|Spoiler alert: PB, yayyyyyyyyy!|
Then some frustrating neck pain hit, probably due to bad posture/desk setup in the office. Many days of feeling pretty rough followed, and then the prescription of strong anti-inflammatories mostly stopped the pain but made me feel constantly woozy. Not to mention that my healthy living approach went somewhat downhill and I'm singlehandedly keeping Cadbury in business at this point.
Of course, when one of your best friends in the world invites you to London to celebrate her birthday with amazing dim sum and cocktails on a Saturday night, there's no question about going. (Seriously - go to Ping Pong and order the signature set menu and a kumquat mojito.) And, you know, sometimes it's nice to live on the edge and risk Euston station after midnight. The last two trains home were cancelled with no warning and a replacement bus service scheduled for 2am. I took the obvious alternative and shared a taxi up to Hertfordshire with five total strangers instead. By the time we'd compared notes and discovered that one of the guys was heading home from a night dressed in a Lycra cat outfit for a cabaret act and another was coming back from seeing his friends perform in Fame, I knew I'd made the right call. The replacement bus would have been filled with even more total strangers who would probably be rowdy, I told myself as I remembered my parents mentioning something about not getting in a car with strangers.
By 2.30 we'd dropped the last person off at the nearest station and the taxi driver agreed to take me the rest of the way home while I clutched a fistful of £10 notes. By 3am I'd snacked and was falling into a deep coma, trying not to think about how I was going to feel in the morning. Once morning came, I instantly regretted not preparing my kit the day before: with 50 minutes until the race started, I was hunting for the waist pack I'd planned to wear. With 45 minutes to go, I'd realised the chip was supposed to be attached to my laces and my elastic ones made that impossible. With 40 minutes to go I'd tied the chip to my laces with string.
The bizarre thing is that I was picturing telling this story as an explanation for why I got carted off halfway round the course this morning from sheer exhaustion. By the time I'd run to the start line (as planned) my shins and feet felt like they were seizing up. Note to self - wearing heels all week and the night before was stupid. I desperately stretched at the start line, only managing to spot one person I knew, and thankfully my muscles eased off. For the first few miles I fought very heavy legs and figured I'd be done for by the end of the first hill.
Gradually as the race went on my legs loosened up and I remembered how much I loved the long downhill stretches last year. Luckily, most of the race flew by once I'd got into the swing of things. With a mile and a half to go I caught up with the guy who'd spoken to me earlier and we chatted briefly about race times and our half marathon histories. With just over a mile to go I told him that it's all downhill to the finish and suggested we raced to the end. And race we did - I careered down the hill in 7:08 for the last mile and finished with a grimace and a shocked look at my watch. My Garmin time told me I ran a personal best in 1:55:36 and the chip time made it 1:55:46, so I was happy. I flung myself down after the finishing chute and shook my competition's hand a minute later. On comparing times it turns out he started behind me so actually finished a minute faster, but he assures me that bragging rights for the final race go to me. Very kind indeed.
I'd originally planned to run home from the race to make the day's mileage up to 17 miles, but the scary sight of alarmingly swollen and blistered little toes when I took my shoes off put paid to that. I panicked and spent a rather cold 20 minutes in the St John's Ambulance tent proffering my chipped pink nail polish to a very kind man who put me on some ice packs and eventually concluded that my toes weren't going to fall off so all I needed to do was go home, put my feet up, and ice some more. I felt a bit bad that I probably wasted his time, but it's the first time my toes have substantially grown while running!
A few days later I'm still a little stunned to have run a PB under the circumstances, and I'm slowly catching up on sleep and other people's race reports. Here's to a quieter weekend next time around...