If you're new to Cycling-Through, please take a second and read some of the "Posts of note" in the list to the right. Then, if you see others that you appreciate enough to recommend for that list, let me know.
Also, please feel free to comment - even anonymously if you must.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Morning Run

Saturday Dec. 19 dawned cold and wet. The temperature downtown Martinez was a balmy 48 degrees with a dew point of 45. At around 600' in the hills west of Alhambra Ave. the temperature was at or below the dew point. I know, because we got lost - trail running in the fog.

We know those trails reasonably well, though never covering all of them. Last time we were there - a few weeks ago - Vince and I explored a new route and managed to find our way out at approximately where we expected. This time we decided to attempt to run that route in reverse. That was only one in a series of decisions which guaranteed a little excitement.

Another of those decisions was to diverge from the somewhat familiar path and take an alternate trail at the first of many trail splits. Several minutes of rather difficult climbing later, we encountered the next split in the trail. Visibility was well under 100', nothing looked familiar, and the typical landmarks on distant peaks or in surrounding valleys were useless. We could have retraced our steps at that point, since we were already 2 miles into our run, but true to form, we basically flipped a coin and pressed on.

Once we made that turn we committed to being truly lost. At each intersection we would compare opinions, and consistently agree that we had no idea where we were. We'd sometimes stop to listen for the fog horns out on the river, or the traffic from Highway 4 nearby, but even then couldn't be sure which way was out. At one point we compared perceptions regarding the compass headings, and found we were working with realities approximately 90 degrees divergent from one another. His North was my East.

Those who know me AT ALL will understand why at that point I gladly gave up my perception of reality for his, knowing that I'm capable of getting lost in a mall parking lot with no cars and one exit.

After alternating between left turns and right turns for a while, Vince recognized a trail that we had taken earlier (good thing 'cause I didn't) - but we were headed back down it in the same direction as before. Yeah - great big circle. At least then we knew which way not to go.

I used the GPS tracking on my phone to track this route - so we at least know where we were
Even if we didn't know where we "are."

After about 45 minutes of wandering at high speed, we did begin to recognize the trails and set out with more certainty.

We made it out.


I sit here this morning, another foggy morning, the day after Christmas itching to get back out there and run. Christmas Eve I rode the mountain bike from home, to Radio Shack looking for a new power cord for our newly inoperable DSL modem, then continued up to Briones Peak and back. (Don't get your AC Adapters from Radio Shack - I went to Fry's later and found it for a third of the price)

The modem now works.

Obviously - if you're reading this.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Death Ride 2010

I think I can wait till after Christmas to start training.
This year - under 10 hours.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow Cycling

It snowed here in the San Francisco Bay Area and gave the news outlets a diversion from the typical political, economic, and global warming banter. Wait - global what?

It DOESN'T snow here, except a couple of times a year we are able to see a dusting at the higher elevations. Sunday night and Monday morning we got plastered - down to just a few hundred feet, making quite a spectacle of the foothills surrounding the Diablo Valley.
Mt. Diablo is still spectacular 2 days later.

Providence led me on Monday to an unexpected - though not unlikely - afternoon adventure.

The first act of Providence, was that a midnight feeding (The baby, not me) rolled my waking time back an hour, placing me on highway 680 South between Martinez and Concord at day break, unlike the darkness that I prefer. As I merged onto Hwy 4 I glanced to the east and saw the eastern hills and what was visible of Mt. Diablo below the lingering clouds glowing in the dim light. It DID snow - a LOT! I was instantly mentally rearranging my day.

The second act of Providence was that I received a text message from a fellow adventurer, Chris, who was interested in skiing our local ski slopes. I affirmed my desire to play in the snow - not sure how skiing was going to happen without lifts, and with the road up Diablo closed. His second text hinted at a willingness to ride his mountain bike up - and my preoccupation converted into pure distraction. Office work was quickly becoming impossible. Processing payroll seemed stunningly dull. The morning dragged by, as I imagined the sun melting all the snow.

I had an afternoon appointment which set the scene for Providence's final act. My afternoon appointment canceled. I called Chris, we set up a rendezvous, and I started the process of organizing the thermal layers. Ella was wanting to see the snow also, which after warning her of the risks involved ("You will get very cold"), guaranteed this adventure would be worthy of bringing the camera along.

