Behold, the Electric Cheeto!

Pam LeBlanc rides her newly converted electric bike. Contributed/John Pierce
Pam LeBlanc rides her newly converted electric bike. Contributed/John Pierce

You might recognize the bike, which we’ve long called The Cheeto. For the last six or seven years I’ve been pedaling it all over Austin. My husband Chris built it up from parts, and it’s served me well in getting me to work and home most days.

But now that my husband has converted it to an electric bike, it’s a lot easier riding up hills.

I blame Rocket Electrics, an Austin bike shop that sells purpose-built electric bikes. After years of scoffing at people who rode e-bikes, this summer I borrowed a very fancy electric one from the shop. I immediately fell in love.

Suddenly I could zip home without breaking a sweat (or a bad sweat) on an August afternoon, but I could still legally ride on bike trails and avoid the traffic congestion on roads.

I’m not suggesting an e-bike as a replacement for exercise, but I get plenty of that through running and swim practice. And I don’t use the electric boost on my new e-bike all the time, just when I want to. That normally happens on hot afternoons, when I’m slogging up Lamar Boulevard. Now I just twist the throttle and the little electric motor takes the work out of the ride.

After much online research, Chris bought a $300 battery kit online from a Chinese company called BMS Battery. The shipping cost a whopping $254, but we decided to get it anyway.

That big silver thermos-looking device on the down tube? That’s the battery pack. It comes off the bike and plugs into an electric socket in the wall. I can go from swim practice to work and back home – about 10 miles – on less than half a charge.

Chris had never built an e-bike before, and it took him about 10 hours to set up. (He says the next one would take about 3 hours, now that he knows what he’s doing.) The pedal-assist feature (which I really want) still doesn’t work, and there’s a stutter problem with the motor sometimes.

Chris hopes to fix those problems. I’ll keep you posted.

I should note here that Chris is particularly handy, and has served as my personal bike mechanic since I’ve known him. I don’t think the conversion is something that just anyone could do.

So far, though, I love my new Electric Cheeto.

Nike Training Club hosting free workouts at UT this week


Free workout by Nike, anyone?

Nike Training Club drops by the University of Texas this week, offering a total of six free workout sessions that range from group runs to dancing, boxing and high intensity training. (Did we mention they’re free?)

It’s called NTC Week. The event is geared toward female college students (train like a Longhorn!), but is open to anyone who wants to participate. Attendees must register in advance for the classes here.

Nike Training Club is a global fitness community designed to inspire and enable female athletes, and includes the N+TC App, a full-body training app for all fitness levels. Athletes can choose four-week programs or one-off workouts.

Here’s the lineup for NTC Week at UT:

  • 7:15 p.m. Monday. Runday Funday – A 2-mile run and football inspired workout with Michael Johnson Performance Center trainers; Victory at Gregory Gym University of Texas.
  • 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. Bollywood Zumba; Anna Hiss Gym at the University of Texas.
  • 5 p.m. Wednesday. Boxing; Victory at Gregory Gym University of Texas.
  • 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Discovery run; Turtle Pond University of Texas.
  • 4:30 p.m. Friday. Paddleboard yoga; The Rowing Dock at Town Lake.
  • 8 a.m. Saturday. Celebratory NTC Workout – Nike master trainers Marie Purvis and Flor Beckmann lead a high intensity workout: Main Mall at the University of Texas.

Want to run on at COTA? Win HITS Austin entry and gear here

Win free entry into the 5K, 10K, half or full marathon at HITS Austin.
Win free entry into the 5K, 10K, half or full marathon at HITS Austin.

Running on a race track is bound to make you move faster, right?

On Dec. 14, runners will streak down the track at the Circuit of the Americas, on their way to finishing their choice of a mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or sprint duathlon at the HITS Austin event.

All the races finish at Pit Row. We can only hope no one has a flat tire or engine blow out.

All distances are USATF certified, and the marathon is an official Boston qualifier, too (woo hoo!). A health, wellness and fitness expo is planned, too.

Sound like fun?

Event organizers are giving away four free entries into the event – one each for the 5K, 10K, half and full marathon. Winners will also get running gear, free weekly training and other schwag.

To win, post below the Fit City blog  or on the Fit City page on Facebook at, telling us why you deserve the entry. You’ll need to include your email and phone number, but if you don’t want to post that, you can email it directly to

Specify which race you want to run, and check back after 5 p.m. next Friday, Oct. 24, to see if you were picked. Beginner athletes are encouraged to enter; no professional athletes, please.

Starting Oct. 27, winners will write weekly blog entries about their training experience.

To skip the contest and register for the race on your own, go here.

Former UT running back Sam Areias places second in Alpha Showdown

Top 5 Male Athletes
Sam Areias, third from right, placed second at the Alpha Showdown.

Congrats to Austin’s own Sam Areias, who took second in the recent Alpha Showdown Competition hosted by Life Time Fitness.

He’s a pretty fit guy. To finish as high as he did, he had to run on an all-terrain endurance course, hoist countless weights, scramble through an outdoor obstacle course, push a bunch of weighted sleds, swing kettle bells, jump and more.

