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TOOOLIN’ AROUND TOWN: Ron Svinth finds comfort zone in Triathlons

The holiday season has arrived, bringing with it a season of feasting and the overwhelming temptations of overindulgence, where gatherings of friends, family and co-workers lure us to festive dining, taste temptations and dessert tables. It’s not too early to have second thoughts about those second helpings. You can go ahead and enjoy every tasty bite, knowing that in January our local health clubs will be offering big discounts to help you shed those newly-added pounds. Or you can look around and find an extreme version of calorie burning that might keep you from gaining anything except confidence and newfound vigor.

If you’re wondering how much strenuous exercise will be required to burn off those insidious calories accompanying the bountiful culinary creations, sauces and sugary temptations of the season, this column, infused with holiday spirit, is highlighting one local resident’s tried-and-true workout regimen.

Native-born Petaluman Ron Svinth — whose sure-fire method of keeping in shape is to run, swim and bike as much as possible — enjoys extremely arduous workouts. As a serious bicyclist, marathon runner and triathlon competitor, whose athletic endeavors take him to events near and far, Svinth relishes the tough competition and the independence of reaching personal goals.

And he eats just about anything he wants to eat.

“I’m not a big diet guy,” said the trim, 5-foot-11, 170-pound Svinth. “While you need to pay some attention to nutrition, and learn to eat while training, just using common sense and hydrating real well on race days will work out fine.”

Although he’s been a serious runner since 1983, aside from playing Little League baseball and youth soccer, Svinth had little interest in sports as a kid. A robust 58-year-old, who participated in the Ironman Arizona last Sunday, he vies in the highly competitive 55-59 year-old age bracket.

“I have expectations and I sometimes meet them,” said Svinth. “I always try and catch the guy in front of me and I always try to stay ahead of the guy behind me. I’m never in the front so I always have someone to follow. I’m a good, solid, middle-of-the-pack participant.”

The oldest of three children born to Petaluma educators Len and Ruth Svinth, his father taught Science at Petaluma Junior High for 34 years and his mother taught elementary school at Valley Vista, McKinley and Penngrove Schools. Len Svinth was known for arranging classroom excursions and camping trips in the rugged outdoors, and has climbed Mt. Lassen 22 times.

Mechanically inclined, Ron Svinth took an early interest in automotive specialties and small engine repair. A 1978 graduate of Petaluma High, he gained experience at McCann’s Machine & Marine. After training at Indian Valley College, he worked at Metcalfe Machine Shop before becoming a small engine specialist at North Bay Construction for 26 years.

He ran the famous Bay to Breakers race for the first time in 1983 and followed up by entering the 10K Kenwood Footrace, where he’s been a regular ever since. Committed to running, he ran a 10K race on the day he and his wife, Kim, were married at Elim Lutheran Church, in 1984.

Svinth was was soon running half-marathons, marathons and Ironman competitions. He’s run the Dipsea Race many times, and has run a double Dipsea and a quadruple Dipsea, a total of 30 miles, in one outing. He’s swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco as part of the Alcatraz Ironman. And in 2016 he swam under the Golden Gate Bridge, a fitting bookend to the time he, along with his father and brother Fred, stood at the very top of the bridge’s south tower.

Combining a demanding training schedule, along with raising a family, came easily for Svinth, who often took his wife and two children, Jared and Veronika, to distant events. When the kids were small, it was no problem at all for him to take them baby jogging, pushing them in strollers. His biggest enjoyment comes from the feeling of competing as an individual.

“I’m a team player in every other aspect of life, but triathlons set me apart,” said the energetic Svinth. “It’s an individual sport and I don’t have to depend on anybody. That’s probably why I got into it.”

Along with entering and participating in numerous competitions, the indefatigable Svinth has found volunteering to be very rewarding.

“Volunteers are always needed and valuable,” he believes. “I should have started doing it earlier. If I’m entering an event, I figured I may as well spend a few extra hours volunteering.”

So, if you’re one of those weighing the consequences of having Costco-size second helpings against the gravity of participating in a full Ironman — involving a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile footrace — it might be wise to find a happy middle ground.

(Harlan Osborne’s column, ‘Toolin’ Around Town,’ runs every two weeks. You can tontact him at harlan@sonic.net)