Get mentally tuned at pre-marathon ‘Prep & Pump’ this Friday

Kevin Babb of Austin celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the Austin Marathon in downtown Austin on Sunday February 14, 2016.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Kevin Babb of Austin celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the Austin Marathon in downtown Austin on Sunday February 14, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

You’ve done the physical training. Now comes the pre-marathon mental tuneup.

The Austin Marathon Prep & Pump, featuring tips, tricks and a jolt of inspiration from some of the city’s best coaches, is set for 6-8 p.m. Friday at Rogue Running, 410 Pressler Street.

Tyler Olson and Wende Parks finish the Austin Half  Marathon together in downtown Austin on Sunday February 14, 2016.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Tyler Olson and Wende Parks finish the Austin Half Marathon together in downtown Austin on Sunday February 14, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Chris McClung will provide an in-depth course analysis and pacing strategies for the full and the half marathon, set for Feb. 19. James Dodds will draw on years of experience in coaching and pacing to deliver a heavy dose of inspiration, motivation and tangible tips to help you tackle the final miles of the race.

The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon will livestream the event on Facebook.

The event is free and open to the public. Beverages will be available at the Fuel Bar. For more information go here.

Memorial ride set for Sunday for cyclist killed in hit-and-run

Tommy Ketterhagen, in blue sweater at center right, died in a hit-and-run incident earlier this week. Family photo
Tommy Ketterhagen, in blue sweater at center right, died in a hit-and-run incident earlier this week. Family photo

 

A memorial bike ride has been scheduled to honor Tommy Ketterhagen, the 19-year-old cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver in Georgetown this week.

Members of 787 Racing are organizing the ride, set to start at 10 a.m. Sunday at East View High School, 4490 E. University Avenue in Georgetown. The 27-mile ride will follow one of Ketterhagen’s favorite cycling routes east of Georgetown.

Ketterhagen was part of 787 Racing since the team’s formation, and was a fixture at rides and races.

“Even off the bike, we were blessed with Tommy’s happy-go-lucky attitude, his love for his friends and family, and the honesty and sincerity of his character,” a statement on the 787 Racing page on Facebook said. “Our collective hearts go out to his parents, his brothers and sisters, and all others who were fortunate to know him.”

A GoFundMe account has been established to raise funds for the T. Ketterhagen Memorial Foundation. Contributions will be used to pay funeral costs and for the education of other members of the Ketterhagen family.

Organizers hope to raise $40,000. By 2 p.m. today, donors had raised more than $13,000.

A funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Helen Catholic Church, 2700 E. University Avenue in Georgetown.

Investigators think Ketterhagen was hit by a blue car sometime between 5 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to Georgetown police. His body was found in the 2300 block of Patriot Way.

Georgetown police are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Kirby Shoemake at 512-930-8491 or kirby.shoemake@georgetown.org.

Brendan Hansen part of partnership that purchased Archery Country

Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen, Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw and Tyler Vanderkolk have purchased Archery Country. Photo courtesy Archery Country
Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen, Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw and Tyler Vanderkolk have purchased Archery Country. Photo courtesy Archery Country

 

Swimming and archery go together like – goggles and arrows?

Six-time Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen and Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw have partnered with Austin native Tyler Vanderkolk to purchase Archery Country, which opened in Austin more than 30 years ago. Today it’s located at 8121 Research Boulevard.

Archery Country opened in Austin 30 years ago. Photo courtesy Archery Country
Archery Country opened in Austin 30 years ago. Photo courtesy Archery Country

Hansen, a six-time Olympic medalist and former University of Texas swimmer, says the two sports share many similarities.

“They both take dedication and commitment,” he says. “But they also are open for everyone to enjoy, from the youngest child to the oldest veteran.”

Vanderkolk is the owner of Animal Art Taxidermy.

Archery Country caters to all skill levels, and has its own indoor shooting range that’s used for all types of archery, from traditional shooting to modern compounds and crossbows. Lessons are available for all ages.

Reward in missing salamanders case upped to $15,000

More than 350 rare salamanders disappeared from a San Marcos facility in November. Photo by Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman
More than 350 rare salamanders disappeared from a San Marcos facility in November. Photo by Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman

 

***

The Center for Biological Diversity has added $5,000 to the reward for information leading to a conviction or fine in the case of hundreds of missing rare salamanders.

The total reward is now $15,000.

