Austin Distance Challenge kicks off Sept. 27 with Run Free Texas 8K

Austin Distance Challenge participants will collect pieces of this magnet at each of the six races in the series.
Austin Distance Challenge participants will collect pieces of this magnet at each of the six races in the series.

Want to conquer this year’s Austin Distance Challenge, hosted by the Austin Runners Club? Better sign up soon.

The series of six local races leads up to the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon in February. The races increase in distance as the series progresses, making it a natural component of many runners’ training programs.

Participants sign up for the series (separate from signing up for each race), registering for either the full or half track. Awards are given for overall, masters and age groups. Registration for the series is $55 here.

The first race is the Run Free Texas 8K on Sept. 27.

Proceeds will benefit The Trail Foundation, which protects and enhances the Ann and Roy Butler hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.

That cool circle at the top of this post? It’s a collection of magnets. Distance Challenge participants get the center piece at packet pickup, and collect the surrounding pieces after they complete each race.

They also get a long-sleeved tech running shirt, a one-year membership in Austin Runners Club, use of the Austin Distance Challenge hospitality tent at the finish of each race and entry into door prize drawings at each race. Most importantly, everyone who completes the series gets an Austin Distance Challenge running jacket.

Here’s the race lineup:

  1. Run Free Texas 8K – Sept. 27
  2. Run For The Water 10 mile – Nov. 1
  3. Decker Challenge Half Marathon – Dec. 6
  4. Rogue Distance Festival 30K and 10K – Jan. 10, 2016
  5. 3M Half Marathon – Jan. 24, 2016
  6. Austin Marathon & Half Marathon – Feb. 14, 2016

This Sunday, go play in the street at VIVA! Streets Festival

For five hours this Sunday, a 1-mile stretch of East Sixth Street will be closed to motor traffic for the VIVA! Streets Festival. Photo courtesy VIVA! Streets
For five hours this Sunday, a 1-mile stretch of East Sixth Street will be closed to motor traffic for the VIVA! Streets Festival. Photo courtesy VIVA! Streets

This Sunday, go play in the street.

From noon to 5 p.m., a 1-mile stretch of East Sixth Street between Interstate 35 and Robert T. Martinez Jr. Street will be blocked to motor traffic for the fourth annual VIVA! Streets festival.

For five glorious hours, bicyclists and pedestrians will take over the road. Space will clear for ballroom dancing, yoga, zumba, soccer, basketball, giant chess, hula hooping, petanque and tennis. There will be an obstacle course, gardening classes, anti-bullying workshops, martial arts demonstrations, cane fishing, bird walks, a kids drum circle, a learn-to-ride bike course, chalk art, bike polo and more. SkyCandy will offer special aerial performances and classes.

Organizers of VIVA! Streets hope to build communities by encouraging active living. It’s part of a global movement of open streets events, or cyclovias. San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso and Brownsville all host similar events.

“As a business owner on the route, it’s great to hear about the participation and enthusiasm from my fellow neighbors,” Paola Barrerra of Buenos Aires Café Este said in a press release.

This year’s sponsors include Humana, TxDOT, SkyCandy, AARP, Texas Gas Service, CapMetro, Central Texas Mobility Authority/Metropia, the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, TopGolf, Instacart and Austin’s Yellow Bike Project. The event is co-produced by the City of Austin and BikeTexas.

For more information go here.

Guess what Austin race made Outside Magazine’ s list of 10 Most Iconic Races in the US?

Racers begin the 3M Half Marathon on Jan. 25, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Racers begin the 3M Half Marathon on Jan. 25, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Quick, name the 10 most iconic running races in the United States. Outside Magazine did, and Austin’s 3M Half Marathon made the list.

That puts it in pretty rarefied air, considering the other races on the list – the New York City Marathon, Bay to Breakers, the Boston Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the Carlsbad 5000, the Fifth Avenue Mile, the Badwater Ultramarathon, the Western States 100 and the Peachtree Road Race.

Here’s what the magazine said: “More under-the-radar than any other race on this list, Austin’s 3M is a favorite among those looking to run their fastest half marathon. The point-to-point course from north Austin to the finish in front of the Texas State Capitol includes an average elevation drop of 41 feet per mile, according to race director John Conley.”

Conley, head of Conley Sports, which puts on the 3M Half Marathon as well as the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, was caught happily off guard by the race’s inclusion.

