Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

More Bike action, Barton Springs Road and Zilker Park

I guess “asleep at the wheel” isn’t funny when discussing cycling and the roads. I seem to have been so busy lately a number of events have passed me by though.

Barton Springs Rd Bike Lanes
One major one is the start of the construction of the new bike lanes on Barton Springs Road, that will run up and under Loop-1 aka Mopac(by the way, why are they called loops when they clearly don’t?) and through Zilker Park.

Work started on June 30th and will progress east to west with rolling road closures, the project is supposed to complete in time for folks to cycle safely to the trail of lights. There will also be walkways set back from the road for pedestrians.

Lance Armstrong bikeway
Also, its worth noting the first part of the Lance Armstrong bikeway between Lamar Blvd and Veterans Blvd is now open. Theres still a gap at the bridge before Mopac and Shoal Creek isnt connected up yet, but this is all goodness and the various folks involved should be congratulated. More details on each of these can be found on the city’s website bicycle section.

Michael Argall
Finally I’d like to take a moment to remember Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Argall. Michael was killed Sunday while out cycling. I never met Micahel, but he sounds like a great guy. The policelink website has an in-depth retrospective and I know he was a coach here in town for Rogue running, and lots of people will be deeply saddened both by his passing and the nature of it, not least his family.

Paula Craig was a promising age group triathlete in my club, training for the triathlon world championships in 2001, that I’d also qualified for. Just like Michael, Paula was a Police officer with a promising future. Paula was also struck from behind by a car driver who was “blinded by the sun”. Unlike Michael, Paula survived and although paralyzed from the waist down, went on to become a national role model for wheel chair athletes.

Next time the sun is directly in your eyes while driving, or worse still, you are overcome by sudden tiredness please take care, its not just you out there. Slow down, take the appropriate action, carefully watching out for ALL other road users.

I’d like to extend the sympathy’s of myself and the other Austin metroblog writers to the family of Michael Argall. He is mourned and will be missed by people who never met him, a great tribute for a great guy.

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!

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?

Barton Springs Relief

When I last passed by Barton Springs Pool, I also checked out Eliza Springs, the Researchers at Eliza Springscool amphitheater-type pool next to the playscape, to see if there were any alligators in it.  I don’t know if I really ever saw an alligator living there or if it’s just one of those thing I remember because I was told as a kid and believed it… but the sign at Eliza says that no alligators live there.  Much to my surprise, there was a lot of activity in the pool.  People were acting as much like alligators as they could, except instead of trying to eat the salamanders that live there, which are protected species, they were simply “researching” them. 

As you hopefully know, the water at Barton Springs and the adjacent springs comes from the highly porous Edwards Aquifer.  Anything that gets dumped over the ground – motor oil, fertilizer for grass, diazonon to kill ants – eventually makes its way into the aquifer and then to the Springs and some people’s drinking water.

You may have read my post earlier this week about Oak Hill’s neighborhood plan.  Well, what happens in Oak Hill and Southwest Austin affects the treasure that is the aquifer and Barton Springs.  And now, dear citizens, you have an opportunity to comment on the plans for that area, without leaving the comfort of your desk.  Nope, no all-night council meeting required (yet).  Just go to the city’s survey about the Oak Hill plan and fill it out. You know the friends of developers will.

Then, to reward yourself for your participation, go on down to Barton Springs this Saturday for Free Swim Day (according to an email newsletter from the Save Our Springs Alliance, whose web site seems to be hosed at the moment)!

Bathroom Alcohol Warnings – Intended Audience?

1622269945_6554cb45fc_m.jpgI noticed a sign a week or two ago in the men’s restroom at the GingerMan. I thought it was a bit odd, but went about my business (heh, heh). Then last night, I was at a demo at the Hyatt downtown and stopped in a restroom off of the lobby where I encountered a similar sign. I was the only one in there, so I decided to risk looking like a perv and pulled out the camphone to get a shot of the sign…the perils of a citizen journalist.