“Losing hundreds of these amazing salamanders is a terrible blow to their conservation,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist with the center. “The San Marcos facility served as a Noah’s Ark that could preserve the fragile salamanders if they went extinct in the wild. The tragic loss of these animals threatens their very existence.”

The aquatic salamanders require clean, well-oxygenated water and are threatened by activities that disturb surface springs, pollute their water or reduce its flow to their underground aquatic habitats, a press release stated.

***

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case of hundreds of rare salamanders that disappeared from a San Marcos fish hatchery.

The 253 Texas blind salamanders and 110 San Marcos salamanders, both protected under the Endangered Species Act and Texas state law, went missing from the San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center in San Marcos over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The reward will be issued if the information provided leads to the criminal conviction of whoever is responsible, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in San Antonio.

Texas Blind Salamanders live in caves and measure about 5 inches long. Photo by Deborah Cannon/Austin American Statesman
Texas Blind Salamanders live in caves and measure about 5 inches long. Photo by Deborah Cannon/Austin American Statesman

The Texas blind salamander is a rare cave-dwelling amphibian native to the San Marcos Pool of the Edwards Aquifer. The salamander, which has bright-red external gills and eats blind shrimp, snails and amphipods, measures about 5 inches long. It was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1967.

The aquatic, lungless San Marcos salamander lives only in Spring Lake and in the headwaters of the San Marcos River near Aquarena Springs. The slender, reddish-brown salamander with external gills measures 1 to 2 inches. It was listed as threatened in 1980.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Antonio Office of Law Enforcement at (210) 681-8419 or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). Callers may remain anonymous.

Fit City hikers explore McKinney Roughs Nature Park

REI Outdoor School instructor Mary Pritchard holds up a piece of flint found on the trail at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
REI Outdoor School instructor Mary Pritchard holds up a piece of flint found on the trail at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

 

I discovered some new trails yesterday, during the Best Hill Country Hikes with Fit City hike at McKinney Roughs Nature Park.

I’ve visited the park several times, but only for special events. This gave me and others on the hike, led by instructor Mary Pritchard from the REI Outdoor School, a chance to explore some of the park’s 18 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

Before we started walking, I dropped by the park’s Visitor’s Center, which features a dozen or so tanks filled with cool critters, including foot-long spotted gar, box turtles and a glistening black snake.

Participants in the Best Hill Country Hikes with Fit City series head out on a trail at McKinney Roughs Nature Park east of Austin. Photo by Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
Participants in the Best Hill Country Hikes with Fit City series head out on a trail at McKinney Roughs Nature Park east of Austin. Photo by Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

 

The park abuts a bend in the Colorado River. Our group of about a dozen set out on the Ridge Trail, a mostly flat gravel path, then merged onto the Bluff Loop Trail. Pritchard pointed out bits of chert, chunks of flint that Native Americans traded in this area, and led us to an overlook above the river. We weaved our way down a series of quick switchbacks, then headed back up the canyon to the park headquarters, a little more than 2 miles logged and the equivalent of 24 flights of stairs climbed.

For more information about the park and other Lower Colorado River Authority managed parks, go here.

Hikers look down on the Colorado River at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
Hikers look down on the Colorado River at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

Want to join me on a future REI-Fit City hike? The hikes take place from 9-11 a.m. Monday mornings. Cost is $20 for REI members or $25 for non-members and includes a shuttle ride to the park from the downtown store.

We’re heading to the Doeskin Ranch Unit of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge near Liberty Hill on Feb. 13, St. Edward’s Park on Spicewood Springs Road on March 13, and Pedernales Falls State Park near Johnson City on April 17.

For more information or to register, go here.

The next Fit City hike will take place Feb. 13 at the Doeskin Ranch Unit of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
The next Fit City hike will take place Feb. 13 at the Doeskin Ranch Unit of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

Luke’s Locker closes Austin location

Bobby Clemons, creator of the St. James Mission 5k, stretches inside Luke's Locker before joining fellow members of the Team Mac running group Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Bobby Clemons, creator of the St. James Mission 5k, stretches inside Luke’s Locker before joining fellow members of the Team Mac running group Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

***UPDATES WITH STATEMENT FROM MATT LUCAS***

 

Another Austin running store has shut its doors – at least temporarily.

Luke’s Locker, which opened in Austin in October 2010 at 115 Sandra Muraida Way, closed after business yesterday, manager Rod Newlin confirmed.

