Fit City picks for weekend fun

The CG Games take place Saturday at Circuit of the Americas. Photo courtesy Camp Gladiator


Looking for something active and outdoors this pre-Thanksgiving weekend?

Check out these Fit City picks for muscle-stretching, mind-clearing fun:

“Mystic Raven” was recently installed along the Shoal Creek trail. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
  • Art Ride Creekside – Bike Austin, the Shoal Creek Conservancy, Waller Creek Conservancy and Downtown Austin Alliance will host an art-focused bike ride on Saturday with stops at some of Austin’s most inspiring works. The free ride starts at Laguna Gloria, 3809 West 35th Street, with a 2:45 p.m. question and answer session with Carol Bove. From there, the group will pedal to the recently installed “Mystic Raven” sculpture on the Shoal Creek Trail, Ai Weiwei’s “Forever Bicycles” sculpture on the Butler Trail, and Creek Show 2017, featuring light-based installations along Waller Creek. Afterward, enjoy music at Cheer Up Charlie’s. All ages welcome. The ride is free, but register here.
  • CG Games Finals – Competitors from around the country will test their agility, strength, speed and endurance Saturday at the Camp Gladiator Games Finals at Circuit of the Americas. More than 7,200 people around the country competed in this year’s preliminary competition, and 660 qualified for this weekend’s finals. They’ll battle for $36,000 in cash and prizes. Event includes live music, food and vendors. For more information go here.
  • HAE In-Motion 5K – Help raise scholarship money by participating in this small 5K race that raises awareness about  hereditary angioedema, or HAE. The rare and potentially life-threatening condition occurs in one in 50,000 people, causing spontaneous swelling episodes that affect the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and throat. Several patients with the disorder die from asphyxiation in the United States every year. Registration starts at 7 a.m. Saturday; the race begins at 8 a.m. at Camp Mabry, 2200 West 35th Street. Entry fee is $30. Organizers hope to raise $2,500 at the Austin event. Register here.

Grant money from ACL Music Fest benefits five Austin parks

A crowd watches The Head and the Heart perform during the second weekend of the 2017 Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


The the last notes faded a month ago and the stages have long since been dismantled, but this week five Austin area parks got word they’ll receive a collective $200,000 in grants through the Austin Parks Foundation’s Austin City Limits Music Festival Park Grants program.

RELATED: ACL Fest organizer gives millions to Austin parks

The five parks – Gracywoods Park, McBeth Recreation Center, Parque Zaragoza, Shipe Park and Robert E. Lee Tributary at Zilker Park – will use the money to build an accessible walk and bike trail, restore a historic structure, improve ball fields and repair playscapes.

Fans of the rock band Cage the Elephant reach out for guitarist Brad Shultz during a performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park in 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

RELATED: Should Austin charge ACL organizer more for use of Zilker Park?

“With 11 community groups applying for funding this fall, we had one of our most competitive grant cycles to date,” said Ladye Anne Wofford of the non-profit Austin Parks Foundation, which partners with communities to improve and support public parks. “We have so many amazing people in Austin working hard to improve their local parks, and Austin Parks Foundation is grateful for the generous contributions of the ACL Music Festival, which allow us to support these transformational projects.”

RELATED: C3 gave $3.5 million for Auditorium Shores overhaul

Trinity Castro, 10, from left, Viviana Lopez-Stern, 9, Eliana Martinez, 8, and Paloma Gonzales, 10, of Ballet Folklorico MariCruz, prepare for their Cinco de Mayo dance performance at Parque Zaragoza Neighborhood Park on May 5, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Here’s a breakdown of where the money is going:

  • Gracywoods Park ($42,500): Playscape repairs, water fountain, and improvements at Gracywoods Park along Northern Walnut Creek Hike and Bike trail
  • McBeth Recreation Center ($50,000): ADA accessible walk and bike trail for individuals with disabilities, which will serve the general public as well as program participants at McBeth
  • Parque Zaragoza ($50,000): Improvements to ball field to support Little League games: new safety netting and batting cage installation
  • Shipe Park ($50,000): Rehabilitation of the historic log cabin adjacent to the pool
  • Robert E Lee Tributary at Zilker Park ($7,500): Support of year 4 Grow Zone restoration efforts of the Old Little Zilker Channel

The Austin Parks Foundation was established in 1992. It is a presenting partner and beneficiary of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Metropolitan Park. For more information, go here. The grants have been given since 2006 and are awarded twice a year through a competitive process. They support projects including signage, trail building and planning, and physical improvements and maintenance.

The deadline for Spring 2018 Community Grant applications is April 30. For more about the ACL Music Festival Park Grants Program go here.

Gold’s Gym offering free boot camps through Dec. 3

Gold’s Gym is offering free community bootcamps through Dec. 3. Photo courtesy Gold’s Gym

Here’s another one for the free fitness files …

Gold’s Gym is offering free bootcamps through Dec. 3.

