Need adventure? Swim naked at Barton Springs

Pam LeBlanc, Elli Overton, Heidi Armstrong and Cate Brooks Sweeney (clockwise from left) swam a Naked Mile at Barton Springs Pool under cover of darkness this morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc
Pam LeBlanc, Elli Overton, Heidi Armstrong and Cate Brooks Sweeney (clockwise from left) swam a Naked Mile at Barton Springs Pool under cover of darkness this morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

I’d bet money that the guy swimming across Barton Springs in a full-length wetsuit before dawn this morning never guessed that four completely naked women had just glided past him.

But that’s what happened during today’s Naked Mile.

I blame Heidi Armstrong for the shenanigans. She blames fellow swimmer Francine Fowler. Some point at a couple of guys on the Longhorn Aquatics swim team at the University of Texas. A pair of aqua joggers might have had something to do with it, too.

Regardless, Armstrong mentioned the idea of swimming a mile, under cover of darkness, across Austin’s famous spring-fed pool, to me and I couldn’t rip off my clothes quickly enough. (Well, I did wait until I got to the pool.) It’s my Year of Adventure, you know.

In the end, four of us gathered at 5:45 a.m. today to test the waters, unencumbered by so much as a stitch of clothing. We did wear caps and goggles, and until the last moment, I snuggled under a thick furry deck jacket to ward off the chill. (One of my friends insisted I looked like a flasher as I stepped out of it into the dark.)

But the build-up was tense. I woke up early, wondering if I’d freeze. I swim 2 miles almost every day, but in a heated pool. What if I couldn’t make the entire mile?

Cate Brooks Sweeney, aka “The Naked Librarian,” fretted that her skin was so white that her rump would glow as if it had natural bioluminescence.

Elli Overton, aka “The Naked Olympian” (she represented Australia in swimming at three Olympic Games), at first planned to keep her suit on. We talked her out of it. Literally.

Heidi Armstrong, aka “The Naked Captain,” woke up every hour on the hour all night long (“like I had a flight to catch,” she said) in anticipation of our adventure.

A couple of other people were swimming when we arrived at Barton Springs. We walked down the steps and headed to the far end of the pool, so we wouldn’t make ourselves obvious. The darkness cloaked us, though. We slipped off our clothes and eased into the water, like mermaids heading home.

I’ve always loved to skinny dip – not because I’m an exhibitionist, but because it plain feels good on the skin, and seems natural and freeing. I like to peel off my suit and jump in the water after dawn waterskiing sessions, and always plunge into ice cold lakes and streams without clothing when I’m backpacking.

But the Naked Mile marked my first fiber-free foray into a pool that draws thousands every day during summer months. And while women are allowed to go topless, I’m pretty sure total nudity is frowned upon, at least during daylight hours.

Once in the water, we kept moving, to hold onto our body heat as long as possible. We zipped back and forth four times, glowing white torpedoes powering through an oasis as dark as the night sky.

Armstrong put in a half lap of naked backstroke. I took a few strokes of butterfly. Overton cut through the cold with the most beautiful stroke, and Sweeney, who swam from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore during a race last summer, freaked out about what might lurk below.

“I had a couple of thoughts I had to get ahead of before they ruined things, like what a morning it would be to finally spot the eel, and I hope there aren’t any nibbley creatures swimming about,” Sweeney said. “Mostly I just felt rather serene – and, maybe, low maintenance?”

We agreed that the cold water made us hyper aware of what parts of our bodies were at the surface and which ones were submerged. We loved not needing any gear. We savored the last lap especially.

“Poor unlucky blind salamanders!” a friend quipped on FaceBook afterward.

Our mile complete, we stood near the edge, laughing that we had a secret nobody else knew. We climbed out, wrapped ourselves in towels and sipped hot tea from Thermoses.

We can’t wait to do it again. But we’re not saying when.

Texas School for the Deaf hosts 5K and Halloween fest this Saturday

The Spooky Skedaddle at the Texas School for the Deaf includes a 5K and 1K run, plus a Halloween festival.
The Spooky Skedaddle at the Texas School for the Deaf includes a 5K and 1K run, plus a Halloween festival.

It’s always more fun to run in a costume, don’t you think?

The Texas School for the Deaf Foundation will host its annual Spooky Skedaddle Heal Yeah 5K timed run, 1K Fun Run and Halloween Festival this Saturday.

The free event includes music, food trucks, trick or treating and festival games at the Texas School for the Deaf, 1102 South Congress Avenue.

Entry fee for the Heal Yeah 5K race is $35; entry fee for the Spooky Skedaddle 1K Fun Run is $3.

To register go here. The 5K starts at 9 a.m., followed by the 1K at 10:30 a.m.

The Halloween festival will include an obstacle course, bounce house, Twister, cake walk, food trailers, a costume parade, trick or treating, face painting, balloon darts and live music. Tickets can be purchased on site for all booths and games.

The Texas School for the Deaf is partnering with Dell Children’s Hospital and Heal Kenya to create a larger family friendly event. Proceeds will benefit the TSD Foundation and Heal Kenya. All hearing and deaf people, signers and non-signers, are invited.

Free parking is available at One Texas Center at the corner of Barton Springs Road and South First Street.

All Proceeds go to benefit Texas School for the Deaf Foundation and Heal Kenya. For more information go here. 

Austin BikeFest will include pedal-through haunted house

Austin BikeFest is scheduled for Saturday at Govalle Park.
Austin BikeFest is scheduled for Saturday at Govalle Park.

 

Think you’ve got enough nerve to pedal through a haunted house?

Head to Govalle Park, 5200 Bolm Road, on Halloween to find out at the second annual Austin BikeFest, sponsored by Capital Metro.

The free event will feature bicycle games, a costume contest, a BikeTexas fashion show, a balance bike course for kids, bicycle polo, unicycle football and a chance to learn how to ride a bicycle and unicycle. You can even ride your bike through an obstacle course that includes haunted houses. Kids can trick or treat, and the Staylyns will provide live music.

The festival will include trick or treating and a bike-through haunted house.
The festival will include trick or treating and a bike-through haunted house.

The celebration runs from noon to 4 p.m.

Frankenbike will organize one of its bike swap meets, where you can buy, sell or trade all kinds of bicycle-themed items, and the Buffalo Soldiers, America’s first mountain bikers, will be on hand.

Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available. For more information go here.

Consider riding your bike to the festival. The Southern Walnut Creek Trail ends at Govalle Park, or you can hop a Capital Metro bus. Routes 17 and 350 pass near the park. To plan your trip go here.
BikeTexas, founded in 1991, is the statewide bicycle and pedestrian advocacy and education organization.