On your mark! Iram Leon and Elaine Chung tie knot at run-themed wedding

Chris McClung, center, officiated the ceremony at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Photo by Andrew Holmes

Invitations printed on race bibs. A group run the morning of the wedding. A ceremony in front of a race start line. Running shoes with formal attire.

Iram Leon and Elaine Chung, the president and vice president of Austin Runners Club, tied the knot Saturday in a ceremony themed around running, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows them. They met, after all, through the Austin Runners Club, while both were training for a marathon.

Wedding invites were printed on race bibs.

RELATED: Austin runner with brain cancer pushes daughter in stroller to marathon win

I met Leon in 2013, just after he’d won the overall title at the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont – while pushing his daughter in a stroller. He’d been diagnosed with brain cancer in November 2010, after collapsing at a birthday party.

A marble-sized tumor is entwined in the memory and language hub of his brain and has invisible “tentacles” that even doctors can’t detect. The average survival time for the disease is four years; only a third of patients live five years after diagnosis.

But Leon is 38. At his most recent checkup in June, doctors told him his tumor is stable. He’s still running regularly, and if you didn’t notice the scar that snakes across the side of his head you’d probably never guess he was sick.

Iram Leon, left, and Elaine Chung, right, tied the knot at a running-themed wedding on Aug. 18, 2018. Photo by Andrew Holmes

RELATED: Catching up with marathon runner and cancer survivor Iram Leon

Chris McClung, a running coach and co-owner of Rogue Running, officiated the ceremony, working in as many running puns as possible. He wrapped things up with this: “With the power vested in me by the state of Texas and getordained.org, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Daughter Kiana, 11, pretended to forget the ring, then dashed off to get the family dog, who carried it in.

The accompanying bash featured both Chinese and Mexican food, to honor both the bride and groom. Guests played lawn games, worked puzzles, and at one point joined a group stroll through the gardens of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

“We wanted to show our guests a good time while showing them some of us,” Leon says. “I was marrying Elaine, not an idea or an institution.”

Elaine and Iram were married beneath a race start line set up at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Aug. 18, 2018. Photo by Andrew Holmes

Ingredients for next Fit City adventure: One stubborn burro plus a steep trail

Pam LeBlanc will team up with Little Jonah to run the Gold Rush Challenge race in Victor, Colorado, next month. Photo by Susan Paraska

I’ve never raced up a mountain with a pack burro at my side, so on Sept. 8 I’ll do that, with a four-legged little beast named Little Jonah.

I’ve rented Jonah from donkey matchmaker Amber Wann in Idaho Springs, Colorado, who loans out animals so (crazy) people like me can participate in a series of pack burro races in small towns around Colorado. And no, I won’t be riding the burro – runners lead their partners up steep mountain trails in races that honor the gold mining history of the area.

RELATED: Looking for adventure? Fit City is making it a lifelong pursuit

Wann paired me with 17-year-old Little Jonah, a resident of Laughing Valley Ranch in Idaho Springs, Colorado, because she thinks our personalities match. I looked up his results for previous years, and, well, let’s just say I’m not expecting to win this year’s race, not that it matters. Jonah’s track record makes me think he might just screech to a halt.

I’m fine with that. Plus, it’ll make a more interesting story if Jonah decides to pause to take in the scenery for a few hours.

RELATED: Next wave of adventure? Jet surfing

“He has come in last ass on a time or two , but that is because the folks running him were not speedy people to begin with,” Wann told me. “Burros like Little Jonah could go either way, speed wise, depending on the person navigating and encouraging him to keep going.”

Just chalk it up to this Life of Adventure.

What’s the latest camping trend? Elevated pop-up tents, and we’re testing one tonight

I’ve got the Woolly Bear set up at McKinney Falls State Park. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I’ll be sleeping in the treetops tonight here at McKinney Falls State Park, where I’ve successfully wrangled open a borrowed Woolly Bear elevated tent.

I wouldn’t describe it as “easy” to deploy – rather, it took a couple of phone calls and some extra hands to do the job. I’m confident I’ll shave half an hour off my time the next time out of the gate.

Here I am, wrangling open the pop-up, elevated tent.

Reinforcements are coming – brats, beer and company. It’ll be a race to see which arrives first, those supplies or a storm that’s apparently headed my way. Perhaps I’ll get to test the rain fly.

Stay tuned for a full review …

Next adventure for Fit City? Paddle racing – and she started Saturday with Kanoe Klasika

Pam LeBlanc, front, and Sheila Reiter, back, paddle a canoe at Saturday’s Kanoe Klasika race on the Colorado River. Photo by Patty Geisinger

 

I’ve learned this about myself in 54 years: I feel most alive when I’m trying new things.

