Too broke for a trainer? Try these free classes by Dancers Shape

Dancers Shape will host a free four-week fitness series. Photo courtesy Dancers Shape

 

I say it all the time: You don’t have to pay a lot of money to get in shape.

Every Monday for the next four weeks, Dancers Shape will offer free outdoor workouts at Bee Cave Central Park,

13742 Bee Cave Parkway in Bee Cave.

The free four-week fitness series, Pilates in the Park, starts with a mat class at 9:30 a.m. April 30 and continues at the second time the next three Mondays.

The classes will take place at 9:30 a.m. Mondays at Bee Cave Central Park. Photo courtesy Dancers Shape

The one hour, full body classes will combine traditional elements of pilates, yoga and barre into a quick-paced flow on the mat, according to a press release. The classes will focus on functional movement to build core strength. Bring your own mat, water and full length towel. The group will meet under the pavilion at the park.

The park is next door to the new Dancers Shape studio at Hill Country Indoor. For more information go here.

The free series focuses on core strength. Photo courtesy Dancers Shape

Considering paddling the remote Pecos River? Check out our photos

Collis Williams takes a dip in the rapids at Painted Canyon, during a five-day paddle trip on the Pecos River last week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

 

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve fallen in love with paddling.

In the last year I’ve explored waterways all over the state by canoe and kayak, from the Llano to the Pedernales, the San Marcos to the Colorado, and the Devils to Medina Creek.

Colton Moore fills his water bottle at a spring in a canyon along the Pecos River. We had landowner permission to visit the site. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

RELATED: Dip a paddle in these five Texas waterways

Last week I added the remote Pecos River to the list. I’ll be writing about my five-day adventure down the stretch of river between Pandale and Comstock in an upcoming article, but first I wanted to share some pictures I took along the way.

RELATED: The Devil made me do it

The group enjoys sunset along the Pecos River last week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Our group of five camped along the riverbank, fished for bass, shot small rapids, explored a natural spring and visited an emerald green pool inside a magical amphitheater created by Mother Nature (all with landowner permission) as we eased down the river.

Gearing up after a night of camping along the Pecos River. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Water flow was low, and we had to pull our boats over a stretch of bony fingers of rock called The Flutes, a cold front turned out last 10 miles into a blue-lipped, freezer fest of a day, and, yes, my legs were dappled with tiny black leeches at one point, but it was good.

Really good.

This pool of water is tucked in a canyon along the Pecos River. We had the landowner’s permission to visit. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

 

To whet your appetite for more, I’ve attached some of my favorite pictures here. Look for a story in the Travel section of the Austin American-Statesman in the next few weeks.

We encountered a small herd of horses on Day 3 of our trip on the Pecos River. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Houston Dobbins tows his kayak – and his dog Oso – over a stretch of shallow water known as The Flutes. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Colleen Gilbreath relaxes at the side of the river during our five-day paddle trip on the Pecos River last week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Collis Williams draws water to filter from the Pecos River. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Colleen Gilbreath and Colton Moore snuggle in a hammock along the Pecos River during last week’s paddle trip. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
The sun sets on night two of our paddle trip along the Pecos River last week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

What’s the most dangerous stretch of road for bicyclists in Austin?

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Anyone who has ridden a bicycle around Austin on a regular basis knows the feeling of a near miss.

In my 15 or so years of pedaling to work, I’ve come close to getting hit by a car several times. I’ve also been yelled at, spit on and flipped off, but that’s another story. I still love to bike to work, and it helps keep me fit and happy – two things I don’t get from getting stuck in traffic when I drive my car down MoPac Boulevard.

Andrew McKenna rides his bicycle on Guadalupe Street in January 2018. (Stephen Spillman /for American-Statesman)

A law firm based in Chicago recently compiled statistics on the most dangerous stretches or urban roads for cyclists. In Austin, Guadalupe Street between West Cesar Chavez Street and North Lamar Boulevard ranked as the most dangerous roadway.

The list was based on bike collisions, injuries and fatalities, and is based on somewhat stale information – data circa 2015 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for cities with populations of 500,000 or more. It also considered hazards like narrow shoulders and roads without bike lanes.

