Humidity is her Kryptonite: Austin runner wins Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon

Brenda Guajardo does a training run along the course of the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, which she won last week. Photo by Luis Escobar

 

When a marathon falls short, and Austin’s heat feels downright balmy, some folks head to Death Valley to prove their athletic mettle by racing long distances through the desert.

Take Austin ultra runner Brenda Guajardo, 41, the top female finisher in last month’s Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, an invitational race that starts in the Badwater Basin of California and winds its way up into the Sierra Nevada mountains.

RELATED: Ten training hills in Austin to strengthen your legs

Guajardo, an office administrator and event planner, ran through 108 degree temperatures and beneath scorching sun, and climbed a cumulative 14,600 feet of vertical ascent. She finished in 28 hours and 23 minutes, first among all women and fifth overall.

The former aerobics instructor, who took up running in her 20s when she decided aerobics wasn’t keeping her fit enough, has entered the race three other times. She finished eighth female in her first attempt in 2011 and second in 2016.

Brenda Guajardo trains for the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, which she won last week. Photo by Luis Escobar

She was favored to win last year but broke her foot from overuse 2 miles in. That injury makes this year’s victory all the more remarkable.

“In the last year I’ve had to relearn how to walk,” she says. “I had a limp I couldn’t get rid of and I had to rebuild my mileage. I made serious adjustments in how I train. I couldn’t do speed work, because it was too much on my foot, so I just did long and high volume at a slow pace.”

The training worked.

At the first checkpoint, at Mile 17, she stood in fifth place. She took over the lead at the second checkpoint, at Mile 42, and held it all the way to the finish. Her pace ranged from speedy, 7-minute, 45-second miles on the downhills to between 14- and 16-minute miles on the final uphill slog to the finish. The second place woman finished 25 minutes behind her.

The temperatures took their toll. In the blazing sun, heat radiated from the pavement. “It’s strictly asphalt, all road,” she says. “It definitely cooks your skin.”

Guajardo said that temperatures at the race this year felt relatively comfortable, thanks to the hours she spent training in the Texas heat.

“The humidity in Austin is my Kryptonite. Racing in the desert feels like a vacation compared to the insanity of Austin’s high heat with high humidity,” she says.

Guajardo, who crossed the finish time of her first marathon in 1997 in a not-so-speedy 6 hours, prepared for Badwater by spending 90 minutes in a 140-degree dry sauna, then running outdoors in Austin. She also trained in the Big Bend area to simulate the conditions in Death Valley.

Brenda Guajardo runs at this year’s Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon. Photo courtesy Adventure Corps Inc.

“You teach your stomach how to process fluid in high volume,” she says. “It teaches your body how to sweat very fast and push water out. On race day I put ice-filled bandanas around my neck and my crew sprayed me with water every so many miles.”

But why enter such a grueling event?

“Why not? I think I’m most intrigued by the mind and body connection of what happens when you’re out there. For me personally, I’m very introverted and my job requires me to be very extroverted. To spend an extraordinary number of hours by myself is replenishing. It’s how I gain my energy back.”

Guajardo holds the women’s course record for the Nove Colli 125-mile race in Italy. In 2016 she won Pheidippides Race — a 304-mile race in Greece, where she broke the men’s course record by more than four hours.

Guajardo says she’s not sure what comes next, other than taking some time off for a full recovery, which takes at least a month.

Or maybe enjoying some quality time with her much pet — a turtle named Charlie.

“I consider the turtle my racing animal because turtles represent longevity and patience. … A turtle reminds me to always have patience, never give up. Well, and the obvious — slow and steady wins the race.”

 

Austin’s Lawson Craddock finished last at Tour de France, but now he gets free beer for life

Lawson Craddock holds a Love Street beer from Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston after finishing the Tour de France. Photo courtesy Karbach Brewing Co.

 

Lawson Craddock may have finished last in the Tour de France this year, but now he can drink free beer for the rest of his life.