That’s one reason why I’ve taken up paddling in the last year. It’s also how I landed at the start line of the Kanoe Klasika canoe and kayak race on the Colorado River on Saturday morning.

Pam LeBlanc, left, and Sheila Reiter, right, prepare for the start of the Kanoe Klasika on Saturday. Photo by Patty Geisinger

I started paddling for fun about a year ago. Since then, I’ve taken leisurely day trips on the San Marcos, Colorado, Llano and Pedernales rivers, and loaded up my boat with a tent, sleeping bag and campstove for multi-day excursions on the Devils and Pecos rivers.

 

Heather Harrison, Sheila Reiter and Pam LeBlanc at the start of the Kanoe Klasika race on Saturday.

But now I want to figure out how to go fast. After spending five days following paddlers in the Texas Water Safari in June, I’ve set a huge goal: I want to finish that grueling race, which starts in San Marcos and finishes at Seadrift on the Texas coast.

 

Two veteran paddlers – Sheila Reiter and Heather Harrison – have invited me to join their three-person team for that epic adventure. In less than a year, I’ll set out on a huge, sleep-deprived river of craziness populated by alligator gar, log jams and hallucinations.

I can’t wait. Also, I’m scared out of my straw cowboy hat.

Saturday’s Kanoe Klasika race marked a first step in my mission to get to the start line, though – my first paddling race. (Technically I participated in the Texas Winter 100 back in January, but I only paddled a portion of that course and stopped for a picnic along the side of the river, so I don’t count it.)

Saturday’s race started at Riverbend Park in Smithville, and finished at Plum Park about 16.5 miles downstream.

Racers at the start of the Kanoe Klasika race on Saturday. Photo by Patty Geisinger

Reiter brought the boat – a 23-foot tippy craft that’s more narrow and streamlined than what you’d probably picture if I told you we were racing a canoe. She sat in back, steering us into swifter moving water and around obstacles like low hanging branches and gravel bars. I sat in front and just paddled, focusing on drawing as much strength as I could from each stroke and not flipping out (of the boat, that is.)

Thoughts? A morning spent outdoors, on the water, with like-minded people and getting exercise always ranks high on my list of great ways to pass the time. Along the way, I thought about how far I’ve got to go to prepare myself for the Texas Water Safari. Sixteen miles on a placid, flat river is a lot different than 260 on a narrow, twisty one supercharged with rapids, alligators (yes!) and a notoriously choppy bay.

 

Sheila Reiter, left, and Pam LeBlanc, right, race down the Colorado River on Saturday. Photo by Patty Geisinger

Even in the two hours and 45 minutes it took us to reach the finish line on Saturday, my wrist hurt and my back got sore. What will happen when I multiply that by 20 or so?

I’m going to find out. I’ll get there. And it’ll all be a new experience.

How many days in a row have you run? Bill Schroeder’s logged 20 years

From left, Bill Schroeder, Jodi Ondrusek and Wing Ho run on a trail at Brushy Creek Park on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bill Shroeder hasn’t missed a run in years.

He’ll celebrate 20 years worth of running – calculated by combining two separate running streaks – with an easy cruise through Williamson County Regional Park at 6 p.m. today.

Streak running is a thing, in case you didn’t know, and different people do it different ways. (It’s also completely different than streaking, as in running naked through a public place.) Some streak runners count any run over at least 1 mile. For Schroeder, a workout doesn’t officially count unless it lasts at least 25 minutes.

Bill Schroeder is celebrating two running streaks – and a combined 20 years of daily runs – with a run tonight. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tonight, the public is invited to join Schroeder for a 25-minute run starting at the pavilion near the tennis courts. The group will run or walk out 12 and a half minutes, then turn around and come back. No matter what your pace, everyone should finish together.

RELATED: Streak runners get their daily run come rain, snow, heat or travel

The streak-iversary happens to coincide with Schroeder’s 56th birthday. Kona Ice will serve 100 free snow cones from 6:30-7:30 p.m. There will be cake, too. No glass containers are allowed at the park. Alcohol is permitted, but please drink responsibly.

To pre-register for the free event, go here.

Bid summer farewell with Splash Bash at YMCA

The YMCA TownLake will host a Splash Bash from 1-3 p.m. Saturday. Photo courtesy YMCA

Bid summer goodbye with the annual Splash Bash at the TownLake YMCA this weekend.

The free community event is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Saturday and will include a pool party with free snacks, games, giveaways, music and a bouncy house. The Y is located at 1100 West Cesar Chavez Street.