“To be in the same company as Bay to Breakers, the Chicago Marathon and the Badwater Ultramarathon, yeah, it’s amazing. It’s really humbling,” he said this morning. “The 3M Half Marathon is one of those events that is easy to overlook because we don’t have world record holders, there’s not a lot of external glitz to it. But it’s a screaming fast downhill course that when people run it, they can’t stop talking about it.”

Participation in the race has been on the upswing the last two years, and Conley expects about 7,500 to register this year.

Registration is open here. Entry fee is $95 until Nov. 20, when it increases.

“People are discovering it,” he says. “It’s not unreasonable to expect that in a year or two it’ll be a 10,000-person race.”

The race, established in 1995, is set for Jan. 24 next year.

To see Outside Magazine’s entire list of “Most Iconic Races in the US,” go here. https://shar.es/1vUmFz

Athletes to climb Mt. Bonnell 44 times on Sept. 11 anniversary

The public is invited to join Mike O'Hara as he climbs Mount Bonnell 44 times on Sept. 11.
The public is invited to join Mike O’Hara as he climbs Mount Bonnell 44 times on Sept. 11.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City each rose 110 stories from the ground.

Ninety-nine steps lead to the top of Mount Bonnell.\

Participants will climb the equivalent of both Twin Towers.
Participants will climb the equivalent of both Twin Towers.

The way Austin trainer Mike O’Hara sees it, each trip to the top of the Austin landmark is the equivalent of climbing five stories. That means it would take 44 trips up the stairs to climb the equivalent of both Twin Towers.

This Friday, O’Hara, who owns Bigger Faster Stronger Training in Manchaca, will charge up the steps in honor of those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He’s inviting the public to join him.

The group will meet at the top of Mount Bonnell at 7 a.m., before starting the fifth annual Memorial Mt. Climb. They’ll pause for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the exact time the plane hit the first tower in 2001.

There’s no entry fee, but participants are encouraged to make a donation to Wings for Warriors, a non-profit organization that supports military service members wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. To donate, go here.

If doing it solo sounds too tough – and O’Hara says your calf muscles will be screaming before it’s done – you can gather some friends and form a team and divide the workout.

O’Hara comes from a military family. His brother served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was wounded there.

The event starts at 7 a.m. Friday at Mount Bonnell.
The event starts at 7 a.m. Friday at Mount Bonnell.

“I have a heavy heart for military and first responders,” he says. “This is a way to get the community together and push each other. It’s not easy.”

In the last few years, local firefighters have participated, wearing nearly 50 pounds of fire gear while they climb. O’Hara wears the cumbersome gear, too. The struggle of carrying it up and down the hill is his way of paying tribute.

Mount Bonnell is located at 3800 Mount Bonnell Road.

For more information about Bigger Faster Stronger Training, go here.

Andrea Fisher, Adam O’Connor win TriRock Austin Triathlon

The TriRock Austin Triathlon took place at Auditorium Shores on Monday. Photo by Larry Castillo
The TriRock Austin Triathlon took place at Auditorium Shores on Monday. Photo by Larry Castillo

Congrats to Andrea Fisher, who collected her third overall win at tne TriRock Austin Triathlon on Monday.

Andrea Fisher won the Olympic distance women's race for the third time. Photo by Larry Castillo
Andrea Fisher won the Olympic distance women’s race for the third time. Photo by Larry Castillo

That makes a sort of three-peat for Fisher, whose winning time was 2:09:51. She won the race in 2012 and 2014, but skipped it in 2013 because she was pregnant. This year she beat 2013 winner Tatiana Vertiz, who finished second, about 4 minutes back.

Fisher, 43, is a former All-America swimmer at the University of Texas and the new head coach of the U.S. Masters swim program at Townlake YMCA. She’s currently training for the Ironman World Championship in Kona next month.

“I had no idea where my fitness or ability were going to be today due to some injuries, and I pulled back on racing this summer a bit, so I’m really happy how it went today,” Fisher said in a press release. “Heat is always a factor in my race plan, so it didn’t really throw me off. My competition gave me a good run for my money though, so I had to be strategically smart and strong.”

The bike course went up Congress Avenue to the Capitol. Photo by Larry Castillo
The bike course went up Congress Avenue to the Capitol. Photo by Larry Castillo

About 1,600 athletes participated in the triathlon, which included Olympic, Sprint and Super Sprint divisions, as well as relays. Temperatures were blazing.

