Motherhood reminds me of those coastal mountains I found in Big Sur and the constantly curvy Highway 1. The mountains are jagged, they are challenging and the road is twisting and turning, and you often don’t see what’s coming next. The ride through them is exhilarating. The ride is exhausting. Sometimes you pull over to linger in the view and soak it up fully knowing you may never see this view again. Other times you just want the ride to stop, a break from the constant twists and attention needed and the mental focus. Funny how those same challenging mountains and winding highways also offer majestic views that take your breath away. Views that make you actually pinch yourself they are so beautiful. This destination seems like a great analogy to motherhood.
It’s also kind of like this destination how I wrote this post. Instead of trying to make it perfect, I finally just decided to put it out there as it is. Written over four years, choppy, to the point at times, rambling at others and me struggling to put into words what this trip was for me.
Over four years ago I ran the San Francisco Marathon. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write this considering the race was perhaps my favorite race ever and one of my best trips ever. Looking at photos the other day has been reminding me of the epic road trip I took down the coast of California on Highway 1 after the race, so I decided I needed to do my report now. Better late than never?! I also find myself missing racing and training quite a bit; I look forward to getting back to this after I get further into my postpartum days.
As I play my music playlist from the Summer of 2018, I am revisiting a trip that meant so much to me and the race that made me feel like a real runner again. Running the San Francisco Marathon in July of 2018 wasn’t just about a race and a road trip. It was my first post-babies marathon. My first time away from my kids for more than two nights. The summer of 2018 was the first season I was not pregnant and/or breastfeeding in four years. It was a big deal. Writing this race report while an eight week old snoozes on my lap has me revisiting all the emotions and sides to being a mom.
In a lot of ways taking this trip to California was me fighting to fit in some semblance to my life before kids. It was about finding some time for me again. I’ve always known as a mom there really is no balance. There are ebbs and flows to responsibilities and needs for all. As moms it doesn’t take long to figure out that sometimes you have to fight for a section of that time to be for yourself and sometimes it just can’t happen. I have a supportive husband, but moms just do so much and the mental load we carry in parenthood is enormous. He knew I needed something like this though and encouraged me to go for it.
During my training cycle leading up to the San Francisco Marathon I had ups and downs like any training cycle. There were early morning runs in the dark, snowy and slippery runs and long runs in the heat and humidity. There were runs filled with mom guilt over leaving my kids behind. There were fast runs. There were runs filled with self-doubt that I could actually do this with a body that was not the same post-babies despite putting effort into those issues (hello significant diastasis and pelvic floor issues).
Spring training arrived and my confidence grew as I saw paces than I hadn’t seen in a long time. Even with that confidence I knew my emotional well being could not handle a demanding training schedule. I knew with it being my first marathon since kids (and in four years) and on the hilliest course I had ever ran, a time goal was definitely not going to be part of my plan. I planned to enjoy this race and exploring on my own time for myself.
And enjoy it I did. It was such a special trip for me. And we really should take the advice of our coffee cups. Maybe it is the universe speaking to us.
I flew into San Francisco on the Friday before the Sunday race. In true to me style, I had a jam packed schedule and immediately was on my way to my hotel. I took the BART to my hotel and then Ubered my way to pick up a bike I had rented for the rest of the day.
This little fox, officially known as Little Foxy, was along for the adventure. Each day I snapped a photo of Little Foxy and its adventures to my kids. That’s normal mom travel right?!
On my first day in California I biked through San Francisco en route to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was my first trip to San Francisco, so I was seeing it all for the first time. As the bridge appeared ahead my excitement built. As I biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, I paused at several places to take it all in and appreciate the freedom of the wind whipping through my hair and the beauty of the Marin Headlands in the distance.
At the Marin Headlands I locked up my bike and headed out on foot to do some exploring. Hiking has always been a big part of any travel plans I make. Running and hiking let you see so much of a place. A location is more than just a restaurant or a shop.
I will forever have the smell of eucalyptus and cypress in my head as I descended into Kirby Cove. That cleansing and grounding smell. That warm sunshine on my face tilted towards the sky. That fresh sea breeze. The water below. My heart light and full. Not a worry on my mind. I felt free. So free and me.
Eventually I was reminded if I was going to make it back to San Francisco and not miss my ferry ride, I needed to get moving again. It was back to the path on foot and then the bike to ride the rest of the miles to Sausalito. Sausalito was a cute little town full of shops and homes built into the hills. It was here where I caught the ferry back to San Francisco and enjoyed a pale ale, sunshine on my face, smells of ferry exhaust and views of Alcatraz on the way “home.”