The Austin store was one of eight Luke’s Locker locations in the Texas chain. Six of the stores have closed; the two original stores in Dallas and Fort Worth remain open.

Luke’s Locker chief executive officer Matt Lucas released the following statement:

“Luke’s Locker is temporarily closing its store locations in Houston, Southlake, The Woodlands, Plano and Austin. These locations need to be re-inventoried to better serve our customers. These have all served as excellent locations for Luke’s, and we have enjoyed being in these communities over the years. We expect to reopen these stores, and we apologize that this has happened. During this transition, we will continue to operate our Dallas and Fort Worth stores which are up and running. Luke’s will continue to offer its training programs in these communities despite any of the temporary closings.”
Lucas said in the statement that the store’s business has been impacted by the “over distribution of fitness related products, vendors competing with the retailers who helped build their brands (through retail and direct to consumer marketing), and the online/ digital strength of competitors such Amazon (including Zappos.com) and many others.”
Luke’s has a strong customer base, and store officials say they believe the store’s footwear business is healthy.
“That is our primary focus moving forward. We believe we have a viable business strategy that will take some time to rebuild. Over the last 6 years, we made some poor decisions about a handful of store locations that have negatively impacted the working capital of the business. The stores that we are temporarily closing are not the problem. Having to shut them down is a by product of the poor decisions on other locations.”

 

Luke's Locker has closed its Austin location. Photo: Marques G. Harper/AMERICAN-STATESMAN We're hours away from the start of a new year. If new fitness pursuits are your pleasure, then it might be time for some new gym clothes. Drop by Luke's Locker (115 Sandra Muraida Way 512-482-8676, www.lukeslocker.com), one of a string of fitness stores near Whole Foods Market. Luke's, which is on the ground level of the Gables Park Plaza, carries running footwear, clothing and accessories as well as gear for yoga, pilates, boot camps and trail running for men and women. Brands include Nike, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, Saucony, Lululemon Athletica, Rese Pilates, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Helly Hansen and Newton Running. The family owned store, which is based in Dallas, carries some youth-oriented selections. Available are water bottles, food storage, electronic device cases, hats, visors, headbands, and yoga bags, mats and towels. Also offered are running events and core and yoga classes. 1230stylematters
Luke’s Locker has closed its Austin location. Photo: Marques G. Harper/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

The first Luke’s Locker store opened more than 40 years ago.

It’s not the first running store to close in Austin, which has a vibrant, active running community.

Rogue Running shuttered its retail location in Cedar Park in August, citing competition from online sales. Texas Running Company also closed its Fifth Street location in recent years. And RunTex famously closed its doors in 2013.

The Austin Luke’s Locker store supported local non-profit The Trail Foundation by selling shirts. It also sponsored numerous local running events.

The Luke’s Locker store served as a meeting location for several running groups, including Gilbert’s Gazelles and Team Mac. It also offered weekly runs and free yoga. Newlin said the groups could continue meeting there as long as they occupied the space.

Big Bend: A much needed dose of desert solitude

It's an easy walk to the Balanced Rock at Big Bend National Park. Pam LeBlanc
It’s an easy walk to the Balanced Rock at Big Bend National Park. Pam LeBlanc

 

Thank you desert, for the solitude. I needed that.

I just wrapped up a West Texas road trip that included solo tent camping, a look at the new dinosaur exhibit at Big Bend National Park, mountain bike riding through the desert, hiking in the Davis Mountains and more.

I’ve visited the Big Bend area at least 20 times over the years. It grows on you. At first, it looks barren and lifeless. Every time I return, I see more beauty.

At Big Bend National Park, I pitched a tent and camped by myself. I’ve slept in a tent hundreds of times in my life, but I’ve never done it completely alone. I’m telling you, it’s bliss. I vow to do more of this in 2017. (Next up, Devil’s River.)

