Quads vs Hamstrings

  • Creator
  • #52802

    Doing ultras with big up and down, we will get serious fatigue toward the end. But which was it that beat us up the most — the climbing or descending?

    On my Grand Canyon run, I felt strong and good through the two big descents (11k feet) and one climb (6k feet). On the final climb out, I got the beginnings of bad cramping high in my hamstrings. Managed to finish before it knocked me out, but I couldn’t have gone another hour at any kind of pace.

    Over the weekend, it’s my hamstrings and related tendons that are sore. Zero pain in my quads despite coming downhill a long way, and at a good hard pace.

    So my question is…is there any information in the fact that it was hamstrings and not quads that were sore? My *guess* is that if the downhill was the problem (ie, I didn’t train enough downhill) then my quads would have given up.

    But since it was hamstrings, maybe I trained my downhill just fine, and I need to do more and harder uphill training.


  • Participant
    russes011 on #52928

    Hey–congrats on the epic effort!

    I’d say the part of the race (climbing or descending) that beats you up the most is the one you are prepared for the least. That said, with all else relatively equal, it’s usually the downhill, since eccentric contraction is the prime driver of DOMS. Furthermore, your body shuts you down–eg, via cramping–on the uphill well before really severe cellular damage occurs. This cramping response is likely neuro-muscular, and not just electrolyte of hydration related. Downhill seems to be mostly limited by pain, I suppose.

    Here’s a question related to the hamstring soreness: what percent of the race did you walk vs briskly hike vs run? and what percent of your training did you walk vs briskly hike vs run? — ie was your training specific enough during the final few weeks before the event? did you do enough brisk hiking? did you train in the heat enough? Those little washes of water you describe that broke up you rhythm may have also had something to do with it.

    — Steve

    AshRick on #53067

    As it turns out, I trained *exactly* as much going uphill as downhill. 😉

    Uphill I did mostly at low end of Zn2; powerhiking as hard as the terrain would allow at that target HR. Typical outing would be 10-15 miles with 2500-4000 ft of vert. One day I pushed really hard on a 4,000 foot climb, right up against AnT, in an attempt to get a Strava age group CR. I managed to get it…and literally a minute later a guy came running into the mountaintop parking lot, and broke my record! He was chasing me the whole time.

    On the canyon day, I didn’t really walk at all. We were either running (downs and flats) or hiking hard enough to be in Zn1. Stayed out of Zn2 — maybe an hour total at low end of Zn2. Very similar to my training efforts.

    I think it was simply the distance. 11,000 feet of downhill is a lot different than 4,000 (my usual long training day). I also would tend to do that big downhill after climbing up. So…climb up, run down. Get in the car. I never really had to do the long downhill and then keep going another couple hours.

    That’s something I’m going to add for this next cycle. Ride my bike to the top of that hill, run down, then come back up. Ride home.

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