RELATED: He crashed on Day 1 of the Tour de France, but Austin’s Lawson Craddock is still pedaling

The Austin-based cyclist broke his shoulder blade and cut his face during Stage 1 of this year’s Tour. Instead of packing up and heading back to Texas, Craddock kept cycling. For every stage of the race he completed, he vowed to donate $100 to Alkek Velodrome in Houston, the facility where he learned to race and which was damaged last fall during Hurricane Harvey. He invited fans to donate, too.

RELATED: Pro cyclist Lawson Craddock trains on Texas hills

Craddock wound up finishing every stage of the three-week race, coming in last of the 145 finishers, a position known as “lanterne rouge.” As of today, the GoFundMe site has raised more than $252,000 for the velodrome.

To congratulate the 26-year-old cyclist, Karbach Brewing Co., the Houston-based company that makes the beer Craddock drank after he finally reached Paris, has promised to supply Craddock with Weekend Warrior Pale Ale for the rest of his life.

The brewery also pledged to donate $1 of every case of Weekend Warrior Pale Ale to Alkek Velodrome for the rest of the year.

To donate to the velodrome fund-raiser, go to https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris.

Here’s the series of Tweets about the exchange:

A litter-covered beach in Costa Rica is making me break up with single-use plastic

Most days, the beaches looked pristine. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I’m trying to break up with single-use plastic. You should too.

Last month, on the first day of a surf camp I attended in southern Costa Rica, I woke up early and walked across the street, only to discover a sort of confetti stretching for miles down the beach. Pulverized bits of plastic – red, blue, yellow and white chips the size of your smallest fingernail – covered the the sand in swirls. Waves had washed the chips up with the surf, leaving behind a kind of litter mosaic.

RELATED: Can you stand the sand? Try camping on the beach

I love the “Take 3 for the Sea” movement that encourages surfers – and anyone, really – to pick up three pieces of trash every time they go to the ocean. But the fragments on the Costa Rican beach that day were far too numerous and far too tiny to easily cart away.

One day, pulverized bits of plastic washed up all over the beach where I stayed in Costa Rica. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

The next day, the plastic had washed back out to sea (where fish and dolphins and rays and lobsters wallowed in it, no doubt), but the image stuck in my mind. It made me feel hopeless about the massive quantities of plastic funneling into the world’s oceans.

Our plastic use seems to be increasing. Have you seen all the new products at the grocery store? Pre-packaged servings of crackers, cheese and sausage. Plastic tubs of hummus. Plastic bottles of water. Single-serving containers of olives, applesauce, yogurt and cookies, plastic utensils, baggies, straws, disposable plates and more.

All those products eventually wind up in the landfill, or blowing down a highway someplace, where they ultimately break into smaller and smaller pieces and slowly  make their way to our oceans.

We’re beholden to convenience. But I’m tired of it. We don’t have to be this way.

I’m drawing a line in the sand – that Costa Rican sand – so to speak. I’m determined to reduce my consumption of single-use plastics.

RELATED: What’s it like to swim across Lake Tahoe? Fit City found out

I know sometimes it’s unavoidable to use these products. But usually it’s just as easy to fill your own glass with water, dole out your own serving from the applesauce jar, or tuck a snack into a reusable plastic tub to transport to the office.

I’m doubling down on my efforts. Please join me. And share your tips here.

Would you wake up early for a dance party at an Austin mansion? Daybreaker will

Daybreaker will host an early morning dance party on Aug. 3. Photos courtesy Daybreaker

Would you get up at the crack of dawn for a house party?

Daybreaker is throwing an ’80s morning dance party, starting with a 6 a.m. fitness class followed by two hours of dancing (with reckless abandon, according to the website) in a historic Austin mansion.

That should leave you pumped for a day at the office, don’t you think?

The party starts with a 6 a.m. fitness class, followed by two hours of booze-free dancing. Photo courtesy Daybreaker

The party takes place at the Graeber House, 410 East Sixth Street. Early risers can show up at 6 a.m. for an hour-long fitness class. Or sleep an extra hour and arrive in time for the 2-hour dancing free-for-all to ’80s music. Shoulder pads, leg warmers and MC Hammer dance moves are encouraged.

The party includes DJs and musical guests, plus coffee, juice and healthy snacks.

