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6-year-old gears up for Mamma Jamma Ride to support breast cancer patients

Pam LeBlanc, Fit City

Staff Writer
Austin 360

The training wheels only came off 6-year-old Ella Hall's bicycle in March, but already she's preparing to pedal 27 miles at the Mamma Jamma Ride on Oct. 1.

It won't be her first trip around the block. The past two years, Ella has pitched in from her seat on the back of a tandem bike steered by her mother, Rhonda Hall.

The two share a birthday around the time of the ride and decided doing it together each year would be a great way to celebrate. Besides, it benefits a great cause — 11 local charities that provide services for people with breast cancer.

"My mom told me about it and I said to her, ‘I want to help raise money for breast cancer,'" the St. Andrew's Episcopal School first-grader says. "She let me."

Participants in the ride, which starts and finishes at Reunion Ranch, bike 13, 27, 45, 70 or 100 miles through Williamson County.

So far this year, Ella has logged more than 150 training miles, including 16 miles one recent Sunday.

Ella, whose grandmother died of breast cancer, is raising money for the cause with a lemonade stand in her front yard. The family lives in Central Austin, along a route popular with cyclists and runners. On hot weekends, she takes donations for the lemonade and Gatorade she serves up to thirsty athletes.

Last summer, she raised $1,300, garnering a junior fundraising award from the Mamma Jamma folks. She's aiming higher this year. For her 7th birthday later this month, she's asking that friends make donations to the nonprofit organization in lieu of giving her a present.

In the meantime, Ella says she is equal parts nervous and excited about the ride.

"I'm kind of in the middle. When I think about Mamma Jamma, my tummy feels really weird," she says. The hardest part is "going up the monster hill," she says, but she's confident she'll make it, one way or the other.

Get more information at mammajammaride.org.

I've never done an official trail race, but that will change in January when I line up for the start of the Big Bend Ultra at Big Bend National Park.

I'll be scampering over 25 kilometers of desert terrain in the race, which also includes 50K and 10K options.

I've run a full marathon and half a dozen or so half marathons, but this race takes place on trails instead of pavement. I'm sure it'll be a whole new experience.

Curious about what to expect, I stopped by an information session at Whole Earth Provisions recently to get the low-down from race director Carol Voss. Here are some tips I took away:

• Train for a 25K like you're training for a half marathon, only beef it up a little. Build up to a long run of 18 miles, then start tapering.

The race will start at an elevation of 3,100 feet. We'll climb to a high point of 3,400 feet by mile 3.5, then start cruising downhill to the finish at 1,900 feet. It's considered a fast course.

Aid stations with solid food, water and nutrition gels will be set up every 5 miles along the course.

Temperatures are likely to be in the 30s at the start and 60s at the finish. Unless, of course, they aren't.

Bring gloves, hat and fleece if you like. You can put them in a drop bag that will be transported to the finish.

You'll be running through parts of the park most folks never see. But you'll be looking at the trail in front of you, so you won't really see it.

Most of the route is along one-lane dirt and gravel roads.

It's dry in the desert and you'll lose fluids rapidly. Carry water with you in a hand-held bottle or waist pack.

Road shoes will work, but trail shoes are better because they have a tougher strike plate. That protects the bottom of your foot from being stabbed by a sharp rock, stick or cactus. Trail shoes weigh a little more than road shoes.

The meeting got me really fired up about the Jan. 15 run, which raises money for the Friends of Big Bend National Park, a nonprofit organization that works to maintain the West Texas park. Since its inception, the race has raised more than $15,000 for trail maintenance.

Registration is $125 for the 50K and 25K ($100 for the 10K). Both the 50K and 25K races are capped at 150 runners each, and the 10K is capped at 100 runners. The events already are more than half-filled. For more information, go to www.bigbend50.com.

Do you love to sling a backpack over your shoulders and set out in the woods? Does your idea of a perfect afternoon involve jumping into a river or lake? Does a tent pitched in the wilderness meet your definition of luxury accommodations?

We're looking for people who love getting out of the house to contribute to a new feature called The Outsiders.

If you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, tell us — in 100 words or fewer — about your favorite place and what you like to do there. If you like, attach a photo of yourself in that outdoorsy spot.

It's part of a new page we're launching called Venture Out, which will focus on all things outdoors, from hiking and camping to running, bicycling, bird watching and leaping in lakes. The new page will appear inside the Life & Arts section on Sundays, starting Sept. 25.

If you'd like to be featured as one of The Outsiders, email your submission to Kathy Blackwell at kblackwell@statesman.com, or mail it to her at Kathy Blackwell, executive features editor, Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress Ave., Austin, Texas 78704.