The event will also highlight YMCA Camp Moody, which is being developed along Onion Creek, 15 miles south of downtown Austin. The project’s initial phase will include an eight-lane natatorium that the Y is building in partnership with the Hays Consolidated school district.

When the facility is complete, all district first-graders will participate in the Y’s Project SAFE program, which provides free swimming and water safety instruction.

Tired of trash at Mansfield Cut? Pitch in at Saturday’s cleanup

A cleanup of Port Mansfield Cut is set for Saturday. Photo courtesy Kathie and Miller Bassler

A few months ago, I spent a long weekend camping at Mansfield Cut along the Texas Coast.

We pitched tents in the sand, fished and surfed along the channel between North and South Padre Islands. I loved the place, but couldn’t believe the quantity of trash that littered the dunes and filled every crevice of the jetty.

So I’m happy to make note of an upcoming beach cleanup organized by Miller and Kathie Bassler of Rockdale.

Volunteers have hauled off as much as 25 tons of trash during the annual cleanup. Photo courtesy Kathie and Miller Bassler

The 10th annual Port Mansfield Beach & Cut Clean UP, rescheduled from March due to weather, is set for Aug. 11. In past years, volunteers have collected as much as 25 tons of trash at the event.

To participate, report to the Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce pavilion for signup at 6:30 a.m. After a safety briefing and breakfast, you’ll get your assignment for which area to clean. Volunteers get a free T-shirt, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boats, captains and workers are needed, and out-of-town participants can get free lodging if they notify Kathie at kathieb@basslerenergyservices.com by Aug. 6.

Boats and volunteers are needed for the cleanup. Photo courtesy Miller and Kathie Bassler

The Basslers started the cleanup in 2009 after arriving at the usually pristine Padre Island National Seashore and finding it trashed in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ike and Dolly. Their efforts have earned recognition from Field & Stream Magazine, the Coastal Conservation Association and others.

“We have gathered as much as 25 tons, cleaned up to 5 miles of Padre Island National Shoreline and relieved the jetty trap of thousands of plastic bottles, while also picking up the banks of the Mansfield Channel on the 15-mile journey from port to the island,” Miller Bassler says.

Tons of trash collects on the beach and between the boulders at the jetty each year. Photo courtesy Miller and Kathie Bassler

For more information email miller@basslerenergyservices.com or kathieb@basslerenergyservices.com.

At Camp Gladiator Stadium Takeover, join a group workout where the Longhorns play

Camp Gladiator will host a free public workout at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 11. Photo courtesty Camp Gladiator

If you’ve always wanted to train on the field where the University of Texas Longhorns play, head to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 11.

Camp Gladiator will celebrate a decade of group exercise with a free, open-to-the-public workout at the stadium, and thousands of participants are expected to attend.

Camp Gladiator is celebrating a decade of group workouts. Photo courtesty Camp Gladiator

It’s part of a nation-wide CG Stadium Takeover series that includes events at stadiums all over the country, from Mile High Stadium in Denver to Minute Maid Park in Houston and Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi. The Austin event starts at 6:45 a.m. and wraps up at 12:30 p.m. and is designed for all ages and fitness levels.

Ally and Jeff Davidson founded Camp Gladiator in 2008 in Dallas.

The Austin event is one of a series of Stadium Takeovers taking place around the country. Photo courtesy Camp Gladiator

“We are really beyond excited to be celebrating 10 amazing years of Camp Gladiator and the impact made on hundreds of thousands of campers across the nation. We can’t wait to host our loyal campers and everyone in our amazing communities that have supported us through the years at stadiums across the nation,” Ally Davidson said in a press release.

Attendees can sign up as a spectators or competitors. In Austin, participants will be released in waves to run between 10 workout stations throughout the stadium. The full-body workout combines strength and cardio exercises. It’s based on the CG camp experience, which focuses on endurance, strength, agility, and interval training suitable for all fitness levels.

The event will also feature food, retail, and fitness vendors and other fitness activations such as a slamball slam contest and a battle rope station.

To RSVP go here.

Participants will be released in waves to run to exercise stations around the stadium. Photo courtesy Camp Gladiator

Camp Gladiator began in 2007, when Ally Davidson tried out for the NBC show “American Gladiators” four hours before her wedding. She qualified her for the show, and producers invited both Ally and her husband Jeff to compete in a couples’ episode. After their honeymoon, the couple spent four weeks in Los Angeles competing on the show. Ally won the grand championship, and the Davidsons used their winnings to start Camp Gladiator.

Camp Gladiator, which is now based in Austin, operates more than 3,500 locations in Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and Tenessee.