It’s a no booze event, or, as the website says: “We don’t need alcohol. We don’t need to pretend to be someone else. We come as we are to sweat, dance and connect with ourselves and each other. See you on the dance floor.”

Tickets are $15 to $20. To register, go here.

What’s it like to run a naked race? Find out at Chilly Cheeks 5K

A runner crosses the finish line during the 5k Bare Buns Run on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at the Star Ranch in McDade, Texas.
Catalin Abagiu for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

A year and a half ago, I laced up my shoes, shucked off my clothes and ran the Bare Buns 5K race as part of my self-proclaimed Year of Adventure.

Aside from a little awkwardness when I first stripped down, I enjoyed the run. I know it sounds absurd, but once the starting horn sounded, it felt just like any other timed run – only with better airflow. It also marked the first (and only) time I won the overall women’s division of a running race, probably because most of the competition was male.

RELATED: What’s it like to run a naked 5K? Fit City finds out

Runners participate in the 5k Bare Buns Run on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at the Star Ranch in McDade, Texas.
Catalin Abagiu for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

That race takes place in the spring, when flowers are blooming and butterflies are fluttering. Now Star Ranch Nudist Resort, a private residential community located east of Austin in McDade, has added a second naked run to its schedule. This time, leaves will be falling from trees as the runners take off.

The Chilly Cheeks 5K (gotta love that name!) is scheduled for Oct. 13, and pre-registration is open at www.starranch.net/5k-bare-buns-run.html.

Chances are it’ll still be warm then, and the course carries runners over the same pine needle-covered hills, sandy expanses and a hay field as last time. When I ran before, I wore running shoes and a straw cowboy hat, which blew off my head at one point. That attire should suffice this time, too.

Runners wait for the beginning of the the 5k Bare Buns Run on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at the Star Ranch in McDade, Texas.
Catalin Abagiu for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Although runners can wear whatever clothing they want (sports bras for women, for example), most go nude except for shoes. The year I ran, the race drew about 120 runners, most of whom didn’t live at the park. The residents were enthusiastic, though, handing out timing chips and directing athletes along the course. Afterward, everyone gathered by the newly-renovated swimming pool for a celebration and burger cookoff.

Gates open for the Chilly Cheeks 5K at 9 a.m. The chip-timed race starts at 1 p.m. A 1K kids fun run is set for 10 a.m. Entry fee is $30 for adults and $10 for children. Sign up online here.

A runner warms up before the 5k Bare Buns Run on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at the Star Ranch in McDade, Texas. Catalin Abagiu for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Star Ranch opened in 1957. The resort is member resort of the American Association for Nude Recreation. The Bare Buns 5K and the Chilly Cheeks 5K are part of a series of naked races in the organization’s southwest region.

For more information, contact the Star Ranch office at 512-273-2257, go to http://www.starranch.net or email info@starranch.net.

Get your groove on with $10 classes at Ballet Austin on National Dance Day

Visitors can try a variety of dance classes for $10 at Ballet Austin this Saturday. Photo courtesy Ballet Austin

National Dance Day rolls around this Saturday, and Ballet Austin is offering $10 classes to celebrate.

Participants can learn the moves for this year’s official National Dance Day routine, to Kylie Minogue’s song “Dancing.” They can also take classes in Afro-Brazilian dance, Arms & Abs 60-Minute Stretch, Cardio Hip Hop, ballet, hip hop, Rio-style Samba, Jazz Turns & Jumps, Videodance Britney’s Toxic and Zumba.

The event runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. No dance experience is necessary. Open to adults and children ages 10 and older.

Ballet Austin is located at 501 W. 3rd Street. For more information go here.

Not hot enough? Try this Inferno Hot Pilates class

Gabi Walters, creator of Inferno Hot Pilates, leads a class. Pure Yoga Texas is now offering the class. Photo courtesy Pure Yoga Texas

 

In case yesterday’s record setting temperature of 110 degrees at Camp Mabry didn’t burn your britches, may we suggest the newest offering from Pure Yoga Texas – “Inferno Hot Pilates.”

Seriously.

Inferno Hot Pilates is practiced in 95 degree heat, so technically that still means someone has to crank up the air conditioning this week in Austin.