The ride was thrilling, and though difficult, was not as hard pulling the trailer bike as I thought it would be. In doing so, I unwittingly nearly completed another of this year's goals - pulling Ella to the top of Mt. Diablo. The road was closed to even cyclists at the ranger station, and between the steep grade of the trails and the setting sun, we wisely turned back shy of the top.

When it started spitting snow on the climb at around 1000' we were excited. When it started collecting on our helmets we were like kids at a carnival. We had no expectation of it actually starting to snow again, and couldn't have been more pleased. Ella got her time in the snow, and we got our adventure, nearly making it worth the frigid descent.

Yeah, it was cold on the way down. The climb kept us warm - even to the point of sweating. But playing in the snow chilled us, and the wind chill finished us off. My finger tips hurt for hours. We figure the wind chill was in the teens if not single digits up around 2000'.

As always - Well worth it.

Chris posted a compilation of video he took on the ride - available here. It's a long download, so be patient.

Also, Channel 7 caught us on video as we neared the Ranger Station at around 2,000'.
Fast forward to about 2 minutes into the video.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Child

Our 2nd beautiful daughter is a mere 7 and 1/2 pounds with a soaking wet diaper, but has managed to blast a monstrous hole in our day to day routine, leaving only shreds of recognizable normality. Her effect on our emotional stability has been little less.

I am sleep deprived.

So far that is the best explanation I can come up with for the emotion laden thought processes that have been swirling the mists of recent cognitive exercises. On the one extreme, I find myself reacting to mere annoyances with the intensity of dire emergencies. While on the other, I am easily sobered and rendered melancholy by the simplest reference to maternity or paternity.

In short I'm pretty pathetic - especially by my own standards.

Yes, it is a bit alarming to see such a remarkable and respectable stoicism suffering abandon. But I believe it is not all bad. Blinding though it may be, I've peered through the chinks of the adamant facade and seen a gleam which I have previously either discounted or shunned. Even with the birth of our first daughter, I was undaunted, the conqueror and champion bringing life to the world, and victory to our familial obligation.
And then I was content to be the victor.
And I was content.
Next objective...

My wife tells a completely different story - not about me - but about her approach to this phase of our journey. I will not tell her story for her. But she has lived without a facade around that part of her life and has drunk deeply from what I'm now sipping.

Don't worry I'm not planning on opening an orphanage or a day care. But, since the loss of our son a year ago on the 12th of this month, I have seen life, mortality, and the part I play in them in a far clearer fashion. Now with the birth and life of our daughter, my part in the saga has crystallized even a touch more.

...that to say...

I would like to communicate in the most reverent, and immensely inadequate way, how I have for the first time realized that our Lord Jesus Christ came to this world - as a little Baby. You understand what I mean, because you've been there too, when I say that though you give ascent to many concepts, there are times when concepts meet circumstances and meld to become reality for you. No one else necessarily gets the benefit of it, but YOU are keenly aware of a new reality - for YOU.
For me - this Christmas - it is the infant form of the God of the universe.

I've heard a few Christmas songs this year for the first time which bring out the question of, in essence "What was Jesus' understanding as a child of His surroundings and limitations." As I am hearing these songs, I am able to put the face of my own infant child into the scenario, and am astounded that the Creator would condescend to not just the form of his creation, but into the barest and most dependent state of its existence.

No doubt Joseph and Mary are baffled, in addition to the emotions that all the rest of us face in those first few hours and days. I suppose the one fear they needed not have was the one of losing this child. They had God's promise. Yet, undoubtedly the hosts of hell had planned His demise. In my mind's eye I can see the swords of hell's fiercest drawn as they converge on the hillside town of Bethlehem. Then - a blinding diversion among a group of shepherds, leaves them vulnerable to an assault from Heaven's mightiest. The skirmish is brief and decisive, and a soft whimper softly shakes the earth to its core.

There are a thousand questions with no answer. Did He cry? Did he relinquish his omniscience for a time? Did he immediately begin to bear the burden of our sins, or was his infancy spared such weight? I wonder.

