New exercise station opens at east end of boardwalk

Trail users use the new exercise equipment on the east end of the boardwalk. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Trail users use the new exercise equipment on the east end of the boardwalk. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

Five pieces of equipment – high and low sit-up benches, push-up bars, pull-up bars and parallel bars – give runners, walkers and cyclists a reason to stop as they make their way along the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake.

I dropped by the newly equipped area last Friday morning to meet Susan Rankin, executive director of The Trail Foundation, which funded the improvements.

As we sat and chatted, a handful of people got in a workout in the new space. One, Miguel Vilchis, said he uses the station before heading out on his regular run around the lake.

A few others paused just to see if they could figure out how to use the bars, which brought a smile to Rankin’s face. The bars and benches seemed to be luring in people who would never head to a gym.

Miguel Vilchis does pullups before heading out for a run. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Michael Vilchis does pullups before heading out for a run. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

“We are excited about the way that the boardwalk is already attracting people from all walks of life and we think that this new exercise area will add a whole dimension of fitness use,” she wrote my later in an email.

The equipment is arranged on a springy surface in a semi-circular space that overlooks the lake. Exercisers can watch kayakers paddle by as they knock out their routines.

The area includes five pieces of exercise equipment mounted on a rubberized surface. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
The area includes five pieces of exercise equipment mounted on a rubberized surface. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

The exercise station, including the equipment, the rubberized surface, bricks and installation, cost $48,616. Plantings of 17 Mexican sycamore trees, irrigation, grates around the trees, a year of landscape maintenance and a butterfly garden (coming in March), added $31,802.

Money for the project came from donations to The Trail Foundation from Whataburger, Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

So what’s next for the trail?

The Trail Foundation officials are busy raising money for their next big project – a new trail bridge on the north side of the river beneath Congress Avenue. Designing is under way now, with permitting and construction planned for this fall. The new bridge will replace the aging existing structure, making it wider and safer so it can handle the trail’s increased usage.

Also on tap?

This fall crews will plant new shade trees to fill in sunny spots just east of the boardwalk. They’ll replace some failing retaining walls, starting with those just west of Lou Neff Point.

They’ll also install six interpretive signs, now in the designing phase, on the boardwalk observation areas. The signs will explain the area’s birds, geology, trees, watersheds and animals, plus provide information about Blunn Creek.

The Trail Foundation will also expand its conservation work, planting more saplings, pruning older trees and assessing the health of the greenspace along the trail and its 199 acres.

Get out there and enjoy the trail. To donate to the non-profit organization, go here

Martial arts studio offering free self-defense workshops March 5

South Austin ATA Martial Arts will offer free self defense classes on March 5. Photo courtesy South Austin ATA Martial Arts
South Austin ATA Martial Arts will offer free self defense classes on March 5. Photo illustration courtesy South Austin ATA Martial Arts

 

The studio will offer a special self defense class for children. Photo courtesy South Austin ATA Martial Arts.
The studio will offer a special self defense class for children. Photo courtesy South Austin ATA Martial Arts.

A rash of sexual assaults has occurred around Austin lately, so I’ve been thinking about ways to stay safer when I hit the trails or ride my bike to work.

Austin police recently shared tips that include things like turning down the music and exercising in groups. Read more here.

The folks at South Austin ATA Martial Arts want to help, too. They’re inviting the public to their day of free self defense workshops on March 5.

A “Stranger Danger” self defense class for kids is set for 10:15-11 a.m. An hour-long self defense workshop for ages 13 and up will start at noon. A constable will also fingerprint kids for free from 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Photo illustration courtesy South Austin ATA Martial Arts
Photo illustration courtesy South Austin ATA Martial Arts

South Austin ATA Martial Arts is located at 1414 Ben White Boulevard. For more information go here, call 512-784-KICK or email info@southaustinata.com.

