Fit after 60: Austin 60 Strong reveals faces of 2019 calendar

Miriam Raviv was one of 12 people selected for the Austin 60 Strong calendar. Family photo

Congratulations to a dozen of Central Texas’ most fabulously fit older residents, who will be featured in an upcoming calendar.

Two local physician networks set out to find inspirational residents, ages 60 to 69, to feature in the 2019 Austin 60 Strong calendar. They’ve announced the winners, who include cancer survivors, pole vaulters, a former stuntman, a nurse and more.

A panel of judges – full confession here, I was one of them – selected winners based on their health, fitness, wellness, community involvement and volunteerism. We wanted to highlight people who exemplify that worn-out phrase “living life to the fullest.” We found plenty who inspired us.

Austin 60 Strong judges gather at the Eberly to review and select the Austin 60 Strong Ambassadors for the 2019 Austin 60 Strong Calendar, Wednesday Aug. 29,2018, in AUSTIN, Texas. (GonzoFotoz/Rodolfo Gonzalez)

In addition to appearing in the Austin 60 Strong calendar, winners will be honored with a kickoff party, a professional photo shoot and compensation for their modeling time.

Proceeds from calendar sales will benefit Capital City Village, a virtual community of seniors committed to aging in place and community while maintaining healthy and active lifestyles.

Without further ado, the winners are:

  • Ben Barlin, a cancer survivor, hiker and blackbelt in jiu jitsu.
  • Toni Bourke, a military veteran and nurse who walks daily.
  • Rev. Dave Corna, who lost more than 200 pounds and runs with Austin Fit.
  • Kim Cousins, a former educator who paddles, swims, cycles and more.
  • Shelley Friend, who volunteers with Faithworks and the Iron Butterflies Project and exercises daily.
  • Dan Garrett, who’s been running for nearly 40 years and volunteers as a coach.
  • Mike Gassaway, a former stunt man and motorcycle racer who does yoga and volunteers in dog rescue.
  • Lisa Kurek, a Crossfitter who volunteers at the Austin Center for Grief & Loss.
  • Susan Joiner, a cancer survivor who works out six days a week and follows a whole foods diet.
  • Susan Mobley, who started pole vaulting in her 60s and bakes cookies for local firefighters.
  • Grace Perez, a Meals on Wheels volunteer who walks daily.
  • Miriam Raviv, a longtime triathlete and swimmer, cyclist and runner.

Fall running season officially arrives Sept. 7 with Zilker Relays

Pam LeBlanc, Jody Seaborn, Mercedes Orten and Chris Thibert jump before the 2014 Zilker Relays.

 

According to my race calendar, but definitely not the thermometer, fall has nearly arrived.

The Zilker Relays, unofficial kickoff to Austin’s fall racing season, takes place Sept. 7 at Zilker Park. The four-person, 10-mile relay starts at 6:30 p.m. on roads in and around the park, and wraps up with a party on the Great Lawn featuring live music by the Staylyns, food from Tacodeli and free beer from Strange Land Brewery.

RELATED: Channel your inner superpowers at CASA Superhero Run

“There is no other race where you can run through Zilker Park in the evening, with a view of downtown Austin, and wrap it up with great food and drinks and live music into the night,” says race founder Paul Perrone, whose grin is perhaps my favorite in all of Austin.

The race will make anyone smile. Usually, it rains. Or it’s hot as heck for the first 2.5-mile leg, then a storm hits, then it gets muggy.

It’s a big deal. Last year more than 1,300 people participated.

A children’s relay kicks off shortly before the adult relay and every child participant will get a cape and Tacodeli meal.

This year, Zilker Relays will once again partner with the Lesedi Project to raise funds for the Ethembeni School in South Africa, a school for physically disabled and visually impaired children.

For more information, go to www.zilkerrelays.com or https://www.facebook.com/zilkerrelays/.

Channel your super powers at CASA Superhero run on Sept. 16

Kid superheroes line up to chase villains during the CASA Superhero Run in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

One year I met Superman – not an imposter, but the real deal. He was nice to me, probably because I was wearing my Wonder Woman costume (which, by the way, I wore to rappel down a 38-story building last year, and also to the movie theater once.)

Another year I met Batman, and that was scary, because he didn’t even crack a smile.