I am left with one answer.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rockville Again

I did manage to squeeze in a ride in Rockville on Saturday - 24 hours before my wife went into labor. I checked the phone frequently during that ride to be sure I hadn't missed any calls, but could have saved the energy for getting up some of those hills, or bounding over the boulders in the rock gardens.

I finally got to wear my new full face helmet. I certainly felt more safe. But it was a little hot, and the one time I did go over the bars - I managed to spare my brand new helmet.

Attached are a few videos of our short adventure.

The basic conclusion we came to was...
We need to do technical riding more often.

This is a little crazy - I didn't do this drop, and neither did Vince and Jeff the second time we came around to it. Maybe next time - with pads.

This is me coming down a small hill that looked meaner than it turned out to be.

And Vince on the same hill.


For one like myself, who enjoys the thrill of the unexpected, living in fast forward as much as possible - The birth of our second daughter was about as mundane as such events can possibly be.

It was not in the middle of the night.
It was not announced to me in a text message because cell reception was so poor in the remote corner of the wilderness where I was mountain biking.
It was not with a pop and a woosh, right in the middle of Starbucks after ordering 2 White Chocolate Mochas (one being decaf of course).
It was not on the busiest day of my week requiring rescheduling dozens of cascading appointments.
It was not at all exciting.

It was Sunday morning November 15 shortly after waking from a restful sleep, that my wife stated that she was seeing a pattern to the tightness in her watermelon shaped abdomen. No one ran, and no one shouted. As a matter of fact - I kept getting ready for church, assuming I would be going alone with Ella, while Bec rested. The most exciting thing I got to do that morning was change out of my brown pants (which I was looking forward to wearing, since I hadn't worn them in a while) and pull on a more comfortable pair of jeans, and a long sleeve t-shirt.

About 10 hours later it was over. I was exhausted, emotionally drained, psychologically spent, and ready for a seat by a fire with a hot cup of coffee (which is not possible in a Kaiser hospital, since all they have in the hospital is decaf, which really isn't coffee.) For her part - Bec was a little tired too, but generally little worse for the wear. We were both happy to have Gianna Keren Swinton out and among us finally.

Like I said, pretty uneventful. It all went so smooth, that we didn't even argue with the doctor 2 days later when they said they wanted to keep her overnight under the bili lights to bring her jaundice under control. We figured, we would take any excitement we could find.

So now we are home, Gianna is nursing fairly well, sleeping well, and - well she doesn't do anything else. And I'm creating my own excitement by seeing how quickly I can clear the dishwasher, and fold the laundry or by trying to estimate exactly that point at which the green beans will spontaneously combust in the microwave - and beat it by a second.

If you think I'm desperate - you're wrong. I went riding up Mt. Diablo this morning with a group of friends and I turned around short of the very top because of ice on the road. I didn't need the excitement. I sat on the couch for nearly half an hour this evening with an infant that had been sleeping for 20 minutes - not because I had to, but, because it was exciting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taking Risks

I've condensed a recent email exchange.

Talk about taking risks...

From: Vincent Hackett

Meeting at noon today, Briones Staging area for a 2 hour tour

From: Scott Swinton

Let's try again next weekend.
What about rockville next weekend?

Scott Swinton

From: Vincent Hackett

I would like to ride somewhere, road or MTB

From: Scott Swinton


I want to wear my new helmet and look like I know what I’m doing.

That is – if we aren’t delivering a baby – still waiting…

Scott Swinton


From: Vincent Hackett

A friend at work just had a baby yesterday, 5 weeks early...

From: Scott Swinton

We are still 3.5 weeks early. But Ella was 4 weeks early, so we figure any time now.

Have a friend from church at labor and delivery right now.

But, hey, Bec will do just fine without me if I’m out on my bike.

I’m sure she’ll understand.

Scott Swinton


From: Vincent Hackett

You're pushing it, hope she didn't read this :)

So, on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 8:04 AM, Scott Swinton forwarded the above messages to Rebekah just for the fun of it:

Love ya. :)

Scott Swinton


From: Rebekah Swinton

Rockville had better have phone reception. That's all I have to say. Otherwise, I'm afraid you won't need a good crash to wreck your bike--you might just find it in a million pieces in the recycling can one day. I know you'd understand. ;-)

Love you, too.