The next morning I took the BART to do a shake out run on the Embarcadaro, enjoyed one of the most delicious breakfast burritos I’ve ever eaten, grabbed coffee and went to the farmers market.
Post-run and fueling it was time to do some race nails (love Sarah Marie Design Studio) and head to the race expo. The race expo had some of the best features. I’m not a huge race expo person, but drinking kombucha shots and enjoying the displays was actually pretty fun.
After the race expo, I headed out on a long walk/hike on part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, then to the Battery to Bluffs trail and then the Presidio/California Coastal Trail that would take me to Marshall’s Beach, the Battery Crosby, Bakers Beach, China Beach and eventually to the Lands End Trail. I enjoyed approximately 6.5 miles of rocky cliffs, ocean wind, Golden Gate Bridge views, historic batteries, coastal plants and views that will never be forgotten. This San Francisco Bay Trail/bike path is currently 350 miles and will one day connect all of the San Francisco Bay communities totaling 500 miles in distance.
I finished my evening with a local brew, a delicious burger and warming up by the fire. I had a VERY early Lyft ride arriving at 4:20 a.m., so it was early to bed after laying my race gear out. I did not sleep well with my Lyft ride unconfirmed for the morning. Luckily, this would not be an issue in the morning.
Before my eyelids even shut, it felt like race morning was here. I was feeling ALL of the emotions. You name it, I probably felt it. I could not wait to start this race, but I missed my kids. I was excited to see the city, but I was nervous about the hills. How painful would this be? Would the pain start in the teens or not until after mile 20? All questions I would know the answer to soon.
Since over four years have passed, I don’t have my mile splits to share in this post, which is really more for me to reflect on anyway. I like having old posts to review what did and didn’t work for me and when things took a turn, if they did. I also love the reminder of the one of a kind experiences running races has given me. While I can’t race now, I had some serious nostalgia going through some old posts recently. We will race again.
Waiting in my corral in the dark for quite some time, the nervous anticipation building for a long time, I was so antsy to get started. I was super excited for this experience to begin. For a few moments I also reveled in the fact that doing this race initially was something I casually mentioned to my husband. I was actually at the starting line. About to make it happen.
The first miles were flat and filled with nervous anticipation. I loved that the race started out nice and easy. During mile 1 we ran past Pier 7, the Ferry Building and Coit Tower. Mile 2 had us running through Fisherman’s Wharf and past Pier 39 and Alcatraz. Mile 3 took us past Ghiradelli Square, Fort Mason and somehow I also had to pee. Not what I was hoping for in the first few miles, but necessary. I also was NOT even close to being the only one. So many people also had to pee.
Mile 4 provided views of the San Francisco bridge and the excitement started to build. During mile 5 we ran past Chrissy Field knowing the bridge was getting closer and closer with each step I took on the graveled trail. We took a sharp turn and began our climb. The smell of sea was so refreshing. I was loving my time so far.
Mile 6 began the climb. It is easy to forget that to cross a larger bridge there is usually a climb involved. We followed a bike path trail as it curved and wound its way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. The view got better with each step we climbed. It was gorgeous. I’ve always felt like seeing things while running takes your appreciation and gratitude for the experience to a new level. I feel like you see things in an intensified way and it etches into your memory in a new way as well. We finally reached the bridge.
As we began our first crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge my excitement grew. You would think having biked across the day before would have ruined this experience, but it really didn’t. To feel the winds whipping and be able to take in the experience at a slightly slower pace was so rewarding. I had thought about this moment many times during my training runs. I’d made it. I was doing this. When you haven’t ran a full marathon in five years you appreciate all of the parts of the experience of getting to the starting line. You also know it is never a given.
Mile 7 was on the Golden Gate Bridge. I took in the red-orange color (technically called orange vermillion) and its structure and its features (it is 1.7 miles long). I appreciated the sea breeze blowing on my face, even if it was whipping. Race morning was a foggy morning and it made the experience even more surreal. I was glad I biked the bridge in the sunshine Friday afternoon because it gave me two perspectives of being on the bridge.
We descended down the bridge and continued our descent down a fire road before climbing back up a steep climb during mile 8. I had actually biked this on Friday and remember biking this steep section (ok…I walked my bike some). I had a general idea of the course before the race and the major areas we would run through, but didn’t know each detail. The best part of a climb or descent is the views. We got a beautiful view of the city with the Marin Headlands looming large. We enjoyed ocean views and the headlands as we looped back around to begin our bridge crossing back to San Francisco.
