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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 6.
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.
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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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
I’m trying to break up with single-use plastic. You should too.
Last month, on the first day of a surf camp I attended in southern Costa Rica, I woke up early and walked across the street, only to discover a sort of confetti stretching for miles down the beach. Pulverized bits of plastic – red, blue, yellow and white chips the size of your smallest fingernail – covered the the sand in swirls. Waves had washed the chips up with the surf, leaving behind a kind of litter mosaic.
I love the “Take 3 for the Sea” movement that encourages surfers – and anyone, really – to pick up three pieces of trash every time they go to the ocean. But the fragments on the Costa Rican beach that day were far too numerous and far too tiny to easily cart away.
The next day, the plastic had washed back out to sea (where fish and dolphins and rays and lobsters wallowed in it, no doubt), but the image stuck in my mind. It made me feel hopeless about the massive quantities of plastic funneling into the world’s oceans.
Our plastic use seems to be increasing. Have you seen all the new products at the grocery store? Pre-packaged servings of crackers, cheese and sausage. Plastic tubs of hummus. Plastic bottles of water. Single-serving containers of olives, applesauce, yogurt and cookies, plastic utensils, baggies, straws, disposable plates and more.
All those products eventually wind up in the landfill, or blowing down a highway someplace, where they ultimately break into smaller and smaller pieces and slowly make their way to our oceans.
We’re beholden to convenience. But I’m tired of it. We don’t have to be this way.
I’m drawing a line in the sand – that Costa Rican sand – so to speak. I’m determined to reduce my consumption of single-use plastics.
I know sometimes it’s unavoidable to use these products. But usually it’s just as easy to fill your own glass with water, dole out your own serving from the applesauce jar, or tuck a snack into a reusable plastic tub to transport to the office.
I’m doubling down on my efforts. Please join me. And share your tips here.
Would you get up at the crack of dawn for a house party?
Daybreaker is throwing an ’80s morning dance party, starting with a 6 a.m. fitness class followed by two hours of dancing (with reckless abandon, according to the website) in a historic Austin mansion.
That should leave you pumped for a day at the office, don’t you think?
The party takes place at the Graeber House, 410 East Sixth Street. Early risers can show up at 6 a.m. for an hour-long fitness class. Or sleep an extra hour and arrive in time for the 2-hour dancing free-for-all to ’80s music. Shoulder pads, leg warmers and MC Hammer dance moves are encouraged.
The party includes DJs and musical guests, plus coffee, juice and healthy snacks.
It’s a no booze event, or, as the website says: “We don’t need alcohol. We don’t need to pretend to be someone else. We come as we are to sweat, dance and connect with ourselves and each other. See you on the dance floor.”
In case yesterday’s record setting temperature of 110 degrees at Camp Mabry didn’t burn your britches, may we suggest the newest offering from Pure Yoga Texas – “Inferno Hot Pilates.”
Inferno Hot Pilates is practiced in 95 degree heat, so technically that still means someone has to crank up the air conditioning this week in Austin.
The low-impact, full body workout combines Pilates and high intensity interval training. Expect to sweat. (Please hydrate accordingly. And pay attention to your body. Heat exhaustion is no joke.)
Gabi Walters developed the class in 2012 and it has grown in popularity around the country.
“Inferno Hot Pilates is a great complement to our Hot 26 & 2 yoga class,” said Pure Yoga Texas studio manager Nora Rex. “Our students love the challenge of the cardio workout and muscle strengthening in Inferno Hot Pilates. It helps them in their yoga practice to find their edge and expand their body and mind.”
Pure Yoga Texas operates four locations: 507 Pressler Street No. 100 in downtown Austin; 4301 West William Cannon Drive in South Austin; 1335 East Whitestone Boulevard No. 185 in Cedar Park; and 2525 West Anderson Lane No. 320 in North Austin. The Inferno Hot Pilates class is available at the Pressler Street and Cedar Park locations.
All locations offer 60- and 90-minute hot yoga classes, heated vinyasa, yin yoga and HIIT Fusion.
Want to try an Inferno Hot Pilates class on the cheap? The studio will offer free Inferno Hot Yoga classes at 8:45 a.m. every Saturday during August at Athleta in the Domain, 11601 Century Oaks Terrace No. 121.