 

New pay stations at Barton Springs – but it’s still free to park during the week

 

New pay parking machines have been installed in front of Barton Springs Pool. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
New pay parking machines have been installed in front of Barton Springs Pool. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Don’t worry, it’s still free to park at Barton Springs Pool during the week.

New automated pay parking machines popped up in the parking lot in front of the pool last week, but visitors only have to pay them on weekends, holidays and during special events like Blues on the Green.

“It’s the the same as it always was. If you swim on Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s still going to be free,” said Tony Savage, Zilker Park supervisor.

The machines replace the human-manned pay collection booth that greeted motorists turning into the park off of Barton Springs Road. Payment remains the same, too – $5 per car, all day, starting at 8 a.m. (Parking is always free before 8 a.m.)

It costs $5 to park at the pool - but only on weekends, holidays and special events. It's still free during the week. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
It costs $5 to park at the pool – but only on weekends, holidays and special events. It’s still free during the week. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

The machines start operating on March 5.

People who have season passes for the pool don’t have to pay to park even on weekends. They get a hang tag to leave on their dash or put on their rear view mirror.

“We’re just changing the way we collect money,” Savage said. “We’re not adding days or doing anything different than we’ve done in the past.”

The machines will be covered during the week.

Traffic patterns will remain the same going into and out of the pool area, too.

Warrior Dash returns March 5

 Jessica Perini makes her way to the finish line of the Warrior Dash at Rusty's Walnut Creek Ranch in this file photo. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jessica Perini makes her way to the finish line of the Warrior Dash at Rusty’s Walnut Creek Ranch in this file photo. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

If scuttling under barbed wire, leaping over licking flames, slogging through mud or dangling from a rope net sounds like fun, plan on a trip to Cedar Creek March 5 for the Warrior Dash.

The testosterone-infused Dash features obstacles with names like Muddy Mayhem, Deadman’s Drop and Alcatraz, spread over 3.7 miles. The average completion time is less than an hour, and participants have ranged in age from 14 to 98.

Athletes crawl through the final mud pit of the Warrior Dash in this 2014 file photo. SARAH ACOSTA/ACN NEWSPAPERS
Athletes crawl through the final mud pit of the Warrior Dash in this 2014 file photo.
SARAH ACOSTA/ACN NEWSPAPERS

Athletes can sign up to compete in designated competitive waves, recommended for those who can run a 5K in 20 minutes or less, or standard waves. This year’s race takes place at Rusty’s Walnut Creek Ranch, 394 Pleasant Chapel Road in Cedar Creek, with waves starting between 8:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Registration is $75 now or $90 at the event.

At the end of the race, newly-dubbed Warriors will celebrate with live music, “Warrior grub,” beer, a medal that doubles as a bottle opener, a special warrior helmet and a T-shirt.

The Texas event is one of more than 50 Warrior Dashes held around the world each year. Participants are encouraged to fund-raise for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Since 2012, event participants have raised more than $12.7 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

To register or for more information go here.

David Miller, from Washington, D.C., makes it through a mud pit to the finish line of the Warrior Dash in this 2014 file photo. SARAH ACOSTA/ACN NEWSPAPERS
David Miller, from Washington, D.C., makes it through a mud pit to the finish line of the Warrior Dash in this 2014 file photo.
SARAH ACOSTA/ACN NEWSPAPERS

Stressed out? Take time for play at Acro Festival

Mateo Daniel and Dani Whitehead demonstrate acro yoga. Photo by Cindy Chapter
Mateo Daniel and Dani Whitehead demonstrate acro yoga. Photo by Cindy Chapter

 

If you’re like most folks I know, you’re caught on a hamster wheel with little relief from work demands, dinner needs, carpool duties, errand running, house cleaning and social obligations.

We’re overbooked, overstressed and overwhelmed. That’s why Mansal Denton and Mateo Daniel organized their upcoming PLAY Acro Festival, designed to remind you how to play like you did when you were a kid. That, in turn, can help you reduce anxiety, stress and live a more enjoyable life, they say.