According to the surgeon general, women should not drink alcoholic beverages, including distilled spirits, beer, coolers, and wine during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

Is this some crazy new law? Are they in women’s restrooms as well? Are they only in bars (or near them anyway, I suppose this one was near the hotel lobby bar)? Is Warren Chisum somehow involved? Why the hell are there warnings targeted at pregnant women and alcohol in the one place where there shouldn’t be any pregnant women with alcohol: a men’s restroom urinal?

Pure Austin Spin

My idea of a perfect lazy Sunday is a breakfast of strawberries and champagne in bed followed by a brunch of eggs benedict and mimosas at Chez Fred. As luck would have it, my Sunday morning Austin hot spot disappeared about the same time my doctor advised me to cut the cholesterol.

In contrast, AJ’s views Sunday as the perfect day of the week to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and take a 25-mile bike ride up and down the hills of northwest Austin with a couple of buddies or a 10-mile run around Town Lake. Lately his work schedule has prevented him from indulging in either of his Sunday morning routines and since he’s training for his first triathlon he’s been taking spin classes at our gym, the locally-owned, AIBA member Pure Austin. He’s gotten hooked on spin and has been encouraging me to try it. I’ve always taken a dim view of spin classes because when you’re not participating the music and the instructor yelling over the music is really annoying. Yesterday my usual Sunday date weasled out on me at the last minute, so I didn’t have an excuse not to go to spin class with AJ.

AJ found us two bikes at the back of the class nearest the door in case I wanted to cut out early. I knew I wouldn’t bail. Once I begin something, I attack it with grim determination until I’m finished–emphasis on the grim.

I haven’t been on a bicycle in a year and during the warm-up my leg muscles shot pains of warning through my nervous system informing my brain that this was definitely not their idea of lazy Sunday. Brain wondered if I was in this much pain during warm-up, how was I going to make it through 45 minutes of class? However, the instructor quickly set such a pace that the pain in my legs disappeared and I found myself unable to think about anything–pain, fear, how much time was left in class. I think this is one of the great things about spin class. I truly was focused in the moment. In yoga class or on the elliptical machine my mind wanders–I’m always thinking about something else.

About 15 minutes into class I felt like I was going to throw up. Only my overriding desire not to humiliate myself kept me peddling. I tried to keep pace with the person in front of me. After a particularly intense set of hills, the instructor, Danielle, reminded us to check our form and not get sloppy just because we were tired. “And don’t slack off. Don’t cheat yourself. Remember your goals.” I turned to AJ and said, “The only goal I have is not to die during this class.”

And I survived! I actually felt really good all the rest of the afternoon. Rather than being worn out and exhausted, I was hyped. And, surprisingly, my legs aren’t sore this morning. My only sore spot is where my seat meets the saddle. I guess that will remind me not to spend too much time today sitting on my butt.

Now I’m Really a Runner

If you’d told me a year ago that I’d voluntarily drag my butt out of bed at 6:00 a.m. on a cold, wet Saturday to go running in the cold and wet and actually be happy about it, I would’ve told you you’re crazy. C to the RAZY, man. But that’s just what I did this morning. After training for almost 6 months with AustinFit for a half-marathon, I feel I can say I’m really a runner. I got up in the wee hours (or what I consider wee hours, anyway) to run (sometimes wade) 7 miles, making sure to get in my last long run before the 3M Half Marathon. And just a couple of weeks ago I completed my first-ever double-digit run (10 miles). And I enjoyed it. Me, former Expert Couch Potato. Weird, huh? But I really do dig this running thing now. Not only do I feel healthy and fit, but it reminds me of some of the reasons I love Austin. There’s nothing like running across Town Lake on a clear morning with a view of downtown. And Austin has so many awesome trails. And RunTex. And the mayor is encouraging us to do stuff like this. I don’t want to stop running now that I’ve started, so I’m looking for other races to train for, maybe the AT&T Austin Half-Marathon (my original goal) or the Capital 10,000. And then, of course, there’s triathlon season to look forward to. What ways do you enjoy getting (or being) fit in Austin?

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.