--- On Tue, 11/10/09, Scott Swinton Forwarded Rebekah’s message: To Vince...

From: Scott Swinton

Thought you would like this.

Scott Swinton


From: Vincent Hackett

Ya right, you wrote this from her email account and sent it to yourself. Rebekah's too nice to write that...

From: Scott Swinton

Just keep thinking that.
Don't forget - she's pregnant.

Scott Swinton

And yes, life is full of calculated risks for those of us who like to live it near the edge.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Mt. Diablo First

Dave Climbs Diablo

...On his bike. I've been challenging him to attempt it ever since he was given a decent hybrid mountain bike a couple of years ago. It was also one of my goals for the year, as I wrote about earlier. Seems it blossomed into a goal for him too and he trained well. I gave him some pointers for training and pre-ride preparation, but didn't have to lend any other aid.

The weather was PERFECT at 65 degrees and crystal clear. We stopped once, halfway to the ranger station, because nature was calling, and stopped again at the ranger station - mid way up. The stop was long enough to chat with other cyclists, refuel, and re-fill the water bottles. Next year's Death Ride ended up being the focus of conversation among the group gathered there. I was proudly sporting my 5 pass Death Ride finisher jersey which had recently come in the mail. I was pleasantly surprised at how much conversation that sparked along the way. (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I enjoyed the accolades too.)

We summited in around 2 hours and 20 minutes. He was cramping, talking to himself, sweating profusely, and looked prepared to eat anything that didn't move. Not bad form at all for a first attempt, on a mountain bike, on the second longest ride of his life. He also complained about some numbness, but I assured him that the numbness was his friend, and he should just enjoy it while it lasted. We burned about 30 minutes at the top and then I couldn't abide the wait any longer. I also was on my mountain bike, and was salivating over the trails below.

Now Dave is not a downhiller. Dave and I are rather different in this general concept. I thrive on adventure - not like some, I mean I don't really want to hasten my demise, but - on the adventure scale I'm probably an 8 out of 10. Dave is a 5, and can often be persuaded to be a 3 or 4 if he hangs out with the wrong crowd. All of that to say, I'm not sure if he was dreading the climb or the descent more. At one point, after spending a peaceful interlude waiting for him to catch up- or down, I offered to segue our journey back to the road; but he bravely agreed to stay the course. We arrived back at his car intact. He kept mumbling about long periods of time in sleep. I encouraged him to wait till he got home.

I had ridden my bike from the house to the mountain, and so, left to wander home again pleased with his initiation into - (or possibly, discontinuation of) the sport of cycling.

Way to go Dave.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Furnace Creek 508 - Next Year...

Check out the posting of a friend I ride with.


I have been inspired again.
Thanks Milt for breaking the ice on this one.
I think we could pull 4 riders together to build a team for next year. I'll have a nearly 1 year old by then, and should have had sufficient time to lobby for the time away.

Check out the website.


Friday, October 2, 2009

I've Missed my Bikes and my Job

Vacation for 13 days is too much. Period. My idea of a good vacation is going overnight (Friday so as to not miss work) to some place really cool, and being home the next night (Saturday night so as to not miss church).

I like my job, and I love our church.

I also really like our queen size pillow top mattress and contoured pillows. Mom - don't feel bad, the hotel, and Beach house beds were no better than the one in the spare bedroom. None of them were mine.

This repose was OK I guess

Speaking of the beach - it was great. The entire South Carolina Swinton clan (Including 1 more grandchild yet to be named) spent 4 days on Edisto Island in a monster house right on the beach.

Yeah she's 31 weeks pregnant - can't you tell?

This angle is a little better

I was able to go running about 3 miles along the beach the first 2 mornings we were there, and then swim in the waves to cool off. I could handle more of that, if my bed and pillow were there too. The third day I began my descent into the head cold that we had been sharing around, and settled for just swimming without the run. (My nose did all the running for the next 2 days) I managed to hang onto said cold long enough for the altitude changes to implode my meager collection of brain cells both on the way into Dallas and then San Jose.

