What one Austin cycling studio is doing to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico

SoulCycle is hosting a Relief Ride to benefit those impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy SoulCycle

 

An Austin indoor cycling studio is raising money to help people impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

All proceeds from the 1:45 p.m. Saturday Hurricane Maria Relief Ride at the downtown Austin location of SoulCycle, 401 Congress Avenue, will go to the Puerto Rico Real-Times Recovery Fund.

The Austin fund-raiser is one of more than a dozen taking place across the country.

For more information about the Relief Ride, call the studio at 512-265-7500 or go here.

Don’t want a border wall? Austin T-shirt company’s got you covered

Jonathan Rebolloso is selling T-shirts that protest construction of a border wall. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Sometimes, a T-shirt says it all.

In the Big Bend region of Texas, where towering canyon walls plunge to the Rio Grande and black bears, big horn sheep and other species now move back and forth between the United States and Mexico unimpeded, some wildlife experts are worried about the impacts of a proposed border wall.

RELATED: With land already in hand, Trump eyes Big Bend for border wall

Now an Austin company is selling a T-shirt that sums up what some of them are thinking.

The simple gray and white shirts say “(expletive) Tu Muro.” That’s “(expletive) your wall,” in case you don’t speak Spanish.

Jonathan Rebolloso and Claudia Aparicio designed the shirts. The first batch was unveiled in time for the South by Southwest music festival, but the shirts are seeing a new surge of popularity now. Reboprints has sold about 200 so far.

“The wall represents basically hate,” Rebolloso says.

The shirts cost $25 and are available here. Reboprints also sells shirts with other designs, including one that says “Dreamer,” the term used to identify recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed some people who had entered the country or stayed here illegally as minors to get a two-year deferral from deportation. The program, suspended in September, also allowed recipients eligibility for a work permit.

“I think it’s pretty self explanatory,” Rebolloso says of the shirt. “It’s the feeling we have and (the shirt) is a way to fight back and say we aren’t putting up with that.”

Rebolloso is a recipient of DACA.

“There is an immigration problem, but a wall is not going to change anything,” Rebolloso says. “People are going to find a way to go over or under or through a wall.”

These bat-shaped bike racks might be peak Austin

Visitors to the Austin Convention Center can park their bicycles on bat-shaped bike racks. PAM LEBLANC/American-Statesman

 

Here in Austin, we love bats. We also love bicycles – and our reputation for weirdness.

So it makes perfect sense that downtown cyclists can lock their bikes against bat-shaped racks outside the Austin Convention Center at 500 E. Cesar Chavez Street.

RELATED: Where do the Congress Avenue Bridge bats go at night?

The racks are a nod to the Mexican free-tailed bats that live underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge each summer.

About 750,000 bats begin migrating to Austin from central Mexico each March, setting up shop in the crevices beneath the bridge. By June, the size of the colony roughly doubles, as the females give birth to pups.

That’s 40 years of support – happy birthday, sports bra!

Pam LeBlanc runs the Blueberry Festival 10K in South Haven, Michigan, in 2015, wearing a sports bra. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

 

We’ve come a long way since a woman sewed two jock straps together in 1977 to create the world’s first modern sports bra.

We’ve even taken a few steps forward since 1999, when Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey, exposing her black sports bra after the U.S. women’s soccer team clinched the Women’s World Cup.

It’s hard to remember why that revelation became such a big deal. Today, it’s OK to flaunt your sports bra, and you can buy a strappy one, a glittery one or a hot pink one. The common thread? Functionality and support.

RELATED: Happy anniversary to the sports bra

Sports bras, which hit the market 40 years ago, now come in all styles, shapes and colors. Photo by Brian Diggs/American-Statesman

In the 40 years since Jogbra introduced the world to the sports bra, they’ve gotten better. Today’s sports bras don’t just stop our boobs from bouncing (in a figure eight motion, it turns out). They wick moisture and provide better support, no matter what your size or shape. And, yes, some of them make a fashion statement.

