Austin Aquatics & Sports Academy launches summer Splash-n-Dash series

The Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy will launch a Splash-n-Dash race series for kids and adults. Photo courtesy Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy
The Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy will launch a Splash-n-Dash race series for kids and adults. Photo by atexphoto.com

 

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.

The course will cover trails on the academy's property. Photo courtesy Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy
The course will cover trails on the academy’s property. Photo courtesy Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy

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 Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy will host a summer Splash 'n Dash series. Photo by Chris LeBlanc
The Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy will host a summer Splash ‘n Dash series. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

I’m tossing medicine balls to strengthen my core

After swim practice, we gather to toss medicine balls for about 10 minutes.
After swim practice, we gather to toss medicine balls for about 10 minutes.

 

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.

Think you’re fit? Enter the AFM FITTEST

fittest 3
Athletes compete in last year’s AFM FITTEST. Photo courtesy Austin Fit Magazine

 

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.

Athletes compete at last year's AFM FITTEST. Photo courtesy Austin Fit Magazine.
Athletes compete at last year’s AFM FITTEST. Photo courtesy Austin Fit Magazine.

 

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.

This year's competition features 10 tests, including two mystery challenges. Photo courtesy Austin Fit Magazine.
This year’s competition features 10 tests, including two mystery challenges. Photo courtesy Austin Fit Magazine.

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.

Organizers have extended registration until midnight May 13. To register, go here.

Big Bend exhibit opens at Bullock Texas State History Museum

Hike to the top of the Lost Mines Trail at Big Bend National Park to get this sweeping view. File photo by Chris LeBlanc/special to Austin American Statesman
Hike to the top of the Lost Mines Trail at Big Bend National Park to get this sweeping view. File photo by Chris LeBlanc/special to Austin American Statesman

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.

Katie Ryan, in blue, hikes toward Cattail Falls at Big Bend National Park. Photo by Chris LeBlanc, Jan 2015
Katie Ryan, in blue, hikes toward Cattail Falls at Big Bend National Park. Photo by Chris LeBlanc, Jan 2015

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.

Pam LeBlanc relaxes at the top of the South Rim at Big Bend National Park. Photo by Chris LeBlanc
Pam LeBlanc relaxes at the top of the South Rim at Big Bend National Park. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

Wimberley runner Mitch Kies helps runner to Boston Marathon finish

Jim Driscoll, left, of Ambler, Penn., and Mitch Kies, right, of Wimberley, Texas, help a runner across the finish line of the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Jim Driscoll, left, of Ambler, Penn., and Mitch Kies, right, of Wimberley, Texas, help a runner across the finish line of the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

 

Photos of a Wimberley runner helping another athlete across the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon went viral this week.

The story behind the scene got some attention in Runners World magazine, too.

Mitch Kies of Wimberley noticed Ari Ofsevit stagger and collapse about 100 yards from the finish of the grueling, 26.2-mile race. Kies and another runner helped carry him across the finish line.

Read the entire article here.

Ironically, Ofsevit was on the other side of a similar incident just last month, when he assisted someone struggling at a 20-mile race, according to Runners World.

Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion, snapped a picture of Monday’s drama and posted it on Twitter. The photo went viral. Other photographers snapped the scene, too.

Ofsevit was taken to Tufts Medical Center with an internal temperature of 108.6 degrees, according to Runners World. He blacked out and was placed in an ice bath until his body temperature lowered.

YMCA hiring lifeguards, swim instructors

Gabriel Shehan, 17, and Mikayla Friedman, 15, pull Dylan Broussard, 21, out of the water during a lifeguard training session in 2015. Lukas Keapproth/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Gabriel Shehan, 17, and Mikayla Friedman, 15, pull Dylan Broussard, 21, out of the water during a lifeguard training session in 2015. Lukas Keapproth/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

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.

For more information about applying for a job as a lifeguard, go here.

Biking across Texas with John Burnett and Hawk Mendenhall

John-and-Hawk-at-Amistad-e1460867655765
John Burnett, left, and Hawk Mendenhall, right, are biking across Texas to raise money for The Nobelity Project’s Bikes and Books program. Photo courtesy The Nobelity Project.

 

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.

The cyclists have faced strong winds on their 1,100-mile trip. Photo courtesy The Nobelity Project
The cyclists have faced strong winds on their 1,100-mile trip. Photo courtesy The Nobelity Project

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.

Dog-friendly FoxCat 5K and 10K benefits PAWS Animal Shelter

The FoxCat 5K and 10K will take place in Lakeway on April 24. Photo courtesy FoxCat Events
The FoxCat 5K and 10K will take place in Lakeway on April 24. Photo courtesy FoxCat Events

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.

Dogs can join their owners at the FoxCat 5K and 10K. Photo courtesy FoxCat Events
Dogs can join their owners at the FoxCat 5K and 10K. Photo courtesy FoxCat Events

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.

Longhorn Run set for Saturday

AUSTIN, TX - APRIL 11: Students participate in the Nike Longhorn Run on April 11, 2015 at the UT campus in Austin, Texas . (Photo by Chris Covatta)
Students participate in the Nike Longhorn Run on April 11, 2015 at the UT campus in Austin, Texas . (Photo by Chris Covatta)

 

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.

Students participate in the Nike Longhorn Run on April 11, 2015 at the UT campus in Austin, Texas . (Photo by Chris Covatta)
Students participate in the Nike Longhorn Run on April 11, 2015 at the UT campus in Austin, Texas . (Photo by Chris Covatta)

 

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.

The 10K starts at 8 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8:15 a.m. Photo courtesy Longhorn Run.
The 10K starts at 8 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8:15 a.m. Photo courtesy Longhorn Run.

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.

After you run the Longhorn Run, save some energy for the Statesman Capit0l 10,000 the next day.

For the best bluebonnet show, bike the Willow City Loop

Bluebonnets are blooming along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Bluebonnets are blooming along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

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.

Willow City is northeast of Fredericksburg. It takes about an hour and a half to drive there from Austin. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Willow City is northeast of Fredericksburg. It takes about an hour and a half to drive there from Austin. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

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.

Pam LeBlanc poses in front of the bluebonnets along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Pam LeBlanc poses in front of the bluebonnets along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

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.

Kristin and Nathan Turner pause for a photo along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Kristen and Nathan Turner pause for a photo along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Pam LeBlanc