Looking for some quick, short races to tune up your triathlon skills?
The Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy is launching a Summer Splash-n-Dash race series for adults and youth.
The non-sanctioned races will take place monthly on Sunday mornings starting in May. A Ladies Only event is scheduled for June, a Couples/Pairs event is set for July, and a Junior Championship will take place in August.
The swims will take place in the academy’s outdoor heated, Olympic-sized pool. Runs will follow the on-site crushed granite trail and paved sidewalks.
Ages 6 to 10 will swim 100 meters and run .3 miles. Ages 11 to 15 will swim 200 meters and run 1 mile. Adults will swim 800 meters and run 2 miles.
Entry fee is $15. To register and see course maps, go here.
Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy is located at 5513 Southwest Parkway. On race day, athletes and spectators must park at the Encino Trace/ARM office complex next door at 5707 Southwest Parkway.
Here’s the lineup:
May 15: Kid’s Series Race No. 1 and Adult Splash-n-Dash
June 19: Kid’s Series Race No. 2 and Adult Ladies Only Splash-n-Dash
July 24: Kid’s Series Race No. 3 and Couples/Pairs Splash-n-Dash
Aug. 14: Kid’s Championship Race and Final Adult Splash-n-Dash
The older I get, the more I realize the importance of core strength.
It impacts everything. A strong core supports your spine and improves balance. A weak core means other muscles have to work harder to compensate. That can lead to strains or tears, or throw off alignment.
Who wants that?
I swim four or five days a week with a U.S. Masters swim team at Western Hills Athletic Club. I love our group – we swim harder than I ever did as a kid, but we crack up and joke around, too. And lately, after swim practice ends, we gather for about 10 more minutes to toss medicine balls.
I credit Rip Esselstyn, the former firefighter who wrote “The Engine 2 Diet,” and Jeremy Smitheal, who works in real estate investment, for getting us going.
This morning, eight of us paired up, spread out mats and grabbed medicine balls, which are padded, weighted balls a little bigger than a basketball. We tossed the balls back and forth, trying to focus our effort on our abdominal muscles.
The first time I tried it, my abs screamed after about 10 repetitions. Now I try to do one set of 25 and another set of 12.
I think it’s making me stronger, and I think it’s helping my butterfly stroke too.
You run fast. You knock out more pull-ups than anyone else at the gym. Or maybe you jump as high as an NBA basketball player.
You consider yourself in fine physical shape, but how does your overall fitness stack up against the rest of exercise-crazy Austin?
Hundreds of buff bodies will converge May 21 at Camp Mabry for the fifth annual Austin Fit Magazine’s AFM FITTEST.
This contest features 10 tests designed to measure strength, endurance, balance, speed, precision, agility and power. The lineup includes an assortment of challenges, from a standing medicine ball toss to a vertical jump and 1-mile run – plus two mystery tests.
I’ve competed in the event twice. In a word? Humbling – but also fun. And I’m a big fan of competing in the same event year after year. It gives you a good measuring stick, to see if your fitness level is getting better, worse or staying the same.
The event draws everyone from the super fit to those who are just getting started. Participants compete based on age and sex. The male and female winner of each age division become Austin’s 10 Fittest. (Read about last year’s winners here.) The overall male and female winners are named Austin’s Fittest.
Participants can also compete as teams of two or four, in the open, corporate or gym division. (Teams can tackle the 1-mile run as a relay, with a baton hand-off at the midway point.)
Local partners include CLEAN, HEB, CLIF Bar, Red Bull, Stronghorn, Castle Hill Fitness, ONNIT, Iron Tribe Fitness, Orange Theory, Pure Barre, Pure Austin and Rogue Running.
It takes eight hours to drive to Big Bend National Park from Austin, but for the next five months you can get a glimpse of our first national park without leaving town.
“Journey Into Big Bend,” the newest exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, features stories, artifacts and photographs of the park and the people who have studied, protected, explored and loved it.