Am I crazy? Maybe – I’m training for Texas Water Safari 2019

Pam LeBlanc and Sheila Reiter, in canoe, center of photo, paddle on Lady Bird Lake on Thursday, Aug. 2. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

 

Chalk up Day 1 as a success.

A couple of years after I told a friend that I’d never do the Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile canoe race from San Marcos to Seadrift, I’m hereby declaring that I’m in for 2019.

Yesterday, the training began.

I’ll be competing as part of a three-person team, alongside veteran paddlers Sheila Reiter and Heather Harrison. They’ve both completed the race several times, but I’m a newbie. My paddling experience consists of recreational paddle camping trips down the Devils and Pecos rivers, plus a bunch of leisurely day trips on the Colorado, San Marcos, Guadalupe, Llano and Pedernales rivers. I did part of the Colorado River 100 last winter, but packed a lunch and picnicked on the side of the river.

But I’ve always believed that the only way to keep living is to keep trying new things. That’s why I learned to run a slalom water ski course at age 40, ran my first marathon at 44, hiked the John Muir trail at 52 and rappelled down a 38-story building at 53. It’s why I do all kinds of stuff that makes me a tad uncomfortable.

Pam LeBlanc paddles on Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Sheila Reiter

 

Besides, I love spending time on the water, and yesterday’s first run meant a couple of hours gliding down Lady Bird Lake, dinner at a lakeside restaurant and glimpses of turtles the size of beer trays, the emergence of the Mexican free-tail bats from beneath the Ann Richards-Congress Avenue Bridge, lots of smooth green water and some rare moments of quiet in the middle of the city.

I’ve got to work on my form. I know already my stroke is choppy and slanted. The paddle should enter the water almost vertically. The photo at the top, taken by Chris LeBlanc, shows me and Sheila heading home after our practice session. I can see my position needs work.

Goals. I’ve got nearly 11 months to get there. I can do it.

No, you can’t swim there yet – but repairs are starting at Balmorhea Pool

Repairs are set to begin at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas, which has been closed since May. File photo by Jay Godwin/American-Statesman

 

Don’t expect to take a flying leap into Balmorhea Pool in West Texas anytime soon.

But after nearly three months of evaluation, crews are set to begin making repairs to pool walls and a concrete apron beneath the diving board, which collapsed during the annual cleaning and draining of the facility in May.

The 1.3-acre, V-shaped oasis, located about 400 miles west of Austin, draws locals and visitors heading to the Big Bend region. It’s also home to two small, endangered desert fish – the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.

This photo shows damage to the concrete apron near the diving board at Balmorhea Pool. Contributed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Years of erosion caused by the flow of water from the springs caused the damage. Repairs are expected to take several months and cost $2 million. Crews will build cofferdams, temporarily remove the diving board, salvage existing brick around the pool edge, remove the failing wall and backfill behind it, then install new walls along the north and south sides of the pool.

RELATED: Balmorhea Pool closed indefinitely due to structural damage

Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say they are working to protect the endangered species during the project. They have created habitats outside of the pool for the protection of the fish and other invertebrates, and say they are working to protect the species while work takes place.

Balmorhea State Park in west Texas on a hot July day. File photo by Jay Godwin/American-Statesman

No heavy equipment will be used; crews will demolish and remove debris by hand. Cofferdams will allow water to flow through the canals and cienegas while work takes place, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff will monitor water quality and flow to prevent downstream contamination.

“Our plan is to reverse decades of erosive impacts and restore public access to this oasis as soon as possible,” Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks, said in a press release. “It’s regrettable that the timing of this issue has prevented Texans from cooling off in their favorite swimming hole for most of this hot summer, but visitors will find an improved park after badly needed improvements are made to the pool, the historic motor courts and the parks’ popular campground.”

RELATED: Take a dip in a desert oasis at Balmorhea Pool

The site has long attracted people. Native Americans, Spanish explorers and U.S. soldiers watered up at San Solomon Springs, which pumps out about 15.5 million gallons of water a day, long before the Civilian Conservation Corps turned the desert wetland into a pool in the 1930s. Private concessionaires operated the park until the 1960s, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took it over.

More than 153,000 people visited the park between Sept. 1, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2017. On hot summer weekends, the park fills to capacity by noon and cars are turned away.

The pool measures 25 feet deep in places, with a natural bottom. Swimming there feels like gliding through a giant aquarium populated by fish of all sizes. It holds 3.5 million gallons of water, and water temperatures hover between 72 and 76 degrees year-round.

The 45-acre desert park’s day use and picnic area will remain open while the pool is closed. The park’s retro, adobe-style 18-unit motor court closed early this year for renovations and should reopen in 2019.

To make a donation to help fund the repairs, go to http://www.tpwf.org/balmorhea/.