Sunday, February 14, 2010

Infinitely Better Than a Box of Chocolates...

I've never been a big proponent of celebrating Valentine's Day like most traditionalists out there. Primarily because all the traditional activities are either unhealthy (chocolates) or crowded (going out to dinner) and it just isn't particularly pleasant. This year we decided no official gifts. Instead, we'd celebrate our love on Thursday (since I have this week off from teaching) by going up to SF and seeing Wicked, and then spending the night in the city. We'll be able to have a romantic getaway and avoid the crowds of this weekend :).

However, that still left us with what to do on the day itself. Ed suggested that we head up to the city and run across the Golden Gate and up into the Marin Headlands. Ed's done this a bunch of times, but I had  never had the confidence to go on those trails alone, even though I ran on the bridge all the time. Ed had found the perfect place to park, a lot just half a mile or so from the bridge - free and uncrowded at 8:30 on a Sunday!

We planned to run 10 miles, since I felt like I could handle it. However, my legs were tired! Not just from the race last week, but also because Ed and I ran together on Friday, and I decided to practice going fast(er) than normal. Ed kept wanting to speed ahead, but I kept us at a nice slow pace, which was a bit cold going over the incredibly foggy bridge.

Running over the Golden Gate is always a unique experience, as San Francisco never gives the same day twice. Today, the fog was as thick a pea soup, with the bridge practically invisible all around us. The sound of a blaring foghorn repeatedly bellowed below us, and we could imagine the giant ships traversing the bay. We were hoping that by the time we returned, some of this fog would burned off.

Once we reached the other side, we made a quick stop at the vista point. to use of the facilities and then made the journey to the other side of the bridge. What I hadn't realized was that Ed didn't know about the pedestrian bridge under the street. Instead of the lovely easy under pass, Ed led me on a somewhat dangerous path on the road through a tunnel. We went quickly, and afterwards I told him that I knew there was a better way, which we would definitely search for on the way back.

After going up the road a bit, we finally made it to the trail, a thin singletrack cut into the hills above the bridge that I had often eyed and always wanted to try. It was a bit steep, and we (or, well, I) was slowed to a hike, but I thought with happiness of running down this on our return.

After, perhaps, a half mile more of uphill, the trail finally leveled off and I got to start running again. Ed and I were both impressed with the lushness of the trail, made even more beautiful by the blue skies that began to appear. 

At the trail junction, we stopped for a photo opportunity, and then headed north.

I kept exclaiming my amazedness at the beauty of the day and the trails and the views, thanking Ed for bringing me to such a wonderful place. The trail had opened up, with views of a beautiful valley below.

I could see the road that we had driven on before to get to Rodeo Lagoon, and it was fun to see from so high above. He told me a little about running on this trail during the race - even though I had been on these trails before, it was a long time ago, and very foggy then. We could even see the ocean! 
We went through a few groves of eucalyptus, and came upon a bench. Ed's words of wisdom? "If there's a bench, there must be a good view." Up we headed, and  were greeted with a valley blanketed in a thick layer of fog, with a few peaks poking through the white. 
We climbed a bit higher, to take in even more of the view, and were treated with a beautiful view of our favorite mountain, Mt. Tam. We're getting married there in just over 4 months!!!

We were at about 4.8 miles, but neither of us wanted to turn around in two tenths of a mile. "I could probably do 11 today," I told Ed. Just an extra half mile isn't that far, right? We both gulped down a cliff shot (My first in over 2 years! They taste just the same).

We continued our journey, which was taking a downward trend (in altitude, not in fun). "Are you sure about this?" Ed asked. "This is fun, and it's worth it" I replied. "But, remind me I said that when we're hiking back up."

We ended up on the Bobcat trail and continued our slow decent as I watched the mileage slip by. At 5.5 miles, I still wasn't ready to head back. "Could we do 12 today?" I asked him. He told me it was my choice, so on we went. At six on the dot, we reversed our path and headed back. I amazed myself (and Ed) by running up a substantial amount of the uphill, which really wasn't that steep. 

Before I knew it, we were back to the amazing singletrack, which I've decided is much more fun to run, even uphill. 

The fog was still present, much to our chagrin, but the tops of the bridge were poking out, trying to escape the clouds. 