The prickly, cactus-studded expanse of Chihuahuan Desert became a national park in 1944. Walk through its nearly 800,000 acres and you’ll find waterfalls, canyons, rock formations that look like an enormous pair of mule ears, and the occasional javelina or black bear. It’s incredibly diverse, from the desert flatlands to the Rio Grande and up into the pine covered Chisos Mountain Basin.
The exhibit covers it all, from rare casts of fossils of a 65-million-year-old flying reptile and giant crocodile, tools used by the ancient inhabitants, and household items and ranch equipment used by Texans who worked there in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Also included are numerous photographs, including a selection submitted by the public for inclusion in the Texas Through Your Lens project. For more information go here.
The exhibit continues through Sept. 18 in the third-floor Rotunda Gallery at the Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. For more information call (512) 936-8746 or go here.
The YMCA of Austin needs lifeguards and swim instructors to staff its pools this summer.
It’s an important job. Most people think they’ll recognize if someone is drowning. Television programs and movies have taught us that when someone drowns, they flail their arms and yell. It’s noisy and noticeable, right?
In reality, drowning is more often silent than splashy. Someone who is drowning gasps for air and doesn’t waste effort waving his arms. He or she can’t call for help – it’s physiologically impossible.
Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14. According to data from the USA Swimming Foundation, 70 percent of black, 60 percent of Hispanic and 40 percent of white children can’t swim.
That’s why the Y is recruiting 300 people to staff programs at branches across the city. Swim instructors and lifeguards get a free Y membership, discounts at several local businesses and flexible scheduling.
Not sure you’re ready to take the certification class required for employment? East Communities YMCA will offer Lifeguard 101, a free preparatory class that provides applicants with the skills they to conquer the certification course. Sessions are offered from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays. For more information go here.
It takes grit – and a little bit of the crazies – to pedal a bicycle all the way across Texas.
John Burnett, a roving correspondent for National Public Radio, and Hawk Mendenhall, director of broadcast and content for KUT, Austin’s NPR station, have both. They set out April 10 on a 1,100-mile ride from New Mexico to Louisiana to raise money for the Nobelity Project’s Bikes and Books program.
They’ve faced long uphills, rough roads and fierce winds, and called the sixth day of their ride the hardest either of them had ever done. “Eighty-eight miles at 9.5 mph, thanks to steadily building headwinds that even had the locals talking about the crazy wind,” they wrote in a blog chronicling the adventure.
Today marks the 11th day of their trip.
I’m heading to Johnson City tonight to meet them, and hopping in for one leg of their journey tomorrow. Hopefully we won’t get slammed by storms as we pedal 45 miles from a lodge near Pedernales Falls State Park to Austin, where the guys will take some much-needed rest and celebrate Earth Day with a party at Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar Boulevard.
Admission to the party, set for 5-7 p.m., is free and open to the public. The lineup includes unicycle races, ping pong, milkweed sales and live music. Real Ale, High Brew Coffee and Richard’s Rainwater will provide beverages.
Donations and raffle ticket sales will support Bikes and Books, which funds bicycles for the top students at four partner high schools and books for its Kenyan school partners. For more information go here.
Doggone it, that’s it. An upcoming race is going to the dogs. And cats.
Proceeds from the FoxCat 5K and 10K on April 24 in Lakeway will benefit PAWS Animal Shelter of Central Texas, a non-profit, no-kill shelter in Kyle.
“We like to have pet-friendly events when we can,” said Sherri Fox, co-owner of FoxCat Events, which is hosting the event. “We just love our furry friends and want to see them well taken care of.”
That means that your dog, as long as it stays on a leash, can join you for the run. And if he or she is lucky, you’ll win the raffle drawing (based on race bib number) for a four-pack of non-alcoholic dog beer from YoDog Snackery. Staffers from Lakeway Veterinary Center will be on hand too, to share information about their low-cost or no-cost spay and neutering of feral cats.
