Austin Marathon announces funny sign contest

 

The Austin Marathon is hosting an Instagram sign contest this year. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
The Austin Marathon is hosting an Instagram sign contest this year. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

*** RACE ORGANIZERS EXTEND DEADLINE UNTIL FEB. 24***

 

Go forth and create funny signs, people.

Contest entries should include the hashtag #bestAMsign17. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Contest entries should include the hashtag #bestAMsign17. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

One of the best parts about marathon day is checking out all the hand-made signs people hold up to motivate exhausted runners.

Got a good one? Enter it in a new contest sponsored by the organizers of this weekend’s Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.

To enter, take a picture of your sign, share it on Instagram using the #bestAMsign17 hashtag, and tag Austin Marathon. The photo that gets the most Instagram ‘likes’ on Friday, Feb. 24, will win a 2018 race entry and a gift basket from Clif Bar and Nuun Hydration.

SoulCycle opens second Austin location

SoulCycle opens its second Austin location today in the Frost Building downtown. Photo courtesy SoulCycle
SoulCycle opens its second Austin location today in the Frost Building downtown. Photo courtesy SoulCycle

We all know Austin’s got soul. Today, it gets a little more.

A second location of SoulCycle, an indoor cycling center, opened today inside the Frost Bank Tower at 401 Congress Avenue. The city’s first SoulCycle is located at the Domain Northside.

Customers pedal stationary bikes in 45-minute high-intensity cardio sessions led by inspirational coaches. Each workout is set to music in a candlelight room, and focuses on rhythm and group energy. Participants use hand weights and core-engaging choreography to tone their upper bodies as well as their legs.

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The Domain location of SoulCycle is offering Valentine’s Day themed classes tonight. Photo courtesy SoulCycle

The new downtown studio features 56 bikes, full men’s and women’s locker rooms, and a boutique selling performance and athleisure clothing.

SoulCycle classes cost $30 and are designed to release stress and tone muscle.

The Domain Northside location is offering two Valentine’s Day theme rides tonight. At 5:30 p.m., Chris Chandler will host a ’90s Prom ride, and at 6:30 p.m., Lauren will lead a Love & Hip-Hop ride.

For more information go here.

Beautiful hiking trails, no crowds at Doeskin Ranch

Cody Ackerman of the REI Outdoor School, left, helps Jean Bogardus across a creek. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
Cody Ackerman of the REI Outdoor School, left, helps Jean Bogardus across a creek. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

 

Looking for someplace to hike where you’re more likely to spot hawks and deer than other visitors?

Check out the Doeskin Ranch Unit of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. I headed there this morning for the latest in the Best Hill Country Hikes with Fit City series, a collaboration with REI.

Several creeks flow through the preserve. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
Several creeks flow through the preserve. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

 

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Hikers gather at the trailhead at Doeskin Ranch. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

Our small group spent a few hours roaming the refuge, part of more than 25,000 acres set aside to protect habitat that’s important to endangered species, including the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler that nest here.

Cody Ackerman of REI’s Outdoor School in Austin led the excursion, sharing a bit of the property’s history and answering questions about the plants and animals that live in the area.

We headed out first on the short Creek Trail. We ambled past the ruins of an old log shed, a remnant of the land’s previous incarnation as a ranch. From there we hiked along the creek, marched like ants through fields of waving, rust-colored grasses and up a few easy switchbacks to a lookout point at the top of a ridge where we could see for miles into the Hill Country. Along the way we paused to inspect a garden of wooden boxes designed to serve as nesting boxes for bees.

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Wooden boxes provide refuge for bees. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

More than 5 miles of trails crisscross the Doeskin Ranch Unit, which is open from sunrise to sunset year round. (Trail runners take note; the terrain is perfect for a run.) The paths weave through prairie and woodland forest, along creeks, into an old oak forest and to the top of a plateau.

The land became a National Recreation Trail in 2005.

Want in on the next Fit City hike? The excursions start at 9 a.m. and last about two hours. Cost is $20 for members or $25 for non-members. Register here.

Here’s the upcoming schedule:

  • April 17 – Pedernales Falls State Park
  • May 15 – Wild Basin Preserve

If you go: Doeskin Ranch is on RR 1174. From Austin, take U.S. Highway 183 north to Highway 29. Head west, toward Liberty Hill, then turn south onto RR 1869. Travel about 10 miles, then turn left onto RR 1174. The parking lot is on your left. for more information about the Balcones Canyonlands, go here.

