Tag Archives: Sports

Lady Bird Lake the Social Hub for Austin Runners

I originally wrote this article for the Hilltop Views.

If you like to walk, jog or run, you are in luck. Austin provides some of the best trails the nation has to offer. Longtime Austinites, new residents, and visitors have come to love the scenic, natural areas that have been dedicated for trail use in Austin. There are always new regional running trails being created for easy access.

In fact, Austin has—at last count—accumulated over 50 miles of trails used by runners. The natural greenbelt trails are all well-surfaced and accessible.

However, the Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) trail loop remains the running social hub for Austinites.

running

“It’s a place I can go and enjoy the outdoors while I exercise. There are a lot of trails I can take, depending on what mood I’m in,” says St. Edward’s University Junior Kayanne Armer.

The original 10.1 mile Lady Bird Lake loop, which runs from east to west from MoPac to the Longhorn Dam, is a perfect escape from the Austin ado for everyone, from serious athletes to casual joggers.

The trail—which is mostly flat, rather wide and very popular—offers a variety of trails that fit different runners’ needs. The trails along Lady Bird Lake offer pictorial trails for those wanting a scenic run, or primitive trails in wooded areas for runners wanting a challenge.

St. Edward’s University Junior Jillian Tito is encouraged by the scenery out near Lady Bird Lake. “I like running out there because it’s really beautiful, and you’re easily motivated because of all the Austinites out there.”

After moving from bitterly cold Boston, Mass. to sunny Austin in the summer of 2007, Tito became an avid runner after discovering it made her feel good about herself.

“[Lady Bird Lake] has many different trails, so I can if I feel like running five miles one day, I can. Or 2 miles another [day], I can run that. It has beautiful scenery that just makes you feel good to be outside, and there are lots of people running, walking, swimming; it’s very encouraging.”

An added bonus is that the trails around Lady Bird Lake are pet and bike friendly. Austinites are encouraged to take a run with their four-legged friends, or hop on a bike to cruise the trails.

Previously known as Town Lake, the area was renamed in honor of Lady Bird Johnson on Aug. 6, 2007. Lady Bird was an instrumental figure in getting this area transformed from a drab flood zone to a recreational focal point for the city. Thus, it seems a fitting acknowledgement.

Austin also provides several organizations for varying levels of runners to help facilitate health and fitness. The Austin Runners Club is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that has members of all ages and abilities. According to the organization’s site, The Austin Runners Club promotes and encourages running, walking, wheelchair racing, and related activities and educates the public to their benefits.  The club also maintains competitive and non-competitive activities for its membership and for the general public.

When asked if she had any tips for beginning runners, Tito replied, “I would say to go at your own pace. Don’t try to compare yourself to other runners around you, set a goal and give it your all. It’ll only get easier.”

No matter what your pace is or what your personal goals are, running has proven itself to be one of the easiest, most convenient forms of exercise. Whether you want to run the Statesman Capitol 10K, or you just want to shed a few pounds, the trails along Lady Bird Lake can lead you down the path of health and happiness.

For a list of Lady Bird Lake trail maps, click here.

To learn more about The Austin Runners Club, click here.

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Austin Bike Plan

The article was written originally for the Hilltop Views.

Bicycling has become a significant part of the Austin identity, as it provides locals an alternative mode of transportation and serves as recreation and exercise. In a move to rally round local bicyclists, the City of Austin has created the Austin Bicycle Master Plan, a means to create and promote the ideal environment for the friendly co-existence of bicycle riders and other transportation users in the area.

With the rising costs of fuel, the economic decline, and environmental concerns, many Austin locals have turned to bicycling. “Unfortunately,” imputes the Austin Bike Plan Petition committee, “Austin’s infrastructure has not kept up with this demand, forcing cars and bikes to share the same road space, at times in dangerous ways.”

The City of Austin says the plan is a set of goals, objectives and actions to be completed over the next ten years to transform Austin into a world-class bicycling city. These moves include facility development, inter-departmental and interagency coordination, public education, enforcement, promotional campaigns and supportive public policy, amongst other things.