Staff members from Pure Yoga Texas pose at the studio. Photo courtesy Pure Yoga Texas

The low-impact, full body workout combines Pilates and high intensity interval training. Expect to sweat. (Please hydrate accordingly. And pay attention to your body. Heat exhaustion is no joke.)

Gabi Walters developed the class in 2012 and it has grown in popularity around the country.

“Inferno Hot Pilates is a great complement to our Hot 26 & 2 yoga class,” said Pure Yoga Texas studio manager Nora Rex. “Our students love the challenge of the cardio workout and muscle strengthening in Inferno Hot Pilates. It helps them in their yoga practice to find their edge and expand their body and mind.”

Pure Yoga Texas operates four locations: 507 Pressler Street No. 100 in downtown Austin; 4301 West William Cannon Drive in South Austin; 1335 East Whitestone Boulevard No. 185 in Cedar Park; and 2525 West Anderson Lane No. 320 in North Austin. The Inferno Hot Pilates class is available at the Pressler Street and Cedar Park locations.

All locations offer 60- and 90-minute hot yoga classes, heated vinyasa, yin yoga and HIIT Fusion.

Want to try an Inferno Hot Pilates class on the cheap? The studio will offer free Inferno Hot Yoga classes at 8:45 a.m. every Saturday during August at Athleta in the Domain, 11601 Century Oaks Terrace No. 121.

For more information, go here or call (888) 245-0726.

Catch a classic surf flick in the lagoon at NLand Surf Park

Tanner Payan, left, and Randy Gilkerson, center, with the surf band, Tunnel Vision, catch a wave with NLand surf guide, Christine Adams, right, at NLand Surf Park in September 2017. (Rodolfo Gonzalez for Austin American-Statesman)

 

NLand Surf Park will screen the surf documentary “Step Into Liquid” at its lagoon this weekend.

The screening is part of this month’s Surfeza Sunday, which takes place the last Sunday of every month and includes live music and discounted surf sessions and beer.

RELATED: At NLand Surf Park, catch a perfect wave every time

DJ Manolo Black, Soulies and Audic Empire will perform this Sunday, and Cold Ones Popsicles will provide giveaways while supplies last. Additional limited-edition popsicles flavors will be available for purchase, and a dollar from every Blackberry Honey Lemonade popsicle sold will benefit the American Honeybee Protection Agency and its efforts to safely relocate bees. Proceeds from a raffle for a Firewire surfboard will benefit EarthxFilm.  NLand Brewing Company will serve Surfeza, a light, Mexican lager, for $3.

Tickets are $10 for the movie screening only or $40 for the screening, surfing and a dryland surf session. Purchase them in advance through EventBrite here.

The event begins at 11 a.m. Sunday; surfing starts at 5 p.m. for those surfing and watching the film.

NLand Surf Park is located at 4836 East Highway 71 in Del Valle.

What’s it like to swim across Lake Tahoe? We found out

Lauren Lubus scans Lake Tahoe before the start of the Trans Tahoe Relay on Saturday, July 21, 2018. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

 

I thought I’d turn into a Popsicle, but as it turned out, the water temperature hovered at a balmy 65 degrees Saturday, when I swam across Lake Tahoe as part of a six-person relay team.

That’s well above the 55 degrees we’d been braced for, and barely cold enough to raise goose bumps, as long as you keep moving. And thank goodness for that, because wetsuits aren’t allowed in the Trans Tahoe Relay, which starts in Nevada and finishes roughly 10 miles away in California.

Bret Cunningham, who swims on the same U.S. Masters Swim Team that I do, invited me and my husband to join him for the race. Three other swimmers – David Bruns, Kaleigh Mitchell and Lauren Lubus, all from different parts of the country – flew in to round out our group. We’d each swim a 30-minute leg, then alternate 10-minute turns until we reached the finish.

Team Keep Tahoe Weird, which included three Austin swimmers, navigates its way across Lake Tahoe on July 21, 2018. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

The Olympic Club of San Francisco hosts the event, which starts at Sand Harbor and finishes in Skylandia. Along the way, swimmers cross the deepest section of the lake, which plunges a mile straight down. (Yikes!) This year marked the 42nd running of the relay, and it drew former Olympians, collegiate swimmers, and recreational athletes just out for a nice cruise.