In the men’s Olympic Open Division, TCU’s Adam O’Connor had a strong lead on his opponents with quick transitions, crossing the finish line first in under two hours (1:57:52), according to the press release. Dallas-Fort Worth residents and teammates from Brian Loncar Racing, Korey Sessions (2:04:09) and Phillip Dudley (2:06:08) finished second and third, respectively.

In the men’s Sprint race, Round Rock’s Colton Miller (1:06:21) and David Hayes (1:06:51) finished within seconds of each other placing first and second. Third place went to Mark Wilkerson from Pflugerville.

The swim took place in Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Larry Castillo
The swim took place in Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Larry Castillo

“I always try for a win, but today I felt good. Whenever I got off my bike, I felt like today would be the day I would finally get my first overall,” said Miller, who placed fourth in the 2013 Sprint race. “The swim is usually my strongest leg, but today I felt really good on run too.”

Elizabeth Moorehead from Austin won the women’s Sprint race in 1:09:51. Among the finishers in that division was singer Shawn Colvin, known for her hit “Sunny Came Home.”

TriRock Austin started at Auditorium Shores with a swim in Lady Bird Lake, wound through the streets of downtown including a bike up Congress Street in front of the Capitol.

For a full list of results, go here.

***

The race included Olympic, Spring and Super Sprint distances. Photo by Larry Castillo
The race included Olympic, Spring and Super Sprint distances. Photo by Larry Castillo

2015 TriRock Austin Triathlon Results

Place, Name, Age, City, Time

Men’s Olympic

  1. Adam O’Connor, 21, 1:57:52
  2. Korey Sessions, 28, McKinney, 2:04:09
  3. Phillip Dudley, 31, Grapevine, 2:06:08

Women’s Olympic

  1. Andrea Fisher, 43, Austin, 2:09:51
  2. Tatiana Vertiz, 27, Austin, 2:14:01
  3. Michelle Cleveland, 40, Austin, 2:14:25

Men’s Sprint

About 1,600 athletes participated in the triathlon. Photo by Larry Castillo
About 1,600 athletes participated in the triathlon. Photo by Larry Castillo
  1. Colton Miller, 30, Round Rock, 1:06:21
  2. David Hayes, 31, Round Rock, 1:06:
  3. Mark Wilkerson, 42, Pflugerville, 1:07:19

Women’s Sprint

  1. Elizabeth Moorehead, 46, Austin, 1:09:51
  2. Erica Harshaw, 39, Round Rock, 1:12:26
  3. Kendra Waller, 40, Pflugerville, 1:13:08

Drop your smart phone – Camp Grounded is coming to Central Texas

Camp Grounded, a digital detox camp started in California, is coming to Marble Falls in October. CampGrounded.org & Daniel N. Johnson
Camp Grounded, a digital detox camp started in California, is coming to Marble Falls in October. CampGrounded.org & Daniel N. Johnson

Pop quiz: What’s the longest you’ve gone lately without checking your smart phone?

HazMat crews strip campers of smart phones, laptops and other digital devices. CampGrounded.org & Daniel N. Johnson
HazMat crews strip campers of smart phones, laptops and other digital devices. CampGrounded.org & Daniel N. Johnson

Organizers of Camp Grounded, a sort of summer camp-technology detox clinic mashup that’s coming to Central Texas, think that’s too long. (So do I, frankly.)

The camp started three years ago in California, where it quickly garnered the attention of the New York Times, which is where I first read about it. When I found out recently that it’s coming to Central Texas Oct. 9-12 I just about flung my phone into the river.

Here’s the deal: At check-in, people wearing haz-mat suits will strip you of all your digital devices. No phones, no laptops, no tiny TV sets, no iPads – 

not even a blinky light or glow stick for four days.

Campers go by nicknames, not their real names. They’re assigned to a cabin with a bunch of other folks who could be anyone from restaurant employees to high-tech company CEOs. They’re not allowed to talk about work or network with other campers. (They are, however, encouraged to sneak out of their cabins late at night.)

Activities include music, water sports, nature hikes, survival skills and more. CampGrounded.org & Daniel N. Johnson
Activities include music, water sports, nature hikes, survival skills and more. CampGrounded.org & Daniel N. Johnson

For the next few days they spend their time playing – walking on stilts, tickling (yes, tickling), participating in color “wars,” learning survival skills and swimming in the lake. There’s a silent dinner one night, a camp dance the next and a camp-wide talent show the last.

