Pedal all the way to Alaska? These students did – for a good cause

This year’s Texas 4000 riders will roll into Anchorage on Friday. Photo courtesy Texas 4000

 

Sixty-nine University of Texas students who pedaled out of Austin earlier this summer are expected to roll into Anchorage tomorrow, wrapping up their 70-day quest to raise awareness about cancer.

A documentary about their venture, “Texas 4000,” will air at 8 p.m. tonight on the Longhorn Network, Channel 677 on AT&T Universe and Channel 383 on Time Warner. The network will also livestream the documentary at http://www.espn.com/longhornnetwork/.

RELATED: For a fun day on a bike in Austin, try this

Each year for the past 15 years, a team of students has made the bicycle trek. They train, raise money, volunteer in the community and serve in leadership roles to help plan every aspect of the summer ride.

This year’s group started June 1 and broke into three groups, which made their way separately to Alaska. Along the way, the cyclists presented $450,000 in grants to cancer research and treatment centers and visited with patients.

Back in Austin, the community will honor the cyclists at the annual Tribute Gala Aug. 24 at the Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Road. The gala includes dinner, live music, silent and live auctions and more. Tickets are $200 per person. For more information or to sign up, go to https://asbidding.com/register/106.

Since 2004, 751 students have completed the ride, raising more than $8.4 million.

For more information about the 2018 Texas 4000 team, donate or read the riders’ blogs, go to www.texas4000.org orhttps://www.facebook.com/texas4000/.

How many days in a row have you run? Bill Schroeder’s logged 20 years

From left, Bill Schroeder, Jodi Ondrusek and Wing Ho run on a trail at Brushy Creek Park on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bill Shroeder hasn’t missed a run in years.

He’ll celebrate 20 years worth of running – calculated by combining two separate running streaks – with an easy cruise through Williamson County Regional Park at 6 p.m. today.

Streak running is a thing, in case you didn’t know, and different people do it different ways. (It’s also completely different than streaking, as in running naked through a public place.) Some streak runners count any run over at least 1 mile. For Schroeder, a workout doesn’t officially count unless it lasts at least 25 minutes.

Bill Schroeder is celebrating two running streaks – and a combined 20 years of daily runs – with a run tonight. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tonight, the public is invited to join Schroeder for a 25-minute run starting at the pavilion near the tennis courts. The group will run or walk out 12 and a half minutes, then turn around and come back. No matter what your pace, everyone should finish together.

RELATED: Streak runners get their daily run come rain, snow, heat or travel

The streak-iversary happens to coincide with Schroeder’s 56th birthday. Kona Ice will serve 100 free snow cones from 6:30-7:30 p.m. There will be cake, too. No glass containers are allowed at the park. Alcohol is permitted, but please drink responsibly.

To pre-register for the free event, go here.

Swimming’s free – and so’s the guitar solo – before 8 a.m. at Barton Springs

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I almost always start Wednesday mornings with a swim at Barton Springs with a few friends.

Besides getting in a good workout, I always see people I know. Runners gather there after logging their morning miles, to cool their legs in the cold water. My lap swimming friends show up in force, too.

I started this morning with a swim at Barton Springs Pool.

RELATED: What’s the real temperature at Barton Springs Pool? Hint: It’s not 68

I also love the creatures – you won’t find them at a chlorinated cement pond. But at Barton Springs, birds dive in to snatch up breakfast, fish swirl in schools, crawfish trundle across the bottom and aquatic plants undulate in the current.

This morning I got a special treat. As I hung at the far end, just above Barking Springs, a guy strolled by playing his guitar. I rested on the edge for a few minutes just as he walked by. I smiled up at him and he stopped, sang for a few minutes, then moseyed along.

Austin. It’s the best.

And did you know it’s free to get in Barton Springs before 8 a.m.? The pool opens at 5 a.m., and you can swim for free until 8 a.m. Admission is charged from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and then it’s free again until closing at 10 p.m. (Note that no lifeguards are on duty during the free swim times.)

For more information go to http://www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool.

Bid summer farewell with Splash Bash at YMCA

The YMCA TownLake will host a Splash Bash from 1-3 p.m. Saturday. Photo courtesy YMCA

Bid summer goodbye with the annual Splash Bash at the TownLake YMCA this weekend.

The free community event is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Saturday and will include a pool party with free snacks, games, giveaways, music and a bouncy house. The Y is located at 1100 West Cesar Chavez Street.

The event will also highlight YMCA Camp Moody, which is being developed along Onion Creek, 15 miles south of downtown Austin. The project’s initial phase will include an eight-lane natatorium that the Y is building in partnership with the Hays Consolidated school district.

When the facility is complete, all district first-graders will participate in the Y’s Project SAFE program, which provides free swimming and water safety instruction.