Mile 9 was all about crossing the bridge back to S.F. Mile 10 began our descent off the bridge. I felt great, but was also nervous that the excitement of the bridge was over. How would the next miles go? As I stepped off the bridge a little bit of apprehension crept in even though we were enjoying a downhill section and amazing views of the ocean. That smell of eucalyptus and cypress were back again. I’m obsessed with this smell now. Mile 11 continued on a downhill with amazing views of the water, Baker Beach and Marshall Beach. I enjoyed visiting both while exploring the day before.
It was around this time that I made a potty stop again. And this time I had to wait for several minutes in line. I share this detail not for TMI, but it was a question I used to wonder in my early marathon days. How many people use the bathroom during a marathon? To be honest, I rarely did before kids. Now I’m not sure I can run an entire race without a stop or two. It is something I need to continue to work on because it really adds on time. While I haven’t had a race goal time in my last five post-babies marathons (California-2018, Indiana-2019, South Dakota-2019, Texas-2020 (virtual) and Virginia-2020 (virtual) adding minutes to every race because of potty stops is not ideal. I need more practice with timing my water intake again and continued pelvic floor work.
Mile 12 took us through the Presidio area and began to lead us through some neighborhood miles. Mile 13 continued this way for the first half, and I do appreciate seeing different neighborhoods in different cities. The cultural influences make every city so unique. Both miles brought on the neighborhood hills like you visualize when you think of living in San Francisco and Full House.
It was during a part of these miles I ran alongside a running inspiration of mine, Dean Karnazes. I knew he was from the Bay area and often ran the San Francisco Marathon as training having read all of his books, but I never imagined to run alongside him for part of the race. His running of 50 marathons in 50 days and the book he wrote about it really got me into this whole idea in the first place. There was also the humbling reminder he was on a loop of the ultramarathon which runs more than one loop of the course. It still powered me through those iconic neighborhood hills.
The second part of mile 13 had us entering Golden Gate Park. I knew this park was big (bigger than Central Park), but I knew little about it. I had “saved” this section for surprise. I didn’t preview photos or look up the park. I knew this race would need me to have a trick to pull out of my bag. This was that trick.
This mile also was tiring and the start of a section of miles I don’t really remember much about. The miles 13ish-19 were all in Golden Gate Park. It was a beautiful park with unique trees, but to be honest it was a park. It was on the roads going through the park, and I just didn’t find it that inspiring or motivating. I mean it is hard to top running across the Golden Gate Bridge and views of the ocean, so it was kind of a let down. Between mile 19 and 20 we headed out of Golden Gate Park and back into neighborhood views for a few miles. There were people cheering and some excitement, but again with the excitement of the early sights gone it was a struggle for me.
Then the miles got so industrial and hard and about finishing the next mile. Boring, run-down buildings and almost no cheering spectators. The last mile redeemed itself when it met back up with the wharf area. We ran around the back of AT & T field (Giants were playing the Brewers that weekend 🙂 and then finally the finish line was in site. In this races defense the early miles through the wharf, across the bridge, along the bay and even the park make a few hard, boring miles SO worth it. I also find that most marathons I have run have some industrialish miles and often they are in the weird, hard miles of 20-24. It is a reminder of just how hard this goal can be, how much you push for it with every mile, and really every step you take is a choice not to stop.
I finished tired, but SO, so proud and with a heart full of I-just-finished-a-marathon-joy. I could have cared less that a few miles didn’t inspire me. The bridge and the experience was so amazing. Marathoning mama was back. Finish time- 4:20.
This race was also so much about the Highway 1 road trip I was leaving for later that day, so I’ve also included some highlights of those travels in this post. This goal of mine was never to see how fast I could run 50 marathons in 50 states, rather how could I complete this goal while also exploring and enjoying the area surrounding the race and explore new places.
This race just happened to have a week of fun exploring and road tripping that followed it and a weekend exploring San Francisco. It gave me time and space away from my family to feel like me again and appreciate what I have in a new, deeper way. I never regret these travel experiences and coming back with a full cup. Four years later, I still look back on this experience and am so glad I got myself to that start line and went for the experiences that followed. I still feel a cup filling feeling when I look through my photos years later.
The afternoon after the marathon I set out for San Diego via Highway 1 also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. 600+ plus miles of coastline and rugged California, dramatic coast views, rugged mountains, hiking forests and trails, camping on ocean bluffs, local brews and wine hikes in Malibu with cities along the way (Monterey, Big Sur, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, etc), and I was at peace. Content. Joyful. Take that trip.