We can credit a trio of college students at the University of Vermont for the dawn of the sports bra. Hinda Miller was so frustrated she wore two bras to provide enough support. (Kind of like double bagging groceries, I suppose.) Another student, Lisa Lindahl, had the same problem and mentioned it to a friend, Polly Smith, who made costumes for the theater department, where Miller also worked.

RELATED: Runners World explains how to find the perfect sports bra

When Lindahl’s teased them by slinging two jock straps over his shoulder, it triggered an idea, which ultimately became the Jogbra. (Side note: The women nearly named their garment a Jockbra.)

Today, sports bras are big business. Worldwide sales reached $7 billion in 2014.

RELATED: Listen to an interview with the inventor of the Jogbra.

One thing hasn’t changed about sports bras in the past four decades – they still allow women to run, jump, climb, ski, lift weights, backpack, paddle and do whatever they want to do, without worrying about their breasts.

This Austin running group wants to keep you safe – and it’s free

An Austin police officer on a motorcycle patrols the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at the MoPac bridge. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

An Austin fitness studio has invited athletes nervous about running alone on downtown trails to join them for a free weekly run.

Kathy Redden, owner of Tetra Fitness, decided to offer the coached runs at no cost after a third runner was attacked on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail downtown two weeks ago.

The latest attack occurred Sept. 27 near the 1700 block of South Lakeshore Drive. The attacker tried to pull a woman into the bushes as she ran alone on the trail, according to police reports. The woman described the attacker as man in his 40s, about 5-foot-11, who spoke Spanish.

The assault was the third in a string of similar incidents, one of which Austin police believe they have solved.

RELATED: Third runner assaulted near Lady Bird Lake

A week before the Southeast Austin attack, a man tried to rape a woman who was running along the Butler trail near East Avenue and Cummings Street, but he was scared off by a bypasser carrying a handgun. Austin police have charged 22-year-old Richard McEachern with sexual assault in that attack.

Tetra Fitness is opening up its Monday morning running group to anyone who wants to join, at no cost. Photo courtesy Kathy Redden

On Aug. 22, another woman was assaulted while running on Austin High School’s track near the MoPac bridge. Police say they are still investigating that case.

“I personally love to run, and was approached (while running alone) about 10 years ago by someone who tried to take me down,” Redden says. That attack was thwarted, but the impact lingered. “It ruined my morning ritual, so I started to run with a group.”

RELATED: SWAT officers lace up to reassure downtown runners scared by attacks

Runners who want to join the group should meet at Tetra Fitness, 1717 W. Sixth Street, at 5:40 a.m. Mondays. The group will head out at 5:45 a.m. for a 75-minute run that includes hills, track or speed work. The session is open to runners of all skill levels; distance will vary from 4.5 to 7 miles.

“I don’t want it to sound intimidating,” Redden says. “It’s fun – it’s drills, we laugh a lot and there are super slow people and super fast people. It’s really all levels.”

The program will continue for the next few months. For more information go to Tetra Fitness’ page on Facebook.

Austin cyclist gears up for 1,000-mile No Country for Old Men race

Andrew Willis placed fifth at the 24 Hour World Championships in November 2016. Family photo

 

This weekend, while you are curled on the couch watching a football game, Austin endurance cyclist Andrew Willis will be pedaling 1,000 miles across the West Texas desert.

Fueled by a steady stream of cookies, doughnuts, brownies, fast-food hamburgers, tater tots and Sour Patch Kids candy (because when you cover that kind of distance, who cares what you eat, as long as you eat), Willis will attempt to add a third jewel to his No Country for Old Men crown.

Willis placed eighth at the Race Across the West in 2016, despite taking 20 hours off the bike because of a gout flareup. Family photo

Willis, a former pro racer who’d retired from the sport and grown doughy before returning like a zealot three years ago, entered his first endurance race and set a course record in the 200-mile division of the West Texas race in 2014. In 2015, he added a win in the 383-mile category.

This year, he’s staring down the barrel of the 1,000-mile Big Kahuna. “I decided I’d finish the year pushing the boundaries,” he says.