To check the schedule, go here. 

The following locations will offer the free camps:

South Austin:

  •  Bee Caves (12480 Bee Caves Road)
  •  Downtown (115 East 6th Street)
  •  Highland (6001 Middle Fiskville Road)
  • Austin – North (9101 Research Boulevard)
  • Austin – South (4404 West William Cannon Drive)
  • Austin – South Central (1701 W. Ben White Boulevard Suite 165)
  •  Austin Southeast (801 East William Cannon Drive)
  •  Westlake (701 South Capital of Texas Highway)
  •  San Marcos (1180 Thorpe Lane Suite 307)

North Austin:

  •  Anderson Arbor (13435 US Highway 183 Suite 102)
  •  Cedar Park (1335 East Whitestone Boulevard, Suite AB)
  •  Cypress Creek (1314 Cypress Creek Road)
  •  Georgetown (1019 West University Avenue, No. 100)
  •  Pflugerville (21315 North State Highway 130 )
  •  Hester’s Crossing (2400 South Interstate Highway 35)
  •  North Round Rock (4201 Sunrise Road)
  •  Techridge (235 West Canyon Ridge Drive)

New bike trails at McKinney Roughs: Soft, flowy and free on Nov. 24

Pam LeBlanc checks out a trail at McKinney Roughs Nature Park on Monday, Nov. 13. The trails open to the public on Nov. 24. Stephen Spillman for the American-Statesman


McKinney Roughs Nature Park is preparing to open 13 miles of trail to mountain bikers in a few weeks, and I enlisted pro mountain bike rider and REI instructor Cindy Abbott this morning to give me a tour.

Pam LeBlanc explores 13 miles of trail that will open to mountain bikers at McKinney Roughs. STEPHEN SPILLMAN for American-Statesman


I won’t give it all away, but here’s a hint: The trails are beginner friendly. Unlike places like Emma Long Metropolitan Park, the Lakeway trail system or the Barton Creek Greenbelt, these trails are mostly dirt, with not much of that sharp limestone we’re known for around here. You’ll still get lots of ups and downs, and a section of the trail runs along the Colorado River, but you won’t find a lot of technical stuff.

Pro mountain biker Cindy Abbott, left, and Pam LeBlanc, right, celebrate after a successful tour of the park’s new trails. STEPHEN SPILLMAN for American-Statesman


The trails open Nov. 24. That’s Black Friday.

Entry fee is usually $5 per person at the park, located 13 miles east of Austin near Bastrop, but the agency is waiving admission at all its parks that day.





Forget a new car, I just bought a new adventure craft!

Chris and Pam LeBlanc christen their new canoe in their backyard Sunday evening.


I took the canoe plunge yesterday.

In the last year, I’ve discovered how much I love paddling. I kayaked the Llano, Colorado, Pedernales and San Marcos rivers, plus Mexican Creek, Lake Travis and Lady Bird Lake. I also canoed for four days on the Devils River.

RELATED: Check out these great places to paddle in Central Texas

I own my own canoes (a hand-me down gift, from some dear friends who moved to Boston.) But I’ve been dreaming about buying a canoe for a year now.

Duane Tegrotenhuis, owner of TG Canoes & Kayaks in Martindale, sold me my first canoe, an Alumacraft, this weekend. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman

This weekend, I finally did it, and right this very minute, a shiny Alumacraft Voyageur canoe, with a stripe of red and black trim along the top, is perched on a pair of saw horses in my backyard. My husband Chris is building a rack to hold it, and next week the boat will make its maiden voyage.

RELATED: Paddle the Llano River for fun – and smoked chicken 

Pam and Chris LeBlanc bought an Alumacraft Voyager. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


I plan to use it mainly for canoe camping. Already, a trip down the Pecos River is in the planning stages for next spring. I can’t wait to get back to the Devils, too. I’m even contemplating a few short paddling races (no, not the mother of them all, the grueling Texas Water Safari.)

Stayed tuned for upcoming adventures …

RELATED: Port O’Connor trail guides kayakers through coastal wetlands



Electric bike seller Rocket Electrics opens downtown location

John and Nicole Zinn pose with an electric cargo bike in front of the newest location of Rocket Electrics in downtown Austin. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman

Last Sunday morning, I had places to go and things to do.

But between the Run for the Water, where I needed to arrive with fresh legs at 6:30 a.m., and the Texas Book Festival, where I wasn’t sure I could find a convenient car-sized parking space, I opted for my alternate mode of transportation – an electric bike.

A few years ago, my husband Chris mail-ordered the motor and other parts he needed to convert two of our bikes (yes, we have a shed full) into electric bikes.