As we continued down the singletrack, we were back within the clouds. However, we were plenty distracted by the fun we were having as we pounded downhill. It really felt like we were flying, and all too soon we were back to the road.

This time, however, we were not going through the car tunnel. "You're leading the way," Ed told me, as I led him across a parking lot. Voila - a pedestrian underpass. Ed looked with a bit of dismay as we ran underneath the bridge. No more unsafe tunnels - Ed has been educated. 

We decided to stop back by the visitor's center, as we were both out of water, and I was feeling very thirsty. After refilling, it was a mere 2.5 miles between us and our goal. Our trip across the bay was still very foggy, but now also very crowded. There were lots of people, including many couples enjoying a crossing of this famous bridge. 

However, after about halfway across, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise - the sun! 

It was amazing to watch the bridge transform, from muted tones into a fiery orange, contrasted with a blue sky. 

I kept wanting to turn around while I was running to stare at the bridge, but I was, I'll admit, getting tired. Ed was also getting a bit tired of waiting for me to take pictures, so I put on my game face and pushed onward. 

Once we crossed over the bridge, I realized we were going to be a little shot on mileage and, once I set my mind on doing 12, I wasn't going to be happy with anything less. I thought that it would be fun to take a loop along some trail that I used to run on back in my Berkeley days so I told Ed to follow my lead. 

We headed down a pathway, not the one I planned (it had been a while since I'd done this), but this worked just as well. We entered into a small tunnel (which I was a bit nervous about) 

and then onto a more familiar path. I was looking forward to going onto "my trail," a short quarter mile stretch hidden within a Eucalyptus grove above Crissy Field. This was always a special stretch for me, my first experience on a "trail," where I felt like I had escaped the city. 

However, the sight that greeted me was not at all what I expected. 

The right side of the trail had been razed. The trail was destroyed, with putrid piles of muddy water covering the ground. I don't know what happened, or why this trail stretch was destroyed. I continued to cross this pathway with a bit of sadness in my heart, lamenting the loss of such a special place. I knew that this would be my last time running across this ground. 

I breathed a sigh of relief as I finally reached the other side of this disappointing, muddy pathway, and Ed and I headed up towards the car. A quick glance to my watch showed that it would be close, but we just might make the mileage. We needed 0.22 of a mile. I ran tiredly up the bike path with my eyes on the watch. I was getting closer and closer to my goal, and, with a large loop around the car completed, I heard the tell - tale beep that signaled the end of a mile - my twelfth! 

What an amazing day - 2 extra miles, spectacular scenery, and the most romantic date a girl could ask for. 

What a perfect Valentine's Day.


Southbaygirl said...

OMG-what beautiful pictures-perfect running weather in one of my favorite cities! You are so lucky! And so lucky to have someone in your life who loves to run as much as you do!!! LUCKY!

Glenn Jones said...

Wow! Nice pictures of a beautiful area Addy! Thanks for sharing the picutres and the report!

Gretchen said...

You're right, that is soooooooo much better than a box of chocolates! What amazing pictures, Addy! You are lucky to live near such great running, and lucky to have a cool guy to share it with. That first picture of you two is so cute; it makes me smile. Being happy and in love is such a good thing. :)
Also, by the way, you're looking damn good in that picture where you're standing by the sign! Just thought you should know. ;)

Addy said...

SBG - Thanks! I do thank my lucky stars every day for my lovely life :).

Glenn - Glad you enjoyed them!

Gretchen - Thank you for the compliment :). It's amazing what losing almost 23 lbs can do for your figure ;). It is great to be looking more "like a runner" again, though!

Sarah said...

Trail running with the one you love....can't get much better than that for Valentine's Day! Agree with're looking great. And nice job on the mileage. How's the leg feeling? Good, I hope.

Jean said...

That certainly looks and sounds like a fantastic Valentine's Day in my book. Nicely done! And gorgeous photos, as always!

Jenna {Real Simple Girl} said...

What a beautiful and fun date! I remember walking to the Golden Gate Bridge from the Embarcadero when I was in SF, and I thought my feet were going to fall off! I didn't make it to the other side of the bridge, but it looks like I missed out!!