Mayor of Austin, Will Wynn, says that “Austin’s Bicycle Master Plan is an effort [for Austin] to become the most bicycle friendly major city in Texas and make Austin a world-class city for cycling.” In addition to helping bike riders, Mayor Wynn says the plan will help the city reverse the “impacts of global warming.”

The Austin 2020 Bicycle Plan is an update of the existing Austin Bicycle Plan, which was completed in two parts in 1996 and 1998. The former bicycle plans’ goals are still pertinent, but are in desperate need of an update. The City of Austin says the new plan will present “a holistic and practical approach to achieve the vision of becoming among the best communities for bicycling. It provides the framework and actions necessary to build a bicycle system, including the bicycle network and supporting end-of-trip facilities, to develop the educational and encouragement programs necessary to promote bicycling as a safe and convenient way to travel and exercise, and improve enforcement of bicycle-related laws to create a safe environment for bicycling.”

Not all are impressed entirely with the plan. Elliott McFadden, organizer of the Austin Bike Plan Petition, explains, “On a positive note, the draft plan calls on resolving all vehicle parking in bike lanes by 2020, however it does not indicate what this resolution will be. There is also nothing in the plan about consistent enforcement of drivers who are at fault for hitting cyclists.”

Open house meetings were held on Feb. 26 and March 4 for Austinites to come voice their concerns about the Austin Master Bicycle Plan. Mayor Wynn says that the community’s input “was instrumental in soliciting public ideas in preparing for the plan.”

While there are still parts of the plan that may be changed for the better at a later time, the initial progress is hopeful, says McFadden. “A better Austin for cyclist is on the horizon, and we can make it happen.”

For more information about the plan, visit the City of Austin site.

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Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve

This article was originally written for the Hilltop Views.

Austin has plenty of places for those who love to get their adrenaline pumping and hearts racing. However, there are also plenty of popular hiking trails that locals take advantage of in order to enjoy the more mellow, scenic side of this sunny city.

Hiking offers individuals a chance to immerse themselves in nature. There are several places in and around Austin that offer a variety of hikes for everyone, from the extempore explorer to the trained trekker. There are newer, urban hike routes in Dick Nichols Park in Austin; wooded, rugged trails at Buescher State Park in Smithville; and more elevated, strenuous hikes and climbs at Enchanted Rock, located about seventeen miles north of Fredericksburg.

Professor Jodi Egerton often goes on hikes with her family on greenbelt trails in Austin. Egerton says that she and her family go hiking when “everyone’s going crazy in the house and just want to get out.” Egerton says that she and husband Owen Egerton tell their daughter that they are about to go on “an adventure” and then make their way down the trails and to the lakes to relax and occasionally enjoy a lunch.

Several people have turned this outdoor hobby into a passion. Professor Edward Shirley is one such person, saying, “For years (and years, and years), I’ve loved to hike or backpack. I’ve hiked or backpacked in many state or national parks, including Yosemite, Big Bend and I even climbed Pike’s Peak.”

Professor Shirley also recommends several local Austin hiking trails, “Since I don’t drive, much of my hiking is in Austin.  The Bull Creek Trail is nice, as is St. Edward’s Park on Spicewood Springs Road.  I love the Barton Creek Greenbelt and have done the whole thing, round trip.”

Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve, part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, is another spot where popular hiking trails can be found. The preserve is roughly thirty miles southwest of Austin, near Bee Cave. The heavily wooded trails lead to and loop around Hamilton Pool, a natural basin created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.

This breathtaking excursion leads hikers down a ½ mile hike to the pool, conveniently beginning at the parking lot. The downhill trail makes its way through lush plant life and jutted rock formations and follows sleepy, serene Hamilton Creek. The right fork of the trail junction, located near the creek, leads upstream to Hamilton Pool and the 50-foot waterfall, while the left fork, called Canyon Trail, leads ¾ mile downstream to where Hamilton Creek converges with the Pedernales River.