RELATED: Andrew Willis faces challenges but finishes Race Across the West

So, to ask the obvious question, why would anyone undertake a 1,000-mile race, knowing the suffering it will entail?

Willis, shown here cycling across the desert during Race Across the West in 2016, will race 1,000 miles at the No Country for Old Men race this weekend. Family photo

“Because I can, and because I enjoy it,” Willis says. “Why do any of us gravitate toward anything? I enjoy it, which I know sounds weird. For this I’ll be completely unplugged for three days, and it’s a little like a vacation from life.”

Long-distance racing, he says, also makes him a better man. “One thing I’ve learned since I got back into riding is I think as a husband, father and human being I’m a better person when I have something on the calendar to work toward, a goal,” he says. “I feel more focused and productive in every aspect of my life. Without it I feel lost.”

Willis tells his kids good night during a pit stop at the 2015 No Country for Old Men Race. Family photo

The Country for Old Men race starts and finishes in Alpine. In between, it loops all over West Texas, dipping into Big Bend National Park, where it climbs up into the Chisos Basin, and heading to Marfa, Fort Davis and Fort Stockton. It features more than 41,000 feet of climbing. A support crew will follow Willis in a van as he rides.

Depending on how the event goes, Willis says he’ll decide afterward if he wants to take another crack at 930-mile Race Across the West, or RAW, which starts in California and finishes in Colorado, next year.

Willis attempted RAW but had to drop out in 2015. Last year he finished in eighth place, despite a bone-stabbing flareup of gout that forced him off his bike for about 20 hours midstream. He sank into a depression after last year’s race that lasted several months.

“It wasn’t so much that RAW didn’t go according to plan, it was the reaction when I got home,” he says. “Everywhere I went, people told me they were sorry or ‘that sucks’ or that maybe I should quit because of the gout.”

RELATED: At Tour de Donut, cyclists toss back pastries as they race around city

The well-intentioned reaction left him feeling hollow and hesitant to share his more recent accomplishments on social media.

Willis’ wife, Holly Ammerman, hands him a water bottle during the 2015 No Country for Old Men race. Family photo

“I kind of feel like I was protecting myself,” he says. He’s also taking medication to manage the gout, a painful condition caused by the crystallization of uric acid in body tissue. “Last year changed me.”

Unbeknownst to many of the cyclists who race at the weekly Driveway Series of races produced by Willis’ company Holland Racing, he began competing again last fall. He won four out of five races that he started and set two course records. He pulled out of the fifth with a two-hour lead because he was overheating. He wanted to save his energy for this weekend’s 1,000-miler.

Willis will race against seven other cyclists at Old Country for Old Men, including another Austin cyclist, David Baxter. The course record of 72 hours is held by Chris Hopkinson of Great Britain.

“Having done this for a couple years now, I’ve learned not to set any kind of goal or expectation,” Willis says. “I’m just looking to have a good, consistent ride. Maybe that’s 60 hours, maybe that’s 80 hours.”

Here in Austin, Willis has been training about 20 hours a week on the bike, mostly on an indoor trainer. He’s also testing various napping strategies, trying to train his mind to make the gravelly transition from sleep to riding.

The weather looks good for Saturday’s start, with highs forecast in the 70s and lows in the 50s.

Heart transplant recipient finishes marathon alongside donor’s father

Shae Miller, right, crosses the finish line of the Chicago Marathon alongside Fred Miller. Brown received the heart of Alyssa Miller, Fred’s daughter, in a transplant in 2013. Photo courtesy Shae Brown

Shae Brown, the Shiner woman who had a heart transplant four years ago, crossed the finish line of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon yesterday alongside the father of the woman who donated that heart.

“We grabbed hands and crossed finish line with our hands held up, and then emotion took over for me,” Brown said Monday, elated and feeling fine except for a pair of tired legs and a few blisters on her feet. “When I hugged him, I started crying. It got real emotional for me.”

