First they staged a "Save a Turkey Trot" run on Thanksgiving Day. Now the Austin chapter of OrganicAthlete is planning a Tour d'Vegan bike ride around Austin, with stops at vegan-friendly eateries.
On the menu? Everything from raw food to vegan cupcakes.
The ride, about 24 miles at an easy pace, starts at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Pfluger pedestrian bridge over Lady Bird Lake.
Planned stops include Cheer Up Charlies, 1104 E. Sixth St.; Wheatsville Coop, 3101 Guadalupe St.; Counter Culture, 120 E. North Loop; Get Sum Dim Sum, 4400 N. Lamar Blvd.; Zpizza, 452 W. Second St.; Beets Cafe, 1611 W. Sixth St.; Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, 1905 S. First St.; and a few others. Specials and discounts will be available, so bring some spending money.
Benjamin Palmer, a 23-year-old runner and triathlete, founded the Austin chapter of OrganicAthlete about a year ago.
He likes to make an impression by running the trail around Lady Bird Lake with a pair of shorts that say "Go Vegan!" on the back. "It's obnoxious and cute at the same time, but it's good way to get the message out, especially if you drop someone," he says. To "drop" a runner is to leave them behind because they're slower than you are.
He says the question he gets asked most often is "Where do you get your protein?"
His answer? "We don't need as much protein as people think we do, and it's readily available in other food sources. As long as you're meeting your caloric needs for a day, you're probably getting enough protein."
Joining the OrganicAthlete is a way to connect with other athletes with similar values, he says. (You don't have to be vegan to join.)
"When you're branching out to something outside your comfort zone, like changing your diet, it helps a lot to have a support base to say, 'Hey, these people are doing something right,'" he says.
The Austin group meets for group runs at 8:30 a.m. every Saturday, starting in the parking lot of Casa de Luz, 1701 Toomey Road. The runs, with three- or five-mile options, are at a comfortable social pace for runners of all speeds. Breakfast at Casa de Luz follows.
For more information about Tour d'Vegan, go to http://bit.ly.tourdvegan. For more information about OrganicAthlete, which has 16 chapters around the world and about 600 members, plus a guide to sports nutrition and recipes, go to www.organicathlete.org. Membership is free.
Here's a little-known fact: I had a brief career as a synchronized swimmer when I was in junior high school here in Austin. Trust me when I tell you it's not easy to float on your back, hoist a leg in the air, rotate and smile all at the same time, especially if you're wearing a nose clip.
If you want to see how the experts do it, plan on attending the 2010 Junior National Synchronized Swimming Championships March 25-27 at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center at the University of Texas.
More than 300 elite synchronized swimmers ages 15 to 18 will compete for junior national titles in solo, duet, team and combo events. Top routines will advance to the 2010 U.S. National Championships April 15-17 in Huntersville, N.C.
The Austin Angelfish and the swim center are hosting the event. Admission is free Thursday and Friday and $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and youths (ages 6-12) on Saturday.
The 2010 U.S. Synchronized Swimming National Team Training Squad will perform after Saturday's competition, and the Angelfish will give a free "Give Synchro a Try" clinic after the final event. For more information about the clinic, contact Cheryl Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (512) 567-1943.
For more information about synchronized swimming, go to www.usasynchro.org.
The city wants your input in planning Austin's first bike boulevard, a roadway designed to discourage through-vehicle traffic and encourage bikes through the use of traffic calming devices such as speed bumps and traffic circles.
The city is targeting Nueces Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Third Street as the bike-friendly street.
A final open house to discuss the plan is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Austin Peace Academy, 5110 Manor Road. For more information, go to www.ci.austin.tx.us/publicworks/bicycle-public-input.htm.
Need to hone your urban riding skills? Sign up for a Traffic Skills 101 class. I took it a few years ago to help me ride more safely and confidently in traffic.
The course is divided into two parts — a four-hour Friday evening classroom session, plus a five-hour Saturday on-the-road session where you'll practice accident-avoiding maneuvers and pedal through Austin streets with one or two instructors. Classes are small, with just five to 10 students each.
Classroom sessions are scheduled for Friday at the REI Round Rock, 201 University Oaks Boulevard, and Feb. 26 at REI Gateway, 9901 N. Capital of Texas Highway. On-road sessions are planned for Saturday at Robertson Elementary, 1415 Bayland St. in Round Rock, and Feb. 27 at Caf? Mundi, 1704 E. Fifth St. Additional classes are planned for March and April.
Cost is $65. For more information and to register, go to www.austincycling.org.
The city's Bicycle Advisory Council is looking for new members. (Full disclosure: My husband, Chris LeBlanc, is a member of the council.)
Applications are available at www.ci.austin.tx.us/publicworks/bicycle.htm and are due by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
One full-standing member and an alternate are needed. The council, a grass-roots group of advocates, cyclists and regular folks, meets once a month. It is supported by City of Austin staff.
Registration is open for It's My Park Day on March 6.
Each year, the Austin Parks Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps maintain area parks, organizes the citywide, volunteer-led park improvement day. Project leaders and volunteers are needed for simple cleanups, trail building, tree planting and gardening.
For more information or to sign up, go to www.austinparks.org.