Once to the pool, hikers can appreciate the remarkable beauty of the Hamilton Falls, climb the protruding limestone formations, observe the dynamic wildlife, and even take a dip in the Hamilton Pool.

The Hamilton Pool hiking trail is wonderful for both beginning and intermediate hikers who want a change of scenery. The trails are just far and rigorous enough for a solid workout, but are not overly demanding on the hiker.

When asked why he hikes, Shirley answered, “I began because it was fun, [a source of] exercise, and a time of solitude.  I continue to enjoy hiking alone.  I also like to go with groups who really want to hike.  Why? Because it’s fun, and because it is community building.  And I hiked post-stroke because I could.  And now, I hike again because it’s fun.”

Contact Information

Hamilton Pool Trail
Open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, weather permitting
(512) 264-2740
Vehicle entry permit (all day) $8
Pedestrian/bicyclist entry permit (all
day): $3

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Austinites Hit the Wall–The Rock Wall

This article was originally written for the Hilltop Views.

Austinites have hit the trails, pavement, and lakes for their physical workouts and outdoor activities over the last few years, but now they’re hitting the wall—the rock wall.

On their site, Austin Rock Gym asserts that rock climbing promotes confidence, coordination and balance, muscle development, teamwork, problem solving skills, and much more in a safe, supportive, and fun environment.


When asked why she rock climbs, sophomore Amy Frugé said replied that she was an “adrenaline junky always looking for new adventures and challenges.” She continues, “Climbing is my joy! After a bad day, one of the best things to lift my spirits is going out for a climb. It’s stress-relieving; strength, coordination, and balance-building; and a great excuse to enjoy a beautiful day outside!”

Junior Brett Powers agreed, “I had so much fun the first time [I went rock climbing] that I have been going back ever since. Rock climbing has a lot of health benefits for the mind and body. It is a great way to gain functional strength. It can also be an exhilarating mental challenge, mixing adrenaline with extreme focus. For this very reason, climbing can also be an excellent stress reliever or a great way to get your mind off things. After a few hour of climbing, you will often find yourself mentally and physically exhausted without ever realizing how hard you worked.”

[R]ock climbing promotes confidence, coordination and balance, muscle development, teamwork, problem solving skills, and much more in a safe, supportive, and fun environment.

For those with hesitations in regards to safety, Austin Rock Gym’s site assures customers that the gym is a safety-oriented facility. Their walls are professionally engineered and certified by the Climbing Wall Industry Group and all of their equipment is inspected daily.

Austin Rock Gym also offers various classes, including courses in basic rock climbing, indoor climbing, and outdoor climbing. You may also opt for private climbing lessons where you will receive one-on-one instruction by a certified, experienced climbing instructor.

“To get started in Austin,” Frugé recommends, “I would suggest going through a belay safety course at Austin Rock Gym. You will learn the commands of belaying another climber (using the rope and equipment correctly while another climber is on the wall). They [also] provide you with rental shoes and [a] harness for the day.” Powers also enjoys going to Austin Rock Gym, “It is a big indoor facility with rock climbing walls of all varieties and grades.”

Powers mentions, however, that a downside to climbing is it “can be somewhat expensive if you don’t have your own gear and need instruction before you rent. However, at Austin Rock Gym, you will get your money’s worth because gear, an introduction lesson to belaying, and a full day spent there are all included. [But otherwise], rock climbing is a great way to work out, stress-relieve, and spend time with friends.”

Frugé endorses rock climbing enthusiastically, commending the pastime for its physical, as well as mental, workout. “I like to look at [rock climbing] with the connection of fear and awe. The more fear you overcome, the more [in] awe you [are]. Meaning, the higher you climb, the greater the rewards.”