RELATED: She received his daughter’s heart, now they’re running a marathon together

Brown, 49, underwent a lifesaving transplant in 2013. A chemotherapy drug dubbed the Red Devil, used to treat the cancer that developed in the muscle surrounding her stomach as a teen-ager, had progressively weakened her heart.

By the time she was 36, she needed a pacemaker. Five years later, in 2012, doctors placed her on the heart transplant list. On May 20, 2013, she received the ultimate gift – the heart of a 24-year-old woman who’d grown up in Chicago, Alyssa Miller.

Fred Miller, 62, and Shae Brown, 49, ran the Chicago Marathon together on Sunday. Photo courtesy Shae Brown

Brown ran Sunday’s race alongside Fred Miller, Alyssa’s 62-year-old father.

Brown says she thought about Alyssa as she ran. “Anytime it felt like it was going to get hard, I tried to remember why I was doing it,” she said. “Fred and I talked about her a little in the beginning.”

The two crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 30 minutes and 13 seconds. The race marked Brown’s first marathon and Miller’s 11th. They walked at every water stop, and paused to take pictures and high-five family members who met them ever 5 miles along the route. A camera crew from NBC Nightly News followed the pair, and the segment should air Tuesday evening.

“It was really, really good,” Brown said. “We weren’t in it for speed.”

Shae Brown, received Alyssa Miller’s heart in a life-saving transplant in 2013. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

Brown said the toughest part came at about Mile 20, when she felt like she was about to hit the “wall” that marathoners talk about, the point where body fatigue sets in and doubts rise.

“Having Fred with me, I pushed through it,” she said.

The best moment came near the end of the race.

“You think you’re going to die going up that last hill, then you turn the corner and you can see the finish line. You’re like ‘I made it, I did this!'” she said. “It was my first marathon and I just wanted to take it all in. There will never be another experience like that.”

The marathon likely won’t be Brown’s last. Even one day after her first, when many exhausted marathoners vow never to repeat the process, she said she definitely wanted to run another.

That opportunity could come quickly, too. Miller says he’s considering the marathon in Houston in January, but insists he’s not pressuring Brown into it.

Think you can outrun zombies? Sign up for a Halloween-themed race

Athletes run under a pumpkin arch at the Haunted Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Haunted Half

Do zombies make you run faster? Scared of the dark? Ever run a race dressed in costume?

Find out by signing up for one of the Halloween-themed races this month in the Austin area.

Haunted Half Marathon, Oct. 15: Those who brave this spooky run through the haunted hills around the cursed waters of Walter E. Long Lake get to run through a huge jack-o-lantern at the finish. The race starts at the Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane, and benefits the Aspire To Be Foundation. For more information go here.

Howl at the Moon Adventure Race, Oct. 21: Teams of two will bike, run, paddle and crawl through caves at Colorado Bend State Park during this night-time adventure race, staged by Too Cool Adventure Racing. Athletes choose from a 2- to 4-hour sprint race or a 4- to 8-hour adventure sprint race. For more information, go here.

Participants in the Howl at the Moon adventure race will bike, run, paddle and crawl through caves – at night. Photo courtesy Too Cool Adventure Racing

Team Brock Halloween 5K Fun Run, Oct. 21: Don your favorite costume, go trick-or-treating and enjoy bounce houses, carnival games and a helicopter candy drop at this Round Rock race, which benefits The Cure Starts Now. The race takes place at 99 Twin Ridge Parkway. For more information go here.

Halloween Games 5K, Oct. 28: Run a 5K or 10K in costume, play flag football, eat homemade barbecue and more at the Gold Bar Association’s Warrior Games at Richard Moya Park, 10001 Burleson Road. The event honors veterans, future soldiers, the Austin community, and University of Texas students. For more information go here.

Hill Country Half Marathon, Oct. 28: Dash down a mostly flat, out and back course in your craziest costume at this Cedar Park race. Proceeds benefit the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas. For more information go here

Trek or Treat Zombie Fun Run 5K, Oct. 28. The Police Officers Association, Round Rock Partners in Education and Blue Santa team up to present a race course decorated with bats, ghosts, pumpkins and spiders and populated by zombies. Start and finish at the Dell Diamond, 3400 East Palm Valley Boulevard in Round Rock. Proceeds will fund scholarships and toys for Blue Santa. Dinner available for purchase. For more information go here.