The festival, set for March 4-6 at Carson Creek Ranch, just east of Austin on the Colorado River, focuses on acro yoga, a mashup of yoga and acrobatics, but includes everything from stand-up paddleboarding to parkour, slack lining, cheer stunting, comedy improv, jiu jitsu and capoeira.

Mateo Daniel and April La Torre show off their acro yoga moves. Photo by Mattie Kay.
Mateo Daniel and April La Torre show off their acro yoga moves. Photo by Mattie Kay.

 

“Play is not just something that’s important for us to live happier and more fulfilled lives, it allows us to be more professionally successful,” says Denton, director and co-founder of the festival. “A lot of people have lost play with the modern responsibilities that come up.”

Participants can camp at the site starting Friday, and registration includes live music and two days of workshops. All skill levels are welcome. No experience is necessary.

Tickets are $220 for the weekend, $130 for day passes or $370 for a couples pass. To register, go here or call 210-912-5938.

Organizers try to boost Austin participation in BP MS 150 bike ride

Riders make their way down FM 969 during the BP MS 150 fund-raising bike ride in this 2013 file photo. (Austin American-Statesman / Rodolfo Gonzalez)
Riders make their way down FM 969 during the BP MS 150 fund-raising bike ride in this 2013 file photo. (Austin American-Statesman / Rodolfo Gonzalez)

 

Every spring, about 13,000 cyclists pedal from Houston to Austin as part of the BP MS 150 bike ride.

The strange thing? Only about 900 of those cyclists – less than 7 percent – come from Austin, even though the ride ends here with a big bash near the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

“People see it as a Houston event,” says Gena Hyde, regional director of communications for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which puts on the event, the primary fund-raiser for the non-profit organization.

Hyde wants to change that, so she’s on a mission to let folks know that if you’re worried about logistics, they’ve got that covered. “We want the Austin community to feel a part of this,” she says.

Riders make the last turn onto Congress Avenue as they head toward the finish line of the ride in this file photo. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESM
Riders make the last turn onto Congress Avenue as they head toward the finish line of the ride in this file photo.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESM

Riders can pay a small fee to catch a ride on a shuttle from Austin to Houston, where the ride begins, the night before the event. You’ll still have to book a hotel room, but you don’t have to figure out how to get your car home.

At the end of the first day, your registration covers a place to camp, showers and meals in LaGrange. Crews even haul your tent and overnight gear for you. The ride is fully supported, with aid stations and SAG support along the way.

I did the ride eight or nine years ago. The shuttle worked like a charm, I didn’t have to wait too long in the shower line, and my quads survived the 180 miles of pedaling. (Because even though the name is the BP MS 150, it’s actually 180 miles.)

This year’s two-day ride is set for April 16 and 17.

Riders clasp hands as they head toward the finish of the two-day fund-raising ride. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESM
Riders clasp hands as they head toward the finish of the two-day fund-raising ride.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESM

“It’s an extraordinary experience for people,” Hyde says.

About 80 percent of cyclists join teams to do the ride. In Austin, Team Tacodeli wins the crown for the biggest team, with about 150 members. The average age of participants hovers in the 40s, and slightly more men than women make the ride. Most sign up for the physical challenge; the multiple sclerosis connection comes later.

Last year, just under 13,000 people registered for the ride. Rains turned the campground in LaGrange into a swamp, so the first day of pedaling was cancelled. Just about everyone showed up for Day 2, though, covering the hilliest portion of the ride into Austin. The event still raised a single-year record of $20.3 million.

Interest in the event seems to have peaked about 7 years ago, when registration filled in less than 24 hours. That doesn’t happen now, but the ride usually does fill up.

Registration is $130, and participants must raise $400 before they can pick up their rider packets. To sign up, go here.