Austin Rock Gym Locations
North Austin Rock Gym | 8300 N. Lamar, Suite B102 Austin, TX 78753
South Austin Rock Gym | 4401 Freidrich Ln., Suite 300 Austin, TX 78744

Web Site
http://www.austinrockgym.com/

Walk-In Day Rates
Belay Safety Course (Required for First-Time Climbers and Includes Day Pass/Rental Equipt.) | $25
Adult Day Pass | $13
Local Student Day Pass (with Valid Student ID) | $11

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Leisure on the Lake

This article was originally written for the Hilltop Views.

Head over to Zilker Park or Lady Bird Lake on any sunny afternoon in Austin, and you’ll find locals who love to revel and romp outside. From running, to cycling, to swimming, Austinites love to play and compete.

One outdoor hobby that is becoming increasingly popular among the twenty-something crowd is kayaking and rowing. Student organizations like Crew, the St. Edward’s rowing team, promote “the use of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle” and “a greater appreciation of Austin’s culture.” However, rowing isn’t just for the pros and competitors anymore.

Rowing

Junior student Brett Powers is enthusiastic about kayaking and rowing, recommending that everyone try it at least once. Powers began cruising around Lady Bird Lake in a kayak his sophomore year of high school for the considerable exercise it provides.

“If you rent for an hour and stay paddling or moving the whole time, you will get a great cardiovascular workout, as well as endurance training.” An added bonus, says Powers, is that kayaking and rowing are low impact sports, meaning just about anyone can do it without injuring themselves.

There are three docks on Lady Bird Lake that rent out kayaks and paddle boats, as well as offer rowing lessons: the Texas Rowing Center, the Town Lake Rowing Center and The Rowing Dock. Powers prefers The Rowing Dock, explaining that he always “thought [it] was nicer.”

For newcomers to the popular Austin pastime, the Rowing Dock provides three one-hour lessons, during which students will learn basic paddling skills. The Intro to Kayaking course also includes two vouchers to use the kayaks on your own during open hours.

For skeptics or novices who may be hesitant to hop in a boat, the Rowing Dock offers encouraging words. “Our kayaks are very stable boats and are great for a wide range of ages. The boats are designed for inexperienced kayakers and are virtually untippable.” In addition, the company provides lake-goers with the paddles and lifejackets needed to have a fun, safe time. “Bring your water or sports drink and we will supply everything else.”

The Rowing Dock is located at 2418 Stratford Drive, and the company may be reached at (512) 459-0999.

Grab a friend or two and head over to the lake this weekend; a kayak awaits you.

Rentals
Single Kayak $10/hr.
Double Kayak $15/hr.
Triple Kayak $20/hr.
Paddle Boat $15/half hr. or $25/hr.

Season Passes/Memberships
Three-Month Season Pass $165
One-Year Membership $432
One-Year Debit Membership $36/month for 12 months

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Super Bowl Commercials | 2009

Click here to find each and every Super Bowl commercial in its hilarity.

And, my favorites…

The woman on the dolphin both cracks me up and freaks me out.

“PepSuber!”

Can Miller produce a one-second commerical? Oh, yes they can.

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Steelers’ Holmes Keeps Feet on the Ground

Many Steelers fans were stricken with panic when the Cardinals rebounded in the last quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, but not Santonio Holmes–he kept his feet on the ground. Literally.

In what had to have been the most well caught pass of the game (if not the season), Holmes planted his tip-toes on the very lip of the boundary line, allowing the Steelers to pull ahead enough in the last minute of the game to win.

He was cornered. He caught a pass from [Steelers quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger on the back side of the end zone, with three Arizona Cardinals bearing down on him while he balanced on the tips of his toes. (New York Times)

For a moment, Holmes sat crouching over, clutching the ball to his chest. As thousands of Steelers fans jumped to their feet and cheered, Holmes seemed to need just a quiet second or two to soak in what had just happened. His teammates ran and fell on top of him, patting his helmet and shoulders with great gaiety and pride.

Holmes was voted the game’s most valuable player. He caught nine passes for 131 yards. (New York Times)

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