Areias played football for the University of Texas from 2003-06 (he was a walk-on running back), then went on to play rugby with the Austin Blacks. I met him a couple of years ago at Austin Fit Magazine’s FitTest. My impression? He’s not only strong, he’s nice.

Competitors push weighted sleds.

Regional Alpha Champions from 14 regions across the country participated in the competition, which took place in Chanhassen, Minnesota on Oct. 11. David Freeman from Scottsdale, Arizona, won the Alpha Male title. Kelli Holm from Bloomington, Minnesota, won the Alpha Female title.

Alpha Showdown competitions take place around the country at Life Time facilities. Those local contests are followed by regional competitions, which culminate with the national competition. The events are designed to track progress year over year and offer a competitive setting for those who want to test themselves against others.

Life Time Fitness centers feature special Alpha Fitness training facilites that include an obstacle course with a cargo net, monkey bars, ropes and a balance beam.

For more information go here.

Ladies, want to paddle? Get Out Girl Paddle Jam set for Oct. 26

paddle by Justin Nixon
Paddlers participate in the Flatwater Foundation’s Dam That Cancer event. Contributed/Justin Nixon


Ladies, who’s up for a morning of paddling on Lake Austin?

An all-women’s paddle event to benefit the Flatwater Foundation is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 26. Participants at the Get Out Girl Paddle Jam will kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle distances of 2 to 10 miles to raise money to provide support for families coping with a cancer diagnoses.

The event begins and ends at Steiner Ranch Lake Club. Paddlers can bring their own kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddleboards or rent one at registration.

paddle 2 by justin nixon
The Get Out Girl Paddle Jam will benefit the Flatwater Foundation. Contributed/Justin Nixon

“As women who love the outdoors and water, we understand the mental health benefits of getting out and getting active and we see this event as an opportunity to connect with others while spreading that positive message,” organizers said in a press release.

The course will be an out and back route, with buoy markers at each mile marker. The event is not a race, but a social paddle supporting the cause.

Following the event, hang out and enjoy some shopping while enjoying music, food and drinks with family and friends.

paddle 3 by justin nixon
The Get Out Girl Paddle Jam is set for Oct. 26. Contributed/Justin Nixon

Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. The paddle starts at 8:30 a.m. Lake support will be provided for 3 hours, and paddlers should estimate their distance based on that amount of time.

Registration fee includes lunch, two drink tickets, a shirt, an after party and access to a sample sale featuring surfing and paddling products.

Registration is $60 if you provide your own equipment (bring your own personal flotation device) or $80 if you need a kayak, paddleboard or canoe. All paddlers have access to personal fund-raising page for the event. Fund raising is optional.

For more information go here.

Spooky Skedaddle set for Oct. 25 at Texas School for the Deaf

spooky pic 3
The Spooky Skedaddle includes a 1K costume run.

Running’s much more fun when you put on a costume, trust me.

You’ll get that opportunity at the Spooky Skedaddle, a fund-raising race that benefits the Texas School for the Deaf.

Swamp Creature showed up at the event two years ago.

The festival, which includes a 5K timed race and a 1K fun run, is set for 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at the school’s campus, 1102 South Congress Avenue.

Besides the race, expect an entire fall festival complete with food trucks, carnival games, trick-or-treating, face painting, arts and crafts, music, a Halloween costume parade, cake walk, miniature ponies, fire trucks and a clown. Proceeds will be used to bridge the gap between state funding and student needs.

Entry fee is $30 for the 5K or $3 for the 1K costume run. Register at

Admission to the festival is free.

Four Austin public pools open for fall, winter swimming

Mary Warren swims year-round at Barton Springs. Laura Skelding/Statesman Staff

You don’t have to pack up your swimsuit just because fall has arrived in Austin.

Four public pools – Barton Springs, Bartholomew, Deep Eddy and Big Stacy – are open year-round for lap swimming and recreation.


That’s bliss for folks like me, who love to swim outdoors when the temperatures drop. Getting in a swimming pool when it’s chilly and the water’s steaming is like wrapping yourself in a warm snugly blanket. It’s cozy and delicious. The hard part comes when you have to get out and make the dash to the bathhouse…

  • Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Road, is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (no guards from 5-8 a.m. or 6 to 10 p.m.; guarded swim from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) It’s also closed from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays for cleaning.
  • Deep Eddy Pool, 401 Deep Eddy Avenue, is closed today through Nov. 9 for annual repairs and maintenance, but will reopen Nov. 10 for the fall and winter. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
  • Big Stacy Pool, 700 Live Oak Street is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 7 p.m. weekends.
  • Bartholomew Pool, 1800 East 51st Street, is open from 2-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for recreation and lap swimming.
  • Admission to Big Stacy Pool is always free, but you must pay to enter Barton Springs, Bartholomew and Deep Eddy pools through Oct. 31. Admission is $3 for adults ($4 non-residents), $1 seniors ($2 non-residents), $2 juniors age 12 to 17 ($3 non-residents) and $1 children 11 and under ($2 non-residents.) Starting Nov. 1 through Feb. 14 admission is free at Barton Springs and Deep Eddy.