Still, it’s worth a look. Nearly half a million bicyclists are injured or killed on American roads every year, according to the study.

Albuquerque recorded the most cyclist fatalities, with 8.94 deaths per million people, followed by Tucson, with 7.52 per million. Dallas and Indianapolis had the lowest rates – 0.77 per million people and 1.17 fatalities per million. (But perhaps that’s because fewer people in Dallas ride bikes? No context in this study.)

Austin comes in 20th, with 2.15 fatalities per million. And remember, this is for a few years ago. Here’s a complete list:

Fatality Rate per 1 million

  1. Albuquerque 8.94
  2. Tucson 7.52
  3. Las Vegas 6.41
  4. Phoenix 5.12
  5. San Jose 4.87
  6. Columbus 4.71
  7. San Francisco 4.63
  8. Memphis 4.57
  9. Philadelphia 4.47
  10. Los Angeles 4.03
  11. Jacksonville 3.46
  12. Louisville 3.25
  13. Portland 3.16
  14. Denver 2.93
  15. San Antonio 2.72
  16. Chicago 2.57
  17. Charlotte 2.42
  18. Houston 2.18
  19. San Diego 2.15
  20. Austin 2.15
  21. Fresno 1.92
  22. Milwaukee 1.67
  23. Baltimore 1.61
  24. New York 1.52
  25. Washington 1.49
  26. Detroit 1.48
  27. Seattle 1.46
  28. Fort Worth 1.2
  29. Indianapolis 1.17
  30. Dallas 0.77
  31. Oklahoma City 0
  32. Nashville 0
  33. El Paso 0
  34. Boston 0

To see the most dangerous stretches of roadway in cities across America, go here.

At Urban Axes, celebrate Four-Twenty with hatchets and beer (but no pot)

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To mark what’s becoming, for some, the newest national holiday, Urban Axes will host a Four-Twenty Party.

No, pot will not be provided. And, in case you’ve been buried in a hole for the last century, marijuana is illegal.

Still, participants will get to fling axes and drink beer at the event, scheduled from 5-8 p.m. April 20.

Jon Crowley prepares a throw during Sunday night league at Austin’s Urban Axes. Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

RELATED: Want to run naked? Head to Star Ranch for Bare Buns 5K this weekend

Cost is $20 and includes admission to a one-hour axe throwing session, plus beer from Victory Brewing Company. For more information, go to https://urbanaxes.com/austin/fourtwenty.

That 4-20 terminology? It apparently comes from five California high school students who met at a certain spot on campus at 4:20 p.m. every day to smoke weed. They used the term “420” as code for marijuana.

Urban Axes is located at 812 Airport Boulevard.

A league competitor takes aim during a warm-up session on Sunday January 21, 2018. Austin’s Urban Axes offers corporate events, walk-ins, and weekly axe throwing leagues. Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bike, paddle, climb and more at REI Fit City Campout

Participants in last year’s annual REI campout ride mountain bikes. This year, REI is teaming with the Lower Colorado River Authority and Fit City to put on the Fit City Campout on April 28-29. Photo courtesy REI

I prefer a sleeping bag in a tent to high threadcount sheets at a fancy hotel, especially when I can roll out of that tent the next morning, jump into a river or go for a run. And eat a yummy breakfast.

RELATED: Cap10K to hand out medals in 2018

That’s all on tap at the upcoming Fit City Campout, set for April 28-29 in Johnson City.

Fit City is partnering with REI and the Lower Colorado River Authority to put on the campout at Pedernales River Nature Park in Johnson City, a 220-acre piece of Hill Country heaven about an hour’s drive northwest of Austin.

We’re planning an entire day of fun, outdoorsy stuff (my fave!), from guided mountain bike rides, kayaking, rafting, standup paddleboarding and rock climbing to fishing, hiking and swimming. We’ll have star gazing Saturday night, and I’m going to lead a (non-competitive) 5K trail run Sunday morning, too.