Tired of trash at Mansfield Cut? Pitch in at Saturday’s cleanup

A cleanup of Port Mansfield Cut is set for Saturday. Photo courtesy Kathie and Miller Bassler

A few months ago, I spent a long weekend camping at Mansfield Cut along the Texas Coast.

We pitched tents in the sand, fished and surfed along the channel between North and South Padre Islands. I loved the place, but couldn’t believe the quantity of trash that littered the dunes and filled every crevice of the jetty.

So I’m happy to make note of an upcoming beach cleanup organized by Miller and Kathie Bassler of Rockdale.

Volunteers have hauled off as much as 25 tons of trash during the annual cleanup. Photo courtesy Kathie and Miller Bassler

The 10th annual Port Mansfield Beach & Cut Clean UP, rescheduled from March due to weather, is set for Aug. 11. In past years, volunteers have collected as much as 25 tons of trash at the event.

To participate, report to the Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce pavilion for signup at 6:30 a.m. After a safety briefing and breakfast, you’ll get your assignment for which area to clean. Volunteers get a free T-shirt, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boats, captains and workers are needed, and out-of-town participants can get free lodging if they notify Kathie at kathieb@basslerenergyservices.com by Aug. 6.

Boats and volunteers are needed for the cleanup. Photo courtesy Miller and Kathie Bassler

The Basslers started the cleanup in 2009 after arriving at the usually pristine Padre Island National Seashore and finding it trashed in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ike and Dolly. Their efforts have earned recognition from Field & Stream Magazine, the Coastal Conservation Association and others.

“We have gathered as much as 25 tons, cleaned up to 5 miles of Padre Island National Shoreline and relieved the jetty trap of thousands of plastic bottles, while also picking up the banks of the Mansfield Channel on the 15-mile journey from port to the island,” Miller Bassler says.

Tons of trash collects on the beach and between the boulders at the jetty each year. Photo courtesy Miller and Kathie Bassler

For more information email miller@basslerenergyservices.com or kathieb@basslerenergyservices.com.

At Camp Gladiator Stadium Takeover, join a group workout where the Longhorns play

Camp Gladiator will host a free public workout at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 11. Photo courtesty Camp Gladiator

If you’ve always wanted to train on the field where the University of Texas Longhorns play, head to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 11.

Camp Gladiator will celebrate a decade of group exercise with a free, open-to-the-public workout at the stadium, and thousands of participants are expected to attend.

Camp Gladiator is celebrating a decade of group workouts. Photo courtesty Camp Gladiator

It’s part of a nation-wide CG Stadium Takeover series that includes events at stadiums all over the country, from Mile High Stadium in Denver to Minute Maid Park in Houston and Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi. The Austin event starts at 6:45 a.m. and wraps up at 12:30 p.m. and is designed for all ages and fitness levels.

Ally and Jeff Davidson founded Camp Gladiator in 2008 in Dallas.

The Austin event is one of a series of Stadium Takeovers taking place around the country. Photo courtesy Camp Gladiator

“We are really beyond excited to be celebrating 10 amazing years of Camp Gladiator and the impact made on hundreds of thousands of campers across the nation. We can’t wait to host our loyal campers and everyone in our amazing communities that have supported us through the years at stadiums across the nation,” Ally Davidson said in a press release.

Attendees can sign up as a spectators or competitors. In Austin, participants will be released in waves to run between 10 workout stations throughout the stadium. The full-body workout combines strength and cardio exercises. It’s based on the CG camp experience, which focuses on endurance, strength, agility, and interval training suitable for all fitness levels.

The event will also feature food, retail, and fitness vendors and other fitness activations such as a slamball slam contest and a battle rope station.

To RSVP go here.

Participants will be released in waves to run to exercise stations around the stadium. Photo courtesy Camp Gladiator

Camp Gladiator began in 2007, when Ally Davidson tried out for the NBC show “American Gladiators” four hours before her wedding. She qualified her for the show, and producers invited both Ally and her husband Jeff to compete in a couples’ episode. After their honeymoon, the couple spent four weeks in Los Angeles competing on the show. Ally won the grand championship, and the Davidsons used their winnings to start Camp Gladiator.

Camp Gladiator, which is now based in Austin, operates more than 3,500 locations in Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and Tenessee.

Am I crazy? Maybe – I’m training for Texas Water Safari 2019

Pam LeBlanc and Sheila Reiter, in canoe, center of photo, paddle on Lady Bird Lake on Thursday, Aug. 2. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

 

Chalk up Day 1 as a success.

A couple of years after I told a friend that I’d never do the Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile canoe race from San Marcos to Seadrift, I’m hereby declaring that I’m in for 2019.

Yesterday, the training began.