I thought I’d turn into a Popsicle, but as it turned out, the water temperature hovered at a balmy 65 degrees Saturday, when I swam across Lake Tahoe as part of a six-person relay team.
That’s well above the 55 degrees we’d been braced for, and barely cold enough to raise goose bumps, as long as you keep moving. And thank goodness for that, because wetsuits aren’t allowed in the Trans Tahoe Relay, which starts in Nevada and finishes roughly 10 miles away in California.
Bret Cunningham, who swims on the same U.S. Masters Swim Team that I do, invited me and my husband to join him for the race. Three other swimmers – David Bruns, Kaleigh Mitchell and Lauren Lubus, all from different parts of the country – flew in to round out our group. We’d each swim a 30-minute leg, then alternate 10-minute turns until we reached the finish.
The Olympic Club of San Francisco hosts the event, which starts at Sand Harbor and finishes in Skylandia. Along the way, swimmers cross the deepest section of the lake, which plunges a mile straight down. (Yikes!) This year marked the 42nd running of the relay, and it drew former Olympians, collegiate swimmers, and recreational athletes just out for a nice cruise.
Things I noticed as our team made its slow but steady way across the lake? A massive flotilla of boats, bobbing along in support of the swimmers. The way shafts of light flickered deep into the lake. The cool, full-body hug from Mother Nature. The deep green of the pine trees standing shoulder to shoulder all the way around the basin. The peace and insulated quiet that comes when you’re immersed in water. The splashing and underwater burbling noises. With every breath, the vague outline of mountain peaks in the distance.
And the blue that goes on forever.
I love to swim, and swim four or five days a week here in Austin. Lake Tahoe now ranks in the top five most beautiful places I’ve ever gone swimming. (The bay in Kona, Hawaii makes that list, as do a few pristine high alpine lakes along the John Muir Trail and High Sierra Trail in California. I also love Walden Pond in Massachusetts, Lake Michigan, The Narrows near Blanco, the ocean around Fiji, Barton Springs right here in Austin, a place called Half Moon Cay off the coast of Belize, a spring-fed pool on Independence Creek in West Texas, and about a dozen other places, so I guess I actually can’t pick just five.)
In all, more than 1,100 athletes competed in this year’s race, which is staged in four groups, based on cumulative age and spaced 10 minutes apart. Our group started with the third wave. Our lead swimmer (thanks David!) dashed off from shore in a group, while the rest of us waited on a support boat, trying to pick him out. We spotted him about 15 minutes in – or he spotted us, since we hung balloons, gold fringe and an American flag on the side of our rental craft to make it stand out.
Most of the team boats were decked out in balloons, ribbons and other accoutrements, including inflatable flamingos, pirate flags and a giant yellow rubber duck. One boat had its own slide, so swimmers could gracefully glide into the lake to make their relay exchanges.
It took us 4 hours and 52 minutes to chug our way across the lake. I lucked out and drew the last leg, which meant I got to tag the big buoy marker off the beach and swim in to shore, where lots of families and friends lined the dock to watch.
It costs $750 per team to enter the Lake Tahoe race. That’s a lot, but consider this – it’s divided among six people, and proceeds benefit Keep Tahoe Blue, a non-profit organization that works to protect water quality of the lake, and the parks departments in the villages where the race starts and finishes. Teams also need a support boat. We rented one from a marina near the race start.
That one’s too far to go? Consider racing in the Lake Travis Relay, set this year for Oct. 20. This year’s 10- to 12-mile race starts and finishes near Emerald Point. Entry fee is $360 (plus $15 per person for ASA membership); registration fees increase Sept. 17 and Sept. 30. Go here for more information.
Want to watch this year’s Tour de France with other cycling fans?
Juan Pelota Café, tucked inside Mellow Johnny’s, the downtown Austin cycling shop owned by ormer pro cyclist Lance Armstrong (who was stripped of his seven tour wins after a doping scandal), is showing into the race live every day.
Michael Jackson may be gone, but you can still try to duplicate his moves at a free dance class Thursday night.
Ballet Austin and the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness present the Michael Jackson’s BAD class, which will take place on the Dell Hall Stage at the Long Center, 701 West Riverside Drive. Doors open at 7 p.m., instruction begins at 7:30 p.m., and the dancing continues until 8:45 p.m.