RELATED: Fit City declares her Year of Adventure

Lots of local companies are getting involved, including Kammok, which will set up a hammock lounge in the trees near the river, and PackIt Gourmet, which will serve up some of its backpacker’s breakfasts on Sunday morning. Subaru is providing dinner on Saturday, and we’ll have live music and s’mores around the campfire, too.

The family friendly REI Fit City campout is set for April 28-29 at Pedernales River Nature Park in Johnson City. Photo courtesy REI

Never camped before? Not a problem. The event is designed to help you get comfortable pitching a tent, setting up camp and diving into some cool outdoor activities. My motto has long been “get your hair wet,” and by that I mean don’t sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else have fun. This is your time to have fun, too.

Gear for the activities will be provided; participants must bring their own tents, coolers and camping supplies, including sleeping bags, pads and pillows.

REI traditionally hosts a campout each spring. This marks the first time the Austin store has partnered with other companies to put it on.

“The primary goal has always been to give multi-faceted time outdoors and a good introduction to camping confidently, even for people who have not had previous experience,” says Ivey Kaiser, outdoor programs and outreach market coordinator at REI in Austin.

Pedernales River Nature Park is one of more than 40 parks that LCRA operates along more than 600 miles of the Colorado River between the Hill Country and Matagorda Bay.

“This is a rare chance to spend the night in a park that is normally open for day visitors only,” says Drew Pickle, manager of business and product development at LCRA. “I’m looking forward to paddling, campfire cooking, and listening to some live music at the campout with other folks who enjoy being in the outdoors.”

The campout kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday April 28 and finishes at 10 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $79 per REI member ($89 for non-members). Kids 6 and under are free. Registration includes all activities, plus dinner provided by Subaru on Saturday and breakfast from PackIt Gourmet on Sunday. Sign up here.

“It is going to be a beautiful setting next to the Pedernales River, with lots of options for activities and relaxation as well. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with family or have some downtime in a pristine Hill Country environment,” Kaiser said.

Can you swim today? Check website for status of Barton Creek Greenbelt swimming holes

The water is less than 2 feet deep at Gus Fruh Pool this week. Photo by Addie Broyles/American-Statesman

Thinking about heading to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, but unsure if recent rains have filled your favorite swimming hole?

A website created by a former University of Texas student provides current water depth and flow rate information for eight popular natural pools along the creek, where people flock each summer to cool their heels.

The webpage gives information about water depth and water flow rates for eight popular spots on the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

“People like that it’s a quick way to check if there’s enough water to swim,” says Serena Nguyen, who created the Greenbeltnow.com website as a final project for a coding bootcamp she took at the University of Texas.

Nguyen loves to hang out with friends on the Greenbelt, and came up with the project idea after hiking there one day, only to find out her favorite swim spot had gone dry.

Greenbeltnow.com pulls data from the U.S. Geological Survey website, which is updated automatically every few minutes. You can check the status of eight popular swimming spots, including Gus Fruh, Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls.

Because the pools are irregularly shaped and there is not a USGS measuring station at each location, the measurements may not be exact. Still, they give hikers a general idea of swimming conditions.

The website, which went live in June 2017, also gives the temperature and current weather conditions.

A recent check showed that the water is 1.67 feet deep at Gus Fruh Pool on the Greenbelt, and flow is 1.84 cubic feet per second, less than ideal swimming conditions.

The website does more than let you know how your favorite swimming holes are faring.

It got Nguyen, 24, a job. Thanks to the bootcamp project, she now works as a web developer for Mutual Mobile, a downtown tech agency.

Pool at Bastrop State Park closes for major renovation

The pool at Bastrop State Park has closed for a major renovation. Photo courtesy Bastrop State Park

 

Don’t expect to dip a toe in the swimming pool at Bastrop State Park this summer.

The pool, which opened in 1937 and was last renovated 20 years ago, has closed for a major renovation and will remain shuttered all summer.

In recent seasons, officials had to make temporary fixes to leaks and broken mechanical equipment at the pool. Officials say a major remodel was needed to keep the facility operating. Crews will resurface all three sections of the pool and install new plumbing, pumps, filters and chemical systems.