We (mostly my brother in law Chris) successfully constructed a medieval master piece, as seen above, and below in the video.

Tigger gives a tour of the castle

But I missed my bikes. I rode a decent Cannondale road bike while I was in Greenville, but a borrowed bike never meets the true need. I plan to go out early tomorrow and ride my mountain bike for a few hours before our church's men's prayer breakfast, and have already scheduled my weekly bike commute for Monday and Tuesday. I plan to take it slow, since it has been several weeks since I have exerted those muscles.

I missed my job too. Going away is good for that. Today was the best day at work I've had in months. It helped that I kept the phones at arm's length and had a rather varied day with office work, site visits, proposals, and even a little real work with a saw and drill on a job in Tiburon.

All this to say, I'm happy to be home. I've nearly forgotten how desperate I was to get away, and relieved to crash on my parent's couch just 2 weeks ago. Maybe once every couple of years is reasonable - once a year if Bec is lucky.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

68 degrees 94% humidity

On vacation in my home state of South Carolina. We arrived to pouring rains. Nothing too unusual, except that coming off of a San Francisco Bay Area summer, we haven't seen too many rain drops in the last few months.

3 days in, the rains abated leaving a wet wool blanket to serve as atmosphere.

The cycling gear came along, and my friend Ben, with whom I spent my fomative cycling years, arranged for me to borrow a bike.

We went out on Tuesday morning and climbed Paris Mtn., the highest point in the Greenville area. Not quite what I remember it being - but still a nice climb and descent. Ben has only recently purchased a new bike after selling his old one several years ago. He is recovering just fine.

I went back out yesterday morning at sunrise - which to my surprise, ends up being about 20 minutes later than at home (per the time zone). 6:58 Am at home in the Bay Area, and 7:19 here in western SC. I did some research online and determined that it's the location within the time zone that makes it get light "later." You may already understand the concept, but it was a cool revelation to me.

I snapped a few shots during my ride to try and give the essence of the "heavy air."
However, I believe the humidity fogged the camera lens on my phone and aided the effect.

It isn't called Greenville for nothing.

Anyway, I left later than I expected and embarked on a biathalon - swimming and cycling.....simultaneously.
We don't have humidity like this in the Bay Area. I've forgotten what a bane it is. The temperature was only 1 degree above the dew point - 67 degrees, and the humidity was at 94% meaning that for all practical purposes, I was riding through liquid air.

This morning I met up with Ben again and we rode around downtown Greenville. Again, camera phone pictures...
This is actually a pretty cool bridge, and water fall in the middle of the city.

He took me past George Hincapie's store just on the edge of the downtown business district. I hope to get in there tomorrow to check it out. We rode around town dodging cars this morning for old time's sake, and then returned the bike to his friend.

Tomorrow we pack the cars and head for the beach at Edisto Island.

Looking forward to 4 days of jogging on the beach and swimming in the warm waters of the Atlantic.

No hurricanes on the horizon - right?

Oh yeah,
My mom came up with this picture of me from high school.
The bike is basically the same - with a few upgrades.
I only wish I could see the socks...

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Baby

My lovely wife and daughter.

I've frankly been nervous about posting regarding our "expectation."
Having lost our son back in December, I have been a little timid about this whole thing. (December Posting)

However, the cat is gonna be out of the bag soon, as my adventures will be laced with references to her arrival, and the following inevitable insomniatic insanity. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to hold her in my hands as a new (again) daddy. I just remember all too well the wild eyed frenzy in the faces of our friends Jeremy and Amy when we visited them 2 weeks after Jordan came - and I thought - "I remember feeling like they look."

Any way, I figured I should give it some space in the blog, but should probably get back to writing proposals.

(Katie - you inspired me to write this, with all of your updates - but don't expect me to chronicle like you have :))

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lakeport, Diablo Ride and Hike, and the New Benicia Loop

I've undertaken a few adventures since posting last. Each of them was notable and each deserves a posting all for itself. However, they will just have to be content to share.


I invited myself up to Lakeport to our good friends Jeremy and Amy's house. I did so, in order to fulfill my desire to ride my road bike up there.