The West Texas skies sizzle with color at sunset. Pam LeBlanc
The West Texas skies sizzle with color at sunset. Pam LeBlanc

I’ve hit all the popular spots at the park multiple times, so I skipped the South Rim Trail, Window Trail, Lost Mines Trail, Cattail Falls, Santa Elena Canyon, the hot springs and Boquillas Canyon and headed out to explore some places I hadn’t seen. I scampered through crazy rock formations to Balanced Rock, which I’d never seen, and ventured down the Mule Ears Spring trail for some broad desert vistas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Visitors explore the new Fossil Discovery Exhibit at Big Bend National Park. Pam LeBlanc

I also attended the grand opening for the park’s new Fossil Discovery Exhibit, located on the main road between Persimmon Gap and Panther Junction. The open-air exhibit, packed with signage explaining the geologic history of the park and replicas of all kinds of dinosaur bones, helps visitors imagine what the area looked like eons ago. If you’ve got kids, take them – and snap a picture when they shove their head into the toothy, gaping jaws of a bronze cast of a T-Rex skull.

The new Fossil Discovery Exhibit opened last week at Big Bend National Park. Pam LeBlanc
The new Fossil Discovery Exhibit opened last week at Big Bend National Park. Pam LeBlanc

I headed to Terlingua for a few days next, to visit long-time friends who live there and ride my mountain bike on the trails at Big Bend Ranch State Park. My trip coincided with the Big Bend Ultra race, which I usually run but couldn’t this time because of foot issues.

A runner makes her way through Big Bend Ranch State Park during the Big Bend Ultra race. Pam LeBlanc
A runner makes her way through Big Bend Ranch State Park during the Big Bend Ultra race. Pam LeBlanc

Instead I pedaled through the prickly wilderness as the sun rose. The desert’s a big, beautiful place full of scratchy cactus and sleepy lizards and pink and purple skies. I didn’t even mind the bloodshed that resulted from a close encounter with a few cat’s claw cacti.

Who minds a little blood when you're biking through the desert? Not me! Pam LeBlanc
Who minds a little blood when you’re biking through the desert? Not me! Pam LeBlanc
The trails are rugged at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
The trails are rugged at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

 

I zipped to Marfa for dinner with other friends at the Hotel Saint George, which opened last year. The hotel, which hosts weekly pingpong tournaments (they’re serious, folks – one of my friends threw out her shoulder playing!) bustled with hipsters.

Last on my agenda? A few days in the Davis Mountains. I stayed in a cabin at the Davis Mountains Preserve, a beautiful 44,000-acre property owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. A winter storm foiled a trip to the top of Mount Livermore, the fifth highest point in Texas, but I explored lower parts of the preserve, populated by towering Ponderosa pines and alligator juniper.

Deirdre Hisler and Mike Sweeney pause to admire the scenery while hiking at the Davis Mountains Preserve. Pam LeBlanc
Deirdre Hisler and Mike Sweeney pause to admire the scenery while hiking at the Davis Mountains Preserve. Pam LeBlanc

I’m back, but I left part of my soul out there. No worries, I’ll head back soon to collect them.

Stories coming soon …

I stayed in this cabin at the Davis Mountains Preserve. Pam LeBlanc
I stayed in this cabin at the Davis Mountains Preserve. Pam LeBlanc

Austin B-cycle adding more bikes and stations, increasing free ride time

Lobke Huijs, 19, left, rides Austin B-cycle  on South Congress Avenue with her parents Marion, middle, and Wim Huijs, all of Cincinnati, on Monday December 22, 2014.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Lobke Huijs, 19, left, rides Austin B-cycle on South Congress Avenue with her parents Marion, middle, and Wim Huijs, all of Cincinnati, on Monday December 22, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Hot off a record year for ridership numbers, Austin B-cycle is adding more bike docks, more bikes and more no-charge bike time for users. It’s also changing the cost of a 24-hour pass.

The bike share service is adding capacity to its busiest stations, and installing four new stations in the next two months. Look for the new stations at 13th and San Antonio streets, Henderson between 6th and 9th streets, Congress Avenue at Cesar Chavez Street, and Barton Springs Road at Sterzing Street.

“Expanding stations and locations will mean better bike availability and less chance of finding full stations when you are returning bikes,” said Elliott McFadden, executive director of Austin B-cycle.

 

Austin B-cycle is adding more stations and more bikes in the next two months. Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman
Austin B-cycle is adding more stations and more bikes in the next two months. Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman

Starting this week, all Austin B-cycle passes and memberships also include 60 minutes of no-charge ride time for each trip, up from the 30-minute trip limit the system has had since launch. Trips longer than 60 minutes incur a $4 per 30-minute riding charge until the bike is returned.