I’ll be competing as part of a three-person team, alongside veteran paddlers Sheila Reiter and Heather Harrison. They’ve both completed the race several times, but I’m a newbie. My paddling experience consists of recreational paddle camping trips down the Devils and Pecos rivers, plus a bunch of leisurely day trips on the Colorado, San Marcos, Guadalupe, Llano and Pedernales rivers. I did part of the Colorado River 100 last winter, but packed a lunch and picnicked on the side of the river.

But I’ve always believed that the only way to keep living is to keep trying new things. That’s why I learned to run a slalom water ski course at age 40, ran my first marathon at 44, hiked the John Muir trail at 52 and rappelled down a 38-story building at 53. It’s why I do all kinds of stuff that makes me a tad uncomfortable.

Pam LeBlanc paddles on Lady Bird Lake. Photo by Sheila Reiter

 

Besides, I love spending time on the water, and yesterday’s first run meant a couple of hours gliding down Lady Bird Lake, dinner at a lakeside restaurant and glimpses of turtles the size of beer trays, the emergence of the Mexican free-tail bats from beneath the Ann Richards-Congress Avenue Bridge, lots of smooth green water and some rare moments of quiet in the middle of the city.

I’ve got to work on my form. I know already my stroke is choppy and slanted. The paddle should enter the water almost vertically. The photo at the top, taken by Chris LeBlanc, shows me and Sheila heading home after our practice session. I can see my position needs work.

Goals. I’ve got nearly 11 months to get there. I can do it.

No, you can’t swim there yet – but repairs are starting at Balmorhea Pool

Repairs are set to begin at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas, which has been closed since May. File photo by Jay Godwin/American-Statesman

 

Don’t expect to take a flying leap into Balmorhea Pool in West Texas anytime soon.

But after nearly three months of evaluation, crews are set to begin making repairs to pool walls and a concrete apron beneath the diving board, which collapsed during the annual cleaning and draining of the facility in May.

The 1.3-acre, V-shaped oasis, located about 400 miles west of Austin, draws locals and visitors heading to the Big Bend region. It’s also home to two small, endangered desert fish – the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.

This photo shows damage to the concrete apron near the diving board at Balmorhea Pool. Contributed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Years of erosion caused by the flow of water from the springs caused the damage. Repairs are expected to take several months and cost $2 million. Crews will build cofferdams, temporarily remove the diving board, salvage existing brick around the pool edge, remove the failing wall and backfill behind it, then install new walls along the north and south sides of the pool.

RELATED: Balmorhea Pool closed indefinitely due to structural damage

Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department say they are working to protect the endangered species during the project. They have created habitats outside of the pool for the protection of the fish and other invertebrates, and say they are working to protect the species while work takes place.

Balmorhea State Park in west Texas on a hot July day. File photo by Jay Godwin/American-Statesman

No heavy equipment will be used; crews will demolish and remove debris by hand. Cofferdams will allow water to flow through the canals and cienegas while work takes place, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff will monitor water quality and flow to prevent downstream contamination.

“Our plan is to reverse decades of erosive impacts and restore public access to this oasis as soon as possible,” Brent Leisure, director of Texas State Parks, said in a press release. “It’s regrettable that the timing of this issue has prevented Texans from cooling off in their favorite swimming hole for most of this hot summer, but visitors will find an improved park after badly needed improvements are made to the pool, the historic motor courts and the parks’ popular campground.”

RELATED: Take a dip in a desert oasis at Balmorhea Pool

The site has long attracted people. Native Americans, Spanish explorers and U.S. soldiers watered up at San Solomon Springs, which pumps out about 15.5 million gallons of water a day, long before the Civilian Conservation Corps turned the desert wetland into a pool in the 1930s. Private concessionaires operated the park until the 1960s, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took it over.

More than 153,000 people visited the park between Sept. 1, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2017. On hot summer weekends, the park fills to capacity by noon and cars are turned away.

The pool measures 25 feet deep in places, with a natural bottom. Swimming there feels like gliding through a giant aquarium populated by fish of all sizes. It holds 3.5 million gallons of water, and water temperatures hover between 72 and 76 degrees year-round.

The 45-acre desert park’s day use and picnic area will remain open while the pool is closed. The park’s retro, adobe-style 18-unit motor court closed early this year for renovations and should reopen in 2019.

To make a donation to help fund the repairs, go to http://www.tpwf.org/balmorhea/.

Humidity is her Kryptonite: Austin runner wins Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon

Brenda Guajardo does a training run along the course of the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, which she won last week. Photo by Luis Escobar

 

When a marathon falls short, and Austin’s heat feels downright balmy, some folks head to Death Valley to prove their athletic mettle by racing long distances through the desert.

