Can I Survive Mr. Quinton’s Morning Routine?


Natalie Goler

Colin Quinton, Natalie Goler ’25, and Ella Detter ’25 pose for a photo before diving into the Burgess pool.

The clock struck 5:15 am. It was finally time.

Castilleja chemistry teacher Colin Quinton is known for his grueling morning routine which includes a challenging pre-dawn outdoor swimming workout followed by a multi-mile walk from his Menlo Park residence to school.

Through my experience in Quinton’s period 4 chemistry class, I had heard him talk the talk, but I needed to see him walk the walk. Luckily, Quinton was kind enough to let me tag along on his routine for a day.

As it turns out, figuring out logistics is one of the most intense parts of Quinton’s morning routine. After postponing twice—once due to power outages and once due to my being sick— there were no excuses left. I devoured a banana muffin and drove over to Quinton’s first stop, the Burgess pool facility.

On the way there, my dad did his best to pump me up for the challenge that lay ahead, playing the Rocky theme song and shouting slogans like “Get hype!” and “No days off!” Time and place, dad.

Goler poses for a picture moments after her alarm rouses her.

Friend, classmate, and United States representative for the FINA World Cup, Ella Detter ‘25, agreed to support me throughout the swimming component of Quinton’s routine. As I awaited her arrival, I spotted Quinton across the dark parking lot.

I stood shivering as Quinton and my dad enthusiastically conversed about their respective workout routines. The conversation seemed better suited for a time later than 5:30 a.m. in a dark suburban parking lot.

The Burgess adult swim classes have developed a close community of Menlo Park residents, and Quinton seemed to be at the center of it all. Countless swimmers approached and greeted him with a friendly “Hey Colin!” before heading inside, the most shocking of which was Castilleja English teacher Mathew Callahan.

As it turns out, the Castilleja faculty is well-represented in the Burgess early morning community. In addition to Quinton and Callahan, math teacher Emily Landes reportedly also swims at the 6:00 a.m. morning class. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of running into her on the morning of my swim-along.

Detter soon arrived and we entered the pool facility. Upon entering, the coach warned, “The water may be a little cold today. We couldn’t cover it last night because of the strong winds.” My anxiety peaked.

Minutes later we were fully geared up and jumped through the frigid air into the equally frigid water.

The swim squad arrives at Burgess

Quinton, a longtime swimmer, dove into lane four. Burgess’s pool has 11 lanes, with lane one being for the fastest swimmers, and lane eleven being for less advanced individuals. I guess you could say that Quinton lives life in the fast lane. Detter and I began in lane seven, but soon parted ways to lanes that better suited our capabilities.

Rebecca Pinto, Burgess Masters Swim athlete of 12 years, moved down a lane with me in a compassionate show of moral support rather than physical capability. After a couple of warm-ups laps, exhaustion began to set in. As I finished the warm up, water sloshed into my mouth as I struggled to swim away from the other adult swimmers who were tickling my toes in an effort to nudge me forward.

Over the course of the next ten minutes or so, Pinto and I moved down two more lanes until we finally found an empty lane offering the opportunity for me to swim at a far more realistic and manageable pace. By the time I had moved down three lanes, learned the unit translation between yards and lengths, and listened to Pinto kindly re-explain the directions shot at us, the workout was smooth sailing.

Meanwhile, Quinton remained in lane four for the duration of the swim, and Detter quickly made her way to the second lane, not wanting to throw off the pH of Burgess’s most senior swimmers in lane one.

As I climbed out of the pool, Pinto offered some parting words of encouragement. She lost me at “The next time you come ….”

The scene in Burgess’s women’s locker room was frantic and stress-inducing as Detter and I tried our best to stay out of everyone’s way. In a moment of confusion under time pressure, I mistakenly stepped into the shower with my sneakers on.

Detter and I decided to make a quick pit stop at my house to replace my squelching shoes. We had 15 minutes to make the ten-minute drive to my house, grab socks and shoes, and drive to Quinton’s house. Around minute 12, it occurred to us that we might not make it, and I ended up changing in a random Menlo Park parking lot.

We soon arrived at Quinton’s residence, and Detter, who needed to drive her car to Castilleja’s campus, departed. All that was left of this morning challenge was me, Quinton, and a 2.4 mile walk to school.

Luckily, I had planned ahead and prepared some discussion questions the night before. I was excited for what was sure to be a juicy conversation.

“So… How’d you get into chemistry originally?”

Throughout the walk, there was no shortage of topics to cover; we chatted about chemistry, parenting, supernatural experiences, and more.

Quinton and Goler approach Castilleja at the end of their walk.

As we neared downtown Palo Alto, Quinton generously put in our Peets mobile order. Only after I walked in to find just one drink waiting did I realize that Quinton did not get anything for himself, and Peets is actually not a regular part of his routine. I think he sensed I needed a pick-me-up and his generous treat was very much appreciated.

We finished the walk in an impressive 40 minutes, though I did notice a deep contrast between our energy levels upon arrival. Quinton spoke enthusiastically about the day’s lab while I was ready to go home.

As it turns out, I can survive Quinton’s very ambitious morning routine, but probably not more than once.