Banff Film Festival headed to Austin Feb. 26-27

"The Trail to Kazbegi," a film about four adventurers who head into one of the world's wildest mountain ranges on their bikes, will be shown at the Banff Film Festival in Austin. Photo by Ross Measures
“The Trail to Kazbegi,” a film about four adventurers who head into one of the world’s wildest mountain ranges on their bikes, will be shown at the Banff Film Festival in Austin. Photo by Ross Measures

 

***UPDATES TO CORRECT TICKET PRICES***

Forget the Oscars. You’d rather watch films about backpacking and snow skiing and mountain bike riding, right?

For that, head to the 2017 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, scheduled for Feb. 26 and 27 at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Avenue.

The annual event always draws the hiking boot wearing, tent sleeping crowd – my kind of people.

Kayakers attempt a new descent deep in Papua New Guinea in "Locked In," a film featured in this year's Banff Film Festival. Photo by Reel Water Productions
Kayakers attempt a new descent deep in Papua New Guinea in “Locked In,” a film featured in this year’s Banff Film Festival. Photo by Reel Water Productions

Both nights feature outdoor documentaries and short films that are set in or around the mountains. The first night features tamer stuff – nature bits and explorations, thoughtful pieces about international travel. (My fave!) The second night will get your pulse racing with daredevil adventures like extreme climbing, biking and kayaking.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 26; films start at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27; films start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $26 for the World Tour on Feb. 26 and $22 for Radical Reels on Feb. 27 and are available at any Austin Whole Earth store or online through the Paramount Theatre. Proceeds will benefit Texas State Parks.

Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Run/Walk set for Feb. 25

The Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Walk/Run is set for Feb. 25 at Camp Mabry.
The Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Walk/Run is set for Feb. 25 at Camp Mabry.

You might feel uncomfortable talking about colon cancer, but organizers of the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K Run/Walk want you to start a discussion – and get screened for the disease.

The event, set for Feb. 25 at Camp Mabry, will begin at 8 a.m. with a celebration of survivors, support for caregivers and a remembrance of those who have died from the disease. A kids’ fun run will take place next, followed by the 5K at 8:30 a.m.

Jennifer Welker of Austin was diagnosed with Stage 4 rectal cancer when she was 39.

“I tell everyone that will listen how important it is to get screened if you have any concerns,” Welker said. “If I had put off screening, even though it wasn’t recommended, I would be in a different situation right now. Cancer has taken many things from me over the past two and a half years, but it has given me many things as well – hope, courage, strength and a passion for sharing my story.”

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The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates a 90 percent increase in colon cancer and a 124 percent increase in rectal cancer diagnoses in young people by 2030. One in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer during his or her lifetime.

Colon cancer screening through a colonoscopy can detect and remove colon polyps before they become cancer.

Nine out of 10 patients will survive five or more years when colon cancer is caught in early stages, but only one in 10 live that long when the disease is diagnosed in late stages. Right now, six out of 10 patients nationwide are diagnosed with late stage disease because they put off getting screened.

To register go here. Entry fee is $25 for adults, $15 for ages 12 and under or $15 for the Kids’ Fun Run. Race day registration is $35 for adults, $20 for youth and $20 for the Kids Fun Run.

Presenting sponsors of the Feb. 25 race are Austin Gastroenterology and Texas Oncology, with support from Austin Cancer Centers and ARA Diagnostic Imaging. A portion of proceeds will benefit the CareBox Program, a local nonprofit that provides essential care supplies to cancer patients at no cost. Some proceeds will also go toward a FIT program grant to help fund and screen low-income Central Texans at high risk for colon cancer.

Camp Mabry is located at 2210 West 35th Street.

Free yoga and a beer at Hyatt Regency Austin

Hyatt Regency Austin
This month’s Pints & Poses class is set for Monday. Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Austin

 

Bring on the free yoga and beer.

The Hyatt Regency Austin will host this month’s Pints & Poses class at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6.

Ferny Barcelo will lead the vinyasa flow yoga class, assisted by Lizzie Aguirre from Black Swan Yoga and Wanderlust Yoga Austin. The class will include live, meditative music from Trey Tarwater, a local yoga DJ, and will take place in the hotel’s Texas Ballroom, on the second floor near the escalators. Bring your own mat.

After class, participants will get a coupon for a complimentary draft beer at Hyatt Regency Austin’s Marker 10 bar. Parking is free in the hotel’s garage.