SITE: Five refreshing swimming holes that aren’t Barton Creek

“We came to a point where a significant project had to be undertaken to keep the facility in operation,” Jamie Creacy, superintendent of Bastrop State Park, said in a press release. “We look forward to having swimmers back in an efficient and modernized pool facility that the community will be proud of.”

Teens take a dive in the pool at Bastrop State Park at the monthly Splash Bash on June 16, 2016. CONTRIBUTED

The rest of the park will be open as usual.

The Bastrop YMCA has managed the pool for the past six seasons, offering swim lessons, summer day camps and community events. With the pool closure, Bastrop YMCA members will get free day-use entry to Bastrop State Park from Memorial Day to Labor Day; free entry to all YMCA of Austin facilities and pools during that same time period; free entry into the East Metro park pool in Manor; and swim lessons at the Cub Scout Pool at the Lost Pines Boy Scout Camp during the month of July, according to a press release.

The Bastrop YMCA will also offer youth, family and health and wellness classes, including summer camp at Bastrop Church of Christ for children ages 5-12 and summer youth sports leagues in July and August. The club will also unveil a new Aire Fitness outdoor gym at Fisherman’s Park, with outdoor fitness classes that are free for YMCA members and available to the community for a per class fee.

“We understand the challenge of not having access to a pool during the summer, but we’re committed to providing Bastrop County residents a variety of fun, healthy and engaging experiences that will keep them active while still helping to beat the heat,” said Terry Moore, executive director of the Bastrop YMCA.

The best way to celebrate spring? Run the Cap10K, of course!

Bobbi Jo Chapman runs in a Rubix cube in the 40th Annual Austin American-Statesman Capitol 10,000 in 2017.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Have you registered for this year’s Statesman Cap10K?

On April 8, the largest 10K in Texas will snake up Congress Avenue, head west toward the big hill on Enfield Road, swing south near MoPac, then fold back along East Cesar Chavez Street.

If you’ve done it before, you know it’s much more than a run – it’s a rolling party. Costumes are encouraged, fans cheer on family and friends, and somebody along the route always tries to tempt participants by shoving a tray of doughnuts or bacon under their noses as they stream past.

Samuel Sydney, left and Sanjuanita Zavala race to the end of the race in the 40th Annual Austin American-Statesman in 2017.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As of Monday, roughly 20,000 people had registered for this year’s run. That’s about 1,000 people ahead of registration at this time last year. Race organizers hope to top off at 22,000.

The finish line festival will feature the circus-themed party band Electric Circus, followed by The Matt Wilson Band, which plays soul, R&B, rock, blues, funk and gospel.

Chavelo Jimenez Jr celebrates as he crosses the finish line of the 2017 Statesman Capitol 10,000.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The first Cap10K took place on March 12, 1978. Eight hundred runners were expected; 3,400 registered.

The crowd grew steadily in subsequent years. At its largest, 28,341 people registered for the run on March 29, 1987. Anyone who ran that year certainly remembers it: Temperatures hovered around 33 degrees and sleet fell.

Today the race ranks as the seventh largest 10K in the country.

Thinking of joining the fun? Registration is $50 for adults or $35 for ages 10 and under. (Prices increase next Tuesday). To register, go here.

Jacob Burzynski as Spiderman pose for a photo in the 2017 Statesman Capitol 10,000.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin girl aims to become youngest to climb Kilimanjaro

Montannah Kenney of Austin hopes to become the youngest girl to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this month. Photo by Georges Schemagin

 

An Austin 7-year-old is angling to become the youngest girl to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

Montannah Kenney, a second-grader at River Ridge Elementary School, has been hiking up and down hills around Austin in preparation for her trek, which is set to begin March 10. If all goes as planned, she’ll reach the top of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world on March 17 or 18.

The two are heading to Tanzania in memory of Montannah’s dad, who died a week after Montannah’s third birthday in 2013.

Montannah will begin her trek on March 10 and hopes to summit on March 17 or 18. Photo by Georges Schemagin

“The higher I go, the closer I am to him in heaven,” Montannah says.

