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A slew of women's triathlons on tap for Austin athletes

Austin's Yellow Bike Project unveils new headquarters

Pam LeBlanc
pleblanc@statesman.com
Coach Steve Sisson of UT and the nonprofit TeamROGUE Elite walks with Desiree Ficker and Allison Macsas at the Capitol 10,000.

Remember all the confusion surrounding women's triathlons in Austin last year?

The Danskin Women's Triathlon had long been a staple here, but suddenly a very similar race — the Trek Women Triathlon — appeared on the calendar. Even more confusing, the longtime producers of the Danskin race were now affiliated with the Trek race, and a company called SheROX was producing the Danskin race.

This year we've still got both races, but now Maggie Sullivan, who started the Danskin series in 1990 and left last year to head the new Trek series, owns both through her company the Xxtra Mile.

What does all this mean for triathletes? It means you should train for both triathlons.

Thankfully, the timing of the races has changed and they're not just a few weeks apart. The Danskin Women's Triathlon is set for June 6, and the Trek Women Triathlon moves back to Oct. 3. SheROX is no longer involved.

Both races are designed to encourage and support women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and athletic ability. Both will consist of a half-mile swim, 12.5-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run/walk. Both will take place at Walter E. Long Park, 6614 Blue Bluff Road. Jon Hill will serve as local director of both events.

"Having been involved in production of the Danskin for 20 of its 21 years, I'm personally tickled to have it inside the Xxtra Mile net," Sullivan says.

Designated last-place finisher and spokeswoman Sally Edwards, the face of the Danskin for many years, is now only involved with the Trek series, so if you're looking for an extra motivational boost from her, sign up for that version.

It's no certain deal that both triathlons will stick around long-term.

"We hope to keep both races in Austin if both races are viable," Sullivan says. "We've pushed them apart, put them in different seasons. We're cautiously optimistic, but it's a tricky economy. We'll take a good hard look at the conclusion of 2010 to see if by spacing them apart they both held up or if we should rethink placement within the state or calendar."

Either way, Sullivan says she loves Central Texas. "There's always been a very big spirit and solid response from the women of Austin," she says.

Look for me at Danskin. I'm teaming up with runner Audrey Herold and cyclist DJ Olsson to tackle the race as a relay.

Registration for the Danskin race is $95 for individuals or $159 for relay teams, plus a $10 USA Triathlon fee, at www.danskintriathlon.net. Registration for the Trek race is $85 for individuals or $160 for relay teams, plus the $10 fee, at www.trekwomenstriathlonseries.com.

The Danskin and Trek triathlons aren't the only women's triathlons in town, by the way.

The Skeese Greets Women's Tri, which consists of a 300-meter swim, 11.1-mile bike ride and 2-mile run, was held Sunday. The Sweet & Twisted Womens Triathlon, with a 500-meter swim, 15-mile bike ride and 5K run, is set for Aug. 22 at Granger Lake near Georgetown. Registration is $61 at austintri.com/main.html.

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Two years after it lost its warehouse home on City of Austin property in the Mueller development, Austin Yellow Bike Project has unveiled its sparkling new digs at 1216 Webberville Road.

Yellow Bike runs community bike shops, where people (like my husband, Chris) can get advice when building or repairing bicycles. Thanks to Yellow Bike's expertise and tools, I got a new commuter bike, built by Chris, a few years ago.

The nonprofit, volunteer-led group is a hub of the Austin bicycling community. Its facility serves about 2,000 people each year.

The new building is on city-owned land. Yellow Bike secured a 100-year lease and raised $300,000 in construction costs — $200,000 in cash and another $100,000 through micro-loans. Community members loaned the money to Yellow Bike directly, in chunks from $1,000 to $10,000, at 3 percent interest, to be repaid within five years.

Then Yellow Bike, which had operated out of a series of temporary satellite locations in the interim, enlisted a volunteer development consultant, site plan engineer and architect. A hired contractor finished the job in January, leaving final touches to volunteers.

The 4,000-square-foot building sits on three-quarters of an acre. It includes lots of green features, including a 10,000-gallon rainwater collection system, a solar energy roof lease and community garden.

"It shows the city has an intention to encourage what we're doing, and by extension that makes me feel that this city really wants to get on bikes. I think that's great," says Pete Dahlberg, community coordinator of Austin Yellow Bike Project.

Yellow Bike started in Austin 13 years ago. Back then, the main focus was taking old or otherwise unusable bikes, sprucing them up, painting them yellow and putting them on the street for anyone to borrow for free.

In the past year, the organization has put 32 of the saved-from-the-scrap-heap rides into circulation with the motto "Free to ride, not to keep."

Sure, they disappear after a time, no doubt painted another color and "adopted" by new owners, but hopefully not before a few folks have had a random cycling experience.

Yellow Bike also refurbishes used bikes and sells them.

For more information, go to www.austinyellowbike.org.

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Did you see the black-and-gold-clad runners at the head of the pack during the Statesman Capitol 10,000 a few weeks ago?

That was TeamROGUE Elite, some of the fastest post-collegiate runners in Austin.

Made up of eight athletes coached by Steve Sisson, the women's distance running coach at the University of Texas, the nonprofit team has set a goal of getting three runners to the 2012 Olympics.

Lofty, yes, but Ruth England, co-owner of Rogue Running, 500 San Marcos St., says there's still a chance it could happen.

"Every one of the people on the team is extremely talented," she says.

The team includes Darren Brown, Kara June, Allison Rae Macsas, Kyle Miller, Adam Perkins, Dacia Perkins, Erik Stanley and Joe Thorne. Thanks to a three-year sponsorship deal recently inked with athletic wear manufacturer Under Armour, the team plans to add four more runners to its roster this spring or summer.

The idea, England says, is to give gifted runners a chance to aim for the top of their sport. That's only possible if they're able to devote themselves to running, something that's impossible if they're trying to hold down full-time jobs.

"It's amazing to me how fast these guys are and how much sacrifice it takes to get to that elite level," England says. "Every day is an ice bath and massage and all this extra auxiliary work."

TeamROGUE provides coaching, assistance with rent and help finding part-time jobs. In turn, the athletes give back to the community, conducting free seminars and core classes for the public. This summer, they'll also help direct running camps for middle- and high-school students.

"There are some programs out there, but not enough to develop kids and give them an opportunity to see if they have what it takes to become Olympians," England says.

Local sponsors are still needed to provide money, sports massage services, part-time jobs and mentors.

Note: This story has been updated to correct the location for the Sweet & Twisted Womens Triathlon, which will take place Aug. 22 at Granger Lake near Georgetown.