Pam LeBlanc rides a B-cycle through downtown Austin. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/Austin American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc rides a B-cycle through downtown Austin. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/Austin American-Statesman

More ride time was the number one improvement Austin B-cycle members requested in a November 2016 rider survey performed by Opinion Analysts, a local market research company.

“Our riders gave Austin B-cycle a 94 percent approval rating, but they reported being nervous about incurring extra fees with our previous ride limit,” McFadden said. “Now you can enjoy our fast, fun transportation option without worrying as much about watching the clock.”

Cost of a 24-hour access pass has increased from $8 to $12. All other pass rates remain the same.

Austin B-cycle is a public-private partnership between the City of Austin, the system owner, and Bike Share of Austin, the local 501c3 non-profit operator. Launched in December 2013, the system has recorded 539,939 trips, including more than 200,000 in 2016.

Adventure awaits: Is Mount Kilimanjaro in my future?

In 2015 I snorkeled with whale sharks near Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Photo by John S. Pierce
In 2015 I snorkeled with whale sharks near Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Photo by John S. Pierce

 

Backpacking 200 miles on the John Muir Trail last summer flipped me into full adventure mode.

I’ve always loved doing slightly crazy stuff, but the craving has cranked up a notch recently. I don’t need life-threatening risk or wet-your-pants danger, but what makes me happiest is exploring new places and challenging myself to do things I’m not sure I can do.

This past summer I backpacked 200 miles on the John Muir Trail in California. Photo by Chris LeBlanc
This past summer I backpacked 200 miles on the John Muir Trail in California. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

In the past few years, I’ve swum around Manhattan Island with a friend, ridden my bicycle across Iowa, and skied from hut to hut in the back country of Colorado. I’ve snorkeled with whale sharks and scuba dived beneath hundreds of schooling hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos Islands, but smaller adventures soothe my soul, too. That’s why I ride my bike to work every day and plunge into Barton Springs in the dead of winter when it’s still dark outside.

All of it makes me feel alive. What’s life if not a series of grand adventures?

I wrote about this realization in a story last week.

Since then a whole slate of possibilities have unfurled in front of me. Readers have emailed their support and offered invitations to join them on incredible adventures.

A couple years ago a friend and I teamed up to swim around Manhattan Island.
A couple years ago a friend and I teamed up to swim around Manhattan Island.

One emailed to suggest that I climb Long’s Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park with his son, an experienced mountain climber. The son emailed to reiterate the offer.

One wrote me a letter, packed with photos, recommending that I head to Madagascar to climb rocks and commune with chameleons, lemurs and baobab trees.

Another reader (and ultra cyclist who I’ve interviewed several times) suggested that I participate in a 200-mile bike race in the Hill Country at the end of March. I’ve already visited with a cycling coach about the possibility. Maybe it’ll happen.

This weekend, I’m headed to West Texas, where I plan to pitch my tent – alone – somewhere in Big Bend National Park. As much as I’ve camped, I’ve never done it completely alone. I want to know what that feels like.

And then there’s Matt Walker, who leads expeditions up some of the planet’s most famous mountains. He’s invited me to join him on an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

And you know what? I’m actually considering it.

I’ll let you know how things pan out. And if you’ve got another idea, let me know…

Oskar Blues Brewery hosts monthly bike rides

Oskar Blues Brewery hosts bike rides the third Tuesday of each month. Photo courtesy Oskar Blues
Oskar Blues Brewery hosts bike rides the third Tuesday of each month. Photo courtesy Oskar Blues

 

Oskar Blues Brewery wants you to know that drinking beer and staying fit don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

That’s why they’re hosting monthly bike rides that start and finish at the brewery in North Austin.

Cyclists meet at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at the brewery, where they can get beers for $2. The bike ride begins at 7 p.m., and cyclists return to the brewery afterward for more beers. (I’d recommend drinking after the ride instead of before, but that’s just me.)

The next “Reeber Madness Night Ride” (named for that 1936 weed-smoking classic and Reeb Cycles) is set for Jan. 17. The brewery is located at 10420 Metric Boulevard. To RSVP, go here.

“Staying fit is a huge part of the Oskar Blues culture,” a press release said. “The brewery was the first to put their own craft beer in cans and did so because it was more portable for mountain bike trips and because cans are better for environment.”

The brewery also hosts an annual Burning Can event that features a 5K Beer Relay, and it’s the official craft beer sponsor of the Austin Marathon and the Beer Mile World Championships.