On Sept. 16, you can mingle with caped crusaders and superpower-wielding human beings at the CASA Superhero Run 5K and Kids 1K.

RELATED: On your mark! Iram Leon and Elain Chung tie knot at run-themed wedding

Superheros of all shapes and sizes turn out en masse for this run, which raises money for CASA, which advocates through the court system for children who have been abused or neglected. This year’s race also serves as the opening event of the Austin Distance Challenge, a series of running races that leads up to the Austin Marathon in February.

Abigail Harrell, 3, shows her Wonder Woman superhero powers after completing the Kids 1K fun run at the CASA race in this 2011 file photo. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

The race moves to a new location this year, the IBM Client Innovation Center at Broadmoor Campus, 11501 Burnet Road. The 5K begins at 8 a.m.; the Kids 1K, with villains to chase, starts at 9:15 a.m. A dance party and costume contest will follow. Besides the foot race, expect bounce houses, special superhero guest appearances and lots of fun family activities.

CASA Superhero Run

The event supports the CASA programs of Travis, Williamson, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties, which works with volunteers to advocate for abused or neglected children in the court system.

Why superheros? Here’s what CASA says about that: “Superman was adopted. Spiderman was raised by his aunt and uncle. Batman grew up with his butler, Alfred, and later took in Robin to raise as his ward. Wonder Woman was made out of clay by Amazons and brought to life by the gods. Few superheroes grew up in a typical family situation raised by their own parents, yet they all accomplished great things as adults. CASA believes all children deserve the chance to grow up happy and healthy and become superhero adults themselves.”

To register go here.

Let’s play ‘Look where they parked that bike/scooter’!

Dockless bicycle going for a swim in Shoal Creek. Photo by Jim Berry

 

In yesterday’s blog, I posted a photograph of a Lime electric scooter that someone tossed in Shoal Creek along the hike and bike trail near Fifth Street. I spotted it while riding my bike to work yesterday morning.

Dockless bicycle taking a nap near the Lance Armstrong pedestrian bridge over Shoal Creek. Photo by Richard Zelade

That post prompted a flood of photographs taken by people who have spotted abandoned dockless scooters and bikes around Austin. (Thanks for the crowd sourcing, people!)

Dockless bicycle getting a closeup look at the pavement at the intersection of Seventh and Lavaca streets. Photo by Richard Zelade

Which now prompts me to post some of those pictures, and encourage everyone to send me pics of bikes and scooters buried in golf course sand traps, dangling from tree branches, clogging sidewalks, swimming in lakes, dismembered in dark alleys and what not.

Let’s see what we find!

Dockless bicycle climbing a tree in Seattle.

And no cheating. I don’t want more people contributing to the problem. Let the record show that I want you to park your scooters and bicycles responsibly.

Dockless scooter taking a sip of water in Shoal Creek near Fifth Street. Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

How not to park a scooter …

An electric scooter from Lime lays half submerged in the creek alongside the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike trail this morning. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Check out this electric scooter I found abandoned in Shoal Creek near Fifth Street this morning.

I’m pretty sure half submerged and ditched in a creek alongside a hike-and-bike-trail doesn’t fit the recommended parking guidelines for dockless electric scooters, but there you have it.

I ride my bike to work three to five times a week, and my commute takes me up the Shoal Creek Hike-and-Bike Trail. I’ve seen a dozen or so scooters left on the trail in the last month or two, but this is the first I’ve spotted in the actual creek.

It looks like it’s from Lime, one of the companies that released a fleet of dockless scooters and bikes across the city.

Uncool, people. Uncool.

How not to park your dockless scooter …

An electric scooter from Lime lays half submerged in the creek alongside the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike trail this morning. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Check out this electric scooter I found abandoned in Shoal Creek near Fifth Street this morning.

I’m pretty sure half-submerged-alongside-a-hike-and-bike-trail doesn’t follow the recommended parking guidelines for dockless electric scooters, but there you have it.

I ride my bike to work three to five times a week, and my commute takes me up the Shoal Creek Hike-and-Bike Trail. I’ve seen a dozen or so scooters left on the trail in the last month or two, but this is the first I’ve spotted in the actual creek.

It looks like it’s from Lime, one of the companies that released a fleet of dockless scooters and bikes across the city.

Uncool, people. Uncool.

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.