The “Pints & Poses” yoga series continues every month throughout 2017. For more information on Hyatt Regency Austin, go here.

Participants needed for exercise study

Ride Indoor Cycling, 117 Lavaca St., is partnering with a New York neuroscientist for an exercise study.  RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN
Ride Indoor Cycling, 117 Lavaca St., is partnering with a New York neuroscientist for an exercise study. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN

 

Participants are needed for a study to determine how increases in aerobic exercise affect brain function.

RIDE Indoor Cycling is partnering with Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist at New York University, on the study, which will explore the effects of three months of increased aerobic exercise on a range of brain functions including memory, mood, attention and stress responses.

About 70 people have signed up so far, but more are needed.

Adults ages 25-59 who are moderately fit and work out no more than three times a week are eligible. Participants will be randomly assigned to either maintain or increase their exercise regimen at RIDE for three months. They’ll complete a cardiopulmonary fitness test and a series of mood and cognitive tasks at the beginning, middle and end of the study period.

During the study, participants will get free RIDE classes and $60 worth of RIDE store credit for completing the three fitness and cognitive testing sessions.

For information or to sign up, contact the Suzuki Laboratory at RIDE.exercisestudy@gmail.com or call (212) 998-3969.

Two RIDE Indoor Cycling studios operate in Austin. They’re located at 117 Lavaca Street and at the Hill Country Galleria, 12800 Hill Country Boulevard, Suite 110, in Bee Cave.

Need adventure? Swim naked at Barton Springs

Pam LeBlanc, Elli Overton, Heidi Armstrong and Cate Brooks Sweeney (clockwise from left) swam a Naked Mile at Barton Springs Pool under cover of darkness this morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Pam LeBlanc, Elli Overton, Heidi Armstrong and Cate Brooks Sweeney (clockwise from left) swam a Naked Mile at Barton Springs Pool under cover of darkness this morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

I’d bet money that the guy swimming across Barton Springs in a full-length wetsuit before dawn this morning never guessed that four completely naked women had just glided past him.

But that’s what happened during today’s Naked Mile.

I blame Heidi Armstrong for the shenanigans. She blames fellow swimmer Francine Fowler. Some point at a couple of guys on the Longhorn Aquatics swim team at the University of Texas. A pair of aqua joggers might have had something to do with it, too.

Regardless, Armstrong mentioned the idea of swimming a mile, under cover of darkness, across Austin’s famous spring-fed pool, to me and I couldn’t rip off my clothes quickly enough. (Well, I did wait until I got to the pool.) It’s my Year of Adventure, you know.

In the end, four of us gathered at 5:45 a.m. today to test the waters, unencumbered by so much as a stitch of clothing. We did wear caps and goggles, and until the last moment, I snuggled under a thick furry deck jacket to ward off the chill. (One of my friends insisted I looked like a flasher as I stepped out of it into the dark.)

But the build-up was tense. I woke up early, wondering if I’d freeze. I swim 2 miles almost every day, but in a heated pool. What if I couldn’t make the entire mile?

Cate Brooks Sweeney, aka “The Naked Librarian,” fretted that her skin was so white that her rump would glow as if it had natural bioluminescence.

Elli Overton, aka “The Naked Olympian” (she represented Australia in swimming at three Olympic Games), at first planned to keep her suit on. We talked her out of it. Literally.

Heidi Armstrong, aka “The Naked Captain,” woke up every hour on the hour all night long (“like I had a flight to catch,” she said) in anticipation of our adventure.

A couple of other people were swimming when we arrived at Barton Springs. We walked down the steps and headed to the far end of the pool, so we wouldn’t make ourselves obvious. The darkness cloaked us, though. We slipped off our clothes and eased into the water, like mermaids heading home.

I’ve always loved to skinny dip – not because I’m an exhibitionist, but because it plain feels good on the skin, and seems natural and freeing. I like to peel off my suit and jump in the water after dawn waterskiing sessions, and always plunge into ice cold lakes and streams without clothing when I’m backpacking.

But the Naked Mile marked my first fiber-free foray into a pool that draws thousands every day during summer months. And while women are allowed to go topless, I’m pretty sure total nudity is frowned upon, at least during daylight hours.

Once in the water, we kept moving, to hold onto our body heat as long as possible. We zipped back and forth four times, glowing white torpedoes powering through an oasis as dark as the night sky.

Armstrong put in a half lap of naked backstroke. I took a few strokes of butterfly. Overton cut through the cold with the most beautiful stroke, and Sweeney, who swam from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore during a race last summer, freaked out about what might lurk below.

“I had a couple of thoughts I had to get ahead of before they ruined things, like what a morning it would be to finally spot the eel, and I hope there aren’t any nibbley creatures swimming about,” Sweeney said. “Mostly I just felt rather serene – and, maybe, low maintenance?”

We agreed that the cold water made us hyper aware of what parts of our bodies were at the surface and which ones were submerged. We loved not needing any gear. We savored the last lap especially.

“Poor unlucky blind salamanders!” a friend quipped on FaceBook afterward.

Our mile complete, we stood near the edge, laughing that we had a secret nobody else knew. We climbed out, wrapped ourselves in towels and sipped hot tea from Thermoses.

We can’t wait to do it again. But we’re not saying when.

Can I bike 200 miles straight? Nutritionist (along with coach and cyclist) says yes!

I joined these folks at the 6 a.m. Monday session at Pedal Hard, where coach Brant Speed is helping me prepare for a long bike race I might do in March. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
I joined these folks at the 6 a.m. Monday session at Pedal Hard, where coach Brant Speed is helping me prepare for a long bike race I might do in March. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

Three experts now assure me I can pedal my bike 200 miles through the Texas Hill Country – a feat that would require starting before dawn and riding well into the night – at the end of March.

I’m still waffling, but taking some steps in case I decide to actually enter the RAAM Texas Challenge. The race, which offers 200- and 400-mile options, starts in Marble Falls and winds its way all the way to Kerrville and back.

Lisa Davis Reed and I went for a ride outside of Dripping Springs last weekend.
Lisa Davis Reed and I went for a ride outside of Dripping Springs last weekend.

Saturday I took my bike for a spin outside of Dripping Springs, logging some chilly miles in a stiff wind. (And falling into a creek when my bike slid on algae at a slippery crossing. Ouch.)

Monday I hit a 6 a.m. training class at Pedal Hard with coach Brant Speed. He got me spinning away on a trainer while paying attention to speed, watts and RPMs, as I followed a virtual course video populated by mountains and pine trees that never got any closer.

Then yesterday I sat down with sports nutritionist Shane Traughber, who told me I’m capable of this challenge, as long as I take it slow and keep my butt comfortable. Traughber, who works with endurance athletes including Andrew Willis, the cyclist who originally planted the bug in my ear, reminded me that I’m just trying to finish, and there’s no reason to pedal hard.

“I already know you can do the 200-miler,” he told me.

I’m trying hard to believe, but sometimes it feels impossible, especially considering my hectic travel schedule, which has me on the road nearly every week between now and the March 25 race date. Still…

“It is entirely possible,” he said. “But comfort is king. It’s a walking race for bikes. It’s how comfortable can you be for 200 miles.”

I met with sports nutritionist Shane Traughber, who gave me tips on how to fuel a 200-mile race. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
I met with sports nutritionist Shane Traughber, who gave me tips on how to fuel a 200-mile race. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

That means I need a proper bike fit that puts me in a more upright position. I also need compression socks to control swelling, some good seat lube and clothing to minimize friction.

“Anything rubbing small is big 200 miles down the road,” Traughber said.

Other than that, it’s all about staying hydrated (that’s key, he insists), keeping my heart rate low and enjoying the view. At least that’s how Traughber puts it.

“The last 50 miles is all mental,” he said. “It’s how hard do you want it.”

We talked a lot about how to fuel the race. Traughber suggests eating high-water content foods like home-made rice cakes, filled with tasty add-ins like bacon, sausage or apples. They’re less likely to give me an upset stomach or gas than gels, which should be taken with lots of water. I’m going to get a copy of “Feed Zone Portables,” to figure out how to make them.

Other food sources? Ripe bananas (less fiber), watermelon and potato chips.

He stressed the importance of not getting behind on nutrition. From the start, I should be eating something every 30 minutes.

“Remember, you’re not eating for where you are now, it’s for an hour and a half to two hours in the future,” he said.

I’ll likely deal with muscle cramping, mental fatigue and a sore butt, but my engine is strong from swimming five days a week and riding my bike to work.

“Our bodies are amazing things,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind you can do it. It’s the slowest most wonderful road trip you’re ever going to do.”