The run itself covers a hilly, out-and-back course on paved roads through the Rough Hollow neighborhood. Runners in the 10K will make two loops of the 5K course.
Organizers expect about 150 runners. Male and female winners in each of the chip-timed races will win a free night’s stay at the Sonesta, a new boutique hotel in Bee Cave. Swag bags for participants will include goodies from HEB and other local businesses. Table 620 will provide free breakfast tacos.
Start time is 8:30 a.m. at the Lakeway Swim Center, 3101 Lakeway Boulevard. Entry fee is $25 for the 5K; $35 for the 10K. Register here.
The Longhorn Run on Saturday should lure herds of orange-clad runners to the streets.
The new 5K and 10K routes wind through the historic Forty Acres and near the Texas Capitol and incorporate plenty of University of Texas traditions. The Longhorn Band, along with Big Bertha (the band’s trampoline-sized drum) and Smokey the Cannon will serenade athletes. Spirit groups and service organizations will participate, too.
The 10K starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K starts at 8:15 a.m. Both races begin and finish on campus, just west of the Littlefield Fountain, with post-race entertainment to follow on the steps of the UT Tower.
The race is organized by students, for students, but anyone can enter. Awards will be given for the top three male and female finishers in each race, in each of three categories — students, open, and UT staff and faculty. Prizes include backpacks, Nike footwear, Nike sunglasses and gift cards.
Proceeds benefit the UT Student Government Student Excellence Fund and Recreational Sports Excellent Fund. Entry fee is $30 for the 5K and $35 for the 10K. To register, go here.
Strollers and dogs are allowed, but asked to stay at the back of the pack.
Midway up the giant hill near the end of the Willow City Loop, my quads whimpered and I wished, ever so briefly, that I was flopped on a hammock somewhere instead of pedaling up a twisting Hill Country road.
Then I turned and looked down into the valley, where so many bluebonnets clustered together that I thought I was looking at a stream of blue water.
Thousands of tourists head to Willow City northeast of Fredericksburg each spring, where they spend about 30 minutes motoring along the 21-mile route, admiring wildflowers. That’s fine, but I prefer to take the tour on two wheels. You see the flowers up close, and you get some great exercise along the way.
If you start in Willow City proper (town consists of a bar called Harry’s, a couple of houses, a historic school, a few goats, a single intersection and a scrappy looking white dog that marches around greeting everyone), you can park on the side of the road and ride the loop by itself. Hardier souls can tack on more mileage by heading south and east after they’ve finished the official loop.
If you’re biking, ride the loop in clockwise direction, heading west first until you reach State Highway 16. Turn right on Highway 16 and head north along this busy two-lane highway. (This is my least favorite part.) Keep your eyes open – you’ll get a quick glimpse of Enchanted Rock to the left just before you start the big downhill glide. At the bottom, you’ll see a green highway sign directing you to the Willow City Loop on the right.
Pay attention to the signs. The land along the road is private, and vehicles aren’t supposed to stop along the right-of-way. (They do anyway.)
You’ll cross lots of cattle guards and a few small creeks, weave alongside some craggy boulders, and spy fields of Indian paintbrushes, bluebonnets and wild white poppies. We also spotted a llama, a dozen or so wild turkeys and plenty of prickly cacti.
Most of the car traffic takes the loop from the opposite direction, which is good. You’ll see cars coming at you. Most of the loop rolls along, with small ups and downs. But about 3 miles from the finish, an imposing ridge rises in front of you. Take a big gulp of air and prepare to mash your pedals.
We call it the hill that keeps on giving. The first part is steepest, with a break followed by another moderately steep stretch. Even when you think you’re done, the gradual incline continues all the way to Willow City.
If you’re still feeling strong, ride on. This year we tacked on some easy flat miles, spinning past green fields of crops before turning back and loading up our bikes. Other years we’ve started at the LBJ Ranch, turning the excursion into a 65-mile ride.
Whatever you do, go now. The wildflowers will make you swoon, but they’ll be gone by May.