RELATED: Electric bikes put extra oomph in every pedal stroke

My e-bike doesn’t replace my commuter bike, which is powered solely by my own legs. That’s the bike I use to get back and forth to work most days. Rather, I use my e-bike when I need to get someplace without blowing my legs out or I’m worried about parking. It’s not for exercise, although I can set my e-bike to provide more or less motor assistance, depending on how much of a workout I want.

I can make a couple of trips downtown and back on a single charge of my e-bike, so it saves me gas money, too. And it’s easy to park on one of the numerous bike racks in the city.

But back to my story. My e-bike is home-made, and I wanted to check out some of the fancy, store-bought electric bikes now on the market, so I headed to the newest location of Rocket Electrics, which opened this month.

Unlike the original Rocket Electrics store on East Riverside Drive, which sells e-bikes made by Pedego and Easy Motion (prices start at a little over $1,000 for the least expensive models, although most cost between $2,200 and $3,000), the new store specializes in high-end Riese & Müller bikes, which sell for between $4,000 and $11,000. Think of them as the Mercedes-Benzes of e-bikes.

Owner Nicole Zinn hopes to capture some of the foot traffic she expects to blossom in the Second Street District, now that the new Central Library has opened.

She let me borrow one of the Riese & Müller bikes for a quick spin. My thoughts? Smooth, sleek, shiny, fun – and a little out of my price range. But I can drool, can’t I?

The new shop is located at 408 West Second. Stop by for the 2nd Street Social from 5-8 p.m. tonight (Thursday) for German beer, wine and stroopwafels from Austin’s Stroop Club, plus some fun contests that involve a cargo ebike and pumpkins.

Fit City’s picks for a fit, fun weekend

Proceeds from Saturday’s Run for the Flag will benefit Folds of Honor. Photo courtesy Folds of Honor

If you’re like us, this week’s blast of cool weather made you want to get outside and snag your legs on some brambles. (Or maybe it just made you want to get outside. That’s OK, too.)

This year’s Reel Rock film festival features a film titled “Stump,” about one-handed climber Maureen Beck. Photo by Katrin Bell

We’ve been checking local listings, and the following events float to the top of Fit City’s list of fun ways to make yourself sweat this weekend …

  • Reel Rock. Head to Crux Climbing Center, 121 Pickle Road, Suite 100, to catch five new inspiring short films featuring climbers. The line-up includes features about Margo Hayes, the first woman to climb 5.15; one-handed climber Maureen Beck; Brad Gobright, an up-and-coming free soloist with a donut addiction; and the return of Chris Sharma to the deep water soloing stage. Starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets $15. Bring your own chair. Includes athlete clinics, food, prize giveaways and appearances by top climbers. For tickets, go here.

RELATED: Entry free to Texas State Parks this Sunday.

  • Run for the Flag Veterans Day Race. Honor veterans and U.S. military members, their families and the community at this new event, sponsored by Direct Orthopedic Care. The race is open to anyone and includes special categories for active duty, retired or reserve duty participants and youth. Proceeds benefit Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Pfluger Park, 515 City Park Road in Pflugerville. For more information go here.
  • Fit City plans to participate in Sunday’s Run by the Creek. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
  • Run by the Creek. Join Fit City in Dripping Springs Sunday morning for this fun race, with a gently rolling course that unfolds along Creek Road. The route runs parallel to and crosses Onion Creek and passes lots of gorgeous farmland, where you’ll want to moo at the cows in pastures. (Or maybe that’s just me?) Runners choose from a 5K or 10K. Prizes for top male and female finishers in all age groups. Race starts at 8 a.m. at 195 Roger Hanks Parkway. Entry fee $50 for the 10K; $40 for the 5K. Proceeds beenfit the Dripping Springs High School Cross Country Team. For more information go here.

Carrie Barrett got me to spill my guts on her podcast, ‘I Could Never Do That’

Pam LeBlanc, left, and Carrie Barrett, right, record an interview for Barrett’s podcast. Photo by Alyssa Vidales/American-Statesman


A couple of weeks ago, Carrie Barrett and I shut ourselves into a room here at the Austin American-Statesman office, turned on some recording equipment, and started to chat.

We talked about my Year of Adventure, which so far has included a running in a naked 5K race, rappelling down a 38-story building dressed as Wonder Woman, and jumping off the 10-meter platform into a swimming pool at the University of Texas.

All those things scared me. I did them anyway.

RELATED: Fit City declares 2017 her Year of Adventure

So should you. And I don’t necessarily mean do the exact same things I’ve done, although it’s been pretty darn fun.

Do what scares you. Do what makes you feel alive. Don’t sit on the edge of the pool and worry about getting your hair wet or smudging your makeup. Embrace life. Scrape your shins and feel the cold water and crawl around in the dirt.

This week, Barrett unveils our interview in her “I Could Never Do That” podcast, which launched about four months ago. (Listen to it here. It’s also available on iTunes and Stitcher.)