The camp started in California, and expanded this year to North Carolina and now Texas.

Registration is open. Cost is $595, but that’s discounted to $400 if you register this Labor Day weekend.

For more information or to sign up, go here. 

DEFINE grand opening set for Sept. 17; second location under construction

DEFINE body & mind studio will celebrate the grand opening of its first Austin location on Sept. 17.
DEFINE body & mind studio will celebrate the grand opening of its first Austin location on Sept. 17. Photo courtesy DEFINE

A new gym will celebrate the grand opening of its first studio in Austin this month, and construction is already under way on a second location.

The grand opening of the DEFINE body & mind studio at 1818 West 35th Street is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Live music, snacks, product samples and specialty drinks are planned, and the event is free and open to the public. Guests are asked to RSVP to austin@definebody.com.

A second location will open on South Lamar later this fall. Photo courtesy DEFINE
A second location will open on South Lamar later this fall. Photo courtesy DEFINE

The gym, described as a contemporary and holistic workout studio, offers barre, cycling and yoga infused classes.

Among the offerings are DEFINE revolution, a high energy, cardio-blasting class on a stationary bike; DEFINE body, a hybrid of pilates, yoga and ballet using a barre, mat and light weight; and DEFINE mind, a class utilizing a hammock to help deepen stretches and invert the body to decompress the spine.

The second DEFINE location is slated to open in late fall at 809 South Lamar Boulevard, on the ground level of the Hanover South Lamar Building near Barton Springs Road.

Both locations also sell high-end athletic apparel and body products and offer a nutrition program with a focus on sustainable local and seasonal foods. The south location will offer a movement program for children, offered at the same time as the adult classes.

For more information or to schedule a class go here.

Fun Fun Fun Fest announces BMX, skateboarding lineup

Fun Fun Fun Fest features top BMX riders and skateboarders. Photo courtesy FFF Fest
Fun Fun Fun Fest features top BMX riders and skateboarders. Photo courtesy FFF Fest

The musicians don’t have all the fun at Fun Fun Fun Fest.

This year’s festival, which includes music, comedy and alternative sports, includes top-ranked skateboarders and BMX riders. Expect to see Volcom Skate Team athletes Ryan Sheckler, Grant Taylor and David Gonzalez, plus well-known BMX riders including Austin’s own Chase Hawk, Aaron Ross, Tom Dugan and Clint Reynolds.

Volcom is teaming with local partners to build the course. Photo courtesy FFF Fest
Volcom is teaming with local partners to build the course. Photo courtesy FFF Fest

The festival is scheduled for Nov. 6-8.

The athletes will perform a series of demos and competitions on a ride course redesigned and built by Volcom, which is teaming with local ramp builder Ryan Corrigan of HoldOnHereWeGo and the Austin-based non-profit organization Project Loop to build features.

Here’s the complete list of participating athletes:

VOLCOM SKATE TEAM

• Ryan Sheckler, Grant Taylor, David Gonzalez, Dustin Dollin, Caswell Berry, Rune Glifberg, Chris Pfanner, Collin Provost, Louie Lopez, Ben Raemers, Axel Cruysberghs, CJ Collins

BMX ATHLETES – CURATED BY PROJECT LOOP:

• Chase Hawk, Aaron Ross, Tom Dugan, Clint Reynolds, Joseph Franz, Dani Lightningbolt, Nina Buitrago, Matt Nordstrom, Paul Cvikevich, Kenny Horton, Devin Fredlund and Jeremie Infelise.

And if you are in to music? No worries. This year’s lineup includes headliner Jane’s Addiction, D’Angelo and The Vanguard, Venom, Wu Tang Clan, Chromeo and NOFX.

Single-day tickets are $89, three-day passes are $199.

For the full schedule go here.

TriRock Austin Triathlon set for Monday; Fisher aims for three-peat

Competitors in the 2014 TriRock Austin Triathlon make their way along Congress Avenue. This year's race is Monday. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Competitors in the 2014 TriRock Austin Triathlon make their way along Congress Avenue. This year’s race is Monday. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Here in Austin, we bookend our summers with downtown triathlons – one on Memorial Day and one on Labor Day.

A competitor shows off the medal he earned after competing in the 2013 TriRock Austin Triathlon. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A competitor shows off the medal he earned after competing in the 2013 TriRock Austin Triathlon.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This Monday, some 1,600 athletes will wrap up the summer at the TriRock Austin Triathlon. Among those expected to compete are Austin triathlete and former University of Texas swimmer Andrea Fisher, who won the women’s race the last two years.