Shoal Creek Trail to remain closed at Fifth Street through September

The Shoal Creek hike and bike trail is closed near Fifth Street while crews close a gap on the trail. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
The Shoal Creek hike and bike trail is closed near Fifth Street while crews close a gap on the trail. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

Heads up, bike commuters.

If you take the Shoal Creek hike and bike trail into downtown like I do, you know the southern end of the trail has been closed for the last few months.

The closure is related to the Shoal Creek Gap Project, which will ultimately close a gap between a bank on the west side of Shoal Creek and the existing trail. The $6.2-million project includes relocation of water and wastewater lines, bank stabilization, trail lighting and a shared use bridge spanning the creek at Fourth Street and Rio Grande.

In the end we’ll have a sweet new trail, but in the meantime, bike commuters have to detour onto surface streets to get to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. The stairs connecting the trail to the bikeway near Fifth Street are blocked off.

The bottom of the stairway had to be removed in order to start construction of the new trail, which will tie into the stair landing, says Alexa Muraida of the city’s public works department. Activity will pick up speed this month, as crews demolish and replace a limestone wall in the area.

The staircase should reopen in September.

In the meantime, when I’m heading south, I pop up to Ninth Street and cut down West Avenue to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, then jog over to San Antonio Street. That takes me down to Cesar Chavez and back to the trail. A hassle, but doable.

For more details go here.

Family bike ride, rally for bike lanes set for Saturday

A rally to call for painting bike lanes on Mesa Drive will take place Saturday. Photo courtesy Bike Austin
A rally to call for painting bike lanes on Mesa Drive will take place Saturday. Photo courtesy Bike Austin

 

Care about bike lanes and cycling infrastructure?

Check out two important events this weekend – a family bike ride to support the city’s proposed Bicycle Master Plan and a rally to demand that the city paint bike lanes on Mesa Drive.

Both events, organized by Bike Austin, take place Saturday.

The Our Streets Family Ride, a family-friendly ride down Shoal Creek Boulevard, starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park, 7000 Ardath Street.

The ride kicks off a four-month push to collect 20,000 petition signatures in support of funding the city’s Bicycle Master Plan and all high-priority sidewalks. Afterward, everyone will get a petition packet so they can collect signatures for the drive.

Find more information about the campaign here and RSVP for the ride here.

An 11-year-old boy riding his bike on the sidewalk on Mesa Drive was struck by a car and injured last week. A rally to call for painting bike lanes on Mesa will take place Saturday. Photo courtesy Bike Austin
An 11-year-old boy riding his bike on the sidewalk on Mesa Drive was struck by a car and injured last week. A rally to call for painting bike lanes on Mesa will take place Saturday. Photo courtesy Bike Austin

 

Second, Bike Austin will host a rally at noon at the corner of Mesa Drive and Far West Boulevard to encourage city officials to stripe bike lanes on Mesa Drive.

Crews removed existing combination bike-and-parking lanes on Mesa when they resurfaced the street last year. The city initially planned to paint dedicated bike lanes on one side of the street and a parking lane on the other, but a group of neighbors and City Council Member Sheri Gallo oppose the plan. They say that adding bike lanes would make the driving lanes too narrow.

“We have many young drivers and seniors in our community, and I feel the additional widths of our vehicle lanes are safer for everyone,” Gallo wrote in a January newsletter to her residents of her district.

Charlie VanSteennwijk, an 11-year-old Murchison Middle School student, was hit by his car while riding on a sidewalk along Mesa Drive last week. He suffered a concussion, broken teeth and a cut on his chin that required six stitches. He and his parents Anton and Amy will speak at the rally.

Bike Austin officials say a bicyclist in an on-street bike lane is more visible to motorists at intersections than someone riding on the sidewalk.

After the rally, participants will ride and walk to a Transportation Town Hall meeting hosted by Gallo at the Austin Board of Realtors to deliver their message in person.