I’m giving away free running books!


A flurry of running books has landed on my desk. Some look really cool. I want you to have them.

Let me know which book you’d like and post below, telling me why you need it. The best answers win.

Here’s what’s up for grabs:

  • “Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners, From Milers to Ultramarathoners,” by Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz and Melissa Breyer. It’s packed with exercises, training plans, photos, charts, recipes and interviews with runners, scientists and coaches.
  • “The Runner’s Bucket List: 200 Races to Run Before You Die,” by Denise Malan. Looking for a destination race? This book tells you where to go to race with your dog, without clothing, in the dead of night, in the snow and ice and everything else you can imagine.
  • “Trail Running,” by Jeff Galloway. The guru of the run-walk-run method turns his attention to trail running in another book about how to run injury free.
  • “Older Faster Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer,” by Margaret Webb. Who says only young whippersnappers can run? You can start running after the age of 50.
  • “1:59 The Sub-Tow-Hour Marathon is Within Reach – Here’s How it Will Go Down, and What It Can Teach All Runners About Training and Racing,” by Dr. Philip Maffetone with Bill Katovsky. The current record is 2:03:23. Need I say more?
  • “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances,” by The Oatmeal, the same cartoonist who brought you “How to Tell if your Cat is Plotting to Kill You.” It is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

BikeFest, Viva! Streets coming in late October

Lisa Reed Davis on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail
Lisa Reed bikes the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. Pam LeBlanc/American Statesman Staff

We’ve got two big bicycling events coming up, two-wheeler fans.

The city’s first BikeFest is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at Govalle Park, 5200 Bolm Road. The day kicks off with an 8:30 a.m. ribbon cutting for the (sort of) new 7.3-mile section of the separated bike path known as the Southern Walnut Creek Trail, which we wrote about in July. (See my article about the trail here.)

The event will include bike polo.

A group ride along the new paved trail, which extends from Govalle Park to the Johnny Morris and Daffen Lane intersection, will start at 10:30 a.m. (Check in first.) Go to the event to check out the new trail, but stay for the food trucks, beer garden, kids’ activities, live music, bike fashion show, vendors and demonstrations of bicycle polo and unicycle football.

The event, presented by BikeTexas and Capital Metro, is free.

BikeTexas suggests arriving by bicycle. Austin B-Cycle will have a mobile check-in station for cyclists who want to use the rental cycles. (Use one of the East Austin stations – East Sixth at Robert Martinez, East Sixth at Pedernales, or Capital Metro Headquarters – to arrive at Govalle Park within the half-hour window for B-Cycle rental.)

rgz viva streets 01
Streets are blocked to cars during Viva! Streets. Rodolfo Gonzalez/American Statesman Staff

Secondly, Viva! Streets – that close-the-road-and-play-in-the-street festival – returns Oct. 26.

After two years on East Sixth Street, the event moves to the Mueller development, where a 2-mile stretch of roadway will be closed to car traffic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Austinites are invited to bicycle, play, get fit, people watch and celebrate good health in the street. It’s Austin’s version of a ciclovia, a Spanish term that means “cycleway.” Ciclovias got their start in Colombia, where officials block off streets for runners, skaters and bicyclists.

For more information go here.

Cycleast moves to bigger digs, barre3 studio opens in Circle C

Russell Pickavance, owner of Cycleast, works on a bike.
Russell Pickavance, owner of Cycleast, works on a bike.

And in shop news this week …

The Cycleast crew at the new shop.

East side bike shop Cycleast is moving to a new, larger location at 1619 East Cesar Chavez Street. The shop opened 18 months ago on Pedernales Street, but has since outgrown its digs. The new 2,500-square-foot location will include a 600-square-foot community space for yoga, fitness, music, art and events. The shop focuses on repairs, restorations and custom bikes. Plus, it’s run by a bunch of cool people, headed by owner Russell Pickavance.

“We are excited to have a new space that enables us continue to make bike dreams come true,” Pickavance said in a press release. “More importantly, the space will allow us to create a real community focused around bikes, fitness and wellness. We envision the new Cycleast as a constant hub of activity and a friendly place to be and hang out.”

A soft reopening is set for Oct. 13; a grand reopening party is scheduled for Oct. 24. For more information go here.

Barre3 opened a new studio in Circle C.

A new barre3 studio opened Oct. 1 at 5700 West Slaughter Lane in Circle C. The studio joins two other barre3 locations in Austin – one at 115 Sandra Muraida Way and another at the Hill Country Galleria, 12800 Hill Country Boulevard. Instructors teach a combination of yoga, Pilates and ballet barre work, balancing strength training, isometric holds, small movements and recovery stretches.

“In just five years, barre3 has grown from a single studio in Portland, Oregon to over 70 locations and streaming online,” founder Sadie Lincoln said in a press release. “Our mission is to make barre3 accessible to anyone, anywhere with studios across the U.S. and abroad. We are thrilled that Austin has become such a big part of the barre3 family.”