They’ll all tackle a course that includes a swim in Lady Bird Lake, a bike ride up Congress to the Capitol and then west toward the old dog pound, and several twisty laps of a running course around Auditorium Shores.

They’ll rock out to music along the way, too. Bands will perform along the course and at the post-race part afterward.

The weather looks good so far, if you like it hot and dry. The forecast as of Wednesday calls for a low on Monday of 75 and a high of 97, with no chance of rain.

If you haven’t signed up, you still can. Online registration continues through midnight Thursday here.

Entry fee is $125 for a new Super Sprint (swim 350 meters, bike 6.2

Swimmers prepare to jump into Lady Bird Lake for the start of the 2013 TriRock Austin Triathlon. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Swimmers prepare to jump into Lady Bird Lake for the start of the 2013 TriRock Austin Triathlon.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

miles, run 3.1 miles); $155 for the Sprint (swim 700 meters, bike 12.4 mile, run 3.1 miles); $170 for the Olympic distance (swim 1500 meters, bike 24.8 miles, run 6.2 miles), or $170 for the Olympic Aquabike (swim 1,500 meters, bike 24.8 miles). If you’re not a USAT member, tack on a $12 one-day license fee.

An expo, where participants can pick up race packets, attend safety briefings and peruse exhibitor booths, will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Road. The awards ceremony will begin at noon.

The first race waves will head out at 7 a.m. Monday. Organizers say exactly half of those signed up so far registered for the Olympic distance. Sixty-two percent of participants are men.

10K Colin’s Hope swim in Lake Austin to promote drowning awareness

Alissa Magrum, Hanna Rimel, Keri Rimel and Candy Devany finish a weekend training swim in preparation for Thursday's 10K swim in Lake Austin. Photo courtesy Colin's Hope
Alissa Magrum, Hanna Rimel, Keri Rimel and Candy Devany finish a weekend training swim in preparation for Thursday’s 10K swim in Lake Austin. Photo courtesy Colin’s Hope

Peek over the Pennybacker Bridge on your commute to work Thursday, and you might catch a glimpse of some of the 50 people swimming 10 kilometers down Lake Austin to raise awareness about the risk of drowning.

The sixth annual Colin’s Hope Got2Swim Lake Austin starts at 7:30 a.m. at Lake Hills Community Beach Park and wraps up more than 6 miles downstream, at the park on the south side of the Pennybacker Bridge, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The swimmers – some of them solo and others on relay teams – hope to raise $50,000 and help prevent future drownings.

James Booher, Katie Sweeten and Jaime Slaughter will swim 10K in Lake Austin on Thursday. Photo courtesy Colin's Hope
James Booher, Katie Sweeten and Jaime Slaughter will swim 10K in Lake Austin on Thursday. Photo courtesy Colin’s Hope

So far this year, 69 children in Texas have drowned, and more have survived non-fatal drowning incidents. Many of the drownings were preventable.

Colin’s Hope is an Austin-based nonprofit formed by the family of a Colin Holst, a young boy who drowned in a public swimming pool in the summer of 2008, while lifeguards were on duty.

Thursday’s swim will honor the memory of Colin and other children who have drowned. Each swimmer will carry a flag bearing the name of a child involved in a drowning incident. Their goal is to raise more than $50,000 for Colin’s Hope.

“After Colin’s death, we learned that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5 and a leading cause of death for ages 1 to 14, yet it’s preventable,” said Jeff and Jana Holst, Colin’s parents, in a press release. “We knew we had to do something.”

Colin’s Hope helps teach people how to be safer around water.

“We want people to change their behaviors to be safer around water and we want everyone to understand that drowning doesn’t look like they show it in the movies – it is fast and silent,” says executive director Alissa Magrum, who will swim 10K on Thursday. “You have to watch and keep kids in arm’s reach.”

Here are three key steps everyone should take:

  • Keep kids in arm’s reach. Practice constant visual supervision. When kids are around water, always assign an “Adult Water Guardian” whose only job is to watch children in the water.
  • Learn to swim. For kids under the age of 4, taking formal swim lessons reduces the risk of drowning by 88 percent.
  • Wear life jackets. Children who cannot swim or are weak swimmers should always wear a properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket, not floaties or water wings.

For more information go here.