Don’t worry, she’s pretty tough. A triathlete, swimmer and runner who plays basketball and soccer, she’s always followed the lead of her mother, Hollie Kenney, 45, a former professional triathlete who now runs a swim coaching business and leads the volunteer program for Team Beef. Together, they have been hiking the Hill of Life and Riverplace to strengthen their legs for their adventure.

Montannah describes her training as “really long.”

“Sometimes my friends come with us and sometimes my mom makes me do math problems when we see signs of how far we have gone, and how far we have to go,” Montannah says.

Montannah Kenney

An estimated 25,000 people set out to climb the 19,341-foot mountain each year; about two-thirds make it to the top. Park rules require that climbers be 10 years old, but officials also issue special permits for younger climbers, which Montannah has obtained.

Currently, Roxy Getter of Florida, who was 8 when she made the climb, holds the record for the youngest female; Keats Boyd of Los Angeles was 7 when he climbed. The oldest climber to date was 88 when he slogged his way up. (You can check all the records, including records for the fastest ascent and descent, here.)

Conditions vary along the route, but the Kenneys will probably face temperature extremes from 90 degrees down to well below freezing – and winds like freight trains. They say they are prepared for very non-Texas conditions of snow or sleet.

“I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because it would be a fun adventure with my mom, and because it would be really cool to try to break the world record, but I would want to climb it anyway because I don’t care if I break it,” Montannah says.

If she is successful, it will mark her first world record.

It will also mark the first time she’s ever camped.

Austin runner shatters personal record, hopes to encourage others with Down Syndrome

Kayleigh Williamson dances at the finish line of the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

An Austin runner who in 2017 became the first woman with Down Syndrome to complete the Austin Half Marathon shaved an hour and 45 minutes off her finish time this year.

Kayleigh Williamson danced happily as she crossed the finish line of Sunday’s 13.1-mile race. Then she and her mother celebrated with a burger and fries.

“She did amazing. It’s hard for me to put it into words,” said Sandy Williamson, Kayleigh’s mother.

Kayleigh Williamson runs up the hill on Enfield Drive during the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

Last year, Kayleigh struggled, walking slowly up the daunting hill on Enfield Drive. This year, when she approached the same spot, she looked at her mother with a worry in her eyes. Sandy Williamson reassured her daughter, and together they ran most of the way up the steep slope.

“The whole way I let her know it was her race and she determined what that race was. It had to be her, and it was,” Sandy Williamson said.

Race organizers kept the finish line open for Kayleigh, and volunteers manning water stops cheered her and chanted her name along the way.

“It empowered her,” Sandy Williamson said.

Kayleigh Williamson shaved an hour and 45 minutes off her finish time at the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

Kayleigh had hoped to finish the race in less than 6 hours. She blew that goal away, with a finish time of 4 hours and 36 minutes. She has said that she wants to encourage others with Down Syndrome to run and get fit.

RELATED: Down Syndrome won’t stop this runner from finishing half marathon

She was more fit this time around, said her coach, Kim Davis, founder of RunLab, which analyzes gaits and treats running-related injuries.

Kayleigh Williamson hugs her coach, Kim Davis, during the Austin Half Marathon. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

“She looked so happy when we saw her at Mile 7,” Davis said. “Last year she was crying.”

Williamson began training at RunLab in July 2016. Her success should stand as an example for others with developmental delays, Davis said.

“I think if you get out there and work on the same thing that every other runner works on – endurance and biomechanics – they can run too. That’s the big message from my end. They have to work on all the same things the rest of us work on, and as long as someone is there to help them through it, they can do it to,” Davis said.

Kayleigh Williamson, left, and her mother Sandy, right, celebrate at the finish of the Austin Half Marathon in 2018. Photo courtesy Sandy Williamson

Already, Kayleigh has a goal for next year – to finish in less than 4 hours. Plus, she plans to run all the races in the Austin Distance Challenge.

Twenty-two runners, including Kayleigh, were part of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas team, which raised more than $25,000 to support programming for individuals with Down syndrome and their families in Central Texas.

Two other members of Kayleigh’s Club, a group of athletes with special needs, finished the half marathon as well – Bonnie Bratton and Melissa Grice.