Run through an inflatable colon at Get Your Rear in Gear 5K

Admit it. You want to run under this inflatable colon. Photo courtesy Colon Cancer Coalition.
Admit it. You want to run under this inflatable colon. Photo courtesy Colon Cancer Coalition.

Because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to run through a giant colon?

On Feb. 27, participants in the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Run/Walk will trot through a giant, Pepto-Bismol pink inflatable arch complete with veins and funky little bumps, which we can only assume represent cancerous growths.

But there’s a reason behind this madness. The Colon Cancer Coalition wants to make the words colon, colorectal and colonoscopy – and giant inflatable colons, presumably – part of our everyday language. That, they say, will make us less squeamish about colon cancer itself, encourage us to get early screenings and, ultimately, decrease the number of deaths due to this largely preventable cancer.

An estimated 600 runners will participate in the Austin race, which starts with guest speakers at 8 a.m., followed by a Kids K a few minutes later, and the 5K at 8:30 a.m. Money raised at the event will benefit the CareBox Program, which provides essential care supplies to cancer patients at no cost. It will also help fund a grant to provide screenings for uninsured Central Texans at high risk for colon cancer.

This year's Get Your Rear in Gear 5K is set for Feb. 27 at Camp Mabry. Photo courtesy Get Your Rear in Gear
This year’s Get Your Rear in Gear 5K is set for Feb. 27 at Camp Mabry. Photo courtesy Get Your Rear in Gear

Think it won’t matter to you? One in 20 Americans is diagnosed with colon cancer in his or her lifetime, and numbers are on the rise, according to the Journal of American Medical Association. The organization estimates a 90 percent jump in colon cancer and a 124 percent increase in rectal cancer in young people by 2030.

Early detection is key to beating the disease, but Texas ranks poorly when it comes to screenings. Only 60 percent of Texans get screened, putting us in 41st place in the country. A colonoscopy can detect and remove colon polyps before they become cancer, preventing the disease from occurring.

Nine out of 10 patients survive five or more years when colon cancer is caught in early, but only one in 10 lives that long when the disease is diagnosed in late stages. Right now, 60 percent of patients nationwide are diagnosed with late stage disease.

To register for the run, go here. Race day registration is also available at Camp Mab

The Music Run comes to Austin this weekend

The Music Run takes place in Austin this weekend. Photo courtesy The Music Run
The Music Run takes place in Austin this weekend. Photo courtesy The Music Run

Leave your headphones at home for this one.

The Music Run, a 5K run and music festival presented by 24 Hour Fitness, cranks up the jams Feb. 20 at the Travis County Expo Center.

Runners help determine the play list by voting for their favorite songs leading up to the event. Photo courtesy The Music Run
Runners help determine the play list by voting for their favorite songs leading up to the event. Photo courtesy The Music Run

More than 120 speakers along the course will blast out music, creating what organizers bill as “the world’s loudest 5K running course.” They call it the Sound Track, and neighbors, I feel your pain.

The run ends with a music festival featuring local bands. Photo courtesy The Music Run
The run ends with a music festival featuring local bands. Photo courtesy The Music Run

Runners can pause to shake a leg at each of five interactive and music-themed zones – rock, pop, country, hip hop and dance. Participants determine what music gets played by voting for their favorite songs leading up to the event via a special app created by Spotify. Songs that earn the most votes make the official run playlist. The run ends with a music festival, featuring local performers Night Drive, Emily Wolfe and DJ Manny.

The run started in Malaysia. Austin marks the first stop in the United States. Photo courtesy The Music Run
The run started in Malaysia. Austin marks the first stop in the United States. Photo courtesy The Music Run

The event, scheduled to take place in more than 40 cities in 18 countries this year, first took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2014. The Austin event marks the first Music Run in the United States.

Runners can stop at five different music zones. Photo courtesy The Music Run.
Runners can stop at five different music zones. Photo courtesy The Music Run.

Entry fee starts at $25 plus fees for adults; free for kids under 5. To register go here.

Maybe you should pack your earplugs, too.