Kaleigh Mitchell dives in to swim her leg of the Trans Tahoe Relay. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Things I noticed as our team made its slow but steady way across the lake? A massive flotilla of boats, bobbing along in support of the swimmers. The way shafts of light flickered deep into the lake. The cool, full-body hug from Mother Nature. The deep green of the pine trees standing shoulder to shoulder all the way around the basin. The peace and insulated quiet that comes when you’re immersed in water. The splashing and underwater burbling noises. With every breath, the vague outline of mountain peaks in the distance.

And the blue that goes on forever.

I love to swim, and swim four or five days a week here in Austin. Lake Tahoe now ranks in the top five most beautiful places I’ve ever gone swimming. (The bay in Kona, Hawaii makes that list, as do a few pristine high alpine lakes along the John Muir Trail and High Sierra Trail in California. I also love Walden Pond in Massachusetts, Lake Michigan, The Narrows near Blanco, the ocean around Fiji, Barton Springs right here in Austin, a place called Half Moon Cay off the coast of Belize, a spring-fed pool on Independence Creek in West Texas, and about a dozen other places, so I guess I actually can’t pick just five.)

Pam LeBlanc swims next to the support boat during the Trans Tahoe Relay. Other swimmers and boats are seen in the background. Chris LeBlanc for American-Statesman

In all, more than 1,100 athletes competed in this year’s race, which is staged in four groups, based on cumulative age and spaced 10 minutes apart. Our group started with the third wave. Our lead swimmer (thanks David!) dashed off from shore in a group, while the rest of us waited on a support boat, trying to pick him out. We spotted him about 15 minutes in – or he spotted us, since we hung balloons, gold fringe and an American flag on the side of our rental craft to make it stand out.

Most of the team boats were decked out in balloons, ribbons and other accoutrements, including inflatable flamingos, pirate flags and a giant yellow rubber duck. One boat had its own slide, so swimmers could gracefully glide into the lake to make their relay exchanges.

Bret Cunningham, of Team Keep Tahoe Weird, swims his leg of the six-person relay race on Saturday, July 21, 2018. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

It took us 4 hours and 52 minutes to chug our way across the lake. I lucked out and drew the last leg, which meant I got to tag the big buoy marker off the beach and swim in to shore, where lots of families and friends lined the dock to watch.

It costs $750 per team to enter the Lake Tahoe race. That’s a lot, but consider this – it’s divided among six people, and proceeds benefit Keep Tahoe Blue, a non-profit organization that works to protect water quality of the lake, and the parks departments in the villages where the race starts and finishes. Teams also need a support boat. We rented one from a marina near the race start.

If you’re interested in racing next year, go here for more information.

That one’s too far to go? Consider racing in the Lake Travis Relay, set this year for Oct. 20. This year’s 10- to 12-mile race starts and finishes near Emerald Point. Entry fee is $360 (plus $15 per person for ASA membership); registration fees increase Sept. 17 and Sept. 30. Go here for more information.

Lauren Lubus swims across Lake Tahoe during the Trans Tahoe Relay on July 21, 2018. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

At Lance Armstrong’s Austin bike shop, watch the Tour de France live

Lance Armstrong and co-host JB Hager, right, record their “Stages” podcast at Mellow Johnny’s in 2017. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Want to watch this year’s Tour de France with other cycling fans?

Juan Pelota Café, tucked inside Mellow Johnny’s, the downtown Austin cycling shop owned by ormer pro cyclist Lance Armstrong (who was stripped of his seven tour wins after a doping scandal), is showing into the race live every day.

RELATED: From an Airstream in Aspen, Lance Armstrong riffs on the Tour de France

Armstrong won’t be on hand – he’s in Aspen doing a podcast on the tour – but you’ll find plenty of other cycling fans cheering on the faves.

Plus, you can buy a new bike if you want one. The cafe serves espresso and snacks, too.

The shop is located at 400 Nueces Street.