Monster Smash Fear-mention 5K Run, Oct. 28: Dress in your scariest costume and bring your fastest legs to Spry Ranch, across the street from the Last Stand Brewing Company, 12345 Pauls Valley Road. The brewery is creating a special Monster SMaSH IPA for participants. For more information go here.

Spooktober, Oct. 28: Grab your costume for a chip-timed 5K, Kids 1K, resident run and fall festival at the Austin State Supported Living Center, 2203 W. 35th Street. Afterward, enjoy a petting zoo, bungee run, bounce house, carnival games and more. Proceeds will benefit the 184 center residents who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more information go here.

How did Austin fare on a list of the world’s best street art cities?

Olivia Henley and Kari Wright celebrate their love near the ‘You’re My Butter Half’ mural on East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

 

From the “I Love You So Much” mural to the “You’re My Butter Half” artwork and hundreds of paintings in between, our city is wrapped in a colorful layer of street art.

RELATED: Take our tour to discover some of Austin’s lesser-known murals

So how does it compare to other urban canvases?

Edward Flores jumps in front of the mural outside Mud Puppies off of East Riverside Drive. (Family photo)

Bombing Science, a website devoted to all things graffiti, recently posted a list of the 99 best destinations for graffiti and street art, based on how many people in each location used the hashtag #graffiti on Instagram.

RELATED: The untold story beind Austin’s I Love You So Much mural

Not surprisingly, New York City, London and Paris took the top three spots. But Austin made a respectable showing, coming in at number 25 worldwide. And the best way to see our art is via bicycle.

A mural in East Austin celebrates coffee. DEBORAH CANNON/American-Statesman

The only American cities besides New York that ranked higher were Los Angeles (6), Miami (10), San Francisco (14), and Chicago (21). Austin topped the only other Texas cities to make the list, too – Dallas (62) and Houston (43).

To see the whole list, go here.

This mural is hidden inside of a downtown parking garage. (Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

News got you down? Check out these 10 pretty underwater photos

I wish the non-stop barrage of bad news would end.

The hurricanes, the earthquakes and this week’s mass shooting are piling on, coloring every part of the day with a tinge of sadness.

Sometimes, I need an escape. For me, that means water – and especially the ocean, where Mother Nature provides a full body hug, and lights up the blue with flashing rays of sunshine.

I spent a week on a dive boat off the coast of Belize recently, practicing my underwater photography skills and exploring the reef off Half Moon Caye. The only noises were bubbles from my scuba tank, the slapping of waves and fish crunching on coral.

Here are 10 pics I took that I hope will help put you in a better mood…

  1. Diving under the waves without the burden of scuba gear frees the soul. I took time to do that, and noticed that the sealife is less afraid of divers who don’t carry big metal air tanks. And I got rewarded when a spotted eagle ray let me swim alongside it for a few minutes.

 

(Photo by Chris LeBlanc)

2. The captain of the Belize Aggressor IV waits for divers to return from their explorations so he can help them back on the boat. It’s hard to get an over-under shot just right, especially when it’s wavy, but I got a few that work in about 50 attempts.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

3. The water surrounding the famous Blue Hole in Belize, explored by Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s, shimmer in shades of turquoise.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

4. The sun lights up a barrel sponge, where tiny reef fish seek shelter.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

5. A black tip reef shark scans the shallows. They’re beautiful and strong – and a necessary part of the food chain. And they showed no aggressive behavior toward our group.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

6. Another reef shark makes a close pass.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

7. A macro lens shows the blue-edged beauty of a coral branch.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

8. The shy yellowhead jawfish spends much of its life tucked in a hole on the ocean floor. I waited a long time until this one got brave enough to show himself.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

9. A peacock flounder swivels its eyes at me.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)

10. A southern stingray cruises the sandy ocean floor.

(Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman)