Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Bike racing downtown this w/e

No, it’s not an ROT do-over, the engines this time are human powered.

With the Tour de France about to start, the timing of this weekends 5th Annual AT&T Downtown Austin crit couldn’t have been better placed, unless that is you need to get around on the course.

Saturday afternoon and evening will see the roads around City Hall and the 2nd St District including The one-kilometer course will be laid out around City Hall, including Guadalupe, 2nd Street, Colorado, and 4th Street, closed completely, or partially while the races going on.

Crit racing is possibly the most interesting of cycle racing since it normally uses small circuits such as the one out in East Austin, everyone starts at the same time and the first person across the line wins. If only it were that simple though. Bicycle racing has as much to do with aerodynamics as it does with muscle, jump out of the pack at the right moment and you can get a 50yd lead. While Saturday afternoon and Sunday see the regular cyclists racing(aka the amatuers), Saturday evening from 7pm sees the pro’s race and there are some good teams, such as Rock Racing and Toyota United Racing, including international riders such as Ivan Dominguez from CUBA and Henk Vogels of Austria, as well as Sean Sullivan from Austrlia to give local team Hotel San Jose and the US domestic riders a hard time.

There is a PDF flyer here with an overview of the racing, and you can find a list of the pro teams here. I’ve considered having a go a couple of times, only I really don’t think my sprinting is up to it, besides I don’t want to be responsible for a crash.

So, feel free to go along. Unlike last nights Yoga at the Blanton, which I knew I shouldn’t have written about, as it was full when I got there, there will be plenty of room on the streets for more spectators!

Bend it, Stretch it – Yoga for free

I’m partial to a Yoga class, but not so dedicated that I’ll pay a regular membership, it’s tough fitting classes into the work, life, run, swim, bike and race schedule. I also enjoy a touch of the unusual. And here are two classes which address both.

Full Moon Yoga: Tonight sees the next in the Charles MacInerney Summer series of Yoga classes out at the scenic overlook at Ridge Oak Drive. Class starts at 7.30 tonight, and it’s a fun way to start a yoga following since it’s out in the open you won’t feel like everyones watching you and there is plenty of space. Charles leads the class in a somewhat relaxed way, you can make the positions as hard or easy as you want.

If you go, drive to the end of Ridge Oak Drive, I suggest a blanket or Yoga mat, arrive early, turn the car around since its a deadend and please be respectful of the residents and their driveways! Google maps here.

I can’t make tonights class, I’m doing one of the Summer Stampede runs.

Blanton Museum 3rd Thursday: When I discovered the class I decided to keep quiet about it, but couldn’t, it’s too good not to share. On the 3rd Thursday of the month the Blanton stays open until 9pm and entry is free. If that wasn’t good enough, up in the main gallery upstairs they host a free Yoga class.

The class is much more reverential, quiet and serious, but is still a good stretch. If you don’t have a yoga mat and are just starting, the instructor usually brings along a few. Class starts at 6.30pm. It’s probably one of the more unusual places for a class. Free parking is available opposite. Google maps here.

See you there!

S 1st Bridge crossing, Town Lake trail access – Redux

Since metroblogs isn’t a magazine or newspaper, we are not limited to publishing something and then forgetting about it ;-)

and so it was I got back from my trip, and the first thing I noticed was access to S 1st Street Bridge crossing on the west side was still closed. Also access to the trail from the north of the bridge was still suspended. I called City project Manager Rick Colbrunn, who promptly called me back and explained they are having problems “sourcing material” for the retaining walls, and the project probably won’t be complete until the end of July 2008.

So, unlike people wanting to access the trail, this one continues to, err, run! I’ve updated my original “But my training plan says to do loops!” post, and this one is for those who use the RSS feed.

You want to do what in the park?

I’m conflicted over this report in the Statesman about the City’s project to levy a business fee from personal trainers and businesses using the parks and trails for coaching, training etc. Thanks to @mizmizuno for the heads-up and for Sarah Coppola at the Statesman for the original story.

As a typical Type-A over-achiever, I can see the benefits of understanding who’s doing it, getting the data, licensing them, making sure they have insurance etc. But on the other hand it seems like such a “dumb” idea for a city who wants to be a leader in fitness.

I’m conflicted not for the fee, but for the bureaucracy and practicality that comes with this type of project. It’s really not the Austin way it would seem, and comes from the same sort of obsessive, compulsive minds that want to track and regulate every aspect of our lives from traffic and speed cameras, to registration and ID cards, to snooping into what goes on in your own property.

So assuming the fee isn’t the issue, although clearly it is for the trainers and businesses, how would you administer this? So the Yoga teacher who runs classes on the Pier at the new pond in the park west of the Palmer Events center has to pay the fee. The classes are three times a week, 5-9 people, completely quiet, non-intrusive.

Compare that to the big coached run groups who meet at RunTex and then set off around the trail. Are they being coached, are they not? Are they using the park, are they not? Do the pay the fee do they not ?

The easy answer is to have Parks inspectors, or park Police patrol around on Segways or bicycles, with digital cameras, with wifi uplinks, taking pictures of anyone who looks like they might be a group, might be being trained. Issue compliance notices for those who can’t show their license, and on a 2nd or 3rd offense, taking DNA samples and issuing prosecution orders or fines.

Sound ridiculous ? Check out this BBC report on London Parks Police and the fears about their powers and scope. See also this piece on Newham Parks Police, as well as many others.

Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, and it’s not about the money.

The parks should be open to all comers, only if they want to reserve or restrict the rights of normal users should businesses and trainers pay a fee. If the Yoga group doesn’t want me on the pier, or the RunTex run group object to me following along behind them, or with them, then they pay. I know from experience that neither is true!

Anything generally open to the public should be free.

Live and Let Live

Really, seriously.

I’ve been following the increasingly rancorous debate in the Austin Chronicle between the cyclists and the car drivers aka the motorists. It has from the start been very polarizing and has become increasingly aggressive as one side take offense at the other.

One thing’s sure, Austin is changing and there are loads of people that don’t like it. Buildings are getting bigger and taller, traffic is getting busier, the steets more cramped. Anywhere where people get “in your face” it causes friction. People in New York City are not a different species, yet they seem to have a hardened, more aggressive voice, nature and look, inside they are just people but they’ve had to adopt a certain attitude in order to survive the pressures of daily life.

And so it is here in Austin with the cyclists and motorists. I’ve been lucky enough to have cycled in many of the worlds biggest cities, London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Manchester, San Francisco, Melbourne as well as in Spain, Italy, Germany and more.

I bike to work from South Austin to up past Braker Lane a couple of times most weeks mostly on the most direct route up Lamar and Burnet. From time to time when I don’t have early meetings and have left my laptop at work, I do the whole length of 360 and some.

What I can tell you is that I’ve been really impressed with most motorists here in Austin. Mostly they do leave space, in town it is not uncommon to be cycling in the right lane and to have 25 out of 30 cars actually pass in the left lane. Would almost never happen anywhere else.

Yeah, you get the occasional driver who really doesn’t think through making their next right turn, overtakes and completely underestimates the 22-24MPH I’m going and cuts right in front of me, causing me to brake. Then there are the motorists not paying complete attention as they make a turn out of a parking lot and I am coming down the street, its hard to “stop on a dime on a bike”, the easiest way is to put a 2000lb steel object with 4-wheels in the way!

And yes, motorists and cyclists don’t adhere to the letter of the law. However, generally Austin is better than many. Rather than escalating letters blaming each other for our problems, lets try to understand that we both have “issues”, both are not perfect but things can get better.

I for one have realized that storming down the right gutter at a long line of cars waiting at a light, probably isn’t the smartest thing I could do. In other cities that might be acceptable, here in Austin though where most drivers will move into the left lane to overtake, it just frustrates the motorists as not only did I possibly pass dangerously, but now I’m making the line even longer forcing them to have to wait more. Mea Culpa, I’ll wait in the traffic from now on.

On the other hand, next time you are coming up on a right turn in your car, and there’s a cyclist between you and the turn, think about it. If you slow, wait for the cyclist to pass the entrance to the turn, at most it won’t even cost you a minute.

A pack of cyclists cycling together is often referred to as a “train”. When a train makes a crossing, you wouldn’t expect every carriage to stop in turn, the same for cyclists. Cycling in close proximity requires attention and a pack like behavior, while the law might require each cyclist to stop individually, in reality, it’s impractical and probably more dangerous, so cut us some slack when it’s our turn to go, please wait if there are more than one or two.

Equally, cyclists need to realize they are often the master of their own destiny, cycling in a cavalier or irresponsible manor will ultimately get payback. We need to take a sensible, consolatory perspective. Many drivers are increasingly finding Austin a difficult place to drive in, and increasingly expensive. Many can’t afford to make the changes that they want. Apart from a minority, nobody enjoys sitting in traffic on I35, Mopac or downtown to go a few miles, and watching the dollar bills get blown out of the tail pipe. Like it or not, cycling to work isn’t an option for most people, most days even me.

I for one applaud the cities efforts in raising awareness of a healthy lifestyle, including cycling. I appreciate their effort to provide an increasingly cycling focussed means of getting around. But equally motorists and cyclist need to focus on safe driving. As the city gets bigger and busier, we all need to do better and focus more, blaming each other for the problem gets us nowhere.

Collide by Howie Day is playing in the background, nothing more than a coincidence I hope.

Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
I somehow find
You and I collide

Something for the weekend Sir? CapTex Triathlon

After last years rain washed out Capital of Texas (CapTex) Triathlon, this year the race is back on Sunday, with a rain date of Monday.

As of of lunchtime today the organizers were still accepting registration for the Olympic distance, Sprint and My First Tri distance races. For the Sprint and My First tri distances, anyone who has swum in open water, biked and run the distances already this year should be able to complete the race on Sunday, why not ??

As for the Olympic distance, it will be interesting indeed to see how the new course works out. The swim will be a single big loop in Lady Bird Lake, and then out for 4-laps up Congress, around the back of the Capital building, back down Congress and a long loop out on Chavez to the High School and back.

In 2006 there were over 2000 total competitors, although many of the early starters, including the pro’s and elites, and the older guys(yes, me) will be on the run and finished before the Sprint and First tri events hit the water, the bike section, especially west on Chavez and down Congress should be the scene of some fast and furious bike racing.

Remembering that in triathlon there is no cycling in packs, riders can’t be within 3-bike lengths of each other, they either pass or drop back. With 4-laps to do the fast will be mixing with the slow, the young with the old, a recipe for fun racing!

PARKING: I was delighted to see the map and instructions both advise that parking fees were charged at all city lots AND that there is “NO” parking(their emphasis) in the Bouldin Creek and Zilker neighborhoods and the maps contains clear no parking symbols in the neighborhood areas. With all the hassle over parking at the Long Center recently, often overlooked are the Nieghborhoods who have almost continual road closures and event parking hassles to deal with every weekend. If you are attending the race either as a competitor or to come watch the bike race, please park considerately, use the official lots, or better still bring your bike, walk, jog, or take a bus.

The best place to watch the race, will either be around the transition area at Aditorium Shores, or I’d go on the Town Lake Footbridge, you can go from the middle for the swim, to the north end for the bike, down to the south end for the run!

BRIDGE AND ROAD CLOSURES: As discussed, the Bike course has changed this year, S 1st and Congress bridges will be closed from early Sunday I’d guess until around lunchtime.

The run and bike routes are a good compromise. The road closures are minimized to Riverside, Lee Barton Dr for the run, and to Chavez and Congress for the bike, hopefully you won’t be too inconvenienced.

My race starts at 7.03am after the Pro’s and I plan to be finished by 9:30. The last swimmers start in Lady Bird Lake at 9:27am.

[Insert name here] Come on down and no jokes about people wearing spandex on the bus!

Exercise for free – My top 5

I ran down the trail the other day, along the north side to the Mopac bridge, while taking a brief rest before setting off back on the south side, I saw something that reminded me what a great free resource the trail is and started me thinking about other cool free exercise related things here in Austin. These are mine, got any others ? Post a comment.

1. RunTex Water Barrels. This was got me thinking. While sat there getting my breath back, a woman in a skirt sports running skirt and yellow v-neck cotton top, ran in, stopped, took a drink from the RunTex supplied and supported water barrels. Next up she refilled the small paper cup, pulled her top forward and pured the water down. How great is RunTex for providing, stocking and filling the water butts at both end of the trail!

2. Austin Tri Cyclist Saturday rides. No mater how fast I think I’m cycling, showing up for the ride on Saturday morning shows me I’m not. Bang on 8.30am out comes owner Don, gets on his bike waits for a clearing in the traffic and the ride starts, often some 30-riders, sometimes less, sometimes more. I rarely survive with the main pack onto South West Parkway and even when I do I get dropped before Highway 71. Whats the point ? Well if you don’t try, you’ll never improve. The ride is about 32-miles, goes to the corner of 71 and Bee Caves, back along the winding hills of Bee Caves Rd, onto 360 and back through Zilker to the shop, where Don provides Tacos and Coffee. If you get dropped before Bee Caves, don’t give up, a small group often meet up at the cleaners on the corner to finish the ride together.

3. Early Morning Barton Springs Swim. Arrive by 6:45am and you can get a full hour swim for free, any day. I don’t get the wetsuits, I’m sure the triathletes will reason that they need them for race prep, or other excuse, but you really can’t beat the feel of the cool water sliding across your back as you glide through the water. The Life Guards clear the pool at 8am and you need to pay the $3 fee if you want to stay!

4. Blanton 3rd Thursday Yoga. On the 3rd Thursday of the month you can go visit the Blanton, it’s free. Take your Yoga gear and you can go do an hour of Yoga in the main gallery, stay on for the book club, or just walk around the galleries.

5. Full moon Yoga. If you are inspired and reading today Monday 19th, tonight is the next of Charles MacInerney Full Moon Yoga sessions. Show up tonight by 7.30pm with a mat or a blanket and stretch through Charles relaxed and somewhat informal Yoga instruction, when the class is over, sit and watch as the Sun goes down and the Moon comes up. I’d recommend taking a top to keep warm afterwards as well.

So, those are my current top-5, got any to add, am I missing something important?

Yes, Bike to work on Friday!

“I owe the city birthday cake, and thank you cards are due”(1)

It’s been nearly 18-months since I moved to Austin, and many things are making it seem like home, places, faces, events and more. Some events are more memorable than others, good and bad.

One of the surprise things I did last year, and will be repeating this year, is bike to work day. Last year I headed from South Austin up north to work. I do this often, but only in the quickest, shortest, most direct route, it’s an 25-mile round-trip and not particularly memorable if you discount racing the buses, and sometime breakdowns, getting caught in a true Texas downpour,and the occasional car drivers’ abusive hand signals. Mostly though, I’d say the car drivers here are better than most other cities I’ve cycled in!

Bike to work day last year was much more fun than the normal ride to work! I rode the shoulder on 360, up Great Hills Trail to Jollyville Rd and finally coming to rest at Bucks Bikes. Donuts and a quick chat with some other bike to workers including one of Austins tireless(no pun intended) Volunteers @anetmarie, and I was off to work.

This year there is an even longer list of places providing a “free” breakfast for cyclists and the weather is looking good. I’m going to venture a bit further, in fact all the way up to Music City Cycles on W Parmer, where this year @anetmarie is a co-host.

In fact, checking the current list of breakfast stops, if I plan my route carefully, I could end up in a calorie surplus, there goes the waist line!

Bike to work day is part of Bike Month, the Austin Cycling Association usually have a calendar online, but as of writing it’s gone AWOL. Hopefully it will be back in shape soon. In the meantime, the current list of breakfast stations includes the following and official hours are 7-9am:

•Whole Foods, Sixth & Lamar
•City Hall Plaza, 301 W. Second (sponsored by city of Austin employees)
•Texas One Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd. (also sponsored by city of Austin employees)
•Texas Bicycle Coalition, 1902 E. Sixth
•Mellow Johnny’s, Fourth & Nueces
•Wheatsville Co-op, 3101 Guadalupe
•Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar
•Shoal Creek Boulevard at the Far West Bridge
•Music City Cycles, 6301 W. Parmer #504
•Jo’s Coffee, 1300 S. Congress
•Freewheeling Bicycles, 24th & San Gabriel

If you see a big guy cycling on 360 on Friday with a bag over-flowing with donuts, that will be me, make a wide pass please!

(1) Lyrics (c) Steven O’Reilly, Tammany Hall NYC, Ceilings in the sky.

Cycle month starts Friday

One thing I learned last year is that May is a big month for cycling in and around Austin, this year won’t be any different.

Events start out on Friday with the Civic Bicycle Cruise/Political Pedal. Meet up at Meet at City Hall Plaza, 4.45pm. for the 5pm to 6pm ride, this isn’t just for just dedicated road bikers, anyone with two or even three wheels, fat tire, mountain bike, or a commuter bike should come along. It’s a chance to join your elected officials and community leaders in this convergence of politics and the joy of cycling!

Plan on staying downtown after the ride for the Bicyclists’ Happy Hour – from 6:00pm – 7:30pm at The Rio Grande Restaurant, 301 San Jacinto Blvd. (on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway no less). Snacks, drinks and meeting of minds! I’m told there will be valet bike parking available, something I for one have never seen before and live Austin music by Jim Keaveny and Shand Walton. The Happy hour is put together by the Austin Cycling Association, the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant and the Rio Grande cycling team along with sponsors Bicycle Sport Shop, the Austin Yellow Bike Project, the Texas Bicycle Coalition, the League of Bicycling Voters and REI.

For some of us, Friday is a warm-up for Saturdays Austin to Shiner GASP ride. The 2008 edition celebrates the Spoetzl Brewery’s 99th anniversary and for those volunteering or riding the 90-miles from Austin to Shiner, there will be a party with BQ dinner with brisket, sausage, vegetarian options, Live Texas Country Music as well as Miles From Nowhere, Eric Middleton, as well other bands. One of the big attractions is the FREE Shiner Beer. Makes cycling sound fun doesn’t it ;-)

I’ve no idea what effect Shiner beer is going to have on me after cycling 90-miles, but either way I guess I’ll end up “legless”. Fortunately @cruisergirl has agreed to give me and my trusty aluminum steed a ride back to Austin. If you are riding, do yourself a favor and do packet picket either Thursday or Friday at Jack and Adams on Barton Springs, then Saturday morning you’ll be ready to ride. If you want to ride and raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, registration is still open, you can even register on the morning of the ride. You’ll need to figure out how to get back though.

For other Bike Month activities, the Austin Cycling Association has an excellent online calendar. If you spot someone walking around like John Wayne, that will be me, not that I becoming localized, but 6-hours on a bike saddle… as John Wayne famously said “It’s such an adrenaline rush. It’s America’s most extreme sport.”

But my training plan says to do loops!

The city remains concerned about people ignoring, moving, climbing over and in other ways avoiding the barriers put up on the South 1st bridge over Town Lake. This is especially true at the North End, where the work is being done on Caezar Chavez and a new ramp from the bridge down to the trail is being built. The April 4th project managers report spells this out, and it’s mentioned in others. The reports are here.

The city hopes that the problem will ease with the opening of the trail again between Shoal Creek and Congress on the north side. However, my bet is the problem will continue. The problem is many people like the shorts loops between South 1st and Lamar footbridge, it’s a social distance for a walk, and it’s a good fast-run distance for beginners and there’s no access to the trail from the north east side. Either way what that means is there is no way to do loops without crossing the street, unless you step-it-up and go Lamar to Mopac.

While the works continue, I’ve seen some folks doing incredibly stupid things. Thursday last week I saw a guy running in the traffic lane on the west side of the bridge around 6.45pm, that was mad enough, but he was wearing a headset – No idea if cars were coming right behind him, and angering drivers who had to pull out. Then there are the bemused ones, having found themselves on the road at the north west corner of the bridge, then can’t work out what to do next. Like a Dear caught in headlights they make a last minute decision and run for it.

I spoke to the city project major Rick Colbrunn, he says it will be another 4-6 weeks before the new ramp with access to the trail is ready. Be careful out there…

[Update 12th June] Given the work was supposed to be finished at the end of May, then June 10th, I spoke to Rick today and asked “hows it going?” – Rick said they are having problems “sourcing material” for the retaining walls, and the project probably won’t be complete until the end of July 2008.

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