I left around 8:00 am on Friday, August 21.
I arrived around 4:15 having ridden just over 111 miles. My actual time on the bike was 7 hours and 30 minutes. Martinez was cool at 8:00, but Lakeport was well over 100 degrees when I showed up. It was actually a great ride, but following are the things I learned.

1. Leave earlier in the morning, so that Cobb Mtn. grade can be climbed before it is in triple digits.
2. I am smart enough to stop and rest in order to prevent heat exhaustion. (I have wondered this for years - as to whether I would fall over or have enough sense to stop first.)
3. Bring a third water bottle for the Pope Valley - Butts Canyon stage. (I nearly had to stop passing cars and ask for water. Check out this area on Google Maps - it is barren. It may have been OK on a cooler day, but I was going through a water bottle about every 15 - 30 minutes, and the second one was at least 90 degrees by the time I got to it. A fire truck passed me going the other way, but I couldn't bring myself to stop them and ask if they had water.)
4. I can successfully patch a tube. (I think this was my first successful patch - in Napa, about 30 miles into the ride. I have been woefully inept when it comes to patches.)
5. A garden hose shower feels great after 111 miles in August.

Diablo Ride and Hike

I tried again to ride up Mt. Diablo in under an hour from the North Gate, and failed. That's basically it. I'm told that 1 hour and 12 minutes is a good time, but there is something enchanting about 1 hour, and I may never be wholly content until I acheive it.
I saw an "older" couple on the wide sweeping corner at Juniper resting beside their tandem. I caught them kissing, and commented to them that I thought such an act should aid them in attaining the summit. They agreed. I passed them near the top, as I was descending and they, nearly arriving. We exchanged formalities noting that another kiss may be necessary to finish well.

This past weekend I saw them at the top again. This time I was on foot, and it wasn't till I had chatted with them, and several other cyclists, that I realized we had met before. They are training for an event in Oregon coming up soon - but I can't remember what event it is.

My cohorts, Vince, and Chris had joined me on a fast hike up Mt. Diablo from Clayton. We had ascended the north slope of Diablo, and found a "new to us" trail leading from Prospectors Gap going seemingly vertical the final 900' to the top. We jogged / hiked much of this last section, and came out at the top on the run. I lied to some cyclists that had seen us charge around the last bend of the trail and jump over the guard rail into the parking lot. I announce with authority as I looked at the time on my phone, "13 minutes from Clayton." (6 miles and approx. 3,600' in eleveation gain) All within ear shot were silent for a few seconds as they pondered the probability of my statement. It was great to see the varied reactions as they recognized or decried my jest.
We spent too long at the top taking in the views, talking with other hikers and cyclists, and re-fueling. We left the top with stiffening muscles, but didn't let that curb our enthusiasm. We literally hit the trail running, and only stopped to catch our breath and shoot a few video clips. Even with the stops, we managed to descend the 900' in under 10 minutes. And then we kept running for much of the return trip.

We made good time, though running down hill comes with its price. Vince didn't have his trail running shoes on, and his feet suffered from his boots. We were all stopping periodically to remove the stones from our shoes, and while going up we basically didn't stop - coming down we were forced to rest our weary limbs several times. That was Saturday.

Sunday - I could hardly get out of bed. Literally. I could hardly walk. Literally. I most certainly couldn't walk normal. Touching base with my companions, I found that they were in a similar plight. I managed to overdo it like I have never done - at least in recent memory. 2 days later I still push myself up from the chair with notable pain. Quadraceps, glutes, shins, calves, lower back - they are all indignant.

The New Benicia Loop

The odd thing is, I can ride my bike. I went out with Dave this morning - Monday, Labor Day, to explore our new access to Solano County via the recently revamped Benicia Bridge, returning over the Carquinez bridge and totalling just under 30 miles - on our mountain bikes.
This shows approx. our route, as we managed to travel on trails and closed roads (which Google won't map) for much of the way.

I felt some discomfort as I rode, though had the power I needed. But, setting down the bike and walking a few feet to the bathroom was intense. I keep forgetting and Ella comes and plops down on my lap (which consists of 2 rather prominent quadriceps), whereupon she finds herself fast flying.

I think I will take it easy the rest of this week, and swap some massages with my wife.