So far, Barrett’s series has featured local athletes including paratriathlete Laurie Allen, English Channel swimmer Katy Dooley, and Ironman triathlete Chuy Amaya.

RELATED: A New Normal: A year after spinal injury, triathlete works toward a new kind of racing

Laurie Allen is helped into her handcycle by friends, from left, Judy Melchor, Marla Briley and Kent Snead before competing in the Run With The Heroes 5K at Camp Mabry in November 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“It’s sort of that quote from Henry Ford – ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,’” Barrett told me after we recorded the episode, the show’s 12th.

“It speaks to people who are doing things that most of us would say ‘I could never do that.’ It dissects how they’re doing these things. We talk about the fears they have, the tactics they use to get over those fears and we talk about the courage it takes to do these things and that courage isn’t an absence of fear. It’s going on in spite of your fears,” Barrett says.

She hopes that after hearing some of the stories, people will go from “I could never do that” to “maybe I could.”

“I think I’ve realized that yes, these people have some kind of innate ability to do these things, but really it comes around to surrounding yourself with the right people. To be successful at anything, you have to put yourself in the right circles.”

Barrett, 44, is triathlon coach and freelance writer.

And when she’s not swimming, biking or running, she and her husband take off in their camper van.

Visit Texas State Parks for free this Sunday


Leilani Perry looks at Enchanted Rock from Moss Lake, a small lake on the back side of the huge granite hill. Photo by PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


Thinking of climbing up Enchanted Rock? Dreaming about sticking your toes in the Pedernales River? Hankering to hike among red and gold leaves at Lost Maples State Park?

Head to any Texas State Park on Sunday, the day after Veterans Day, when entrance fees for all visitors will be waived. Camping and other activity fees will still apply.

RELATED: Camper returns rock to Enchanted Rock, citing bad luck

And the weather looks good. Rain should clear out after Wednesday, according to weather reports, and forecasts call for highs in the mid-70s on Sunday, with a chance for scattered showers.

For more information about parks, go here.

If you exercise in the dark, dress like this

Pam LeBlanc, aka Safety Pam, gears up for a early morning run with a neon bright top and lights that strap to her hands. CHRIS LEBLANC

Welcome to the dark side, folks.

Days are getting shorter, and if you’re a runner or cyclist, you’re probably spending more time exercising when the sun’s down. That means it’s time to deck yourself out in high-visibility gear.

I’ve got an assortment of neon vests to keep me visible. CHRIS LEBLANC

I’ve got enough day-glow yellow and pink in my wardrobe that I could have a second career on a road crew. I’m cool with that – I’d rather look like a Christmas tree than get hit on the street.

I’ve got neon yellow and pink shirts, a bright pink with reflective trim cycling vest, bike-mounted lights, hand-held lights and a helmet with blinking lights wrapped all the way around it. I even have a pair of gloves with blinking arrows on them for signaling turns.

(Nathan Sports carries a line of high-vis lights and vests; so does Knuckle Lights. Brooks sells neon-colored clothing with reflective trim.)

Small, clip-on flashing lights are also handy. You can find a variety of them at area bike and running shops or online for a few bucks each.

When I’m cycling, I flip on the front white headlamp on my bike, along with a flashing red tail light and an assortment of side lights. Most days I also wear a hot pink safety vest.

According to Nathan Sports, runners who wear effective visibility gear can be seen from six times the distance than those who don’t. Drivers can also more easily recognize the human form when runners wear multiple points of light. Look for shoes, shirts, vests, caps, cuffs and ankle bands with reflective material or lights.

Here are some more tips from Nathan Sports for those heading out to run, walk or ride in the dark:

1. Carry a light to illuminate the path in front of you.

2. Wear multiple points of light to help drivers recognize your presence.

3. Make sure you are visible from 360 degrees – front, sides and behind.

4. Wear high-visibility colors.

5. Run against the direction of oncoming cars – not with traffic.

It’s important to use a rear red blinking light and a front white headlight when you bike at dawn or dusk. RUDY GONZALEZ/American-Statesman

The makers of Brooks NightLife gear point out that time of day isn’t the only factor in dressing safely for a run.

Environment (city or country), lighting (day, dusk, dark), weather (clear, foggy, rainy, snowy), driver attentiveness (calling, texting, stressed, calm), even the cleanliness of a driver’s windshield make a difference. The goal is not just to make the driver spot a runner, but that the driver recognizes the runner – or cyclist – as a human being.

Three things that make you stand out? Fluorescence, contrast and reflectivity.

Look for clothing with reflectivity in key motion areas, so you are seen as a human in motion.

I used to worry that I look like a rodeo clown when I’m kitted up in Safety Pam gear. I no longer care.

The point is not to get hit by a car while I’m out exercising, and if that means impersonating a traffic pylon, so be it.