Join Alaska-bound Texas 4000 team for Atlas Ride this Saturday

The 2017 Texas 4000 team celebrates after completing its first 100-mile training day. There are more to come in preparation for a trek from Central Texas to Alaska in June. Courtesy photo

 

Sixty-nine students from the University of Texas at Austin will log the first miles of their long bicycle ride to Alaska this weekend.

Want to join them for a relatively easy 25, 50 or 70 miles on Saturday?

The public is invited to join members of the Texas 4000 team as they  roll out from Cedar Park on the Atlas Ride. Registration fee is $70 and is open through 5 p.m. today here.

The Texas 4000 riders will keep riding after everyone else bags it, putting in 70 days on the road as they pedal north.

The Texas 4000 team rides through all weather conditions, rain or shine, in the pursuit of spreading the fight against cancer. Courtesy photo

The group will split into three factions in a few days, with one group riding through the southwest toward California before heading north, another chugging through the Rocky Mountains before crossing into Canada, and a third spinning through the American Midwest before rolling into Canada. The three groups will reunite in Canada, riding together the last 10 days into Anchorage, Alaska.

Along the way, the riders will make stops to present grants to cancer research and treatment centers. They’ll also speak to groups about cancer awareness.

Organizers say the Texas 4000 program is as much about leadership development, physical training, cancer awareness outreach, volunteer opportunities and philanthropic commitment as it is about an endurance bike ride. Students apply to join the team. More than 600 students have finished the ride since it started in 2003; they’ve raised more than $7.2 million.

A Tribute Gala on Aug. 25 at the JW Marriott will celebrate their return. For more information go here.

Tuesday night bike rides at COTA extended through June

Holland Racing will extend its Tuesday night rides at Circuit of the America through the end of June. Lindsey Baker Photography

 

If you haven’t made it to Circuit of Americas to ride your bike, fear not.

Holland Racing and Special Events, the Austin company that organized the series of Tuesday night rides at the racetrack, has extended the event through the end of June.

The Tuesday night rides, which are open to cyclists of all skill levels, have drawn as many as 800 cyclists, according to Andrew Willis, president of Holland Racing.

The Tuesday night ride at COTA is a non-competitive event. Photo courtesy Holland Racing

 

Intimidated? Don’t be. The Tuesday night events are rides, not races, on the twisting track. (Beware that first steep hill, however!)

The COTA series originally was to end on June 6. That means cyclists get three extra nights to pedal on the circuit.

Holland Racing also just signed a contract to hold four Saturday night criterium style races at COTA. Those races are scheduled for June 17, July 15, Aug. 19 and Sept 30.

For more information, go here.

Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run & Party moves to Seaholm this year

Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run raises funds for The Trail Foundation. Photo courtesy The Trail Foundation

Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run and Party moves to a new location this year.

The event, the biggest fund-raiser for The Trail Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to protect and enhance the Ann and Roy Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake, is scheduled for Thursday, June 8 at the former Seaholm Power Plant.

The run began in 2004 and raises funds for projects to improve the 10.1-mile path. The run and the party are separate ticketed events; both start at 8 p.m.

Organizers moved the event from its location at the American Legion Hall on Veterans Drive to the Seaholm plant so they could accommodate more people.

This year’s run moves from the American Legion to the Seaholm Power Plant. Photo courtesy The Trail Foundation

More than 2,000 runners are expected for the 5K, which will start on Walter Seaholm Drive and follow streets bordering Lady Bird Lake. The run will finish at Sand Beach Park; the party will take place on Seaholm’s Great Lawn. The party includes margaritas and dinner by Maudie’s Tex-Mex, live music and dancing, and a pop-up shop by active lifestyle brand Outdoor Voices.

Tickets for just the run are $35 and include an event T-shirt and a margarita (ages 21 and older). Tickets for the run and party are $100; tickets for the party only are $70. Prices increase June 5. Major sponsors include Maudie’s Tex Mex, Whole Foods Market and NXP. To register, go here.

Chance of rain in forecast for Monday’s CapTex triathlon

Athletes make their way through the course at the LifeTime Tri CapTex in 2014. Ashley Landis/For American-Statesman

 

Local triathletes are hoping for dry skies Monday, race day for the Life Time Tri CapTex.

The triathlon, held in Austin each Memorial Day since 1991, is expected to draw about 2,000 amateur and youth triathletes this year. Last year’s race morphed into a duathlon, when organizers scratched the bike portion of the event due to rain and slick streets.

The latest weather forecast from KVUE calls for a 40 percent chance of scattered storms on Sunday and 50 percent chance of afternoon showers on Monday, with a low on race day of 69 and a high of 85.

Mark Rice waits during a rain delay for the start of the 2016 Life Time Tri CapTex. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

The race is staged at Vic Mathias Shores, and the international distance waves go off first, starting at 6:45 a.m. The sprint distance race starts at 8:15 a.m., followed by the super sprint at 9 a.m.

Athletes swim in Lady Bird Lake, bike up Congress Avenue to the Capitol and back south for a loop along Cesar Chavez Street, then run along Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road.

Haven’t signed up yet? You still can. Registration is $165 for the international distance ($225 for relay) or $135 for the sprint distance ($185 for relay). The super sprint distance is full.

The best vantage point for spectators is within Vic Mathias Shores.

For more information, the latest updates or to register, go here.

We’ve got Zilker Park, the Barton Creek Greenbelt and a whole lot of parkland in between. But how does Austin stack up to the rest of the country on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index?

Middle of the pack, it turns out. Austin landed in 46th place among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. for its parks.

The trust gave us high scores for park acreage and dog parks, but low marks for park access, which is based on the percentage of population that lives within a 10-minute walk – or about half a mile – of a public park.

Check the nitty gritty here. http://parkscore.tpl.org/city.php?city=Austin#sm.0000m0sbcxwydczuqp915gsy2rxxm

Minneapolis and Saint Paul held on to the top two places. Other Texas cities on the list were Plano (17th), Dallas (50th), Arlington (59th), Garland (63rd), San Antonio (69th), El Paso and Ft. Worth (tie for 79th), Houston (81st), Irving and Lubbock (tie for 85th), and Laredo (93rd).

In addition to the top 100 rankings, ParkScore also provides a one-to-five park bench rating. In 2017, three cities – Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and San Francisco – received the highest possible five-bench rating. Austin earned three park benches this year.

According to ParkScore, Austin’s median park size is 8.5 acres, above the national ParkScore average of 5.0. Austin also was recognized for operating 1.4 dog parks per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 0.9. The access issue, however, held us back. Only 54 percent of Austin residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared to a national ParkScore average of 66 percent.

“Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health, increase property values, and bring neighbors together to nurture the personal bonds that make our communities special,” said Charlie McCabe, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Parks Excellence.

McCabe is the former executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.

How does Austin’s park system compare to other U.S. cities?

Emma Morris has her photo taken beside the Zilker 100 sculpture, commissioned to honor Zilker Park’s 100th birthday. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

We’ve got Zilker Park (which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, by the way), the Barton Creek Greenbelt and a whole lot of parkland in between. But how does Austin stack up to the rest of the country on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index?

Middle of the pack, it turns out. Austin landed in 46th place among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. for its parks.

The trust gave us high scores for park acreage and dog parks, but low marks for park access, which is based on the percentage of population that lives within a 10-minute walk – or about half a mile – of a public park.

Check the nitty gritty here.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul held on to the top two places. Other Texas cities on the list were Plano (17th), Dallas (50th), Arlington (59th), Garland (63rd), San Antonio (69th), El Paso and Ft. Worth (tie for 79th), Houston (81st), Irving and Lubbock (tie for 85th), and Laredo (93rd).

In addition to the top 100 rankings, ParkScore also provides a one-to-five park bench rating. In 2017, three cities – Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and San Francisco – received the highest possible five-bench rating. Austin earned three park benches this year.

According to ParkScore, Austin’s median park size is 8.5 acres, above the national ParkScore average of 5.0. Austin also was recognized for operating 1.4 dog parks per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 0.9. The access issue, however, held us back. Only 54 percent of Austin residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared to a national ParkScore average of 66 percent.

“Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health, increase property values, and bring neighbors together to nurture the personal bonds that make our communities special,” said Charlie McCabe, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Parks Excellence.

McCabe is the former executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.

What’s it like to cycle the Hill Country with Lance Armstrong?

Pam LeBlanc rides part of the Texas Hundred course with Lance Armstrong and race director Andrew Willis on Tuesday May 23, 2017. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

What’s it like to spend a morning bicycling alongside Lance Armstrong?

It feels like someone tied cinder blocks to your pedals, for one. You’ll never ride as fast as him, and you know he’s sandbagging it just so you don’t feel like a complete dufus.

I climbed into Armstrong’s SUV Tuesday morning for the hour-long ride to Burnet. We pulled off there to wait for another cycling maniac, Andrew Willis of Holland Racing, who has calves as big as my waist and last summer rode his bike halfway across the country in a fun little jaunt called the Ride Across the West, or RAW.

Lance Armstrong joked that Pam LeBlanc needs a new bike. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

So yeah, I was in over my head. What’s new?

Armstrong (yes, I know – he won seven Tours de France and then had those titles stripped after he admitted to doping) chuckled a little when he pulled my bike out of the back of his SUV.

“Maybe it’s time for an upgrade?” he joked.

I’ve been riding the same Trek 5200 for 13 years. It’s taken me from Seattle to Portland, all the way across Iowa, from Houston to Austin, and back and forth to work a few thousand times. I like it a lot.

Lance Armstrong and Pam LeBlanc rode about 20 miles through the Hill Country on Tuesday. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

Armstrong also told me my bike needed a tuneup and a good cleaning. All true. But I’ve got news for you, Lance Armstrong: It’s not about the bike.

When Willis showed up, the three of us climbed aboard and headed out to preview the route of Saturday’s WeDu Texas Hundred, a century bike ride (with a 20-mile option) that starts and finishes at Reveille Peak Ranch near Burnet.

Lance Armstrong, left, Pam Leblanc, center, and Andrew Willis, right, right through Burnet County on Tuesday. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman.

I bike to work almost every day, but my 7-mile leisurely commute just doesn’t compare to riding with Armstrong and Willis, even if they were just keeping the pedals moving.

“I’m not fast,” I told Armstrong. “Actually, I’m pretty slow.”

“What?” Armstrong said. “No way.”

Pam Leblanc and lance Armstrong stop to check out a herd of zebras along the Texas Hundred course. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

We flew up and down rollers, paused to admire a herd of zebras, slowed down at slick creek crossings and cattle guards, and rambled over washboardy sections of gravel on our tour, which covered about 20 miles. I pedaled at my normal tepid pace, which ranges from about 12 to 16 mph. (Sometimes much faster, if I’m coasting downhill!)

This was fun and humbling, all rolled into one.

Lance Armstrong and Pam LeBlanc prepare to ride part of the Texas Hundred course. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

We chatted about all kinds of stuff, from my recent paddle trip on the Devils River to nearby places Armstrong could take his kids for fun. I was surprised to hear he’d never been to Enchanted Rock, and he wanted to get suggestions on other places for outdoor recreation. He also talked about the downright awesomeness of the Texas Hundred route, which takes cyclists across the north end of Inks Lake, past some beautiful granite outcroppings and onto meandering, traffic-free, two-lane country roads.

When our odometers passed 20 miles, we pulled off. Armstrong and I piled our bikes back into the SUV, while Willis turned around to do it again.

I was tired. The guys were not.

While Willis pedaled on, Armstrong and I drove back through Lampasas, stopped for sandwiches at Schlotzky’s (the waitress didn’t recognize him), filled up with gas (the guy we asked to snap our photo did) and headed back to Austin.

Pam Leblanc interviews Lance Armstrong before they ride part of the Texas Hundred bike course . Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

While I poured myself back into my own car for the quick drive home, Armstrong had other plans. A trip to the gym, for one (seriously?), then some time with long-time girlfriend Anna Hansen.

It turns out that later last night, Armstrong popped the question, asking Hansen to marry him.

She said yes.

Read more about the WeDu Texas Hundred in the Life & Arts section of Monday’s paper, or online at http://www.austin360.com.

Pam LeBlanc rides part of the Texas Hundred course with Lance Armstrong on May 23. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

Lance Armstrong engaged to longtime girlfriend Anna Hansen

Lance Armstrong gets ready to ride around Burnet, Texas, on Tuesday, May 23. He proposed to girlfriend Anna Hansen later in the day. Photo by Elizabeth Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

Lance Armstrong is getting married to long-time girlfriend Anna Hansen.

Armstrong, 45, popped the question Tuesday evening at Lake Austin. He posted a photo (taken by Austin photo journalist Elizabeth Kruetz) showing Hansen sitting in his lap, a sparkling engagement ring on her finger as the sun set in the background.

“She said ….. YES!!!!” he posted on Instagram.

The couple met through charity work and started dating nine years ago. They have two children together – Max, 7, and Olivia, 6. They spend summers in Aspen and the rest of the year in Austin, where the children attend school.

Now word yet on when or where the wedding will take place.

Armstrong was previously married to Kristin Armstrong, with whom he had three children – Luke, 17, and twins Grace and Isabelle, 15. They divorced in 2003.

LSU wins cool-shaped pool contest with new swimming hole

One of the outdoor pools at Louisiana State University is shaped like the letters LSU. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I get twitchy if I can’t swim or run or bike or hike or move in some way when I’m on the road – and I travel a lot for my job (and fun).

Today I’ve landed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for my niece’s wedding. I brought my running shoes along for the trip,. but it’s hot and muggy here today. I’m staying at the hotel on the Louisiana State University campus, so I decided to wander across the street to the LSU recreation center.

Mind blown.

The indoor running track hangs from the ceiling. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

The university recently opened a new outdoor swimming pool, plus indoor facilities including a suspended running track, cardio room, hill repeat ramp, training stairs, climbing wall and basketball court. There’s even what they call a “leisure river.” (I asked if it was a “lazy river,” and was immediately corrected. Apparently no lazy students here.)

I grabbed a quick mile in the pool.

I feel steadier already.

Fit Foodie Festival and 5K set for Saturday in Round Rock

The Fit Foodie Festival takes place Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

 

Imagine a fitness event that’s all about food, with a 5K run featuring food stations at every mile and a finish line festival with a lineup of local chefs.

That’s what’s on tap at the Cooking Light & Health Fit Foodie Festival & 5K at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock this Saturday.

The family- and dog-friendly event will feature local restaurants, meet-and-greets with John Hancock Elite Athlete Ambassadors, a beer and wine garden, plenty of local chefs and fitness demonstrations.

The event celebrates a balance of healthy food and a fun, active lifestyle. At the post-race John Hancock Vitality Village Food and Fitness Festival, runners can sample food from local restaurants, participate in mini-workout classes, watch cooking demonstrations and meet Olympic marathoners Ryan Hall and Desiree Linden.

A portion of proceeds from will benefit No Kid Hungry, a non-profit organization that works to end child hunger in America.

Tickets are $45 (prices increase May 19), and available here. All events are rain or shine. The 5K run starts at 8 a.m. at Old Settlers Park, 1371 Harrell Parkway; the festival follows from 8 to 11 a.m.