Take Austin ultra runner Brenda Guajardo, 41, the top female finisher in last month’s Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, an invitational race that starts in the Badwater Basin of California and winds its way up into the Sierra Nevada mountains.

RELATED: Ten training hills in Austin to strengthen your legs

Guajardo, an office administrator and event planner, ran through 108 degree temperatures and beneath scorching sun, and climbed a cumulative 14,600 feet of vertical ascent. She finished in 28 hours and 23 minutes, first among all women and fifth overall.

The former aerobics instructor, who took up running in her 20s when she decided aerobics wasn’t keeping her fit enough, has entered the race three other times. She finished eighth female in her first attempt in 2011 and second in 2016.

Brenda Guajardo trains for the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, which she won last week. Photo by Luis Escobar

She was favored to win last year but broke her foot from overuse 2 miles in. That injury makes this year’s victory all the more remarkable.

“In the last year I’ve had to relearn how to walk,” she says. “I had a limp I couldn’t get rid of and I had to rebuild my mileage. I made serious adjustments in how I train. I couldn’t do speed work, because it was too much on my foot, so I just did long and high volume at a slow pace.”

The training worked.

At the first checkpoint, at Mile 17, she stood in fifth place. She took over the lead at the second checkpoint, at Mile 42, and held it all the way to the finish. Her pace ranged from speedy, 7-minute, 45-second miles on the downhills to between 14- and 16-minute miles on the final uphill slog to the finish. The second place woman finished 25 minutes behind her.

The temperatures took their toll. In the blazing sun, heat radiated from the pavement. “It’s strictly asphalt, all road,” she says. “It definitely cooks your skin.”

Guajardo said that temperatures at the race this year felt relatively comfortable, thanks to the hours she spent training in the Texas heat.

“The humidity in Austin is my Kryptonite. Racing in the desert feels like a vacation compared to the insanity of Austin’s high heat with high humidity,” she says.

Guajardo, who crossed the finish time of her first marathon in 1997 in a not-so-speedy 6 hours, prepared for Badwater by spending 90 minutes in a 140-degree dry sauna, then running outdoors in Austin. She also trained in the Big Bend area to simulate the conditions in Death Valley.

Brenda Guajardo runs at this year’s Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon. Photo courtesy Adventure Corps Inc.

“You teach your stomach how to process fluid in high volume,” she says. “It teaches your body how to sweat very fast and push water out. On race day I put ice-filled bandanas around my neck and my crew sprayed me with water every so many miles.”

But why enter such a grueling event?

“Why not? I think I’m most intrigued by the mind and body connection of what happens when you’re out there. For me personally, I’m very introverted and my job requires me to be very extroverted. To spend an extraordinary number of hours by myself is replenishing. It’s how I gain my energy back.”

Guajardo holds the women’s course record for the Nove Colli 125-mile race in Italy. In 2016 she won Pheidippides Race — a 304-mile race in Greece, where she broke the men’s course record by more than four hours.

Guajardo says she’s not sure what comes next, other than taking some time off for a full recovery, which takes at least a month.

Or maybe enjoying some quality time with her much pet — a turtle named Charlie.

“I consider the turtle my racing animal because turtles represent longevity and patience. … A turtle reminds me to always have patience, never give up. Well, and the obvious — slow and steady wins the race.”

 

Austin’s Lawson Craddock finished last at Tour de France, but now he gets free beer for life

Lawson Craddock holds a Love Street beer from Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston after finishing the Tour de France. Photo courtesy Karbach Brewing Co.

 

Lawson Craddock may have finished last in the Tour de France this year, but now he can drink free beer for the rest of his life.

RELATED: He crashed on Day 1 of the Tour de France, but Austin’s Lawson Craddock is still pedaling

The Austin-based cyclist broke his shoulder blade and cut his face during Stage 1 of this year’s Tour. Instead of packing up and heading back to Texas, Craddock kept cycling. For every stage of the race he completed, he vowed to donate $100 to Alkek Velodrome in Houston, the facility where he learned to race and which was damaged last fall during Hurricane Harvey. He invited fans to donate, too.

RELATED: Pro cyclist Lawson Craddock trains on Texas hills

Craddock wound up finishing every stage of the three-week race, coming in last of the 145 finishers, a position known as “lanterne rouge.” As of today, the GoFundMe site has raised more than $252,000 for the velodrome.

To congratulate the 26-year-old cyclist, Karbach Brewing Co., the Houston-based company that makes the beer Craddock drank after he finally reached Paris, has promised to supply Craddock with Weekend Warrior Pale Ale for the rest of his life.

The brewery also pledged to donate $1 of every case of Weekend Warrior Pale Ale to Alkek Velodrome for the rest of the year.

To donate to the velodrome fund-raiser, go to https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris.

Here’s the series of Tweets about the exchange: