invasive species removal and dog park improvements.

In the last decade, the foundation has funded more than 120 park projects led by Adopt-A-Park or neighborhood groups.

“We are proud to be able to offer support to these park champions,” said Ladye Anne Wofford, programs director of the Austin Parks Foundation. “We are inspired by their dedication to improving their communities and neighborhoods, and have seen first-hand the success that follows when people take ownership of improving their parks.”

The Austin City Limits Music Festival donates funding for the ACL Music Festival Grants Program each year.

“Their generosity has allowed us to empower more park adopter groups each year, and we’re grateful for the positive impact this program has on our parks,” said Colin Wallis, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.

Austin Parks Foundation, founded in 1992, connects people and parks through volunteer work days, park improvement funding, educational workshops and more.